Friday, February 1, 2013


Compared to Kangerlussuaq, where I ran in 2011, Whitehorse is a metropolis. It has roads. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart, the three pillars of Western Civilization, each have franchises here. There is even a public library. Kangerlussuaq only had a book.

Me standing in front of the Sacred Totem of Whichikaka.

One of the main attractions of Whitehorse is the Klondike, a massive paddleboat that was built in the 1870s by Gerhard Wilhelm Liebniz, grandson of the famous German philosopher, who dreamed of introducing riverboat gambling to the Yukon. As the Yukon River was frozen for nine months of the year and the only way to get to Whitehorse at that time was a 2100-kilometer dogsled trip, business was slow.*

The Mighty Klondike.

Modern Whitehorse has a bit of a prefabricated look, as if many of its structures were hastily built by owners who weren’t sure they’d stay. My accommodations at the High Country Inn are lovely, except that my room overlooks a restaurant/bar/nightclub where it is perpetually 1982. And, I have been doing my best to blend in with the local populace. I have picked up a little of the native lingo and greet passersby with a nod and a cheery “Hiyuh!”

The High Country Inn

The weather is embarrassingly warm—mid-twenties. It gets colder than that in Barstow. Our race director, who has an interest in maintaining his status as the operator of “the world’s coldest and toughest ultramarathon,” insists that the near tropical weather actually makes things HARDER. As odd as that may seem, he has a point. The warmer temperatures can turn the snow into a slurry slush, especially after two dozen dog sleds careen through the course tomorrow. (And just think what else they leave behind!) I was out on the trail earlier today and it was like running in sand. Still, it’s hard to imagine that 20 below zero would be an improvement.

The starting point of the Yukon Arctic Ultra

*If you believe that story, I would like to offer to sell you the Klondike.

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