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.