Pushing the limits; Ely’s Skustad bows out of 135

Carl Skustad posted online this week, “Thanks for all your thoughts and positive vibes. After a few hours at Melgeorge’s last night thinking about today’s race strategy I decided to drop from this years AH135. With as much respect as I have for this race I didn’t want to be a liability on trail. I was safe and have all my fingers and toes in one piece. The time it would taken me to get to the finish would have possibly put me in a bivi tonight. My skis were so slow and I jacked up my knee in a little wipeout action on course. Ski ya later, peace.”

by Tom Coombe -

Carl Skustad finally met his match.
The Elyite has completed ultramarathons, braved extreme weather conditions and has taken himself to limits that few could even dream of.
But the coldest weather conditions to hit northeastern Minnesota in two decades were too much - even for an endurance athlete with the experience of Skustad.
Tuesday morning, Skustad pulled the plug on his bid to complete his third Arrowhead 135, the winter ultramarathon that wrapped up Wednesday at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.
Skustad, who placed second in the skiing division a year ago, withdrew from the race at the Melgeorge Resort checkpoint.
Despite being more than halfway through the 135-mile race, Skustad decided after a night’s rest to pull out of an organized race for the first time.
A combination of subzero temperatures and piercing winds created the coldest conditions Skustad had ever competed in, and he feared the impact of continuing on as windchill and “real feel” readings plunged to -50 and colder.
“I respect the race so much I didn’t want to be a liability on the trail,” said Skustad, 43. “If I’m out there at 11 o’clock at night and it’s minus-60 degrees and I’m starting to freeze to death and they need to put somebody out on a snowmobile to rescue me, now that person is in harm’s way.”
Most of the Arrowhead participants take part by bicycle, but the race, which starts at International Falls and proceeds to Fortune Bay, is also open to runners and cross-country skiers.
Skustad was one of just four competitors to enter as a skier, and none made it to the finish line.
“Skiing is the most challenging,” said Skustad. “I think there were a dozen pre-registered and when these conditions came in it went down to four, and two dropped at the first checkpoint.”
Skustad soon followed suit. He was running two hours behind his time from a year ago and said the frigid conditions made for difficult snow that “grab your skis like sandpaper.”
He transitioned to classic skiing on skate skis to finish late Monday and said “I was pretty frozen,” upon arriving at Melgeorge’s.
Typically, Skustad would rest for two hours at the checkpoint and continue on, but the harsh conditions led him to stay until dawn, when he mulled his options and ultimately decided to pull out.
“I would say intelligently, and I’m way into risk management, the odds weren’t in my favor,” said Skustad.
Having had time to both warm up and reflect Tuesday afternoon, Skustad expressed few regrets.
“It was my first DNF (did not finish),” he said. “And I have completed just over a dozen. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later, and I knew this was going to be the toughest conditions.”
• This year’s Arrowhead attracted 146 participants, and only 52 had finished as of Thursday morning.
A new record was set as Jordan Wakeley of Grayling, Mich., crossed the finish line at Fortune Bay late Monday and was the first bicycyle competitor to finish with a time of 11 hours, 43 minutes.
That broke the previous record time of 13:15, set in 2017 by Ted Loosen of Minneapolis.