Saturday, February 16, 2008

Canadian Ski Marathon

On Feb 9th and 10th Tobin, James , Sophia , Myself and about 2000 others did the 42nd Canadian Ski Marathon, the wolds longest cross-country ski tour taking place just across the river in Quebec. The full marathon course is comprised of 10 sections , 5 per each day, amounting to 160 km with sections ranging from 12.5km to 23.5km and ranked according to difficulty, green =easiest, blue and black=most difficult.

There are different options to participate from doing 1 section with the family all the way to Coureur des Bois Gold where crazy people carry everything they need on their back , i've heard 30 pounds on average, to sleep outside at a special campsite on the in between night.
We did the Coureur des Bois Bronze last year and succeeded so this year was our Silver attempt. As a Bronze skiers simply have to complete all 10 sections of the course while Silvers have to complete all 10 sections plus carry a minimum 5kg pack, mine weighed in at 15 pounds plus water it turns out. Skiers must complete Bronze and Silver before attempting Gold so this was the 2nd in a 3yr process for us.
James Sophia Tobin
We took the dorm option again where for an extra 85 bucks we get to pull up a chunk of floor at the local high school and includes 2 huge breakfasts, 1 Sat night supper and shuttle bus service to and from on both days. A great deal. Other options include the world class Chateau Montebello.

Day 1
After a big dinner at nearby Plaisance we had to be well organized for an early start. The alarm went off as planned (see below) and we were having breakfast at 3:30 am to catch the shuttle bus for 4:50 to be at the start line in Buckingham for a 5:50 start. This event is well organized and timelines are respected so don't be late. Its cruel how time flys that early in the morning.

I quickly figured out that my headlamp would have been handy after leaving it behind Sat morning. Luckily the trackset will guide your skis even in the dark so i had no more wipeouts than in the latter part of the day, but wipeouts i did have.
The CPs or CheckPoints are in between each section and are manned by volunteers serving hot soup, drinks and munchies. This event runs on about 500 volunteers and wouldn't run without them! Including the army who have safety stations and water stations set up on course in between CPs. Last year our friend almost got pulled off the course when an army guy thought he might be getting frostbite, their there to help. Local outdoor based businesses like MEC, Freshair Experience to name just 2 have stations to wax your skiis if you want to wait or you can do it yourself. Many thanks to all you guys.

My strategy for this year was to not stop in between CPs. With the army guys on course serving water and gatorade this was possible. It was get into CP , guzzle liquid , cram some munchies down, check the ski wax and get moving. Man, chocolate peanuts and hot honey water are delicious..... when chased with minestrone soup and cookie....and some more salted peanuts....and some warm gatorade...
Day 1 was a good day and i made the cutoff with 1hr 10min to spare. Skiers trying to complete the Coureur class are subject to a cutoff time that coincides with the end of the 4th section of that day, if you don't make it your DNF. I skied from 5:50 am to about 4pm and completed just over 80kms day 1.
Day 2
Day 2 i didn't want to get up even though we had an extra 1/2 hour of sleep because the bus left later on this morning. Sun had some challenges. The snow temperatures made for tricky waxing, and many skiers had to stop very early to adjust their grip wax. Tobin had to, and put on a wax that was too warm so had to stop yet again to change that too. We had the same wax on but it was working for me and my body started to relax and feel OK towards the end of the first 18km section. I made exactly the same mistake in Cp1 and put on a too warm wax which I wrestled with for 5km or so before stopping to remedy the situation. It was actually causing me to crash at the bottom of downhills. When the ground flattened out the wax would grab so hard it was like putting on the brakes and yours truly would be cursing and a rolling around in the snow AGAIN!
The other challenge on day 2 was the course itself.
A- is was 10km more to the cutoff.
B- 2 sections before the cutoff were the 2 toughest sections on the whole course. Mainly the 3rd section which was only 17km but had an elevation gain of 270meters over just 5km. Not a mountain but thats a lot of herring bone stepping. After a good hour into this one i figured i had covered some distance and was heading to the finish. Thats when i saw the mileage sign and got a reality check. I started to do my time and distance calculations as always and realized that my time cushion for the cut off time was quickly fading and i needed to get my ass moving. All the climbing and huge decents had tired me out too, so i was concerned.
By the time i had finished section 3 i knew i was looking at making the cutoff within minutes either side. On the upside, the general elevation was in decline so we could make a faster pace in section 4 the final challenging section.
I have to say it was exciting racing the clock to the cutoff, i had some discomforts associated with skiing 140km in a mad rush and was really feeling the adrenalin .
I couldn't lose my Silver over 2 or 3 minutes!
Either way i was going to relax at the end of section 4, on a bus or at a nice leisurely pace to the finish line as a Silver over the last section.
In the end i made the cut off by 3min.
Tobin Sophia and I all came together at the last huge downhill into the finish line and finished together even though we had hardly seen each other all day. James finished hours in front of us.
Next year Gold!



the original big ring said...

surprisingly well written for a neanderthal who swings a hammer for a living. Well done Ricky - good job to complete that. It would have torn the legs and arms and soul out from under me.

LennyG said...

WOW, what a trek... good on you guys. I've got to get this ski thing figured out. I'm flailing away but I guess that's to be expected with the amount I've done. Great job to complete an event like this!!

Matt Spak said...

Great job Rick. Next year you get to freeze your ass off sleeping outdoors.