McHales go primal in Badlands

It has been a season of extremes for Whitehorse's Greg and Denise McHale, starting with the Rock & Ice Ultra marathon in NWT and, more recently, in the Primal Quest Badlands in South Dakota.

It has been a season of extremes for Whitehorse’s Greg and Denise McHale, starting with the Rock & Ice Ultra marathon in NWT and, more recently, in the Primal Quest Badlands in South Dakota.

“We were lucky the weather was a bit colder than normal, because we were expecting 110 degrees or so,” said Denise, referring to the Badlands.

As part of team Merrell Zanfel, an American team “with no Americans,” the McHales along with a New Zealander and an Australian, travelled almost 1,000 kilometres on foot and bike, in kayaks and on ropes, and even through caves to a third-place finish at the Primal Quest Badlands in the third week of August.

Considering the length of the race, it was a tight finish with Merrell Zanfel coming in at six days, 11 hours, about an hour behind the second-place team who were about an hour behind the first-place team.

Going into final stage of the race, a roughly 160-kilometre bike ride through the Badlands, Merrell Zanfel fell to third as Greg experienced a flat tire.

“His sidewall blew, so we had to fix that – actually, it’s amazing it held,” said Denise. “We ended up cutting up some tubes, an emergency blanket and wrapping it in all that. So he kind of had a square tire and had to cycle on that for 85 miles probably.

“We didn’t have an extra tire with us obviously, so if that had blown, it’s a long way to walk.”

The McHales also had a rough start, going a night without sleep before even starting the race, but a good “sleep strategy” kept the team in good condition, said Denise.

“We started sleep deprived because we got the maps and had to catch the bus at three in the morning, so nobody slept the first night before the race event started,” said McHale.

“The second night we slept and I think a lot of teams didn’t sleep, which was a bad idea. So we lost some time, but I think we ran a better sleep strategy so we managed to catch up.

“The remaining nights – except for the last night – we slept every night for about two or three hours. So we moved fast when we moved and then slept maybe a bit more than normal.”

The McHales have had a successful season that coincides with their illustrious past. Beginning with the Rock & Ice Ultra, Greg and Denise each won first in the men’s and women’s solo divisions. Then at the end of June the two were on the first-place team at the Best of the West adventure race in Alberta. Greg also was on the first-place team at the Where’s the Fire adventure race in Alberta in May.

Closer to home, Denise became the first women to top the field at the Yukon River Trail Marathon in August and was the top female in the Dry-Tri in July.

In previous years, McHales’ teams finished third in the Raid the North Extreme in 2007, second in the Extreme Adventure Hidalgo 2006 in Mexico and third at the Nuevo Leon Outdoor Challenge the same year in Mexico.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com