Anchorage team dominates men’s division in Klondike road relay

The Skinny Raven — Take No Prisoners team simplified this year’s Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay awards ceremony.

The Skinny Raven — Take No Prisoners team simplified this year’s Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay awards ceremony.

When it came time to hand out the men’s awards for the fastest times in each of the race’s 10 legs, the emcee did not call them one by one, as he had for the women’s winners

Instead, he called up Skinny Raven — Take No Prisoners at once.

Repeating last year’s performance, Anchorage’s Skinny Raven not only finished with the fastest time out of 140 teams, but each member posted the fastest time on their leg.

“The majority of our team really are skiers,” said Skinny Raven team member Adam Verrier, who ran the final leg of the 175-kilomtre race to put his team over the finish line in 10 hours, 44 minutes and one second — over three and a half hours ahead of second place To P or Not to P, of Juneau.

“Mark (Iverson) is training to make the national team and go to the Olympics. Several of the other guys on the team are skiers, but we run to train for skiing.”

The Skinny Ravens, who range in age from early 20s to 51, get their name from a running store in Anchorage.

Most team members have either worked at the store or do currently. The rest are Anchorage residents in the running community.

However, when building the team it did not focus on speed.

 “(We ask ourselves), ‘Who are guys that I want to hang out with in a van for three days?’ So that’s a big part of the selection,” said Verrier. “It’s a three- or four-day road trip, so it’s important to be around guys you like.”

Alaskans filled most podium spots during the relay ceremony at Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre on Saturday.

However, Norcan Klondike Skiing Machines and White’s High Flyers, both of Whitehorse, did find top spots in the junior and masters’ division.

Whitehorse teams had their best success in the walkers’ division, which raced the final four legs of the race from Carcross Corner, capturing the top four finishes in a field of 15 teams.

It should be noted that the success of the Alaskans might be the result of big numbers, as well as talent.

More than half the teams were from Alaska.

“We’ve always had more Alaskan teams than we’ve had (teams from the) Yukon, and it’s just been a fantastic ride,” said Trevor Twardochleb, executive director of Sport Yukon and the race’s director.

“I’ll go into the office Monday and there’ll be 20 e-mails from Americans telling me how much fun they had and they’re already signed up for next year.”

One of the many events of the relay race was not a relay at all.

The ultra was an individual race that, like the walkers’ division, set off from Carcross early Saturday morning. It was first offered last year.

And, like last year, only two competitors attempted the 71.3-kilomtre run — the same two.

Finishing in 6:29:25, Whitehorse’s Keith Thaxter outran his lone competitor, Kelly Hostetles from Haines, who finished in 7:37:38.

“The difference between running this event and typical ones, is that you’ve got to slow down and really pace yourself to get to the finish,” said Thaxter, who also won the Yukon River Trail Marathon at the start of last month. “Or else you’ll hit the wall really early.”

Attempting to prove that runners could complete the ultra and “not be crawling at the finish line,” Thaxter and Hostetles decided to run the route together last year.

This year, Thaxter, who took an hour and four minutes off his time, treated things differently.

“For the first few miles I stayed back with her,” said Thaxter, turning his attention to this year’s race. “Finally I said, ‘This is too slow, I have to go and see what I can do.’ So I took off and left her.”

The ultra was not split into gender divisions because of the low number of competitors, but if more enter next year organizers might reconsider.

“Right now it’s just ultra — it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman,” said Megan Freese, project co-ordinator for Sport Yukon. “We’re looking at next year to do men and women’s (divisions).”

The Klondike road relay was first run in 1982. However, its purpose drastically changed when Sport Yukon adopted it as its main fundraiser in 1991.

Originally, the race was organized by the Tourist Association of the Yukon to give tourism in the territory a boost.

 “This is our heart and soul, this is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Twardochleb. “We get a lot of funding from the government … but this is our bread and butter.”

Although Yukon’s tourism industry is no longer the driving force behind the race, it still introduces visiting Americans to the territory’s beauty.

“The reason why we’ll keep doing it is because we really like coming over here,” said Verrier. “And this race is really, really well run and it’s a lot of really great people.”

“It’s because of the exceptional volunteers we have,” said Twardochleb, explaining why the race went off without a hitch.

“We have about 350 volunteers helping out. Those are the people that made this thing work so well.”

Complete race results can be found at the Sport Yukon website.