How will the race be different in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic? What mitigation measures will be implemented?
Kesugi is a long race in the backcountry with minimal support, precisely the kind of event that can be held safely during the pandemic. That said, many measures will be taken to limit group sizes, promote social distancing, ensure adequate sanitization and encourage responsible hygiene. There will be two wave starts 30 minutes apart. Racers are fully responsible for their own transportation because official shuttles are not possible. Non-Alaskans will be required to follow state quarantine mandates. All racers must stay home if they have a hint of COVID-19 symptoms. Participants can socialize and camp at a scaled-down finish but it won’t be the party, awards ceremony and barbecue of years past. The full mitigation plan will be shared once it is created and approved.
Why will the men start at 9 a.m. and the women at 9:30 a.m. in 2020?
Because due to COVID-19 a mass-start for all participants was not feasible. Men will start first because they are slightly faster so there will be less passing than if the women went first. By having two mass starts separated by gender (instead of mixed-gender Waves 1 and 2), each gender can race head-to-head.
Why was the Half Traverse canceled in 2020 and will it return?
The Half Traverse was canceled to simplify the race plan during the pandemic and because parking at Ermine Hill is extremely limited and official race shuttles would not have been possible. The Half Traverse is expected to return in 2021.
What does K’esugi mean?
It means the Ancient One in Dena’ina. Traditionally the area was used as caribou hunting grounds.
Who are the two Dave Johnstons?
Dave Johnston the Elder (of Minus 148 Degrees fame) helped build the original trail in the mid-1970s, along with Pete Robinson, George Menard and the Youth Conservation Corps. It took 3-4 years to put in the basic trail. Brian Okonek had the idea to use Kesugi’s lateral moraine instead of some of the surrounding high country.
Dave Johnston the Younger (of Iditarod Trail Invitational fame), along with Andrea Hambach, created the Kesugi Ridge Traverse race in 2013.
What are the current course conditions?
Course conditions vary year-to-year. The race director will pass on reports of trail conditions as they come in. Denali State Park rangers (907-745-3975) may also be a source of information.
Will there be lots of snow up high?
Because the race was moved back to late August, snow is not expected. However, those training on the course should expect sections of snow until at least mid-June.
Why has the race date changed so many times?
On September 12, 2015, the race featured hypothermia-inducing conditions (rain and sub-40-degree temperatures). Matias Saari became race director in 2016 and moved the date to August 21; that year the weather was inclement but not quite hypothermia-inducing (high 40s and rain). In hopes of better weather, and to be scheduled before most other long Alaska running races, Saari moved it to late June in 2017.
Why are there no aid stations?
There are no aid stations because Kesugi Ridge is a remote trail and hauling food and drink onto the course is not feasible. Volunteers are already hauling heavy packs with supplies to Ermine Hill Checkpoint.
A standard race pack has plenty of room for food, drink and emergency gear. Also, spectators are allowed to hand-off sustenance and drinks to racers.
For emergency purposes, will cell phones work along the course?
Cell coverage is spotty at best. Racers should not rely on it. Course volunteers are equipped with DeLorme inReach devices and satellite phones.
Why does the Half Traverse cost the same as the Full Traverse? Why were entry fees raised in 2019?
The Half Traverse costs the same because it requires just as much organization, if not more, than the Full Traverse does.
Entry fees were raised in part because Alaska State Parks dramatically raised permit costs in 2019.
The entry fee also includes the Ultrasignup registration charge.
If I’m in the Full Traverse but stop at the Half Traverse finish line, can I still get a result?
You can stop halfway, and that may be a prudent decision if you are in danger of missing the final cutoff or are injured. But doing so will result in a DNF. Racers who anticipate wanting to stop at Ermine Hill Checkpoint should sign up for the Half Traverse.
If I finish the Half Traverse but want to keep going to Byers Lake, can I?
No. The sweepers already are busy enough with Full Traverse participants. Sign up for the Full Traverse next year!
Can the sweepers turn me back?
Yes, if they determine you are underprepared and unlikely to meet the cutoffs, they can turn you back at any time.
Can I wear headphones?
Headphones are discouraged. Racers need to be aware of wildlife such as bears and moose.
Can I bring my dog?
Racers cannot bring dogs. Spectators can bring dogs but need to keep them under control.
If I decide not to race, can I get a refund? Can I transfer my bib to a friend? Can I get a deferral?
For 2020 the refund policy has been modified. Due to COVID-19, anyone who chooses not to participate (regardless of reason) will receive a cash refund ($60 of their $65 entry fee) or deferral to 2021. Participants should notify the race director by Aug. 26 of their choice for a refund or deferral. Bib transfers are still not possible in 2020.
Should I let the race director know if I am unable to race?
Yes, please do because it helps our planning.
What is the camping situation at Byers Lake?
We have a group area at Byers Headquarters for Friday and Saturday nights of race weekend. It was greatly improved in 2020 and now has increased space that is suitable for car/camper camping and tent camping. There is no charge. RVs may not stay here. If you wish to stay at the main Byers Lake Campground (fees apply), plan to arrive early because it typically fills to capacity on race weekend. Byers Lake Campground was closed in 2019 due to spruce bark beetle kill and reopened on June 26, 2020. Byers Lake also has several popular cabins available for rent.
Where can I stay besides Byers?
Mary’s McKinley View Lodge (Mile 134.5) is one option. A fancier option is Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (Mile 133). There are also many pullouts along the highway where camping is possible. Lower Troublesome Creek (Mile 137.2) has some first-come, first-serve campsites. The new Kesugi Ken Campground (Mile 135.4) allows reservations for tent camping, RV camping and public use cabins.
Will there be a shuttle to the start?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no official shuttles in 2020 so racers will need to provide their own transportation, ideally a drop-off if possible. Carpooling is imperative due to limited parking. Racers will also need to retrieve any vehicles at Little Coal Creek after they finish. Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge generously provided shuttles in 2017-18 that transported some participants to the start. We hope that will again be the case after 2020.
Will the Half Traverse finishers be shuttled once they reach the Ermine Hill Trailhead?
There is no Half Traverse in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In other years, volunteers have shuttled finishers to Byers Headquarters (or to Little Coal Creek if necessary).
Will there be swag?
Yes, there will be an item of Kesugi swag for every participant and volunteer. There will also be prizes for the top performers as well as some randomly awarded prizes.
Will there be beer?
In the past 49th State Brewing Co. has kept us well supplied! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no post-race party in 2020.
What are the course records?
Despite horrendous weather, Scott Patterson set the men’s record of 4:38:05 in 2015.
Christy Marvin set the women’s record of 5:27:36 in 2018 en route to finishing 2nd overall.