After the disappointment of letting my family, friends and the Worldwide diabetes community down in 2016 on the 10th of March this year I was on the start line of the 350 miles 6633 Arctic Ultra Marathon better prepared than my failed attempt in 2016 but more importantly I had a lot more respect for the BEAST.
This year had almost double the amount of athletes starting with 24 from all over the World on the start line.
The biggest item I changed from 2016 was I had a 4 wheeled pulk compared to a 2 wheeled one in 2016 which was kindly left in Canada by American Frank Fumich who finished 3rd equal in 2016.
I arrived at the Arctic Circle with Greg Roadley from New Zealand in 2nd place behind last years winner the flying Romanian Tibi Useriu. A quick fill up of my flasks with hot water and myself and Greg headed of to the next unofficial stop where we arrived after doing 50 miles for the day and decided not to bivvi out but tackle the next brutal section over the mountain called Wrights pass, we reached the summit and both agreed it was time to get some sleep so we bivvied out for 2 hours before heading to the checkpoint at James Creek. We had another short sleep inside the haulage garage then set of for 45 miles to the finish of the 120 miles race in Fort McPherson. I arrived at the checkpoint with Greg and David from England who we caught up with approaching the checkpoint. Another short sleep in the village hall and myself and Greg headed of together to Tsiigehtchic which was the stretch that I had the crazy hallucinations in 2016. We were climbing up a big hill and i could see Greg was starting to struggle and told me to go on, I refused and decided to stay with him, we got to the top and he said he really needed to sleep and urged me to continue which I did. It felt like a long stage until I caught Neil from England who I did the rest of that section together. I had to defrost my back up insulin in warm water before changing my cannula and filling my insulin pump before I had another short sleep then got up and spoke to Greg to see how he was feeling, he said he felt a lot better so I decided to wait for him until he was ready to leave to Caribou Creek. On route to the checkpoint I could see Greg was feeling the pace and was struggling to keep up. When David passed like an express train I made the toughest decision of the whole race and chased after David, it was tough to have done this to Greg but it was a game changer for me, myself and David reached the checkpoint in 2nd place where David decided it was game over for him so after a short sleep I headed of on my own for the shorter section to Inuvik where my CGM system decided it didn’t like the cold so I had to go old school with blood glucose tests, taking 3 pairs of gloves off and then trying to get blood out of my fingers brought its own challenges, then my blood glucose monitor test strips wouldn’t read due to been to cold so I had to put them down my private parts to warm them up. When you get to Inuvik you get the opportunity to shower and sleep in a proper bed which I took full advantage of. The final 120 miles is on the famous ice road on the frozen Mackenzie river which when set foot on it I couldn’t stop thinking of my mother who’s maiden name was Mackenzie. I decided to do the 70 miles to Swimming Point non stop as it was too cold to even think about stopping to sleep. This turned out to be the correct move as I made a fair dent in Tibi’s lead and got a shock at the checkpoint to see he was there as I hadn’t seen him since leaving Eagle Plains 300 miles previous. Tibi left just after I arrived. I had another short sleep in the back of Josh’s trailer before heading off for the final 50 miles to the finish line in Tuctoyaktuk. With 15 miles to the finish line I could see the lights of the Tuk and did the worst possible thing I told myself I’d done it which let all my defences down and really struggled that final few miles. With 3 miles to go Martin the race director came out to tell me I was close to the finish, I felt dehydrated and was starting to have my first hallucinations of the race, the snow banks looked like people putting their hands out begging and their was a massive hole just behind me in the road which if I was to slow down I’d fall in. After loosing 6 hours in 2016 with hallucinations I decided to listen to my body and got my flasks out and made up energy drink and by the time I put everything thing away and put my harness back on the snow banks were back to being snow banks and the massive hole in the road had gone.
Before I went to the race I was given many lucky charms from my family, voodoo doll from my brother Kenny, lucky six pence from the year I was born from my Dad, lucky Scottish white heather from my Mam, a Buddha from my eldest son Alasdair and a brass Buddha from my wife Lynn. The Buddha relationship stems back to Aldo who was my manager when I rode for Scotland, he was like a brother to myself and Kenny and unfortunately he lost his fight with cancer. Aldo used to carry a Buddha and rub it’s head regularly so during the race I’d rub the two I had with me and think of the big man Aldo. Going up the finishing straight I took my Buddha’s out and rubbed them and looked up and thanked Aldo for helping me get through the BEAST, well when I did that I cried the whole way up the finish straight with all different emotions. As I got close to the line all I could hear was the Scottish National Anthem been played out of a car stereo by the Scottish janitor in Tuk who was also holding a Scottish flag which I borrowed to cross the line.
Athletes get to use the school hall until everyone is finished and ready to start the journey back to Whitehorse, I finished at 8.28am and the head teacher said that the P 4/5 class were doing stuff on nutrition and today it was on diabetes and would I do a presentation for them, so 3 hours after crossing the line of a 350 miles Arctic Ultra Marathon with a total of 18 hours sleep I was doing something I couldn’t think of anything better to be doing, spreading the word of what can be achieved with type 1 diabetes.
So after 6 days 21 hours I came home in 2nd place finishing the BEAST 1st Scotsman and type 1 diabetic to have finished so I can retire knowing I’m stopping at the top.