Mehl earns Classic sweep (Wilderness Racing)

August 24, 2011
Luc Mehl

Luc Mehl of Anchorage didn’t come into this year expecting to win two of the state’s longest and baddest wilderness races.

But that’s exactly what he did.

The 33-year-old stud captured titles in the 200-mile Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic in the Brooks Range in April and the 120-mile Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic in Alaska Range in July.

“This year has been unbelievable,” Mehl told me. “The double win feels like an exclamation point. I covered over 1,000 wilderness miles this year, including a bike/ski/raft traverse over the top of Denali, two trips up Mount Sanford and a traverse of the Alaska Peninsula.”

Mehl, of Steller Secondary School fame, was a varsity ultimate player at Carleton College in Minnesota and participated at the national tournament three times.

Now instead of throwing a Frisbee he’s conquering mountains.

“I don’t really train,” he said. “I just stay active year round.”

Mehl has been cross-country skiing only a few years.

“My form is pretty embarrassing, but I can keep up,” he said.

Mehl teamed with Brad Marden and Eben Sargent to win the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic in 4 days, 9 hours; it was the group’s third straight championship.

The winter race is so grueling that finishing feels like a gold medal.

“We finished first, but nearly everyone finished this year and that was the bigger accomplishment,” Mehl said.

The summer race is a different story.

For years the race has been dominated by two parajumpers, Chris Robertson and Bobby Schnell, yet they were absent this year and Mehl and Co. took advantage of the opportunity.

Mehl joined Tyler Johnson, Todd Kasteler and John Sykes to finish the race in 2 days, 16 hours.

“Our team took a gamble on the route, choosing a more technical glaciated route that was 20 miles shorter than the traditional route,” Mehl said. “We got lucky.”

The wear and tear of mountain running, skiing and packrafting has taken a toll on his body but Mehl doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

“I love being outside,” he said. “It is a great way to see large swaths of Alaska’s amazing wilderness. The same trip at a comfortable pace would require a heavy pack and a lot more vacation time. I am also competitive. My joints don’t really let me run anymore, so I don’t have a chance in triathlons.

“I excel when the conditions are bad – alder thickets, pouring rain, crevasse fields, etc. In other words, I suffer well, so the Wilderness Classics are perfect for me.”