This is the first of a three part series showcasing participants and volunteers of Actif Epica, the 130 km run/bike marathon from St.Malo, Manitoba to The Forks in Winnipeg to be held on February 15, 2014.
In the shadow of the frosty stained glass windows and the cold grey gravestones of the St. Adolphe Roman Catholic historic site, members of this year’s Actif Epica get together for some spiritual karma building and equipment testing.
The Saturday morning quiet in this sleepy prairie town is disrupted by the bustle of out-of-season cyclists and people on foot with colorful and strange looking equipment, laughing and carrying-on, right on the main drag. Locals take second looks to see who dare disturb their town in such a fashion.
The early settlers of Manitoba traveled right through this spot hundreds of years ago, to bring goods for trade in Minneapolis and in the towns along the route. The descendants of those rugged traders are still here today, and some are probably these very same people whispering in coffee shops about the foreigners they see outside their window.
St. Adolphe will be the second last checkpoint for riders and runners on their journey from St. Malo to Winnipeg in the third annual Actif Epica race slated for mid-February. It’s a point that some of last year’s contestants did not make while braving the harsh weather brought on by the dead of winter.
The 130 kilometre race is only a few weeks away, and with some of the participants leaving next week to compete in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Winter Ultra-Marathon, this may be the last time all of the participants get to share their preparedness stories.
Veteran ultra-marathon racer Scott Burton places an enormous amount of weight on the importance of mental preparedness, much more so than physical abilities.
“My main focus over the last year and this year is the training of my mind.” says Burton.
Two 24 hour runs, with one for charity, and a recent 72 hour run attempt has given him some insight.
“This year I experienced – in my 72 hour run attempt – the incredible abilities of athletes to keep control of and calm the mind. My present weakness is in thinking too much during races. Some people are able to relax and enjoy the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy them. But these people could go six days straight and keep moving (even if slowly).”
Another local vetran ultra-marathon runner, Bob Nicol, gets his peace and balance from and being with nature.
“Running to me is spiritual, the feel of the breeze, the smells, the sounds of the birds and the rustle of the trees or crunching of the snow,” says Nicol. “That is my spiritual release and why I love running trails so much.”
Weather wise in Manitoba, winter has been a lion this year. Freezing temperatures as cold as -50 degrees Celsius, and most recently, a huge dump of snow with temperatures rising and then falling again.
The Actif Epica event will give competitors firsthand knowledge of the conditions of the course, with all of the race directors present to answer any questions from more remote portions of the course. The forecast for the duration and including the Actif Epica race on February 15 calls for blizzard like conditions and freezing temperatures.
All photos by Gregory McNeill
Scott Burton has created his own video on overcoming the fears that all of us have inside:
Scott Burton did a 24-hour run for charity, and his video of the race can be found here: