6633 Arctic Ultra: CP2 to CP3 (James Creek to Fort McPherson)
As we leave James Creek we know that this next section is vitally important. We've been told that most people DNF before CP3 and if we get to CP3 then we'vebroken the back of the race. Yes, we'll still have over 260 miles to go, but the hilliest part of the race is between the start and CP3, after which we get onto the ice road which is flat for about 150 miles.
On leaving James Creek we're straight into 4 miles of climbing. It doesn't feel that bad, especially after the battle with Wrights Pass, so we dig in and simply get on with it. After 2 hours we assume we're near the summit and decide to stop and have our 15 minute break. One of the medics, Johnnie, pulls up for a chat (especially theses 'chats' are the medics way of assessing us without us really noticing) and tells us that the summit is just around the corner, so we wrap up and drive on to get this climb done (we know the rest of the course is undualting, but no more 'big' hills to climb).
Very quickly after this we're joined by Neil, who we'd seen at the check point earlier. He'd had a 90 minute sleep there, but had really pushed hard to catch us up and asked if he could join us for a while. Of course, we said yes, having three people working together is far better than two and Neil had been at the race in 2017, so his arctic experience would be invaluable. So far Hayley and I had been working pretty hard, which meant having our heads down and not looking up too much, Neil encouraged us to stop occasionally and look around, to actually enjoy where we were and soak up the atmosphere of the North West Territories. This is when we first saw the Northern Lights. They were out, not massivley, but it was good to see the famed "Aurora Borealis" for the first time.
As we progressed through the night my lack of sleep at CP2 was starting to catch up with me. I was tired and seemed to be dropping back on the undualting terrain, so was working harder than I had hoped. I stopped for a very quick toilet break, so told Neil and Hayley to carry on and I'd catch them up. I had only been stopped about 30 seconds but the others had seemed to really get away from me, I put my head down and worked really hard to catch them up. It took about 10 minutes to catch them and I was knackered. This spurt and lack of sleep was now starting to really hurt me.
I feel slow. I am tired. I am all over the road. I told the others I was tired and I needed the pace to drop. They duly obliged but I was now over the edge and needed to stop and sleep. Unfortunatly it wasn't safe to stop and bivvy out as the snow banks were too tall and there wasn't enough safe space to bivvy up next to them. This meant we had to push on until we found such a place.
I feel slow. I am tired. I am all over the road. We carried on for hours and I was a dead man walking. We stopped occasionally to eat and drink, but still couldn't find a safe place to bivvy out. I was in bad place. I was contemplating telling Neil and Hayley to leave me and perhaps I'd catch them up at a later point, until eventually we found a place to sleep. I felt relived. We decided to stop for 2 hours and I was in my sleeping bag and asleep within minutes.
Within what seemed like 5 minutes Neil woke me up and said we'd slept though the alarm. We'd been asleep for 3 1/2 hours, not 2 hours!!! We quickly got our gear together (again, freezing cold as soon as we got out of our sleeping bags), didn't really say much to each other and quickly got going to warm up.
I now felt amazing and we were making good ground again. We were back into our routine of 2 hours on/15mins off and before long we could see the lights of Fort McPherson in the distance. This was a great boost, but we also knew it was still 20 miles away, which was another 8-9 hours of hiking.
The three of us were getting on really well and chatting about anything and everything, this seemed to make the time pass quicker, which was essential considering how far we had left to go. We were now about 5 miles from Fort McPherson, the soles of my feet were beginning to hurt but so far the body was holding up well. Martin Like, the race director, drove up to us and told us that one of the crew would be on the outskirts of Fort McPherson to direct us into the check point, which was very handy as there's no way we'd have found it on our own.
We arrived at the community centre in Fort McPherson and this was a huge tick in the box for us. 99% of the hills had been completed, we were all in a happy place. As we arrived we had helpers galore, from crew and DNF'd athletes all offering help with our pulks and our bags. There was a big hall for us to sleep in and we decided that we'd try to get 3 hours sleep, then crack on from there.
However, the hall turned out to be quite noisey (the air con system was banging), I grabbed about 90mins sleep, Hayley about 2 hours and Neil got zero sleep. Neil was ready to go, but had waitied for us to wake as he thought going out as a group of three would be far better than going out on his own, so we quickly rushed around with the help of Kev (who had unfortunately DNF'd), Vlad (winner of the 120 race) and Mimi (running royalty and support crew), got our flasks, food and drop bags sorted, got our ice spikes on (as we'd now be going out onto the ice road) and headed out on our quest to get to CP4.
CP2 to CP3 (James Creek to Fort McPherson) 42 miles (total: 113 miles)