Tag Archives: i2P

Inside the Literal and Figurative Pain Cave

Whew! Now that my major races are all behind me, I guess it’s time to rewind the clock and write about my last few races! This post is all about the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU), a 3-day, 150km epic event that I took part in in my own backyard. Right off the bad, I should probably admit that I think I took this one a little too much for granted. Given that it was in my own backyard trails in Gatineau Parc, was low-key, and was spread over 3 days, I somehow convinced myself that it would be a piece of cake. Big mistake! Read on to find out why!

Bad Beaver Ultra

As you are all aware, my focus this season has been on trail running, building up to the 125k Ultra-Trail Harricana in September. Before the BBU, I’d already put a couple 50-mile (80k) races under my belt. The first took me just under 10 hours, and the second took me under 9 hours. That’s solid progression, and I was feeling good about my training. The BBU came 2.5 weeks after my last 50 miler, so I mainly did short runs and recovery. During that time, I came to an interesting realization. This race was going to be TOUGH. Day 1 was 55km or so. Day 2 was slated to be 70km, and the 3rd day was 25km. Not only were distances not trivial, but we had to carry most of our gear for the entire 3 days with us on course! In that way, this was a semi-autonomous stage race.

What did that mean? Well, for starters, we had to carry all our in-race food for the 3 days with us on the entire course. We also needed all our clothes, first aid, camping stuff (mainly sleeping bag), lights, etc. Each day we were fed breakfast and supper, but nothing else. Aid stations were very spartan and were predominantly for re-supplying hydration (limited to water). If you wanted something over the 3 days, you had to carry it. There was no ‘drop bag’ waiting at the end of the day with spare stuff. It was with you, or you didn’t have it. So, that meant we were starting the race with maximum weight, and gradually eating our way through the weight. While I didn’t weigh my pack at the start of day 1, I’d say that it was on the order of 15 lbs or more. Considering my race weight of about 123lbs, that’s 12% of my body weight to drag with me as I ran long distances on tricky trails. Yeah, exactly, NOT easy!

However, the challenges are what make me sign up for these events, right? Besides, there was no way I would turn down the opportunity to be one of the first 20 people selected to ‘test’ this course for future participants. I can not lay claim to be one of the first-ever finishers of what I’m sure will become a sought-after race to tackle in the region. Why is it so special? Well, for starters, the organizers are all seasoned runners and racers, and are also putting this on predominantly to showcase the jewel that is Gatineau Parc, as well as raise funds and profile for a number of causes, including Impossible2Possible (after all, this is one of Ray Zahab’s initiatives!).

So, as far as showcasing the area, one of the great parts of this race was that pretty much everything going on was related to local businesses. It all started on the first night with a night’s stay at the beautiful Wakefield Mill Inn, which would also serve as our starting point on Thursday morning. From there, the rest of the weekend also featured things like food catered by a gourmet restaurant (Les Fougeres), a local coffee shop (Les Saisons), capped off with a Spa afternoon / evening at Le Nordik, and finishers mementos included hand-made candles from Doozy Candles. Have I enticed you yet? Well, no matter, as it’s really about the race, right? So let’s get to that!

Day 1 – 54km

Shooting Video

Day 1 was set to be a 55km ‘warm-up’ for the weekend, with the main event the following day. However, as we got up, had our breakfast and got organized, you could already tell it was going to be a pretty warm day. From Wakefield, we’d be heading off into the trails around Lac Phillippe, a camping area, and ultimately make our way through the Lusk Caves for a quick reprieve before finishing off our day. I set myself up near the front of the pack, but not the very front. I naively had in mind that maybe this would be ‘my race’ owing the fact that I had local knowledge. Silly me. that helps to a small extent, but that’s about it. Right from the get-go, I could tell there were a few real work horses in the mix here, including a jovial pair of Italian dudes that spoke limited English. They trotted off the start line in a relaxed pace, but you could tell they’d have no problem dropping any who really dared challenge them.

For my part, I was somewhere around 7th or 8th after the opening 15-20km. I felt good, but was definitely feeling the weight of the pack coupled with the heat. As is usually the case, I found myself plodding along more or less on my own, with the leaders out ahead out of sight, and the other chasers behind me and out of sight as well. So, you could imagine my great surprise later on in the day at about the 30-35k mark when I emerged from the woods to be told I was currently in 4th!

I came to realize that the reason was not very cool. Turns out there were a few confusing trail markers which lead the lead pack of 4 to veer off course. While I was eventually re-passed by one of them, the other 3 (including the 2 Italians and my friend Sebastien) sadly went WAAAY off course. They just Forrest Gumped all the way to the other side of the escarpment, basically covering a bunch of the terrain we’d see tomorrow. I felt bad for them, but these things unfortunately to happen. I could only run my own race.

Emerging from Lusk Caves

The highlight of Day 1 was undoubtedly the Lusk Caves part of the race. After a long slog in the heat, and with about 10k to go on the day, we got a reprieve by heading to the far end of the cave network and actually running THROUGH them before continuing on. The water was mercifully cool, and helped get the body temps down in a hurry. The only downside would only manifest when the day was over, and several of us realized we’d gotten some pretty heavy chafing as a result of wet shorts and lots of leg turnover!

Once the running was done, we were over-nighting at Brown Cabin in the park, a nice shelter with a full kitchen, and bunk beds with ma tresses for all. Future iterations won’t be as lucky, as there are limited numbers of beds, and the next edition hopes to grown to 60 racers, and require people to carry tents as well! Again, perks of being first, right? We enjoyed the hot sun as we re-fuelled on chips, watermelon, other fruits, and the good company of like-minded racers. Later in the night, we had an amazing feast of food, and even had live entertainment in the form of guitar playing, and even a fire dancer! Most people were too pooped to take it all in, but it was awesome!

What was NOT awesome was trying to sleep in the uncomfortable heat. I don’t think most racers slept very well that night. For my part, I tried sleeping with legs in the air to aid my feet in recovering the day 2, which promised to be TOUGH.

Day 2 – 73km

Day 2 Start

The next day we all got up bright and early to pack up and get ready for the longest day of running. In fact, it was still dark when the various alarms started going off. It felt odd applying sunscreen in the dark, but I knew it would be needed.  For those that needed it, there was coffee on offer, and breakfast consisted primarily of oatmeal with all the toppings you might want. I had my fill, and packed up my overnight gear back into my bag while filling up my hydration bladder and sorting the food I’d want on the day. I’d hoped to make relatively quick work of the 73km of the day, wrapping up in 9 hours or less. Once again, VERY naive!

We took to the start line, and got underway at about 6:30am (I think). The air was already thick and warm with humidity at this hour, which didn’t bode well. Not only was this day going to be long in distance, but we were also going to be climbing up and descending the steeper parts of Gatineau Parc 3 or 4 times this day, so LOTS of climbing was ahead of us.

From the start, I probably went too hard again, finding myself in the front of the race for a little bit, and mainly sitting in 4th for the first 10k or so. I felt strong and fresh, but eventually realized that it was a bad idea, so I dialled it back a little bit and ran with others to chat for a bit. There was really no point pushing too hard. After about 25k or so, I was already beat. I wasn’t the only one though. I joined forces with another battle-weary running and we slowly plodded along the roads and trails to get to the Lusk Falls trail, one of those ‘gems’ of Gatineau Parc, but not a lot of fun to try and run up with a pack on your back, and a gnawing hunger and thirst!

Regardless, I went up with reckless abandon, leaving my friend Sebastien to trail me a little behind. I’d hoped to make up a bit of time. I also knew that the next aid station would be the one where Deanna was stationed, so the thought of seeing her spurred me on.

The energy rush was short-lived after I crested the climb and started the run back along the big Trail Number 1 towards Wolf Trail. By now, it was VERY hot, and I was feeling it. I focused my mind on just getting through it and making it to the base of Wolf Trail. At that point, I knew I could go for a quick dip in Meech Lake to cool down. That became my sole focus for the next many kilometers, to the point that when I finally arrived at the aid station, I completely ignored Deanna. Instead, I unclipped my pack, threw it on the ground, and ran down to the water and dove right in. It was a life saver, and SOOOO refreshing!

However, I knew I still had miles to go, so I did my best to get through the stop and head back up the trail. Deanna told me I was actually looking better than several other that had made it through, being more ‘with it’ and self sufficient. Of course, perhaps I was only putting on airs for m’lady, but I took the encouragement and trotted off back UPHILL once again. However, I knew there would be another few trails, then we’d circle back down to a boat launch, where I could once again hit the water, which I did!

Refreshed from Lake

After the 2nd dip, I truly hit the doldrums. The next section was road. In the sun. Tired. Baking. Not having a great time. But what do you do? What CAN you do? Nothing. Except keep going. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you have absolutely no choice but to just keep pushing yourself. Abandoning never really crosses my mind, because I know everyone hurts in these situations, and I tell myself none of them would quit!

Eventually I made it back to the relative peace of the trails, and even saw familiar faces once again. I caught up to one racer, and also had chats with the race organizers, who were now out on the course cheering us on. Of course, it was needed, since we were heading back uphill once again, for our final climb and decent of the day, including heading all the way up to Champlain Lookout before the nice wooded decent to Camp Fortune. By now, I thought I must be the last person still alive out there, since I’d gone WAY slower than I’d hoped, and I just foolishly thought people behind me must have dropped out of the race.

Again, no time to think about that, and instead just focused on the run (ok, the speed walk). Up at the top at the lookout, I was surprised to learn the racer I’d been with at the bottom of the climb hadn’t shown up. Turns out, they’d also taken a wrong turn, instead running back to the finish for the day, having cut about 8k off the day. For my part, I was quite relieved, as I knew the rest of the day was pretty much downhill, and on one of my favourite trails, so I could just go on cruise control to the finish.

Upon completing, I think I was actually the 5th complete  finisher for the day, and not long after I got in, it started raining. HARD. We really felt bad for the other racers still out there. Turns out I was completely wrong about the people behind me. They were still hard at it, running and suffering in their own ways. A few were short-coursed,  and at least 2 didn’t finish the day, but there were still plenty  of amazing people still to come in after me, some in the pouring rain, and a few even well after the sun went down! Hats off to them.

It was a pretty low-key 2nd night. Once again, we were staying indoors which was nice. Floor sleeping, but nobody really cared. There was no party, as everyone was pretty much zombified after the long hard day of running. The focus was on re-hydrating and eating. Oh, and drinking BEER! Yup, each racer had a beer this evening, and for the most part, we all helped ourselves. You know, dulling the pain and all that. It was also a time to treat blisters, chafing, etc. etc. I think I now know what a field hospital must resemble in certain areas 🙂

Owing to the rough night of sleep after day 1, I slept much better this time. Overall, I was feeling a little down about my performance of the day. I’d hoped to feel much stronger, and instead felt like I’d suffered through it too much. My confidence was a bit low. However, tomorrow was another day, right?

Day 3 – 21k

High 5 to France

Alrighty. Final day. Time to pull out all the stops, right? I awoke feeling not bad. Did a bit of foam rolling and stretching to see how all the bits felt, and got a pretty good vibe from my legs. I decided that this was a day to let it all hang out. I was on local trails, the most popular ones in the park, and also the ones I train on all the time. I knew all the turns, hills, climbs, rocks, and HAD to capitalize on it. It was now or never. As a result, I put myself at the head of the class, planning to stay right on the heels of the speedy Italians.

The start found us heading into the Camp Fortune mountain bike trails, with a good uphill grind and technical decent. It was in there that I realized that I could actually pass these guys and break away from the small lead group that had formed. So I did! There was one runner way out ahead that I wasn’t able to touch, but I at least forged my own path ahead of the chase pack.

By the time we exited the bike trails and came back out to the ridge road, I was on my own, and my legs were turning over very solidly under me. I felt strong, and fed off that energy. I kept telling myself they were right on my tail, without daring to look back. I kept this up the entire way, until at one aid station, I was told I had 7-9 minutes on them! That was huge for me! I realized and  accepted that there was a good chance I could hold my spot.

Re-energized, I put even more effort into my gait, to make sure I kept my standing. With a huge grin on my face, I veritably flew over the trails, watching my step just enough not to fall, but running fairly recklessly. I imagine this is what it must feel like for those that are used to leading or being very close to the front, giving it their all with a single purpose. What a difference from the day before.

At the FInish

I barreled down the final series of trails, turned onto the final stretch on the SugarBush trail, knowing the finish line was just across a bridge. I heard the cheering, and managed to do a jumping heel click as I crossed the finish in 2nd place overall for the day. What a feeling. Cory, the overall winner of the 3 days (and basically untouchable) was there to congratulate me and share a few words. As were the organizers and Deanna. It was a perfect sunny finish to an amazing 3 days of running with friends old and new in one of my favourite corners of this little blue marble.

However, hands-down, the very best part of the entire event has to be what was in store next. We’d started a little later in the morning (like 9am), but with only 21k to run, it was only mid-day when I wrapped up. From here, ALL racers had a free all-access pass to the Nordik Spa, where we’d have our closing ceremonies and party. It was, in a word, heavenly! Since Deanna had volunteered for the whole 3 days, she also got a pass. So, naturally, since we live only 4k away, we stayed there until basically closing time, taking full advantage of the beautiful facilities.

Party at Le Nordik

I can honestly say I have never finished a race where every single participant AND the organizers hand out in bathrobes, beers in hand, talking about the race while bouncing between saunas, steam rooms, hot and cold pools, and a private party area. It was surreal, and  great way to get to know everyone just a little more, and forge the bonds that only running through the crucible of a 3-day staged race can create!

So there you have my all-too-wordy re-cap of one of the funnest events I’ve done in a long time. Of course, I did have a camera in town with me the entire time, and managed to put together 3 different videos, one for each day. They’re embedded below in case you haven’t already watched them! Enjoy them, and come on back later when I should have another post written up summarizing my NEXT 3-day race, which took place 2 weeks later!

Day 2 Re-Cap

Day 3 Re-Cap

Trailing Off for 100km

Good day all. An interesting thing happens when you start to do more and more endurance events. You can’t stop. If someone dangles a challenge out in front of you, you snap it up. You don’t do it for prizes, awards, or glory. You do it for you. You do it because you love every moment. The pain, the suffering, the elation, the views, the awaiting cold beer when it’s over. It weaves its way into becoming a part of who you are.

I have fallen squarely in to the camp of endurance athlete if you will. Distances and durations have begun to lose meaning. When I started, a 21km run on roads seemed daunting. Now, these things barely register, and I nearly forget how incredible the events I take part in may seem to others. I’m surrounded by like-minded people, so it seems harder and harder to do something I qualify as ‘impressive’. Regardless, every now and then I sign up for something that just might make me wonder.  On a whim, I signed up for the 100km i2P Trail Run organized by Impossible2Possible. I did mainly because I had the time, I knew the organizers, and it just seemed like a great idea to support the cause.

Well, 2 weeks prior to the event, I raced in another 100km race, but that was a multisport event where I kayaked, mountain biked, and trail ran. At the end, after putting in a very hard effort, I crossed the line in 3rd place overall, elated.  At that point, Deanna congratulates me, then says “and just think, in two weeks, you’ll be covering the same distance, but it’ll ALL be on foot running!” At that exact point, it occurred to me that running 100km in one outing, all on trails, might be harder than I imagined. Add to that the fact that I did no special training or tapering (I don’t think beer sampling for 3 days straight on the preceding weekend would count!), and you’ll understand why I was a touch apprehensive.

Ultimately, I decided that it really shouldn’t be a big deal. We’d be running pretty darned slow, and I’ve done events much longer and more challenging over longer periods of time. Also, this was not an official ‘race’, as they wanted to encourage as much participation as possible and it was on NCC land, where races are not typically allowed. So really, it was a celebration of running more than anything, and a chance to try something new.

Over the course of the event, there was actually a 100k event, a 50k, a 38k, a 23k, a 15k, and a 10k run. For the 100k participants, we started the night before from the Ark, and spent the first 50km of the run covering the ground as a group. From there, we had a break of about 1.5 hours before starting out second 50k run with all the fresh runners from the other distances. This was all designed on purpose to simulate the kind of conditions the youth ambassadors experience when they are on an expedition with i2P. They typically cover 2 marathons in a day, with a break between the two, which makes things more challenging, as your legs will stiffen up between the two efforts.

So, how did the event go for me? Well, the mere fact that this wasn’t a race made things very odd in my mind. I showed up at Breton Beach, where we were shuttled to the Ark, at 6:30pm Saturday. I knew very few people there, only Ray (Zahab), Mike (Caldwell), and Ryan (Grant). Chatting with people was fun, and once we arrived at the Ark, the group of runners all sort of got to know each other a bit. However, I found it all a bit awkward, as it was devoid of the typical ‘pre-race’ jitters and feelings. Instead we had little speeches from Ray and some of his friends, then we got to tuck into a meal of salmon, pasta, quinoa, and potatoes, before grouping together for some pictures, and heading out for the opening 7km of trails, which were on Mike’s property.

The awkwardness continued for the next 7k on these trails. Mike was leading the group, and due to the darkness, and technical nature of these trails, coupled with the fact that some runners were uncomfortable on this terrain, we basically hiked the entire first section. I’m used to going all out on these trails, redlining and trying to win. I knew I should go slower, but honestly, this was demoralizing to me, and had me worried whether or not I’d enjoy myself.

Luckily, from there, we headed out on the trans-canada trail, which is actually just the gravel road that runs between the Ark and Wakefield for the next 23km. Although we were all staying near each other, the pace was at least more of a running pace rather than hiking. We started spreading out a bit more, and would just all wait for each other at the water re-filling stops, which were spaced out every 7 to 10km on this section. Here, I got a better feeling of actually running, and was trading leads with a few of the other stronger runners in the group. Stories were swapped, embellishments shared on past races, and I was now having a good time (well, apart from my 2 visits to the woods…).

The event was very well run by the volunteers which themselves were among the running elite of the world, since they were all Ray’s friends from past expeditions. Before the 30k mark, we were even treated to pizza from the trunk of one car, and most of the runners also enjoyed a warm cup of coffee sometime around 3:30am outside the Wakefield Inn. By the time we hit the 40k mark back at Breton Beach, we were a single group, all having fun, nervously anticipating the next 60km of running. Ryan led us out on some trails from there for the next 10km, which again we spent at a jogging pace for the most part, mixed with a few little walking sections. It turns out, for the most part, 100k runners don’t really ‘run’ the whole way.

The promise from Ray on this idea of running as a group for the opening 50k was that those who wanted to could then really open things up on the next 50k, when the fresh legs showed up. I decided this was probably a sound strategy for my first-ever 100km run! By the time we trotted back into Breton Beach again, we had over 50k under out belts, and the sun was up, as it was after 6am. The next section wouldn’t start until 8am, so we had time to refuel with boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, cold pizza, and water. We also had a chance to get whatever clothing or food we might need from our cars, which had been left there the night before.

On the plus side, I had set up a thermarest, down sleeping bag and pillow in the back of my car to try and get 30 minutes or so of sleep. On the negative, my car keys were actually in a bag that was in a volunteers car that hadn’t returned yet. Oh well. They did eventually make it, but by then, I really only had time to deal with my feet (check taping, apply more lotion, etc), put on a fresh change of clothes, apply sunscreen, and re-pack my bag with extra food. When I finally tried laying down, it was too late, as others were arriving around the car and making noise. At least I managed to lay there for about 15 minutes with my feet elevated to reduce the swelling from the first 50k.

Before I knew it, I was lined up with everyone else awaiting the start to the next 50k, which essentially consisted of three different loops. First was an ‘easy’ 23km loop, then, progressively harder loops of 15k and finally 12k to finish off the day. The weather also promised to get quite sunny and warm, which guaranteed the final 12k would be hard on account of tired legs, tired body, overheating, AND technical terrain. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Kilometers 51-64 were really fun for me. Now free from the ‘stick together’ small group from the previous evening, I was allowed to run my pace and do as I pleased. Admittedly, I was not a rocket man here, but I was definitely running faster than the first 50k. My only real guiding principal was to make sure I stayed in zone 1 by keeping an eye on my heart rate. I fell in with a number of different friends out on the trail and had a great time chatting with them. Serena, Stephen, Isabelle, Amanda, and others from the normal running crew provided great company on those trails.

Arriving at the beach again, I was slightly disappointed to learn all these folks had really only signed up for the 23k run. That meant I’d be heading out all alone now, and basically ran on my own for the remaining 27km. Normally I relish in the solitude of a hard-fought race, but for some reason, I felt like having company out there. Eventually I got over that and fell into my own little rhythm, and didn’t pass another soul nor get passed for the rest of the day.

Each time I made it to a marshal point, they were letting me know that I was the first 100k runner to come through. Obviously, this wasn’t a race, but it still felt pretty awesome to know that I was in ‘first’ ahead of some pretty seasoned ultra runners that were in the mix. My mantra was really just to keep on running. Whenever I slowed to a walk on steep bits, I’d do my best to kick my own but back into a loping, shuffling run, just to feel more as if I truly was ‘running’ the whole thing.

The 15k loop was really enjoyable, heading out to Lusk Cabin, then following the 73 snowshoe trail back down to Lac Phillipe and winding back at Breton beach. It was probably my favourite segment of the event, as I still felt relatively light on my feet, wasn’t too tired, and was well hydrated and nourished. Finally back at the beach again, a number of folks cheered me into the ‘check-in’ table where I was getting signed off each time through. Some folks mistakenly thought I was done the 100, and were celebrating for me. I coldly eyed them and said “hey idiots, I have another 12k to go. Thanks for making me feel like shit”. Of course, I was only ribbing them a bit, and Ray quickly warned them not to “mess with the beard”. Spirits picked up again, I trotted to my car for some extra gels and chews, and headed back out.

The final 12k followed the 73 snowshoe trail around the backside of Lac Phillipe, and area that is pretty overgrown and tricky in the summer. Here, the previous 80+km and hours started catching up to me. The feet were getting harder to pick up over the roots and rocks, and I started getting a bit of tunnel vision from the exhaustion. I popped a few gels with caffeine to try and wake up, and just turned on my ‘trail running robot’ moves. That’s when I just turn off my brain and let my body use autopilot to keep going. Eventually, I popped out at the far end of the lake to the smiling face of Ryan telling me I was killing it out there and was the first through of the 100k folks. I was elated, as I knew the final 6km were just along the number 50 (gravel road) and a bit of trail 73 for the final bit along the lake.

I dug deep and just kept plodding on, knowing it would be over soon. When I finally cleared the final bend and came into sight of the finish, the cheers went up again, and this time, I allowed myself to bask in it briefly. It was all over now. I had completed the 100km trail run in one piece, and actually felt pretty good. However, I did still pretty much sit down right away and just relax with some good friends that were still around. Lise offered me the best chips ever, sour cream and bacon, and I devoured them happily. I’d been eating very sugary foods, and this was exactly what I had been lusting after during the final loop!

I collected my 100km finishers belt buckle, said my goodbyes, and basically poured myself into my car for the 30 minute drive back home. Later, I celebrated with a feast of greasy, salty Chinese food, and it was AWESOME. Delirious with tiredness, I willed myself to stay up until at least 9pm, since I don’t like going to sleep too early, even after a big effort. I was amazed the next day by the fact that I really didn’t feel too stiff. Within 2 days, I was out running 20k on the trails again, over in Nova Scotia, where I was visiting my dad. Turns out when you run so slowly, the body doesn’t take quite as bad a pounding. So what’s next for me? 160km? 180km? 240km? Who knows. There are a few multi-day staged runs in exotic locales that have captured my imagination, so who knows.

To wrap things up, I would definitely recommend the i2P run next year if you want to get out, support a great cause, and see some of the fun trails in the northern end of the park. If you are thinking of trying a 100k event, this is also an excellent introduction, as there is zero pressure, tons of excellent support, both moral and physical, and the finishers buckles are just plain sweet! So what’s next for me? Well, within 2 weeks of this event, I have my final multi-day adventure race of the season, in Gaspesie at the Raid International! Stay tuned for that story…

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!