Tyson Johnson, Snowmachine Racer!

Tyson Johnson/IronDog champion

Tyson Johnson/IronDog champion

Tyson Johnson recently placed 2nd in the IronDog race. Yes, Tyson has a Tok connection – his brother and sister-in-law live here! Congrats to Tyson and his racing partner Tyler Aklestad for their impressive finish.

WHO: Tyson Johnson, 29
IRONDOG PARTNER: Tyler Aklestad, 23
LOCATION: Tyson – Eagle River;  Tyler – Wasilla

Q: What kind of equipment do you ride for the race?

We ride Ski Doo mxzx machines with the new for this year 600 E-Tec motor.

Q: How long have you been doing this race and why do you do it?

I have done this race 11 times and started in 1997 when I was 17 years old. I started out just doing it for the experience and thought it would be fun but turned out it was something I was good at and (it) keeps me occupied all winter.

Q: What is the fastest speed you’ve reached while racing? What is your average speed?

Typically the fastest speed you will hit in the iron dog is around 100-105 because of machine limitations but I have hit 125 with higher horse power machines. Average speed for the IronDog is around 52 mph which includes all fuel stops and any repairs.

Q: How do you handle the cold and the pressure from the wind at those speeds?

We wear high tech snow gear, plenty of layers, high windshield for wind protection, and even duct tape on your face to cover any exposed areas.

Q: How do you train for the race?

We mainly train by just riding a lot and trying to have at least 2000 hard miles on before the race. We also do weight training at the gym but mainly lots of cardio.

Q: Did you have any mishaps during the race? What happened?

I had a slight tumble the last day but only popped my windshield loose so no real damage. I was going a little fast and missed the corner and got out in some loose snow and hit a snow covered ice chunk which pitched my sled sideways and caused me to roll.

Q: What is the hardest part of the race? The best part?

I would say the hardest part is staying focused and not riding over your head to the point of crashing. The best part is just being out there and sharing stories of the trail with all the other racers and the finish line when you get to celebrate your accomplishment

Q: What is it like going over the frozen water? How do you stay safe?

I grew up on the river so I really never think twice about it. It seems natural. To stay safe, you just have to pay attention for open spots, and if one does catch you by surprise my motto is “when in doubt, throttle out”. Stopping or slowing down is the worst thing you can do.

Q: What is the nighttime racing like?

I actually enjoy riding at night because you have good visibility even if the weather is poor. We usually put in brighter bulbs and even an extra driving light for better vision at night. The bumps and terrain are better defined at night than in flat light during the day which helps for seeing obstacles. Plus the reflectors on the trail light up at night helping (us) to stay on course.

Q: What’s next for you?

I plan to keep racing in this event and other snowmobile races as long as I can and as long as my body will let me. I really enjoy the competition, and it keeps me occupied during our long cold winters

Bonus Question: So any good Todd Palin stories? hehe

Nothing too exciting. This year there was a writer from Sports Illustrated following the race doing a story mainly about Todd. In Tanana — one of the last checkpoints of the race — all of the racers were together under one roof and this guy kept pestering Todd asking him just silly questions. You could tell Todd was getting very irritated. He is just one of the guys out there and doesn’t want any extra attention or special treatment. He would rather the story be about the race itself than about him. He’s a very normal guy.

Special thanks to Mariah Johnson for help obtaining this interview! Stay tuned for more celebrity interviews from Tok.

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1 Comment

  1. Mariah

     /  April 10, 2009

    Congratulations to Tyson and Tyler!! Just an FYI, they are always welcoming of sponsorships for their racing endeavors!!!


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