Advice from the top

by • December 11, 2017 • Columns, Highlights, Home Display, Safety MattersComments Off on Advice from the top832

State’s best riders have a ‘never give up’ mentality

Chris Olds, a two-time Iron Dog Champion (2010 and 2011) and father of two teenage daughters, has a lot of stories from the trail when things got so tough he knew it would be a lot easier to just give up. But he also knows that taking the easy route is not always the best choice.

“I always tell my girls, never give up,” he said.

That motto has saved his life on more than one occasion.

“I remember one year, my teammate Matt Spernak, who was a rookie, and I were heading into Nome when my sled broke through the ice and got swamped. The weather was terrible. It was snowing and blowing so hard that my partner was ready to call for search and rescue to come save us. I was wet up to my arm pits but I was determined to get my sled out so I stayed in the water and just kept pushing and shoving until we finally got it free.”

Iron Dog front-runners Chris Olds and Mike Morgan prepare to hit the race trail. Olds’ advice for anyone trying something challenging: “Never give up.” Olds will make an appearance at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop, Dec. 9-10 at Eureka Lodge, Mile 128 Glenn Highway. Photos courtesy Iron Dog Team 10

Iron Dog front-runners Chris Olds and Mike Morgan prepare to hit the race trail. Olds’ advice for anyone trying something challenging: “Never give up.” Olds will make an appearance at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop, Dec. 9-10 at Eureka Lodge, Mile 128 Glenn Highway. Photos courtesy Iron Dog Team 10

But their ordeal was far from over at this point. Hypothermia was setting in.

“I realized we needed shelter,” Olds said. “And fortunately for us we were pretty close to a shelter cabin and were able to make it that far.”

Chris Olds rides along the Iron Dog Trail leaving Big Lake. The longtime race veteran will be sharing tips at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop.

Chris Olds rides along the Iron Dog Trail leaving Big Lake. The longtime race veteran will be sharing tips at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop.

When they arrived the arctic entry of the cabin was packed with snow blocking access. Olds knew he had to keep moving or he would freeze to death so he grabbed his shovel and started digging his way in.

The cold continued to take its toll so he stopped digging long enough for his teammate to help him get some dry underclothes and socks on.

“That made a big difference and we were finally able to get inside the cabin and start a fire. At that point I knew we were going to be OK.”

Chris Olds will be at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop, Dec. 9-10 at Eureka Lodge, Mile 128 Glenn Highway.

Chris Olds will be at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop, Dec. 9-10 at Eureka Lodge, Mile 128 Glenn Highway.

Once he warmed up, Olds turned his attention back to the two snowmachines. Spernak’s sled wasn’t running very well but fortunately that turned out to be just a fouled plug and they quickly remedied the situation. His sled, which had been completely submerged, was another matter.

“Because we were prepared with extra parts and tools, we were able to finally get my sled dried out and running again and make it the rest of the way into Nome. When we arrived we discovered no one was coming to rescue us because the conditions were just too dangerous. Had we given up and not pushed through the tough times, we would likely not have made it at all.”

Olds is set to run the 2018 Iron Dog again with veteran rider Mike Morgan. They have run together numerous times and Olds says they don’t plan to change their tactic this year, just use the experiences gained from the past to get them to the finish line.

“I think the biggest thing is to really use the strategies we’ve built over the years; be physically strong and fit, make sure our machines are ready and built well in advance, and have all of our gear ready to go. We really have everything we need, now we just have to pull it all together.”

Olds says one of the keys to success and having fun is to be prepared for a variety of conditions.

“The more prepared you are for any adventure, the easier and more successful it will turn out. Practice with lots of different clothing and gear. The temperature swings during Iron Dog can be tremendous. Last year when we started the race at Big Lake it was 20 degrees above zero. By the time we made it to McGrath at the end of the day it was -40 degrees below zero.”

Olds says you can try to do anything; you just might not have as much fun or success if you’re not well prepared.

“I truly believe that if you set yourself a goal, try hard and believe in yourself, you can accomplish just about anything,” he said. “I am not the fastest person out there or the most mechanical, but I never give up.

“And just like life in general, it’s during those times when you want to give up but instead push through and make it to the end that it feels good and is actually a lot more gratifying.”

Olds, who is sponsored by Eagle River Polaris Arctic Cat and Klim, teaches at the Iron Dog rookie workshop. He will also make an appearance at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop, Dec. 9-10 at Eureka Lodge, Mile 128 Glenn Highway. Learn more at www.alaskasnow.org.

Come prepared to ask lots of questions, especially from the veteran riders.

“I’ll tell you,” Olds said, “that a little preparation with ropes, tools, riding with a buddy, extra parts … those things all make a huge difference when things don’t go perfect.” “And just like life in general, it’s during those times when you want to give up but instead push through and make it to the end that it feels good and is actually a lot more gratifying.”

Olds, who is sponsored by Eagle River Polaris Arctic Cat and Klim, teaches at the Iron Dog rookie workshop. He will also make an appearance at the Alaska Avalanche Information Center Backcountry Rider’s Workshop, Dec. 9-10 at Eureka Lodge, Mile 128 Glenn Highway. Learn more at www.alaskasnow.org.

Come prepared to ask lots of questions, especially from the veteran riders.

“I’ll tell you,” Olds said, “that a little preparation with ropes, tools, riding with a buddy, extra parts … those things all make a huge difference when things don’t go perfect.”

 

Related Posts

Comments are closed.