Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
The first time I saw a flyer for the Défi de Montréal on the bike-path, I took one. I wondered, what kind of skaters could actually do a thing like that. I found it exciting to think about trying it myself. I went to the website, really helpful. One Wednesday I went to the Old Port hoping to find the Montréal-Elite gang to skate with. A warm welcome, smiles on the faces of all these people who skate together, WOW. They initiated me into pack-skating, how to trust the leader, and off we went at a terrific pace and but almost effortless. After that I kept up my personal training at the gym, focussing on things that would give me endurance for skating. And I skated as much as I could, alone or in a group. I was surprised how I kept getting better. Finally I knew I really could do the Défi. I followed all the advice on the website about preparation, food, equipment etc.
On the morning of my first Défi, talk about how excited I was, ouuff! While I was warming up I kept telling myself, start easy, start easy. I was all set to do the Défi alone, but if I found a group about as strong as me I'd join in.
Then they announced the start in 15 seconds, and to make sure I started slow I took up position at the very end. Then gradually slowly just letting myself glide along nice and easy, without pushing at all, one by one I passed the other skaters. Finally I got up to where Rod was. We'd already done the Grand Tour together, I knew he was stronger than me, so I figured that by following him I'd keep from going too fast. I slipped in behind him and we skated along as steady as a metronome.
Soon Mathieu joined us, we shared the work, then it was Ralph's turn to join us, making 4 skaters: 2 veterans and 2 recruits. We were keeping a fine pace when suddenly I noticed the locks at Ste-Anne and I could hardly believe we were there already. Pull for a while, recover like Rod says, and we're a team with its captain!
What a great feeling at every checkpoint, smiling volunteers welcoming us. We were rolling along at 22 km/hr. Then up in Montréal-Nord, Rod warns us about an S-curve ahead, he's in front and I'm close behind, we slow down, go into the curve and wham! Rod goes down -- his wheels slipped out on the leaves -- I veered to avoid him, rolling off in the grass. We set off again... Then at Rivières-des-Prairies, while I was pulling, there's a right turn to enter the bike-path, I just had time to avoid smashing face-first into a stop-sign set across the path right at the level of my head, geez! And a little while later I nearly took out a few of Ralph's teeth when my skate got stuck in a crack.
When we reached the end of section 4 I telephoned the babysitter (my mother) to coordinate our arrival at Verdun. She was really surprised that I'd gotten that far so fast. No time for lunch, she headed off to Verdun right away with my sons. As for us we set off again and went straight into a headwind, ooohhh! It wasn't funny! Cardio working hard, push and push, I was at the back of pack more often than I should have been and having trouble keeping up. When Rod called my name again I couldn't believe it was my turn already, but I took the lead and pushed even harder, keeping as steady as I could. Then suddenly I noticed the Jacques-Cartier Bridge! What a feeling of relief, the worst is over. Rod said "Just 8 km left!" Ahhh yessss, but I'll tell you, the stopping and starting at all those intersections was really painful. When we were about 100 meters from the finish, Rod reached back for Ralph's hand, Ralph reached back for mine, and we coasted toward the line together, teamwork all the way! From the top of the hill above the finish-line I saw my mother and my sons, I shouted YyyyyyaaaHHhhhOouuuU!
When I finally stopped in the grass, my son Vincent ran and jumped into my arms, the pride I saw in my sons' eyes was worth a 1000 times the effort I'd just done. I hope my example of tenacity and perseverance will give my sons a positive attitude toward life. I'm an ordinary guy who achieves extraordinary things by working with others.
For a first time out, to do the Défi in 6:15 -- thanks Rod, Ralph, and Nicolas. And thanks to the Montréal-Élite team that I trained with! My own success and satisfaction from that day wouldn't be possible without the organiser of the Défi, Robert Fortier, and all his volunteers. Thanks to all of you for enabling us to feel so proud and in such a beautiful way. See you next year!