Thinning the Herd
The 2020 Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra has been in full force for the past 5 days. With it has been the usual race dramas; bad feet, cold, fatigue, and the will-they-won’t-they of dot-watching.
Where this race differs is the scale of drama – the extreme cold (down to -35 last night) means that any issue, no matter how small, can become a game-changing race-finisher. Factor in the solitude and race-finishers can pose a severe risk to life.
The MYAU is often billed as the ‘World’s Coldest Ultra’. This year another fitting idiom would be ‘Worlds’ Most Unrelenting Ultra’. The week before this years’ race the Yukon was the coldest place on earth, but the first few days of the race saw these bone-chilling temperatures with quite warm spells.
However, what was even more unusual has the wind – not a typical meteorological event for this part of the world at this time of year. This whipped the snow into flurries and blew the trail flat, making the going very tough for competitors – many competing in the longer distances were forced to end their races early due to sheer exhaustion.
Looking back at the stats for the finishers so far and forwards at those still in the race, this odd mid-race weather pattern is apparent; Brian Stuart, the local man and winner of the Marathon distance did so in 3:49 – an excellent time considering conditions, and John Berryman finished the 100 mile race on his fatbike in 26:30. Meanwhile, the field is down to just 4 competitors in the 300 mile race, with the Swiss Fabian Imfeld continuing to maintain is commanding lead.