Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
OK I'll start by congratulating the organisers, without whom we never would have had such a fabulous day. Thanks Robert, thanks to your wife and to your son, and thanks to all the volunteers and friends... What a beautiful race, which once again enabled us to outdo ourselves. So let's go back to October 20 2001, 5h55, as usual I'm all nerved up before a long-distance race, it's kind of a routine I've gotten used to. Like not sleeping at all the night before, thinking about the race-plan instead of getting to sleep.
5h59, I'm all set, I get up front, 3, 2, 1, go, we take off into total darkness. Slowly the long train of skaters takes shape behind us, and I tell Allison, "Look at the train, it's super long." I was pleased with the response Robert Fortier got this year, around 170 skaters took the start. In the lead group, there were a few guys with ski-poles, most of the skaters were veterans of the Défi. At the first little uphill in Lasalle, I didn't ease up, I kept a steady speed, only to discover that there wasn't anybody with me. I kept on like that until Pointe-Claire, where Allison Turner and Bernard Doth finally caught up. I was relieved to see them, that would help me rest a little and recover. So now the work was divided among three, and the speed didn't go down so much. Allison and Bernard are two of the skaters who participated in the 100 km marathon at New York, as well as Athens-to-Atlanta, the 140 km ultramarathon in Georgia; Rod Willmot and myself were also in the A2A group. So we were among friends, we all shared the same passion.
Up to the end of the island, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, it was easy, Robert Fortier came up in his car to film us a little, then up Senneville hill, ouf!, merde!, shit! but nothing compared to the hills of Georgia ("86 miles of inline skating fun and hills"), piece of cake!, and then like Rod says on the site: our version of the gatorback at A2A, that "foot massage" asphalt in Senneville. We could do without that, but what do you want, maybe their taxes are too low, but they aren't poor around there. We continued on till the checkpoint at Pierrefonds Blvd, where we had a really laugh... I was in front, Bernard maybe 3 meters behind, and Allison, who had missed the turn off of Gouin, was far behind. Suddenly this dog belonging to someone who had just stepped out of his house started chasing Bernard, a little dog who just wanted to stretch his legs, but we were going at around 26-27km/h, Bernard took a kick at him with his skate and the dog backed off, but then it was Allison's turn, hmmmmm another skater said the dog to himself, he didn't want to bite, just see if he could go faster than us, I really laughed because the dog's owner was over 500 meters behind. "How long's he going to follow us?" asked Allison. I answered "Look at him he's all tuckered out, heh-heh," what heart, what a sprinter... Finally we passed under the Pie IX bridge, I looked at my watch: 9h00, that's 3 hours since we left and I still haven't seen my friend Claude Bolduc who was supposed to follow me on his bike for fun. "Ah the chicken didn't show up" I tell the others, then I look behind and there he is with another guy. He told me they started late, at 6h15. Hey guys, should have started on time, they had to pass everybody to catch up to us, but a little while later they dropped out because they hadn't eaten anything before leaving!!!! 80km at 30 km/h with nothing in your stomach, geez guys. At Gouin and Langelier, Bernard wasn't with us anymore, Allison and I had to concentrate on the road and our technique (because technique is what saves you when you're tired). Next came the top part of the island, smooth soft asphalt on Gouin, perfect for picking up speed and making up for the time we lost on the lousy parts. Then the struggle of the East, the return, the headwind, the end of the loop, the refineries, that shitty cycle path, at last the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in sight, we're nearly there, I say "Arighhhht Allison there's just the Old Port, then the Canal and Wellington," but I'd forgotten, at Pointe-aux-Trembles I'd told Allison "we may have a chance to beat the course record", but when we hit that headwind on Notre-Dame I put that out of my mind (to set a new record we would have needed 2 more skaters and 60-second relays). So I said "Let's go for 5:30." 11h00 I look at my watch and we're passing the Radio-Canada building on René-Lévèsque, then the Old Port, the Canal, go right, then Wellington, aaaaaahhh beautiful asphalt, big sun, perfect way to finish, I speed up, still got legs, technique's super, there's a cyclist in front of me, I pass him, it pisses him off and he catches me, "Nice bike" I tell him, but he doesn't answer, I speed up some more, then it's time to turn to go up into the park, Allison's not far back, I see her, I'm on the cycle path and I can see the Auditorium, I sprint with everything I've got and finally I see Mrs Fortier and a camera-man from Radio-Canada who records my finish and then Allison's 30 seconds later. I look at my watch and stop the chrono at 5 hours, 22 minutes, I'm really happy with my time.
To conclude, looking back, I have to say that without a doubt the Défi is going to become a classic among long-distance races, along with New York and Athens-to-Atlanta. Also that the Défi is rightly named, I find it tougher than Athens-to-Atlanta, now it's up to you to compare for yourself. Skate free or die!