The Yukon Ultra: Day 1 – A Few Brave Souls

The Yukon Ultra: Day 1 – A Few Brave Souls

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4th February 2012

Right from the off I wanted to be close to the front and within a couple of kilometres I tagged onto the back of a 100 mile runner, Jorgen. The pair of us were flying along for the whole morning and made great progress until he needed to stop for a drink. Promising to meet him at the checkpoint, I continued on. The terrain made things easy going. The river was hard with compacted snow and the weather was perfect with clear skies predicted for the day. Luckily the temperature was cold enough that I wasn’t sweating in my two layers.

First Checkpoint

The field of runners spread out really quickly, with the fastest 100 milers just tiny dots on the horizon by noon. It wasn’t until 2pm when I caught up to a fellow Brit called Karl. He had a GPS unit and told me it was just 7 miles to the 1st checkpoint. We both had a quick snack and some fluids before making the final push along the river. By 3.50pm we walked into the checkpoint where volunteers threw hot soup and sandwiches at us. A surprising number had already been and gone but after studying the arrivals board, I was pleased to see I was the third 300 miler to have arrived.

2 more Brits showed up – Jim and Bob, both 100 milers. After Jim gave me the comforting news that I’d completed just 1/15th of the race, I decided to make a move and after a few words with Jorgen, who had also just arrived, I left the checkpoint at full steam to chase the then 300 mile leader, Rejean Moreau. 1 hour out, I met a local XC skier and his dog, Merlin. He told me it would be a perfect night for travelling ‘so bright you’ll be able to read in the moonlight’ he said. I hoped he was right. Dusk soon came and went and by 7pm it was as dark as it would get. I was amazed at how tired I was getting, especially since the trail had come into hilly forests. By 8pm I was looking for a place off the trail to rest and eat for an hour or two. Filippo, one of the 300 mile guys, had already beaten me to it. I found him already with his stove lit, sitting in a small dell with a big grin on his face. We exchanged pleasantries before I collapsed off the trail opposite him. Sleep took over and instead of eating I rolled out my sleeping bag and curled up. Despite my tiredness, I could only doze at best. I sensed runners dragging their sleds past me but it was the sound of one of the trail guide’s snowmobiles that fully woke me up. It was already past midnight. Filippo was long gone. I was alone, cold and hungry.

Lucky Mascot

Lucky Mascot

Chucking a couple of oat bars down my neck, I broke camp and headed off, determined to make up for lost time. The same claustrophobic forest continued for kilometre after kilometre. In the dark, my whole world was reduced to the cone of bright light from my head torch. Just as I was telling myself I was making zero progress, I began to pass runners who had camped for the night. Their names printed on their sleds lit up in the beam of my head torch; Jorgen, Karl, Jim, Bob and eventually – Rejean. Overtaking them gave me a huge lift and I hauled onwards until 4.30am when I camped for the 2nd time that night and enjoyed the sleep of the dead for just 2 hours.

Tim Williamson - Aug 13, 2012 | The Yukon Arctic Ultra
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