Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
What an experience the Défi this year! According to the meteorological forecasts we would have a little bit of rain in the afternoon; in the morning we would even get some sunshine! What a joke! The rain started a little after 5 am and didn't stop for at least two hours!
Anyway, minutes before 6 am I was ready, I had my number 20 glued to my pants and I went to the start line with all the other participants. The highest number I saw was 138, so I think this year we had a lot less people taking part in this craziness of ours. I guess the rain was in good part responsible for the low number of participants...
Before the start we listened to some words of advice (about how dangerous the wet pavement was, etc.), did the traditional countdown and off we went into the dark and cold of the night.
Last year I finished the Défi in 11h23 so for this year my goal was to complete the event in less than eleven hours. I mean, that was my goal, because ten minutes into the race I had already changed my mind: now I just wanted to get to the end in one piece. If you were not there you won't believe how treacherous the wet pavement was. Skating in the dark, cold, wet and windy Section 1 took a heavy toll on me (and I imagine most everyone else).
I only fell once this year and it was a very minor thing. Just before mid-section of Section 1 there were two volunteers, they told us that the wooden bridge ahead was very slippery. So, I went very slow, took a lot of care, got onto the bridge and... Bang! I fell anyway! :-) But nothing other than my pride was hurt, so I just stood up and kept going. On the next bridge I didn't even think twice, I just grabbed the guardrail and pulled myself by hand to the other side... Editor's Note: The trick is to put on a real burst of speed *before* entering the bridge, so you can roll straight across without pushing.
My wife was once again with me this year, she was in our car and every fifteen or twenty kilometers we met, she gave me water and food, carried some of my things, it was a great help.
Last year I got to Pie-IX bridge four minutes before the limit (noon), this year my intention was to be there earlier than that but all the effort done in Section 1 made me arrive even later: it was already 12h13 when I finally reached the checkpoint under the bridge.
I continued for two kilometers more and met my wife for lunch. My daughter was also there. This year we had agreed that my wife would do the first three sections with me, and my daughter would do the other two on bike.
So, we had lunch, said our good-byes and off we went through Section 4. By now the pain in my feet was already slowing me down. It wasn't as bad as one year ago, but it was bad enough to make me go slower than I wanted. I also had to stop many times to rest and drink water.
Anyway, I got to the end of Section 4 ten minutes before the 2 pm limit and by now I knew that I would be able to finish. I sat down, accepted the water offered by the volunteers and rested for a few minutes.
Right before 2 pm we started the last phase of the Défi. It's the longest and usually the hardest. The wind blowing against you makes it very difficult to go forward and on top of that, all the pain and effort of 100 km start to feel very heavy on you.
I live near the Olympic Stadium, so when we got there my daughter and I said good-bye, she went home and I continued alone. This last part of the way I know very well, I take this bike path every day to go to work during the summer months.
Less than two minutes after leaving her I almost had a serious accident. The lights on Pie-IX are multi-phasic, so I patiently waited for the green light and then went on. At the same time someone in a car coming from Notre-Dame wanted to turn onto Pie-IX! He was totally wrong, the lights were red for him, but he came in anyway. Fortunately he saw me, had the time to react and turn away from me. Phew!
It was a little before 5h30 pm when I got to Wellington Street. I stopped at a bus shelter and my wife and kids appeared in our car, just like that! They gave me water and told me they would wait for me at the Auditorium.
After this final rest, I took to the street and did those last three kilometers. Only one thought was in my mind: to get to the finish line. Nothing else mattered now, just to get to the Auditorium! I finally arrived there at 5h41 pm, with a total time of 11h41. Mr. Fortier, his wife and another gentleman whose name escapes me now were there with my wife and kids to greet me. What a relief to get to the end unharmed after such a dangerous day!
We chatted a little while, the organizers gave us some fruit and we
said good-bye. On the way back, on Wellington Street, we saw skaters 82
and 83 (who I had met a few times on the way) and 62. They were going to
the Auditorium, but it was already past 6 pm, so they were too late for
a medal. But they kept going anyway, it was their Défi and they wanted
to finish it. Congratulations to them for having done that!
Once again I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Fortier, his wife and all the volunteers who stayed in the rain, gave us water and guidance and cheered us on. What a wonderful group of people you all are!
Many thanks also go to my wife and my daughter who accompanied me and without whom I could never even think of undertaking such an event.
Valdir Jorge, #20