Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Actif Epica...oh what a day it was

It all started with a huge headache and a fit full night sleep before race morning.  For some reason I felt more stressed than I have for any other race I've run.  Nonetheless I gathered up all my stuff and headed to the bus pickup at the Forks for the drive to St. Malo with Bob and Scott.  Thank you Bob for the ride.  It was just under a 75 minute bus ride to St. Malo, Manitoba where the runners would start at 7am and the bikers at 8am. 
We had little more than 20 minutes to get our witts about us before the 3, 2, 1 go went.  The morning was cool and crisp with a slight south wind around -23.  The day was to gradually get warmer and even into the evening.  Although no one said anything about 40-50 gusting north winds.

I started off near the front of the small pack of runners at an easy pace...almost to easy as it felt abit uncomfortable to be running that slow.  Out of town we went onto the frozen river then onto gravel roads and soft punchy trails and fields.  I often thought to myself that I was glad that I wasn't riding a bike as I really had no idea how to ride a bike on those conditions.

It was more or less Craig, myself,  Helen Lavin and Chris Scotch running in a small pack to the first aid station 26km away.  Helen and Chris were from California and came to the race as Chris was going after the coveted "Order of The Hrimthurs" award.

"From the northern land of cold, ice and darkness come Hrimthurs (Old Norse “rime thurs”); a tribe of powerful Frost Giants. Strength, cunning and resilience are the way of the mighty Hrimthurs.  Among us today, the spirit of the Frost Giants lives on. Midwestern winter ultra racers show perseverance and power of a legendary scale. On those who complete the Tuscobia Winter Ultra Marathon (150), Arrowhead Ultra (135) and Actif Epica in one season, we will confer The Order of the Hrimthurs.  The names in the Order will pass into the realm of legends, a process acknowledged with a special ceremony and award. Membership in this small but powerful tribe is a lifetime honour bestowed on incredibly few."

From aid station 1 in St. Pierre-Jolys to aid station 2 in Otterburne the 11 kms and the time flew by.  I was feeling good but told myself that I had to slow down just abit so that I would have enough for the end.  At this point I had let Craig, Helen and Chris go and just run my own race.  Craig and Helen were ahead and Chris behind.  The next aid station and check point would be in Niverville 26km away.  This would also be more or less the half point of the race. 

I was on my own for this 26k but I made sure that I always had Helen in my sight.  For motivation to run but more so so that I wouldn't get lost as the markings for the course were limited and I didn't have a GPS with me.  This 26km of trail we encountered gust of wind up to 50km on the bald prairie trails and kms of soft punchy snow that seemed to be endless.  The wind was nasty but to be honest that's Manitoba for you and it didn't surprise me abit and I was pretty prepared for it.  I was able to keep Helen in my sight all the way to Niverville and when I finally got to the Arena and check point she was already there.  I changed my wool shirt and jacket grabbed some food and wanted to be ready to roll when she left the building.  I knew that the 4th Checkpoint and aid station at St. Adolphe was only 12km away and that we should be able to get there before 5pm.  We left together but within the first mile I had to let Helen go as I wasn't feeling 100% and knew that if I pushed it at this point I might be sucking at the end and I wanted to finish strong.  Helen ran a consistent pace for the 12km but I always had her in sight and played a game with myself that if I ran 50 steps I could walk 20 fast ones and so on and so on.  This strategy got me running and I was actually able to catch up to Helen who had been only running.  We entered the aid station together in St. Adolphe spent about 15 minutes there getting food and water and such and then we were off.

It was now 75k into the race and darkness would be in about an hour.  The next checkpoint and aid station was at the University of Manitoba which was 30km away.  Some point in this section Chris finally caught back up to us and the 3 of us ran together until we hit the U of M.  We encountered some dark and nasty conditions at the flood way and for 3.7 km down Seniuk Road until we crossed the Perimeter Hwy.  Although the tail in Maple Grove Park was no hell either and if it wouldn't have been for the bikers ahead of us breaking trail it would have been so much worse so thank you bikers!

Finally after the long stretch of running down Kilkenny Dr. we rounded Kings Cres., then Freedman Cres. and finally onto Dysart Road and the Wallace Building.  Finally so close to the finish...only 8.5 more miles to go.

The rest of the race to the river trail went by pretty fast, all 3 of us were now ready to be done so finally seeing the River Trail and then the Forks was a more than welcomed sight.

A special thank you to Helen who kept be motivated to run when I felt like I need to stop and who pushed me further than I would have pushed myself had I been running alone and to Chris you are one mean machine.  The 3 of us crossed the finish line together for 2nd place overall in a time of 17:47 and Helen and I tied for 1st woman. 

The race organization and volunteers were outstanding and a very special thank you for putting on such a great race so close to home.  I look forward to next year.


  1. Congrats Sue! Sounds like a great race. Aren't winter races wonderful!?

  2. WOW, that time is impressive for 130km considering the conditions and carrying all of your gear also.

  3. Yay! Great race, Sue! Fun to read about it. 2013 is off to a nice start.

  4. Yes Derrick they are! I am hooked. Can't wait until the next one.

  5. Hi Sue, it's Laurie T. You are fucking crazy, I just saw the news on your blog..150 miles, 54 hours. Congratulation! I am very impress. I finally finished school just before x-mas and I am starting living again. I lost your email address, contact me...I want to wish you a happy new year. What kind of crazy stuff are you doing this year?