The Yukon Ultra: Day 6 – Hanging On

The Yukon Ultra: Day 6 – Hanging On

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9th February

I woke up and immediately checked my watch; 4.00am. I had slept for 4 hours. My leg had reverted to a dull ache but once again I was freezing cold and hungry. More oat bars and the few remaining Rolo’s from Karl’s first bag (thanks again Karl!) before I strapped myself in and continued the last 5-8 miles to McCabe Creek Checkpoint. After about an hour of walking, I began to see signs of human activity. I passed under an archway made of interlocking branches and eventaully saw footprints that weren’t Filippo’s. I began to pray for the checkpoint. Seriously, I prayed. I knew the checkpoint was a house and I began to see lights in the distance. They would appear and disappear as the trail twisted on itself. I began to think I was hallucinating until I arrived outside a large house with its lights on. There were no checkpoint signs and no sign of life anywhere. Was I at the right place? I carried on a few metres to see if there was another place further up when I heard a yell behind me. It was Jo standing at the doorway to the basement. I had arrived.

Resting at McCabe Creek

The basement at McCabe Creek, like the rest of the house, was built entirely from wood. So I was a little apprehensive when I sat on the sofa in front of a wood-burning stove which Rebecca was trying to light. I thought there were at least 4 cats down there but there were just 2 that seemed to get everywhere. I was offered a bowl of pasta which I dug into as I told the doctor about my leg. Off came my shoe and sock. The lower part of my leg was red and swollen as though someone had kicked me in the shin. ‘On a scale of 1-10, how painful is it?’ I was asked. I thought about the guys running behind me and about how they would be told I was limping when they got to McCabe. I imagined them chasing after me like a shark on the scent of blood. ‘About a 7,’ I replied, trying to dumb it down. I was handed a few pills of cocodamol and ibuprofen that would last me 12 hours. I found out from Jo and Rebecca that Filippo had come and gone hours ago and was well on his way to Pelly Crossing. The two guys behind me were hanging on.

leaving mccabe

I stayed long enough to get warm and eat a brownie for pudding before I took a couple of pills and headed back out to my sled. The sun was just creeping over the horizon by the time I left, almost tripping over a dog in the process. Rebecca and Jo waved me off and whether it was their good-natured hospitality or the pills, I felt much better. It was turning out to be yet another perfect day, with just a bit of cloud in the sky. The sun was quickly warming up the snow-covered ground. I didn’t think much of it at the time until the heat began to turn the snow from hard compacted ice to soft powder. My feet began to sink into it, sapping energy out of each step. But the pain in my leg was gone and I didn’t really care.

I had got my thermos filled with coffee at McCabe to counter the drowsing effects of the painkillers. About halfway to the next checkpoint at Pelly Crossing, I had taken the next round of pills. I was finding it difficult to concentrate on simple things like working out how far I had to go and how long I’d been travelling. Glen and Spencer arrived mid afternoon to let me know there was a lake ahead which they had been told to check out as there was a possibility of there being some overflow. That didn’t sound good. I carried on for about an hour until I reached it. Thankfully, the lake had completely frozen over and there was no risk of standing water. I pressed on as fast as I could along the flat surface, pausing only when I met Glen and Spencer coming back in the opposite direction. They had been to Pelly Crossing but kids from the neighborhood had taken the trail markers that led to the checkpoint. They gave me some directions for when I got there and left for the day.

Self Potrait

Night eventually fell once again and like usual I felt incredibly sleepy. But this time I drew a line in the sand and told myself I couldn’t sleep until I got to the checkpoint. I drank the last of the coffee and stubbornly ploughed on. I knew to expect the town lights before I got there and I could hear the sound of traffic on the highway that led into town. But like always the last few miles felt like eternity in the darkness. I turned onto a small road when I met approaching lights. It wasn’t until they were almost on top of me did I recognise Robert and Gary wearing their headlamps. They had been watching my progress through my GPS tracker and came out to meet me so I didn’t get lost heading into the checkpoint. They had been told of my leg injury and Diane, who had already left for the next checkpoint at Pelly Farm, had left some painkillers for me.

Back here at Pelly Crossing, the checkpoint was a recreation centre. Inside was just a bare room with a table and some plastic chairs. It was here I met Thomas, a 300 mile runner who had brought his two Siberian huskies with him. He told me how he had to quit earlier on because one of his dogs picked up an injury on it’s paw. It was sad news since all of the athletes wanted each other to finish the race. His two dogs were brilliant. One was the shyest, most nervous dog I’ve ever seen and the other was one of the most laid back. Thomas even pushed it along the floor while it was lying down and it didn’t even raise its head. Robert gave me news about Filippo; he had already reached the next checkpoint at Pelly Farm, 36 miles away.

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