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February 2020

Anmeldungen für den MYAU 2021 ab sofort möglich

Ab sofort können sich Athleten/-innen, die gerne beim Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2021 dabei sein möchten, anmelden. Da der Yukon Quest nächstes Jahr wieder in Whitehorse startet, werden wir erneut ein 430 Meilen-Rennen mit Ziel im legendären Dawson City anbieten. Zusätzlich stehen als Distanzen ein Marathon, 100 und 300 Meilen zur Auswahl.

Alle notwendigen Infos zu Gebühren, Deadlines und Formularen befinden sich in der Rubrik Anmeldung.

MYAU 2021 now open for entries

As of now athletes wanting to sign up for the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2021 can do so. Since next year the Yukon Quest will start from Whithorse we will once again have a 430 mile distance, going all the way to legendary Dawson City. The other options will be marathon, 100 and 300 miles.

To find out more about entry fees, deadlines and how to sign up please check out the Application page.

Some learnings from this year

I want to share with you some learnings from the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2020. Hopefully, these will help those of you planning on signing up for 2021 – both rookies and those coming back for unfinished business:

  1. It is very difficult to get it all right when you do a race like the MYAU for the first time. Yes, there have been athletes who managed to finish the 300 mile race on their first attempt. So, it’s not impossible. However, statistics show us that it is not likely. Seeing higher finisher rates in the 430 mile race, where participants bring with them more experience, is also proof of it. Doing a training course will help you stay out of serious trouble and definitely increases your chances to finish but you will still learn important lessons that only the race can teach you. It does not mean that I will say “no” to someone who wants to go straight to the 300 but my recommendation would always be that you try the 100 mile race first. Or do a similar distance in another extreme winter event before you come to the Yukon with the 300 or 430 mile race as your goal.
  2. Talking about the word “race” … the MYAU does consider itself a race but if you are new to this type of winter challenge, keep in mind that it is much more than a regular ultra-running event. It is more an expedition and requires significant outdoor experience, gear (and being able to manage that gear) and specific training. If you love to run your ultras, keep in mind that at the MYAU, with that sled behind you, there is not much running involved.
  3. Changing weather conditions and especially cold temperatures in combination with high humidity are adding to the level of difficulty. Especially the humidity is the reason why we see more people struggling with frostbite – even if it is not extremely cold. Layer management, resting, drinking and eating well are some of the things that can be done to deal with it.
  4. Mental strength and confidence are extremely important at the MYAU. Mental strength to a certain extent most athletes have. I think it’s just sometimes underestimated how much more you need in the MYAU when compared to “regular” ultras. Mental strength and confidence come with experience and training. One of the reasons why it is recommended to start with a shorter distance. Other things you can do, apart from a training course, is to give yourself more training time in the Yukon or another cold place.
  5. Heavy sleds can be an issue. And it is a tricky one as I totally understand why some of these sleds are so heavy. I have done the exact same thing when I started. You want to be 100% safe and there is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary. However, if your sled is too heavy your chances of making the Carmacks cut-off (4 days and 12 hours) are very low. Therefore, you really need to work out how you will be safe without accumulating too much weight. Again, experience will help with this. I would love to make a recommendation and I may attempt this in the following months. The tricky part is that everybody is different …
  6. From feedback I know there have been a couple of cases where athletes were unhappy with their SPOT. It’s only natural to worry once you think your SPOT is not working. However, your confidence should be at a level where you can handle it. At the briefing I always say that the SPOT is an important safety device but it runs with batteries and it can malfunction. In that case it comes down to you having the trust in yourself that you can keep out of trouble until the problem is solved. If you are uncertain about how you would react if your SPOT failed, I recommend taking along a sat phone or inReach as back-up.

That was the MYAU 2020

Another Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra is in the history books.

I would like to thank all athletes who were with us at the Shipyard’s Park start line January 30th. Congratulations to all finishers in the marathon, 100 and 300 mile races.

I also want to congratulate all athletes who managed to stay safe out there. Not all of you may have reached the finish line but as I always say up front, “what matters most is your health”. You can have another go at the MYAU and any other ultra you will attempt in future years. However, in order to do so you need to take good care of yourself. Sometimes that means accepting that another try will be necessary. In doing so, you help reduce risk for the crew and I am sure all your loved ones appreciate you making the right decision, too.

If you did sustain an injury I wish you a swift recovery. As always, there have been a variety of problems for some of the participants – from bad blisters, to knee and shoulder problems, to frostbite and simply exhaustion. I will make a separate post with some thoughts of mine and lessons learned.

Leading up to the MYAU 2020 we have seen quite the cold spell. I believe one news headline read “Yukon coldest place on earth …”. The cold spell did a good job freezing rivers and lakes, thus making the trails safer and reducing the amount of overflow. So, I was very surprised when 2 days before the start reports came in that only about 5 km from the start line there is a massive area of overflow. Some of it hip deep. Thanks to an extra effort by crew member Gary Rusnak we found a safe way around it.

Because of the slightly warmer temperatures, fresh snow and wind, the trail conditions in general have been challenging. On day 1 the crew encountered new overflow north of Muktuk Adventures which made us shorten the marathon. Some ultra-distance athletes had to go through and others, who came later, were lucky as, again, the crew worked their way around it.

During the first night the weather forecast was off by about 10 degrees Celsius, i.e. it was colder than expected and the coldest it got was around the – 40 degrees Celsius in the second night. Combined with challenging trails and high humidity it caused more cold weather injuries than we would normally see in these temps. The good news is that no athletes had to stay over night in hospital for treatment. Since they all reacted in time, the crew doing a great job managing initial treatment and transportation and thanks to state of the art treatment in Whithorse Hospital, all should fully recover. Nonetheless, it is a strong reminder that it does not need extreme temperatures to get in trouble.

Whilst all marathoners and 11 out of 20 athletes in the 100 mile race finished, things worked out differently for the 300 mile distance. From 21 participants only 2 reached Pelly Crossing. Interestingly, those two, Fabian Imfeld from Switzerland and Tiberiu Useriu from Romania, both had to pull out last year due to frostbite. With Fabian it had been only minor. Tibi’s case was more serious. They both improved their game and had no issues at all this year. I am particularly happy for Tibi to have made the right decision on a couple of occasions when he rested rather than trying to overtake Fabian. Tibi is very competitive and I can only imagine how tempting it must have been to try. But he listened to his body and stayed out of trouble.

Time to say thank you to the crew:

Thank you Gary (Rusnak), Gary (Vantell), Jason, Jim, Warren, Joe, Robert (Siefke), Glenn and Spencer for doing such a wonderful job out on the trail.

Thank you Anya, Jen, Timothy, Charlotte, Gavin, Sarah and Trish from the medical team! You worked incredibly hard and made sure everyone stayed safe.

Thank you Julie, Callum, Roger, Peter, Margo , Pamela, Eric, Bernard, Maeva, Diana, Berenike, Ross and Christina for taking such good care of everyone at the checkpoints.

Thank you to all the checkpoints: Muktuk Adventures (Manuela & team), Dog Grave Lake (Stewart & crew), Braeburn Lodge (Steve, Lee & team), Ken Lake (Bernard & crew), Carmacks Recreation Centre (Ray & team), McCabe Creek (Kruse family), Pelly Crossing (Selkirk First Nations) and Pelly Farm (Sue & Dale).

Thank you to Jo from Race HQ – and Julie who also joined in HQ work for a few days.

Thank you to Stewart, Jo & team and Shelley, Jessie & team for putting on your survival/training courses.

A special thank you also to Diane Patrick for all your help leading up to the 2020 edition! You have not been able to be with us this time but without your support the race would not have been possible.

Thanky you Mark Kelly and Joe Bishop for the perfect photos and thanky you David Brabec for your very nice videos.

A big thank you to our title sponsor Montane, main sponsors Pertex, Allied Feather & Down and Tourism Yukon. Also, thank you to Primus and the many local sponsors and partners of the event: Yukon Quest, Coast High Country Inn, Muktuk Adventures, Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters, Wilderness Fishing Yukon, Fraserway RV, Total North, Yukon Yamaha, Coast Mountain Sports and Driving Force.

Last but not least, thank you Canadian Rangers for the hard work putting in the trail!

Over the next 10 days or so I will prepare the website and forms for our 2021 edition. Hopefully, by March 1st we will be able to accept entries. As most of you will know, next year we will have the 430 mile distance again! So, it will be marathon, 100, 300 and 430 miles you can chose from.

Fabian Imfeld wins 300 mile race

Fabian Imfeld from Switzerland was able to maintain his comfortable lead all the way to the finish line. After a stay at Pelly Farm that Fabian considers his home away from home, he went back to the Pelly Crossing Finish line. It has been really great to see him come in. All the way he had done very well. Always positive and in a good mood. Fabian had already been with us last year and had experienced issues with a bit of frostbite which meant he could not finish. Not this time! Congratulations!

Tiberiu Useriu has got a similar story. He tried the 430 last year and got very bad frostbite – even though he had already considerable experience with cold weather races. I was very happy to see that, instead of trying to overtake Fabian, which I am sure he wanted with all his heart, he actually took the rest his body needed. Lesson learned. Tibi finished. Zero problems with frostbite this time.

The Romanian also has a very interesting story and I think it is okay if I share it here. In his home country he is famous for  his athletic achievement but also his life change. The short version is that he had a very difficult youth and I am sure a lot of people would have thought that his entire life would go the wrong way. A lost case for society. He stumbled and fell. Tibi realised he needed to change and he got up again. Now he is helping kids in Romania who are faced with the same or similar problems to get back on track. Doing these races he can show them that anything is possible. And he is leading a project with a great team of people to create a permanently marked long distance hike trail in Romania. An exciting project that creates jobs and will help with tourism. Congratulations, Tibi! And good luck with your work!

As those two were approaching the finish line we had still hopes that Patrick O Toole and Paul Deasy from Ireland would also get to Pelly. However, Patrick had to be pulled at McCabe due frostbite on a finger. Paul originally left that checkpoint but about 10 km in he experienced stomach problems and just could not get warm. So, he made the right decision and did not continue.

All athletes and crew arrived safely back in Whitehorse. Some hours ago we had a very nice little party at the Coast High Country Inn. Trail stories were exchanged and I have seen a lot of happy faces.

Safe trip home everyone!

On the way to Pelly Farm

Fabian Imfeld from Switzerland is still in the lead. He was the first to head on to the Pelly River this evening. Those of you who have been following the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra for a few years know that it has been a while since we last were able to use the river to get to Pelly Farm. For many years now the river ice has not been good enough to allow a full route on it. Which is always a shame because it is very spectacular. On the other hand, it is also very challenging because it is cold and the river does not go out in a straight line. If not using a GPS one might think the farm is just a mystery. It never appears on the horizon when people expect it to. For those who make it, Pelly Farm is a highlight. Dale and Sue are great hosts and athletes enjoy it so much there, they usually find it hard to leave again.

Tiberiu Useriu is currently resting at Pelly Crossing and is planning on getting up at 3 AM. He has had a rough day as his stomach has been acting up. So, I am glad he is giving his body a break.

Further back, on their way to McCabe Creek Patrick O Toole and Paul Deasy are faced with a totally different challenge: they have to maintain a perfect strategy in order to make the cut-off. Due to a delay in Carmacks they received a 6 1/2 hour time credit but it still means they can’t slow down too much if they want to make it.

While the crew got ready at Pelly Crossing earlier today, some scratched athletes came by for a visit. Patrick Sumi, Hervé Acosta, Hugo Victor do Carmo, Maciej Zyto, Konrad Jedraszewski and Russ Reinbolt all came to say “hi” and spend some time at the checkpoint. They seemed in a good mood and enjoyed the hospitality of the Selkirk First Nation who invited them for a meal.

Now our volunteers and guide crew are resting. Mark Kelly is working hard to get the next photos uploaded.

I really enjoyed a visit from Freida who is our contact here for the usage of the building we are in and represents the Selkirk First Nation. One day I need to come back and spend some time here when I am not so busy. I find it very inspiring to listen and ask questions about the culture and learn about values, like respect for the elders and love for nature, how traditions are kept and the community is developing.


Only 4 athletes left in the 300 mile race

The 300 mile distance is still dominated by Fabian Imfeld (Switzerland) and Tiberiu Useriu (Romania). So far it seems nothing can get to them. Fabian currently is at McCabe Creek checkpoint and Tiberiu is about 10 miles south.

Yesterday afternoon Shelley Gellatly (Canada), our only athlete on xc-skis, asked to get a ride back to Whitehorse because of problems with cold feet.

Victor Hugo do Carmo (Switzerland) who had been in third position had to scratch due to frostbite on his fingers. Like all other cold injuries this year it is not severe but enough to have to withdraw him from the race.  But I am getting ahead of myself … Last night, as we all were getting ready for a quiet night, we did get a 911 SPOT alert from Phil Cowell. When that happens we always must assume that we are dealing with a life threatening situation. With the help of Jo Stirling from Race HQ and the Ken Lake crew we have been able to resolve the situation very quickly. A big thank you also to the RCMP who were ready to go in no time. Luckily we had Bernard at Ken Lake who was able to check on the situation and the RCMP did not have get involved. It turned out that Phil had frostbite on his fingers. His friends, Lee Francis and Gareth Jones (both from England) were with him at time and they tried to keep him warm and safe. Bernard transported Phil to Ken Lake where Trish and Sarah took good care of him.

Lee and Gareth initially continued and Russ Reinbolt (USA) eventually overtook them. All of them knew they may have a hard time making our 4 days 12 hours cut-off for Carmacks. Lee and Gareth were given a 2 hour time credit for helping Phil. By the time they found out about it, they had already made up their mind and also stated that likely it would not have been enough. I have not had a chance to talk to Russ, yet. However, feedback from the crew indicates that he had a hard time with his feet. That is not unusual in an ultra race but considering the distance still to go he probably had come to the conclusion that he could get himself in serious trouble if he ignored it. So, it was definitely the right decision.

In the meantime Paul Deasy and Patrick O Toole from Ireland were racing towards Carmacks and they arrived well before the cut-off. When the medical team checked Patrick they found what they believe is frostbite on one of his fingertips but in a very early stage it is not always obvious and easy to be certain. So, it was decided to have another look at it when Patrick gets up again.

All this means that at the moment we have only 4 out of 21 athlete left in the 300 mile race. That in itself is not unusual for the MYAU we have had several years with numbers this low or even lower. However, we always suffer with the athletes and constantly keep our fingers crossed that we see no more DNFs. The nice thing is that amongst those who could not reach their goal many have kept a very positive attitude. Several athletes already approached me and asked when they could sign up for 2021. They enjoyed the adventure, learned many valuable lessons and want to try again next year.

For those still in the race it’s difficult to predict what the next couple of days have in store for them. It should be getting warmer but that is not necessarily an advantage. Fresh snow and warmer temperatures could result in soft trails again. We will see and just take it “one step at a time.”


More finishers and more athletes scratching

Another busy day on the trail and at the checkpoints is coming to an end. More 100 milers were able to reach the finish line. These are Richard Charles (New Zealand), followed by Steve Jones (England) and Gerald Zechner (Austria). As I write this the father/son team Joel and Hans-Jörg Hegner (Switzerland) have only a couple of miles left to go. A bit further behind are 100 milers Terry Gilmartin (England), Mark St. Pierre (Canada) and Donald Smith (Canada).

A few athletes in the 100 mile distance also had to stop their race: Julian Coulter (Canada), Sam Jeremy (Canada) and Alex de Sain (The Netherlands). Julian had frostbite on his fingers was brought out to get into an ambulance at the Overland Parking Lot. He received treatment at the hospital but did not have to stay there. However, he will get further treatment and should fully recover. His friend Sam was fine but did not want to continue alone. Alex de Sain quit at Dog Grave Lake. He is fine just a bit slow and I am assuming it was a pretty heavy sled that slowed him down too much. Logistics did not allow for Alex to come out today. So, I will spend another night in the Yukon wilderness with our crew.

Quick update also on Chad and Virginia. Chad believes it was not lack of drinking but he was not eating enough sugars and got too low on energy. Virginia’s frostbite is getting treatment. Like Julian she did not have to stay in hospital and emailed today that she is fine.

On to the 300 miles.

Still in the lead and going very strong is Fabian Imfeld (Switzerland). Followed be a very determined Tiberiu Useriu (Romania). Both of them had to withdraw last year due to frostbite. In Fabian’s case it was only minor. Tibi’s problems were more severe. Due to the right treatment decisions, quick evacuation and state of the art treatment at Whitehorse hospital he fully recovered. So, to see these doing so well feels really good. Now they just must not forget that things can change any minute here. Hot on their heels is Swiss runner Victor Hugo. The Ken Lake checkpoint crew is looking forward to receiving them.

Unfortunately, also some 300 milers had to stop today. Kike (Spain) made the right decision last night to bivvy due to bronchitis. Other athletes who scratched are Maciej Zyto (Poland) and Konrad Jedraszwski (Poland). They are still out on the course in a cabin and waiting to be brought out tomorrow. Crew has seen them and they are fine. It’s a bit unusual that we leave athletes waiting over night but seeing there is no emergency it’s better the guides get some rest. It is safer than travelling at night. They have all the food the need, gear and a cabin. Other athletes who could not continue are Dirk Heller (Germany) due to small frostbite on nose and Vincent Turgeon (Canada) because of exhaustion. All other 300 milers are still going. Fingers crossed those south of Braeburn will be able to continue.

Lot’s of people at Braeburn Lodge tonight! A big thank you to Steve and Lee for hosting us once more.

Later on we should hopefully see the first photos by Mark Kelly in our gallery. Tomorrow we will open Carmacks checkpoint and possibly also McCabe Creek. Braeburn will close.

It will be a cold night. With temps down to – 35° Celsius possibly the coldest of this race. At Race HQ we will be glued and organise the logistics for tomorrow.

Trails north of Braeburn continue to challenge the athletes. Wind and fresh snow, especially on the long lakes, mean that footing is soft participants need to be careful not to lose the way.

John Berryman wins 100 mile race

Yesterday at 16:22 local athlete John Berryman arrived at Braeburn Lodge with his fatbike and won the 100 mile race. Next up was Kevin Leahy from Northern Ireland who won the foot category after impressing everyone with his super strong performance.

Local runner Virginia Sarrazin arrived third overall and won the women’s foot category. Unfortunately, she had to be diagnosed with frostbite on her feet and was brought to Whitehorse Hospital by friends.

As Virginia was approaching the final miles to Braeburn our crew attended an SOS message from Chad Barber who at that time was 6.7 miles south of us. He was developing hypothermia. To my knowledge he had no frostbite but could not get warm and was starting to get disorientated. Of course the right thing would have been avoiding to get into this situation but it looks like it was a good idea to initiate the SOS. I will know more when I talk to him and our crew member who brought him in. Chad is now resting.

We also already know that James Binks, who currently is at Dog Grave Lake, will not continue beyond. The entire team would have loved to see race veteran James finish but I am sure that, as always, he did the right thing.

Before all this, i.e. yesterday morning Dirk Groth (Australia) and Lana Rogzinsky (Canada) had to end their adventure. Along with Darren Hardy (UK), Vincent Turgeon (Canada), Frederik Strange (Denmark) and Walter Hösch (Germany). Dirk had problems with a knee, Lana had issues with one foot, with Vincent and Frederik it seems to have been exhaustion and Walter suffered from frostnip on his fingers. They are all safe and back in Whitehorse.

Fabian Imfeld (Switzerland) who is in our 300 mile race has reached Braeburn and is looking very strong.

All other athletes, with the exception of Alex de Sain (The Netherlands), have reached or passed Dog Grave Lake checkpoint.

Congratulations to the winners/finishers! All who could not achieve their goal this year and need recovery time I wish you all the best and that you get well soon.

We currently still have crew at Dog Grave Lake, Braeburn and Ken Lake. The latter is struggling with a totally different challenge. It seems some squirrels enjoyed the comfort of the cabin there and caused damage. Some years ago Bernard and crew had to deal with bear damage.

All this is a reminder that we are in the middle of the wilderness here. It is beautiful but if making mistakes it can also be merciless. In addition, it is also a strong reminder that cold weather injuries do not only happen at – 40 degrees Celsius.

I am very proud of our crew! All oft hem are working hard and through the night to make sure the MYAU is a safe as it can be.

Now is a new day and we will see what it has got in store for us.

For frequent news and many great photos and stories I recommend our facebook group: On our official website we will hopefully get the first photo uploads in the gallery later today.