''MY BIGGEST OPPONENT IS MYSELF''
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Joel Juht received an amazing birthday gift in Canada

Joel Juht, who is currently in Canada and celebrating his 38th birthday, received an amaxing gift –  he was taken to skiing in Whistler ski centre,the same place Winter Olympic Games took place in 2010. 

“6 years ago i broke my knee and did my laste skiing in Austria. Now i had a new possibility to do it again in world-famous Whistler Ski Resort together with crazy extreme sportsman Trevor Brown,” said Juht.

 

Trevor Brown is one of the most famous bmx-riders in Canada. He is 51 years old, but still unstoppable!

Watch the full video here!

Late-night adventures in Vancouver hospital

Joel Juht is currently in Canada, recovering from Yukon Arctic Ultra polar marathon. On the night of the 8th of February he felt strong chest pains and a fellow athlete recommended going to the hospital for a checkup.

“I didn’t plan on going there at first, but as the pain got stronger I wanted to be sure. About 2 a.m I made a call to the hotel doctor and I was transported to a hospital in Vancouver. It was a lot different than we are used to,” Juht explained.  He added that he saw 3 other patients in severe condition there that night. “One had drug overdose, second patient was unconscious from alcohol poisoning and a man with bacterial infection, from helping a homeless person on the street.”


Juht said that the local hospital didn’t make people feel welcomed. After waiting for 2 hours, he finally got called. “Before even asking what my concerns were, the nurse was ready to inject me with strong medicine. After explaining what my problem was, she chose not to give me the shot which probably would have numbed me for a week,” Joel explained.
After x-ray and several tests Joel learned that he didn’t have pneumonia like he first guessed, but was suffering from muscle inflammation (myositis). “I have done special exercises for days now but this pain is unique even for me. I am collecting my thoughts to write my honest experience participating in Yukon Arctic Ultra. After that I will keep moving forward. New challenges are waiting.”

360 days to choose – life vs race

Joel Juht started the toughest polar marathon Yukon Arctic Ultra on the 3rd of February – a race with a goal to go through 700 km. Everything the athletes were warned about, came a reality after crossing the starting line.



“Hello friends, close acquitances and my good partners. I am writing to answer many of you, who have been worried about my current situation. Generally speaking everything is okay. There has been some minor complications, but luckily I was able to predict the worst situations. I promise to give a detailed overview of the marathon. This race is about choices – every decision could lead to severe injuries. It is difficult to imagine going through a situation such as this, but I will do my best to explain everything.

You never know what could happen during a race like this, every minute can change your situation – having 2 minutes to avoid frostbite, seeing hallucinations or dealing with serious health risks. These days and nights during the first 100 miles gave me an unforgettable experience and knowledge to do better as I go further. With only a week left until my birthday, I am currently trying to recover. I will be back in Estonia on the 20th of February at 1 pm.”



Yukon Arctic Ultra world record holder sees Joel’s performance as a heroic deed. “Even though I’m sure you are really pissed off about the whole situation, you are still a hero and a very unique athlete! Let’s catch up when you are back and had some time to think it tWe can look back at this journey as you recover and get great insight together.”



Joel Juht called help on the eve of the 4th of February. Race crew transported him to a checkpoint to rest. After his stay there, Joel decided to discontinue his race. “The call for help came a little before arriving to my next checkpoint. I knew I could go further, but it wasn’t a smart move at that time. Unfortunately it was impossible to recover from such severe chafting even after recovery time. If you have scar tissue, then band-aids will not let the wound breathe and it’s likely to get worse,” Joel explained. He is not sure what caused the injury but the decision was clear.

“Something felt off after the first 20 hours. Special ointments were not working due to dry air and high minus degrees. Checkpoints were too far apart to risk going further in this condition.”



Main organizer of the Yukon Arctic Ultra polar marathon writes regular updates during the race. Several athletes have discontinued their race due to health problems, frostbites, hallucinations, exhaustion, muscle pain etc. From the 40 contestants who started the longest distance of 430 miles, only 14 have remained.

Joel Juht’s polar marathon starts today!

On Friday ultra runner Joel Juht gave his last interview on the TV show “Ringvaade” before starting the world’s toughest ultra marathon today, on the 3rd of February – Yukon Arctic Ultra 2019 in North-Canada.


Survival training prepared athletes for the race

“It’s not going to be pretty. This race is far from running,” says Juht on his interview on the 1st of February. Survival training for Yukon Arctic Ultra athletes gave a realistic overview about the worst-case scenarios and how to handle life threatening situations. Juht said that fluctuation of temperature makes the race even more difficult – one day it’s -17 degrees and it could be -42 the next day.

Regardless of the difficulties, the only estonian athlete entering the Yukon Arctic Ultra polar marathon is feeling positive, excited and ready for action. “I was stressed and scared prior to the survival training, thinking whether or not I will be able to handle this at all, but during the training I began to realize that there are enough solutions for every situation. If you feel cold, you can start a fire, put more clothes on, keep warm in your sleeping bag and then continue your journey. I even got special cotton pads that I can use for a quick fire starter,” Joel Juht explains.


100 km in one day

The most important fact to remember is that the athlete can’t sweat more than normally, cause racers must keep their bodies from getting wet. “If you sweat, the water will turn into ice, humidity will stay between your clothes and sleeping bag and that may be the end of the race for you,” Juht explains. It is vital to know how to use your handwear properly.The special cookware we use is made from metal and touching it without handwear in the -35 degree cold, guarantees an instant frostbite,” Joel Juht adds. He explained that in each checkpoint the Race Crew will determine whether or not the athlete is too exhausted, too sweaty, out of food supplies or are the clothes dry. “If something doesn’t add up or is missing, you will get a 5-hour penalty,” he adds.

Joel’s goal is to finish the marathon as fast as possible. “The plan is to go through 96 kilometers in the first day and then sleep. I’m feeling good right now, so I might even run over 100 km in the first 14 hours. Cold doesn’t scare me,” says Juht with confidence. He added that he will get a clear vision once the race has started. “Of course I will try to run at first, average speed could be around 9 minutes per kilometer. I also need to consider that packing, unpacking and food preparation takes up to 1 hour per day,” Joel explains. He explained that obstacles on the road makes the race even more difficult. “One of the most dangerous places are the ones where at first it seems to be ice, but there are water beneath and you might fall through,” says Joel.


The biggest threats are hallucinations and frostbites

Every contestant needs to have a special plan and strategy for finishing the marathon because these conditions will have different effects on everyone. “I get to decide when and how much I will sleep but I will see how much I will feel like sleeping in this cold. My gear and equipment are very good, I am not worried about that. You need to stay alert during the race and react quickly in every situation,” says Joel. The biggest worries for Juht are frostbites and also hallucinations. “If you run 100 km in a row and the road is straight ahead with just trees in sight, you might start seeing things that in reality are not there. I have never experienced hallucinations so I don’t know what to expect,” says Joel. He added that it is crucial to plan your journey for each day, react quickly and keep your eyes open.


The main goal for Joel is to make it back in one piece. He feels happy that he decided to compete in Yukon Arctic Ultra polar marathon. He has already learned a lot and met interesting people during his trip. Today is all about athletes are getting ready, packing their equipment and thinking their strategies.

You can follow the racers HERE, number 416 is Joel Juht. Start will be 10:30 a.m. Yukon time, which is 20:30 p.m. estonian time.

Watch the full interview on “Ringvaade” with Joel Juht HERE!

Best of luck!

Joel Juht in Yukon – the last survival training camp

It is less than a week until Joel Juht is starting the world’s toughest ultra marathon. The other competitors have arrived and it’s becoming clearer everyday, how important it is, to possess the right knowledge and skills in this extreme environment.


On Sunday, 27th January, the last survival training camp for Yukon Arctic Ultra 2019 started. The participants were taken near the actual course to have a real experience in addition to the theoretical lectures. The purpose of the camp was to give last piece of advice about surviving the race. “The trainings are about different survival skills and we have been prepared for everything that could happen during the race. It’s important to understand what works in this cold and what shouldn’t be done,” said Juht just before a field exercise on how to melt water.



“One thing is for sure – you must not sweat,” said Juht.During the first day participants were showed how to set up a camp, cross the river and deal with the extreme cold.

This Sunday, on 3rd February, Yukon Arctic Ultra 2019 starts. Joel Juht will become the first Estonian to take on the challenge of Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon to finish the distance of 700km in the cold with maximum -50 degrees.

 

The 23 rules for participating in Yukon Arctic Ultra Race

In order to participate in the Yukon Arctic Ultra Race, it is crucial to know all the rules given by the official organizers. “Many changes have already been made to the original list during the preparation time,“ said Joel Juht, the first Estonian to participate in this insane marathon starting on the 3rd of February 2019.  


 


The race can end sooner than expected for many participants

Unfortunately not all racers make it to the finish line. During the marathon, each participant must visit all given checkpoints where they observe the athletes physical and mental health and check the equipment. Every participant who is sweating more than they should and/or are too exhausted, must stay/rest at the checkpoint for 4 hours. The race director and crew has the right to disqualify any athlete who is in a life-threatening situation. Participants who forget essential gear at a checkpoint, will get a time penalty of 6 hours per item. Forgetting mandatory gear may result in a time penalty of up to 12 hours and depending on the circumstances even disqualification. This also goes for the equipment that is lost on the trail.


No littering

Athletes must mark all their food items with their race bib number. Racers must not leave anything behind on the trail. Toilet paper either needs to be transported out or burned by the participant. There are time limits for some checkpoints during the marathon. If conditions become absolutely life-threatening due to storms and/or extreme cold, advisors may stop the race at any time.

Athletes must follow state road laws while on roads (e.g. stay on the right, look before crossing roads etc.). If the participant knows he/she is going to sleep in between checkpoints, they have to tell the crew that they intend to do so. Athletes must sleep off the main trail, but still in sight of the trail, so other racers and snow machine rovers can spot them. If the participant is sleeping and wants to be evacuated, he/she needs to attach the emergency tape (which athletes receive prior to race start) clearly visible to their trekking poles or a stick/tree nearby. Guides on snow mobiles will then stop and wake up the participant if needed. When athlete is starting their sleep time they need to push the “Custom Message Button” on their SPOT.


There might not be enough food and water for each athlete

The race crew will serve one hot meal upon the arrival of the athlete at each checkpoint. Participants are warned that at remote checkpoints it may be impossible to serve food in certain scenarios. Therefore, athletes must bring back-up meals for each. “I’m not worried about my food supply because I brought a good amount,” said Joel Juht. All checkpoints provide hot water. However, at remote checkpoints it may be impossible to serve the requested quantities at all times. In that case the athlete has to wait until enough hot water is available again or use his/hers own stove to melt snow. Athletes do need to leave each checkpoint with at least 3 liters of water filled in insulated flasks.

The food supplies for Yukon Arctic Ultra weigh nearly 16 kg

Today, Joel Juht started packing food for the Yukon Arctic Ultra polar marathon, which starts on the 3rd February. In total, about 16 kg of food supplies are to be taken to the race.
During the polar marathon, nutrition is completely different from what it is in everyday life – all food must be packed in vacuum sachets and, in addition to the food for the particular day of the competition, you have to have food with you for an additional 48 hours, in order prevent accidents.
There are 12 stops throughout the race, but food can only be picked up at three of these stops. The stops are located 50-70 km from each other, and Juht predicts that on the first day he will run nearly 98 kilometres. “I learned that we will be given 3 litres of hot water at every stop, so if I need more hot water, I need to melt ice and boil it myself,” says Juht.
Juht estimates that it will take about four hours to pack the food today and out of the 16 kg stock, 7000 kcal of food, of which 900 g is carbohydrates, 300 g fat and the rest protein, is meant for each day of the competition. “The amount of fats in such a race is of the utmost importance, because the fats give energy and help you run longer,” explains Juht.
However, cooking food in the competition is done by pouring hot water onto the contents of the package and you have to also eat out of the same package. Juht has a total of about 50 kg of equipment, a few more things in addition to that, and he will start packing clothes on Sunday.
Joel Juht will start the polar marathon on Monday morning at 6:30 am, as the first Estonian in such competition. He does not know what to expect from such a place and ordeal, but he will do his best.

Alone at the training camp in Lapland

I would like to write a little about the training camp in Lapland, so that you could understand, what I have to deal with where I am going.

On the first day, when I arrived in Kittila, I wasn’t happy at all, because the place where I was, wasn’t fit for training, and I was so tired from the flight, the darkness and previous packing of equipment, that I couldn’t think of anything and just had one question: where is the snow?
I have to mention that I didn’t know much about this place and did not quite understand how things go right a way. Of course, me being me, if something is wrong, I have to start looking for solutions fast and, thanks to the help of good acquaintances, I was lucky to find better conditions.
The new place was Levi, where the conditions for both training and overnight stay were very good, as I was right next to the ski and sledge slopes. The ski tracks made it much easier for me to run with the sledge, and I was also able to safely test sleeping outside, without any drunk people coming to disturb me in the middle of the night. If I had stayed in a hotel, I would have paid for five nights and got nothing out of it. I am very grateful to the Estonians living in Finland who helped me, so thank you very much to the whole family.

 

NOT ENOUGH SNOW

 

Due to poor snow conditions, Lapland initially looked pretty pale, because there wasn’t enough snow, and due to that, I had to unfortunately cancel one a sledge run. In addition to myself, there were crazy Finnish sledge enthusiasts who had traveled to Lapland and despite not enough snow they were still sledging around. Fortunately, by the end of the first week, snow started coming down and every night there was more and more snow. Frankly, at first I was pretty worried that I wouldn’t be able to do all of my training, but by the end of the camp, there was 40 cm of fresh snow and all the training was completed.

TRAINING PLAN IN FINLAND

 

During the 13 days I completed a total of 272 km with the total time of 43 h. Below is my training plan:
Sat, 1st December Travel to the camp, a jog in the evening, pulse 120-130 1 h 20 min
Sun, 2nd December Track mapping 3 h 30 min
Mon, 3rd December Running with a sledge 4 h, slow pulse 110–125, stretching and foam rolling after running
Tue, 4th December Warm up run 1 h. Sections 12×10 sec, pause 1 min, max. speed for the recovery run
There is a 5-hour break between the workouts
Recovery run, slow and calm 1 h 10 min, after the workout foam rolling and stretching
Wed, 5th December Running with a sledge 3 h 30 min, calm, pulse 120-130, after the run foam rolling, stretching and abs 4×25, feet up
Thu, 6th December Day off, setting up equipment, night outside
Fri, 7th December 9h of movement in the morning, eating and drinking every 2 hours, spent the night outside again
Sat, 8th December 5 h of movement in the morning and rest time in the hotel after that
Sun, 9th December Slow recovery run 3 h, pulse 115-125, foam rolling and stretching after running
Mon, 10th December Day off, setting up equipment, night outside
Tue, 11th December 10h of movement in the morning, eating and drinking every 2 hours, night outside
Wed, 12th December Recovery day, jog 2 h 40 min, afterwards stretching and foam rolling
Thu, 13th December 1 h warming up run, 16×10 sec sections, 1 min pause, 20 min recovery run
Recovery run, slow and calm 1 h 20 min, after running abs 4×25, feet up, foam rolling and stretching
Fri, 14th  December Day off, traveling home

 

SLEEPING IN THE SNOW

 

The first morning outside in the bivy bag (special sleeping system) was strange, if you start to think that most of us sleep in a warm room. Of course, after the first night I was covered in snow, so before getting out of the sleeping bag, I had to make sure that it wouldn’t get wet from the snow. After waking up there is no time to spare, you need to act quickly, gather your things, prepare food outdoors and get on the road.
The first night was the hardest, because I didn’t know anything about these things, everything was unfamiliar and sometimes I even asked myself: damn, WHY? In addition, you get yelled at by the local sledge runners, who are taking the tourists on joy rides, because apparently you are not supposed to run on the sledge tracks. How could I have known this? Anyway, like a typical stubborn Estonian man, I ran on, until after 3 hours I met the same man who was waving and yelling at me on the track earlier. This Finn had already gotten on my nerves so much, that I pushed my chin up and ran straight through 40 cm of snow in an unknown direction, just to get away.
On the first night, I tried to sleep so that I only put the mattress in the sleeping bag and did not inflate it, because I wanted to know if it is going to get cold at night or not. It didn’t take long before I felt the cold reaching my body through the bottom of the sleeping bag, so I started quickly changing my position to get warm.

With these kinds of things, you just need to understand the small details, so you can also anticipate the worst things that can happen to you. The first night I was able to handle it easily, but after the 10-hour race there was much more emotion to deal with.
I can say that moving in the thick snow is worse than ice swimming, because here you really understand what cold means and how strong you mentally are.
There’s not much you can do with the physical side. Running in the snow for 5–6 h, you realise fast, what cold actually means, but if you know that you still need to keep moving for 5 h and you have no help, only your sled with you, then you might realize how serious it all is.

During the run you constantly need to control your sweating, keep the drinking water from freezing, keep your hands and feet warm, make sure you don’t run out of drinking water, etc. One thing is for sure: without water, food and preparation it is not possible to complete this kind of competition.
During the camp I realized that when you get cold, you naturally put on more clothes, but the most important thing is to drink and eat quickly because the body needs fuel. I would say that you don’t play around with the cold, you control it constantly.
After I was out running for 10 h, the clothes were already damp, and when I arrived at the campsite I had to quickly change out of the wet socks, eat and go to sleep. For the night I put the wet socks against my body, between the layers of clothing, so that they would be dry in the morning, otherwise the socks would have been frozen when I woke up.

I also had to put the running shoes in a waterproof bags, so that the sleeping bag would not get wet from the inside and the shoes would not become ice bricks by the time I woke up. Basically, all the clothes – socks, gloves, hats, shoes and sweatshirt – were in my sleeping bag during the nights, so that the clothes would be dry in the morning and wouldn’t freeze.

I also had to keep the electronic devices in the sleeping bag, so that I could recharge them if necessary. Basically, I isolated all the things I used from the cold.
The next night was much colder than the first one, and then I felt the cold air make my throat a bit sore. There was condense from my breath that had turned into ice crystals by morning, and I started realising just what I have to deal with during Yukon Arctic. This is definitely not a joke.
Of course, this camp helped me to better understand the daily routine, ie how I eat, sleep, dress, and, for example, the dangers of changing my clothes in the wrong order. Timing is everything in the cold, sometimes it comes down to seconds, sometimes to minutes. It all depends on what the outside temperature is and how fast you move.

 

EQUIPMENT

 

Since it is very important for the clothing to allow your body to breathe, I could try my clothes out for the first time. Since merino wool is a must in such an environment, I used the Aclima warm net underwear, which is sold in Estonia by Matkasport and is an amazing product. It is just right for active athletes because it is warm, breathable and when it gets wet, it dries quickly.

As interlining, I use Inov8 running gear, because I’ve been running in it for years, I trust these products. I have the Inov8 ultra sneakers for footwear (the model: Arctic Claw 300) and the Neos cover sneakers. Just in case I ordered half-size smaller sneakers to be 100% sure in size.
The expedition jackets and down jacket and pants are from the brand Nunatac, as this jacket weighs only 440g and is super warm. The sleeping bag I use is PHD HISPAR 1200. Here I have to mention that the sleeping bag, the down jacket and trousers are custom made specifically for my body, ie they are pure handicraft.
Outside, I used the Blackdiamond bivy instead of the tent, because it just seemed very good and had been used during Yukon Arctic in the past, but it is unfortunately not sold in Europe, because there is not much demand here.

I have 4.5-litre thermoses from the Thermos brand, but I definitely plan to get one Stanley thermos because I want to be 100% sure I have hot water even in the worst conditions.
To move in the thick snow, I use Atlas 26 snowshoes, which are lightweight and allow you to move faster and easier. In addition, I have now had more time to test my Garmin InReach GPS device, which allows everyone to track my location when I’m running in real time on my Facebook page, and people can also send me direct messages during the competition using the link there.

 

THOUGHTS

 

At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about strategy – how to complete this competition, and I’ve made calculations for the worst and best scenarios, but, as my coach says, reality is born on the spot.
The latest preparations are about making a meal plan – what to eat and how much food I should take with me. This, of course, depends, in turn, on how cold it is and how fast the conditions allow me to run. At the moment we don’t know what the temperature is going to be and how I will be feeling.
One thing is for sure – my form is very good at the moment and after the camp I got to do the blood tests in Synlab and the blood work came back good. Now I can rest a little and then keep my form until the start of the competition on 3rd February.
Finally, I would like to take a deep bow to all my supporters and fans because you have believed in my crazy venture.

 

See you soon or until the next blog post!

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