The Yukon Ultra: Day 2 – Daybreak

The Yukon Ultra: Day 2 – Daybreak

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5th February

Daybreak came and I was still plodding along on the forest trail towards the 2nd checkpoint at Dog Grave Lake with no sign of it getting closer. The ascents were getting steeper and longer and soon my legs were burning from the effort. At the top of one of these ascents I caught up with Rejean. I knew he must have passed me during my 2nd sleep in the night. It was here I saw his sled for the first time – a kick sled, perfect for the flat lakes but difficult to use over this kind of terrain. It explained his speed during the first day but as I overtook him, I could see he was now struggling with it. The trail opened onto a ridge where I got some awesome views of the rugged, formidable landscape before heading back into the forest. Appearing almost out of nowhere, checkpoint 2 showed itself at the top of another ascent. As soon as I had unhooked from my harness, I was met by a volunteer, Jessica. She showed me into the large orange tent that made up the checkpoint and there sitting with their feet up on two camp chairs were Jim and Bob. I did a double-take. Didn’t I overtake them on the previous night? They lifted their steaming mugs of coffee at me in welcome. I found out they had also overtaken me in the night like Rejean had done. Arriving 30 minutes before I did, they were now planning to finish their 100 mile run by midnight.

Hanspeter was also there but who was sadly quitting the race. The previous night he had gotten wet and cold and his core temperature was low. I felt he had made the right decision but I still felt sad that a 300 miler was out. It would have been nice to have run with him for a few kilometres. Sitting in that tent with a roaring stove and a hot cup of coffee in my hands was heaven. I felt great; 59 miles had been covered and I didn’t have so much as a blister on my feet. I got my bottles refilled with hot water and my thermos topped up with hot coffee and grudgingly left the warm tent. Jessica had been amazing and even sent me off with a shortbread brownie. In the coming miles I knew I would miss those precious minutes at Dog Grave Lake. Harnessing my sled, I headed off after Jim and Bob but not before having a quick word with Karl who had arrived with his head torch still on.

5 Star Accomadation

This day was much like the previous; clear skies as far as the eye could see and the weather just cold enough to prevent me sweating too much. The same forest trails wound up and down steep slopes, following the contours of the land. The coffee soon took its effects and I stopped for a pee. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that further down the trail Jim and Bob had also stopped for a quick break. I caught up with them and the 3 of us forged ahead, eager to complete 100 miles before midnight. Jim set a lightning pace and we doggedly kept going, stopping only to take in fluids and put on our head torches as night descended. Knowing I had much further to go than them, I hung at the back and followed their lights to save my own batteries as much as possible. Thanks to the full moon, we hardly needed them anyway.

With 20km to go, neither Jim nor Bob were showing any signs of fatigue but once again, sleep was slowly overpowering me. At 14km to go we stopped for another 10 minute break. I knew the veterans wanted to keep going and I didn’t want to slow them down. I told them to go on without me and I unrolled my sleeping bag. We wished each other well and I watched their lights fade into the night. I didn’t expect to see them again. I bivvied down and slept for a solid 3 hours which really helped to refresh my senses. I quickly packed up and with renewed energy, charged along the trail, catching up with Jorgen within 30 minutes. He was walking slowly at about 2km/hr and I reckoned he would be stopping soon. We had a few words to make sure each other were ok. Despite his obvious tiredness, I could see he was eager and able to finish the race so I sped up to my own pace, once again promising to see him at the next checkpoint.

The Union Jack

A few minutes later, Glen arrived on his snow mobile and said there were just 12 km to the next checkpoint. At my pace it would take 3 hours to get there. I plodded on, thankful that the terrain had finally flattened out. The temperature dropped and my eyelashes got gummed up with ice and my smock which covered the lower half of my face was rock hard with ice build-up. I reached Braeburn Lake which glittered under a cloudless night. Walking across it was a little unnerving as I could hear the distant ‘boom’ of ice cracking on either side of me. The final kilometre felt like 100 miles but the lights of the checkpoint shone in front of me and seeing the sleds of 100 mile finishers sitting outside, I drew up and threw off my harness.

The checkpoint was a café and inside, those 100 milers who had finished were either sleeping on the floor or sitting at the tables waiting to be picked up and taken back to Whitehorse in the morning. I collapsed into the nearest chair and had a menu handed to me. From what I could tell, the choice was either burger or sandwich. I chose the cheese burger. What I was given was the largest burger I have seen in my life. It was as big as the plate it arrived on and I needed a steak knife to get through it. I got ¾ of the way through until I was too tired to eat anymore. I was ushered by Fabien into a two-bed room where one of the beds was already occupied by Filippo who had already been there for some hours. He said something as I collapsed onto the vacant bed but I was asleep before I could understand the words.

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