For the last three years, a made-in-Manitoba ultra sport called Activ Epica has been challenging the domination of the traditional winter sports, like hockey and curling.
After choosing to either run or bike, approximately 45 racers from all over North America will have 24 hours to complete the 130 kilometre distance from St. Malo and Winnipeg.
The route is made up of frozen St. Malo Lake, gravel roads, and a portion of the Trans-Canada Trail known as the Crow Wing Trail. Racers travel North through snow covered fields, various rural communities, the frozen Red River, ending up at The Forks for a post-race celebration.
Runners outfit themselves with appropriate winter running gear and a backpack containing water, high-energy food, and an extra jacket.
Cyclists have a broad range of bicycles, ranging from old 1980s Sekines to modern day float-over-the-snow fat tired bikes.
Participants in both classes vary from seasoned athletes to recreational runners/cyclists, whose biggest adventure previous to Epica was riding down Pembina Highway in Winnipeg, trying hard not to get hit by crazy motorists.
There was an online offer to loan two fat-tired bikes for new participants, and the race organizers were overwhelmed with replies. You do not need one of these bikes to complete the race, but they would appear to be pretty cool to try.
What makes this trans-Manitoban event unique is the inclusion of the communities that the race passes through. The total of the winter events surrounding the race — like walking, sledding, or even making snowmen — will push the number of participants close to 1000.
The race starts Saturday, February 15, 2014 in St. Malo and finishes the next day at the Forks. Anyone can view the race after 7 a.m. on Saturday, as the it passes through the communities of St. Pierre-Jolys, Otterburne, Niverville, and St. Adolphe, and spectators are welcome anywhere on the course. The checkpoints in these towns are also open to the public, and it’s a good place to see how the racers are doing for time, and to check out other local activities.
For more information, visit www.actifepi.ca, follow on Twitter (@ actifepica), or find them on Facebook.
All photos by Kyle B. Thomas
More great photos from Kyle B. Thomas can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kylethomas/