Monthly Archives

February 2015

Day 8 – Race HQ reporting

So having established our new office in a room at the Downtown Hotel, we have been watching Enrico’s progress with bated breath. We are all rooting for him…. did you know….Enrico Ghidoni will the first competitor to win all three disciplines…

2009 he was the first person to complete the 430 miles and won the foot race

2013 he was the first athlete to complete the 430 miles on skis and won the race

2015…. well lets not jinx him just hours before he comes in. J

In other news….

We have the winner of the 300 mile foot race – Neil Thubron the UK, completed in 6 days, 19 hours. Congratulations Neil, hats off to you. You have earned a pint or two!

We are expecting Hanno Heiss of Germany to win the foot race; he is going strong, powering his way along the trail. He is also taking part in Mateus’s scientific study into the affects of the race on the human body so has been wearing a sleep monitor and heart monitor, should produce some interesting results. We are cheering Hanno on as he approaches Scroggie Creek today.

We have sad news on the people who have scratched – Mal Smith, Ollie Lutte and Tim Sommers have all made very sensible decisions that to carry on would cause further injury to some already strained and abused parts of the body. But no disrespect to these brave soldiers who have had an amazing race and am sure they will back me up by saying that their experience of the race has been fantastic.

The weather continues to remain mild and easy, what a contrast to the -45 degrees C we were experiencing only 8 days ago! It just goes to show how mad the environment can be and how we can never underestimate the power of Mother Nature. As an ocean rower and sailor I have an enormous respect for Her and this respect is being constantly reinforced by experiences like this up here in the frozen North.

Speaking of ocean rowing I was pleasantly surprised to discover that at least two other of our competitors this year are fellow ocean rowers – Tim Wilks has rowed across the Atlantic and also Mathieu Bonnier has not only rowed the Atlantic but has also rowed the Northwest Passage – what a fantastic achievement – I believe he is the only person to have rowed to the North Pole solo.

Meanwhile, the support team here in Dawson have been investigating the delights of one the of the furthest outreaches of civilization, last night we experienced Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall. We would recommend to anyone planning to visit this wonderful gamblers den to acquire a degree in the use of modern slot machines before entering. No longer the simple matching up of a line strawberries, oranges and cherries, nowadays its all touch screen and far too complicated to even bother with $5 worth of bets! Our visit was shortlived due to confusion and general ineptitude!

All for now, we’ll keep you all posted as soon as we have news of our winner!

The MYAU – from a physiological perspective

by Dr. Mathas Steinach, Center for Space Medicine and Extreme Environments Berlin, Germany

Humans are homeothermic mammals, which means that a stable internal temperature (the body core) is maintained regardless of fluctuations in external temperature. This evolutionary step was an advantage to animals which relied on external heat sources to warm up, e.g. reptiles. However, a constant body core temperature necessitates adequate heat production and thus may lead to high energy demands.

Exposure to environments, such as the deep cold of this year’s Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra (MYAU) with temperatures as low as -40°C or °F (and even lower), present a very enormous physiological challenge to the organism, as the maintenance of a stable internal temperature may become increasingly difficult during exposure to cold ambient temperatures without proper counter-measures.

As the MYAU participants exercise continuously along the trail, a great amount of heat is being produced this way. It should be noted that only about 20 to 30 per cent of the internal energy can be transformed into mechanical work – hence walking, hiking, bicycling etc. This “inefficiency” is an obvious advantage during the MYAU as the released heat supports the body to maintain its body-core-temperature of around 37°C (98°F). At the same time of course the participant’s energy demand increases manifold – due to the exercise itself and in order to maintain body-core-temperature in the deep-cold environment. The energy demands may even exceed the energy supply through food intake, which eventually leads to loss in body mass. That is why studying the changes in body mass, body composition, energy expenditure as well as hormones associated with energy metabolism are of such great interest regarding the MYAU.

Problems regarding thermoregulation during events such as the MYAU can arise when more heat is lost as it is being produced, the risk for which increases of course the lower the ambient temperatures become. The time-frame for tolerances become much smaller when the temperatures approach -40 or even -50 and below. Even more so when a participant has over-exerted himself and has sweat through several layers of clothing. Wrong decisions, such as taking of a glove at the wrong time, may quickly lead to frostbite – local hypothermia to the degree of frozen tissue that starts at the fingers, toes and nose which may result in the loss of these body parts when they become necrotic – as well as general hypothermia where the body core temperature decreases leading to heavy shivering (as a countermeasure to produce heat), confusion and irrational behavior, and finally decreased respiration, blood pressure and eventually fatal heart failure. Even when a hypothermic person has been rescued, arrhythmic events of the heart may still occur as an electrolyte-dysbalance might develop due to blood and lyphatic fluid flowing back from re-heated body parts towards the center of the body. So great care has to be taken when handling such a patient.

Ken Lake Checkpoint closes

All athletes are accounted for and have left Ken Lake checkpoint. Unfortunately, we had an athlete scratching there. And it’s an unexpected one. Nicole Dörr from Germany could not continue and is being brought out on ski-doo to Carmacks. It should not have been the cold. So, I suspect it’s some kind of sports inury.

For some of the athletes there is now a race against time. And it’s not the deadline for the finish they will worry about. They have to reach Carmacks by 22:30 tonight. That is our cut-off. We will monitor them closely and keep our fingers crossed all of them make it.

Congratulations to all 100 mile finishers

The first few days required us to be 100% focused on what was happening on the trail. That is why I am late in congratulating all 100 mile finishers for a great job done! My apologies for not doing this any earlier. All finishing times are in the race roster and I will do the rankings shortly. I just will finish this general update first.

Only 4 athletes remaining in the 300 mile race

Out of 18 athletes who started in the 300 mile race, only 4 are still on their way. In the lead is Neil Thubron from England. He is on his way to McCabe right now and looked excellent when I saw him here at Carmacks. Next is Daniel Benhammou from the US, who like so many others really enjoyed that shower in the Carmacks Rec Centre, updated friends and family and left as I am posting this. Ryan Shaw and Mal Smith, both from England, are on their way to Carmacks and should be able to make it if they don’t slow down. Although it will be very tight for Mal. I also should add that Mal Smith and Alfredo Dimeo have shown us all the true spirit of the North and helped our Mexican 100 mile competitor Alberto Carlos through a very rough first night. There is a good chance that without their help Alberto would have suffered severe frostbite. So, thank you guys for thinking about others first! Unfortunately, Alfredo also had problems with frostbite and thus could not continue running with his friend Mal.

First 430 milers to reach Pelly Crossing today

I guess in the 430 mile distance we now do have a bit of a race going on between Derek Crowe and Enrico Ghidoni. That is if Derek is actually in race mode. As he is another great example of sportsmanship. When Enrico had problems with his bike in Braeburn he stayed there to help and he then stayed a long time. Of course also to wait for it to warm up. But I am sure that if he wanted to, he could have gone a lot earlier. So, we will see. I would not be surprised if they kind of stay together. Or I am wrong and it will now be a competition between them. I also should say that basically from Dog Grave Lake to Carmacks Enrico pushed his bike rather than riding it. But he pushed his bike as fast as others run … Leaves me speechless, really. So, yesterday thanks to the help of Jonah from Icycle Sport in Whitehorse we got him a new wheel. As you can imagine, he was VERY happy about that. In the bike category Pat Cooke Rogers (England), Tim Sommers (Australia) and Peter Felten (Germany) are still in the race. Both Pat and Tim I saw in Carmacks and they were in great spirits. Tim always is. I guess that’s just the Australian way. Pat is a miracle to me. I am told when she came into Dog Grave Lake she was wondering why so many people had problems. And indeed further back Peter did have technical problems with his bike due to the cold. But he never gave up. He is one tough cookie (I think that’s how you guys say it) and if he makes good speed now, he should make it to Carmacks before the cut-off.

Meanwhile in the foot category, Hanno Heiss from Italy who was in the lead by far had arrived in Carmacks with some problems. His calves were very swollen and he was in quite some pain. Luckily we not only have our medical team here helping but also Doctor Steinach from the Berlin Center for Space Medicine who is conducting a study with some of our 430 milers. He was happy to jump in and take care of Hanno. The Italian left the checkpoint already and hopefully things get better for him. Joel from Spain of course has now been able to catch up to Hanno and I am sure he will try to eventually overtake him. Since Joel does not have any major problems he is in a good position to achieve that.

Next up is Marianne Heading from England. She is still resting and enjoying the company of her partner Mike Thomas who is with us as a volunteer.

Jan Francke from the Czech Republic is the only other 430 mile competitor who has made it to Carmacks so far. He is tire but had a good rest and like so many successful MYAU athletes he always keeps his good mood. Even when very tired.

The rest of the 430 mile field of entrants is now on the way to Carmacks and the support team is here to welcome them. McCabe checkpoint is operational since yesterday and this morning Diane Patrick headed up to Pelly Crossing to open the checkpoint there. Sue and Dale from Pelly Farm, warm up that Lasagne, we are on our way!!!

Our race headquarter at Scuttlebutt Lodge where Jo Davies is still based will be moved to Carmacks later today and then tomorrow move to Pelly Crossing. Thank you Don for being such a great and caring host!

Day 3 – Report from Jo Davies at HQ

Well, it has certainly been an interesting couple of action packed days. Not just for the athletes of this, the World’s Toughest and Coldest Ultra Marathon but for the support crew as well. I think we can definitely claim that title this year. With temperatures plummeting to 48 below zero on many parts of the race trail the athletes have faced one of the toughest and coldest starts to the race since it began 12 years ago. Conditions have been brutal, putting the competitors through some of the biggest challenges of their lives. And sadly the cold conditions have taken their toll on many; frostbite and cold exhaustion have been rife but luckily anything more serious has thus far been averted. Many of the athletes have recovered to fight another day and today with the warmer temperatures of around -25 degrees C have been spurred on by determination and strength to continue.

Day 1 saw 85 athletes start and head out to Takhini Bridge; some 16 taking part in the 26-mile marathon and the rest either going for 100 miles, 300 miles or 430 miles. The first checkpoint, Rivendell Farm was a welcome rest for everyone and a chance to get a hot meal and warm their frozen toes by the fire. Moving swiftly on, most racers don’t stop too long at Rivendell, wanting to put some miles under their belts before nightfall and the subsequent temperature drop.

Day 2 dawned with very, very low temperatures but stunningly bright sunshine. It was an incredibly beautiful day but seriously cold. Overnight many athletes had suffered some minor frost nip and in a couple of cases quite serious frostbite so as the day progressed there were a few calls for assistance and quite a few people making the decision to scratch the race and very wise too. As the sun dipped below the horizon, temperatures dropped even more and anxious support crews and family members waited by the phone eager to hear news of the athletes and how they had been getting through the cold.

The next CP – Dog Grave Lake, is 59 miles into the trail and inaccessible by road so a camp had been set up there to allow the athletes another chance of a hot meal and toasty warm wall tent with log burner in case of an emergency. Due to the very cold temperatures DGL became a safe haven for everyone stopped there last night and a lot of very sensible people made the decision to stay there the whole night rather than risk failure and worse than go out into -45 degrees C.

Day 3 and temperatures soar to -26! Practically tropical, but it did allow the competitors to get into their stride a bit more and we have had a fast day with many people happily reaching Braeburn in good time. Braeburn Lodge has been very busy with everyone desperate to get to sample one of Steve’s famous burgers, which are literally the size of a small country or even a cinnamon bun, which again could be mistaken for Belgium. For us at Race HQ, based on the shores of Braeburn Lake, just a little way down the trail from the Lodge there has been a lot to do, receiving updates and reports from the check points and snowmobile guides along the trail, coordinating evacuations of the athletes who needed to scratch and then ensuring that the website and Facebook pages are updated with the correct information about the competitors. And so, as night closes in our thoughts are on those out on the trail and those getting ready to set out for a night of hard slog in the cold, we can only salute these brave (but completely mad) people who take on one of the world’s coldest challenges.

Kyle McCoy wins MYAU 100 mile race

Kyle McCoy from the USA arrived at the Braeburn finish line at 14:11 on Feb. 9th. Considering the circumstances that is a very, very good time. What is even more impressive is the fact that he looked really good. Tired and sore of course but other than that in excellent shape and without frostbite. He rested a bit and then got a ride back to Whitehorse.

In second place at 18:55 arrived German Michael Brehe who is I believe also the first ever athlete to run and finish with a backpack. He wanted to proof it can be done and he sure did it. However, Michael also did suffer from frostbite and was brought back to Whitehorse to get treatment.

The Italian locomotive

We have some really great team spirit going on amongst the front running mountain bikers. Derek Crowe was clearly in the lead when he got to Braeburn today. But instead of taking off again he waited for Enrico to arrive to make sure he can help fix the problem on his bike. The Italian has got a technical problem with it due to the cold. As a matter of fact he pushed his bike all the way from Dog Grave Lake to Braeburn lodge. His friend Alberto always not too far away.

On the trail we can’t really help with technical problems. At checkpoints that’s a different story. We were really lucky to have Andy Gregory with us, too. Because he also jumped in and helped co-ordinate technical support for Enrico’s bike. And Enrico’s heroe of the day has to be Jonah Clark from Icycle. Jonah came all the way from his store in Whitehorse to repair the bike. Thank you Jonah!

Extreme temperatures take their toll

I am finally in Braeburn and now have the time to write a quick update. First of all I want to let everybody know that Michal Kielbasinski, 430 mile athlete from Poland, is in safety. I also would like to ask for your understanding that we will not use Facebook or the news updates to inform about rescue missions as they are happening. When we have these missions we are focused to make things happen as quickly as possible. And we do not want everybody back home to worry. The entire crew is working very hard and we do not only rely on the SPOT units alone. Our guides on ski-doo go out on the trail and check on athletes at least once a day. Depending on where athletes are at this early stage of the race they may actually be checked upon two, three or four times. Also, we communicate with our remote checkpoints at least twice a day. They may not have internet but we tell them when to expect athletes. So, when they don’t show up they can check.

A big thank you to Ross, Travis and Jo for the successful evacuation of Michal today. Also of course thank you to the helicopter team and EMS. I talked to Michal and of course he is sad and the frostbite is very painful but he also thanks everyone involved. The entire MYAU team wishes him a good recovery!

Jo Davies who is in charge of race headquarter updated the results table not long ago and we should have more updates soon. You will see a fairly large number of athletes have scratched. At temperatures down to – 45% Celsius that is to be expected. It does hurt. Believe me, the entire support crew is feeling with every single athlete and we really want them all to finish. But in this cold it is very difficult.

I will quickly talk about the athletes who have scratched so far and why. Pretty soon after the start, marathon mountain bikers Louise Pratt and Andrew Aherne had to stop because it was too cold for them. They had originally planned on running the marathon but when Andrew injured himself just before the race they decided to switch to biking instead. The local experts on fat bikes from Icycle Sport did a great job providing them with the right rental bikes. But of course their entire clothing system was more set up for running and so they made the right decision when they could not maintain a normal body temperature.

We have had Ignatios (430) from Switzerland and Renzo Moltrasio (300) from Italy pull out at Takhini Bridge. Ignatios caught a cold on his way to the Yukon and Renzo had what seemed like food poisoning. They are both in Whitehorse and recovering. I want to thank Jessie Thomson-Gladish (430) who helped Renzo when he was feeling really bad. She did not hesitate one second and was happy to support him even though it meant risking to get cold herself and losing time.

At Rivendell Farm local athlete Debra Jonasson (100) scratched. After volunteering at Dog Grave Lake two years in a row she had decided it was time to give it a try herself. The cold in combination with a heavy sled gave her a hard time and she decided to call it a day. After a good night’s sleep Debra is now helping the crew at Braeburn Lodge.

Borja Fernandez-Bilbao (300) from Spain already was out of luck in our training course. He had trouble with is lighter and it took him a long time to get his stove and wood fire going. At the same time his thin gloves had a small hole on one finger. Which was enough to get a frostbitten fingertip. Upon his request we agreed to let him do the marathon which he did very well. But it would have been unsafe for him to continue and he was fine with that. I have got a feeling we will see him back one year.

Andrew Gregory (430) from England arrived at Rivendell Farm with signs of hypothermia. He could not get his core body temperature up. The problem may have originated from cold feet. Andy did try everything to get back to normal but after several hours of just not getting warm enough he made the sensible decision to stop. Today he is with the crew and I am really happy about it because he was able to help Enrico Ghidoni (430). More on that story later.

With Anton Hierschläger (430) from Austria it was his hands. I felt really bad because it was Anton’s third try and every time he was faced with a new problem.

Marie-Louise Pharaony (430) from Switzerland also had trouble keeping warm enough and she was not going to take any risks.

There are more people who have scratched at Dog Grave Lake and I will have an update on that later tonight.

Virginia Sarrazin wins MYAU marathon

After all these news about athletes having to scratch, it’s about time I talk about yesterday’s marathon. Virina Sarrazin from Whitehorse came in first after an amazing 3 h 45 min. That’s a very good time in a road marathon. Sarah ran on a snow machine track and at about – 30 degrees Celsius. Second came Kristin Daniel after 4 h and 11 min. Kristin also is from Whitehorse. The third rank goes to Michael Buurman who arrived with a time of 4 h 17 min. All Whitehorse marathon running men should feel challenged ☺. For the full results please check our results table.

The first word from the support crew…

It takes a very long time to get here but for those who bother to make the journey there is a treat in store. Whitehorse city is nestled in the valley of the Yukon River, over two thousand miles north of Vancouver. It really is the last frontier – or was about one hundred years ago and still has that feeling. It is surrounded by forested hills and at this time of year is a stunning white snowy landscape. The first time I came here, 3 years ago, I was spellbound by the beauty of the landscape and fell in love.

So a little bit about me … my name is Jo Davies and my job on the support crew this year is to be “Race HQ”, I will be monitoring the phone and keeping the website updated about all the competitors and writing little blogs for everyone following. I shall be answering calls from checkpoints and coordinating stuff that goes on. I first got involved in the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra back in 2012 when I came out here as a volunteer on the support crew with the ulterior motive of recceing the race for competing in it in 2013. When I returned in 2013 with my race partner Stewart, we entered the one hundred mile ski race. Sadly I didn’t complete due to an infection in an old wound. This year I am back as a volunteer and loving it. And as for competing again …. one of my mottoes is “Never say never.”

The support team has been busy, headed up by Diane Patrick, running around getting the last minute preparations and shopping done, teaching the training course to the competitors and generally stopping Robert from going crazy.

We are a mixed bunch with experience in both competing in the race and organizing it so we all know enough to answer all the questions and generally point you (the athletes) in the right direction. And for those back home who aren’t fortunate enough to have come to this amazing part of the world but who are supporting these crazy individuals from all around Europe and the world – Mexico and Japan included – drop in on this website for more updates on the race and the people taking part or the Facebook page: Yukon Arctic Ultra. All for now, more from Race HQ soon.

MYAU 2015 Training Course

Just a quick reminder that a little while ago we changed the timing for the training course a bit. The indoor part takes place from 12:30 to 15:00. And we meet in the lobby of the Gold Rush Inn (NOT the Coast High Country Inn). The outdoor part will be from 17:00 to 21:00 and we will meet in front of the Coast High Country Inn for that. Please all be in time as in this cold it’s not very pleasant to stand outside waiting.

Also, the weather is likely going to be very cold. So, please do take along all your warm clothing! Because of the cold we will ask all participants to spend a little bit more time in their sleeping bag. When it is – 20 degrees, this is of not much use because all bags will definitely be fine then. However, when it is – 30 it is really testing your gear.

Last but not least, please only show up for the training course if you really have signed up for it. If you have not signed up but spontaneously decided you want to be there, contact me via email tomorrow morning as I will have to inform the hotel.


It does look like it is going to warm up a little for the race start. But just in case and because of the windy conditions, I want to remind all athletes that if you get frostbite, we will have to end your race. This also goes for frostbite in your face or on your ears. Not just hands and feet. So, please be careful and cover your skin if it’s cold and windy.