News

PSU Professor finishes 2nd in “The World’s Coldest and Toughest Ultra” race
Author: Jennifer Vo-Nguyen
Posted: March 7, 2019

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is an annual competition in Canada that pushes participants to their physical and emotional limits. Considered “the world’s coldest and toughest ultra,” the race begins in Whitehorse, Yukon, and ends 435 miles away in Dawson City. Competitors can choose how far they want to go towards Dawson City either by foot, snow bike or skis.  

Christof Teuscher, a PSU professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, finished 2nd in the race as he crossed the finish line by foot in Dawson City in nine days and 19 hours. 

“What made me want to participate in this race was the extreme challenges that it came with.” Teuscher said. “I’ve done winter races, but this one often has temperatures of negative 50 Fahrenheit, which is beyond anything I have ever done before.” 

Teuscher, who is an experienced long-distance athlete, holds the speed record on a 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail after completing it in 17 days and 15 hours in 2016. He also holds the speed record on the 515-mile Washington Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

To prepare for the race, Teuscher trained for a year by doing lots of running, mountaineering, and even spending his entire Christmas break in Yellowstone National Park to train in the snow and in cold temperatures. 

Racers often times experience hallucinations due to the extreme cold, sleep deprivation and lack of eating. 

“I started seeing tents and cars appear out of nowhere, I even saw scary faces appear on trees.” Teuscher said. “Racers can easily get into trouble because their hallucinations are so bad that it causes them to make bad decisions. I luckily never got to that point, I was very careful with being aware of my hallucinations.”

Teuscher traveled with all of his gear in a sled which consisted of a sleeping bag, jackets, gloves, water, a saw, a shovel, a medical kit and food for several days, such as energy bars, candy, nuts, dried sausages and peanut butter. The sled’s weight was about 50 pounds. 

Getting enough sleep was a challenge as Teuscher only slept around two hours per night. Racers can sleep indoors once they reach certain checkpoints that offer them food and shelter, but Teuscher slept outside most of the time in a bivy bag. 

Teuscher said he experienced bipolar phases during this trip. 

“There were moments where I felt completely euphoric while looking at the Northern Lights and everything is beautiful, and then the next minute I’m in a deep dark hole and I thought I couldn’t make it another mile,” he said.“There were lots of times where I wanted to give up.” 

Although there were plenty of extremely difficult physical and mental obstacles that he faced, Teuscher stated that crossing the finish line has always been his ultimate goal.

“You have to go into these big races with the mindset of crossing the finish line,” he said. “If you’re leaving yourself room for quitting, that’s just not the right attitude.” 

Teuscher received a medal for coming in 2nd place.

Although he won’t be participating in the Yukon Arctic Ultra again in the future because he doesn’t want to do the same race twice, Teuscher hopes that his achievement inspires his students to step out of their comfort zone and try new things as well.

“Doing these races are certainly out of my comfort zone, so I hope I inspire my students to push themselves and do the same,” he said. “I hope that my students are able to see their teacher and mentor doing things that seem impossible and use that as inspiration to achieve great things themselves.”

 

PSU professor Christof Teuscher placed 2nd in the Yukon Arctic Ultra as he crossed the finish line in nine days and 19 hours. Photos by Mark Kelly (www.depthoffield.ca)