Eighteen competitors have now scratched from the Yukon Arctic Ultra, in northwestern Canada.
Some racers went voluntarily as a preventative measure or due to technical issues, while others have seen their race end due to injury. At least 85 had registered for the multi-stage race, with 76 making it to the starting line.
On Feb. 5 the race passed by the Braeburn Lodge. The small restaurant, hotel and gas station is accessible by the Klondike Highway. It serves as a checkpoint and provides racers with a chance to heat up and recuperate after two days of racing.
Gareth Hardcastle from the U.K. is still in the race. On Feb. 6 he said he was in good spirits as he dried out his gear by a wood stove.
‘It was a bit of a cold night last night, so I am quite happy to be here,” Hardcastle said while eating a cinnamon bun the size of a dinner plate.
Hardcastle said snow conditions have proved challenging with racers’ gear and clothing getting wet.
“The skiers I’m sure are quite happy about it, but keeping things dry in that environment and trying to bivvy [sleep outside under light shelter] is a bit of a challenge,” he said.
The Braeburn Lodge marks about a third of the way to Pelly Crossing. Some racers will end there while others will continue on toward Dawson City.
Hardcastle said his strategy is to keep moving without being in a hurry.
“I’m not really in the racing mode. I’m just here to see it and enjoy it and the race is a way to do it in the safest possible way you can, with checkpoints and people tracking where you are,” he said.
Some competitors get bandages
Other competitors haven’t fared so well. When Juan Carlos Najera entered the lodge on Feb. 5 he showed his hands to medical staff. Frostbite had developed on some fingers, causing swelling and blisters to form.
Najera’s hands were bandaged and learned his race was over. He accepted this with a shrug and a smile.
“I feel good. I just want to be careful. Right now it’s not a problem but if I go ahead, probably I would have a problem later,” he said.
This year, competitor Tiberiu Useriu from Romania was brought to Whitehorse General Hospital due to frostbite on his toes. This is despite having experience in the cold. He has competed previous Arctic ultra races including the 6633 Ultra which happens even further north than the Yukon Arctic Ultra.
Dropping out a tough decision
While some celebrate at Braeburn Lodge others are disappointed.
Dr. Russ Reinbolt ended his race on Feb. 5 after becoming cold and disoriented. He says recognizing his own mental confusion was a sign to press the emergency button on his SPOT emergency beacon.
“Physically I’m fine but mentally I’m broken. I am just crushed,” he said.
Reinbolt is an emergency room doctor and said one concern was preserving dexterity in his fingers. While he could have pushed further he recognized the importance of safety and prevention.
“I promised a lot of people that I would make good decisions, that I was not going to put myself into a bad position. And I kept my vow,” he said.
Latest dispatch from the #YukonArcticUltra:
There is celebration and cinnamon buns at Braeburn Lodge, but also pain and disappointment. pic.twitter.com/akOh8spYeh
— Philippe Morin (@YukonPhilippe) 6 février 2019
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Yukon Arctic Ultra race is a ‘spiritual’ journey, says competitor, CBC News
Finland: Younger Finns more and more attracted to winter swimming, CBC News
Norway: Swedish musher wins Finnmarksløpet, The Independent Barents Observer
United States: Iditarod adds four new board members amid criticism, Alaska Public Media