Yukon Quest summary - To the finish line

Mile 101 - Two Rivers

 I don't really get any sleep at Mile 101. I spend to much time eating and drinking, that by the time I wanna sleep, it's only 20 minutes until I have to start preparing to leave. So I end up just getting a quick power nap under the table, before I start gathering up all my clothes and head out to the dogs. By this point, my movements are pretty slow and sluggish. My handler comments that I look kinda tired, and I say something like "Yeah, I think you get tired in a 1000 mile race, I read something about that somewhere.." Tired, but happy I yet again pull the hook. As I was preparing to leave, Norman was still sleeping. I overheard the checker saying he had a wake up call in 10 minutes, so I made sure to be out of the checkpoint before that.

Again, my knowledge of the trail was failing me. I had asked the checkers about "this Rosebud Summit" that was ahead, and understood that it was about halfway on the way to Two Rivers. I don't really know what to expect from the summit, but I guess there is only one way to find out. The dogs need some time to warm up out of the checkpoint, but a group of hundreds of caribou helps that process. Suddenly we are flying along as the caribou cross the trail just few feet ahead of us. What an amazing sight! I'm awe struck, and feel truly blessed to get to experience it. As we run along the trail, I talk a lot with the dogs. And I very kindly inform them that this is the next to last run of the race, and it would be fun if we could do it fast.

I don't know how far back Norman is, and I get the feeling of having him right behind me all the run. As we cross a small river I start to see the mountain ahead, what I can only presume is the mighty Rosebud. Slowly, but surely we start climbing. The snow is deep and its heavy going. When I stop to snack the dogs, I sink down to far above my knees as I walk up to my leaders. It's a warm day, and as we near the summit it actually starts to rain. We get enclosed in a thick fog, and I do my best to keep moving fast, I don't wanna get stuck up here in thick fog. As we work our way over the mountain, I remember some information I've heard. One of the summits on the Quest have several "fake" summits, and this must be the one! Just as we reach what I believe to be the top, and start descending again, I can see a trail marker far ahead, and the trail is going up another summit. This goes on for a while, summit after summit. We are all tired, and the bad weather obviously doesn't help the mood. I do my best to cheer up, and keep moving. Finally we reach the final summit, or "finally" is the wrong word. The descent of Rosebud is, well, it goes straight down. It is perfectly comparable to sitting in a roller coster. As you reach the top, and see the wagons in front of you disappear down the big descent. My team just disappears in front of me, and half a second later we are flying straight down the mountain. I scream some obscene words, almost in disbelief that the trail actually goes down this steep. I quickly try to calm down, so i can calm the dogs down and keep the speed safe. But its almost impossible. I get the feeling that I'm gonna tip head forward. With some luck I manage to keep on the runners, and get down the mountain without any injury.

The trail further into Mile 101 goes through a swampy area with some glare ice and overflow, before we follow a old road for the last part. Buildings start to appear, and suddenly a road with driving cars is visible through the trees. Yet another time I thank the dogs for the great work they did, and prepare for arriving at the checkpoint.


Two Rivers - Fairbanks Finish

Pulling into Two Rivers I see nobody. A big empty dog yard, and no sign of any humans. I stop my team in the middle of the dog yard, and look around for a checker. Up on the hill I see the veterinarian, and soon enough the checker comes running out of the tent. He had gone in to see how I spelled my last name, before he figured he might as well just ask me how to do it. He says I had a good and fast run, but as usual I don't take much notice, and assumes he's just trying to be polite. Looking at the numbers later, I actually had one of the fastest times among the front teams.

My handler comes down and welcomes me, as I start preparing food for the dogs, and emptying out my sled. Only the few mandatory items will be brought to the finish line, and a big pile of stuff gets left behind.

The sled emptied out, runner plastic changed and dogs taken care of, I make my way to the checkpoint tent. More food than I can manage to eat, and lots of delicious hot chocolate is presented to me. I get a trail report for the last stretch, some overwater at different places. Shoot, I can't leave my overshoes behind! I hate to wear my overboots, as they make my feet heavy and hard to run, but with reports of overwater I don't have much choice. My wool Lobens won't hold water out for a second.

Well fed I make my way to the sauna of a sleeping area. Ripping of my clothes as fast as possible, so I won't melt away completely, and finding the coldest corner in the building I fall asleep.

I sleep as long as possible, and get up just in time to bootie my dogs, and leave on time. Before leaving I sign out, and receive my bib that I have to wear when I cross the finish line.

The trail is broad and easy driving. No big hills up or down, nothing to interesting to be honest. After a while we drop down onto the Chena (?)River that we are gonna follow all the way to the finish line. At this point it feels like your almost at the finish line, as the river curls its way into the outskirts of town, and passing several houses. You are certainly close, but I think it still took me 2 hours to reach the finish line, and those two hours felt really long! As we are running along, several helicopters fly right over our heads, apparently there is a big military practice going on. As we get closer, we start passing fans along the river that cheers us along. What a great feeling! My co handler and partner in crime Alex Beutow's family has a house just a 1-2 miles from the finish line, and I'm curious if he will be there. Sure enough, as I round a corner in the river, I see two people sitting along the river, and as I get closer they start jumping up and down. The dogs gets excited, starts barking and goes into a full lope as we close up on them. A pad on the back and a beer in my hand, we are close to the finish line. I'm smiling form ear to ear, and start tearing up thinking of how well the dogs have done. The beer tastes awesome, and for the last mile I stop kicking, just relaxing and drinking my beer. Around another bend, and there, the big yellow Yukon Quest banner is hanging, and the metal fencing leading into the finish line. I pass under a bridge, talking to my dogs, thanking them and telling them how amazing they are, as we run into the finish line. A small group of people have gathered on the outside of the fencing, as well as the media, veterinarians and the Apex crew awaits me. Hook down, "Welcome to Fairbanks!", "Thanks, it's nice to be here". I do my best to keep any tears away, as I make my way to the dogs with some well deserved snacks. Jake congratulates me and hands me a bottle of champagne. Again, I thank all my dogs, and gets my sled checked. All my mandatory gear is there, I'm an official finisher of the Yukon Quest, coming in at 6th place. I'm trying my best to answer the questions from the media, but I'm not sure how good any of my answers were. It was an unreal feeling, not quit sure what to say or do. After a couple of minutes, I pull the hook again, and we run to the dog truck waiting. The dogs get a warm meal of beef, kibble and chicken fat, before they get loaded into the trailer. We all go out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant, before Co handler Alex drives all the dogs back to the kennel in Big Lake. Just hours after finishing, the dogs was back at there comfortable dog houses in the yard. The perfect way for them to rest and recuperate after the long race, and extremely nice for us left in Fairbanks, being able to just relax and sleep, not having to drop dogs several times a day.

We stay in Fairbanks for a small week, until the Finishers banquet is held. We manage to relax, take many showers, sleep many hours, eat lots of good food and visit some bars. We had a great and relaxing time, so thanks to Alex for taking care of the dogs!

Big thanks to Jake and Robin at Apex kennels for letting me run the B-team in the race, and my handler Marijn who came all the way from Belgium to help. Thanks also to my sponsors: Eldorado, Idium and Alfa.

It was a great race, giving me memories for a lifetime. I hope to someday come back and run the race again!