Winner beat deep snow, wet conditions, in 2022 Yukon Arctic Ultra 300 mile race

·2 min read
Jessie Gladish pushed her fat bike to the finish line, winning the 2022 Yukon Arctic Ultra endurance race around 4 a.m. Wednesday.  (Montane Yukon Artic Ultra/Facebook - image credit)
Jessie Gladish pushed her fat bike to the finish line, winning the 2022 Yukon Arctic Ultra endurance race around 4 a.m. Wednesday. (Montane Yukon Artic Ultra/Facebook - image credit)

Jessie Gladish said she did briefly consider bailing out of this year's Yukon Arctic Ultra 300 mile (483 km) race.

But she said she has "a hard time quitting."

And she's glad she didn't.

"Basically I had the best ride of my life," she told Yukon Morning host Elyn Jones Thursday morning.

Gladish was referring specifically to a stretch of trail in the second half of the race that had been packed down by a group of bison hunters.

"There was nobody in front of me. The temperature was not scary at all. And the trail was actually firm, and I rode the entire 56 kilometre stretch pretty quickly."

Prior to that, Gladish, a Yukoner, fought lots of cold wet snow, and had pushed her fat bike most of the way.

She came into the finish line around 4 a.m. Wednesday, six days after starting the race Feb. 3. Temperatures in that time went from around -23 C to just below freezing.

Gladish has competed in five previous Ultras — a race billed as one of the world's coldest and toughest, with marathon, 100 mile (160 km) and 300 mile distance categories — but this was her first time on a fat bike.

Route changes for safety reasons

Organizer Robert Pollhammer said the conditions and some sections of overflow forced them to change the route and cut some miles off the race, for safety reasons.

"It's been weird, strange, challenging," he said.

Pollhammer said it's not unusual for athletes to scratch early in the race, especially in the 300 mile distance.

"I was surprised that also a lot of athletes in the 100 mile race did not finish. And I do blame it mainly on the snow. I mean, it just makes it very tough."

Dave Croft/CBC
Dave Croft/CBC

Pollhammer said the only finishers in the 100 mile race were a group of three Canadians — Connor Murray, Brian James, and Nathan Quinn — who crossed the finish line together. Eleven other entrants scratched.

As of Thursday night, after Gladish, there were only three other finishers in the 300 mile race — Stephan Huss, Daniel Benhammou, and Kevin Leahy. Nine others had scratched.

One athlete dropped out of this year's Ultra after testing positive for COVID-19 and there were two mild cases of frostbite, Pollhammer said.

Despite the conditions Pollhammer said it was worth it, especially after they were forced to cancel the Ultra altogether last year.

"I've seen a lot of smiles out there and positive feedback even from people who didn't finish, so I would say it was worth it."

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