"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Friday, February 19, 2016

Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra: A Doggone Long Way

I stood looking out the window of my hotel room in Whitehorse Thursday morning at 9.30 am and felt a little rise of panic. I questioned why. The answer came clearly: the suffering. The feet remembered the days of battering on the Bibbulmun track in 2011. The stomach remembered being forced to eat high energy processed foods to meet caloric needs. The mind remembered running with eyes nearly closed in a sleep-dep fog.

So I reassured myself. I didn't have to suffer. It wasn't a necessary thing. I could choose to slow down at any point, to get more sleep, to stop, to rest. Even to quit. I had to remember that I was the boss of me.

And with that, I headed to Shipyard's Park for the 10.30 am start.

I'm in black, far right, behind the canicross girl (runner with dog and pulk)

I knew before race start and it was confirmed soon after that having 15-20 cm longer legs would be a definite asset in a long expedition-type race like this. Next year I'll train up for that ;) Blokes could stride along past me at a nice easy walk whilst I had a Marvin-The-Martian continuous shuffle-jog going. My best estimate was my pulk weighed 30 kg with all the gear, vacuum flasks of water, and 48 hours of mandatory food to get me to the first drop-bag point (Checkpoint 3, Braeburn 100 miles).

Race start was a balmy -9C with a wind chill that made it feel like -20, but it was fortunately at our backs. So it was altogether a very nice start in my base merino wool thermal. We had been warned the first 50 km along the Yukon and Takhini Rivers had more overflow than usual (slushy water over top of the ice layer that could result in wet feet - a definite no-no). To avoid the worst of the overflow and the outright open flowing river water, we were going to be running right along the edge on icy cambers. I chose to start in my kahtoolas and was glad for it. Shuffle-running along the rivers was fantastic and I enjoyed looking at the cliffs, the surrounding mountains of the Miners Range, and the  ravens circling above.
Map sections with notes

I reached Checkpoint 1, Rivendell, roughly 40 km, in very good time. Before 4 pm, in fact. I had reckoned on arriving there after dinner. I have a feeling it's closer to 35 km than 40 km. Anyway, the rest of the course gave us ample opportunity to ensure we'd get our 300 miles worth of racing. I filled my hydration pack and declined the offer of soup and sandwiches. Gluten and milk/butter don't agree with me and I'm usually vegetarian. And I didn't need a rest yet.

As I was leaving, a photographer asked, "Do you know what's coming next?" I replied, "Sure, I think so. About 480 km more of this." He told me the course would finally turn off the big rivers and become "purposeful." I was confused, as I felt it had been a nice route, certainly purposefully taking me north and west towards Pelly Crossing. He apparently didn't really like the starting river section (he has done the race before). The result of this conversation was that I found myself back on the river but suddenly frustrated and looking for the trail that was going to leave the river and start taking me "purposefully" to Pelly Crossing. Suddenly, I disliked this river section and needed to be on the overland trail, where things were "purposeful." I grew more grumpy as the minutes ticked on and I saw no trail. I saw how easily my mind had done an about-face from enjoying the river to disliking the river! Perspective is everything.

Once onto the Dawson Overland Trail (whew!), I continued northwest towards Checkpoint 2, Dog Grave Lake. As the route climbed off the river, I passed a couple competitors travelling together, in single file on the narrow trail. I announced that I'd pass on the left. Rather than pull to the side for me, as had been discussed at the race briefing (part of good trail etiquette), they stayed on the groomed trail, kept moving ahead, and made me go around them in the deep snow. Of course it's a lot harder to pass uphill in deep snow...especially with my short legs compared to their long ones! And it's a long pass, given that we all had pulks behind us. It's like 3 semi-tractor trailer units passing in slow motion. When I got to the one in front, he sped up - I couldn't believe it. I smiled to myself at how silly it was to be this competitive so early in such a long multi-day race (though knowing I would have felt pangs of angst if I was the one being passed). I wanted to say something, but thought it might be lost in translation, given they were Italian speaking. I did make a joke about them being able to rescue me when I fell through the ice later, but it wasn't well received - for language, I'll presume. I made sure to create some good space between us from there so that we could all just get some peace in our minds, stop thinking about each other, and just focus on our own bodies and races.

I arrived at CP 2 Dog Grave Friday at 2:30 am. Dog Grave consisted of a tent for staff/vollies and a campfire. Competitors were not allowed in the tent unless we were quitting. My first opportunity to go indoors would be at CP 3, Braeburn. I took up the offer of split pea soup, handing over my bowl to be filled. I sat by the fire, smiling at my good fortune to get a nice vegetarian soup in such a remote place. And slurped up a bite of ham. Hmmm. Time to practice flexibility. After a water refill and moving some more food from pulk to body, I was moving north again at 3 am.

Elapsed time: 16.5 hours
Distance: ~101 km
Sleep: 0

What? You can't see the ducks and aliens reaching out to you? Who needs drugs.
Over the next few hours, the hallucinations started. I'd never experienced this in any race before, nor during the Bibbulmun 15 day FKT. They seemed to be aided by the snow hanging from the trees and the effect of headlamp, with distorted depth perception. I saw ducks hugging things, aliens, people,...things were moving and reaching out to me. To say it was highly disturbing was an understatement. I'd been told that if I ever wanted to do LSD, it was important to have a babysitter. Well, here I was on a trip with no sitter! I had to work very hard to keep rationalising that they were hallucinations. Around 6 am, knowing my feet could benefit from a break (and perhaps my mind!), I decided to take a short bivy. I believe it was about 1.5 hours in total, with 1 hour actually in the bivy. I was cold and shivering, as my rented -65C extreme sleeping bag hadn't been delivered in time to the race director and I had been given a -40C bag. Nonetheless, I wasn't really tired yet, so the brief stop left me energised.

Unfortunately, the hallucinations were set in and from that point on, day or night, I could often count on them! On the way to Braeburn I clearly saw a vehicle and two people up ahead. Clearly in a delusional sort of way, that is.

I was a bit confused about the directions into CP 3 Braeburn, as I'd come out alongside a road and powerline. I pulled out my race notes and found no reference to this bit of trail. All I had were a few shoe prints leading me on (though there were a few others going the opposite way, which had me wondering if the leaders had turned back after taking a wrong turn, too). Soon enough, though, the roadhouse/restaurant appeared. It was 4.45 pm Friday. I found out later that just two people in the 300 mile race had arrived in front of me. Jan (USA, male) was already out again and Gavan (IRL, male) was just leaving. I also found out that only one 100 mile foot racer had finished - in a truly amazing time, but had missed the course record by just 10 minutes!

The famous plate-sized cinnamon rolls at Braeburn. More sugar? I'll pass.
I grabbed my drop bag with my pre-written "to do" list and set about following the orders I'd written for myself when I still had a brain. Change socks and undies was top of the list. I also decided I had to change shoes. I had very mixed feelings about this. My Inov-8 Roclite 275 GTX with an extra insole had been very comfy and warm. But they'd developed an "ice dam" above each set of toes. The snow accumulating on top of the shoe had melted into the shoe, but was unable to permeate the Goretex layer. There, it had frozen. This was putting pressure on my toes, which posed an increased risk of frostbite and blisters. The Hoka Tor's that were my backups were slightly larger and loose in the heel cup. I was pretty much guaranteed blisters around the heels, though I tried to tape well. They were also high-tops and I wasn't used to those. I didn't know if it would work out well or badly.

Chores done, food eaten, I looked at my race-distance sheet. Next up, CP 4, Ken Lake. 71 km away! Given that 50-odd km sections were taking about 12 hours, this looked like an 18 hour section, with a bivy on the cards for sure. No wonder the restaurant seemed to be filling with people, including a few DNF's, with no one looking in a hurry to get out there again! I shook my head at myself as I headed out into the cold night's air, departing at 6.23 pm Friday. Temperatures likely wouldn't get above -20C now as we headed north.

Elapsed time: 32 hours (1 day 8 hours)
Distance: ~157 km
Sleep: 0

Crossing Coghlan Lake at night.
The section to Ken Lake had been described in quite glowing terms as "lake-woods-lake-woods" alternating. They had warned us not to bivy on lakes, though, because they're colder. The sleep monsters started to take hold around 10.30 pm and I found the hallucinations getting worse, as I weaved back and forth on the trail. I started watching for a good spot to have a dog nap. I found one along a high point in the woods and it seemed relatively warm. I was there from 11:30 pm to 2:30 am, which included time for set-up, tear-down, plus other chores like moving food into jacket, replacing batteries and hand-warmers, etc. The alarm was set for a 2 hour sleep, but I woke before it as the chill seeped in. I'd worked out a method of increasing my warmth by putting my Montane Deep Cold down jacket under my thighs to shoulders and wearing my Montane Black Ice 2.0 down jacket.

Headed out again, I almost immediately dropped down onto Coghlan Lake, which I think was at least 10 km long. It was fantastic to travel such a great distance on a frozen lake, looking at all the wolf prints and hearing them in the distance. I had convinced myself of another hallucination on the lake, only to finally figure out that it really was a MTB competitor camping with his tent on the lake. Brrrrr! I fully expected him to cruise past me later that morning, as the lakes are fast travel for fat tyre bikes, but he had a good, long sleep. The bonus of a MTB on a low-snow year. Though I was sometimes feeling a bit jealous of their long sleeps and quick travel time, I knew I didn't really want to be on a MTB. And I enjoyed having Wolfgang (GER) and Tim (AUS) come past me once each day after their long bivvies. They were typically the only people I'd see for a day, other than the CP vollies, because I kept somehow missing any snowmobile vollies out there after the first day.
Good morning Saturday! Enroute to Ken Lake

I arrived at CP 4 Ken Lake at 2 pm Saturday, feeling a bit like a battered and wounded animal. 19.5 hours on the trail. Though it had been a beautiful section, I found the last 10 km hard, as I expected to see the checkpoint around any corner and my toes were throbbing with the neuropathy I get intermittently since the Bibbulmun FKT. The best explanation of it is the feeling you get right after you hammer your thumb or slam it in a door.

We had been told we couldn't go indoors anywhere here, either, but there was indeed a large canvas tent with wood stove set up. I nearly collapsed going from outdoors to that "sauna" though! I had to run back outside for a minute! It took 1.5 hours to give my battered feet plenty of love and to do the other chores to see myself out for the next section to CP 5, Carmacks, 56 km away. By now, canker sores had taken over my mouth because of all the sugary foods (I never eat biscuits, cookies, etc) and I was finding it hard to chew and swallow and was grossed out by most of my foods. The stew was welcome as a savoury item and even more welcome was the half avocado and apple they gave me when I said I didn't eat bread. After that, I guess every competitor got an apple, to be fair. Yay for real food!

Elapsed time: 53 hours (2 days 5 hours)
Distance: ~228 km
Sleep: 1.5 hours

Chain Lakes to the long traverse of Mandanna Lake
After Ken Lake, we were to get onto Mandanna Lake, which was again at least 10 km long by my reckoning. We'd been warned that it was prone to wind, which blew in the trail and made navigation tricky, particularly at night. I was quite motivated to be off that lake by dark if I could do it without straining too hard or breaking a serious sweat. I literally reached the far north shore in the last bit of twilight.

The woods section towards Carmacks village was beautiful and included some fire-burnt parts. However, I was again duped by how close/far things were. I had understood from the briefing that we would drop onto the Yukon River again and then follow it through the jumble ice to Carmacks, going under a bridge as we arrived in town by the rec centre. Local First Nations kids were known to amuse themselves by moving/removing markers, so we were to be vigilant (good luck with that, little sleep-dep brain!). The course dropped down to the river and I set it in my mind to do the Marvin-the-Martian river shuffle-jog to the CP. I couldn't see a bridge, but thought it could still be 10 km, for all I knew. The trail then took me back to the bank, climbing back to the ridge above. I got unnerved with that, coupled by the fact that there was not a single marker for the next 5 km. And this wasn't close enough to town to have been tampered with, as far as I could reckon. There was nothing around. I became concerned. It was foolish to merely follow the shoe prints of Jan and Gavan in front of me. I remembered all my own race director's admonishments to racers, "The worst excuse for getting lost is saying you were just following someone else." Plus I was so tired again, I feared I could fall asleep on the trail and wake up completely disoriented. I started talking to myself, confirming what I was doing. "Following the shoe prints to Carmacks," I kept repeating.

I took out my Garmin eTrex. Though it didn't have the whole course on it (there was no course given, due to its changing nature), I had the CP waypoints. I checked that Carmacks was indeed in front of me, though still 15 km away. As the crow flies. And I was a dog, not a crow. So it was back down to the river for more jumble ice. Then back up to the ridge. Then back down to the river. We did that 4 times. Hello Acceptance, I see you're back for another lesson :) The last of the climbs was spectacular, as I was literally on all fours, grabbing at branches and digging my knees and toes into the snow, dragging my 30kg pulk up behind me. I realised then why it was not only billed as the coldest ultra but as the toughest! I had an image of myself as some 1800's gold miner with a giant nugget in my pulk that I was trying to get to town to cash in. Why else would I possibly be there in the middle of the night doing what I was doing?!? I have no idea how those Yukon Quest dogs would go down that hill - and with a sled careening behind them (since they travel in the opposite direction to us foot racers).
How do the Canadian Rangers carve out this jumble ice? Looks tough.

CP 5 Carmacks rec centre was finally at my feet at 4:40 am Sunday. A 13 hour section with no bivy. The medico/volly Diane greeted me right away and said something like, "We have food, toilets, showers, beds, and drop bags. What would you like first?" I think I just drooled and sat down. She didn't mention chairs, but they had chairs, too :) Footracer Jan had left already and Gavan was sleeping upstairs. Wolfgang, on the bike, had passed through, planning to bivy on the trail ahead. Tim, another MTB'er, was hanging out at the CP, with a chest full of phlegm. My chest had filled, too. It didn't seem to be a cold virus, but something to do with high humidity cold air. It didn't seem to be affecting my energy or breathing at all, but Tim was feeling like he had asthma or bronchitis. I had a go at sleeping upstairs on the floor and although it took an hour for the elevated feet to stop screaming about their "hammer-smashed-on-toes" feeling and for me to find the right sleeping temperature, I dozed for a couple hours, as hoped. By the time I got my chores done, it was 9:30 am when I was ready to head out. The longest stop, at nearly 5 hours, but I felt it was much needed, being just over the halfway mark. There was a lot of race left to set myself up for.

Elapsed time: 71 hours (2 days 23 hours)
Distance: ~284 km
Sleep: 3.5 hours
Hills allow views :)

Leaving Carmacks for CP 6, McCabe Creek, I dropped onto jumble ice on the river and after about 1 km, climbed onto a seemingly unused small road. It was hilly but I didn't mind at all, as it was beautiful and gave great views of the surrounds, with variety in the ups and downs. I passed Wolfgang packing up his bivy. Some time in the afternoon, the road turned left and I carried on straight onto a single track type trail, which started a slow easy descent towards the Yukon River again. Unfortunately, it snowed a bit through here and it was a warm sticky type snow, which really hampered my pulling. Though I was going down, I had to pull harder than on flat sections earlier. I actually picked up to a pretty steady run for a while, as I was frustrated with the friction of the pulk on the sticky stuff and the extra work required.

Great history. Trail built in 1902 to reduce some of the winter river ice travel
I was lucky to see this section in the light, as the view in front of the Wood Cutters Range and the descent to the river at the site known as Yukon Crossing was really pretty. I decided it was a special opportunity, so could at least take a minute for a photo and to read the historical sign. Then it was back to the business of getting to CP 6 McCabe Creek. I'd told myself I needed a 4 hour sleep, as the 2 hour ones would be catching up on me now. I was hoping I might be able to sleep inside, since I reckoned all the (snoring and farting) blokes should be past McCabe and enroute to Pelly Crossing. I was wrong. But first, I had a few more hours with Teacher Acceptance, as the trail weaved around and around and back and forth between river ice and woods until the farm/ranch appeared at 12:45 am Monday. We'd been given the use of the wood-heated shed, which worked well and I set about to turn myself from wounded, scared animal back into fierce trail warrior with the help of the vollies. One of whom had earplugs! With clothes drying by the very hot wood stove, I hit the mattress between snoring Wolfgang and tossing, hacking Tim. I hoped he wasn't contagious. But I had a bit of my own phlegm hacking to do. The vollies checked the SPOT trackers and saw the next competitor was at least 30 miles behind me. So they took the chance to get a snooze, too. I jumped up after a few hours and checked my clothes weren't burning, turning them over to dry the other sides. Then I laid down again and started thinking...maybe I'm ready to go. Feel pretty good after a few hours.... I started dressing my feet, which really had started blistering badly due to the loose fit shoes. I filled water flasks, had a quick cup of comfort tea (Earl Grey) and departed McCabe at 4:45 am Monday, the beginning of the coldest part of each day (~5 to 9 am).

Elapsed time: 90 hours (3 days 18 hours)
Distance: ~346 km
Sleep: 5.5 hours
The sun doesn't rise much higher in February. A quick sunny coffee to be had!

The next 10 km ran along a powerline near the Klondike Highway and I could occasionally hear a truck in the distance. The powerline section was described apologetically in the race briefing, but I didn't mind it, being in the dark. I couldn't see the long straight-away that might have been demoralising during the day.  There was a big climb off that section as the trail changed from a northwesterly to northeasterly heading into Pelly Crossing. I passed a creek section prone to overflow and got some slightly slushy stuff, despite the -30C or so temps. I'd been warned at McCabe that the lead cyclist Florian had gone through overflow somewhere enroute to Pelly and had arrived very cold, though not injured. He spent the night there warming up before heading out on the last out-and-back section to Pelly Farm. He was so far ahead of Wolfgang and Tim, the other two riders.

It was around sunrise - 8.30 am - I started to pay for my shortened bivy at McCabe. The sleep monsters came in big time. A whole carnival circus of them. I kept forcing the food down to fend off the chill and tried to keep up a good pace, but I'm sure I was adding a 200 metres to every kilometre for my weaving back and forth on the trail! I finally stopped and made a cup of instant Starbucks coffee. It was far too cold to sit on my pulk at all and I knew the caffeine would dilate the blood vessels, making me potentially colder. But I needed the physical and psychological boost. I chomped on some chocolate something-or-other crud at the same time to assist in the warming and broke into a pretty hard run for 5 minutes after the stop to get the hands and body properly warm again.
Greedy greedy never gets. Who should have slept more at McCabe, hmmm???

The story for the rest of Monday was similar - beautiful terrain with a mix of lake traverses and short woodland sections, seeing no one, utter silence when the pulk stopped. But I was in a bit of a sufferfest with the sleep dep, paying for my greed in not stopping long enough at McCabe. The last 7 km into Pelly Crossing through the woods would have been a spectacular recording with a GoPro. I ranted and raved at the woods, begging for a glimpse of any sign of humanity - a fence, a powerline.... I felt hemmed in by the woods and longed for an open clearing with a view. When I finally started descending and came to a small one, I christened it the Benson Clearing. I reckoned that someone just like me had come along in the night and hacked down trees, just so that there could be some space. I vowed to come back and hack another clearing. I had an image of myself coming into Pelly Crossing with little First Nations kids curiously checking out the weird woman pulling the pulk. But the reality was that I walked through the village alone and saw two teen girls from a distance and that was it. Then the rec centre, CP 7 Pelly Crossing, was upon me.

A volly met me outside and helped me bring my pulk in. It was amazing how well they knew from the SPOT trackers when we'd arrive. He did the usual efficient volly thing and immediately tried to help remove harness and over-clothes and offer me food. I stood dazed. Then I saw MTB'er Tim laying on the floor. That looked like a fantastic idea. I laid down on the floor. If I needed time to decide what I wanted to do first, at least I could decide from the comfort of the floor! I put my feet up a wall and the volly brought me a bowl of stew, which I ate from the floor. Over the next few hours, I slowly went through my chores, preparing for the last out-and-back leg to CP 8 Pelly Farm and back. About 52 km each way. I was tired, but it was still light and there was enough activity around that it just didn't seem like sleeping time. Wolfgang and Tim energised me with their determination to get out onto the trail again, which made me feel a bit soft. Of course I'd completely forgotten they'd had hours and hours longer to rest at McCabe than me. I headed out at 6:20 pm. It was still Monday. The longest Monday in the history of the world.

Elapsed time: 104 hours (4 days 8 hours)
Distance: ~391 km
Sleep: 5.5 hours

She's not bulky, she's my pulky. With helpful tips written on the straps.
I can't remember exactly what time I decided to bivy, but I think it was around 10 or 11 pm. I'd been falling asleep walking, weaving all over the track. I think stopped time was about 1.5 hours, but I managed only about a 1 hour sleep before the chill started to creep in. Hoping I'd gotten a reset, I headed out again. But within another hour, I was back to falling asleep walking. I'd wake up standing still with my right pole on the ground beside me. I was slightly worried about the occasional cliff edge on the left side, but most of the time there was a nice snow mound there that I reckoned would make an adequate bumper guard :)

I was fortunate to get the distraction/activity of all the guys coming back from the farm. First, the lead cyclist, Florian, who'd gotten into the overflow. We exchanged words for a minute and I told him I'd been having a pretty long tough day. A few hours later I saw Jan, the lead foot racer. Though I was tired, I knew he was on track for the overall/men's course record, so I was touched that he took the time to stop and talk for a minute. We talked about the course record and then he said he should get back to it, as Gavan was trying to hunt him down. I remember that distinctly as 3:30 am, as I looked at my watch so as to see when Gavan would pass. At 3:45 am I saw the next set of lights and it was MTB'er Wolfgang on his way back. After his uber long rest at McCabe, he'd decided to make one long push of Pelly Crossing to the farm and back without a bivy. He was excitedly hunting down Jan. Though they were technically in separate events, I guess it gave him something interesting to keep his attention and enthusiasm through the night. He mentioned losing his "hand shoes" about 5 km back. It was hard for me to understand his English, but would have been harder for me to understand his German. I reckoned hand shoes could only mean gloves and I thanked him in my mind for giving me something small to keep my attention on. Plus I was still waiting to see Gavan. I thought it was quite funny that Jan thought Gavan was chasing him down and as it turned out, Gavan was nowhere near him. Finally, Gavan appeared. Gavan is Irish. As such, that makes him incredibly likeable and endearing. Well, that's my view of Irish...but I also have a wee bit of Irish blood, so maybe I'm biased ;) We were able to exchange a few profanities about our insane hallucinations and sleep walking and the parts of the course we'd found toughest. He'd explained that he had tried to chase Jan down, but his own sleep monster attack meant a bivy on the way back from the farm.
My favourite race jacket - the Montane Black Ice 2.0

Once Gavan passed, that left only MTB'er Tim to come back towards me. But he didn't and I arrived at CP 8 Pelly Farm, at the end of this road at 8:15 am, not long after sunrise, coming into the most amazing huge farm in a valley in the middle of nowhere. I had so many questions such as, What do you farm? and Who ploughs this 50 km road? But I had no energy for superfluous questions. Or for processing superfluous answers. I ate some lasagne, gave the owner my clothes to hang, and hit the bunk bed in the spare room. Earplugs in, I set my alarm for 2 hours and I was out. I woke before the alarm went off, but got the sleep I'd denied myself at McCabe and felt alive again. I finished my giant lasagne, though each bite and swallow were painful with the canker sores. Then I tended the feet and was on the trail again at 12:00 pm.

Elapsed time: 121.5 hours (5 days 1.5 hours)
Distance: ~444 km
Sleep: 8 hours

The run back to Pelly Crossing was a joy. It wasn't just because I was close to the finish. Because 52 km is still a long way in sled dog years :) I was energised by the sleep. It was daylight, so I was enjoying the sights. And there was a bloody long climb back out of this valley. The first climb was 5 km, I thought the farm owner said. Then there was a shorter, steeper one. I love hills. It was grand. I couldn't stomach much of the biscuits and other sugary or processed foods (e.g., GF pretzels), either, so I formulated a new plan for the day. I'd run/powerhike 3 hours, then stop in a sunny spot and make a cuppa (tea) and an expedition meal, resting my feet for 20 minutes. Then I'd run/powerhike again for 3 hours. This worked beautifully. I didn't need so many regular water sips because it was so cold. I could drink in bulk. Around 3 pm I saw the first competitors coming towards me headed for the farm. Three were within 30 minutes of each other. After dark, I passed two more on their way out. I retraced my steps carefully back through the village, trying to spot the reflective wooden stakes. I crossed the jumble ice one last time. I turned off my headlamp and looked up for the northern lights, which had appeared every single night. I listened to the silence. This was it. It was going to be over. My feet were grateful, but I was a little sad. At 9:25 pm I was greeted outside by the race director and the medal was placed around my neck, as simply as that.
18 of 29 starters in the 300 mile footrace finished, plus the 3 MTB'ers

Elapsed time: 130 hours 55 minutes (5 days 10 hours 55 minutes)*
Distance: ~496 km**
Sleep: 8 hours

1st female

5th woman ever to finish the 300 mile event (inaugural race 2003)

3rd overall

New course record by over 24 hours

*That's 38 days in dog years ;)

**Informed later by guys with barometric pressure GPS watches that the course was over 520km +4000m this year.


  1. A beautiful scary story. So glad you didn't die.

  2. A beautiful scary story. So glad you didn't die.

  3. Well I finally finished it, not as long as the Bib novel, thank god but just as ridiculous. Have you proved that you are great yet and can stop all these scary ones please? I'm with the other person who commented, so glad you didn't die!!

  4. Well done Bernadette! I am a little shocked to see you listed your nationality as Australian....I thought you were Canadian :)

    1. I don't think they asked my nationality, actually, I think they just took my address. But I'm still waiting for "Canaussie" to be an option on the forms :) Otherwise, I alternate. The CAN flag flew on the bib at UTMB! I'm going to be CAN for Mustang Trail Race (I'm not "racing"!)

  5. Well done! Hard to find anything to top this one. I know the Bib still burns brightly but more fires on the trail this summer put that out for awhile. And not towing a sled and mild temps make it, although longer, seem a little tame in comparison.
    Look forward to some days pruning the Ridge-Top Walk together if we can fit it in :)

    1. I'd love to set aside some days for a RTW pruning...still thinking a week camping on the top would be good by me!