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.
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.)
OFFICIAL RACE RESULTS:
Place Name(s) Time (days, hours, minutes)
1 Tyler Johnson 2d, 15h, 46m
2 Paige Brady 3d, 12h, 20m
3 Don Moden 4d, 5h, 43m
4 Rob Kehrer 4d, 11h, 50m
5 Mark Carr 4d, 21h, 50m
6 Bill Cenna 5d, 0h, 5m
7 Jason Ruiz 5d, 21h, 55m