|RECORDS ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN: WALLACE FIRST AT YUKON ARCTIC ULTRA|
The Yukon Arctic Ultra is a race that starts in Whitehorse, passing through Braeburn and finishing in Dawson City, following the same trail as the world's toughest Sled Dog Race. Competitors choose to run, Mountain bike or X-C ski the either a marathon distance, 100 miles or 300 miles, and in 2013 a 430 mile division will be available.
It was 21 hours and 41 minutes after race start when Wallace crossed the 100 mile line in Braeburn, securing him first place and the laurels of a new speed record.
Apart from participating in a handful of small events (Wallace hadn’t run an ultra before) he was mostly unfamiliar with the competitive racing scene.
“For me, Derrick was the guy to beat. He is certainly more experienced. So I told myself to ‘follow this guys pace,’” said Wallace.
Derrick Spafford is a seasoned ultra runner from Eastern Ontario who had previously run in similar events like the Rock and Ice Ultra, in Yellowknife, North West Territories. He placed second in the 100 mile division at the Yukon Arctic Ultra, coming in at 23 hours and 18 minutes.
Spafford was running with a sled borrowed from Greg McHale, the same sled that McHale used to win the Rock and Ice Ultra.
And similar to when we interviewed McHale, after the Rock and Ice Ultra, Spafford was not about to give up the proprietary secrets of the sled.
“I’m sorry, I can’t divulge that secret either,” joked Spafford.
So the secrets to what may have helped Spafford secure a second place victory lie between the McHale and Spafford.
Perhaps more puzzling however was Wallace’s run into Ultra Running history. “I did the Yukon River Quest in a Voyageur boat last year. One of the girls on the team said: ‘we’re going to do this run this winter…want to do it?’ and I said ‘Oh sure.’”
But Wallace didn’t exactly walk up to the start line and break the course record without knowing what he was getting in to. Building up to the Yukon Arctic Ultra Wallace would go everywhere on foot, pulling a sled. He even showed up to a friend’s New Year’s party pulling a sled – he lives approximately 50 kilometres out of town.
“You try to build it in wherever you can,” explained Wallace, referring to the augmented training that was necessary for someone with a very busy life.
“I think being local gave me the advantage. I’d been able to figure out a lot of different system (referring to clothing). We’ve had a pretty crazy winter here but I was pretty confident that what I was wearing was what I would need for the weather. So I didn’t need to stop and change.”
Clothing selection is always a concern for events that take place in very cold environments. “I had a few rough patches on the way to checkpoint two…I needed to take a little bit longer of a break at the checkpoint to take care of myself, or else it might get pretty ugly…or uglier,” said Spafford.
“At the marathon checkpoint Derrick was pulling in as I was pulling out and that was the last time I saw any of the racers,” recounted Wallace.
Wallace blazed on ahead, alone to take the title, but in a humble demeanour, not all was attributed to his efforts. “What won the race for me was the love and positive energy from the community.”
It also helps to have some support from industry as well. “Rod and Mal Patterson from Biltong make these South African meats that I ate throughout. Icebreaker gave me some wool product to wear and Westcomb helped out with a few pro-deals,” mentioned Wallace.
When asked what was next on his Radar, would he be signing up for another Ultra: “…maybe. I had a lot of fun.”
But as many know and those who have run in them understand, once you start it’s difficult to stop.
We have our suspicions that we’ll be hearing more from Wallace.