Yukon Arctic Ultra – Newsletter January 2009

Hi everyone,

Talking about the weather

Well, I don’t know if it is due to the overall climate changes but these days the weather in the Yukon sure is crazy. Right this minute it’s + 2 degrees Celsius in Whitehorse and there is even a chance of rain. Obviously, it won’t stay like this. All it shows us is that we have to be prepared for anything.

As indicated in the last newsletter we now have guidelines online which try to help athletes avoid frostbite and hypothermia. As I have written there, the list is not necessarily complete and certainly no guarantee to entirely avoiding these two problems. However, it will hopefully help.

We have also finalized the part of our safety guidelines that is about extremely cold weather. I don’t want to put all of that online as it is primarily for the organizational team. However, I want show you some of it, the part that probably interests you most of all. So, here it is (again, please keep in mind that this is written for staff):

  • No matter what the temperature, if an athlete obviously can’t handle the cold and risks his life, we can withdraw him. If there is no immediate threat to the athlete’s life, call the race director to make the decision.
  • At – 30 degrees Celsius daytime high we all are in a high alert status. Forecasts will be closely monitored and decisions made accordingly. Snow machine checks will be reduced and athletes need to be aware of it.
  • At – 40 degrees Celsius daytime high and no change in sight, the checkpoints can expect to be informed that the athletes have to stop and stay at the checkpoint they are reaching. The race director will tell the checkpoint when to let athletes continue. A possible solution may be to make a second gear check and let the athletes continue in groups.
  • If the temperature at the start is – 40 degrees Celsius we will do an out and back to the marathon finish (as in 2008). 300 and 430 mile athletes will afterwards be brought to Braeburn to continue the race. Waiting times will be credited.
  • At this temperature there will be an extra checkpoint at Takhini Bridge – possibly with a wall tent. Here and at all other checkpoints the standard checking for frostbite becomes extremely important. Athletes with signs of frostbite will have to stop racing.
  • If the temperatures at the start are colder than – 40 degrees Celsius there will be a staff meeting to decide if the race will be postponed or extra safety measures will be put in place in order to continue anyway. The marathon will be cancelled as these athletes do not have sufficient gear to deal with these temperatures.

I also would like to add that I know some people are so experienced they can handle extreme temperatures for quite a while whilst others have long passed their limits. However, in certain conditions we still have to stop racings as the machinery does not work anymore and more important I do not want to risk the lives of staff and volunteers.

In all these years we only once had to stop the YAU. That was concerning the 430 mile athletes in 2007. It was so cold for such a long time that for safety reason we pulled everyone out of Scroggie. I keep my fingers crossed this time we make it to Dawson. But if the same situation happens again – no matter when – I won’t hesitate a second to make the same decision.

Blizzard new sponsor for the YAU

In a few short years, Blizzard has progressed from its early days as a small-scale manufacturer of outdoor thermal survival products, to its current status as the market leader in its field. The range has expanded and they now sell thermal protective products to users in the military, the emergency services, the emergency preparedness agencies and disaster relief as well as the original outdoor market.

The company is based in Bethesda, North Wales, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park.

Blizzard supports the YAU by providing us with survival gear that helps us deal with athletes who have got hypothermia and gear that helps us keep people a bit warmer if we have to transport them by snow machine.

If you want to find out more about their products please visit www.blizzardsurvial.com.

Emergency checkpoint between Scroggie and Dawson

It is now confirmed that we will set up a wall tent checkpoint between Scroggie and Dawson. However, this checkpoint is an experiment and there is a chance that we won’t be ready in time for the fastest 430 milers. Athletes will know once in Scroggie if the wall tent will be ready for them. For the people travelling at normal speed or the slower ones with problems we will be there.

There won’t be any food. Only hot water and the shelter to warm up. I can’t give the exact distance, yet. It is roughly half way between Scroggie and Dawson and the place is called Indian River.

Our other checkpoints

No major changes here. The marathon finish will be at Rivendell Farm next to the Takhini. Dog Grave Lake, Braeburn, Ken Lake, Carmacks, McCabe Creek, Pelly Farm and Scroggie will be the same as always. Only in Pelly Farm we will also have the back building as the athletes continuing to Dawson City have a mandatory rest. In Pelly Crossing we will likely be at the Curling Rink, a location we have used once in the past.

In Dawson City we are currently in the process of deciding which is the best place. What I can say already is that it won’t be the Downtown Hotel as their Conference Room was not available. The decision will likely be made next week.

I have also updated the photo gallery with images from the checkpoints. The file name states where the picture was taken. That way e.g. you will know what the Braeburn checkpoint looks like, etc.

Apart from that you will find photographs from the trail and you will get an idea what the pulk sleds look like that everyone is using.

Last minute shopping in Whitehorse

Amongst athletes the most favourite place in Whitehorse before the race is definitely Coast Mountain Sports. It is the largest outdoor and sports shop in town and they have everything a participant of the YAU needs and certainly all the last minute bits and pieces that come to mind.

As always Coast Mountain Sports is also happy to assist with ordering any gear they may not have. However, if there is any such thing (e.g. sleeping bag, stove, neo overboots), they need to know asap. The contact for YAU athletes is Ike the Assistant Manager and he can be reached by email ike@cmsyukon.ca.

Our pre-race schedule

The following is our schedule for this year’s YAU:

Feb. 12th

17:00 – 18:00 Hand-out of rental gear, High Country Inn

Feb. 13th

13:30 – 16:00 Indoor part of the official YAU Training Course, High Country Inn

17:30 – 21:00 Outdoor part of the official YAU Training Course, trails near Whitehorse

Feb. 14th

08:00 – 09:00 De-brief of the official YAU Training Course, High Country Inn

09:00 – 10:30 Official Trail Briefing for ALL athletes, High Country Inn from 11:00 Start of the Yukon Quest

11:30 – 14:00 Gear check for athletes who did not participate in the Training Course and handing in and filling out missing paper work, High Country Inn

from 17:00 Pre-Race Banquet, High Country Inn

Feb. 15th

10:30 Start of the Yukon Arctic Ultra 2009

Updates during the race

We have no media centre as such, i.e. no single person dedicated to writing updates. I am the one writing the updates and often I get help by staff and volunteers. So, the frequency depends upon the availability of internet (which we do not have in all places) and the time I/we have got. Usually, there is one update once a day.

The good news is that with the SPOT you will be able to follow athletes online. There will be a link from arcticultra.de that leads you to the SPOT website. BUT PLEASE NOTE: Do not panic if the virtual button symbolizing an athlete disappears off the screen. Whilst the SPOT are very reliable it is still technology and it may fail in extreme weather conditions or a battery may simply have run out. Also, not all athletes have signed up for a SPOT. So, if you can’t find a participant on the website, it’s likely because he does not have a SPOT. He/she will of course still be visible in our results spreadsheet with the IN/OUT times at all the checkpoints. You will find the link to this spreadsheet at the bottom right of our “Welcome” pages. It will be called “Results 2009”.

Race Roster 2009 update

More athletes have signed up:

Local volunteers Tünde Fülöp and Sylvia Anderson will run the marathon before helping with the race. They will be joined by German Markus Exner. Chantal Gagné from Whitehorse and Markus Wiaderek form Montréal have signed up for the 100 miles. Thomas Wiget from Switzerland and Luigi Mazzocchi form Italy are now part of the 300 mile race roster. Mark Hines who will write a book about his experience has signed up for the 430 miles and there may be one or two more “old friends” joining the ultimate distance.

Welcome to you all and good luck!

Best regards,

Robert Pollhammer

the Great Outdoors

Robert Pollhammer

Ludwigstr. 9

82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Germany

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