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Défi 2006 Report Montréal Québec Inline Skate Race

skatey-mark's picture

OK - here it is...  Perhaps my longest writeup ever... 

Le Défi de L'Île de Montréal -- October 21, 2006

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PRE RACE

I wish I could say the trip up to Montreal was uneventful... But for a little while on Friday afternoon, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not. Short story short -- I will never fly US Air again if I have a choice. And if I have no choice, I may not fly them anyway. The plane left the gate at RDU about 30 minutes late, then we sat on the runway for about another 30 minutes. The wait on the runway wasn't necessarily their fault, but who knows what would have happened if we actually had left on time. Perhaps the wait would have been less. BUT, as things go, that's still not too bad. I got into Philly and now had a 2-hour wait until my connecting flight instead of a 3-hour wait. Still plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and leisurely make my way to the gate. So I get to the gate and of course there's no plane. The departure time keeps getting pushed out -- we're waiting on a plane from New York that hasn't even left yet! Well, after about an hour and a half, they make an announcement that the other flight from Philly to Montreal has seats and is scheduled to leave in about 35 minutes. (The key word being "scheduled".) So I get all the way across the airport (this flight leaves from a different terminal, of course.) I get there just as they're making an announcement -- they have a plane, but no crew to fly it! So the geniuses at US Air have two flights scheduled from Philly to Montreal, have a plane for one flight and a crew for the other. I wonder if it ever occurred to them to maybe take the crew & the plane and at least get one of the flights off the ground. Anyway, after another hour of delay, I finally get on the plane, and finally get a little confidence that I might get to Montreal some time before the start of the race. I had my skates and clothes in my carry-on, so at least I didn't have to worry about my bags getting lost. Worst case -- if my checked bag did get lost I wouldn't have my change of clothes for after the race and would have to replace the Gu that was in the checked bag.

I get into Montreal about 2.5 hours after my original arrival time. As we approached Montreal, I could see the HEAVY cloud cover. Sure enough, as we came in for the landing I could see all the roads were shiny from all the water on them. And it was still raining... I had checked the forecast earlier, and it was indeed supposed to rain all day. I just hated to see that it actually *was* raining, since that probably meant things were going to be wet in the morning, even if it stopped raining overnight. Rental car pickup was smooth. Get onto the highway and traffic sucked... Sucked bad. I guess it was from the rain, since I didn't see any accidents or anything on the way to the hotel. Driving time from the airport was probably close to an hour. And what did I see while I was driving? SNOW! Nothing that was accumulating or anything, but heavy, wet snow.... I recalled earlier in the week when I told some coworkers about the upcoming skating race in Montreal and they asked whether it was on inlines or ice. I replied that with the way the weather forecast got worse every day I checked, that it might be both! (Inlines on ince...) It certainly looked like that wasn't totally out of the realm of possibility now -- although I knew that it wasn't *supposed* to get cold enough for there to be a lot of ice. Certainly couldn't rule out maybe thin patches of "black ice" though... By the time I got to the hotel, it was close to 8pm! My original plan was to check out the end of the course like I did last year with Dave, but that was definitely not going to happen! I'd just have to play it by ear on Saturday.

After I dropped off my things at the hotel, I went out to grab a bite to eat. I found a Mexican place called 3 Amigos, which was OK. After the race on Saturday, I saw another place across the street that looked more authentic -- probably would have been a better choice than a chain. (I assume 3 Amigos is a chain... If it isn't, it certainly has that "vibe"...) After that, I stopped in at a grocery store to pick up some muffins and bananas for breakfast. Then, back to the hotel to set my things out for the morning and to set the alarm clock for the unthinkable 4am wakeup.

Went to bed about 11pm and unfortunately did not sleep all that well. Wasn't nerves or anything -- I think there was too much noise. In particular I remember some loud voices in the hall around 2am, so I suspect those same idiots were responsible for the other intermittent wakeups. It's amazing how clueless people are.

So the alarm goes off and I grudgingly get up, get dressed, and get my stuff together. I looked at the muffins and bananas and just could not get excited about eating anything. I grab them and figure I'll eat them after registering. One last check at the weather showed it was going to be COLD. Like 34 Fahrenheit at the start, and a high of 43 for the day. Another surprise -- winds were forecast to be 17mph now. (They were originally saying 10mph, which is still not exactly pleasant.) Wind direction was supposed to stay the same all day, so at least that meant there should be a tailwind at one point. But there would be a headwind and the beginning and end...

I was in the car at 4:30 and made my way over to Verdun Auditorium for the start. Registration was quick and easy -- there weren't many people there yet. Saw Rod there and found out he was volunteering this year (as opposed to skating.) I choked down a muffin and a banana, neither of which were very good. I start putting on my skating clothes -- shorts & pants,1 short-sleeved jersey and 3 long-sleeved jerseys, gloves, bandana, A2A helmet cover, and some nylon boot covers. Skated a bit outside to "warm up" and it was just too damn cold. I go back inside, make some boot adjustments, and skate a little up & down the hall. I choke down another muffin, banana, and half a Snickers Marathon bar. Saw Sean, who was in my pack at the beginning of Defi last year and who I skated a bit with in A2A this year. Soon, Robert (the race organizer) gave everyone the 5-minute warning and we all went out into the cold and assembled near the start line. After some last-minute words of encouragement (I think - it was all in French, although Rod would chime in with an English translation every now and then) Soon, the countdown started, and then WE WERE OFF!

THE RACE

I had lined up in the front so that I wouldn't have to dodge around anyone and I saw Jonathan immediately go on a flyer, leaving everyone behind. Jonathan was one of the four guys I finished with last year, so I knew he was strong. Still, I figured there was no way he was going to be able to hold that lead by himself, in the wind. So I didn't worry about chasing him down. That left me in "no man's land" so I looked behind and, sure enough, there was a pack of 4 guys behind me. A minute late, I let them pass and jumped on the back. That didn't last terribly long, maybe 5 minutes. Then, we had split into two packs of 2 skaters each. I was in front with another guy, and the other two were slowly drifting back. The pace was high, and I was not feeling great. I felt like I was struggling, and my heart rate was over 90%. Of course, I always feel like crap at the beginning of a race, so I try to think about the situation logically and keep telling myself that it'll get better once I've warmed up. There certainly was more than one time in the first part of the race that I thought "screw it - I'm gonna do a touring speed instead".

Speaking of warming up, the temperature actually wasn't bad once we were moving. In fact, I was a bit warm. I unzipped my outermost jersey a bit, and took off the helmet cover. Meanwhile, we still have Jonathan in our sights -- he's maybe 50 yards ahead of us, and very slowly increasing his lead. The guy I'm with picks up the pace a little bit, and I'm really struggling to hold on. But it looked like maybe we were starting to close the gap. Then I guess he decided he was going to close the gap and sped up again. I had a hard decision to make. I figured if we closed the gap, then it would get easier after that. But I was struggling already, and there was certainly no guarantee we'd be able to close the gap. And we're maybe 10 minutes into the race at this point -- still a very long day ahead! So I decide to let this guy go. Now there are two people in front, and the potential for them to team up -- which could make catching them later very difficult. I slow down and let my heart rate recover a bit, knowing there should be two guys coming up behind me soon. It didn't take long, but it was only one guy. Still, two is infinitely better than one, so we form our pack of two and get to work. I recognized the guy from last year (he was another in our pack of 5 last year) but couldn't recall his name. Found out shortly that it was Yann... Anyway, when Yann caught me he suggested we tone down the pace about which was the smartest thing I had heard in a while! :) I'm guessing we were maybe 15 minutes away from the start line at this point... Jonathan and the other skater were long out of sight by now. So Yann & I would be skating for 3rd place, assuming that we didn't catch them (and no one caught us.)

Oh - so I obviously had my heart rate monitor with me, but I forgot my GPS! While I was waiting for my flight out of RDU, I realized I had left it plugged in to recharge. So I'd be cruising without any distance data. I remembered that the checkpoints were roughly 25km apart, so that would be the only gauge I would have. Plus, I knew that when I got to Wellington there was only something like 2.5 km left... So I figured we'd probably take a little over an hour to get to each checkpoint. The beginning of the race is on a bike path, with a few twists & turns that can be a little tricky. But Yann knew the course and we didn't have any trouble.

The condition of the bike path wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. With all the rain and windy Thursday and Friday, I suspected that there would be a lot of sticks and wet leaves, and even a lot of wet pavement. But the pavement was surprisingly dry for the most part, probably from all the wind. We'd have puddles of standing water here & there, but nothing too bad. We'd also get some patches of wet leaves too, but again - nothing too bad. Still, it didn't take long for my bearings to start squeaking... Oh well. Even with the slightly-reduced pace, I still wasn't feeling quite right and was really thinking it was going to be a long damn day. Then the clouds in my brain parted and let a little sunshine through. I suddenly felt *much* better. Looked down at my watch -- 33 minutes. Yeah, that's about right for getting warmed up... I think we were off the bike path and on the road at that point. I think that was about the time I took off my bandana as well, and finished unzipping my outermost jersey as far as it would go. Temperature definitely was not an issue, and I was even considering taking off my gloves, but I figured it would be too cold for that.

The wind was absolutely BRUTAL. Even in the draft it was bad. It gave the sensation of going uphill the whole way. The route for Le Defi runs along the water for much of the race. I'd look over sometimes when I was sure we were on a slight uphill grade, see the water, and it would confirm that we were on flat ground. Really disconcerting. I also wondered if my wheels or bearings just weren't spinning well, but I suspect that it was just the wind all along.

Yann & I cruised past the first checkpoint (25.5 km) at around 1:12, waving at the volunteers as we went by. We both had plenty of water left in our CamelBaks, so no need to stop. I ate my second Gu of the day -- normally the Gu would go down pretty easy but the cold temperature made it "chewier" than normal. A few minutes after I ate the Gu, my stomach started to hurt. NOT GOOD. The rest of the day would unfortunately go something like: stomach pain for 15 minutes after eating the Gu, 15 minutes of no pain, then I'd start to get hungry... Wait maybe 10 more minutes, eat another Gu and repeat the whole cycle. I'm not sure what the deal was. Fortunately I was able to manage it and force down some calories periodically.

We were working pretty well, rotating regularly. Yann seemed to be pretty strong, and seemed like he stayed in front longer than I was. In a larger pack, I wouldn't worry too much about how much time I spend up front... Take a minute or so at the most, then fall back in the draft. If others want to pull for 5 minutes or more, let 'em... :) But when you're in a pack of two, the dynamics are a little different. So I tried taking some longer pulls. I didn't check my watch, instead I'd count pushes. When I got to 120 pushes on my left foot (so 240 total), I'd rotate back. Sometimes I'd stay in front a bit longer, but not much more than that. I don't know how long Yann was pulling, but it certainly seemed like he was staying in front longer than I was. Of course, a lot of time, I wasn't getting much rest in the draft either, so it might have just seemed longer because I was working... Hard to say...

Anyway, we're cruising along and Yann tells me "the hill" is coming up. We don't kill ourselves going up the hill, but we don't take it easy either. By the time we crested the hill, we're both breathing heavily. We keep going and not too long after that, we get to the gatorback section. I remember the gatorback being worse and longer last year. There were places (sometimes only on one lane, or even a half a lane) that seemed to be recently paved. So I'm wondering if there had been some work done on that section in the last year. So we got through it without much trouble, and more easily than I would have thought. Then, more work as we made our way to the next checkpoint.

We still had plenty of water, so we didn't stop at checkpoint 2 either. (23.5 km, 1:04) As we went by, Yann tried to ask how far the other skaters were ahead of us - but either they didn't hear him, or he couldn't hear the reply. So we skated on, not knowing how far behind the leaders we were. I figured we could check again at the next checkpoint, where we'd probably need to stop for water anyway.

There were a few memorable points along the way that I don't recall exactly where they happened. The first instance, we were skating along and we saw the road was blocked up ahead. There was a detour sign for traffic, but it looked like it was passable on skates, so we kept going straight. (There was no indication that the Defi course turned with the detour.) Well, not far after the barricade, there was TONS of gravel on the asphalt. Still not a huge deal, but pebbles are shooting in all directions as we make our way through it. Then suddenly I hit a rock the wrong way, or perhaps got one temporarily lodged in a wheel, and went down. I landed on my palm sliders and kept on the toe wheels of my skates, so there was pretty much no damage. Yann heard me go down and slowed down while I quickly got back up. We made our way through the rest of the gravel field a little slower after that, and got back onto better pavement without further incident.

There were several incidents on bike paths where we'd be going along and hit some wet leaves, which basically allowed for ZERO traction. The really interesting ones were uphill where we'd have to take little baby pushes to get up. And the REALLY interesting ones were downhills, especially downhills with turns. We managed to make it through all those without problems, although there were definitely some times that the heart rate went up, and not from exertion... :) There was one time, though, that we had a bit of speed going on dry pavement then came upon a turn with a thick cover of wet leaves on it. Yann made it around OK, but I hit it and knew I wasn't going to make it... AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! I slid closer and closer to the outside of the turn, which was hard to see since it was all just a big pile of leaves. Fortunately I was somewhat prepared... As my first skate hit the dirt, I started running so that I'd stay upright. I grabbed a tree branch to help maintain my balance and eventually came to a stop. Nothing to do in that situation (or any of the other slick leaf spots) but laugh and embrace it. I got back on the trail and caught up to Yann, who probably thought I was crazy... :)

Another one... We were skating along on a relatively flat road. Suddenly, my right skate caught on something, probably a crack in the road. My heart rate spiked as I thought for sure I was going to crash. I landed hard on my left skate in a full-on lunge/hawk with my left skate trailing way behind on its toe wheel. In the period of about a second, my thoughts went from "holy crap - I'm gonna crash!" to "holy crap - I didn't crash!" to "holy crap - I bet that looked really cool!" So now I'm rolling down the street in the lunge, my right knee barely above the ground. I finally compose myself, get fully upright, and catch up to Yann - again...

Over the past hour or so, I become more & more aware that my form is really going downhill, particularly on my right skate. It's a little loose, so it's hard for me to set it down vertically without really thinking about it. Weird, because I was pretty careful before the race started to get everything adjusted to what I thought was going to be right. But the boot loosened up a bit, which is pretty common and another good reason to warm up good before the race so that you can re-adjust the tension of the laces/buckles/velcro/whatever...

We keep making our way along and soon Yann says that checkpoint 3 is coming up. We both agree to stop for a few minutes. We get there, 1:19 from the previous checkpoint and another 28.8 km under our wheels. A volunteer takes our numbers down and I head over to the table where the water is. One of the volunteers helps me refill my CamelBak, which was down to about 25%. I refill it to about 80%, figuring that I was well over halfway so didn't need a full pack to make it to the finish. A quick nature break followed, then I sat down and finally got to adjust my right boot. Before long, we were both ready to get back on the road. Yann asks how far the other skaters are ahead of us and we finally find out... Jonathan is 35 minutes ahead (!!!) and there's no sign of the other skater that tried to catch him earlier in the race. So it looks like we're skating for 2nd & 3rd places now. We can't believe Jonathan is so far ahead, especially since he's skating the whole thing solo, but someone mentioned that "he looked tired" so we think maybe we can close the gap a little bit. Less than 5 minutes after we got to the checkpoint, we bid farewell to the volunteers and got going.

More skating... Still chugging along... I don't recall anything too noteworthy happening between checkpoints 4 & 5. Before I knew it, I actually recognized we were close to the last checkpoint. Yann suggested we stop for a minute and I had absolutely no objection! 52 more minutes and 19 km done... We again asked how far ahead Jonathan was and I expected that we would have closed the gap a bit. Turns out, Jonathan was still 35 minutes ahead of us! "Looking tired" indeed! So short of Jonathan completely bonking, there was no way to catch him before the finish now. In fact, at the pace he was going, I thought there was a chance he might break the course record of 5:06. Of course, I didn't know the exact mileage we had done, or how much was left. I knew based on the time between the checkpoints that the section we just completed must have been short, which it was. But I wasn't sure how much was left -- turns out the longest stretch is at the end, so Jonathan would really have to be hauling butt to break the record... As for us, we were at just under 4 1/2 hours when we left after our short break (only about 2 minutes). Thinking there was around 25km left, I figured we'd still come in under 6 hours.

Up until now, I didn't have much trouble following the course. Maybe it was fatigue, or maybe the course was just a little trickier to follow. But Yann definitely kept me from wandering off course several times before the finish. There was one stretch that he took a longer-than-normal pull, at least it seemed longer... I figured he got tired of having to correct me... :) In one spot, we were on a bike path that came to a road. We turned left onto the road, then I saw the turn to the right to get back on the bike path, but it was too late. Still I thought I could make the turn and perhaps in a less-exhausted state I could have. Instead, I hit the dirt on the outside of the turn. I instinctively started running and grabbed the fence to keep my balance. I finally was able to stop and get back on the path. Yann was coasting, waiting for me to catch up as usual... :) We're still in the suburbs at this point... We keep going along the bike path and soon we're on the outskirts of downtown. I remember that there were definitely some tricky spots getting through the city, so tried to pay close attention. Our pace was a bit slower now... I know I was really tired and ready to be done. Still we kept going and I definitely was recognizing parts of the course, although I still had no idea how much was really left.

There's a tricky downhill in the city that has a couple traffic lights. The brake definitely helped there. Soon after that, we were in the old port section of Montreal, which I knew was close... The route turned right, and I made the turn to stay on the road. Yann crossed the street and got onto a bike path. I remember skating on the path before (which turns into these smooth tiles), although I think we skated on the road last year. Still, I figured Yann knew best, so I kept my eyes open for a place to cross (I was still skating, as was Yann) so that I could follow him. I finally cross and go to get on the path, Yann gets off the path and goes for the tiles. Too late before I saw why -- the path turned to dirt! Well, I had enough time to prepare and scissored my skates. The dirt was hard enough that I kept rolling and soft enough that I stopped fairly quickly. Yann again slowed down for me as I got back onto the right path. We kept going and several minutes later I saw some dirt/gravel on the path. I thought I was ready for it, but ended up falling. Normally it shouldn't have been a big deal, but agility was a bit lacking in my tired state. I landed on my right forearm and hip. Fortunately my pants didn't tear, but my jersey wasn't as lucky. Nice hole in the elbow now. Hip is definitely bruised. Yann stops and I get back up. He asks if I'm OK and I tell him I am, and we keep going...

Eventually, we make the turn onto Wellington which I know is close to the end... Almost there!!! I think it was about that time that Yann asked if I wanted to do a tie at the finish. It sounded the best idea I had heard all day... :) Up until that point, I had no idea what I was going to do at the finish. Most of the time I was feeling rough and thought "no way am I sprinting... I just don't see the point." Sometimes I would actually be feeling OK though and think that I had trained all year, and that I shouldn't give up and I owed it to myself to do my best. This went back & forth most of the day. Although after Yann had been so kind as to not leave me after falling and making wrong turns all day, I felt that he deserved 2nd place more than I did. So with us agreeing to a tie, I no longer had to worry about what to do. Instead we'd finish the race showing the same teamwork we had shown all day... Our time got closer and closer to 6 hours, and it was soon apparent we wouldn't have a sub-6-hour finish either. So there wasn't a lot of incentive to kill ourselves at the end. We didn't really slow down, but we certainly didn't speed up as we got closer and closer to the end.

Soon, the Canadian Tire store came into view and I knew we were very, very close. We make the turn and then get onto the bike path that takes us to the finish. Last year, there were several HUGE puddles on the path, and I figured that those same puddles would be there this year. Sure enough, we come around a turn and the first puddle is there. Since we're not sprinting, we slow down and roll very slowly and conservatively through the water. Our feet had been dry all day until now. The first puddle wasn't too deep, so only a little water got into our boots. Then two more puddles - about the same. Feet are a little more wet now. Then *another* puddle. This one was HUGE. I only remember three puddles from last year, but I think this last one was the one that Jonathan & I fell in. It was really wide, deep, and COLD! We roll through it and the water comes up over my boots. My feet get totally soaked with icy cold water! But again, we went slow to avoid any problems like last year. We get back up to speed and soon Verdun Auditorium is in sight, then we seen the finish line! About 30 yards from the finish, we grab hands and hold them triumphantly above our heads as we roll downhill to the finis is wrapped in a b I look at my watch and it says 6 hours, 8 minutes. Yann & I congratulate each other as we roll back up to the finish line and chat with the volunteers and Jonathan.

POST RACE

I hung around the finish line a bit, and found out Jonathan's amazing finishing time of 5:14 -- solo. That has to be some kind of record. It also means that, unlike Yann & I, he didn't let up on the final section of the course. Jonathan kept on going and increased his lead from 35 to 54 minutes! Amazing! I can't remember how long it was before we saw the next skaters come in but it was only maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Three guys came rolling in, all holding hands for a tie. Definitely a day for teamwork! We cheer them as they finish and congratulate them when they stop. By this time, I'm shivering quite a bit so I go inside to change into street clothes. As I'm skating to the car, I can't believe how cold it is! Now that I'm not skating, I was *really* feeling the temperature! I change clothes, dump my skating clothes in the car, and grab a muffin to eat as I walk over to the finish. I see some more skaters come in, including Sean. I chitchat with everyone for a while and notice that Robert (the race organizer) isn't around. He was there when we finished, but not now. I really wanted to tell him thank-you for putting on the race and that I enjoyed it as usual. I waited a bit longer, but started shivering again so thought it was best to get out of the cold. I said goodbye to everyone and made my way back to the hotel.

I was pretty hungry and my original plan was to get lunch as soon as possible. But then I figured I was at the hotel, so I might as well shower first -- a nice hot shower would do well to get my core temperature back to normal too... :) Then I realized I should get my bearings out and into some baby oil so they don't rust. Finally, I felt like I had the minimal amount of maintenance done so I could leave. I went downstairs and asked a guy a the reception counter if there was any place close by that he'd recommend that had smoked meat. Smoked meat is kind-of a "Montreal thing". I'm not exactly sure which animal it comes from, but it's pretty tasty and I figure since I'm in Montreal, I should do the "Montreal thing." Anyway, he mentions a place, Moe's, that's a 15-minute walk and also Schwart's, which is a 30-minute walk. I remember Dave's friend mentioning Schwartz's last year so I figure I'll head in that direction. Moe's is on the way, so I figure I'll stop by there and check it out too. If it looked good, then I'd hit Schwart's some other time. Anyway, I get to where Moe's should be and don't see it, so I keep going. After maybe 40-45 minutes of walking (mostly an uphill grade since it was in the direction of Mt Royal) I get to Schwartz's. It's hard to miss because there are about 25 people in line outside of it! The guy at the hotel said there was only a few tables inside, so I figure it's going to be a long wait. Still, I don't have anything else to do, so why not? Unfortunately, by this time, I'm STARVING! As I'm standing in line, I see there is a restaurant right beside me with its menu in the window. I look it over and see another French-Canadian delicasy... poutine... Now poutine is great if you don't mind the inevitable heart attack you'll get from eating it -- french fries, cheese, and gravy. :) Definitely sounds like something that would have been invented in America given enough time, but they beat us to it. This restaurant also had the bonus of having beer, so that clinched the deal. Schwartz's would have to wait - I would be having poutine and beer for lunch!

After that, I walked back in the direction of the hotel. I had passed a Roots store on the way, so I figured I'd check that out. I also passed a Nickels Diner, which is where I got my smoked meat fix last year. So I hit Roots first, but didn't find anything I wanted. Then over to Nickels. If you're ever starving and need food fast, just go into Nickels and order the smoked meat sandwich. (Just the sandwich, not the platter.) I swear I had the sandwich in about a minute. After that, I decided to pay visit to Ben & Jerry's, which was also nearby. They have Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream this time of year, which is AMAZING. Unfortunately, I got there and they were sold out of Pumpkin Cheesecake, so I left empty handed. I thought maybe I'd see a dessert place on the way back to the hotel, but nothing really jumped out at me.

I finally got back to my room and got reacquainted with two very good friends: TV and bed... I watched several hours of TV before ordering some food to be delivered (buffalo wings, which turned out to not be very good). Then I got my stuff all packed up and ready for the morning. I went to bed early because I was exhausted and also had to get up at 4am again to catch my 6:30 flight. Everything in the morning went fairly smoothly. Got up, checked out, returned the rental car, made my way through the airport, and waited for my flight. As I went through customs, the agent asked me what I had been here for and I said "a race".

him: "What kind of race?" me: "Skating, 128km around the city."
him: "That can't be ice..." me: "Nope - inline."
him: "Ah - how'd you do?" me: "Second place."
him: "Did a Canadian win it?" me: "Yup."
him: "Well, they're a bunch of cheaters..."

I just laughed politely, but certainly knew the truth! I think he was just making small talk anyway. I find it's generally best to say as little as possible anyway and just try to get through the checkpoint before they decide they need to do a "random search" or additional questioning or something. So he lets me go on my way and I get to the gate. I make a point of looking out the window to see if the plane is there, and it is. I have about an hour before the flight is scheduled to leave, so I just chill out. Soon, the crew shows up, so at least I don't have to worry about that! The flight actually leaves on time, and arrives on time in Philly. I have a short layover this time, maybe 30 minutes before boarding starts. I grab a quick snack while I wait. The flight from Philly actually leaves on time also! I'm starting to think maybe I was a little too harsh in my opinion of them on the flight up... Maybe they're not so bad after all. We get into RDU on time... Looking good. I go down to baggage claim and wait for my bags. I'm sure you see where this is leading by now... After waiting and waiting, it was obvious my bags were not there. Now, there was at least an hour in Philly between the flights, so there's no excuse for my bags to not make the connection. But the idiots at US Air found a way to screw it up of course. Conclusion: US Air is the worst airline -- EVER. Screw you US Air -- I'll never fly your crappy airline again!

It's Monday now -- I took the day off work since I knew I'd need some recovery time. Slept in until 11am and have just been chilling on the couch all day... :) Here's the data from the skate. The first 5 columns are the per-section data. The next 3 are cumulative times, distances, and averages excluding breaks. The last 2 columns are cumulative data including breaks. Before looking at this just now, I didn't realize how consistent our pace was for the first 4 sections, especially sections 2-4. Then section 5 was obviously the slowest one. We probably had the worst headwinds on sections 1 & 5, so it wasn't a huge surprise that those were the slowest.

1   25.5 km    1:12:12    21.19 kph    164 bpm
2   23.5 km    1:04:05    22.00 kph    160 bpm   |   49.0 km    2:16:17 21.57 kph
3   28.8 km    1:18:54    21.90 kph    162 bpm   |   77.8 km    3:35:11 21.69 kph
break 0:4:42
4   19.0 km    0:51:28    22.15 kph    165 bpm   |   96.8 km    4:26:39 21.78 kph   |   4:31:21    21.40 kph
break 0:2:19
5   29.5 km    1:34:57    18.64 kph    162 bpm   |  126.3 km    6:02:36 20.90 kph   |   6:08:37    20.56 kph

SUMMARY

Le Defi is a great event, and I can't thank Robert and the volunteers enough for putting it on every year. It's name (which translates to "The Montreal Island Challenge") is certainly appropriate. While it's generally flat, the urban setting has its own challenges and puts it on par with A2A in difficulty I think. You certainly have to be more aware of the surface you're skating on, and there are more twists & turns so you have to be watching for them. And you never know when an arrow might have a pile of leaves on top of it, so knowing the course or staying with someone that knows the course is a definite bonus! The event is always in late October, so it's likely to be cold... I *hate* skating in the cold, but found that it wasn't too bad this time. Dressing appropriately is definitely critical to avoid having a bad time. The course is very scenic, so even if you're not into racing, it would be a great event to do as a "tour". Anyone looking for an urban equivalent to A2A should definitely consider doing it. I'll likely be there again next year to see if maybe I can keep up with Jonathan... :)

- SM -

Comments

sommemi's picture

Road hazards...

Wow - great story! I read about Le Defi last year and wanted to go, but ... well... all the best intentions you know.

I understand how it is with the road hazards. I used to be totally fearless, until 'this one day, when I was screaming down this hill at 35 mph' and it had rained HARD the day before and there was a HUGE washout from the hill above and the whole bottom of the hill was covered in sand. Yeah - I couldn't do anything to prepare for that... I thought I could, but I just couldn't. It was much deeper than I thought it was and about 2 feet into it my skates just STOPPED. My body didn't though...

I feel your plight. GREAT JOB! I'm really impressed!

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