6633 Arctic Ultra......setting the scene with coach Mark!
So I've decided on my A race for 2019, it's going to be a VERY special race, it's called the 6633 Arctic Ultra and is billed as "the toughest, coldest, windiest ultra distance footrace on the planet". Yikes!!!
The race: The 6633 Arctic Ultra has been run by Martin and Sue Like, who run the Likeys outdoor store in Brecon, for the last 10 years. It's a non-stop, 380-mile self-supported foot race in Canada, starting at Eagle Plains in the Yukon, passing through the Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway, continuing North until you reach the banks of the Arctic Ocean and finishing in Tuktoyaktuk. Competitors have 8 days to negotiate some of the most remote and inhospitable landscape known to man (where the winds can blow up to 70mph and temperatures will plummet to about -40'c), which is in part why the race has a 75% DNF rate (yes, not very many people have actually finished this race!). Yes, we'll have to battle the extremely strong Katabatic winds, but on the flip side we'll see some amazing scenary and we might get the opportunity to see the amazing Northern Lights!
The training: Unsurprsingly the training started quite a while ago. I'll go into more detail in the coming months into what training and races I'll be doing in preparation for the 6633 Arctic Ultra, but in the past few months I've hiked and ran a lot in the Brecon Beacons, hiked/ran the majority of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, raced the Brutal Midnight Marathon & the Brecon Beacons 10 Peaks race and most recently hiked/ran 165 miles from Prestatyn to Merthyr on Offa's Dyke and the Taff Trail. In addition to that I've increased my strength training to try to keep the injuries at bay and provide the strength endurance to make it through the 8 days of gruelling exercise, and added in a lot of weighted hikes and tyre pull sessions to simulate pulling the sled.
Equipment: With the extreme weather conditions you'd probably guess that there would be a requirement for some specialist food and equipment, and you'd be right! As temperatures are often at -40'c the clothing and equipment has to be able to work at those conditons, and, more importantly, keep you safe and warm! As for the food, most food (and drinks) will freeze solid when it's in your sled, so food choices are very important and a lot of work will be done here to ensure I get adequate calories during the race. As we're self-supported, our pulks, or sleds, become our own little mobile homes, carrying everything we need from food, water, clothing to equipment; so every item will be carefully considered, any useless pieces of kit that makes the pulks heavier will be discarded!
Why the 6633 Arctic Ultra? Honestly, I'm not 100% sure why I chose the 6633 Arctic Ultra, but I do know that after many years in the triathlon world I needed a different challlenge. I considered doing a double or triple Ironman, but even that wasn't enough. I needed something that really scares me and takes me out of comfort zone.....and the 6633 really scares the crap out of me! You have to cover the 380 miles in 8 days, which is about 50 miles a day, which means for 99% of the race we'll be hungry, very tired, very cold and sleep deprived! This is the challenge; and this is why I have spent hours and hours researching the race, read every race report out there (there aren't many!), spoken to past competitors and researched every piece of equipment on the kit list, but you don't really know how you'll cope with the extreme conditions until you get out there. As I have no Arctic expereince, I know this will be my biggest challenge to date!
Goals for the race: I'm going into this 'race' as a challenge or an expedition, not a race. Due to the extreme conditions and the very high DNF rate I am fully aware that finishing the race will be an emormous achievement in itself. Of the 23 starters this year, only 6 people finished the 380 mile race (and only 1 person finished the race in 2011!), so if I'm able to finish the event then I will be over the moon. Obviously I will have a plan for the event (probably a very detailed one!), but anything is possible out in the Arctic Circle and the goal will be to 'simply' keep moving forwards towards the finish line at Tuktoyaktuk. A mantra I've used before will be at the forefront of my mind during the event......."Keep on trucking!".