Racing Through The Polar Vortex
No matter what the conditions, there are always times during an event like this where you think that you would like to be inside and warm and done and no longer doing this, and that’s just one of the challenges.
What does an “unsupported” race mean in these conditions?
The fact that it’s self-supported is a big ethos of the race. There are snowmobilers checking in with people giving them the opportunity to bail out of the race. But the goal is getting yourself to help if you need it. You have to have all the supplies with you, so that if you are no longer mobile, if you are too tired or dehydrated, you can take reprieve from the elements.
How much, and how often, are you eating?
You can’t stop moving in these temperatures, so the most important thing is to really focus on your nutrition. You are eating and drinking pretty much continuously through the event. If 15 minutes go by and you haven’t eaten, it’s probably time to start eating again. You are trying to eat 6,000 to 7,000 calories every 24 hours, the most calorie dense food with lowest water content with high fat content. The best foods are candy, chocolate, things with peanut butter, coconut — really anything that is really high in calories and fat that doesn’t freeze.
What kinds of athletes attempt this race?
In the first couple of years, very few people had the interest or the ability to do it. It takes years of experience to approach something like this. It’s what you would call a graduate level ultrarace. People who apply to run the race would ideally have a lot of experience, including some ultradistance races of 100 miles, under their belt. Experience with winter camping and mountaineering is just as important, if not more important. Over time and as the event has gone on, I think people have picked up tricks and trips for how they could prepare for doing something like this. Now people will make plans three, four, five years out to acquire the necessary gear and requisite training.
What’s the first thing you did after you finished?
I ate a lot of soup and I had a hot shower and got into bed. Finally getting to sleep is great.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.