Local Man Preparing for Iron Dog Race in Alaska


Reporter: Jeremy Mills | Videographer: Steven Smith

Nelson Co., VA - A Nelson County man says he's ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

It's taken him months of training to prepare for what is called the longest and toughest race in the world.

Russ Simpson will leave next month for Alaska, where he will compete in the Iron Dog snowmobile race.

Simpson says this year will be a training run and he hopes to learn enough to race for the win in 2013.

He discovered he has a gift for long-distance snowmobiling while riding across his family's land in Maine.

Simpson is already well-known in Nelson County as the owner of The Apple Shed. But he'd also like to be known as Iron Dog Champion.

"I thrive on the challenge. Most people who know me know that I'm a little on the crazy side," said Simpson.

You have to be a little crazy to go 2,000 miles through the frozen wilderness on a snowmobile. The route goes all the way from Wasilla to Fairbanks.

"It is very mental with the adverse conditions and I love survival type things," he said.

Simpson has already survived a bout with skin cancer.

"This is what happens when you have a biopsy and you find out a few days later that you have melanoma," he said, showing the scars on his arm.

It's helped earn him the nickname "Scardog" and provided the motivation to work out every day and ride his bike up to 111 miles at a time.

"He is by far one of the most in shape people I have ever met," said Jessica Smith, a personal trainer. "His mentality is so there, it is in the spot. I believe that alone is going to make him spectacular."

Simpson says his life began after melanoma.

"So my life has kind of changed from that point on, it's just getting that breath of fresh air," he said.

He'll soon have the opportunity to get all the fresh air he can handle.

"It is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.

Scardog has already received some advice from four-time Iron Dog Champion Todd Palin, the husband of Sarah Palin.

Simpson has also started a charity dedicated to raising funds for melanoma research.

Find out how you can help on Simpson's blog.

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