Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My First 100 Miler!

I just completed my first 100 miler...on skis - I'm bagged. With the Rock and Ice coming up in late March, I figured it was time to get some mileage under my belt so I entered the Canadian Ski Marathon . There's nothing like jumping off the couch for a nice long (160km) ski to build the volume up eh?

The Canadian Ski Marathon is a 2-day 'participation' event held from Lachute to Buckingham, QC, (along the 'North shore' hills of the Ottawa River) with a pit stop at the Chateau Montebello which marks the halfway point of the 160km course. The event started in 1967 and has been attracting hundreds of skiers every year - With great ski conditions in Eastern Canada over the past few years, the event popped into my 'radar' last year when its numbers spilled over the 2,000 mark - impressive considering that all of these skiers represent the 'recreational' side of the sport!

Off We Go!

As Salomon was supporting the event, a crew of keeners from company were rounded up to 'represent' and participate in a fun weekend of skiing! On Friday night, we all piled in a local B&B run by an asparagus farmer named Guy-Louis, who filled our bellies with tasty homemade waffles! With a 3:30am wake-up call, everyone scrambled to make the 4:30am shuttle out of Montebello that would take us to the start line in Lachute. Upon arrival, we settled in with the masses and anxiously waited for our Bronze wave countdown...It was 6am and pitch black - I should have brought my headlamp - DOH!

Everyone on the bus shuttle looking half asleep at 4:30am!

Event Details:

The CSM is unique in that it is not a race but more of a challenge, offering skiers 4 categories to choose from:

1. Tourer: Ski any of the 10 sections of the 160km course. Most sections are anywhere from 13k to 20k in length.
2. Coureur des Bois - Bronze: Ski the entire 160km distance with a pit stop in Montebello.
3. Coureur des Bois - Silver: Same as above, but with a 5kg pack
4. Coureur des Bois - Gold: Ski the entire 160km, but you have to sleep outside on a bail (or two) of hay after Day 1!

Most of the CSM participants entered the 'tourer' category, but I was impressed by the amount of Gold (250+), Silver (200+) and Bronze (300+) participants which skied the entire 160km distance!

Reality Check...

The scope of the challenge didn't really sink in for me until a few kms in as I skied amongst the masses...Then I suddenly realized the distance that lay ahead. I've done my share of 30 and 50km races in my life but only once did I complete a race over 75km...Today's epic would top 83km, and I would follow it up with another 77km. Regardless of how I worked the math, it was going to be a tough grind. Enough thinking I told myself...just ski!

Check point 2 on day 1 was the start of a monster 18km section that included some major elevation gain. Here participants fuelled up on warm drinks, soup and/or cookies and bars. At this point I was still having fun, taking pictures and talking to lots of old ski friends...

Blast from the Past...

Along the way, I 'skied into' a bunch of my old racing buddies - many of them doing the Gold overnight portion. It was great to catch up and ski along with them as they plugged away with a 20lb pack on their backs...Inevitably, I would ski ahead, only to run into another friend a few kms down the trail - and so it went...At the 40km mark, my lack of big volume days this season started to show itself - Little aches and pains started creeping into my joints/muscles. One of my friends had mentioned to me earlier: "This event is great, but no matter how you look at it, when the 50km marker comes along, you're like: This sucks!" He was right. I suddenly stopped talking as my entire body entered a world of discomfort and hurt. I settled into a robotic pace the rest of the way, finishing the day in just over 7hrs - ugh!

Day 2:

Another day...Another early wake-up, only to scramble to the start line, clipping in my bindings as the 3-2-1 countdown was yelled. Unlike the day before (rookie move), I came equipped with my amazing AY-UP headlight and went straight to the front of the line to avoid the early skier traffic. As a result, the start of day 2 was awesome...The overnight rain had glazed up the track and made for very fast conditions! With the help of my killer light, I quickly passed the 'Silver' skiers (who had started 10min before us), and was soon skiing alongside the 'Gold' skiers, who were re-joining the main trail from their overnight camp location.

Freshly groomed tracks show off near perfect conditions! The CSM route takes skiers across some of the most scenic landscapes in South-Western Quebec, getting permission from over 200 private land owners to groom this yearly event.

The Last Stretch:

With 30k's remaining, the urgency to finish soon overwhelmed me and I just wanted this epic to finish. The Gold boys were getting a bit tired (no shit!), so I skied ahead with that glazed look on my face...The finish was a little anti-climatic as I crossed the 'arch', greeted by a lone girl waiting in the cold wind with her timing scanner. I asked if she had the time..."12:53" she said..."Thanks" I replied... 77km in just under 7hrs for a total of 14 hours. And that was it...160km completed.

So now what...rest, rest, rest...the Keski is coming up this weekend - another expo to man and I may jump in the 50k CL if I recover in time...we'll see how the body feels come friday!


Anonymous said...

nice description phil. I was just beside your group on the bus from montebello to lachute on the first day and my friedn couldn't understand how you guys had so much energy at that time in the morning (coffee i told him). the warm weather erased my marathon horror stories from the past. nice job. my description of the marathon "I get to ski all day!!!"
colleen mortimer, orleans ON

Phil said...

Hey Colleen, yeah...lots of coffee, especially with that 3:30am wakeup! ouch- A great event nonetheless and looking forward to doing the Gold Camp next year!

Anonymous said...

Hey mister you can't do gold camp, you have to do silver first!!! Oh and you forgot to talk about how the whole time during the marathon I was skiing up your *ss making you go faster!!!!
Guess who this is?