At first glance, the 24th annual running of the Klondike International Road Relay might have seemed just like any of the previous years - more than 1,300 exhausted athletes, hardworking volunteers, inspirational performances and some creative costumes.
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Even the winners have remained fairly consistent, with Anchorage's Take No Prisoners repeating as champions in 2006 for the fifth year in a row (11 hours and 4 seconds) and Juneau's Vestigal Appendages once again coming out on top in the mixed category (13:15:07).
While they certainly had a run for their money this year, no one could catch Lady Gudivas in the women's event (13:48:18) and crowd favorites the Smokin' Ole Geezers (12:49:35) captured another masters open title.
But amid all the familiarity, there were some noticeable differences, as well as a new record.
Masters mixed runners Peak Performers I finished the relay in 12:04:54, which is more than 10 minutes faster than the previous record of 12:15:18, set by Anchorage's Seven, Three and One in 1997.
It was the first time a new record had been set since 2004, and just the second time since 1998.
For the first time since 2000, a junior team entered the event. While the junior category has always been available for the road relay, and there has been the odd junior athlete joining a senior team, the Norcan Klondike Skiing Machines may have started a junior team revival.
David Greer, Janelle Greer, Emily Nishikawa, Knute Johnsgaard, Stephen Dynes, Logan Potter, Bryn Knight, Jeff Wood, Michael Abbot and Colin Abbot are all members of the Yukon Cross Country Ski Team.
"At first we didn't think we'd be able to get a team together, but thankfully the younger boys stepped up to do the longer legs," explained Nishikawa, who finished in the top 25 overall for her time on Leg 3.
"Most of them had never done it before so I'm pretty impressed with how they did."
It was Nishikawa's fourth time doing the race.
Colin, who ran the final leg for the Skiing Machines, crossed the finish line looking unbelievably relaxed, although he admitted afterwards he looked better than he felt.
"I didn't mind the uphills at all, but my legs seized up on the last mile, so that was tough."
Still, the young athlete completed his first Klondike Road Relay and was very proud of the entire team's results.
"We did just as good as anyone else. Most of our people placed in the top 10. We were right on the times we thought we'd do, so I think it was a success."
Colin said he would most likely be back for another try next year, although he hoped his teammates might think twice about giving him one of the middle legs.
"I was glad I was doing the last leg, so I didn't have to get up at 3 a.m.," he said with a laugh.
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