Last year at this race I made it to the halfway mark, and after leaving on the second half, I was caught in a nasty thunderstorm that had me lying in a ditch hoping I wouldn't be hit by lightning. As we got to the hotel this year it was pouring rain, and the wind was howling. Not a good sign before a race that is challenging enough without mother nature adding to it. Fortunately on Saturday morning the sun was shining, but the wind was still doing it's thing.
The race started just after 8:00am with Lindsay leading everyone out in his van. I stayed near the back of the group. I didn't want to get caught up in trying to hang on to Blair Saunders and the other fast guys like last year. I told myself to just go my own pace and see what happens. After about 50km I was competing for the course sweeper position. I wasn't feeling very fast at all. The mind was starting to play the "Let's quit, what's the point in riding this far anyway" game. That's when I caught up to Nathan Barten around Rathwell. I was pretty sure I was done for the day, and had Rick been there with the van, I would've called it quits. Thankfully Rick had gone futher up the course, so Nathan and I decided to stop for a double cheeseburger with fries and gravy at the Diner just off course. It was sooooo delicious. Nathan talked me into at least riding to the first checkpoint in La Riviere. We took off for the checkpoint. The rolling hills started, and the wind was relentless. Nathan rode off ahead on his super lightweight fixie. I caught up to Mike Harrison just before a wind farm. We yo-yo'd a little bit, and even stopped to take some pictures of the impressive wind turbines. Then I rode on ahead into the headwind alone. Somewhere along the way Nathan had gotten off course a little and I passed him in the process. Just before getting to La Riviere, there is an impressive section of gravel road. It runs along the Pembina Valley. Beautiful country in Canada. I had to stop and take a couple pictures. I always kick myself for not stopping to take pictures during races, so I didn't pass this opportunity up. I rolled into La Riviere around 5:30pm I think. Rick's daughter, Gabby, signed me in, and Lindsay bought me supper. Another hot meal in the belly. Mmmmmm. I spent about two hours there eating, talking and trying to come up with a good excuse to call it a day. But, Lindsay said I looked strong and wouldn't have any of it. So with a little encouragement I headed out to the second checkpoint at Rock Lake.
I had to stop and take a picture of what must have been Lindsay's school back in the day : )
Mike Harrison and the wind farm.
Pembina Valley just before La Riviere.
Climbing out of the Pembina Gorge towards Rock Lake I started to feel pretty good. The wind had also died down which I'm sure had a lot to do with me feeling better. I put the hammer down "Vino style" and flew into Crystal City stopping only long enough to get a Coke from a pop machine. I downed the Coke and headed out just as fast as I came into town. The sun was starting to set, and there was a good sized thunderstorm on the horizon. As it started to get dark I went to turn on my light, but it didn't work. So I just kept riding. Making sure to have my rear tail lights on and stay way to the side of the road when a car would come. Not to long after total darkness I could see a red blinky in the distance. I gave chase as fast as I could go in the dark. Eventually I got close enough to see it was three riders, and they were just turning on to a steep downhill. I turned on the jets and came flying up to them just at the bottom of the hill. They hadn't seen me behind them since I didn't have a headlight, so they were pretty startled. It was Cory Smith, Tomec Jasiakiewicz and Jay Hawranik. We all rode into the Rock Lake checkpoint together at 11:35pm. Blair Saunders and John Hawranik were still there. The checkpoint was at Kenny's lakeside cabin. What a guy! He had chili on the stove and enough Coke to open a convenience store. It was great! Lindsay was there as well, and was really happy to see the other three guys I rode in with. It seems they went 20km off course with the wind, all down hill. After realizing their mistake they had to ride back uphill into the wind those same 20km. Ouch! Tomec and Jay decided to pack it in at Rock Lake after that mishap. Cory and I packed up, reloaded with food and batteries for my light (THANKS JAY!!!!), and headed out for the remaining kilometers at around 12:30am.
Cory and I rode very well together. Keeping a fast pace, and stopping at each turn to make sure we were still on course. The night was cold with very little wind. The valleys were filled with bone chilling air and fog, but the climbs out of them warmed me up quickly. Just around sunrise I started fading, and Cory rode ahead. I was getting the same sore shoulders and neck I had at the Arrowhead. I slowed way down, and even walked for a short while. Finally I was close to Portage La Prairie again and just went as fast as I could back to the finish at Don Sisson's farm. It was 8:20am. Just over 24 hours for the "regular" course. I was very happy to be done. Don gave me a ride to the hotel and I had a little breakfast and took a nap before the awards BBQ.
What a great event. Lindsay put together one heck of a course. The volunteers and checkpoints were spectacular. Thanks to everyone involved!!! I highly recommend checking this race out next year. And hopefully I'll see Lindsay and Dallas at the Arrowhead in February.
When I got home I was checking my e-mail. I get these quotes of the day from the Foundation for a Better Life. The quote from this weekend was very fitting and reminded me why I love to do these types of races.
"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for"
-William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894)