Kyle Moffat | Guest Writer
2016 Iron Dog Racer Bio: Team 26 Beech/Armstrong
We continue our racer bios with Joe Beech and Ryan Armstrong who are hot on their training to push toward great positioning in the 2016 pro-class Iron Dog race! Learn a little more about who they are, what they do, and what they’ve got going on for race prep!
Kyle: Welcome to the Alaska Life Podcast my name is Kyle. And it feels like it’s actually winter in Alaska here…almost 5 degrees, is that right guys?
Ryan: Something like that, maybe it’s about 10 degrees now.
Kyle: We are here with Joe Beech and Ryan Armstrong. They are 2 racers in the 2016 pro class Iron Dog snowmobile race. These two are going to be our second interview to figure out who some of these guys are who decide to beat themselves to death on a snow machine for 2,000 miles for a weeks time…and try to have fun doing it! Welcome…
Joe: Thank you.
Kyle: We appreciate you coming on the show and we’re just here to figure out who you guys are and what you do. Joe and I have a little bit of history, but I have actually not met Ryan here. So why don’t you, Ryan, tell us a little bit about who you are and maybe where you live, what do you do for work?
Ryan: Well, obviously my name is Ryan. I’m married and my wife Krista and I have two children, ages 3 and 5. I grew up in Alaska and have been snowmobiling since I was probably 8 or 9 years old, maybe even sooner. I’ve always been a big fan of the Iron Dog and have really enjoyed watching it on the internet for probably the last 10 years.
Kyle: So you’re no different than the typical Alaskan who grew up here, has been doing the outdoor scene for your entire life, and have been engaged in that community. You’ve been riding the sleds for decades and since the Iron Dog is a big part of the snowmachine up here, is it likely that the idea of doing the race has been in your head since the beginning?
Kyle: It’s almost a bucket-list item for many. Is that the same for you, Joe?
Joe: Yeah, definitely. It was around the mid-80’s when I really started to get into snowmachines and I always thought it was kind of neat, ya know, I looked up to those guys, and my Dad completed the race in the 90’s and I’ve also worked with several guys who have done the race as well. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and I figured it was now or never.
Kyle: I didn’t know that your dad had done it.
Joe: Yeah, I think it was 96 or 97. He was going to do it again and ended up breaking his leg before the race, didn’t get to do the second time.
Joe: Yeah, he actually has the record for the best rookie team and in second place. Him and his racing partner, Tim.
Kyle: It sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you beating the old man!
Joe: Yeah, I’m going to try to beat his record. We’ll see what happens.
Kyle: It sounds like you guys are life-long Alaskan, just like many of guys racing here complete with wives, kids, and full time jobs. Let’s hear about what you do for a living.
Ryan: I work up on the slope. I’m a mechanic up there for BP. It’s where I actually met Joe. While working with him, both of us started talking about snow machining, calling each other out, taking smack about who’s fast and who’s not. After a while we finally met-up for a ride and I thought “I would race the Iron Dog with that guy!”
Joe: Yeah, I hadn’t met anybody with the same passion to ride consistently whether conditions were crappy or not. Ryan was always there and ready to go and keep going.
Kyle: So this literally started as a kind of chest bumping who’s better than who and once you guys started riding together you realized you’d be good teammates?
Joe: Yeah, just a little smack talk that we’re doing back and forth. We talked about doing the race for a few years but Ryan started to have more kids and stuff so we kept putting it off and finally we’re like, “Hey, this is it.” Our kids are old enough to be a little easier on the mom’s to take care of them which allowed for a little bit more time to be able to practice and get out there on the trail and prepare ourselves for this race.
Kyle: And with the slope schedule so you’ve got that two-on two-off schedule to kind of help with some more extended periods of training time while you guys are off shift.
Ryan: Yeah, I’d say it helps in some ways and hurts another’s, you got 2 weeks that you’re not riding at all, but it’s definitely nice to have all day for 2 week straight to do whatever you want.
Kyle: Tell us a little about what you do, Joe.
Joe: I’m facility operator for BP.
Kyle: Okay, cool. So just like Kyle Conner on our last podcast, he’s working up there.
Joe: Yup, I work with Kyle Conner.
Kyle: You’ve got a full house with snow machine people up there!
Joe: Yeah, you know. Kyle, he does OK…
Kyle: You’ll teach him a thing or two?
Joe: Yeah. 😉
Kyle: He’s got to learn from the older guys.
Joe: I learned it for a little while.
Kyle: You guys are riding Arctic Cats if I remember correctly?
Kyle: So you guys are following the typical scenario where you have two race sleds and two practice sleds?
Ryan: Yeah, last year while gearing up we switched to Arctic Cat to try them out and see how we liked riding them and they’ve actually faired really well. We’ve got about 1500 miles on without anything too major. So we decided to go ahead and to get 2 more of this year and go for it.
Joe: Yeah, I’m really impressed with what we got so far. I mean, it’s kind of funny you’d imagine someone getting some help from the dealers that would say something like this, but seriously they are far superior to what we were riding previously.
Kyle: So you’re seeing a jump in durability and performance over a longer period of riding?
Joe: Yes, definitely. I can speak from experience; you can cartwheel on one of these sleds and drive it home.
Kyle: And you performed one of these cartwheels recently from what I understand, right?
Kyle: So tell us about that little spill, cause this is the kind of stuff you have to deal with when you’re training for the Iron Dog. One minute you’re going along 40, 50, 60 miles an hour and all of a sudden your track is in the air and you’re beating your helmet against the snow.
Joe: It’s kind of embarrassing, but we barely made it across the lake and hit the first bump where we were apparently going a little too fast and the sled just jacked sideways and started cart-wheeling down the trail. All I remember is looking up to see Kyle Conner standing over me, laughing, and asking if I was okay.
Kyle: So you guys are riding with team 33, getting a little training and you had some shock issues, is that what I understand? So it’s something with the rebound of the shocks threw you sideways after a bump?
Joe: Yeah, we were still dialing them in, making some changes, trying to get stuff right, but hadn’t done too much testing before we just went racing with Kyle and Donald. Not getting it fully setup could almost just be called a rookie mistake.
Kyle: If you’re training with another pro-class team it’s not like you’re going to be easy on each other. I can imagine that.
Joe: We actually ride pretty normal. As much as you’d like to outrun that guy, getting home in one piece is most important. If you can’t make it to the starting line you sure aren’t going to finish.
Kyle: Good. So tell me a little bit about physical conditioning for this. I know a lot of guys are hitting the weight room and hitting the treadmill and whatnot. Are you guys utilizing some kind of a physical fitness program for this?
Ryan: Well, we pretty much compete on who can run on the treadmill longer. When we’re at work, we can’t ride on snow machines, so we’ve got to work on cardio and lifting some light weights, just a lot of repetitions. When we are home we just try to ride as many miles as we can.
Kyle: Do the best as you can and there’s no substitute for being out there doing it.
Ryan: Riding on the sled is important!
Kyle: Are you guys coming up with strategy and getting some feedback from some of the other veteran racers as far as mods to these sleds or strategy on where to take layovers and getting some of this insight from people who have been there and done that, so to speak?
Joe: Yes. I’m lucky enough to work with Kyle Conner and know other guys who have raced, so we are certainly getting information from the Iron Dog community.
Kyle: Yeah, so the community in Alaska is small regarding who knows who and who’s involved with what. Take that another step and you’re talking about the snow machines, Iron Dog, and snow-cross community and people know each other. It seems very apparent that people are willing to help each other out and support each other in their endeavors, keeping the sport alive and keeping excitement up for the race or whatnot
Ryan: Without sponsors and the support you get it’s really almost impossible to try to do it all on your own.
Kyle: There’s always the people that say, “Hey, I’d love to run the Iron Dog and I’d love to run in this pro class.” With everything said and done, it’s probably not out of the question for you guys to say, “Hey, I’m 30, $40,000 of my own money into this.”
And so for somebody who has a family, kids, responsibilities, etc, getting a helping hand from some of these local businesses is huge. It’s what makes it possible.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s definitely what makes it possible.
Joe: Yeah, we’d be hurting. We’re already hurting, we’re still hurting, but it would be a lot of worse, and it would be a lot farther behind without their help for sure.
Ryan: And just our families to put up with, and the time we got to put in riding and working on sleds together versus spending it with our wives and kids.
Kyle: Let’s talk next week what you guys have planned? Where are you riding? What do you have planned from mileage, tweaks, anything of that sort?
Joe: Just as many miles as we can, like 4 or 5 trips up to Puntilla Lake and back, a good 300 mile training ride.
Kyle: Doing several hundred miles in one day to kind of help your bodies and your minds kind of figure out what’s it’s going to be like for a weeks time. And you guys are running on the actual Iron Dog trail, so this is going to give you experience at least on that first section so you’ll know what you’re getting into.
Kyle: I’m totally excited to see where you guys are going. We’ve been following Kyle and Donald for a few years now so it will be great to know another team and be able to watch you guys, to cheer you on. We really wanted to touch base now and then set the stage for when we talk next.
Joe: Yeah, well, thanks for having us. The Alaska Life is definitely is one of the best source of information for this race any more over the last couple of years from where you had to go for information and I’m happy to be on the show for sure.
Kyle: Well we love hearing that. I’ve been trying to do a good job about getting the word out about some of the nitty-gritty of what you guys are encountering on the trail and some of the problems the different teams are having. So it’s good to hear that people are reading the articles and sharing the word on that. So Ryan and Joe, again thanks for coming on the show and we’ll chat later.
Ryan: Alright, thank you.
Joe: Thank you.