Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
Congratulations on the fantastic time, Rod -- and thanks so much for keeping the Défi site so current and alive it tingles! Also a huge debt of gratitude to Robert and his family and friends, without whom this event would not be... Their warmth and friendliness brought a truly Montreal flavour to the event!
The most exciting moment that day for me was right before the race when Charles Beaudoin came to pick me up at 5h15 and we were on our way to the start. About 5 minutes away from the Verdun Auditorium I said to him, "I'm so anxious!!" with a big grin on my face. This was my first Défi and I was so excited. Charles turned his head and looked at me with that "maybe-you-don't-quite-know-what-you're-in-for" kinda look. We had just done A2A two weeks prior and so he knew that I knew what a long-distance race was, but Charles has always said that the Défi was a tougher race. The jury is still out for me at this time... but one thing is certain: each is a totally unique race and I think that one can say that each clearly taxes you in a different way (A2A is more of a mental challenge, whereas the Défi is a more physical challenge).
The proudest moment for me was when we had finished putting our skates on and headed toward the start at 5h58. Because it was dark, the only connection I could make was the famous Dutch race "Elfsteddentocht" because it too begins in the wee hours of the morn. This brought butterflies to my stomach but only briefly as, before you could say "Elfsteddentocht", we were off. With flares to guide us along the water, along the way to the westernmost tip of the island of Montreal. I believe this event will only continue to grow in popularity as it can be the greatest source of pride and personal achievement for Montreal skaters -- at home! I will also say that I nearly broke down twice along Gouin Blvd. -- Not because I was tired, but because I was feeling nostalgic about where I was actually skating. At home!
The worst part of the race came for me early in Section 1 while I was skating alone trying to catch up to Charles who had, by then, gained a healthy lead. Not more than 20 or 25 minutes into the skate, I took a fall on some leaves. I hurt my right knee but knew it wasn't "broke" so I just kept on going. It bled but luckily Bernard Doth came up from behind, alone too, and generously offered me a hankerchief to clean it up. We then set out to catch Charles, which we succeeded in doing only halfway through Lachine. So it was the three of us (from Montreal Élite / Roller Montreal) for the greater part of the event. Bernard skated incredibly well.
The most beautiful part of the race (for me) -- some will think me nuts -- was Senneville. Albeit the section with the roughest pavement, this part of the skate was a trip to the past. Both Charles and I thought the same thing: this is what the entire island of Montreal used to look like, at one time. Rural, with rolling hillls and trees and some very beautiful homes. A close second was the winding Lakeshore Rd with its view of Lac St. Louis at dawn (and the clouds were breaking so there would be no rain!) -- and no cars on the road: heaven.
The most giddy moment came where Pie-IX meets Gouin Blvd. Charles and I were joined by two of his cycling friends. They were supposed to have started the race with us and do the whole loop of the island. unfortunately for them, they arrived 10 minutes late. They thought they would catch up easily enough. It took them 3 hours to reach us!! We knew then we were making good time. Charles and I were itching to break the all-time Défi record of 5 hours and 14 minutes set by fellow club members two years ago. Bernard brought it down a notch and Charles and I went for our goal.
The most forgettable moment lasted a while. THis is the section along Notre Dame. Someone told me after the race that the City has designs to re-pave the entire road. If this is true, then the entire race will be just sublime.
In the end, Charles made it across the finish line at 5 hrs 22, and I a minute later. We then had the pleasure of seeing the smiling faces of the rest of the finishers. Congratulations to everyone! The effort required to do this event is the same across the board. Thanks to everyone who hung around after the race -- it was fantastic to meet so many new skating enthusiasts. (I knew you were all hiding somewhere!!) I trust the Défi will continue to bring out more and more skaters to celebrate the skating side of Montreal. This island and her outskirts offer a host of venues to inliners: an extensive and elaborate bicycle path network, the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, wonderful scenic excursions just a short distance away from one of the bridges leading off the island, and a cluster of crazy skaters trying to make the most of it all summer after summer after ... Skate safe and love every minute of it. I know I do.