Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
My first Défi turned out to be the ultimate challenge. Having never participated in an endurance event I never anticipated how significant the mental aspect would be compared to the physical. At 5:50 departure morning with the encouragement of my friend and co-worker Renaud Nicolas, I decided to take the plunge and registered. We had agreed before-hand not to race in the rain but to meet at the Auditorium either way. I was surprised to see Renaud show up and declare he was participating.
Mentally I started on a low point after getting underway 10 minutes late. I had really wanted to leave with the crowd. In the 2 weeks I trained to prepare for the race I often pictured the starting line. Gentlemen start your engines. That deception combined with weather that was fit for a duck race had me wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.
The 1st section proved that my skates could hold up to the rain. I had run into other skaters, removing the feeling of isolation introduced by the solo start. Checkpoint #1 had me at 5 minutes under my target time. I felt great! I would never reach that same mental high again during the race. Having your feet oscillate between wet-cool and wetter-cold as fresh cold water entered your skates at every puddle will do that to you. Then those 10 wheeler induced water waves on Pierrefonds Blvd really set the tone.
I was often worrying whether I was on the right path, lapsing into deep thoughts and forgeting to watch for the Défi indications laid out for us. I never expected to skate for such long stretches without seeing other skaters. I was always happy to see others battling along. How crazy do you have to be to do this? I would have loved to hear all the reactions we provoked as bystanders saw us trudging along, fueled by our incredible desire to finish.
At the 3rd checkpoint I was still on schedule. This was a great feeling. I was still quite strong and the only negatives were the cold feet and hands. The checkpoint monitor informed me that there were other skaters only a few minutes ahead. I did not know this side of the city and was glad that they were there. I was able to catch up to them and followed them for a good distance.
Between the 3rd and 4th checkpoint I tired rapidly. I no longer inquired about the time. My legs stiffened and my morale took a big hit. Following the other skaters allowed me to keep up a good pace. The unfamiliar territory and the disorientation it brought on bothered me. I can't recall many portions of the event in detail, especially during this low period. When we turned south-west after the bridge for highway #40, the wind hit and I seriously wondered if I had the legs to finish. I had dedicated my Défi to 2 close friends stricken with cancer and I had to finish for them. I promised myself I would finish. Survival mode was on and things would pick up only briefly when smooth pavement would appear or the wind took a momentary break. Those slippery sidewalks were a real pain in the @#$. I was starting to get angry at everything that was difficult about the damn Défi!
Then in the distance appeared the Olympic Stadium! I could feel renewed energy in both my legs and the morale picked up instantly. My legs and back were very stiff but I finally knew where I was and I felt I had enough to finish! My energy level increased as I got closer. René-Lévesque Blvd, Berri, the Old Port, my familiar bike path, Wellington St., and finally the finish line. What a rush of emotion. And the reception at the finish line! It was a remarkably emotional moment, stronger than I had ever felt playing baseball or hockey.
This had been a mental challenge like I had never experienced before. A huge thank you to all the volunteers and participants for their encouragement and dedication to the event. Without your cheers, words, smiles, and honks of encouragement it would have been twice as difficult.
What saved my butt:
For next year (can't wait):
The Défi was grueling, I felt it firsthand and it was confirmed in the faces and comments of the participants I encountered along the way. Everyone that left the starting line that day is a champion. I have requested sun, no wind, and mild temperatures for next year. I hope somebody was listening.