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robert

MYAU 2021 now fully cancelled

Unfortunately, the Canadian authorities on a federal level have now confirmed that I will not be allowed to travel to Canada. The organising of a sports event is not considered essential travel and it does not make any difference if I own a business in the Yukon or not. The race for international athletes had already been cancelled due travel restrictions but I had the hope of being able to make something happen for athletes from within the Yukon bubble and other Canadian citizens. Part of me is also wondering if there is not a way that I could organise things from my office in Germany. However, it just does not seem right. It’s not some kind of meeting and I feel if I can’t be there I have no choice. So, I really regret it but I won’t be able to go ahead with the idea of an MYAU 2021 for Canadians only.

I want to thank all athletes who already confirmed they would be coming, no matter what type of race we have in the end. I also want to thank all sponsors, local partners and crew members who have been on stand-by, waiting for the final decision. And, last but not least, I want to thank all checkpoints who would have been more than happy to host us. I am sad that I won’t see you this winter.

The good news is that vaccine development for Covid-19 seems to be going according to plan. Hopefully, by summer next year we can all relax a bit and then really look forward to another great Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra!

In the meantime, please check out the new Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra that will premier Feb. 7th in Överkalix, Sweden.

Please all stay safe and see you in the cold again soon – in Sweden or the Yukon 🙂

 

Best regards,

Robert Pollhammer

New race in Överkalix, Swedish Lapland

Location and date

Today I am able to announce that we have a location for our new race in Sweden. It is in the heart of Lapland and start and finish will be in Överkalix.

This week I was able to travel to Swedish Lapland and meet with represenatives of the Överkalix municipality, local companies and organisations we need to put on a successful race. The feedback has been really good and we all have agreed that we will make this happen. Soon I will have more news about important aspects like distances and checkpoints.

I can also confirm that our new race will start on Feb. 7th with a pre-race timing that will be pretty similar to what we had planned for Canada.

In a separate update I will inform on the current situation regarding a race in the Yukon for Yukoners/BC/Nunavut/NWT and other Canadian nationals.

Dealing with Covid-19

Like the rest of the world, Sweden has been affected by Covid-19. Most of you will know that the Swedish government has, in certain aspects, taken a less strict approach when it comes to the prevention of spreading the virus. That does not mean that people can do anything and that there are no regulations at all. I also feel that we as foreigners coming to this beautiful country have a very strong responsibility to do anything we can in order not to bring Covid-19 to the region where we are being hosted.

Therefore, we have to make changes to a lot of procedures we normally have in place, before, during and after the race. However, I still believe that you will experience great hospitality and when you are out on the trail, looking up a the Northern Lights and breathing the fresh, cold air, you will gather the energy, motivation and strenght you need when you get back home – to stay positive until hopefully soon this pandemic will come to an end.

Another reason why we need to have certain measures in place is that without distancing and hygiene just one positive case of Covid-19 may mean the entire race needs to end while we are in the middle of it. If we are smart and cautious, we should be able to prevent this.

The local authorities have not yet received our Covid-19 operational plan. It will exceed what current Swedish regulations demand. Therefore, I do not expect that even more severe measures could be demanded. The following are the main measures that will affect athletes:

  • You are aked to try and be as careful as you can while travelling, i.e. please wear a face mask (covering nose and mouth at all times), keep your distance and stick to the rules of recommended hygiene.
  • Once in Sweden we ask for permanent distancing of 2 metres at all times – before, during and after the race.
  • We will have solutions in place for recommended hygiene measures, e.g. hand washing stations and desinfectants.
  • There will not be a pre-race dinner.
  • Our race briefing will be sent out in writing and we will see if we can set-up an online meeting for Q&A.
  • Race checkpoints will serve hot water but not all of them will have meals – which means you need to have sufficient expedition meals.
  • We have yet to decide about sleeping inside at the checkpoints. There is a chance that access to the inside in most places will be limited to emergencies. The good news is that temperatures in this area of Swedish Lapland should not go below – 35° Celsius.
  • When you come in contact with crew at checkpoints – even if you can keep your 2 meters of distance – you are asked to cover nose and mouth with a face mask. This also goes for the time before the race.
  • Even though the local regulations may not require it, we also ask you to wear a face mask when coming in contact with the local population, e.g. when entering or leaving a restaurant, on transfers or when inside for grocery shopping, etc.

We are also analysing how we can implement a Covid-19 test strategy that is possible for all, makes sense and helps us to further reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

I realise that some of these rules are painful. I for example always really enjoy our pre-race dinner and seeing the excitement of everyone the night before the start. However, I am sure that the time on the trail will make up for it.

If of course you are sick and tired of distancing, hygiene and other Covid-19 related rules, it means it likely is better if you join us in 2022.

Signing up for Sweden

My goal is to have the race website up and running by November 1st. At the same time I will work on the rules and the Application & Waiver. I hope to be able to accept entries one week later. All athletes who had signed up for the Yukon will get priority. Any remaining spots will go to people who had already expressed an interest. If there are not enough spots I will open a waiting list in case regulations allow for more than 50 entries.

Althletes who had signed up for the Yukon and will not be able to sign up for Sweden, will get an 80% refund on the deposit. Athletes who had signed up for the Yukon and now will come to Sweden will get 100% refund on their MYAU deposit and will receive a new invoice for the race in Sweden. I have to do that due to VAT regulations.

Any athletes who had not signed up for MYAU but want to come to Sweden will have the same procedures in place that we use for Canada, i.e.

  • I will have a skype interview with you in English to discuss important aspects of the race.
  • Anybody without previous outdoor experience in extremely cold temperatures, will have to do a 4-day winter survival course in Överkalix before the race. Details of this will be confirmed soon but you can expect similar cost and topics that our partners offer for their courses in the Yukon.

Rental Gear

All rental gear I have is in the Yukon. I still intend to provide rental gear in Överkalix. I simply will build up a stock of gear there, too. In order to have everything ready in time, I would like to ask all participants to confirm their rental gear needs asap.

The new website will inform about what rental gear will be available. The plan is to have:

  • Pulk sled with poles (or ropes if preferred)
  • Harness
  • Sleeping bag
  • Winter sleeping mat
  • Stove kit
  • Expedition down jacket (Montane Apex 8000 Down Jacket)
  • Snowshoes
  • Tent

A big THANK YOU

I want to send out a big thank you to:

Linnea Nilsson-Waara and Niclas Bentzer who were the ones suggesting Överkalix as a possible location and who went out of their way to establish contacts, to answer my hundreds of question and then hosted me in their great home just 100 metres south of the Arctic Circle.

Peter Mild who helped with his input and designed our new race logo (soon to be released).

Överkalix Municipality for immediately coming on board and supportung our effort by allocating resources to it.

Heart of Lapland and Swedish Lapland marketing initiatives who provided vital feedback and support in many aspects including media and PR.

The members of Överkalix Snöskoter Klubb without whom there would not be a trail and thus of course no race.

Sofie Holmgren from Överkalix Camping and Ann-Sofie Landin & team from Jockfall Camping for being supportive and coming up with a plan for accommodation and booking (info to follow soon).

Sven Olov Larsson from Projekt Nystarten, Ronny Carlsson and Viktoria Lundgren from Innova Print, Mats Ahlbäck from Ahlbäcks Taxi, Sofia Ahlbäck from Reko Biluthyrning and the many more people who have been so helpful and will hopefully all become part of our race.

Next steps

Next steps include having a new website with all the information, e.g. details on distances, checkpoints, travel information, information on services and much more.

At this point I would like to ask athletes not to make any flight and accommodation bookings just yet. For one, we do have a start date but I need a few more days to decide on time limts. And regarding accommodation the booking will be centralized and we are just putting together all necessary information.

Once the new website is online, the MYAU website will again be dedicated to our Yukon race only. All future news regarding Sweden will be on the new website. The same may be happening regarding facebook and instagram, i.e. it is likely I will do a separate facebook group and instagram account for Sweden.

Looking for alternatives

This morning I sent an email to all athletes currently on the race roster of the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2021. Just in case an email did not get through and in order to inform all those of you interested in signing up, I am also writing an update for our website.

I have been informed that there is likely no change regarding travel restrictions before spring. This would mean that there can only be travel without self-isolation within the bubble of Yukon, BC, NWT and Nunavut. All other Canadians have to self-isolate upon arrival. International tourists would not be allowed in even if they were willing to self-isolate. Of course there is a chance that this changes, e.g. if economic pressure requires a different approach or some other development takes place and governments change their current strategy. However, this very likely would be too late for our planning. Therefore, I have decided to cancel the MYAU 2021.

BUT I am looking at alternatives for those of you interested:

For athletes from the Yukon and rest of Canada I am evaluating if I can put on a race that is slightly different. One of the options is that we move in stages because that would allow us to keep everyone a bit closer together, i.e. avoid athletes spreading out over 100 or more miles. It could be that this race is on the Quest trail or parts of it. Or it could be that the trail would be in different areas. And we would likely have wall tent camps as checkpoints to stay away from communities. There are a lot of things that still need to be considered. So, at the moment I have the following question for all Canadians:

1) Would you want to participate in an alternative race in the Yukon?
2) If so, does it have to be on the same dates as we had originally planned?

Tomorrow I will post a survey on this in our facebook group. Also, to find out if anybody not signed up would be interested. If you are not on facebook, feel free to send me an email.

There are two major issues that yet need to be resolved/considered. One, is the question if the bubble for travel without isolation will be extended to all of Canada. Two, is the question if I would be allowed to travel – I am currently trying to find out on a federal level, as Yukon authorities told me if I am allowed into Canada, they would let me come in – if I self-isolate for 2 weeks.

For all Europeans and other nationalities who are allowed to travel to this country, I have started organising an alternative race in Swedish Lapland. I am in touch with a community that is right below the Arctic Circle and they love the idea of us going there. I am travelling there in 2 weeks and already am in touch with local contacts to deal with details. When I am back I can announce the location and I would try to be ready for entries/transfers of entries by end of October.

The idea of this race would be the same as the regular MYAU. Max. distance would be around 300 miles. If we find enough trails we will go longer. More snow likely means slower speeds. Whilst in the Yukon extreme lows can be around – 55 ° Celsius, in this race it would be more like – 35° Celsius. Regular temps should be around – 10 to – 20° Celsius. That means less danger of serious frostbite injuries.

Again, I would like to ask all of you if:

1) you would want to participate in this alternative race?
2) If so, does it have to be on the same dates as we had originally planned for MYAU?

I will post a survey on the above in our facebook group, too. Feel free to give feedback and ask questions there. If you are not on facebook you can of course write me an email.

To sum it up, things are challenging but I am not ready to give up just yet. I realise there are more important things in the world but being out there and doing what we love is one way of dealing with this crazy world of ours. And the feedback I got so far was that you really all are looking forward to a great winter adventure. That’s why I will keep on trying.

Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2021 and Covid-19

As is the case with so many other events, Covid-19 will have an impact on next year’s Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra. Work on an operational plan for the Yukon government has now begun. Of course right now nobody knows what things will be like in February next year. So, the plan is based on the current regulations and adapted if there are changes. At the moment, the main obstacle is a travel restriction when visiting the Yukon Territory, i.e. not everybody is allowed to travel to the Yukon and in many cases a 14 day self-isolation is required upon arrival. This makes international events and tourism pretty much impossible. In addition to that, certain countries require self-isolation upon return.

In the next few weeks I will determine the deadline for the final decision, i.e. when do we have to cancel even if there is a chance that regulations change for the better. In the opposite scenario, when the Yukon government determines fairly early that the self-isolation rule is maintained through February 2021, we have no choice. Then MYAU 2021 will have to be cancelled.

All athletes who signed up already are aware of the challenges as they have been updated via an email. The above is mainly for athletes still thinking about signing up.

I hope you are all safe, healthy and continue to get through this crises without major problems.

 

Best regards,

Robert Pollhammer
(Race Director)

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.