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Yukon do it!

18 July 2016

Billed as the longest adventure race in the world, the Yukon River Quest is 715kms of hard fought endurance racing for canoes and kayakers. This year, for the first time, stand-up paddleboarders were invited to enter, and our newest outdoor hero – Tony Bain – accepted the challenge.

I have been involved in long distance river paddles ever since I started SUP (stand-up paddleboard) back in 2013.I had gone, saw and conquered the Severn River, the Great Glen Canoe Trail (both UK) and the Clutha and Rakaia Rivers (New Zealand). Then the daddy of them all came up – the Yukon River Quest. It had to be done.

Growing up I had dreamed of going to Canada to seek out adventure, and now, with the YRQ open to paddleboarders, I had my chance. Without hesitation I booked one of the 12 places, and set about training for the marathon paddle.

YukonRiver

The Yukon got its name from a blend of words from the language of the Gwich’in people, natives to Alaska and the Northwest territories, roughly translated Yukon means White Water River, and refers to the glacial silt that washes downstream. As the longest river in the Yukon, and Alaska, it was massively important to the great Klondike gold rush of 1896, where thousands of prospectors migrated down the Yukon in search of gold. It was this rush that led to the development of Dawson City, the ending of the YRQ.

route
The YRQ route, Whitehorse to Dawson City.

My training regime was an intense focus on conditioning my body for the immense physical strain it would come under during the 48 hours plus adventure down river from Whitehorse to Dawson City. I changed my diet and committed to regular 40-50km a day paddles, and started building strength for the race.

I also needed to find the best equipment. During the race there are severe cut off times for competitors, and I would need to be able to push on through all hours of the day and night with limited stops. It was my hunt for a stove that I could use on board while paddling that led me to Trekmates.

What I needed was a simple one-piece meal maker that would quickly and easily prepare me hot meals as I sped on down the river. Obviously, this stove wouldn’t be able to use flame to heat up meals as this would damage my board. Luckily, a chance meeting while out training, pointed me in the direction of the Trekmates Flameless Cook – the perfect solution to my problem.

The box uses a chemical reaction to quickly heat your food in the meal tray, and without flames it was never in danger of burning a hole through my board – or going out though wind, rain or the spray from the mighty Yukon.

If only everything I had taken had worked so well.

My problems began five days before the race. Having arrived in Whitehorse – the race start – I expected the delivery of my gear, which I had sent via delivery service rather than carry on three planes, on the 24th. However, the 24th came and went without my gear arriving. As the days ticked down to the race start, I became increasingly nervous that I would have to abandon, even if the gear did arrive, the days I should have spent planning, checking equipment, and packing the board, were now being spent hurriedly looking for replacement equipment.

On the morning of the 29th – race day – the delivery arrived. I should have been getting ready; relaxing, resting, hydrating and getting those all-important calories, ready for the marathon that was about to begin. Instead, I was racing around getting all of my equipment strapped to the board.

By 11am the board had to be at the line ready for the starting pistol at noon. Waiting to run down to my board and begin the race, I was feeling completely under prepared. At this stage I hadn’t done complete checks on my equipment to make sure it was all working properly, and with more than two full days of paddling ahead, it was now up to chance as to whether I would succeed.

Check out part 2 to see howTony got on paddleboarding the mammoth Yukon River Quest, and don’t forget to let us know why you’re an outdoor hero – #MyOutdoor.