YAU100: Heading North Again

Lake run testing the pulk

Wow…less than a week from now and I’ll be starting the Yukon Arctic Ultra 100. Hard to believe that it’s been a year since last year’s race.

The 2012 YAU100 had a very profound affect on me. I have always been drawn to northern races after my first year at the Rock and Ice Ultra in Yellowknife, but completing 100 miles last year in the Yukon in a very isolated environment over such beautiful and pristine terrain had me longing to return to the north almost immediately after finishing.

Talking about it with Sara last night over a beer had me pondering what it was that appealed to me so much. The interesting part is that the race aspect is very low on the list of things that I love about the race. Mostly, it’s just about being out in nature and doing what I love. This race, brings to me everything that I love to do and what really draws me to the sport at this point in my running career…including being in the wilderness, the beauty of the north, the solitude of the race, the expedition aspect, as well as more of the one against nature and less about the head to head competition.

It’s pretty cool as even though I made a few mistakes in last years race, I still had a strong run. However, going into this year’s race, the competition is very strong and I am totally fine with wherever I finish. I could have a great race and end up finishing in the middle or back of the pack…and am ok with that. It’s truly the experience of the race, seeing the beauty of the land, and enjoying the solitude that I am craving.

I’m really intrigued right now about what the race has to offer in terms of the weather conditions this year. Last year we were fortunate to have a bit of a melt, but then freeze up, which made for a very fast trail. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get off as lucky this year and ended up with slower and more challenging conditions. Also, temperatures only dipped down to -30C at night, so there is the distinct possibility that we could be facing colder conditions. Part of me wishes that this is the case as my desire in the future is to run longer races/expeditions in more extreme environments.

Training wise, I feel like all has gone reasonably well going into the race. I don’t feel like I am possibly in quite as good of shape as last year due to the achilles injury that nagged for a while, however I’m okay with that and think that my previous experience will help to get me through.

Kit-wise, I’m feeling in a good place. Knowing what gear to take on the trail, what works, and what doesn’t is a comforting thing. The biggest change is that I have a very sweet new pulk that I’ll be using this year. I used Greg McHale’s pulk last year which was great, but took some mental notes and returned home with a few ideas of my own to make a similar design.

I am not the most mechanical person, but I was able to pass on many of the ideas that I thought would work to a friend of mine in the construction/maintenance business, Jack Judge, and he was able to design a very light and smooth pulk for me. Thank you so much Jack for your patience and incredible attention to detail. The good ship/pulk ‘Jack’ will be flying high in the Yukon.

The worst part right now is waiting to head out. Things have been really busy lately with organizing races, sales, coaching and writing, however all is winding down now and I can focus exclusively on the race. I’ve had some good final days of gear testing, and even though we haven’t had much snow, the temperatures have been the coldest of the year, which is timely. I’ve gotten a number of good runs in while dragging my pulk over frozen lakes recently.

I fly out early on Wednesday morning and will be spending a few days with my sister Debbie in Vancouver before heading north. It will also be great to catch up with my friend Mike at the same time in Vancouver.

I’ll be arriving in Whitehorse a couple of days before the race and looking forward to seeing the start of the world’s toughest dogsled race, the Yukon Quest.

The Yukon Arctic Ultra begins next Sunday, February 3. As with last year, there will be updates on their website, and I will have a spot tracking device attached to my pulk so you can follow along during the race.

At this point I would like to say a huge thank you to La Sportiva for providing the best shoes/clothing for the race, along with other support and helping me to get to the start line. Thanks as well to Suunto for the ultimate in GPS/Altimeter/Heartrate Monitors and to Clif for supporting me with the best race fuel on the market.

Thanks as well to family and friends for the many kind words and support for this race. And, most importantly to my incredible spouse and soul mate Sara who I only wish could be there with me.

Talk to you after I reach Braeburn.

I could look at this map for hours. Note that there are only 2 checkpoints during the race at Rivendell Farms (26 miles) and Dog Grave Lake (59 miles)



  1. Have an awesome race Derrick. Should be interesting with some ultra celebs up there this year, but you’ll be we’ll served with your experience and lessons learned. Can’t wait to read about how it goes.

  2. Oops, by ultra celebs I meant strong runners. I was thinking of the star studded iditarod!

  3. yep, i agree, have an awesome race!! go out and play in the snow!!! you will love it!!!

  4. Good luck Derrick! We’ll be cheering for you!!

  5. Sounds like you’re going to have a wonderful time, wishing you all the best! Pretty adventurist race, it sounds perfect! Happy for you!

  6. Have fun Derrick I cannot wait to hear about it. You are going to enjoy this I know this for a fact. Say Hi to Debbie. B

  7. Mel Burgess says:

    Hope you have a great race Derrick! Looking forward to tracking you and reading out it when you finish! Stay warm and keep moving.

  8. Thanks everyone. Just want to get moving now. Guess I’d better start packing soon.

  9. Hey Derrick, I was updating my log over on Attackpoint and happened to click on this and then was just following you live on the race website…very inspiring to say the least. Keep following your passion.

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