Report - Yann Gaudreault



I bought my 4-wheel Salomon X-TR's this summer, and it was just this summer that I started skating. My first outings with the Roller-Montreal gang were at the beginning of September. They helped me improve my technique, which is still far from perfect but you have to start somewhere.

Despite sort of thinking about the Défi thanks to the signs along the bike-paths, I never thought seriously about doing it till the end of September. Just seeing those Roller-Montreal speedsters in their 5-wheel skates -- there was no way I could keep up with them -- I had this idea that if I couldn't skate like them I could never do the Défi. But then, after finding out about all the information and training tips on the Défi website (thanks Rod), I realized that the goal of completing the Défi was actually in my grasp. I finally decided to register after talking it over with François Leclerc, a fine skating companion [NDLR: and member of Roller-Montreal]. In part it's thanks to him that I signed up.

Like everybody I saw the weather during the week before the Défi, "light rain" in the forecast. Bah! Maybe it'll change before Saturday! At worst it will just be "light"... But when it falls for over 8 hours, it isn't very light anymore... Accepting the truth three days before the Défi, I decided I'd better be ready for it. I'd never skated in the rain before, and I must say it turned out pretty well, probably because I was properly dressed. With a green bag over my windbreaker, I started in the middle of the pack and stayed there pretty much for the whole race, finishing 40th of 90. Still dry not long after the start, I started to sweat and feel hot (I swear!). For a minute I thought about taking off my windbreaker, which would have been a big mistake, because the longer things went on, the wetter I got from head to toe -- even my backpack -- and the more I was losing heat. Finally I decided to keep it on, and never did get cold.

Everything went fairly well for me until the 5th section. From that point on, several skaters passed me and I lost a lot of speed. I couldn't really push, I only had enough strength to stay up. Every push was hard to carry out. I wondered if it was my bearings refusing to turn, because almost from the start I'd heard them squeaking, metal on metal, obviously full of water... and no oil at all, squeak! squeak! squeak! Shit... They won't last till the finish... Sometimes I couldn't tell if the noise was from my own skates or from other skaters nearby. In any case I didn't lose them and they let me finish the race.

A little after the start of section 5, I passed a skater wearing number 1. I'm sure many of you must have seen him, he looked extremely tired, he was skating very slowly, completely bent over. I called out "Let's go number one!" before continuing on my way, and finally lost sight of him. [Editor's note: that was Gerald Roehme, who came from Germany to skate the Défi. He dropped out after a bad fall, but later said he had thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the welcome he'd received.]

The famous section 5 is tough psychologically, and I found all out about that. I now understand why people talk about the refinery section on Notre-Dame and its wonderful crack-free sidewalks ;-). Skating it alone, especially -- which is what happened to me -- is practically forcing yourself to drop out, which I thought about a lot, how often I couldn't say. I kept hoping to see the Jacques-Cartier bridge in the distance, and it seemed like forever before I finally did. After that, well, you know you're almost home.

In all honesty, I was hoping to finish under 8 hours, but it took me 39 minutes more. Probably because of my legs and the rain. I'm just looking forward to next year, hoping for better conditions. It's terrific motivation to train!

To conclude, I'd like to say a big thanks to the volunteers, to the gang at Roller-Montreal and to organizer Robert Fortier who makes this event possible. For my first Défi it was a memorable experience, and certainly not my last!

Yann Gaudreault