What do the Yukon Quest and Yukon Arctic Ultra have in common?
Both are “a very long trip,” says Switzerland’s Thomas Wiget, veteran musher and ultramarathoner.
“The ultra reminds me of the early days of the Quest, when dog mushing was a lifestyle, rather than a sport,” he adds.
Wiget, 48, finds ultra racing is mentally easier because it’s a one-man show.
“I can push myself in ways I could never push the dogs.” This year he pushed himself to a first place after 482 kilometres in seven days, 17-and-a-half hours.
Wiget scratched during the brutally cold 2008, after placing third in 2007. Beside regular marathon training, he prepared for this ultra with 24-hour hikes.
As a Quest musher, though, Wiget built upper body and grip strength along with endurance. In 1996 he placed 16th, but scratched in 2000.
Wiget, who has wintered near Dawson for 20 years, hinted this year’s ultra could be a farewell tour.
On the way into McCabe Creek this year, “I could smell that there was a huge fire ahead,” he said. On arrival he found the workshop shared by both races reduced to smoke and ashes.
The checkpoint had been moved to the basement of the Kruse family farmhouse.
“I was amazed at how relaxed the owners were,” said Wiget. And, for him both the Ultra and Quest will remain “a long adventure, not a race.”
The racing community can donate to the Kruse’s rebuilding fund at www.arcticultra.de.