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Ultimate XC – Race Report

Day 1 – Kayak 62k (34k down-river, 28k lake)

Day 2 – Trail Run 56k

Day 3 – Mountain Bike 100k 

Day 1

Pre-race was kinda exciting as people milled about scoping each-other’s boats trying to figure out who had the fastest vessel.  With a rule of only allowing plastic kayaks due to rough/boney whitewater sections, boat selection could be somewhat strategic.  By all accounts it appeared Steve Hay was sporting best-in-class with a Cobra Eliminator, however depending on whitewater conditions Benoit L’s Wavehopper also looked promising. Most everyone else was paddling some form of sea kayak, myself included with a Necky Eliza.  I was thinking the shorter, yet somewhat sleek Eliza would offer a good blend of speed and maneuverability.

Off we go and within no time Steve H. is in the lead followed by a group of 4, or 5 others, I opted to hang back & cruise in the 2nd pack thinking I’d try and exert the same output for the entire 62k.  We had a good group with Pete Dobos, Dave Hitchon, Nicolas Taillefer (RD of the Asics Xtrail events) and a dude named Richard from Montreal.  We worked well rotating through the draft averaging ~9.5kph across the first lake, which I thought was respectable considering the boats we were paddling.

Into the river, Hitchon, Taillefer & myself pulled slightly ahead and were notified at Aid #1 we were 2-3 min. behind the lead pack.  Soon we were on & through the first small rapid, then a small pull-over and another smallish more technical rapid, which one of the lead pack kayakers had dumped in.  I think Tallifer & Hitchon also had an upset on this rapid, as I never saw Tallifer until the finish & it was a little while before Hitchon caught up again.  I paddled behind 2 guys from the lead pack for a bit, but decided to stop & dump some water in hopes it would speed me up, no luck.  I had a bit of a bonk between hours 2 & 3, but was saved by the 29k aid station and a PB&J sammy.  There was a nice run of rapids for a few k after the aid station, which livened things up, but soon it was back to shallow, wide, sandy, strength-sapping river paddling.  I owe Hitchon for setting me up with a map the night before the race.  I’d expected we’d receive them at the briefing, but no dice.  Maps weren’t really necessary, but it allowed me to follow along and at least know when the misery on the river would end.

44k marked the end of the river & the start of a 3.5k supported portage i.e. they’d move our boats & gear for us, which was a very nice touch.  I was down 12 min. on the leaders, so figured I’d better haul on the portage.  My goal was to catch the two kayakers 4 min. ahead & within 15min. I thought I’d spotted them.  Turns out I’d caught Steve Hay who missed a turn (not sure how, as this was the best marked course I’d ever seen).  Steve & I went back & forth over the final 14k of lakes & small portages.  It was great to be paddling on lakes again, and we enjoyed a ripping tailwind down the final 10k of Lac Tremblant.  I ended up 6th on the day, ~20min. behind the leader, Erick Grimm.

In hindsight, I would opt for a longer kayak for this paddle, as the rapids weren’t very technical, and a longer waterline, coupled with increased buoyancy would be more beneficial than the maneuverability of a shorter boat.

Day 2

Time to try and make up for the lack-luster paddle the day before.  We started with a cool run up & down Mont Tremblant Village.  I could see James Gallipeau hauling up ahead, as well as Benoit, Grimm & Hay.  I was cruising with Harper Forbes, Bill Logie & Stephan Meyer.  Into the single track I picked it up a bit, but soon eased off and tried my best not to get caught up in the early up-tempo pace.  Up the first 1000ft climb I passed Grimm & caught Benoit.  Benoit & I ran together for a bit.  Then Patrick Lussier came storming past on a downhill stretch before a riverbed running section.  Benoit followed suit while I laid back as my bowels weren’t cooperating.  A quick pit-stop in the woods & all was good.  Into the river with a nice 500m of waist-deep wading, plus a great technical rock-hopping stretch.  I passed Hay in the river then snuck past Galipeau at Aid #2.

Next up was a 2000ft climb to the top of Mont Tremblant.  Galipeau & I traded positions a few times before I broke free on a steeper pitch.  Then I caught Benoit and we stayed together to the summit.  Next up was a 4k descent on a fire road, so I let the legs go & quickly got a gap on Benoit & passed Lussier not far into the descent.  Part way down I couldn’t see anyone behind on the longer open stretches, so I figured I was putting some decent time back into the field.  At the bottom I felt a few twinges of cramp as the body re-adjusted to using the climbing muscles.  I downed some salt tablets and sucked back a few gels, then resumed my slow run up a longer mellow pitch.  Before long I could hear a runner coming up behind, the ever-dogged Benoit, and to my dismay he mentioned he’d only been speed-walking vs. my slow run.  I started to resolve that perhaps we’d be running together for quite a while, then the slope steepened and Benoit allowed me a little gap.  We’d been commenting previously about how our pace would quicken when we traveled together, so I either thought he was giving me space to try and lessen the pace, or maybe he was starting to hurt.  Either way, I assumed it was good for me as I was still feeling decent.

Over the next summit of Peak Johansen, and off on another 2000ft. descent, I hoped to put some time into Benoit, but sure enough every time there was a long stretch of trail behind me I could see, or hear him plugging away.  Approximately ½ way down the descent I downed another gel and started feeling good, so I opened er up again.  I soon caught and passed another 56k runner, but shortly thereafter found myself out of liquids & pining for the next aid station.  I’d considered drinking from one of the streams we’d been crossing, but luckily the aid station appeared before I felt any cramps, or bonking sensations.

We were now 40k in, with one more 2000ft ascent, followed by a ridgeline traverse and a final 7k descent to the finish line.  I tried to maintain an unyielding pace on the climb, always checking over my shoulder in hopes of not seeing my buddy Benoit.  I felt strong and passed back over Johansen Peak for the second and final time.  The legs were starting to rebel on the ridgeline, so I ate as much food as I could stomach and dreamt of the descent ahead.  Finally onto the final 7k downhill I tried to push, but the knees weren’t as spry & the quads were pretty toast.  I’d heard the quote “running on stumps” recently & it was starting to feel fitting.  What a great feeling charging through the village with people cheering and soon onto the finish line.

Now it was time to wait & see when Benoit & the other 3-day racers would arrive.  Next across the line was Galipeau ~12min behind, and Benoit a further minute back.  At days end I sat in 2nd place in the overall 1:35 behind Benoit and ~25min. ahead of 3rd.  Day 3 was going to be interesting.

Day 3

I think Benoit & I were starting with pretty much the same game-plan for the final stage, which was to mark each other early and see where we each stood on a mountain bike.  We rode together for the first 10k, with no other 3-day racers ahead.  I thought the pace was a bit fast for 100k on Day 3 of a stage race, but figured WTF let’s see where this washes out.  Roughly 14k in I lost site of Benoit behind me and fell into a nice groove on the wheel of a 1-day rider.  At the 20k aid station I couldn’t see Benoit behind on a long open road and started thinking this was promising.  At ~30k we passed through a neutral zone where every rider was forced to wait 4min. to equalize the potential time stopped at a traffic light.  4 minutes on, I was off, with no sign of Benoit, things were looking good if the body held up.  There were a few flat stretches on road & rail-trail where I was lucky to find myself grouped with 5, or 6 1-day racers all happy to pull for me, as they knew I was doing the 3-day event.  At roughly 45k our pack of 6 splintered and I ended up in the middle, not sure if I should be happy for pulling away from a few guys, or miffed for losing touch with a group I’d been riding with for 3 hours.

Next up was some great double & single track along a river & weaving in and out of a golf course.  Onto the 63k aid station, which I think was more like 70k.  Here I misunderstood my trusty support crew, who I thought mentioned I was only 3min. ahead at the 40k aid-station, which didn’t really make sense, since I’d thought I was opening a gap after not seeing Benoit at the neutral traffic light.  In any case, this misinformation was a bit of a boost, since I started worrying and upping the pace on the next two climbs of 1000ft and 2000ft respectively.  Now back on top of Mont Tremblant, with less than 20k to go and finding I was 11min. ahead at the 70k point I started to relax.  That didn’t last long as our tired bodies were shelled with the most technical riding of the day, up and down the north face of the ski hill.  I have to admit, this was great, technical single track and I often found myself grinning, but then the arrows would point back uphill, or the legs would twinge of impending cramps from being flexed for too long on a downhill and the thought of crossing the finish line would creep further away.  In a cruel twist the course would swing just above the village (and finish area) before one more out & back loop.  Right at this point doesn’t Galipeau come riding up behind as I stopped for a quick pee break.  Holy Shit!  Had I been slacking in the past hour that I’d given back time, I hadn’t thought so, but the site of James was the fuel I needed to drive to the finish.  Another cheering descent through the village at warp speed (so dangerous, but so much fun) and finally across the line after over 8 hours of riding with a paltry average speed of less than 12kph, this was one tough 100k.

Now it was time to wait.  James came in next, followed by Benoit ~15 minutes behind, so sweet!

Ultimate XC 3-Day Full Results

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