Skustad skis to victory at Arrowhead 135

Carl Skustad of Ely placed first among all skiers in the Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon earlier this week.

by Tom Coombe -

Three Ely area endurance athletes passed the ultimate winter challenge.
Carl Skustad, Jerritt Johnston and Joe Weise all completed the Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon earlier this week, with Skustad placing first among all skiers.
Participants either ski, run, or bike a 135-mile course that weaves through a series of trails from International Falls to Fortune Bay Resort and Casino near Tower, with Skustad surprising himself by winning the skiing division.
Skustad, an experienced skier and ultramarathon runner, said Thursday he entered in part “just to see what my limits are.”
“With my Scandinavian heritage and living here, I thought ‘why not do an ultramarathon in northern Minnesota in the middle of winter?” said Skustad, 42.
Most of the race participants choose to complete the marathon by bike, but both Skustad and Johnston chose to ski.
Participants may rest at various checkpoints along the course but the Arrowhead is an unsupported race, meaning the competitors have to fill their own water bottles and largely fend for themselves along the course.
After just two breaks totalling only three hours for rest, Skustad skied into the last checkpoint and learned he was in the lead, topping a field that included a former Olympic biathlete.
Skustad carried on and reached the finish line at Fortune Bay on Tuesday afternoon.
His overall time was 32 hours, 32 minutes.
Johnston, who was competing in his second Arrowhead and first as a skier, finished in fifth place at 52:52.
Weise, who made local headlines last summer by running 200 miles around the Trezona Trail as a fundraiser for the local Headstart program, placed 17th among 38 runners who competed in the event with a time of 50:55.
For Skustad, the Arrowhead carried a larger purpose that simply testing his endurance and athletic skills.
It marked part of a effort as he looks to raise awareness about prostate cancer and raise funds to fight the disease.
“My dad is a survivor,” said Skustad, noting that one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. “I’m doing 628 miles for a cure.”
Skustad will take part in the American Birkebeiner skiing event in Wisconsin later in the month and plans several 100-mile marathons as he looks to raise awareness and encourages people to pursue healthy lifestyles.
“I’m rallying support for all ages,” said Skustad. “You don’t have to go out and ski a marathon but just get out of doors.”
More information about Skustad’s campaign can be found online at give.athletesforacure.org.