Nathan Quinn, Connor Murray and Brian James, all from Canada, win the 100 mile race. Yes, you heard right. They all win it because they arrive together in Braeburn February 6th at 03.16 AM! They are also our only 100 mile finishers. Unfortunately, non of the remaining athletes in this race distance were able to finish. Which is quite unusual. Normally, we see a higher percentage of 100 milers reach their goal. It just goes to show you how a lot of snow and relatively warm temperatures can be just as or even more challenging than extreme cold. And another fact seems to be that even in these “warmer” temperatures athletes can sustain cold injuries. We already had one athlete with frostbitten toes and Jim Ryall had the same fate when he reached the Dog Grave Lake checkpoint. He was not aware of it but after his medical check crew had to tell him that he can’t continue. Both cases were not severe and we brought them out by snowmobile. I am guessing they got these injuries because the snow made the push harder and it also meant that there was more moisture/humidity.
We still had some more 100 milers in the race who, under normal circumstance (i.e. with a hard packed trail), would have finished the 100 miles in time. That’s Alla Bova (USA) and Teri Polesky (Canada). However, at some point during the night they had to admit defeat and rest. There was too much snow for them to reach the necessary pace and they also had issues with too much gear getting wet. Both eventually were brought to the finish line by our crew. The important thing is that they are safe and even though they could not get a medal this time, they really enjoyed the challenge and the Yukon.
Luckily, the 300 mile distance has seen no more scratches so far. Jessie continues in the lead and is going really strong. Even though she has had a significant amount of miles pushing her bike. Crazy. I mean, picture yourself pushing a bike with fat tires and this much snow for miles on end and being this fast … Kevin from Ireland is also doing well. He broke a gear related rule which resulted in a time penalty of 6 hours but this will likely have no influence on how he ranks if he reaches the finish in Whitehorse. It’s challenging for strong athletes like him because he had a plan and the snow just meant he could not stick to it. I believe he has now come around to accepting that fact, re-adjusted and is having a good time, taking a lot more breaks than he likely normally would.
Next up are Stephan Huss and Benjamin. They have teamed up because they seem to be comfortable with each others speed. While some seek the solitude they seem to have more fun, knowing someone else is not too far away.
Ireland is doing well this year because next up is Aodh O Currain who is also from this beautiful country. So, if we had a nation’s cup, the Irish could win it. Aodh is really enjoying it out there and fingers crossed, he continues to do well. Last in line is Phil Cowell from the UK. Yes, Phil is going at a slower speed but he is steady and has got a positive attitude – both key elements in being successful at the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra.
In the meantime, we had a development which resulted in a change of the position of our turnaround point and effectively shortened the 300 mile race to about 250 miles. We have had crew ready at Mandana Lake for several days already. The Canadian Rangers, Bernard Stehelin, our checkpoint host there being one of them, worked super hard to get the initial trail in. They had to fight their way through long patches of overflow on the many lakes. Once driven over these trails normally freeze and are then passable. Consequently Bernard and his team set up the camp and were eager to welcome as many athletes as possible. When our trail guides Robert Siefke and Jason Wolsky went in initially from Braeburn for another check they only encountered new overflow a few km before Mandana and got through it okay. The next day things had changed. Massive overflows had reappeared and they got stuck twice on their way to check on Jessie and the others. These areas would have been extremely tough for the athletes and also dangerous in potential rescues. Therefore, the decision was made to transport Jessie to the same location as Kevin, find a safe spot and set up an improvised and new turnaround point there. We still have to confirm for both Jessie and Kevin what time credit they will get for any waiting times/delays.