Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Actif Epica - What an Epic day it was!

Extreme Cold Warning in effect

A period of very cold wind chills continues.

Extreme wind chills at or below minus 40 continuing this morning. Conditions are starting to moderate over the warned regions but extreme wind chills near minus 45 are expected to redevelop tonight into Saturday morning.
While anyone who isn't dressed warmly is at risk in cold weather conditions, some are at greater risk than others for frost bite and hypothermia:
- homeless people
- outdoor workers
- people living in homes that are poorly insulated (with no heat or no power)
- people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and diseases affecting the blood vessels, people taking certain medications including beta-blockers
- winter sport enthusiasts
- people who consume excess alcohol
- infants and
- seniors.
That's pretty much how race morning started...

Actif Epica is so different of a winter ultra race compared to both Tuscobia and Arrowhead.  It's more of a running race primarily on gravel roads and open fields without a sled.

My goal this year was to be inducted into the Order of the Hrimthurs . In order to accomplish that I needed to complete the 3 winter ultras in the triple Crown Series (Tuscobia 150, Arrowhead 135 and Actif Epica).  I fared well in both Tuscobia and Arrowhead winning and breaking course records.   A bit shocking yes but that just goes to show that anything can happen in ultras.  My recovery between the 2 big races was extremely good so I felt great or as least thought I felt great going into Actif.

Race morning came fast and with a -43 temp everyone was feeling a bit apprehensive.  Dallas, Jon and I started off at a very conservative pace.  It was dam cold and with the first aid station being 25km away it was going to be a long morning.  The wind chill was so bitter that every bit of skin had to be covered at all times to avoid frostbite thus making eating and drinking impossible.  My plan was to run the race with my friend Dallas and just have fun.  Dallas wasn't feeling well right from the get go so I new that my race plans would soon be changing.  Finally after what seemed like hours and I'm sure it was we made it to the first aid station.  Dallas told me to go on without him so I hooked up with Jon from Regina and we headed out into the bitter cold.

Just before we got to the turn off to Crystal Springs we came across another runner Mark who was walking towards us.  We stopped and chatted with him for a bit before we got running again and unfortunately we ran past the turn off to Crystal Springs unknowingly as we were too busy talking and not following the cue sheets.  We figured we were going in the right direction as we were still following the Crow Wing blue trail signs.  Eventually as time went on and miles went by we realized that something wasn't right.  We stopped a passing vehicle to ask where Crystal Springs was and he pointed us in the opposite direction...let's just say there were more than a few swear words at that point.  Backtracking about 6 or so miles we finally saw someone on a dirt road near Crystal Springs.  Not knowing what road to take at that point we ran towards the figure in the distance.  It was Barb and she was somewhat confused also, all while following her GPS.  Finally off to the right we could see the trail that lead to the aid station at Crystal Springs.  At least 2 hours we were behind now due to the mistake. 

Jon was so good in trying to make the situation light hearted and make us laugh.  After a few hours we finally made it to Niverville the half way point.  I told Jon we'd have to make it quick, get in and eat, change clothes if needed then go to try and make up lost time.  Within 25 minutes we were out the door minus Mark.  Mark wasn't ready to go and we just couldn't wait for him.  We wasted to much time earlier and I couldn't waste anymore to jeopardize my finish.

Jon and I ran when we could and power walked like no tomorrow when we could walk faster.  Finally we made it to the University grounds but unfortunately made another wrong turn to the aid station and ended up with another 1-2 mile detour.  How we did this I don't know as we were reading those cue sheets 2 and 3 times to make sure we were going the right way.  Finally we found the aid station building and had to laugh as it was just ridiculous that once again we got lost.

We were in and out quick with about 13km to the finish.  We left with Jeremie as he had been there for quite awhile before we got there.  We were all tired and our feet were killing us from all those gravel roads.  No one said much as off into the darkness we went.  Jeremie knew the way as he lives in the City so we followed him.  He was walking like a bat out of hell and Jon was having a tough time keeping up.  I kept looking back to make sure that Jon wasn't falling too far behind.  We just needed to follow Jeremie to the river trail then we could slow down and go a slower pace.  Finally we got to the river trail and now it was just 6km to the finish.  That doesn't sound like much but it might as well have been 60 or 600.  The 3 of us were just so ready to have this done.  Finally we saw the Christmas lights and Hal and Dallas on the ice near the Forks.  It was finally over...we finished in 21:30 and I became the first woman to be inducted into the Order of the Hrimthurs.  My 2 year quest for this was finally over.  I was ecstatic about my accomplishment but on the other hand sad that it was over.

Photo by Greg McNeill

Photo by Kim Mitchell

Photo by Greg McNeill

Photo by Geg McNeill
Photo by Greg McNeill


  1. Thanks so much Sara. It's been an unbelievable winter of racing.

  2. What an amazing start to 2015 Sue !!!! A lifetime of adventure for most !!! Best of luck for the rest of the year.

    Scott Sugimoto