KENDALL VALLEY – Tense competitors moved toward the starting line. Their vessels made no difference. Whether they were on skis or bikes, the task ahead was daunting.
Nervous energy built and finally erupted with the starting call. The Drift 100 was on.
It’s the highest-altitude winter ultramarathon in the United States. The name, however, is a little misleading, as this year’s course stretched 101 miles.
Of course, it’s the brainchild of Laura and Josh Hattan and Darren and Keri Hull. They’ve been putting the race together and, for the most part, it’s gotten easier, Darren said. He explained this year’s race took less time to prepare but they’ve all become less anxious about hosting the race.
A snowmachine broke down on the course’s north end, which forced Darren to make more trips up to Dubois. But that’s the kind of hurdle the organizers are used to.
This year’s edition of The Drift 100 featured almost hot conditions throughout the day and then “brutally cold” conditions in the evening, as Hull put it. He heard from multiple competitors that their meters clocked minus-25 degrees by Friday evening, a stark departure from the comparatively balmy conditions when the race started at 9 that morning. That’s why the organizers are strict about that mandatory equipment list competitors need.
Hull said there were 10 scratches from the 100 and none from either the 28-mile marathon or 13-mile half-marathon that were run on Sunday morning.
Davis Meschke, one of the officials with the race that works with Laura and Josh at the Great Outdoor Shop, said the 100’s winner completed the course in 18 hours on a fat tire bike. He was a well-accomplished BMX and mountain bike rider but had never competed on a fat tire bike before. Meschke said the second-place finisher came in 30 minutes after.
What he saw on the course was almost a cathartic experience after a full year of social distancing and health protocols.
“You could tell people were stoked to be around another human,” he said.
Some of those racers came from Minnesota, New York and Florida, places with high-density populations that have generally meant less allowable events than those occurring in Wyoming for the past year.
Last year’s Drift races happened as COVID-19 started to spread throughout Wyoming. This year’s races happened with outlined COVID testing guidelines and vaccine registration available throughout the host county.
Hull said it’s been the community’s help that has continuously made these events possible. One of the goals was to make it a community event – something the whole community could rally behind. And with Stockman’s making food, loved ones gifting cookies and volunteers jumping on snowmachines to guide competitors, this year’s competition brought extra gratification.
“Everybody comes together to make it happen,” Hull said. “It’s pretty amazing. That’s our vision from the beginning, to get the community involved. That’s been my biggest thing and we’ve all taken it as a point of pride.”
That pride followed the organizers to Spring Break. The Hulls and Hattans both immediately took the week off after the races. Even watching those competitors necessitated a break.