Saturday’s Yukon Adventure Challenge marked a significant milestone for adventure racing in the territory.
Though it wasn’t the 10th annual Yukon Adventure Challenge, the event nonetheless represented the 10th consecutive year the sport has had a home in the Yukon.
The 2002 edition of the Raid the North Extreme was the first adventure race held in the territory. That race is an annual one, held in a different Canadian location each year. But after the territory hosted it in 2002, there have been a few Yukon incarnations of adventure racing with at least one taking place each summer.
“That kind of spawned adventure racing in the Yukon,” said Mike Tribes, organizer of the Yukon Adventure Challenge. “The Adventure Challenge came about two years later.
“Two years ago there was a 36-hour race and a 12-hour race in the same year. I discovered there’s more interest in the 12-hour race so I went to that format – and it’s easier to organize.”
This year’s Adventure Challenge saw 10 teams, comprising 22 racers, compete.
The course, which participants saw for the first time the night before the race, began with a paddle from Swan Haven to the Golden Horn area. Teams then hiked to the top of Grey Mountain, mountain biked down through Magnusson ski trails to Long Lake Road, and then followed the power lines to the Yukon River. Racers then ferried their bikes across the river, cycled to the Takhini Hot Springs and rode the Equinox Rox zipline to finish.
Completing the course first in a little under seven hours was the team They Who Shall Not Be Named featuring Mike Martin and Justin Wallace.
“We were taking turns (navigating), depending on the stage,” said Wallace. “I’ve been doing a lot of paddling, so I know the river well. So I said, ‘I can get us there on the river no problem, I know exactly where that little boat drop area is.’
“We didn’t spend a lot of time looking for things.”
The Martin-Wallace team wasn’t exactly a long time in the making. Martin, who finished first in the solo category in the 2008 Yukon Adventure Challenge, called Wallace just two days before the race and asked him to compete.
“I got a random call at work,” said Wallace. “I said, ‘I think I need to do some gardening on Saturday.’ And he said, ‘I already talked to your partner and you’re cleared for the race.’‘You must really want a partner, Mike.’
“It was awesome. You couldn’t be paired with a better guy. It was fun – a lot of camaraderie with all the teams… People were really friendly before and now I’m looking forward to getting to know them a little better at the social here.”
In second was Gone for a Year with Jean-Francois Roldan and Daniel Girouard, coming in about two and a half hours behind Martin and Wallace. Tied for third were Runs with Scissors (Tom Wyaers and Cory Bruneau) and Cagney and Racey (Shannon Wyers and Doreen Bruneau).
Only one team scratched during the race.
“It’s great to see so many teams finish,” said Martin. “Only 50 per cent of the teams finish sometimes. Now we’re getting a way higher percentage (finishing). It was a tough course.”
The Swamp Sisters may have tied for last, but you can count on them being in the race next year. The team of Tunde Fulop and Sylvia Anderson have competed in every adventure race in the Yukon over the last decade, including Raid the North.
“It’s the best way to get to know your neighbourhood,” said Fulop. “We get to go to places we’d never normally go. That and the challenge – to keep us on our toes, to spice up our training and get us off the couch.”
In Raid the North, “We failed terribly. But after that we got hooked,” said Fulop.
Whether or not Wallace and Martin will team up to defend their title next year, it’s much too early to say.
“We can’t plan that far ahead,” said Wallace.
“We’ll find out the Thursday before,” added Martin.
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