Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
Back on August 5th while skating along the Lachine Canal, a friend and I came upon the publicity for the Défi. He picked up a flyer, and so did I. He said right away that he wanted to do it, but I was kind of negative at first, because I thought it was just for élite skaters. It wasn't until I went to the website that I realized that maybe I could do it too. A couple of days later I started thinking about it seriously, and by the end of the week, I knew I could do it. So by the 19th of August I started training seriously. With the wind especially my training wasn't always so easy; I took a more bent-over position but it made my back hurt, which sapped my energy. At least my legs never bothered me. A friend told me that speedskaters skate even more bent-over than I was doing, so I tried it and found that it worked, to the point where the wind didn't bother me anymore. I was often passing cyclists and other skaters, but one day, for the first time I was passed by a speedskater, and I decided to take the opportunity to examine how he was skating. I tried using his technique and found that I went even faster. I began to think I had a hope of finishing the Défi in under 8 hours, and that became my goal.
The night before the Défi my friend Stéphan happened to call me, and I told him I was going to do the Défi next day. He knew a little about it and really wanted to come along. Next day we arrived at 5h15 to register, but at 5h28 Stéphan realized that he didn't have his skates. We went to get them in St-Hubert (no excuses with me, Stéphan, you're gonna do this!), and by the time we got back it was 5h55. We put on our skates and set off about 5 minutes late, not so bad.
So my Défi has just started, it's 6h05, and really quickly we start passing the skaters at the end. A few minutes later though, Stéphan started to fall behind. I asked him if everything was okay, he said yes and told me to keep going at my own pace and he'd catch up. I decided to let him catch up while I kept on passing and passing, but after a while he was even further behind, so I decided to stop and wait for him, and a few skaters caught up and passed me. Stéphan told me he wanted to go at his own pace in order to finish the distance (his goal), and told me once again to go at my own speed and not wait for him. Still not quite convinced about leaving him alone, I went slower for a while, until I heard Stéphan socializing, and that's when I decided, he's not alone anymore, I'm going to skate my own skate. I noticed that I was passing a lot of people, that was really motivating.
I finished the first section at 7h22 (1:17), nicely within my time, so I took a few minutes to change lenses, fill my water bottle and get rid of garbage. I took my time and checked to see if Stéphan was coming, but he was nowhere in sight so off I went again. Some of the people I'd passed before went by me while I was stopped, but I caught them again as soon as I got going. At one point, after I passed this one guy, he caught up to me and said I was skating well. I said thanks, and since it was time for me to get out a power bar and have a snack, I skated along with him for a while; very nice guy, Pascal. Then I went ahead again at my own pace. I kept passing more skaters, and there was one that I talked with for a while (Louis), and eventually Pascal joined us. To the point where the social aspect was taking over from the skating. We kept on as a threesome until the second checkpoint, at 8h30. I filled my water bottle, tightened my skates, and since Pascal was changing his socks I set off again with Louis. I still kept passing other skaters. After a while I decided to pick up the pace to my own speed again, and pulled away from Louis. I skated alone for a while, and when I got to checkpoint 3 at 10h10 it seemed to me that the last 29 km had been easier than I'd expected. I continued alone, but after a while I had to take a 5-minute stop to get provisions, kleenex and so forth. Eventually I saw 2 skaters up ahead and when I finally caught up to them I realized it was Louis with another guy. We skated together again for a while, passed more skaters, again I changed lenses -- the sun was so great. I stayed with Louis and we got to checkpoint 4 by around 11h10. I began to think I could do the Défi in 7:00, and Louis said that the way I was going I could do it. I think he wanted to do that too, but the winds were pretty tough from that point on. I helped Louis get some energy back by giving him a power bar, and we skated on together for about half of the final section, but I had to wait for him a lot and finally he fell back, so I decided to continue once again at my own pace. Since I knew the last part of the course I found it really motivating to know that there was less and less to go before the finish. Jacques-Cartier Bridge, Berri Street, the Old Port, the start of the Lachine Canal, Wellington Street, and the final section back on the bike-path. At last, the Auditorium came in sight, I still had lots of energy and the welcome at the end was heartwarming. My time -- 6:46. Wow, I'm proud of my result, and above all I achieved success in my greatest personal challenge. I know that next year with new skates, 5-wheel ones this time, I should easily be able to improve my time!
Thanks to Kenny Leclerc for his support during my training and much else besides. Thanks to François Quirion for teaching me about speedskating. Thanks to Martine Charbonneau for her advice about food and for sharing her experience with me. Thanks to Roger Dionne for the massage the day before. Thanks to all of you for helping me achieve my Défi with a time so much better than I'd hoped for. I know I'm forgetting someone, thanks to Louis and Pascal for skating with me, and to the volunteers along the route. Oh yes, thanks to my friend Stéphan, who joined me at the start and with whom now I can share all the experiences we had along this beautiful Défi. He did it in 8:16, BRAVO!
See you next year...