This day was all about testing. New equipment. Old equipment.
Competitors met in St. Adolphe to ‘sort themselves out’, on a bright Saturday afternoon recently.
This was the time to get this done. To know your limitations. When it’s dark outside, as many of the runners and cyclists will travel in the middle of the night to complete the 130km journey, wasting time means getting cold. For bikers, having a mechanical breakdown in the middle of the race could cripple their attempts.
Kevin Champagne found out first hand what the course is like. Since this is a cross-country race, the terrain is varied, and competitors have to make it through on their own. Kevin had trouble on this practice ride, and it slowed him down, but he made it through a very difficult section on his own, and continued. His determination is the very essence of completing this race.
“Well you could say I was sorting out my food storage (nothing froze). And tire pressures. I have the clothes sorted out as I was warm enough,” said Champagne after completing this test run event.
“I wasn’t impressed with the rocks, though the picture was good. Nothing hurts so my slow and easy pace worked. I feel slow compared to the summer speeds in my Quest. This is my first Actif Epica, so I hope to finish it. Next year I will train for speed.”
Some of the cyclists and runners who will compete in Actif Epica were not at this practice event on Saturday because they are competing in Minnesota’s Arrowhead 135 mile winter ultra marathon. However, they will keep in touch via Facebook posts on Manitoba’s trail conditions and the racer’s equipment selections. Everyone helps out on these races.
As Jason Carter put it, “Well, the Actif Epica Recon Ride, as the Winnipeg CycleChick named it, was an excellent idea. There’s a balance between the independent, solitary world of extreme racing and the need to help ordinary people tackle the logistics, physical and mental challenges within a framework of arm’s-length safety support.”
“Logistics play such an important role in snow biking and in winter,” Carter added. “But there’s a huge difference between riding an hour to work and riding multiple hours in winter conditions.”
Riding together in packs of people on the actual course without imminent danger is also a benefit. “Riding on gravel roads is a social experience – without cars to bother us, we doubled up and were chatting away as if we were in the local pub.” said Carter.
“A happy mistake and detour this time; a very costly mistake had it been at night, farther away from safety points, or in a white-out. So the lessons were learned: distractions can happen with the simplest of things, and constant navigation/tracking can’t be trivialized.”
Carter summed up Saturday’s event nicely. “The Actif Epica Recon Ride (this event from St. Adolphe), and the main event itself (Actif Epica), help to create an appreciation of the conditions, challenges and athleticism that is required in endurance events,” he said.
“Following the Arrowhead racers, or even Maria Leijerstam to the South Pole, is no longer a passive activity because we know, for example, what the cold, snow and logistics will mean for extreme racers; a connection is made,” Carter said. “And the reverse is true too: Arrowhead and other extreme racers know that the people engaging in Actif Epica activities are genuinely interested in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Together, both groups come to understand why we strive to push our personal limits.”
All photos by Gregory McNeill