One Moment In Time
By HARRIETT HAMILTON FENERTY
“I want one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny…” Whitney Houston
I met two guys, it was 2016, both Rookies…..on opposing teams…..Troy was part of Team 36, Bobby was part of Team 4……..so much has happened since then…..lots of good things…..for them individually and for Iron Dog.
When I write about Iron Dog, I make it personal….I don’t know how to write otherwise. Somehow I end up picking teams that have a personal story to tell….they have to be willing to share. I am constantly forced to remember that Men are from Mars and typically shy to share personal stories. I have discovered “THE Game Changer”!!!! When talking about Iron Dog all bets are off —- I usually have to stop asking questions. I never grow bored listening to them talking their craft. The craft that takes them to the outer limits of excitement and reaching goals….personal goals set many moons ago.
Back in February 2016, Troy Conlon was running his rookie year with Ryan Folsom on the brightest and most colorful sleds in the house…..we were standing in the fishing section at Cabela’s 2016 Safety Expo….his nervous energy controlled because he could move from sled seat to aisle in constant motion. He looked to his experienced partner Ryan for confirmation that what he said was true…..they planned to go out and do something spectacular…..because to finish Iron Dog is SPECTACULAR!!
In Troy’s first Iron Dog, he started in 24th position, finished 12th in Fairbanks with a time of 43:06:07. Troy was born in Fairbanks, his family had strong ties to Minnesota, in fact he moved there for his middle school years and about 60 miles from where Bobby lived (they had not met though). He remembers his first throttle hold was when he was a two-year-old toddler. Fast track to January 2013, 22 years old, he signed up for his first snowmobile race.
From Sideline Spectator…….to Loctite Racing
Troy chose the AMMC Larry Heal Memorial – a lap race on the Big Lake Trail system. Troy knew nothing about the course, he had never ridden in the area…..when he got to Big Lake, he approached a couple strangers – two guys that would play a big part of his life in the next five years. Cody Barber & Andy Gocke, were getting ready for a practice run when Troy walked up, introduced himself and asked for a “little” help navigating the trails….he had no GPS, he had no paper map. The LH Memorial is two laps, 75 miles each of twisting turns on Trail 6 and Big Swamp……he made it around the race course on race day finishing it up like a rodeo rider on a bucking bronco because after 150 miles the bolts holding the gas tank in place had come loose – the seat was flopping around…..didn’t discourage Troy – he was hooked on racing and he hasn’t stopped pursuing his dream……As for the two that did him a service and let Troy tag along on the training ride to learn the course, Iron Dog alum Cody & Andy, I am almost certain a friendship started on that cold January day and I bet it will last a lifetime. And Troy has figured out how to use Loctite!!!!
With a twinge of awe Troy told me his defining racing moment is burned in his memory….back in 2013…..Valdez Mayor’s Cup, Tyson and Tyler, Iron Dog Team 8, passed him with such speed and finesse he still sees that moment in his memory – in fact he uses it to motivate himself to carry on….. Troy’s last five years of work are the main ingredient of the Conlon recipe – racing confidence, mix it up with elite racers — get to the finish line and gun for the podium!!!
After taking 2018 off, Troy says he is in as good or better shape than his high-school days. He didn’t much like the view from the sidelines and immediately began negotiating his Pro Class assignment for 2019!!
New Partners…..CONLON/MENNE Team 31
According to Conlon….Bobby Menne is a very controlled, very fast racer. Bobby likes to lead through the southern trail section, while Troy maneuvers the three river systems (Yukon, Tanana & Nenana) almost 700 miles of the Iron Dog race course.
These two guys are about the same size, same shape, that depend on muscle memory,,,,able to stay in physical condition because of riding. Troy plays a mean game of hockey and isn’t quite sure what Bobby does for workouts, but playfully described Bobby as the energizer bunny twin, going on to say “he doesn’t seem to rest or need it”….how to harness that energy and convert it to team power might be considered a daily workout.
Bobby’s role model is his father. Dad taught life lesson number one “if you want to go….you are gonna have to keep up”. When I first met Bobby, February 2016, he had just landed in Alaska…..taking over for an injured racer on Team 4 —- a mere 36 hours before the green flag dropped. He was young, a total greenhorn with a smile that was a mile wide and he was amped up enough that I knew he was in for an Alaska sized lesson…..Iron Dog can chew you up, I asked to see his hands, he wondered why? The long hard 2,000 miles are sometimes won and lost based on grip!!!! I wanted to see his callouses —- was there enough tough skin to keep his grip and get him to the finish line.
Well he did make it to the finish line his Rookie year, he drew a start order of 6th and finished in 9th place at 40:43:26. He fell for Alaska hook line and sinker……within 12 months he packed his Minnesota trailer and hightailed it to Alaska….I asked him what the big draw was….”I have seen a bunch of America….but to ride ungroomed trails, wide open freedom to explore……well that’s the reason to live in Alaska.”
Bobby’s raw talent honed into natural talent
His first Polaris, modified from a Kitty Kat Kit, quickly graduated to a 120 and continued growing HP over the next 20 years. In 2007, all over the Midwest, cross country and oval circuit racing was his way of life. During that time, he had met his share of Alaskans Tyler, Cory, Chad, Mike Morgan and nationally known Paul Thacker and Travis Smith – they all helped prop the door wide enough for Bobby to stop dreaming……just do it already…… Iron Dog!!!
Upon landing in Alaska, Bobby has worked construction the same as many Iron Doggers…..sometimes seasonal — allows time to practice on the snow as well as in the garage. He grew up in a Sno-Go family, his grandfather was a wholesale dealer representative for Moto-Ski a very early version of the sleds we know today. His father Bob Menne, ran the Pro Class last year as Team 48, also has strong ties to the industry having worked for Polaris and most recently the entrepreneur of a molded plastics company serving the snowmobile industry as well as marine businesses.
Team 31 is one of many that changed their cowling colors this year…..Turns out Bobby borrowed a race sled from CC Ski-Doo last year to run the end of season Alyeska Motor Madness snagging a first-place finish. He liked the results and so did CC…..a little friendly negotiating and voila….new team new rides!
Team 31 is separated by the 316 highway miles between Fairbanks and Wasilla…..the side-by-side garage time and trail time requires planning….it isn’t impossible, just harder. Team 31 has 4,000 miles between them this year…..the intuition needed to work as a team doesn’t escape either of them. In training they have done so far …..the longest day came on Sunday when they left Takotna, with hopes of getting back to Big Lake in typical fashion (8 hours)…..nope…..didn’t happen…..Moving as a pack, Team 39, Team 45, Team 31 all had trouble….a-arms, rear shock, brakes, rear suspension arm…..18 hours later under tow to their final destinations….Troy hits the road and returns to work…..316 more miles of truck driving and a couple full shift days, to turn around and head back south to the first event Friday, 2-15-19 where race chatter will begin in earnest……
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away….
About a month ago, on a shock test run, Troy said he may have crashed harder before, but he doesn’t remember…..he chipped an elbow, bruised up some ribs — weekend training plans came to a screeching halt when he hit an open hole and crappy ice on the river south of Yentna Station…..going 80 MPH too fast!
Troy keeps reminding himself of his inner voice affirming if he runs Iron Dog again…..gotta go for the podium…..it isn’t a big stretch. Bobby has an air of boldness when he speaks, I also hear the quiet side of his conversation, the one that stuck out to me ….he has ridden for years in a circuit, in Alaska he is surrounded by greatness, legends, he has learned some amazing wrenching skills from a long list of Alaskan racers. His advice to Rookies is the one he learned himself back in 2016…..”if you get a chance to sleep….sleep”!!!
It takes sleep to burn a memory into the brain…..there are only three more sleeps before our memory of 2019 will be under construction, who will it be…..new team, new brand. Time to celebrate, the event we all love is about to happen…..let the learning begin!
You might wonder why a Whitney Houston Song? When talking to a friend this morning, I told her I was struggling for my theme, but one of Troy’s comments kept coming back to me…..”one moment in time” she quickly reminded me of the Houston song…I went looking for the lyrics and found the chorus to be perfect…..Troy said his life changed in “one moment”, the moment he was passed by Iron Dog Champions Tyler Akelstad and Tyson Johnson back in 2013…..Troy hasn’t wasted a step, he hasn’t squandered a moment…..full speed ahead with the podium in mind. Racing destiny!!!! Team Three-One is in charge of their destiny….full throttle, full brakes…..leave nothing on the course!
~~~ hlf #denmother #irondog2019 #irondog #save2019 #alaska #irondogmaiden #irondogstoryteller #someonenamedharriett
Iron Dog Team 31 Conlon/Menne, Bobby Menne, Troy Conlon