Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Holidays everyone!  I hope this post finds you happy and healthy and training for the next Classic race.  It looks like the results of the poll are surprisingly evenly matched.  Who knew so many people wanted to experience the torture of the Hope to Homer race.  I've only heard rumors of it and have vowed never to do it.  Despite the poll, the course has already been set.  In true Classic form, a completely new route in the Wrangells are the new venue and it looks to be a challenging race. 

I hope you spend a few moments near the turning of the new year reflecting on your accomplishments in 2011 and your goals in 2012.  If you completed a Classic in 2011, then congratulations!  If your goal is to complete the Classic in 2012, then I wish you godspeed and may your feet be swift and sure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New route and 2012 race dates.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend!  I know I did and sometime in the next week or so I'll be going on an all day run on the slopes of Haleakala to run it all off. 

Thanks for voting on the new poll.  It looks like the results are fairly evenly distributed.  Someone requested that I add the Eureka to Talkeetna route so I added that in a separate poll below - Blogger in its infinite wisdom won't let me change the original poll after voting has started.

The poll is informative and fun but what I didn't realize when I posted it was that the route and dates for the race have already been chosen.  Luc Mehl has generously taken over organizing (thank you again to Michael Martin for many years of service).  The route chosen is a completely new one and looks to be challenging. 

July 8-15, 2012
Thompson Pass to McCarthy

For more info on the race and to sign up for an email list go to

Luc has a great website chronicling many of his amazing adventures so after you're done reading about the race, browse around.  Have a great cyber-Monday! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New poll

I added a poll to the right side of the page about where the next three years of the race should be.  Usually the race venue is held in the same place for three years in a row.  The race just finished three years in the Alaska Range and now it's time for another route. 

Most routes have been done more than once because they prove to be so popular.  The Eureka to Talkeetna route was an exception.  That route has only been done once because it was just introduced a few years ago.  Ultimately the decision is up to the race director but the poll is a fun way gauge opinion. 

Personally, my preference would be Nabesna to McCarthy.  I have fond memories of it because I cut my Classic teeth on it but I've heard rumors that the next route could very well be in the Brooks Range.  Select your choice and vote on the poll.  If you have some place specific in mind, let me know and I'll see if I can add it. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Nutrition Book

I'm a huge fan of proper nutrition before and during a race. With the right nutrients you can drive your body farther and faster than if you just eat garbage. To put it succinctly, your body will take more abuse. And let's be honest with ourselves, the Classic is all about abusing your body. Not in a masochistic manner - more along the lines of drawing on all possible physical reserves to reach a certain goal. Classic racers are known for their ability to force their bodies into extreme endurance. Many a Classic race has been finished or won based purely on strength of will alone while ignoring pain and fatigue. Your body will hold up to this abuse much better if you give it the nutrients it needs. 

You will travel farther, longer and faster. You'll live longer and your mind and body will be more balanced if you eat right. So, having extolled the virtues of proper nutrition enough I'll get to the point. I came across a great book about sports nutrition the other day. It has some really good information about endurance nutrition.  Some of it is a bit basic but even that is all a good review. Here's a link.  Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

Speaking of sports nutrition, here's another book that is based on endurance alpine climbing but has an excellent section on nutrition.  The cross-over between the Classic and endurance climbing is obvious and the nutrition fundamentals are very similar.  I'm not sure it's worth it to buy the book just for the nutrition section because it's fairly short but if you like climbing books anyway you should take a look.  I refer to this book more for the nutrition section than anything else.  Extreme Alpinism

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Waihee Ridge Run

I did a great trail run the other day on the Waihee Ridge trail. I'm currently living on the North Shore of Maui and Waihee Ridge is about an hour away over in the West Maui mountains. I was pleasantly surprised to find some decent trail running here in the islands and this one is one of the best trails I've come across. Running in the West Maui mountains often means coping with clouds, rain and cooler temperatures. At the car in the sun at 1500 feet elevation, the temperature was about 75°. I climbed up into the clouds and gained 2000+ feet and the temperature dropped rapidly and it was about 60° by the time I reached the top.

The trail passes through thick forest of kukui, guava, ohi'a and ferns.

Amazing views of some valleys and waterfalls of West Maui a couple thousand feet below.
The sun rising over Haleakala.
The trail winds along a 20 foot wide ridge and drops off steeply on each side.
Some of the terrain looked positively Alaskan. This damp section was foggy, had evergreen trees and standing water on the trail. It was like something out of Southeast Alaska.
The top of the trail was a dead end with steep drop-offs on all sides. Thick fog prevented me from seeing how steep it really was but I've been up some of the valleys before and seen that much of the terrain is close to vertical. Great run up in the mountains with surfing just a few miles away.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

1997 Race Info and Race History

I got the following article from Roman Dial's archives.  After scanning it and doing some digital gymnastics, it cleans up nicely.  Claire Holland penned it after completing the 1997 Wilderness Classic.  It has some great history of some of the earlier races that I haven't seen anywhere else.  Thank you again to Roman Dial for saving all this great material.

Claire Holland - 1997
I saw the dimpled river current straight ahead, but I misjudged-I thought we could clear it. By the time I'd realized my mistake it was too late. We hit the rock squarely and the 3 pound inflatable raft flipped, spilling its contents, including Angelicka and me, into the Fox River. Now Angelicka was wrapped inside my sleeping bag and a blazing fire of logjam wood warmed us both. As veteran wilderness racer Roman Dial once quipped "ln the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic it only takes seconds to switch from race mode to survival mode."

Indeed, Angelicka and I had managed to stay in race mode for most of the 1997 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic (AMWC) which traversed the Kenai Peninsula from north to south, starting in Hope and finishing in Homer. Only four days before our Fox River dunking we had joined 25 other racers at the starting line on Hope's main street. After flipping the raft, Angelicka and I emerged from the frigid Fox River in the initial stages of hypothermia. Once warmed we would return to race mode, running the Fox in my Sherpa pack raft, and angling towards the race's finish line at the end of the Homer Spit.

Each year since 1981 participants in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic (AMWC) have met in end of the road places like Nabesna, Hope and Mentasta Lake to compete in this obscure wilderness race. Every three years the start and finish points change in order to prevent race veterans from monopolizing on their extensive knowledge of the course. Racers may connect the start and finish points in any manner they choose as long as they use only foot or paddle power and they stay off of Alaska's road system. Total distance of the race varies from route to route but averages around 150 miles. The AMWC is a loosely organized event and has only a few simple rules. Racers must carryall the food and gear they will need for the entire race. They may accept food and aid along the way from only their fellow racers. As the most current race information packet explains: "There will be no people to check up on anybody. There will be no trail sweep. This is a wilderness race. Come prepared for the wilderness on its terms."

The AMWC is so challenging and remote that the pool of competitors tends to simply self select. Would-be racers must evaluate both their repertoire of backcountry skills and their ability to deal with the inherent dangers of the AMWC: wildlife encounters, fording glacial streams and rivers and floating the same in tiny inflatable pack-rafts, changing weather conditions and the vastness and wildness of the country through which the racers travel. To race safe, participants must also know when to switch between race mode and survival mode. In its 17-year history the AMWC has seen many close calls, few serious injuries and no fatalities. As Adrian Crane, the first non-Alaskan to take first place in the AMWC said after the 1990 race, "It's a challenge at whatever pace you do it."

The AMWC's starting line has never been crowded. The 1984 race, which attracted 35 to the starting line, holds the record for the highest turnout while, with only eleven starters, the 1986 race hosted the smallest turnout to date. Over the race's 17-year history, the average ratio of starters to finishers is around 10 to 6.

Some race observers have concluded that AMWC participants are slightly unhinged. As a veteran of six Classics, however, I take exception to that theory. What I've learned my fellow racers and I share in common is not lunacy but an unyielding desire to test our mettle via the challenge of lean, efficient wilderness travel. The achievement in doing the race is simply to finish it. And for some of us, the race becomes a yearly ritual, another event to add to the family calendar along with salmon runs, hunting trips and springtime skiing.

For some racers, like three-time winner Hank Timm, the AMwe is just a sped-up version of their lifestyle. Timm, who with his wife and family settled on 22 acres of remote land near the Robertson River in 1981, was the first of only two finishers in the 1985 AMWC. The 1985 race marked the first year the race moved from its inaugural Hope to Homer route; racers traced their own line between Mentasta Lake and McKinley Park and at 235 miles the route is the longest ever undertaken in the race's history. Timm meticulously studied the route, sorted and selected gear and relied on the skills and strength he'd gained from trapping, hunting, log-building and exploring his home territory in the Robertson River country. Though 14 competitors lined up at Mentasta in 1985 only Timm and second place finisher Tim Cory completed the course.

The 1986 race marked the first time that accomplished endurance athletes from the lower 48 participated. They were Tom Possert, who at the time held the country's record for travelling the most miles by foot in 24 hours and Adrian Crane who once ran across the entire Himalaya Mountain Range. Though both Possert and Crane lacked the bush savvy and wilderness skills of the Alaskan racers, they managed to finish their first Classic in third place. Timm, meanwhile, easily won his second race, knocking two days from his 1985 time.

Timm logged his third race victory in 1987, when his presence at the start was an incongruous sight. He and partner Randy Pitney straddled mountain bikes, each carrying half of a 16-foot folding canoe on their backs. Timm's totally unorthodox plan was to bike the old Tok Trail (which is not part of the state's highway system) to the Tok River, then paddle the Tok River to the Tanana River and take out 450 miles downstream in Nenana. From Nenana, Timm and Pitney planned to switch back to their bikes and follow the railroad bed into McKinley Park. Though this route more than doubled the total mileage of the standard 235-mile route, Timm and Pitney not only won the race, but finished in just over four and a half days. After the 1987 race, rules were changed to prohibit the use of mountain bikes.

In 1988 the race route switched again, this time from Nabesna to McCarthy. The 1988 race yielded the Classic's second three-time winner when Roman Dial, who won in 1982 and 1983, handily beat an extremely competitive field that included Timm. Possert, Crane and Dave Manzer, the perennial second-place finisher who still holds the course record of 3 % days for the Hope to Homer race. Dial, a biology professor at Alaska Pacific University, has been called "Alaska's best all¬terrain vehicle." He's travelled Alaska's most remote and rugged terrain in a fashion similar to the AMWC: quick and lean. Recently Dial completed a mountain bike traverse of the entire Alaska Range, a distance of over 700 miles.

The next three-time winner cut his wilderness racing teeth in the 1988 race, when he put in one of the best showings by a rookie racer. Alaskan born and bred Brant McGee exhibits a race style toughened by his stint as a front-line medic in the Vietnam War as well as by a lifetime of travelling Alaska's backcountry on hunting trips and expeditions. McGee won the 1990 Nabesna to McCarthy race and the 1991 and 1992 Classics, when the course was moved to the Brooks Range. For McGee, who's been at the starting line for seven races, part of the race's ongoing appeal is that it is a challenge few people can or choose to do.

Though he's never won a Wilderness Classic, Dick Griffith is no less a legend than any of these multiple winners. White-haired and sporting the best pair of calf muscles this side of the Himalayas, the 72-year old Griffith has completed 14 Classics. He is universally recognized as the father of the pack raft strategy. At the Skilak River crossing between Hope and Homer in 1982, Roman Dial, race founder George Ripley and Dave Manzer were pacing up and down the riverbank like nervous dogs, looking for a safe place to cross when Griffith arrived and calmly extracted a small nylon bundle from his pack. He blew up his 3 lb. Sherpa pack raft and left the other three racers to ponder their chilly swim. Later in the race the raft allowed Griffith to avoid a nasty bushwhack along the Fox River. He instead floated the logjam-choked river, giving his feet a much-needed break, and arrived at the finish only 4 hours behind Dial.

Griffith, whose tough exterior only partially conceals a genuinely kind and thoughtful nature usually ends up unofficially sweeping the race route. Utilizing a steady, strong pace he eventually catches up with the walking wounded and sometimes disoriented stragglers. He is most proud of the number of women racers he has accompanied, starting with Kathy Sarns and Diane Catsam, who traveled with him from Hope and Homer in 1984 and were the first two women to successfully compete in the AMWC. One year Griffith loudly complained that race rules concerning outside help were too restrictive. He had been forced to forego bush etiquette by turning down a cup of coffee offered by a miner along the race route. Race rules were thus amended and now read: "No racer under 60 years old may receive anything from non-race participants."

One more racer has managed to log a trio of victories in the AMWC. As Griffith wrote in his summary of the 1993 Brooks Range race: "Gordy Vernon was delirious, disoriented and last in the 1991 race. Gordy was delirious, disoriented and last in the 1992. And Gordy was delirious, disoriented and FIRST in the 1993 race. How do you explain that?" Vernon did, in fact, spend most of the 1991 and 1992 races lost in the Brooks Range. His route-finding obviously improved, however, since besides his 1993 Brooks Range win he went on to win the 1997 Hope to Homer race with rookie Thai Verzone and completed a solo win on the same course in 1998. Vernon penned the best first hand account of the race in his 1991 essay titled "Crazed Souls, Raw Feet" in which he described his first AMWC experience, when he followed Dick Griffith from Nabesna to McCarthy. Goaded by Dick and Dick's son Barney, Vernon ran the last eight miles into McCarthy in order to take third place by passing Rich Irvin and Will Sherman just a few feet from the finish line at the McCarthy lodge. This is one of the closest finishes ever in the race's history.

I entered the 1997 AMWC alongside my friend Angelicka Castaneda, a 53-year old triathlete from southern California. Our Fox River swim was the closest to survival mode we knowingly came the whole race. We covered nearly a third of the course in the first day, following the well-maintained Resurrection trail from Hope to the Sterling Highway. Once we left the ease of the trail at Russian Lakes. however, our pace slowed abruptly. We made our way south through Confusion Hills, along the Skilak glacier and overland to the 2000-foot Killey River canyon. We crawled out of the canyon and up to the alpine country at the headwaters of the Funny River and then down to Tustemena Lake. From Tustemena we navigated through a beetle-killed spruce forest and came out on the Fox River where we blew up my raft and floated to the head of Kachemak Bay. The final portion of our route followed the Kachemak Bay shoreline for 25 miles. When we finished at the Road's End Resort in third place at 2:00AM, five and a half days after we left Hope, the only person in sight was the resort's night clerk. We signed a finish log we found hanging on a bulletin board and crawled into the back of Dick Griffith's pickup truck. While Angelicka fell asleep immediately I sipped one of Dick's beers and contemplated the after effects I knew were forthcoming. By morning my feet would be tender and swollen and my joints numb. Scratches and bruises I'd sustained bushwhacking through alder thickets would color my body in shades of purple, blue and yellow. Though my body will always bear accurate witness to the abuse of wilderness racing, I know from experience that it will take more than pain and discomfort to keep me from the starting line of another Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic.
As Gordy Vernon so aptly said at the end of the 1997 race: "The first year you do it for your ego. The second year you do it because you know you can do better. By the third, it's just that time of year."

Friday, August 19, 2011

2002 Pictures Part Five

Part Five of the picture montage from 2002 Nabesna to McCarthy race. 

Upper Goat Trail. 

We finally reached the bottom of the valley.  Getting ready to float the Chitistone. 

Still alive and walking in McCarthy. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More 2011 Race Info

You can read Dave Chenault's blog post about this year's race HERE.  Dave and Paige Brady came in second place with great speed and style.  Dave's blog report is well written and his blog is always a great read.  Thanks Dave and congratulations on a nice race!

Also, Tyler Johnson has some excellent photos of this year's race that he took enroute to winning the race with Luc Mehl, Todd Kasteler and John Sykes.  Check out Tyler's pictures on his Picasa album HERE

Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 Race Guest Posts

It sounds like there are a lot of great stories from this year's race.  If anyone would like to write a guest post about their race experience or about the race in general feel free to email me at tradingupnorth at

I hope everyone is recovering well. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011 Final Race Results

Here is a report from race director Michael Martin who has volunteered as race director for many years.  Thank you to Michael who finished the race this year with a torn meniscus!  Congratulations to John Lapkass who now holds the record for the most finishes at eighteen.  John finished the race this year with a broken arm!  Congratulations to everyone who ran the race this year. 
Race Report
The 30th annual Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, in a slight break from tradition for the third year of this 3-year cycle changed the route somewhat more than usual, with a new start. Rather than the Gerstle River crossing of Hwy 2, the start took place as it did in the ’94-’96 series at the Black Rapid Lodge on the Richardson Highway.  This change eliminated the Granite Mountains crossing from the Gerstle River crossing to the Donnelly Wayside, and resulted in a route of approximately 150 miles for the majority of racers using routes which connected the Delta, Wood and Yanert rivers.

This change was made due to popular request from the majority of racers from the first 2 years and suggestions from other “stakeholders” to make the route more “accomplishable”, but still challenging.  In addition, the segment from the Gerstle River crossing to the Donnelly wayside was deemed “pretty much done”, and the really exciting and beautiful sections are predominately in the segment from Black Rapids to McKinley Village anyway.

Nineteen racers assembled at the Black Rapids Lodge on the morning of Sunday, July 17th at 9:30 for a final pre-race information session by race director (and veteran of 14 Classics) Michael Martin.  Racers were treated to a pre-race dinner the night before at the beautiful Black Rapids Lodge where AMWC veterans shared stories with the many rookies, and everyone compared strategies and racing tips.

The morning of the 17th was somewhat overcast, but warm, and provided ideal weather conditions for wilderness racing.  Most groups and individuals headed out for the “standard” route, starting with a float on the Delta downstream to McGuiness Creek where racers left the river and headed cross-country for a crossing of the Trident Glacier and on to crossings of the Hayes and Gillam glaciers, a walk or float of the Wood River and a final float of the Yanert River to a Moose Creek takeout near McKinley Village and the finish. 

Unfortunately, by Sunday night, the weather had deteriorated significantly, and some serious rain and snow were blowing through the several high pass crossings needed to travel between rivers.  The weather did improve starting Wednesday, allowing people to dry out.

Michael Martin and John Lapkass ran into each other on the third day (Wednesday) and traveled together from then on.  This is remarkable for several reasons.  One is that this is the 3rd time that they have run into each other in the middle of absolutely nowhere during an AMWC days into a race, and then traveled together.

Another is this:

I was honored to have walked across the finish line to the 30th AMWC with John as he eclipsed the record of most finishes of an AMWC previously held by wilderness travel and AMWC legend Dick Griffith.  Griffith had completed 17 AMWC’s, and John has now completed 18.  I, on the other hand, although holding the record for having been race director or co-director for most races, also hold the record for most DNF’s (did not finish).   So, the record holders for both Most Finishes and Most Did-Not-Finishes crossed the line together this year.

John and I both used the “standard” route, although we did not come across each other until the third day.

I was the oldest racer at 58 (Michael).  John Sykes was the youngest at 22.

Lapkass and Martin finished the race despite seemingly insurmountable odds including a severe forearm injury in Lapkass on day two and a torn knee meniscus on the third day in Martin.

We talked a lot over our 3 days together about how pain is all in your mind, and if you can just ignore it, you can go on.  (more difficult to ignore that your knee keeps making crunching sounds or that you can’t hold a paddle very well with a forearm that’s twice it’s usual size.)


Place    Name(s)                                   Time (days, hours, minutes)

1          Tyler Johnson                          2d, 15h, 46m              
Todd Kasteler
Luc Mehl
John Sykes

2          Paige Brady                            3d, 12h, 20m
Dave Chenault

3          Don Moden                             4d, 5h, 43m
Chris Wood

4          Rob Kehrer                             4d, 11h, 50m
Greg Mills

5          Mark Carr                                4d, 21h, 50m
Ken Seavey

6          Bill Cenna                               5d, 0h, 5m

7          Jason Ruiz                               5d, 21h, 55m

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Race Report from Winner Luc Mehl

 Check out this race write-up from Luc Mehl who won this year's race with three other guys.  Luc has some great pictures on his blog of this year's race and a lot of other adventures too.  Here's a link.  Luc Mehl's blog.

2011 Race Write-up - Copied with permission from Luc's blog:

The 2011 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic didn’t fail to deliver. I partnered with John Sykes, my companion on spring trips to Sanford and Carpathian. We went as ‘independent nations’ with Tyler Johnson and Todd Kasteler, meaning that both pairs were self-sufficient in case anything went wrong or our paces didn’t match. Our team was well-suited for this semi-technical route; John and I were on Denali this May/June, Todd and Tyler were on Dhaulagiri (8167m, Nepal) in April/May.

Several old friends attended the race this year, including fan-favorite ‘ultra-heavy’ Rob Kehrer, who is basically my nemesis, and John Lapkis, who would hold the record for most finished courses upon reaching McKinley Village. Rob teamed up with Greg from Sleeping Lady Brewing Company, who tried to convince everyone that the first beer or two hydrates better than water.

It was also fun to start with friends nervous and excited for their first classic. Besides John Sykes, Dave Chenault from Kalispell and Paige Brady from Anchorage were ready for the suffer-fest. Notably missing from the race where Chris and Bobby, which meant that a victory was possible. Traveling the shortest route and teaming up with Tyler and Todd, both previous winners, made me more optimistic about winning than I’d dared before.

John and I practiced ‘Kama Sutra Packrafting’ in Goose Lake to see if we could share one boat and reduce the weight in our packs. I’d paddled some miles with a 120-pounder sitting up front, but John’s 6’4″ frame didn’t fit quite as well. We used the ‘beast with two backs’ position to get across the Delta River, but switched to ‘Luge’ for the Yanert. Todd and Tyler swam instantly in the Delta, tried a second time, and then Tyler ran back to the start to grab his boat and paddle.

We started with 25 pound packs that included a 30m rope, crampons, ice screw, limited hardware, and 7 lbs of food.

We had an incredible team dynamic. Everyone stepped up to take lead and set the pace at different stages of the course. I was very confident about John’s crevasse navigation skills after we skied down Sanford in the dark, so I let him know we were expecting him to be on lead through the crux field of crevasses. Despite having slept 20 minutes in ~48 hours, John stayed alert and led us through hundreds of crevasses hidden by blowing snow and a fresh foot on the ground. Cumulatively we had 36 crevasse breaches, but never anything that we couldn’t pull ourselves out of.

It was too cold to sleep for more than a few minutes; no one got more than 30 minutes of sleep during the 64 hours on the course. I had a really strong sense of deja vu while navigating the Yanert Glacier and moraine. I kept thinking, “I’ve done this before… we just need to keep moving down glacier, it doesn’t help to stop and evaluate each route option… where did I do this? Was I with Tyler? John? When did I pick through a moraine and then packraft?” I replayed all the glacier trips I’ve done and couldn’t find a match. I told Todd about it and he said, “Weird. Tyler just told me the same thing.”

Floating the Yanert was really cold for John and I. We flipped the raft 3 times despite the stability of the luge position. We stopped three times and Tyler and Todd had a fires roaring to warm us up. On the 8 mile ATV trail exit we were moving fast, but even so I wasn’t able to generate enough heat to warm up. I didn’t get warm until we got to Anne Beaulaurier’s empty cabin conveniently located 1/4 mile from the finish. We cranked up the electric and wood stoves, and found Missy Smith’s chili waiting for us in a slow cooker. Unbelievable!

The victory was really meaningful for all of us: the third victory on three different courses for Tyler, consecutive wins for Todd, youngest winner for John (22 years old), and winter-summer victories in the same year for me. We were so thrilled! And a bit loopy…

Thanks to Black Rapids Lodge, Anne, and Missy for the hospitality, and especially Michael Martin for organizing the race!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

2011 Race News Article

The Fairbanks Daily New-Miner put out an article yesterday about this year's race. 

Check it out here.  News-Miner Article

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More 2011 Winners

Slight correction to the last post.  The winning group included Tyler Johnson and Todd Kasteler as I mentioned before but also Luc Mehl and Jon Sykes.  The group of four finished in 2 days 15 hours and took a route that included a lot of glacier travel and a 6700 foot pass.  The four roped together for safety on the Yanert glacier and broke-through snow bridges on more than thirty crevasses.  Hypothermia, flipped rafts and lots of close calls added up to a great race.  Hopefully I'll get more information for you soon.  Also,there should be an article coming out in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner in the next day or two. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 Winners

Tyler Johnson and Todd Kasteler came across the finish line earlier today and won the 2011 Wilderness Classic.  The journey sounds epic with lots of snow and abysmal weather.  That's all the information I have now but I'll have more details soon. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No news yet.

Well, the 2011 Wilderness Classic racers have been underway for three days now.  There is no news yet on anyone finishing or dropping out but you'll be the first to know once I do.  The course is a bit shorter this year so it's possible someone could come in within the next day or so to the finish line.  I'll keep you posted. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good luck 2011 Racers!

Good luck to everyone running the race this year.  Make wise decisions and enjoy the experience.  

FYI:  The course has changed a bit from last year.  The race will start at the Black Rapids Lodge instead of at the Gerstle River. 

Here are some last minute updates from the race director Michael Martin.  

Alpacka Rafts has donated an Alpacka raft as a prize.  All the entrants to the race are eligible and the winner will be drawn after the race.  Just a note, Alpacka is the go-to place if you do any packrafting at all.  Here is a link to there website.
If you need a ride to the starting line, contact Michael Martin.  He has room to take 10 or 12 people.  Also, don't forget about the pre-race party at Dick Griffith's house Friday evening.  This party is a great place to meet other racers and check out the competition.  A lot of newbies find this gathering intimidating because the collection of raw talent that shows up is amazing.  Most experienced racers are understated but then you start talking with them and realize they've done endurance training in the last month that would put Ironman triathletes to shame.  Combined with a Grizzly Adams knowledge of the wilderness makes for some very interesting people.   

There will be a pasta dinner at the Black Rapids Lodge on Saturday the 16th for all racers and others. Racers will be paid for, others will need to pay for themselves.  Dinner starts at 7 p.m. at the Lodge.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Race Tips - Inflammation

I think I responded to everyone who asked me for information or an application for this year's race but if you did not get a return email, please email again.  There were a lot this year so I may have overlooked someone. 

Inflammation plays a key role in the race.  Ankles and feet always take the worst of the race and you’ll need to reduce the inflammation if you want to finish the race.  I strongly advise against using NSAID anti-inflammatories.  These are the non-steroidal over the counter type of pharmacy products like ibuprofen and Motrin that you should avoid like the plague.  NSAID’s place an extra load on your kidneys and liver at a time when your body is already going to be extremely stressed.  Combining NSAID’s and exercise is always a bad idea but this is particularly true on the Classic where you will be constantly dehydrated for several days in a row.  You can cause serious and permanent organ damage if you take too many NSAID’s while dehydrated. 

You will need some sort of anti-inflammatory agent to help you through to the finish line.  Some people resort to prescription anti-inflammatories or a prescription steroid to reduce the inflammation.  You can also try herbals such as Cat’s Claw but herbal remedies take a lot of personal testing to see what works for you specifically.  Vitamin C and Vitamin D have anti-inflammatory properties and also function as anti-oxidants so you should take both of these but they may not be strong enough for the purposes of the Classic. 

What you shouldn’t do is start the race without any anti-inflammatory in your pack.  If you don’t have anything else, take enough ibuprofen so you can take two every four hours of the race.  After you calculate how many that will be, add another two full day’s worth of doses.  So if you think you can finish the race in four days, you should pack enough ibuprofen so you can to two every four hours for six full days.  There’s nothing worse than having too few and besides it can be dangerous if your ankles are so swollen that you can’t walk. 

One of the best things you can do during the race to reduce inflammation is to drink water.  This will reduce the edema and flush your kidneys.  You’ll also feel better overall and stay warmer.  Speaking of water, drink it where you can find it.  Moving, silty, glacial water is probably the best because harmful bacteria don’t grow very well in it.  This is handy because you can just dip your water bottle into the river as you float down it in your packraft.  Drink enough so that your pee is clear and so you have to pee about once every hour or so.  You won’t waste time stopping to pee because you should master the art of walking while you pee.  All these tips should be second nature to you if you’re running the Classic but they are still good reminders. Be proactive with inflammation to keep it under control.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Handicapping 2011

Attempting to handicap the Wilderness Classic is probably a futile exercise because there are so many variables but it's always fun to gauge what the field is shaping up to be like.  It appears that Chris Robertson and Bobby Schnell will not be running the race this year.  This is huge news because they have dominated the Classic for the last decade or so.  Usually running as a team, Chris and Bobby have racked up an impressive number of wins and consistently high placed finishes over three different routes. 

Todd Kasteler is a favorite to do great things this year.  Todd finished strong last year in first place along with Chris, Bobby and Dan Powers. 

Over the years, applicants numbers for the Classic have waxed and waned.  This year the numbers seem to be waxing.  Given the interest from newcomers in the race this year, there is bound to be a significant number of newcomers to the race. 

With a strong previous winner who is familiar with the course, two past winners not running this year and a potentially large number of rookies, this year's race is adding up to be an interesting one.  There are so many uncertainties in the Classic though, anything could happen.  More than once a "rookie" has burst onto the scene and obliterated the field.  Or a past winner come out of the woodwork and decide it's time to brush off the ol' packraft again.  Potentials for this are Roman Dial, Andrew Skurka, or Gordy Vernon. 

The Classic is never boring and this year is shaping up to have plenty of excitement.  If you're running the race this year, good luck and be safe.  Stay tuned for updates as I get them. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Race Prep

With the Classic just a few weeks away, if you are planning to do the race, you should be mostly prepared by now.  Your physical training should be done and you should rest as much as possible the last couple weeks.  Short runs and hikes and very mild exercise should be your goal.  Aim for as little stress as possible. 

I’m not the race director so I don’t know the exact number of entries but based on the number of requests for information I’ve received, it looks there are an unprecedented number of rookies that are interested. 

Use the remaining couple of weeks before the race to prepare yourself mentally.  The anticipation is bound to be intense but you can use and direct the nervous anxiety to prepare yourself.  Accept who you are and where you are at this point in your life.  Center yourself.  This may sound a little dramatic and new age-ish but if you don’t think about it now, you will in the middle of the race as doubts fill your mind and you question why you started.  There’s nothing like a hundred or so miles of true wilderness to amplify your personality flaws. 

Anyway, back to centering yourself.  Meditation, yoga and tai chi are all excellent ways to center your mind and keep your body limber.  Spend part of your meditation time clearing and slowing your mind by focusing only on your breathing.  The rest of the time visualize yourself in the race overcoming difficulties.  It’s most helpful to imagine the feelings and emotions you will encounter.  For example:  imagine how cold and tired you will be and the despair that comes along with it.  Then spend several minutes feeling how satisfied, competent and proud you are when you continue hiking through the cold, exhaustion and feelings of hopelessness. 

Most of all visualize yourself as confident, competent and making intelligent, safe choices. You don't have anything to prove, just enjoy the experience and the journey.