Posts Tagged ‘Endurance’
I find myself back in the Yukon having said I would probably miss this year. Its now the 5th year I’ve ventured and more and more the North seems to suck me back into the wilderness and beauty that it exudes.
The team this year is myself, Tom Barber and Heidi McGuire. Tom has been with me the last three trips I’ve made and Heidi I met in 2009 on the YAU. I can’t imagine better people to work with and combined with the OTC team and Yukon Quest team, I am really looking forward to the next two weeks of trail, fun, tiredness and usual battles to get the job done.
Already the curveballs have started and the main one has been the weather. The heaviest snow the Yukon has seen for years has all but been discarded by the spring like temperatures of the last week or so. The roads are near clear and the trail is very different. But this does not hold the Quest back. In fact it probably enhances it. Teams will have to be at their best to win this year. Now that the temperatures have fallen again, there will be ice, and possibly overflow. All great stuff for the thinking musher!
Its these conditions or changing conditions that make this such a great race. Like some of the desert stuff I cover, it can be very unpredictable, very demanding and a great challenge. If it were the same each year, how easy that would be to calculate? How boring would it be to follow? The North will always have its say whatever.
We drive up to Fairbanks tomorrow and a few nights of functions before the action start and then we set off back to Whitehorse. We will be posting videos and images along the route and your participation is vital. Comments, posts, opinions (not to strong of course) and questions on Facebook and Twitter.
Give us your thoughts on who you want to win, or if you don’t mind.. Our stories will be unique as they always are as the trail will, Im sure, give us plenty to talk about. Can Hugh Neff do it again or will Allen Moore pip him to the post. Or will we have a new winner this year? Will Normand be the darling of the race? Or will that go back to Brent Sass again.. Is it Brent’s year to hold that trophy?
Well, by the 10th Feb we should know the answers to those questions so here’s to the Yukon Quest 2014. Im toasting with a glass of red in the High Country Inn, Whitehorse!
See you on the trail
Some of you will have read about YES 2014. Its a part of what I do and I give my time for six months to hopefully make a difference to 12 young peoples lives. I can’t do it regularly because its all consuming and I do not want tomake business out of it. The cost for 12 children to go is around £40,000 and I am reaching out to anyone who might be able help. Very soon we will have a giving page but in the mean time I am looking for one or two people who might like to underwrite this in its entirety. I meet many people who could afford this but the key to wanting to help is, if you feel a connection to helping? Basically the youth today are the future and will be here long after we are gone.. They will be making decisions that will correct a lot of what we have done wrong in our time. This is why its close to me. Please read the info on our FB page, share it or send to someone who might help. If you want more information please private message me.
Or call me on +447973 690087
Over the last 5 or 6 years I have seen huge waves of change in the running world. Just 15 years ago the challenge was a city marathon, New York, London, Dublin or one of the many around the world. The mega challenge was the UTMB or the Marathon des Sables.. Then popped up a few more copies of the MDS format like the four deserts, Jungle Marathon and a few others that came and went or still fumble by. And when you had completed one of these the next challenge seemed to be a 600km non stop or one of the Poles. Or even Everest.
But now the landscape has changed so massively that those big challenges have become or are becoming the new norm and the professionalisation of some of the ultra world races in terms of competitors and sponsors is just so great to witness. No longer is the MDS the ultimate or the UTMB the toughest out there. They are certainly tough but with 2300 runners competing this years event and the MDS reaching 1200 and rising to 1500 runners in 2015, these are more catering to the masses on a tour basis. Everest is about booking your trip and being guided up by an expert. The MDS is 1500 runners shipped by bus to the desert, fed, wined and dined for three days, run and shipped back for some R&R in a hotel. 2300 in the UTMB is certainly a good money spinner! City Marathons at over 30,000 runners. Although its good to see so many people active, these events are not cheap with Everest at 50k average, stage races like the 4 deserts and MDS at around 4k per runner. All very good business for the races but really cater to very few who can afford or jump on the charity wagon.
However, during my cycling hours through the streets of london, I see people running these equivalents in a week or so on their way to work. People cycling 20, 30km or more a day just for commuting. How things have changed!
I have watched my FB newsfeed with interest this summer. In particular the events covered by iRunFar and Ian Corless at Talk Ultra. I have seen a new breed of tough race and some of the toughest races out there being run by real competitors. Races that have good sponsorship behind them, tough competitors and professional runners. But the top are truly in a league of their own. Marathons have become their training runs, stage races their warm ups or ignored altogether as not worth it. And now mountain trails, non stop 100 mile races and more extreme races are the new challenge. Some runners are completing these running sub 3 hours marathon times. A truly different level. Races like the lakeland100 in UK are now seen as much harder to run. I cover the Yukon Quest which is truly a man challenge not to be ignored. There are cycling challenges everywhere and the growing number of city dwellers now running or cycling to work is growing so fast that city councils do not know how to manage the change. Or how to make money form them yet!
This does not detract from the toughness of a desert race. Heat is a killer. Or the challenge of the humidity of a jungle race and freezing cold of the arctic. But it does make some of these races more the norm.
So what does this tell us? For me I see it as all positive. More races means more competition which in turn leads to better and safer races. It leads to more choice, more destinations. It weeds out the poor races or those that maybe unsafe. But more importantly it also means the creative can be more adventurous and dream up something that is so different that we are presented with a new “MDS” for the next 25 years. And I truly believe this will happen. There will be another mysterious, man challenging event that emerges. A race that entices because so few have done it. A race that people can run and really feel they have done something that the masses have not. Something I felt when I first heard about the MDS back in the 80′s…
I really look forward to the next few years to see what arises. What I might be involved in media wise. What I might even find I want to challenge myself with.
This is a portfolio of the Marathon des Sables 2013… Click the “more” to see all the images.
MDS 2013 Roundup
This years MDS was as unique as any. I suppose the only constant is the toughness. There were new faces, returning faces, young faces, and old faces. There were race winners and life winners and those who did not make the end. But without doubt everyone will go home with an experience of a lifetime.
Covering the MDS has always been a real pleasure for me. Not because of the race but more for what the desert throws up at us. It strips us back to the raw. Show us who we really are. It then asks us to live it in a way no other environment I have visited has ever achieved. This bit I still cannot explain but if you ever have the privelege to spend time with bedouin, you will find no truer human beings.
I have travelled to deserts for 30 years now. Made private expeditions, taken children across them, many adults to the Middle East Empty Quarter and I have run the MDS as well as returned for the last 7 years to photograph it. It never disappoints. Read the rest of this entry »
This is now my 7th Marathon des Sables and as usual it was very unique. The format was slightly changed which disturbed a few people but I think this will settle down soon and people will accept it in its new form. But this was just a tiny part of the MDS. What really makes this race is the people and the colour they bring each year. The emotions were running fully from start to end.
Stage 2 was one of the toughest I have seen for a while and the heat really kicked in from stage 3 reach the high forties in the sun. Sometimes fifties. The race provided many faces as usual. Some of sheer pain and some of sheer joy but all full of a human’s most powerful emotions.
As a photographer this year I was extremely busy but no more or less than normal. We could not get out much during the race but over the next few days I will be able to catch up with some specific stories, write my press articles and get back in touch with some of those beautiful times of the last 7 days.
If this is a race that is in your mind to do, dont hold back. Go to http://www.marathondessables.co.uk and sign up. I believe anyone can do this race but there has to be a want.
Here are a few images from the week..
The Quest finally got underway today and it was warmer than any year I have attended… Out car read 1 degree on the way to Braeburn.
Here are a few photos and I will blog post stories as they emerge.. For today it was just important to get the first images out. We are now at Braeburn editing, posting and creating our first short video for the race….. The first mushers are due in around 11pm so it could be a long night… Posts coming…
Nobody at the beginning thought that it would be possible to run with a pack and the expedition aspect was an extra bonus. You need to manage calories, hydration, your effort, your rest, your recovery and I think it’s all these elements that make the event so special. It’s the concept, the cocktail of the desert, the running and the self sufficiency that create the success of the event.
- Race director Patrick Bauer talking to TalkUltra (Episode 5 MDS Part One)
A selection of runner’s share their experience at the end of day 3. Footage shot using multiple GoPro Hero cameras:
There is nothing like a trip to the desert to remind you of the precious commodity that is: water.
What we all wouldn’t do for a shower!
From camels to ruins; blisters to smiles, this video aimed to captured what is, after all a human experience.
Watch out for the dung beetle!
I just watched Brent Sass preparing his dogs for the next leg of the Yukon Quest, from Peli Crossing to McCabe Creek. I watched in awe of how he is with his dogs… He had a bag of booties and told someone how he bought 4000 of them before the race. 4000 at 85cents each… Thats a lot of cents!
He then attended each dog taking the paws one by one and checking them for soreness or injury. Not just checking though, he took each paw and pushed gently checking between the claws. He then would kiss the dog and give it a hug, then slipping on a bootie and tying it carefully.. Each foot painstakingly checked and cared for. Each with a new bootie for the next leg of the journey and all to be repeated again very soon.
Brent shows his team the respect they are due for without them he would not figure in the race. If he did not care for them he would not be cared for by them. But more importantly if he did not care it would eventually bite in the rear in some way…
He chatted to some of the photographers with passion too. Never too busy to give of himself. Never too tired even though he had not sleep much for the last 8 days… Never too focussed that others don’t matter.
Brent is a kind of special competitor.
He is not alone, though as this race seems to breed special people and strong teams.. I have watched other in the same way and they are different from other sportsmen that are so often too obsessed with themselves and non caring. The Yukon Quest has some real stars.
Last night I watched Lance Mackey arrive at Stepping Stone, stop for a Burrito and then checkout.. He had no reason to chat but did… But that is another story and my next….. The race continues…
The rest of Brents team… http://on.fb.me/AqJLtm
Images of Dawson and our time in the City….
We are now into our last day in Dawson City and I find myself not wanting to move on. Its a beautiful town at the base of Midnight Dome on the Yukon river. This time of year the river is frozen over and bridges to the community on the other bank but come spring the bridge disappears and only with a long drive can you get you to the other side… The town is made up of traditional western style buildings and walking the streets brings back memories of series like The Virginian and High Chaparelle. Its the most gorgeous city and not one to spend only a few days in.
Our hotel, the El Dorado is typical with a large bar, simple dining and pool tables at the back. There is also the Downtown and for eating the best lace in town must be the Drunken Goat whee the food is just perfect.
Its now -20 degrees and in a few months the river will flow again, the paddle steamer will fill with tourists and the hills will be a lush green with hikers and walkers roaming the paths.. I want to come back and see the spectacle of the river breaking and spring taking hold but know I won’t have time this year. Perhaps next.
Now my mind is back on the Yukon Quest and getting our images out for the organisation and the videos made to help promote the race. A race that is now well and truly in my blood.
Well, here I am at 7 am.
Sleep was between 3 and 5am and now I am trying to force my body into action each time a musher approaches.. Not easy, I can assure you.
Its relatively quiet in the press room with only a handful whereas last night it was heaving with press, cameramen, radio people as well as tourists who have come to watch..
The quest seeps into my blood more each day. Having run endurance I understand their need to complete this. Their thirst for finishing, thirst for winning and their desire to push themselves to the limits of human endurance. The hardest part is the mental. They will be feeling exhausted and elated at the same time. Physically drained yet energised with the power of their achievement. Their minds will be playing games. “Why?” “What for?” “Never again” and usually only minutes after finishing in Whitehorse they will be talking of their next race….. But what makes these guys special is that they also need to care for their team . 12-14 dogs that need feeding, sleep and looking after. This make this event far tougher than met I have witnessed….
We have another week or so on the journey to Whitehorse and who knows who will take the prize. What is clear is that all are winners.
The relatively little known Yukon Quest is one of the most powerful events I have witnessed.
I am here in the Yukon, Dawson City to be precise, and have travelled from Kuwait to London then Fairbanks to get here… Our (photography team) remit? to cover the Yukon Quest providing top notch images and GoPro video of the competitors……
I have been sucked in to this race already and cannot believe the performance of the mushers.. Tough, focussed, and basically the hardest human beings I have met.
They set off from Fairbanks on a 1000 mile quest to reach Whitehorse sledding with their teams throughout the beautiful but hostile wilderness of the Alaskan and Yukon Arctic. There are checkpoints and food along the way but many of them elect to sleep out, care for their dogs and keep moving rather than succumb to the warmth of a cabin for a few hours… With temperatures usually below -20c and often to -40c or colder this is an unbelievable race to witness.
I am now in Dawson City the half way point and where the teams must break for 36 hours before the final leg to Whitehorse. We are currently GoProing up the city, the start line and anything that moves.. Our first production can be seen on the previous post so check that awesome piece of work edited by Tom Barber…. Images above…. and on my Facebook and the Yukon Quest Facebook….
Just back and here are a few images from the portfolio….. The portfolios can be found on my Facebook and Flickr page and will be on junglemoon soon….
The last few posts have created quite a few questions which I always like….. James Cracknell’s article, beliefs, limiting beliefs, motivation and what is your chronic injury…? These are all inextricably linked to the title of todays post; Joining The Dots.
I spoke with Carlyle of Prohab Performance yesterday who asked what this weeks posts were about… I responded with “why?” His reply was “I asked my clients how they would know if life was a success? The answers were obviously very mixed but the overriding observation was the a lack of clarity.
If we take look at someone like James Cracknell who seems to have all his ducks in a row and most would say leads a successful happy life; he has just had a huge life experience that has knocked one or more of those ducks down. Shaken his success, maybe his belief too. His accident in America where he was knocked of his bike during another endurance attempt will make him evaluate seriously. Before, all was good with his tv career blossoming, work was fun, exciting and so on. He was shaping his role as super endurance hero but this came with a price. Read the rest of this entry »
James Cracknell – Superhuman?
I first met James at the bivouac on the Marathon des Sables, also known as the MdS. One of my commissions was to supply images for Discovery TV as they were filming James during this years race for a scientific programme analysing how the body reacts under such pressure in the desert heat. I was keen to examine his performance.
Is he superhuman or just a normal human being who is able to achieve the extraordinary? Like athletes Daley Thomson or Jesse Owen, or Richard Branson and Steve Jobs of the business world; these are individuals who found or find it hard to achieve anything less than perfection in their chosen fields.
The Marathon des Sables is a 250km run over some of the harshest terrain the Moroccan Sahara can throw up. It is a stage race where competitors run increasing distances each day until stage 4 which is 82 km long. They have to battle through of sand, mountains, rocks and wadi beds. Stage 5 is an official marathon and finally stage 6 is a mere 20 km but over some of the highest dunes in the world. And that brings them to the end of the race. It is a self sufficient run so James had to carry everything he needed for the 7 days and water was rationed and handed out at checkpoints and at the end of each stage.
The highest ranking Brits prior to this year were the two previous years at 13th. Ian Sharman in 2008 and William Davis in 2009
“I am not a runner and I weigh in at 90kg” James told me. “I will be pleased to finish top 50”. I was a bit sceptical at first as I have run the event and not being a runner and that heavy is incredibly hard going. Most of the top racers weigh in at 65 kilo’s max! Read the rest of this entry »