The Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra is over with the last of the finishers reaching the end of the 430-mile odyssey through the Yukon wilderness from Whitehorse to Dawson City.
The participants of all the ultra’s distances, the 100-mile, 300-mile and 430-mile races, set off from Whitehorse’s Shipyards Park on Feb. 4.
The first finisher of the race’s longest distance set an important milestone. Yukoner Jessie Gladish, who pulled into Dawson City astride her fat-tire bike shortly after 9 p.m. on Feb. 12, is one of two people and the first woman to have completed the ultra’s longest distance in all three disciplines: on foot, on skis and on a bike. Enrico Ghidoni is the only other athlete to pull off this feat.
The second across the finish line in Dawson was Scotland’s Matt Weighman who finished at around 7 a.m. the morning after Gladish, increasing his pace to a jog to finish fastest among those who took to the course on foot. Laura Tretani, from Italy, was the fastest woman to finish on foot and the third fastest racer overall. She was followed closely by Tommy Chen of Taiwan.
While the fastest of the Dawson City finishers were able to complete their races before having to share the trail with Yukon Quest dog sled teams, Quest winner Michelle Phillips overtook most of the field. The last racers that the speedy 12-dog team were able to pass were Gareth Hardcastle, Henrik Benzon and John Nakel who marched into Dawson City about half an hour after Phillips, shortly before 2 a.m. on Feb. 15.
“We thought we would let her win,” one of the men quipped as the trio unslung their gear at the finish line.
Twelve athletes started the 100-mile race, five took to the 300-mile trail and 24 were on the 430-mile route to Dawson City. Three cyclists also took on the course on bikes — Gladish was the only finisher of the three.
A total of 11 racers scratched on the course, either unable to finish or falling behind the cutoff times. According to updates posted to the Yukon Arctic Ultra’s website, some of those scratches were the result of issues with equipment and one racer scratched early due to persistent stomach trouble. The final day update from the race posted online on Feb. 17 states that while all of the athletes who had to scratch would have liked to spend more time out on the trail, they are all medically fine.
Race organizers reported good trail conditions overall and offered thanks to the Canadian Rangers and their own volunteers. Weather was also favourable while still showing some of the fury of the Yukon winter with some overnight lows of -35 C but no dips below -40 C. Organizers reported that the conditions coupled with keen strategies in balancing rest and movement by the athletes led to a high percentage of finishers on the 430-mile course, possibly the highest proportion ever.
The shorter distances of the race, the 100 mile and 300 mile, wrapped up earlier in the week. Germany’s Dirk Heller won the 300 followed by Josh Tebeau and Elise Zender, a couple racing together. Canadian Chad Barber picked up the win on the 100-mile route. He was followed by Guilliame Grima and Rebecca Ferry.
Cheng Lun-Chiang from Taiwan won the icy marathon to Muktuk Adventures that leaves the same day as the ultras with a time of four hours and 58 minutes. Christina Bigrigg from Whitehorse finished second, just a minute back from the winner. Greg Newby, also a local, reached the line three minutes behind Bigrigg. All the marathon runners who set out finished the race.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org