Barber prepares for the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon
Huntsville chiropractor and ultrarunner Dr. Chad Barber is in the final stages of preparation for what is likely the greatest running challenge of his career, the Yukon Arctic Ultra (YAU).
“This is a 100-mile continuous footrace out of Whitehorse, Yukon starting January 30, 2020,” explains Barber. “It’s the middle of the winter – the coldest time of the year up there (-45C) and you tow all your gear, clothes, and food behind you.
You have to be completely self-supporting for the 72 hours allotted to the race.”
A race like this, with considerable inherent risk, requires a lot of preparation. Just how does one prepare for an adventure of this magnitude?
“I have been reading race reports, watching YouTube videos, studying on extreme cold weather expedition and survival tips,” explains Barber. “I just finished reading a book about the race by Mark Hines, and I have three race veterans that have been mentors over the last four months, offering tips and advice for gear, training, and race strategy.
“I have had to research everything from details of the racecourse and possible conditions, cold weather gear and clothing, to expedition food, to foot care,” explains Barber. “There are so many different aspects to the race, and you have to be prepared and comfortable with each of them.”
Obtaining the right equipment is vital to assuring a successful race.
“I have had to rent a sleeping bag (rated to -65C) and a sled for transporting all my gear through the race,” says Barber. “The sled that I will be pulling will have my extra clothes, coats, shoes, food, stove and sleeping kit. The total weight should be about 65 lbs.”
According to Barber: “Huntsville’s Algonquin Outfitters has been great. They have offered me great discounts on any gear or clothing that they sell, and, above all else, they were able to get me a Pro Sponsorship Deal with Acrc’teryx, which allowed me to obtain some of the highest quality cold-weather gear on the market.”
How does one prepare physically for an event such as this?
“Through the fall, it was primarily high-volume running, about 80-100 km per week to build fitness,” recounts Barber. “Then I decreased the volume and focused more on strength work and lots of hill workouts. Once we got enough snow, it’s been primarily fast-paced hiking while towing a weight sleigh, combined with lots of practice using my gear to prepare for the demands of the race.”
Looking after nutritional and hydration needs will be critically important.
“For food and water, the race requires us to carry a minimum of three litres of water in vacuum flasks/thermoses,” explains Barber. “I will be bringing enough for five litres. We can refill these at the two checkpoints along the way with hot water, tea and/or coffee. If required, I can stop and melt snow with my stove along the trail as well.”
He explains further: “For food, I have to plan for foods that are high in calories, with a good combination of fat, carbs and protein, but I have to pick foods that aren’t too heavy either, and that are still edible if frozen.” The temperature at the finish line is -52C with the windchill today, he mentions.
“I will look to average 225-325 calories per hour, and that means lots of trail mix, almonds, chocolate, energy bars, soup mix to add to my hot water, and I will carry some freeze-dried meal packages just in case.”
Considering all this preparation, the inherent risk, the cost and so on, most people might wonder why anyone would take on an event like this.
“I originally did the full Ironman Muskoka and followed that up two weeks later with the Courier des Bois (the 230 km version of the Muskoka River X) and, since then, I have been seeking longer, tougher challenges,” explains Barber. He graduated to ultrarunning – distances of 50 km, 50 miles, 100 miles or further – and has been doing these for the past three years.
“The natural, untouched beauty of the Yukon and the complexity of the challenge (extreme cold, remoteness, being self-supported and the gear required) are what attracted me to this adventure,” he says. “I am feeling very excited and anxious to get to the Yukon and start the race.”
Barber flies out to Whitehorse on January 26, 2020, and the race starts at 10:30 AM on Thursday, January 30. Athletes can be tracked online through a GPS SPOT Tracker through the race’s official website: https://arcticultra.de/
The Town of Huntsville will be watching with great interest and probably a little anxiety as Barber takes on this unique challenge.