Category Archives: Race Review Videos

Stellar Start to Summer Season

Biking Through

The sun was beating down hard on my neck. My leg muscles were just on the edge of starting to cramp after over 7 hours of hard effort. A team up ahead had paused to debate the merits of taking one route over another at an intersection. With my head down and with determination, I blew past them and pedaled hard to the finish. Keeping a very short lead on them, I crossed the line as 4th solo male, and 6th team overall at the spring Frontier Adventure Challenge in Huntsville. In retrospect, had they made the turn, they would have had 1km shorter to travel, and would have beat me, but seeing me blow by made them change their minds and try to chase me down. I got lucky this time! Of course, dear friends, I’ve just revealed the punchline, the finish of the race. This was the first summer race of the season, and it was a great one. Read on for the full story, video, pictures, and all the good stuff!

Pictures from Race

Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been hiding these past couple months. Have I been eating bon-bons and playing video games and fattening up? Well, not exactly. I’ve enjoyed a couple months race-free, but that just meant I had the time to start tuning up for the summer sports, and get some things done around the house. Early May is a great time to get back into the racing season, and luckily, there are a few classics on the calendar to help with that. The first weekend was the Frontier Adventure Challenge, a 5-8 hour adventure race that draws racers from Montreal to London and points in between. I was racing solo, and covering the race for Get Out There Magazine through a video review, and hoped to put in a solid effort. As we got closer to race time, the finalized racer list indicated quite a few solo racers with solid record would be coming out. This would be no cakewalk, but I had nothing to lose. I felt great, was happier than ever, and just wanted to race hard. So let’s see how it all played out.

Race Stats

The course designer was tackling the race for the third time. His first course was a touch too challenging for many. His 2nd course turned out too easy for the top racers. This time? Nearly perfect! The front runners had to put in a hard effort to complete the whole course and get all the sections including the advanced ones. Beginners and novices had several points in the race with cutoffs which helped ensure most people finished the race around the same time. For nearly all racers, that meant over 7 hours of racing in the beautiful wilds of Muskoka. It was spectacular all around.

The actual course design looked pretty straightforward. Of course, they all do when you first get maps and plot the points. There were no complicated logistics, as all transitions occurred at the same central spot, and the final half of the race you needed to be self-sufficient, carrying all the food, water, and trek and bike gear required. Race morning was chilly but would get nice. Map prep went smoothly, and there was a big crowd of teams excited to hit the trails. To quickly step through my race, I’ll go over each section and summarize.

Section 1 was a bike and trek deal. Hop on bikes at the start, with a lead out on some pavement to spread the teams somewhat, before diving into the ATV and snowmobile trails well known to adventure racers. Recent rains made some of these trails interesting, with nice mud pits and plenty of water. Staying clean and dry, as usual, would be tough. I had a great ride, and hopped off my bike at the far end for the trek section in 3rd place overall. There were 2 checkpoints to grab in the woods, and I made a few errors in there which cost me slots. I also did it all in bike shoes. Back on the bike to head back to the TA with another CP to grab on the way. It should have been easy, and I almost hit it dead on. Unfortunately, I chose to search right instead of left, and wandered too far around a lake, costing me more time. I was rather frustrated. With a little angst, I roared off to the TA for section 2.

Section 2 was an out and back paddle along a nice lake. Thankfully winds were pretty low, even though somehow it managed to be a headwind BOTH WAYS! Never understood that, but have seen it on more than one occasion when racing. Murphy’s Law and all that I guess. I’d only been on my boat a couple times, so finding my rhythm was a bit tough. However, I clawed my way through a few more spots passing some friends in kayaks as well. No clue where I was now in the ranks, but I was having fun. At the far end of the lake, we had an out and back bushwhack up a stream to grab a CP. About 3k running total. This was a great way to see the gap between me and other teams. I think I was about 10th in this area, and the leader had probably 20 minutes on me already! Luckily, it was a really easy CP, and I was trotting back to the boat for the return paddle in no time. Lots more teams now beating the trail down, but I should be able to stay ahead. I made up a couple more spots on the paddle back, in time for the final real transition.

Section 3 was the crux of this race. To avoid the logistics of gear transfer, the race organizers laid out a big mountain bike leg, with the next trekking section in the middle, but with no access to gear. As such, you had to bring enough ‘stuff’ to last the rest of the race. That included the advanced section with extra biking on some slower trails. I had only a small pack, but with 2 full bike bottles, 1.5L of fluids, and food, and a Boost meal replacement (I love those in races!), I was off. I had also strapped 2 shoes for the trek outside my small pack, being held in place with an elastic. Bad decision. I took off from the final transition in hot pursuit of the phantom racers ahead of me (it’s always hard to know how close or far you are, but anything can happen!).

I had plenty of time to make the advanced section, so that decision was easy, and I took off for remote checkpoint CPA at the north end of our maps. From there, it was a long and often times frustrating bike slog through very mushy ground. I will say however that with the 29er, I was extremely pleased. I was able to roll through a lot more things on that bike. I made it to the final trekking section just as the leader was coming out. Apparently, he hadn’t gotten either of the 2 CPS in the bush. So, as long as I got at least one of them, I would be ranked higher. There were a couple other teams there, and we opted to work together a bit to try and get ahead of others. Oh yeah, and the shoes? Well, one had fallen out somewhere along the way, so I ended up doing the whole trek in bike shoes again! Although they were not easy, the CPS were definitely findable, and we made it out in what we felt was pretty good time. This seemingly short trek would prove to be the turnaround point for many. Those who succeeded were rewarded at the finish.

After the trek, I hopped back on the bike, and tore out hard racing for the finish. I felt strong so I left another solo racer at this point to see if I could pass more teams. I did pass teams, but at this point, it was hard to tell if they were on regular or advanced course, so it may or may not be helping my position. As you read from the opening paragraph, you’ll note that my efforts paid off, and I was extremely pleased with my strong finish in a tough field. Although not good enough for a podium finish, this was a strong placement and has given me high hopes for the next race (yes, that’s foreshadowing).

At the finish line, under a bright sun, I hung out and ate junk food with all my racing friends. It was a glorious day, and Deanna and much of her family had also come out to volunteer at the race, so it was a lot of fun. The whole race went without a hitch, until the awards later that night, when a snafu with the electronic results system meant a long wait for final standings. That was of no concern to me by that point, as I had other exciting news to talk about and share. But to learn about that news, you’ll have to read another blog post :-). Here’s a hint: Why would Deanna’s folks be at a race?? Stay tuned for the full story there. Next up, Storm the Trent near Tweed, Ontario, another 6-9 hour race. Yippee! Summer is here! To close off, have a look at the race video review that I put together for Get Out There below.

Video Review

White Knuckling it to Quebec City

Stylish Skate

Howdy folks! Well, as we hurtle towards the inevitable spring time change, and the warming temperatures, I’m going to take us back in time to just over a week ago, where we got that sudden dramatic snowstorm. You know. The one that dumped buckets of snow all over the area? Oh yes, the one and same that I had to drive through to get to Quebec City for the Pentahlon des Neiges. There is a well-known adage that goes ‘getting to the start line is the biggest challenge’. Well, it would certainly appear that was the case for this race. In fact, I’d probably rate this drive the worst in my life! The normally 4.5 hour drive took over 9 hours, and that was with only 2 short stops. One for a sandwich, and one for a washroom / nerve break. It was absolutely atrocious, with blowing heavy snow, uncleared roads, and darkness the entire way. Did that affect the race? The rest of the weekend? My sanity? Well, read on through my little post to get the answers to all those, and a few other questions. This’ll be the last race report for a while, so enjoy it my friends! As always, pictures have been posted, and I did a video review as well.

Pictures from Race


Lucky for me, I didn’t have to make the journey all on my own. As the race was so far away, Deanna and I had decided to make a fun weekend of it. We chose to book at the race venue hotel, which was literally 30 seconds from the start and finish of the race, and also located on the beautiful Plains of Abraham. Yes, THE Plains of Abraham that you may or may not recall from high school Canadian history. This also happens to be only a kilometer or so from the beautiful and historic old Quebec area. Our tentative plans for the Saturday included touring the city a bit, hitting up a maple syrup museum, a chocolate museum, and at least one brewery. This was all possible because my actual race wasn’t until Sunday morning. That being said, there WAS a race on Saturday morning too, and I actually got up after only 5 or so hours of sleep to go watch a bit of it and do some filming for my race review. It was a great chance to get familiar with the race site and how my own race would work the next day, so it was time well spent.

You might think that after our horrible drive on Friday night that the weather would clear up nicely and leave us with an excellent rest of the weekend. Sadly, the weather decided not to co-operate, and most of Saturday was overcast, and brought with it slush, periods of rain and very wet snow. Temperatures were fine, but everywhere we wandered, we were getting wet. Apart from that, it was still really nice to take a walk around the citadel on the Governor General’s promenade, which takes you into the heart of Old Quebec, to the foot of the luge (toboggan) track, and spectacular vistas of the mighty Saint Lawrence River. We paid our fees and rode that fun little luge, which had no line-ups whatsoever on account of the weather. From there, we made our way to the tourist info building to figure out where the maple syrup museum was. Another wet stroll, and we were rewarded with tasty maple treats. And from there? Yup, the chocolate museum, rumoured to have the best hot chocolate in all Quebec. Unfortunately, we were stuffed, so we by-passed that treat and headed back towards the hotel, and ultimately, a brewery called INOX just down the street. I ordered samples of all their wares and had a half pint of my favourite. It was tasty, but pretty quiet at that time of day. Our Saturday culminated in a failed attempt at finding a fancy restaurant we both were keen on, and instead ended up in a gluttonous feast at St. Hubert! Stuffed, and happy, we retired for the night to rest up for the race.

Race Stats


So how about that race you’re asking at this point, right? Well, it was really really fun. I love trying new races and events, and this was a format I hadn’t been exposed to before. Mind you, it was not unlike any other triathlon. In that sense, we each had a transition area, and you completed each event back to back, returning to your transition area between each leg. The best part of the race was the fact that each participant had their own numbered transition spot, complete with 6 or so feet of rack space for all the gear. The five events of this Pentathlon, in order, were cycling, running, skiing, skating, and snowshoeing. I entered the race with fairly high expectations, given that I’m fairly proficient at each event, and kinda hoped maybe many other weren’t. Boy was I mistaken! There was a TON of really excellent competitors. I was able to tell pretty much right off the bat that I would NOT be placing highly in this race.

That being said, I felt like I had a decent race, was able to push a bit, get some good footage, and be exposed to great sights and witness a very-well run race. This event is now apparently the largest outdoor winter event in Canada now (when you add ALL the various race events that form the series). They had an army of volunteers, and a very well laid out series of courses with excellent opportunities for spectators as well. Provided you are not too uncomfortable being immersed in French (all instruction was in French, with no translation), I would highly recommend this race. The only thing I was surprised and sad about is that there was absolutely no souvenir for completing. No medal, no toque, mitts, anything. Mind you, I’m not for wanting any of those things, but it still would have been nice. Of course, if you were willing to pony up cash, they did have plenty of stuff for sale there! Now on to a quick synopsis of my own race event by event.

Bike: 5 laps of 3km each. Any bike accepted as long as you had ‘studded’ tires. However, by studded, knobby rubber was fine. This The course was on pavement for 95% of the course, and the only snow section was in the transition area, where you had to run with the bike anyway. The start was LeMans style, which meant we parked our bikes first, then had to run back to them from the start line, in order to spread out the field. I unfortunately got a pretty late start, getting stuck in ‘traffic’ and starting towards the back. On the plus, it meant that I spent most of the 15km passing other people and trying to make up ground. In spite of not having biked much lately, my climbing legs seemed intact, and I did most of my passing on the climbs. I came off the bike feeling pretty good, but a little wistful. As it turns out, this would be the last race I would use my beloved blue Epic bike. I have since bought a new ride, and knew that would probably be our last race together. Definitely a little bittersweet.

Run: 3 laps of 2km each. I put on my running gear and headed out as quick as I could I haven’t been running much on flat pavement, so I felt a bit out of my element of twists, turns, and hills, but I still managed to keep the speed up. I wasn’t blazing fast, but managed to keep a 4:30/km pace including the snowy patches which inevitably slow you down. Again, the running was mainly on pavement, and took me through the side streets, and through the plains.

Ski: 3 laps of 3km each. Still new to the skills needed for skate skiing, I was nonetheless going to be trying the skate skis once again. If nothing else, this was an excellent little 3k loop to race on. It was surprisingly challenging for a relative novice like me. Lots of little twists and turns, many of which would occur on steep downhills. There was also a great lung-busting climb taking us back up to the transition area. With so many racers, there was a lot of crowding to get out of the way of speedy skiers, as well as making some quick passes. I witnessed more than a few wipe-outs, but luckily managed to avoid any spills of my own. By the 3rd lap, I finally felt like I had the hang of it, but then it was time to switch again!

Skate: 12 laps of 500m each. Round and round we go. Racers were responsible for counting their own laps for all 12. If you missed one, you got a 5 minute penalty. With a time of under 20 minutes, you can see that a 5 minute penalty is huge. Probably for that reason, I actually ended up doing 13 laps. You see, even though we counted our own laps, there was an electronic system keeping tabs on us for the final results. Looking through results, you can see that many people messed up. One speedy guy I know ended up doing 15 laps! Others 14. I’m okay with one bonus lap. The first lap is wasted anyway, as your legs aren’t quite working 🙂

Snowshoe: 3 laps of 2km each. To wrap up the race, it was time to strap on the snowshoes and run our way to the finish. This course was almost the same as the ski portion, only cut through the middle of the Plains instead of doing a full loop. Unfortunately for me, what seemed challenging on the skis was anything but on snowshoes. Wide flat trails, with no tree cover, no tricky trail twists or anything. In that way, it reminded me of the Dion snowshoes race in Kingston, where I was throttled by the fast runners, as it favours the speedy racers over the technical racers. In spite of that, it was a fun course, and the last bit was cool because we ran over a man-made overpass of scaffolding and snow to run to the finish line. I will at least say that in comparison to the other legs, this was my fastest in comparison to the rest of the field.

If you’ve done your math, you’ll note the total race distance was a tidy 42km, or exactly the distance of a marathon. Luckily though, it didn’t hurt nearly as much, and I finished in 1:50, which I’ll never see in a running race of 42k! The hardest part of the race I think was coming out of the transition and starting a new leg of the race. As an endurance athlete, I’m just starting to fall into the groove of the event when I had to switch sports and engage new muscles. The first 1 or 2 laps of each leg I felt very sloppy. All told though, I was very happy and would definitely do the event again. Kinda wish they’d host something like that here though so I wouldn’t have to make another super-long trip in the winter. To wrap up the day, all participants got to head to the hotel for a great buffet lunch in the ballroom. At the same time, the organization was giving out the prizing, and you could chat with fellow racers. All in all, a top notch event, and I have no bad memories resulting from the drive. Just trauma 🙂 So, that’s it for my winter race season. Time to move back into training mode and get ready for another busy summer. Till then, keep active my friends!

Video Review

Successful Skate Ski at the 34th Gatineau Loppet

Happy at Finish

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up everyone. In the past 10 weeks, I’ve done 8 races, and between the pictures, the videos, the training, the racing, the editing, the working, etc. etc, I just ran out of time to write my traditional post-race summary 🙂 However, I’m here tonight to rectify that and share with you all just a few thoughts from the Gatineau Loppet this year. I was particularly excited to take part in the event this year, as it would be my first time taking part in a longish race where I skate skied! Yes, this is still my first year on skate skis, so there is still a lot to learn, but it didn’t stop me from signing up to do the 31km (eventually classified as 27.5km) event at the Loppet. I was also there covering the event for Get Out There Magazine, so as has been the case quite frequently lately, I have a video review of the race for all to enjoy at the end of this post too. In addition to the video, I snapped a fair number of pictures over the weekend for you to check out. Click on to read the rest of my thoughts on the weekend, which I’ll keep on the brief side.

Race Pictures


The first thing I’ll note (and no, it’s not totally an excuse) is that the Loppet fell exactly 1 week after my completion of the Canadian Ski Marathon, where I skied 160km classic style in 2 days. I’m no expert here, but I’m willing to bet that 6 days is not a sufficient amount of time to fully recover from such an event, especially in light of the lack of training I put into that event! So, strike 1 was no recovery from CSM, strike 2 was the fact that I’m pretty much a rank amateur. Strike 3? Easy, there is no strike 3. I make no excuses for my performance at the Loppet. In fact, I really didn’t care how I really did in the event. I’ll say this much. When I did cross the finish line at the finish, I was completely satisfied, and think I did a great job. By the numbers, I was 20/22 in my category! And 161/213 for men. Yup, pretty low down in the standings. But I’m getting ahead of the story, aren’t I? Let’s rewind and actually have a look at the race prep and action.

Now, let’s be honest here. My desire certainly wasn’t to be that far down the rankings. I’m not boasting here, but that’s not a spot I’m used to being in during a race. Particularly where nothing actually went wrong. I even tried to help myself by having my skis professionally prepped for the race. Ok, not a real professional prep, but I did at least drop them off at a shop for tuning rather than doing them myself. A nice wax job of molybdenum low fluoro for the first layer, scraped and brushed, followed by another top coat of low fluoro scraped and brushed. Sound like Greek to you? No worries, it just means I had then nicely waxed to be fast and slippery in the snow conditions we were expecting. And they WERE good. I had great glide the whole time. The weather was also pretty ideal. Blue skies and the works. The wind picked up a few times during the race, but overall, I was pretty comfortable. So off to the start line we go!

Race Stats


Lucky for me, I had seeded myself pretty far back in the race. I was in wave D, with a planned completion time of around 2hours. Nothing spectacular, but a nice, realistic goal. The starting gun sounded, and all around me we were double-poling like mad to get to the line where we could start skating. However, with the crowds and some hills, it was a little while before I could actually finally try some skate strides. Around me, people were stepping on other folks’ skis, falling, etc. One poor guy had his carbon fiber pole snap like a twig under the weight of another skiers ski. I felt bad, and made a note to make sure I kept my poles to myself.

Once I started hitting the more open areas, I got myself into a nice rhythm and focused on trying to pull out a good technique. I’d like to think I was doing a fairly reasonable job of that, but the video playback definitely showed me some points I could improve on. Deanna had been nice enough to do some filming, and there was a spot where she caught all the front crowd, and eventually, me. Because of that, I had great reference footage of good, average, and bad technique. I placed myself into the ‘average’ category. Weight shift yes, but too short a glide phase.

The course itself was a real treat. Good mix of different trails. Some parkways, some fields, and of course, some nasty little climbs, including the ever-popular climb up to Pink Lake from the backside. Trust me, it’s a great trail to practice your climbing. We also managed to grab a trail I was completely unfamiliar with, which I think was the #15 heading left off the parkway up towards MacKenzie King after the T intersection. This was a nice narrow, climbing, twisting trail where I got to do a lot of practice. While I had started fairly far back, I felt good about the fact that I was seldom passed on the trails. On the contrary, I was doing my fair share of passing. In other words, I was holding my own in my start wave.

After the long, twisty climbs up to MacKenzie King, it was time for the return to the start/finish at the Relais Plein Air, which had a lot of downhills to carry us there. These ranged from short little hills with nice run-outs, up to the very long descent from Pink Lake on the parkway. It was there that I threw caution to the wind and totally bombed down the set classic tracks to see how fast I could hit. In the end, that was 51.2km/hr! If there had been the slightest problem with the track, I would have been a tangled mess of skis and melted spandex! Luckily, I emerged unscathed, and with a giant smile on my face. Unfortunately, my race wasn’t completely without falls…

It happened in the stupidest of spots. Completely flat and skiing smoothly along the parkway. I was a little surprised to see a cyclist heading towards me! Yup, on a mountain bike with knobby tires, this joker was just riding along the ski course heading towards me. Luckily, it’s very wide, and there was absolutely no problem. However, afterwards, as I kept going, my mind wandered a bit, and before I knew it, I planted my pole in front of my ski, causing a nice tumble in front of a couple others. I got up lightening fast, but quite embarrassed. After making it through all the technical bits, this was a blow to my ego. However, with only a few kilometers to go, I could care less.

I finished out the race uneventfully, having a great time in the sun on a gorgeous winter day. Deanna was waiting for me at the finish, and I did my best flying bird impression on the final 100m stretch, by flapping my arms. Nearly fell again, but I was a happy camper. My final time was 1hr 50, so I had beat my goal, although with the adjusted distance, I was actually pretty much right on track. I hung around for a bit for the podium ceremony for the top 51km race finishers, then had a bite to eat, then headed home with Deanna so I could work on the video. All in all, another brilliant race day and a good result for my first long skate ski race. Although I really love skate skiing, I’m not sure I want to race again. It’s a bit maddening to be soooo much slower than others. I suppose with practice and training…. Who knows. Stay tuned to see if I try again next year I guess! That’s it for now. Next up: Snowy ride to Quebec for the Pentathlon des Neiges… Adios amigos.

Video Race Review

Following the Trail of “Jackrabbit” Johannsen

Still Smiling after 160km

A warm welcome back to you all. I’m back from another epic odyssey over the past weekend. Although the Canadian Ski Marathon is not a race, strictly speaking, I’m still putting under my ‘race’ cartegory. This is mainly due to the fact that there are strict time cut-offs, which mean many skiers don’t actually complete the entire 160km distance. Ergo, it is a race against the clock in my mind :-). I also wish I got paid to race, because I would have gotten overtime. Over 20 hours outside in the bitter cold, and up at 3am and 4am! Seems like more ‘work’ than my job! At any rate, it was an amazing event, and I hope you’ll all read on for my personal take of the entire event. I covered it for Get Out There Magazine as well (videos appended at end), and took a bunch of pictures. Should give any skiers out there a great idea and reason to try the CSM next year!

Pictures from Race

So just what exactly is the Canadian Ski Marathon? Well, for starters, it is a quintessential Canadian winter activity. The event was envisioned as, and strives to continue to be, one of the toughest point-to-point cross-country ski events of the world for those who want it to be that. Hunh? What does that mean? Well, the event takes place over 2 days, and consists of 10 individual sections adding up to a total of 160km of amazing skiing. However, you can enter in a variety of different categories. Tourers are those who choose to take part in the event but only ski a few sections. You can choose as many sections as you like, and are recognized for the number of the sections you actually complete. For the masochists of the world, you can sign up to tackle the whole event in the Coureur des Bois (CdB) category.

However, in the CdB category, there is more stratification. If it is your first attempt, you automatically go in the ‘Bronze’ category, where your only goal is to complete the entire distance within the time limits. If successful, the second year you are entitled to sign up as a ‘Silver’ participant, with that you must not only complete within the time limits, but must also carry a pack weighing a minimum of 6kg for the whole thing. Now, if you are successful as silver, you can now try to attain ‘Gold’ status on the 3rd year. Once again, you must finish within timelines, and must carry a minimum of 6kg on your back. However, this time you also get the ‘privilege’ of sleeping outdoors on a bale of hay for the Saturday night. In other words, your pack MUST contain all you need to survive from Saturday 4am till about 5pm Sunday including food, sleeping gear, and ski supplies! Me? Well, as I AM a masochist, I was enrolled in the CdB Bronze category. So let’s now go through my weekend fun.

Day 1 Stats

Not to belabour this point, but the entire weekend was forecast to be COLD. By that, I mean temps which likely averaged around -15 most of the weekend with the early mornings obviously being colder than that. Why does that matter? Well, the week before, I spent nearly $80 on waxes suited for warmer snow. Ha ha. Oh well. They’ll be used some other time.

On Friday night, Deanna was kind enough to drive me to my luxurious digs… a gym floor in Papineauville. Yup, that would be my home for the next 2 nights. We checked out the opening party at the Chateau Montebello (and saw how the other half lived), then I returned to the school. Still had to do some waxing and gear preparation before trying to get some sleep before the 3am wake-up call, which came all too soon. Breakfast was devoured by 4am. From there, final ski prep, and piling on buses to the start line at Buckingham.

At that point, I tried shoving hot packs into my ski boots, eat some food, and get my camera gear ready for the start while watching the first 2 waves (Gold at 5:40, Silver at 5:50) get underway. It was obviously still pitch black out, so we started the event with headlamps. I think that was my favourite part of the whole event; skiing in a long row of headlamps in the still of the pre-dawn morning. Very peaceful. We also had some light snow falling, so it was absolutely beautiful. Things were so nice and peaceful that falling into a nice pace was very easy, and before I knew it, we passed by the ‘2km till next CP’ sign of the first section. Everything was working extremely well, and I was absolutely in love with the experience so far.

The first CP was the real introduction to the organization that went into this event. The army of volunteers (which yes, included the army!) took great care to ensure every detail was addressed. At each CP, we got scanned in electronically and physically marked off on the bibs. All CPs had food (usually dry fruit, soup, bananas and cookies) and drinks (warm water, honey water, Gatorade). Some CPs also had waxing stations, where you could drop off skis to be re-waxed for you while you ate / drank, etc. Of course, the key was to get back out as quickly as possible. This served two purposes. The first was to stay on schedule to make the cutoffs, but more importantly this weekend, it was to stay warm! As I type this, I still haven’t gotten full feeling back in two of my fingers!

Back to the trail! With the day now in full swing, it was time to make some serious tracks. I popped in my earbuds and asked Gordon Sumner (aka Sting) to sing me to the finish. Of course, that was still about 65km away, so it would take a while. My pace felt good, and without doing too much math, I was pretty sure I’d have no troubles with the cut-offs. I passed my time really taking in the world around me. Even though there were 1500 participants in CSM, and you are never really alone, you still have a lot of time to reflect. It was so invigorating to just let my mind wander, appreciating everything life has to offer, including the ability to do something like the CSM. The ski trails were amazingly good considering these are not official ski trails.

In fact, each year, CSM starts anew, with local farmers and landowners granting permission to have the snow groomers, and eventually the skiers, pass through their fields and hills. We are fortunate to have their co-operation. Even more so considering this has been happening for 46 years! The longest section of Day 1 was over 21km, and it was a tiring one. This was rated ‘intermediate’, and at the end of it, I was still well on schedule. I had to reach the 4th CP by 3:15pm, and found myself there around 2pm. Awesome. I lingered a bit longer there, allowing the pros from Swix to do a nice, 3-layer wax job with a sticky klister base under a glorious sun.

I skied the final 13 km with a smile on my face, knowing I had all but clinched day 1. There were some pretty awesome hills to climb through the day, but also a lot of fun, fast, and yes, sketchy, descents to make. It made the whole day interesting. Also, it was always impressive skiing with the CdB gold folks, navigating all the challenges with sometimes ridiculously large-looking backpacks! They definitely are the champs of the weekend! The finish line was at Chateau Montebello for the day, and about 15 minutes after finishing, the exhaustion hit me, and I just wanted to get back to the dorm and sleep.

Day 2 Stats

Unfortunately, sleep couldn’t come too quickly. There were a number of things to get done on Saturday before bedding down. First there was the matter of a quick, and sometimes scalding shower, followed by tucking into a big pasta meal at the cafeteria. Clothes had to be spread out to dry, new clothes picked out for the next day. Food stores in my pack replenished, batteries for all devices charged up (I had 2 cameras on the trail and my GPS and iPod, all of which needed charging). Turns out -20 is not a forgiving temperature for batteries and electronic devices! After all that, I HAD to turn my attention to my skis, which basically had to be completely re-stripped of all waxes and built back up, but the glide waxing and the grip waxing. This took about an hour of effort, in a room packed full of others doing the same. The stench of chemicals and waxes dancing in everyone’s nostrils as they worked feverishly to get the ‘perfect’ wax job, which would eventually get destroyed in the opening 20km or so of the next day! However, once done, I thankfully got to crawl into my sleeping bag after swapping a few stories with fellow participants.

Thankfully, the bus for day 2 was a mercifully short ride, so we got to ‘sleep in’ until 4am. Ha ha ha. Getting up was made even more difficult as several of my ‘neighbours’ had opted to not get up, thereby forfeiting their CdB bronze attempts. Seeing them sleeping soundly made it hard to pour myself out of my bag and pull on ski clothes again. However I had a mission, and would not fail. Not completing this adventure was NOT an option in my mind (are you surprised?!). Breakfast was a nice french toast with ham affair for me, and before I knew it, I had packed up all my stuff (which was being transported to the finish) and was sitting on the bus again.

Sunday was even colder than Saturday, but I felt even better prepared for it (and added an extra layer on my head). I didn’t have to fuss with anything at the start, and instead crowded around one of the 6 propane heaters to await the start of our wave. No snow this morning, just a still, cold air around all of our anticipation. On the menu today was another 80km of skiing. However, whereas on day 1 they were all ranked ‘easy’ and ‘intermediate’, today’s sections were all ‘intermediate’ and ‘hard’, including the infamous ‘Rouge Valley’ section with all of it’s many, many hills. This would be tackled on the 3rd section, so it was literally the ‘hump’ of the day, and the only real challenge to getting that little bronze pin I was coveting.

On the audio menu today? Well, I opted to listen to my catalogue of Depeche Mode tracks, including lots of hard-thumping remixes. This was definitely more appropriate to the physical challenges that lay ahead of me. The start felt a little slower than the first day, but that was to be expected, especially since we were heading uphill right away. First stop of the day was actually ‘Gold Camp’, where the CdB folks had spent the night. They had left about 25 minutes earlier, and all that was left were massive fires of the loose hay burning. It was a very cool sight. With the inspiration of that vision, I picked my pace back up and started picking my way through many of the skiers, eventually catching up to many of the Silver CdB, and Gold CdB skiers.

Throughout the day, I knew I was moving slower than I had the previous day, but that was not unexpected. I dug into my reserves and my endurance racing base to just steel myself and keep the pace moving. In the hills of dreaded section 3, I met a friend of mine and slowed to chat with him a while, before making the decision to keep my own pace and press on during the climbs. I’d been told that it is very hard to actually ski with anyone, as everyone has their own ups and downs. It can be the difference between finishing or being cut off to not go your own pace. Smile planted firmly on my face, I kept on skiing, knocking off the checkpoints. At the 3rd CP, it was only 1:05pm, giving me 2hrs 10mins till cutoff to cover about 14km. Awesome! Seemed like it would be easy.

I hadn’t accounted for the fact that my pace had slowed way down. Now, to be clear, I was in no great danger of failing, but I was still surprised when I got to CP4 at 2:45pm, a mere 30 minutes before the cutoff. As a result, I bypassed the volunteer waxers and just did my own waxing. I headed back out at about 3:05pm, now safe in the knowledge I had basically done it! Only 13k to go. Yeeee-haaaaawwww!

The final 7-8km seemed to take forever. Even though the track was good, and weather was good (and had even warmed up a bit), it was a real slog to keep pushing. I’m pretty sure my body did NOT want to ski much more. I was definitely on autopilot now. Finally arriving at the finish area, I pulled out my little camera to film the arrival at the finish. A smallish crowd of 20 or so felt like hundreds to me. Having anyone there cheering was a huge boost to get across the line. I kept the skis on for a few minutes longer to pose for a few finish line shots, but for all intents and purposes, it was DONE! I had done it! 160km, and a nice little bronze pin to show for it!

The closing banquet was a collection of skiers in various states of exhaustion, a hearty meal of lasagna, chicken, and other goodies, while the emcee tried to utter a lot of words while the masses generally ignored him. However, he recognized that the night was more for the skiers and sharing of their stories with each other, and was gracious about the fact that he was being ignored! I did a fair bit of story swapping myself, learning more about things like the rogue horse who was running loose on the trail, and about broken skies repaired at CPs, etc. A nice finish to the whole event. At 8pm, I got on one last bus which took me back to Gatineau and the end of the entire event.

Looking back now, I had a bit of a revelation about this event. Usually, in a long event, you have periods where you really ask yourself why you are doing it. More specifically, in almost every adventure race (particularly 24hr+ events) you hit a point where you hate it, and don’t know why you’re there. However, I can honestly say I never hit that point once during CSM. More often than not, I’d actually be smiling, and just marveling at what I was doing, and how great it felt. NO, it wasn’t easy. Not by a long shot. But I WANTED to do this. And I succeeded. And boy, did that feel great! I would highly encourage you to try the CSM, or parts of it, next year, if you are at all into skiing. It was a well-run, and very beautiful event! But, no time to rest for me, I’m 2 days away from my first Loppet using Skate Skis! Off to rest (oh, and celebrate Deanna’s birthday!!!)

Day 1 Video Review

Day 2 Video Review

Snowy start to Mad Trapper Night Race

i2P Link

Hello friends! I figured I had better get cracking on my latest race report. After all, another race is looming large in a day or so, and every weekend until March is booked with races, so I’m in peril of starting to fall behind once again! We can’t let that happen, so here I am to fill you all in on the Bushtukah Mad Trapper Night Race. This is one of the funnest, social, yet hard races of the winter season that I always look forward to. As you have probably pieced together using your powers of deduction, this race takes place under the cover of darkness. As with all Mad Trapper races, we find ourselves out at the Ark. However, to pick our way along the race course, we all wear headlamps. Race start is slated for 6:30pm, and that’s pitch black! As a result, this is one of the first races in a long time where I have absolutely no pictures or videos. Gets to be a lot of work to do that, so this race I was focusing on just racing hard. If you’d care to hear how that went for me (no spoilers this time in my teaser), click on past the link and read the full post.

First, let’s address the weather. Conditions were PERFECT. Probably the best they’ve ever been out there for a snowshoe race. Older snow had been long-ago packed, and on top, there was a huge amount of fresh powder, since we were in the middle of a heavy snowfall day! The snow was heavy, but not super wet, so it had just enough ‘give’ without being sticky either. The weather was half the problem for the day, as many people had problems just driving out to the Ark and getting up the big hills for the race. Some cars got stuck, others tried the ‘long way around’, and still others just turned tail and went home. In spite of that, there was still a great turnout, and a competitive crew out to challenge the course. Lucky for us, James Galipeau went around the whole course twice before the race, to make sure things were a bit packed, and that direction markers were clear. However, there was still a fair bit of snow to work through at the front of the race for the first lap.

As usual, I lined up at the front and planned to push hard to stay with the leaders. However, with the blistering pace newcomer Derrick St John has been setting at the front (leading to solid wins), the front pack trailed out faster than normal. I found myself in a happy little group of 4 pretty early on, with the 4 main leaders ahead of us. Our group of 4 eventually thinned to 2, Mike Abraham (aka, my shadow) and me. The other two had pulled ahead. Whenever Mike and I race together, we always seem to be pretty evenly matched. Whoever seems to feel better that day takes it. We’ve seen it at UXC, trail runs, and snowshoe races. This time, I wanted it just a little more than him, and although he stuck very close to me the whole first lap, I decided to try and pull away on lap number 2.

The course was the same as our first race of the season, which is to say the ‘flatter’ course, but still has a lot of nasty climbs. The two loops were supposed to be different, but with the volume of snow, Mike had opted to just set the single loop. This created an interesting 2nd lap. Whereas the first lap had a lot of snow and even ‘steps’ carved out on the hills from single sets of tracks, lap 2 was a completely different beast. Upon starting the 2nd lap, the trail now looked like someone had literally pushed a snowblower the entire way! Perfectly carved and packed the whole way, it was a superhighway to the finish. As to the rest of the scenery? Well, let’s just say it was out of this world. The snow on the trees, occasionally lit by headlamps with some swirling snow as well, was absolutely gorgeous. Too bad I couldn’t spend more time gawking. But I had a race to finish. I slowly pulled away from Mike meter by meter, eventually beating him to the finish by almost a minute. Final time for me was 1:08:35, whereas the winner finished in just under an hour! It may have only netted me a 6th place finish, but the effort was huge. According to Mr. Garmin, my average HR was 214, with a max of 245! I’m rather dubious about that, but expect my average was around 185.

Race Stats


Post-race feast for this race was Chili! I love post-race Chili. Especially with sour cream and shredded cheese. Deeee-licious! All participants seemed equally happy with that, as well as the cookies, chips, bananas, BROWNIES, etc. The snow had kept flying all evening, and the joke was that we were all going to have to crash at the Ark for the night unless the plow went by on these back country roads (luckily they did!). But to make the night even more special, we were hosting an auction / fundraiser for impossible2Possible, Ray Zahab’s not-for-profit organization. As a small group, we managed to raise over $1000 for this worthy cause. I walked away the proud owner of a new team jersey for Team SpiderTech, Canada’s up and coming pro cycling team. All in all, this was a magical, awesome night with a great race, great post-race meal, and fun auction benefiting a worthy organization. I can’t think of a better way I could have possibly spent my Saturday night. To cap the whole thing off, it was great to have Deanna with me the whole time, having completed her 2nd race of the season, sporting her fancy new headlamp, shiny snowshoes, and a big grin from a great performance she put on in the snow. It’s just awesome to watch her get more involved in these things and take an interest in even the …gasp!… training aspects of this crazy lifestyle I (we) live! Next up: Winterlude Tri, where I’ll be back with a full video review and pictures to share. Stay tuned!

Heading to the Land of the Hip for a Race

Starting Gun Sounds

Another week, and another race report for my loyal readers! This past weekend, I headed off towards Kingston (home of the Tragically Hip, in case you didn’t get the title reference), for what I think was my shortest race ever, but a great time nonetheless. I was there to do a video race review for Get Out There Magazine of the Dion Snowshoes Frontenac Park Snowshoe Race. A mouthful, isn’t it? I’ve done plenty of snowshoe races in our area as part of the Mad Trapper Snowshoe series each year, but this was the first time I ventured out of town to try my luck elsewhere. As it turns out, this race was also a qualifier for the Snowshoe Running World Championships for this year! That was part of my motivation to tackle this race. I secretly hoped I’d be in the top 3. Have a look at the pictures I posted on flickr, then click on past the link to read the rest of my thoughts on this well-run family-organized race.

For starters, we couldn’t have asked for better weather or conditions. Although it had been bitterly cold the past couple weeks, on race day in Frontenac Park, temperatures were probably somewhere around -11 degrees. This really doesn’t seem that bad when you are redlining for an entire race! Also, the snow cover was deep and plentiful. The night before, there was even a light dusting of snow, so we had fresh powder to start the race with. The course itself was very straightforward. A 6.7km run on existing trails near the entrance of the park. This was a fair bit different from what I’m used to at the Mad Trapper races. There were almost no hills, and virtually zero technical bits. In other words, this was a sprinters race. Straight, flat trails, with very few turns or tough hills to climb. As you can guess, this type of race does not favour me.

Race Stats

So, how about my competition you ask? Well, there were apparently originally 72 racers signed up, but a small group from the U.S. weren’t able to make it, so we were left with 62 racers, which is actually a great number for this type of race, and more than have made it to past events. Of those, a large portion were gunning to get free entries (including food, accommodation and race!) into the worlds. As a result, the field was deep and very talented. I didn’t know most of them, but this year’s current ‘fast guy’, Derrick St John from the Mad Trapper was there. Also, it turned out the reigning world champ was there. Hmm, wasn’t looking good for ole ActiveSteve at this point. Nonetheless, I stayed optimistic, and seeded myself at the front of the pack. The race was set to go promptly at 10am, and with all racers strapped up and a local TV camera crew on hand, the starting gun was sounded by a park ranger.

Much to my surprise, I found myself as the race leader right off the bat! I was being careful not to push too hard, and didn’t understand why I was at the front. Unsurprisingly, this feeling didn’t last long. As soon as we got over the first rise (and out of sight of the cameras), I was passed. And not just by a few people. I’m talking a veritable throng! In spite of the sadness I felt at being crushed, it was also humbling. I did my best to focus on staying in touch with some of front runners, but it didn’t take long for the race at the front to start to spread out. I maintained a very steady pace, and in my heart, I hoped that some of the younger guys had gone out too hard and I’d reel them in. Sadly, in a 6.7km race, there really isn’t an opportunity for that to happen. Frankly, I’m just not made for these ‘sprint’ races. Of course, I knew that going in, so there was no real surprise or angst.

Keeping my steady pace, I did manage to make up a couple spots by passing a couple of the folks who had ran past me earlier. But making up 12-13 spots in order to get one of the coveted “world’s” slots simply wasn’t in the cards. In spite of that, I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face and a real feeling of accomplishment. It was my shortest ever race, but I kept a great pace for me, and pulled off my fastest pace ever in a snowshoe race. 16 out of 62 in a field like this was still pretty good. PLUS, I managed to snap pictures AND shoot video while racing for the magazine. After all, I was on the job too 🙂 You can see the results of my video review at the end of this post.

As alluded to, the overall winner was last year’s world champion, and he dusted the course in a time 10 minutes faster than me! Amazing! It was a real masters’ class in snowshoe running out there. They came from far and wide, and gave it their all on the course. At the finish, I didn’t hear a single person complain about their race though. Everyone seemed to have bested their time from the previous year, so apparently all that action up front pulled a lot of people along in the slipstream! Post-race, we piled back into the park trail office for the food and awards. There was a mini-buffet of bagels, pastries, cookies, granola bars, etc. Additionally, there was hot chocolate, recovery drink, and soup. After re-energizing with those, the awards got underway. There were a few funny prizes, like a giant roll of aluminum foil, as well as tons of home-made fleece socks that were made by the race director’s mom and are always a favourite at these races.

After a few final words, it was time for everyone to head their separate ways. It was only 1pm, and the day was absolutely stunning. It was very tempting to stay longer, but with the 2.5 hour drive ahead, and the fact that I had to get the video done, we decided to head home. Even though it was a big investment of time and effort for a short race, it was still very cool. If you’re ever in the Kingston area in the winter and looking for a fun event, see if there is a Dion snowshoe race on. You’ll have a great time and walk away (or limp) with a smile on your face! Next up for me, the Mad Trapper night race this weekend. No video this time, but it’ll still be a great time. If you’re still on the fence, now is the time to try a snowshoe race. At night, it’s even MORE fun 🙂 Till next time, keep praying for more snow (till the end of March anyway).

Video Race Review