By six o’clock on Saturday Rob Kehrer of Anchorage/Eagle River (perhaps?) finished with Steve Taylor and Forrest Karr, both of Fairbanks. Besides the first eight finishers, everyone else but John Lapkass had dropped out, most by the first checkpoint at Donnelly.
I’ve heard from a reliable source that this was considered the hardest course in years, despite the fact that the stretch from Donnelly to McKinley Village was its own course from 1994-1996, with 100% finish rate in 1995, the first and only time in the 27 year history of the race. This year’s prelude of 40 or so miles -- whether covered on ATV trails and roads north of Granite Mountain, over Granite itself, or through the tundra and gravel bars of the Gerstle-St Anthony Pass route – sucked the life out of a dozen starters. The rest, save Andrew Skurka, hobbled to the finish. Skurka finished with feet as good as when he started -- that's what 700 miles of walking in June and July through SC AK will do for you, I guess.
Yesterday, nine full days after the start, John Lapkass limped into McKinley Village on feet he said were the worst they’ve ever been (this after completing 17 Classics), having run out of food, fallen prey to the morass of willows and alders that is the east fork of Dick Creek, inadvertently swum the Wood River, and had the only rain cloud in miles “surgically strike” his drying gear with rain.
It sounds like this was his toughest race in years, too. But something tells me we'll all be back again next year. That's the nature of the event: it hurts so good.