Yukon Arctic Ultra 2005 Andy Heading

Yukon Arctic Ultra startWAS IT FIFTEEN minutes, or twenty?  In my sleep-deprived state, I just couldn’t remember.

Stumbling through the snow at –25C, I’d a vague recollection of a sleep survey saying that short naps worked best.   Now, at 3am on Day 4 of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, it was time to test the theory.

Setting my watch alarm with frost-nipped fingers, I pulled my coat-hood tight and curled up on the trail.

It was –25C, and exactly quarter of an hour later I woke, shall we say, ‘refreshed’.  Time to move.

THE Yukon Arctic Ultra is no ordinary ultra race.   Billed as the world’s coldest multi-day event, it follows the same route as the Yukon Quest dog-sled race, offering marathon, 100 mile and 328 mile route options.  Competitors haul essential kit on sleds, logging into remote checkpoints every 40 miles or so.

For rookies, a compulsory pre-race training course covers subjects like bear attack and fire-making, and tests competitors’ ability to spot the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.   Race director Robert Pollhammer explains: “It’s vital that competitors know what sort of environment they’re going into.  It’s an adventure that tests people to their limits, but we want everyone to come back with all their fingers and toes.”


Forty competitors, from the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK, line up on February 15th beneath the start gantry in Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon.  It’s a balmy –12C, and everyone’s keen to get going on the 26.2-mile marathon leg to North Country Ranch, where there’s a 4-hour mandatory campout.   The gun fires, and we snake out onto the frozen Yukon River.   The hares clock 4:45, but most of us are long-haulers and pace ourselves at around 6:30.    Checkers ensure we can light our stoves and have warm sleeping bags, and we’re back out at 9pm for the 37-mile leg to Dog Grave Lake.


The first ‘all-nighter’ sees me pull into Dog Grave at 11.30am in 4th place.  It’s been a long night, but a couple of bowls of soup at the checkpoint tent revives the pace for the next 34 mile section.   A blizzard descends as Braeburn Lake looms into view at 10pm, and the reflective marker stakes prove their worth.  I grovel into the roadhouse at midnight with 97 miles under my belt and a couple of very sore shins.


Six hours sleep and one of Braeburn’s famous mega-burgers later, it’s time to chase Italian Stefano Miglietti out into the fresh snow.  The 41 miles to Ken Lake cabin is on narrow, undulating trail with several long lake sections, plus a first taste of the dreaded ‘overflow’, which occurs when water flows above the frozen layer beneath.   It’s a long, long day, and I stumble into the cabin after midnight in third place behind Stefano and German biker Thomas.   News comes in that several racers have scratched, including one German runner whose camelbak burst inside his sleeping bag at –20C.


Soup and sleep revive me once more for the 34 mile leg to Carmacks.  The sun shines on spectacular forest and lake scenery, but some fiercesomely steep climbs in the last ten miles are distracting.    Its 10pm by the time I roll into Carmacks, where the community centre kitchen is gearing up its lasagne production-line. I dry ice-encrusted kit and try to elevate my swollen legs and sleep at the same time.  Not easy.


Just three hours fitful kip and out by 3am, chasing Stefano the 43 miles towards McCabe.  Not a good start when I’m directed the wrong way and spend nearly an hour trail-hunting before returning to the checkpoint.  Have the first of several 15-minute naps between 4-6am to keep me going, but shun using my 40-below sleeping bag, knowing I’d sleep too long.  ‘Small sleeping bag – big alarm clock’ goes the ultra-marathon mantra.  Getting colder, nearly 30 below.  Several sections weave through jumble ice on the Yukon, stepping round distorted slabs and skirting the swift-flowing sections of open water.  A wonderful moment as I later cross the misty Yukon under a full moon.


Another ‘short-stay’ checkpoint – just four hours at McCabe and out before 1am as rumours circulate that Stefano is struggling.  Trouble is, so am I, and the sleep monsters are out in force.  On the boughs of fir trees, lumps of snow turn into zoo animals of every description, then start waving to me.  Other competitors, I discover later, see unicorns and accordion players.    I finally roll into Pelly Crossing at noon, to find Stefano gathering his kit for the last 60 miles.    Fifty-five minutes after he leaves, I give chase – but we both nearly come unstuck when overflow on the Pelly River catches us out.  We both go in up to our knees, but thankfully it’s a mild –12C and an increase in pace generates enough heat to stave off frostbite.   As the temperature plummets, we both struggle on the 30-mile leg to Pelly Farm, but Stefano somehow opens the gap to two hours and takes off again as he sees my headlamp appear up-river.  By the time I stagger in at 1am, he’s gone, and the race is over.


Four hours sleep should be enough, but sure doesn’t feel it as I sit zombie-like at the Pelly kitchen table trying to eat porridge.  My feet are swollen and sore, and it takes several miles before I can walk/run in a straight line.  By daybreak, I’m well into the infamous hills of the final 30-mile leg back along the farm road, and longing for a section steep enough to let me ride my sled for the first time in the race.   Two swooping downhill’s give me chance to take the weight off my feet, but they also allow Thomas, the race’s lone mountain biker, to overtake.   Finally, at just after 6pm, the finish line appears, marking the end of 328 miles racing and just over six days on the trail.   I’m second runner, third overall, sore but happy.  Time for a beer…

Race website: http://www.arcticultra.de/

Accommodation: http://www.highcountryinn.yk.ca/

Activities: http://www.yukonadventures.com/

Kit list:

Montrail Hurricane Ridge Goretex-XCR running shoes

Plastic sled (£22)

Rab Summit 5-season sleeping bag

Thermarest z-rest sleeping mat

Platypus 3-litre Water Chest w/ insulated hose

Rab Quantum down jacket

Mountain Equipment windproof jacket

Patagonia base layer, mid-layer and fleece tights

Polaris liner shorts

Smartwool liner and expedition socks

PHD down mitts

Berghaus Goretex hat

MSR Whisperlite International stove

MSR 2-litre titanium pan

Black Diamond carbon fibre trekking poles

Adidas Elevation Climacool glasses and goggles

Self-Transcendence 6-Day 2010 Race Report – Don Winkley

Ten Days Self-Transcendence Run NYC 4/19 to 4/29/2010

Well, how does one train for multiday races? Answer – send in the entry form and show up. So once again I am at a Sri Chinmoy race. By now I should know everyone but only Mark Dorion from El Paso has that ability.
But the faces are familiar even if – with my poor memory – the names escape me.

Don Winkley self-transcendence 2010 by Alakananda
Don Winkley by Alakananda

In the prior weeks I was involved with code violations ref a property I own along the Laguna Madre in Corpus Christi, TX. So up to the last minutes I am working. I also decided to redo my front yard this spring. Days spent with a pick axe to break up the clay hardpan. Reward – great joy to watch shade grass sprout and fill in between plugs of St Augustine grass. Unusual training but exhausting.


Now to pack for the race in 6hrs. A quick reminder of how not to pack for a race. I failed to take a sleeping bag (good for minus 10 degrees min.), arctic pants and coat. But most important Russian rain gear tested in Siberia to protect from drenching freezing cold driving rain. Obviously this guy from Corpus Christi, TX has never owned any of this gear. It’s not going to be fun.

Off we go. How did I get a ticket involving an overnight stay in Dallas?
Even my old age defense did not get me a ticket exchange. So a layover night in Dallas. Fortunately there was a Motel 6 with a shuttle from/to the airport. Inexpensive and the good nights rest (I slept 12-16hrs). I was really tired and this layover was a God send.

Arrived at the race 2 hrs before the start. Ran fairly good day 1 but froze at night under two blankets. Fortunately I purchased a Sri Chinmoy STAFF sweat shirt XXL which saved my life. My Sri friends found a loaner sleeping bag and supplied me with 12 two liter bottles of Diet Pepsi.

Day 2 to day 5 I ran 50 miles per day. Actually I waddled but found I was not the only one. Walking or waddling was the norm for almost everyone after the brief running period of day 1. I would get up about 6AM and get in 18 miles before lunch and get the last 32 miles in the afternoon/evening.

Frequently it took to 3 AM at night to finish my 50 miles.

Day 6 I got to 46 miles at 3AM but it was over. I wanted to get to 50 miles for the prior 24 hrs but I couldn’t even make one more mile. Went to bed and then the rains came down. It was over – over – over. I was a wet, freezing dog, tail down, dragging myself around the track, wishing I had entered the 6 day and it had started with the 10 day. Now I must suffer the indignity of mileage barely respectable for training.

But everyone was kind to me – Luis Rios who was a real stud in his day with outstanding 100 mile times and 140 miles for 24hrs. Mark Dorion shared stories based on his great knowledge of ultra races especially multiday races.
Markus Mueller was a Trans Australia finisher and we shared Jesse Riley stories. Bob Oberkehr, Marvin Skagerberg, Chanakhya Jakovic and Shashanka Karlen, Fredric Davis III, John Geesler, Pete Stringer ran walked with me and we exchanged tales of days ago and dreams of the future.

I made the 150 mile cut-off day 3 and the 300 mile cut-off day 6. This during reasonable weather. To be a good multiday runner you must be willing to suffer.

In terms of multiday racing I will hang my head to few. After all my split after 10 days during my 1000 mile race in 1997 was 701 miles and I averaged 67 miles per day for the remaining 4 days. My 701 mile 10 day split in 1997 would have won this years race. Even then I was not so young at 59 years old.

So, a good training run for Comrades. I will have to work on my foot strength/conditioning. My toes hurt and the bottoms of my feet were sensitive. The left foot/ankle had some soreness. Back to training. Share your stories.

Until we meet.

Don Winkley

Race website:us.srichinmoyraces.org/events/10-day-race-2010

Posted on the Ultralist:
Date: Sun, 2 May 2010 15:49:49 -0400
From: Don Winkley
Subject: 10 Day NYC race report

Erkrath Six Day Race 2004 – Race Report – Dan Coffey

Six Day Race, Erkrath,


1-7. 08.04

08.30 a.m.
Saturday July 31st found me struggling with two full holdalls of running gear towards the bus stop. A passerby asked where I was going on holiday “Off to Heathrow and flying to Germany” was my reply. “I flew to Germany regularly” he replied, “I was an Airgunner.” We both agreed that times had changed since then!

As the bus went through my local town all the streets had been sealed off and there were Police everywhere; I thought that they must definitely want to make sure that I left the country but it turned out that the local army regiment was being given the Freedom of the Borough after 300 years of being there.

sigi_bullig Arrived at Heathrow, checked in and went for a quiet drink, made happy by the sight of Brian Lara being out in the 2nd Test Match, probably would not know the result until I returned to U.K. a week later, that turned out to be correct.

Uneventful flight to Dusseldorf where I was met by Conny Bullig who was also collecting two Swedish runners, Andreas and Matthias who were taking part in the Six Day race. She was also going to run!

The reason for my being there transpired when I saw an item in the Road Runner’s Club newsletter six months earlier and had written to the organisers to send me results of their race as it was the first one to be held in Germany; they invited me to  take part and I stupidly accepted; it was 20 years since I had last done a Six Day; there was a further challenge in that the track was a 400 meter cinder track. I had forgotten what those little bits of grit did to one’s feet when they got into  the shoes.

30 kms to Erkrath from the airport and met Sigi, the organiser whom I had been in touch with regularly. Everything seemed to have been thought of, the amount of time spent in planning must have been enormous.

There was a football tournament going on at the time with a number of teams competing and the final would take place on Sunday morning before the start of the Six Day. Two football pitches, one of which appeared to be an all weather grass covered pitch.

The club had been in existence since 1920 and had hosted International football tournaments regularly.

I noticed that a couple of small boys who were watching were wearing a shirt that seemed familiar; I discovered that it was a red number 7 Beckham shirt (Man.United), before he moved to Real Madrid!

That evening was spent in a hotel close to the track and meeting other runners, I shared a room with Felix Kainz from Berlin; we got on very well but both apprehensive how we would do in the race.

Finally it was Sunday afternoon and there was a briefing meeting in German with translators in English and Italian; recording would be done by electronic chip in the number with all laps also recorded manually.

All the runners were introduced to the crowd who had gathered and the media when photographs were taken, then it was time to start.

The weather was very warm with cloudless skies and during the next six days stayed the same except that it got steadily warmer each day. One day there was a rumour of thunderstorms arriving but by the following morning they had come and gone farther South leaving Erkrath still bathed in glorious sunlight.  The hotpoint of most days was about 90oF. But the track temperature was probably higher.

My original plan had been to have a go at Cliff Young’s 48 hour record and then hang on for the next four days. After several hours on the first day I knew that it was too hot for me and drastically altered my race plan…as the days went on it became more of a survival plan to use in the Sahara rather than Northern Germany!

There were 26 starters, 6 women and 20 men, from 10 different countries and it speaks volumes for the superb organisation that nobody dropped out or failed to cover the required distance each day.

There was an army of volunteers coming and going each day with a number of good folk who appeared to be there all the time.  I got to know some of them very well and their English was much better than my poor German, I will not mention any by name as I do not want to miss anybody out but a very big “Thank You” for all your valuable help; without your aid we could not do the sport that we love!

Hot meals were served at regular times and there was a large refreshment tent with little nibbles, cold and warm drinks and any extra that a runner needed.  After three days I had actually got English tea which was very acceptable.

Halfway through the race ice cream lollies were supplied which were very popular.

Evenings always saw a crowd of spectators at the trackside cheering on the runners.

Local and national media often appeared at the track , radio and television, and there was superb coverage in the papers.

The track was brilliantly sited so that one could see the town square and all the people, also the buses pulled in there and I got quite attached to them particularly the Dusseldorf bus as I tried to imagine one day being back at the Airport, 144 hours in very hot conditions is a very long time and I was feeling more like a hamster every day! There were other highlights too, one was watching the dawn arrive and counting how many more there were to go.

Also the first bus out at 5 A.M. which I never managed to catch, then waiting for noon and knowing that there were only three hours to go to the end of a day and wondering just how hot the next few hours would become.

Zoltan Kiss from Hungary was taking part and had brought his 7 month old son, Benedict, and his wife to the race and I got a lot of enjoyment getting a big smile out of Benedict each day.

Many of the runners had helpers with them who seemed to manage on very little sleep but always seemed on hand to encourage everybody taking part yet still looking after their respective charges!

Then the best part of the race came each night as it became cooler and I was able to move more freely until the next hot day.

Lastly, counting the days down, after three days halfway there, then only one full day of 24 hours left… there are supposed to be 60  minutes in each hour but I am convinced that these were extended on the last day.  Finally into the last quarter of an hour when national flags were given to leading runners of each country and we formed up to go round the track as one very happy family.

Now what of the progress of the other runners?  This was made very much easier for me as an hourly result sheet was given to all of us during the day and at night was posted on the leader board with the previous hour’s results also attached. Even though one tended to look at where one was personally and whether gains or losses on those closest to you had been achieved, it was easier to see the race unfold further up the field.

Paul Beckers of Belgium had obviously decided to go all out on the first day but was passed by Achim Heukemes of Germany who had a 5km advantage, Vincenzo Tarascio of Italy was 3rd, a further 45 km behind.   I have always been of the opinion that a slow starter will progress over a six day event but was very surprised that it was a runner who was 80 km behind should make such enormous progress. More of him later!

By the end of the third day Achim had maintained his lead in front on 441 km Paul was still 2nd 27km back and Vincenzo 3rd on 365 km.

Day 4 saw Antonio Mazzio Italy  replace Vincenzo for 3rd spot.

Remember I had mentioned a slow starter? Well Claude Hardel of France had put in some very hard work and was closing on Paul Beckers rapidly. Paul had been suffering from nosebleeds but gamely pressed on.

The final result was a very popular win for Achim who is over 50  years young with 822.730 km. 2nd Claude Hardel with 782.694 km and 3rd, Paul Beckers wth 763.077 km. The 4th place was taken by the Italian Lucio Bazzana with 741.457 km – a new Italian record.

In the Women’s race at the close of the 1st day Heike Pawzik, Germany, led from Conny Bullig by 9km. With Maria-Teresa Nardin a further 13 km back.

By the end of the 3rd day it was Conny with 343 km from Heike 333 km and 3rd, Else Bayer, a mere 65 years at 308 km.

The final result was as follows. Conny won with 666.991 km. 2nd another slow starter, Christine Bodet of France with 609,340 km and 3rd was Heike with 581.315 km.

With a World Age best was Else Bayer in 4th with 552.890 km. Some result!! I hope that the above has not bored the reader but one has to be at such an event in order to say in years to come “I was there” like St. Crispin’s Day?

Finally I have worked out that if I do another Six Day in 20 years time I should cover a quarter of my distance in 1984 using this year’s result. Must start to train towards that target!

Dan Coffey   a young 73 year novice.

Erkrath 6 Day Results
Name Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Total M/W
Bullig, Cornelia 139,724 98,49 104,49 111,30 111,70 101,29 666,991 1
Bodet, Christine 120,107 60,85 121,71 111,70 105,29 89,68 609,340 2
Pawzik, Heike 148,532 96,89 88,48 71,26 85,68 90.88 581,315 3
Bayer, Else 122,108 90,48 96,09 82,87 80,87 80,47 552,890 4
Nardin, Maria-Teresa 126,112 102,49 54,05 76,07 69,66 76,87 505,248 5
Backhaus, Helga 103,292 73,67 75,67 64,86 68,46 79,67 465,613 6
Hausmann, Martina DNS _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Heukemes, Achim 190,169 128,51 123,31 128,91 136,52 115,30 822,730 1
Hardel, Claude 110,098 74,87 152,13 114,10 161,74 169,75 782,698 2
Beckers, Paul 184,964 115,70 113,70 98,89 127,71 122,11 763,077 3
Bazzana, Lucio 120,907 101,29 121,71 131,72 136,92 128,91 741,457 4
Mazzeo, Antonio 147,331 97,69 122,21 121,31 113,70 124,11 726,644 5
Graf, Karl 148,532 105,69 102,89 128,51 91,68 142,53 719,838 6
Tarascio, Vincenzo 164,946 93,28 107,30 102,09 116,10 118,51 702,223 7
Behm, Michael 140,124 109,70 110,50 100,89 98,09 112,10 671,395 8
Burger, Hans-Peter 125,711 93,68 129,31 89,68 101,69 113,70 653,780 9
Chmel, Christian 151,735 91,68 91,68 90,08 107,30 102,89 634,563 10
Kiss, Zoltan 156,138 97,69 81,27 99,69 90.08 87,28 612,143 11
Dijk, Ubel 122,509 86,08 93,28 84,47 101,29 94,48 582,116 12
Kainz, Felix 120,907 90.08 101,29 61,65 87,68 94,08 555,693 13
Bramstang, Mattias 124,110 85,28 92,48 74,87 84,47 84,07 545,284 14
Bhardwaj, Arun 140,124 81,27 79,27 56,05 84,88 91,28 532,873 15
Ackermann, Detlev 108,096 100,09 82,07 46,04 62,46 111,70 510,453 16
Larsson, Andreas 114,502 77,27 70,46 80,47 70,06 88,88 501,645 17
Coffey, Dan 104,092 76,47 68,86 61,25 55,25 62,46 428,380 18
Jakobs, Ruud 84,475 58,45 66,46 63,26 64,06 89,28 425,978 19

Article originally published in Multiday Running magazine Vol.2 October 2004.