Unlike a year ago, Yukoners were prevalent at the awards ceremony for Saturday’s Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay.
Whitehorse runners and walkers won a total of five divisions in Friday and Saturday’s 10-leg, 176.5-kilometre race from Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse, including the men’s masters, walkers, ultra, junior and the newest addition, juvenile.
In total, 1,258 competitors hit the road this year.
For the second year in a row, Whitehorse’s Cabriolet Xcelerators were the fastest in the men’s masters, finishing the course in 12 hours, 36 minutes and six seconds. However, from the sounds of it, the team’s main goal was not to win, but just to beat its longtime rivals from Juneau, Alaska.
“Our goal coming into this was to beat our main rivals, the famed Smokin’ Ol Geezers,” said Xcelerators’ Tom Ullyett. “It was leg-to-leg – as to wherever you were in relation to them.”
“So it’s more strategic this year because of Tom’s e-mail Friday night that said, ‘Just stay in front of team 66 (Smokin’ Ol Geezers), and if you’re behind them, close the gap,’” added teammate Bill Parry.
Not only did the Xcelerators win their division, they were fast enough to finish second overall and Xcelerators’ Dave Brook was one of seven Yukoners to win his leg of the race. Xcelerators’ William Matiation, who ran two legs of the race, missed out winning leg three by three seconds in the masters division.
“I stopped to put a jacket on, that must have done it,” said Matiation. “I was starting to freeze up a bit.”
Also winning legs in the race were Whitehorse’s Nancy Thomson, Denise McHale, Sue Bogle and Maura Sullivan. For the men, Whitehorse’s Rodney Hulstein was fastest on leg four and Stephen Waterreus won leg two.
In the walkers division, which completes the final four legs (like the ultra and youth divisions), Whitehorse’s Chocolate Claim Walkers finished first with a time of 8:32:45, over 17 minutes ahead of second place Slowly Heading North, also from Whitehorse. The Chocolate Claim Walkers, who are made up from a Saturday morning walking club, finished second last year, but happened to have a more elite team for this year’s race.
“(Last year) we tried to level the teams so we’d have competition between us, which is one of the reasons the men were able to topple us,” said Chocolate Claim Walkers’ Tanya Astika. “This year we went back to – not necessarily stacking it – but the other team (from our walking club) wanted to do an age thing – all 55- and 60-year-olds.
“That just left who we were: four fast people.”
The walkers division, which was started just three races ago, has grown from two teams to 14 in that time and has been won by a Canadian team each year.
“We’re finding a lot more walking teams – we only put (the division) in two years ago,” said race marshal Tracey Bilsky. “I think that really opened the door to people who are too intimidated to run or don’t enjoy it and they get their exercise from walking.”
With only one other competitor to push him along, Whitehorse’s Keith Thaxter set another course record and won his third straight ultra division, finishing the 72-kilometre trek from Carcross in 5:45:13.
“It’s all a matter of pacing and pain management, and the difference (from running individual legs) is feeding yourself,” said Thaxter. “You’re eating a lot of bananas, food supplements – you have to keep feeding your body.
“The last six miles I really started to hurt, so going through (Miles) Canyon was really tough. But I sucked it up and got there.”
Thaxter has set the course record each of the three years the ultra race has been included in the road relay, knocking an hour and four minutes off his record last year and 44 minutes off this year, leaving him wondering how he can keep it up.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next year to be better than this, because I gave it everything I’ve got,” said Thaxter. “I guess I’m getting good at pain management.”
So far in his life, Thaxter has run 55 marathons throughout the world and is hoping to finish the year with 60 under his belt, running in Utah, Chicago, New York, San Antonio and Las Vegas in the next few months.
For the seventh year in a row, Anchorage’s Skinny Raven: Take No Prisoners won the open men’s relay, cruising past the finish line in Rotary Park with a time of 11:28:59. However, unlike past years, the Skinny Raven crew had a Yukoner on board, with Whitehorse’s Alain Masson running leg two out of Skagway.
“I was kind of a last-minute addition,” said Masson. “I told them I don’t mind running, but don’t expect the same type of performance most of you guys are putting on.”
Masson will be on Team Canada in next year’s Vancouver Olympic Games as a wax technician for cross-country skiers. Masson has gone to six Olympic Games, three as an athlete (two Games as a skier and one as a cyclist) and three as a staff member.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com