The MYAU is no stranger to extremely cold conditions. It’s what’s earned it the title of ‘the world’s coldest ultra’. Just take a look at the kit you need to survive such extreme conditions, or our origins story to learn more about the challenging environment this race takes place in and what you can expect on the trail.
Despite the fact we expect the MYAU to provide plenty of uniquely challenging experiences, record breaking snowfall this winter posed even greater challenges than normal. The stage was well and truly set for one of the toughest arctic ultras yet. With heavy snow came the issue of overflow (keep reading for more on that!) and an unusually high drop out rate early on. As always, the athletes safety was the race organisers number one priority and the extreme conditions meant they made the tough decision to alter some of the route.
The race participants bravely battled on in spite of the issues they encountered. Yukon glory ultimately went to a local resident and MYAU familiar face, Jessie Gladish, who completed the 300-mile route first on her bike (which means she’s now completed it in every discipline she can.) Following not long behind her was Irish ultra runner Kevin Leahy, who finished first by foot, surpassing his previous attempt. Keep reading to hear his MYAU story…
Athlete debrief: Kevin Leahy
For those unfamiliar with Kevin, check out his pre-race Q&A to learn more about him. Alternatively you can hear from Kevin in this dedicated podcast. Having participated in the MYAU before, Kevin had hopes of pushing himself further than in his previous attempt. Here’s how he got on taking on the 300-mile challenge this year…
Temperatures on the morning of the race were about -22. I hadn’t really been sleeping well for the 4 nights I’d been in Canada but still felt pretty good at the start line. From the start I went at a decent pace. Either side of the trail was about 500cm of snow. Regardless, after about an hour I was away and couldn’t see anyone else in front of me, just the beautiful scenery on the Yukon River. I hit the first checkpoint after about 5 hours, had a meal and quickly kept moving.
That night it snowed a lot, approx. 30cm. It made things very tough. The temperature got down to -30. There were lots of drop outs on the first night. I probably tried to push a little too hard without sleep and didn’t have a good time of it on the second day. After about 30 hours I decided to bivvy on the trail. After a decent 5 hours sleep I woke up feeling much better, with about 250 miles to go. From then on I remained pretty positive and moved pretty well. I did have ongoing issues with my stove which wasn’t building up pressure properly but these things happen sometimes at lower temperatures.
Due to heavy snow, the ice on the lakes and rivers sinks which causes overflow. This can be dangerous for competitors who aren’t prepared for it and meant the race had to be shortened by some 50 miles. At the time I was disappointed, but I understood the call was made for safety reasons. I finished the race in 5 days and 19 hours. It was my longest and toughest race to date, but I was delighted to be the first foot racer over the line.
So what did I learn? Here’s a few things I’ll be putting to good use for future events like this:
Sleep on the first night - I’m used to pushing it hard for 100-mile races and getting to the line. It’s different for 300-miles races - I figured out the hard way!
Always bring your own stove
Never leave glove warmers in your down mitts because they’ll melt
Never leave a checkpoint without your spoon
Listening to music is great on a long run
Looking for more ultra run inspiration?
Take a look at our race roster for 2022 to see what’s coming up! Enthusiasts of sub-zero ultra runs will also be extremely excited to hear that this year we have a brand new event taking place in Lapland next month.
Brought to us by the creators of the MYAU, the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra promises to be equally as thrilling. Learn more about the race on our dedicated MLAU event hub.