Yukon Arctic Ultra continued.....
Through the pitch dark night we followed a frozen river that would eventually lead us to Pelly farms.
We all had foot problems, and I could feel that I had pulled my hamstring and I was also suffering badly from shin splints.
It was a long painful night and the most monotonous section of the course so far.
We were exhausted, and barely spoke to each other, as we just trudged onwards, heads down, concentrating on putting one foot in-front of the other.
Long into the cold night we pulled our sleds up the frozen river with huge mountain silhouettes on either side, and blankets of stars up above.
My sled was now like a dead weight, jarring my hips with every step.
It seemed never ending, and at around 5am we were sure that we should have reached the farm.
We were cold and tired, and some of the group were starting to question whether or not we had missed, or past the farm checkpoint and maybe we should turn back.
It was easy to become confused in the cold, as mild hypothermia was affecting us all.
But, in reality our pace had just slowed so much that we still needed to keep going for a few more hours until we could eventually make out some farm buildings on our right. We had reached mile 300!
We were told that the Bradley family lives there and would make us welcome, but we decided not to wake them in the early hours and bedded down in one of the frozen barns until daylight.
In the morning, we all went over to the farmhouse to be greeted by smiling faces, and we were given a warm welcome from the whole family. They invited us into their warm kitchen, where we were supplied with coffee and freshly made pancakes.
We used the opportunity to defrost our shoes and dry out our gloves.
The family was so friendly and helpful, and nothing was a problem for them. They genuinely enjoyed being part of the race, and it wasn’t long before they were showing us pictures of the previous year’s racers. The father even showed us his Grizzly bear photo album and stuffed claw collection!
We knew we couldn’t stay long though, as the clock was still ticking, so we thanked them for their hospitality and started to get ready for the last 30 miles towards the finish, back again to Pelly Crossing.
Just as we were leaving the farm a trapper appeared with his catch of the day, which consisted of a lynx, a wolverine and a few arctic foxes! I could see this was a totally different way of life.
We waved goodbye to the Bradley’s, as we headed off down the long winding road that would see us finish the race in around 12 hours time.
Our legs were shattered and feet blistered badly, and we all knew that this last stretch would be slow and painful.
In fact Paul Howell’s feet were skinned so bad that he was leaving red blood prints in the snow!
This was the last section though, and our spirits were high, and after a few hours the two Paul’s moved off ahead, but Hugh and I just concentrated on keeping a steady trudge.
This was a hilly leg, with a couple of little hills that we even managed to traditionally sledge down!
As night fell, so did the temperature again, and our bodies were starting to shut down and we knew that we had to try to pick up the pace and shuffle forward as fast as possible to get it over with.
We were so tired that we started hallucinating at almost everything we saw, but this didn’t bother us, and we speeded up our as much as possible to keep warm, until we eventually saw the orange glow of streetlights in the distance at Pelly Crossing!
Boosted by the thought of nearing the end, we attempted to run a little, but we soon settled back into a desperate hobble. Our legs and feet were totally useless.
Hugh and I shuffled forward using every last drop of strength and stubbornness to take us into town and after a few wrong turns in the dark, we eventually spotted the finish and we shuffled together across the finish line, where we were greeted with a low key reception from the race film crew and volunteers.
We had made it! What an adventure.
We were presented with our finishers medals, and we collapsed exhausted in a heap on the floor inside.
It had taken me 6 days and 12 hours to cover the 320 miles, finishing in 6th place overall out of 38 starters and 16 finishers.
This was certainly one of the hardest races I’ve ever completed. Not only because of the distance and lack of sleep, but because of the extreme cold and slow pace due to the sled and terrain.
I would certainly think twice about doing another ‘cold’ race ever again!
Thanks to the support of my family and my sponsors at Kiehl’s.