Tempo running on the trails in Saskatoon!

My good buddy Shane offered to follow me in his mountain bike on a tempo workout! We left from right under the Broadway Bridge and followed the upper portion of the trail all the way to the Circle Drive bridge. This stretch is approximately 3 miles, and I wanted to do it in under 22 minutes and it ended up being 20 minutes and 40 seconds which I was happy with. Didn’t have the greatest run as I felt quite dehydrated almost the entire time (still not used to the stupid heat) but had an awesome time nonetheless. Shane did a perfect job at filming me from his bike, these trails are tricky enough running so it definitely takes a lot of skill for him to stay behind me at a runner’s pace on some of the off camber and hilly sections!


PS I have absolutely no idea why the video is starting at 1:45. Make sure to change it to the start and watch it in HD!

The Participation Paradox by Chris McGarity

Early autumn on Canadian Prairies is a truly remarkable time to spend outdoors. For the rest of the year, those who are unfortunate enough to live in this part of the world are subject to any permutation or combination of the coldest, hottest, windiest, or buggiest weather imaginable. It is days such as these in early autumn, in which my father and I face the difficult decision of playing tennis at the public courts down by the river or cycling the small country roads which gird the farmland around the city. Due to the proximity of the courts to our favourite rooftop patio, today we chose tennis.

Although the trees were turning, the air was warm, and the breeze was slight, there may as well been crickets chirping and a tumbleweed bouncing its way across the deserted playing surface. It was enjoyable to not have to continuously apologize to other court users due to our errant serves; however, we remarked how it was disappointing that such a fine public facility was seeing such little use on such a nice day. However, while expressing frustration over how physically inactive our community is, during our walk back to the car, we noticed a trail of empty energy-gel wrappers and paper cups lining the path along the river. Evidently someone in this town, besides us, was exercising. In the two degree seven o’clock pre-dawn of that late September morning, a “charity fun run” had been held along the riverbank.

The event that had taken place that morning is untimed, unranked, and very well organized. Participants paid fifty to seventy dollars in addition to pledges raised based on the distance run. For this fee, runners are handed sports drinks at regular intervals along the course, and a memento in the form of a tee shirt with the event name across both front and back. Both the event website and the ravaged grass, at what I can only assume was the staging area, indicate that over two hundred individuals participated that morning; the event was quite the success for the organizers. Apparently our community is active, just not at a time, or a price, or with an activity that neither my father or I find appealing in the slightest.

As we reviewed the events of the morning with the help of beers and our smartphones, my father and I revised our conclusion that members of our community were indeed physically active. Our conclusion was that only certain members of our community are active. Recent data published by the Saskatoon Health Region and Health Canada backed our conclusion. According to a recent study published in GPI Atlantic, over thirty-five percent of Saskatchewan adults are now obese, a reality which, according to the publication, will cost the province a quarter of a billion dollars each year over the 1985 rate of eighteen percent. When coupled with information from Health Canada’s website stating that over three thousand new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in Saskatchewan each year, it is easy to see why the health region is running a “Particip-action” advertising campaign in order to convince residents to lead more physically active lifestyles. These statistics, however, seem at odds with the information from the website of the charity run, which shows participation has been rapidly increasing since the event’s inception three years ago. Furthermore, the number of events similar to that morning’s, have increased to the point where on most weekend mornings, the city’s riverbank can expect to be taped, painted, and pin-flagged.

Throughout that summer, my friends and I had been playing a game called “capture the flag” in a neighborhood park. The game involves many things our society seems to value: fitness, teamwork, strategy, yet what we were doing was perceived as a threat to many of those who lived near the park. On more than one occasion, police officers came to “just see what was going on” in response to calls made by concerned citizens. While the police officers who responded to those calls did not do anything more than remind us to keep noise to a minimum, the idea that a group of young adults running around in a park after dark is behaviour suspicious enough to call the police, indicates that the community is not used to seeing public space used for non-organized physical activity, especially when adults are the ones participating. When explaining that “capture the flags” is one of my favorite summer activities, scorn is usually the initial reaction: “aren’t you a little old for that?” The scorn expressed towards my involvement in what is seen as a childhood game, is not a bias against the particular game, but unorganized exercise in general. While participant-based running events are a convenient example because of their recent surge in popularity, there is a huge discrepancy between the number of adult “rec-leagues” for sports such as hockey, softball, and soccer and the number of people simply participating in these sports informally.

Whether it be “capture the flag” or a more conventional sport, the belief that engaging in physical activity without a cause is immature once one reaches a certain age is troubling when a participant-based event can cost more than half of what a minimum-wage earner makes in a day. It is even more problematic that to fully participate, one will be wearing expensive technical clothing and devouring specific nutrition products all for an event which is not timed or ranked. When combining the financial cost of these events with the prevalence of spandex, six in the morning starts, and badtasting nutritional supplements, it is a mystery that people take part in these events at all. While the numbers of participants in events such as these are growing, these events are extremely exclusive despite how they are viewed and marketed. Through these events, however, those with the financial means and the willingness to get up at six in the morning and wear spandex, and choke down a protein bar, buy themselves out of the scorn and judgement which comes along with being a grown adult “playing in the park.” Somehow, when it comes to physical activity, paying for what can be done for free, legitimizes the activity – great for the organizers of these events, not great from a public health

I am not the first to show concern with how participation-based events are negatively affecting society. In his recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Slowest Generation,” Kevin Helliker effectively notes many of the same issues I feel are symptoms of this malady. Commenting on the decline in the competitiveness of foot races in the United States, Helliker does identify the participant-based focus of organized events and the increasing price and commodification of exercise. Unfortunately, despite noticing many of the symptoms, Helliker could not be more wrong in where he places blame – in the younger generation’s need for “hand-holding,” which discourages developing a competitive edge. While blaming “kids these days” is proving to be a popular way for those belonging to older generations to distance themselves from any responsibility regarding a slowing economy or violent crime, this argument is just as lazy and disingenuous when it comes to being physically active or competitive in sports. The lack of competitiveness, however, can be attributed to the same discourse which limits physical activity to a privileged few. Through stigmatizing sports that exist beyond organized events, the events themselves have become a means of exercise and not the test of one’s skill and endurance against one another.

The social paradigm that privileges certain kinds of physical activity in our society is detrimental from not only a public health standpoint but also a education perspective. While Physical Education teachers are most directly affected, this paradigm proves limiting to early childhood educators who are questioned on their use of play-based learning by a public who are most comfortable
with a discourse that has a dichotomy between “play” and “lessons” much as it has between “play” and “fitness.” As educators and childhood advocates work to change the paradigm around unstructured learning, so must those involved with public health change the discourse around unstructured physical activity. If society can adopt a different paradigm, the next time my father and I play tennis, the nuisance of our serves will be the largest barrier to a physically active society

Trail Run To Sanctuary Lake

This is the first 2 hours of a 9 hour run to Sanctuary Lake in Northern Saskatchewan. Wapoose and I ended up having to run in the dark for the last hour, and both of our hydration packs froze so we were stuck with having to refill our coke bottles in streams and in Kingsmere Lake. I’ve certainly never done a run like this before, but I’m proud to say we ran every step of runnable terrain, which makes it the longest training run I’ve ever done at 9 hours!

The UCI Rutland-Melton Circle Classic… By Jamie Sparling

The ‘Rutland,’ as it is known, is the only single day UCI pro race in the United Kingdom. It is well known within the European continental scene for its relentless hills and horribly deteriorated off road sections. It has always been a race that separates the men from the boys. 2012, however, saw the race take on a whole new face; -3C with a horrendous windchill, TORRENTIAL rain, and massive amounts of flooding. This would be a year that would separate the hardest men, from the hard men. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound too appropriate; but I am sure you get my drift.

The team woke up to horrible weather and good spirits. I swear that bad weather can often increase the amount of banter at the table, the amount of laughs in the hotel rooms, or joking around in the team cars. It is probably some sort of defense mechanism. The Team was extra chipper, but we all knew that the day’s task was going to be nothing short of epic. 170km of on/off road in sub zero rain, awesome. Every single rider in the race was bundled up in thermals, tights, rain capes, shoe covers, and even helmet covers. I rocked up in shorts, no shoe covers, simple gloves and a vest. I kept asking everyone where their purses were, but by the time the gun went off everyone had lost their sense of humor.

(Jamie second from the front here, showing himself at the front early in the day)

Team Raleigh’s goal was to ride from the front and ultimately look out for our Aussie leader Bernie.  20km in things were looking good; the field had splintered in a crosswind leaving 18 riders out front. Of which, we had three including myself, Simon, and Bernie. I went straight to the front and started chopping off. Eventually that group swelled to about 40 until we hit the 66.6km mark and passed a sign that said “welcome to hell.” Magnus Backstedt hit the front on the first off road section and took his safety off.  The field detonated and only 7 or so remained in the front. Of the 7, we had two: Myself and Bernie.

(Jamie here on the front again before the entire group shattered to pieces)

There was still over 100km to go the front group worked well together. Along the way I was able to pick up more than enough of the KOM points to take that classification. The weather was shit, and my legs were amazing. With about 40km to go, I asked our Aussie leader Bernie how his legs were and if he needed anything. He replied: “Cunt, sit the fuck on, you are the strongest one here.” I started to do less work.

(Great shot of Jamie here working in the definitive break of the day, showing his strength as one of the strongers riders in the field)

The conditions and pace continued to take their toll until there were just 5 of us left, with Alexander Blain (former cofidis rider who has ridden Roubaix on more than one occasion), off the front of us. We hit the last off road climb, and our group turned into individuals. It would be 15km of solo riding to the line. Everyone was so messed up from the weather, the effort, and the lack of food (it was so hard to eat when you had completely lost the use of your hands.).  I suffered like I had never suffered before over those last few kms; my team manager behind me screaming and honking the horn. I was going as hard as I could, with a screaming tailwind, and holding a rapid pace of about 35km/hr. That was all I needed to score my first ever Europe Tour UCI podium.

(First ever UCI podium!)

Besides the usual prize money, I won 3L of Duval which I proceeded to destroy with my roommates as soon as I got home. Despite enduring conditions I would wish upon no cyclist, that day was one I will remember forever. The next day, however, I was a mess.

Thanks for Reading!


Ironman Canada 2012 Race Report… By Shayne Burwell

Another Ironman Canada is in the bag and it was an epic year on many fronts.  The surprise to all those who have raced Ironman in Penticton was the announcement that this was to be the last Ironman Canada in Penticton.  The contract between Ironman brand races owned by the World Triathlon Corporation and the city of Penticton had some problems and the city of Penticton awarded the new contract for the race to a German company called Challenge with the new race to be called Challenge Penticton.  It sounds like the heritage of the race will be preserved and so I am optimistic this will be a positive change and took the plunge to sign up and try it next year.

This year was the 30th anniversary of Ironman Canada.  It is the 3rd oldest Ironman in the world behind Ironman Hawaii and Ironman New Zealand.  The most outstanding accomplishment of the week was the world record set by Sister Madonna Buder who became the oldest person to complete the Ironman at age 82 breaking the previous record of Lou Hollander who did Ironman Hawaii at age 81.  It was truly inspiring to see her at the pre-race dinner and out on the course on race day as she always has a smile and such a great attitude.  Anyone who thinks they could never do an Ironman should go out and watch and see the multitudes of people competing, young and old, short and tall, skinny and definitely not skinny.  I cheered in people twice my size  as I sat and watched on Lakeshore Drive at 11:00pm as the over 16 hour finishers made their way on the last kilometer.  I can’t imagine strapping on an extra 100 or more pounds and trying to go the distance.

Their were 42 Saskatchewan athletes who toed the line Sunday morning including many rookies and some very fast Saskatchewan racers. Their were about 2700 athletes who started the race and the mass start usually makes this the biggest mass start race in the world. The morning was cool with a bit of breeze that made the swim a bit slower than some years and I swallowed a few mouthfuls in the chop on the way back from the second buoy exiting the 3.8 km swim in almost exactly 1 hour.   This put me in about 100th place which meant transition wasn’t yet too crowded.  I felt a bit bad for those swimmers closer to 1:10 who have to contend with huge masses of swimmers getting out about then but made a good transition and hopped on my bike for  the 180km cycling portion.

This was my 10th Ironman race, including one DNF in 2009, and my 8th time racing Ironman Canada and so I knew what to expect as rider after rider went flying by me.  I have in the past tried to match the speed of those around me thinking that everyone must know what they are doing and I should follow.  Now that I am a seasoned veteran I just smile and settle in for a long steady ride hoping that I will have a chance to see most of them again on the run course.  The first big hill is at Maclean Creek Road and it is not very long but quite steep with a section of about 12 %  grade and total climbing time less than 10 minutes for most. People were flying past me putting in some very impressive climbing efforts and I often marvel at their heroics starting out a 10 hour race with such bravado.

(Nice action shot of Shayne running hard out the water…!)

The ride was going really well as I stuck to my plan of starting slow and trying to build momentum through the ride.  I was eating and drinking well and trying to stay positive as I watched many of my friends and fellow racers ride by me. One of the benefits for me of being a pretty good swimmer is that I get to say hello to everyone as they go by me on the bike. Brad Spokes and I had a good visit at Maclean Creek as he spun up the hill also wondering what the hell people were thinking starting their ride with a near maximal effort up the climb. Next to go by was Hugo van Rooyen from Regina who stayed in sight for a while but disappeared up the road near Osoyoos.  Sean Rempel went by next looking great and not long after he went by his dad Reg Rempel passed me on the climb up Richter’s pass.  They were flying and looked like they were having fun.  Halfway up Richter’s Pass Dalton Fayad from Regina caught up to me and took a minute to say hello as he climbed up Richter’s without even looking like he was breaking a sweat.

The next portion of the ride consists of a stretch from the top of Richter’s Pass to Keremeos where you have to ride through a series of rolling hills called the Seven Sisters.  They must have been called rollers by someone from the mountains.  I am from Saskatchewan and would have named them the seven slightly smaller mountains as there is no way that I was rolling over them very quickly.  The smallest roller would still be bigger than the biggest hill you could find around Saskatoon.

The wheels started falling off my plan about this point in the day as somehow I was eating a bit more than I had planned and I realized I had already eaten all the food I had with me and it was supposed to last me until I picked up my special needs bag at 120km into the ride and I was still over an hour away.  I decided I would take whatever food I could grab through the next aid station hoping to score a couple of bananas.  I rode through asking for a banana but all I managed to get was a bottle of water and a gel.  The only flavor of gel I can’t stand is chocolate, so I am sure you can guess what flavor I picked up.  Beggars can’t be choosers so I scarfed down that gel and prayed for better luck at the next aid station.

By the time I arrived at the next aid station I was really hungry and so I slowed right down and managed to get 3 bananas and a gel, strawberry this time.  I’ve never tasted such a delicious banana and this ramped my energy back up for the out and back section as I dined on my buffet of Ironman delicacies.I was feeling great riding into special needs and picked up my extra food feeling better knowing I should have enough to get my through to the end of the ride about 2 hours away.

(Shayne with his pain-face on!)

The next section is the climb up Yellow Lake, the third and final climb of the bike course.  I was a bit puzzled by the massive crowd at the bottom of the climb and the skimpy crowd at the top but learned later that the race organizers had blocked everyone from parking near the top so the spectators relocated a bit further down from usual.  Thankfully at this point I was riding with people more around by ability level and I was keeping pace with most of those around me and even got to pass a couple of people on the flat stretch after the top of the climb.  I passed by Emmanuela Bandol from Regina who seemed to be having a great ride.  She was quite focussed as I rode up but I smiled and waved hoping she might recognize me as a fellow Saskatchewanian.

The descent down Yellow Lake to the main highway was a scream.  I was flying, passed a few cars and even passed the race officials on the motorbike.  In the hierarchy of cycling there are those that are good at climbing and some that are good at descending and I am neither.  Mountain bikers are usually the best at going downhill as they don’t seem to have a normal fear of dying like the rest of us.  When I descend during a mountain bike race I am usually left in the dust very quickly, but when I get to descend with a bunch of triathletes I feel like a rock star as triathletes are about the most cautious descenders around. I rode into town feeling happy with my ride and feeling like I had paced and fueled myself well and was ready to start the run.  I was following the old ironman adage of trying to use the swim and bike as a long warmup and that the race was really nothing more than a long training day.

(Great action shot of Shayne at speed here, good position on the bike and nice TT rig as well!)

My pre-race plan was to break the 26 mile marathon down into 26 x 1 mile repeats.  My goal was none faster than 8:00 miles and none slower than 9:00 miles.  I was feeling good but obviously not as good as others around me as 7 or 8 people passed me in the first mile.  I got to the mile marker and hit the lap button on my watch  7:49. Crap! Rookie mistake taking it out to fast.  You might think this isn’t that big of a deal but running too fast at the beginning of the Ironman marathon costs big time later in the race.  I got to the first aid station and grabbed some Ironman rocket fuel, good old fashion cola.  People who know me know I am fastidious about what I eat and I never touch soft drinks, except at Ironman.  For someone who doesn’t drink coffee or soft drinks having a glass of coke is like pouring gas on a fire, watch out.

I could feel the sugar and caffeine kick in a few minutes later but I restrained myself knowing how hard the last few miles would be and kept to my plan of concentrating on 1 mile at a time and trying to keeping my splits as even as possible.  The miles ticked by and I visited a bit with people passing by to occupy my mind.  It was warm but overcast and I could tell that it hadn’t got to the 30 degrees the weather forecast had predicted the day before. I walked the aid stations and loaded up on coke, water and ice at each one, ignoring my prerace plan to try and drink some Ironman perform at alternate aid stations as it just tasted too salty and sickly sweet.  I hit the halfway point feeling remarkably good but suffered up the hill outside OK Falls.  Coming into the turnaround I saw Brad Spokes and Sean Rempel running well a bit ahead of me and soon after the turnaround I saw Reg Rempel almost right behind me.  It was great to have some people I knew around me to propel me onwards.  The last half of the marathon is a blur but I drank a glass of coke at 23 out of 25 aid stations and didn’t really have much else other than a bit of water to dilute it down. The last 4 miles really hurt and although I wanted to walk I had told my daughters before the race I was determined to only walk the aid stations and wanted to be able to tell them I had stayed strong and not walked.  I   didn’t want to look at my total time as I was concentrating as hard as I could on running my 1 mile intervals under 9 minutes.  I had only failed to make the 9 minute split on a couple of the miles with hills and knew if I could hold on that I should beat my ironman marathon pb from last year of 3:54.  The small uphill going into Penticton seemed to go on forever but then I was in amongst the crowds on Main Street and they propelled me forward.  With 2 miles to go there was an aid station blasting Meatloaf  “Raise a LIttle Hell” and this was just what I needed.  I ran through the last 2 aid stations and finished strong.  I won’t say I collapsed but I did see stars and had 2 volunteers hold me up for a couple of minutes at the finish line.  One of my goals is always to avoid having to go to the medical tent and so I tried to smile and stand straight proclaiming myself to be fine.  It seemed to be working as they left me propped up in a chair in the finishing area, clutching my finisher’s hat and finisher’s t-shirt and swapping stories with my fellow racers.

It was a great year for Saskatchewan athletes at Ironman as we had a record 11 people finish in under 11 hours including Dalton Fayad,Sean Rempel, Brad Spokes,Reg Rempel, Stefan van Zyl,Emanuela Bandol, Conway Nelson, Myron Martens and Dan Killick.  A total of 40 out of 42 of our Saskatchewan starters were official finishers including several Saskatchewan people who were veterans of many Ironman Canada races like Darren Hagen, Doug Mackenzie, Simon Toon, Bruce Gordon and Toby Rempel.

Every year Simon Toon organizes the Ironman prediction pool where you have to guess your finishing time the night before the race.  It was my lucky year as I was less than four minutes off my prediction this year and that was the closest guess.  If you want in for next year it’s not too late to go sign up for Challenge Penticton August 25, 2013.  Good luck.

Great article and thanks for writing Shayne! New article up every two weeks at livingintheshit.com!

Living In The Shit Overseas… By Brad Clifford


(BR and Clifford climbing Kitt Peak in Tucson Arizona, over 200 km ridden that day and 7 hours on the bike)

(Clifford and his teammate riding on cobblestones, gearing up for their races…)

The National U23 Road team has a house in Tielt, Belgium, which is where we were stationed for the majority of the spring in order to compete in the various Spring races across the greater part of western Europe.  One of the 1st major goals for the team was the ZLM World Cup in Holland.  After a quick transition/drive to Holland in our team car and tool truck, it was off to the hotel where most of the other Nations would be staying as well.  The parking lot was packed with endless amounts of bikes, tools, spare wheels, and of course, mechanics. Our mechanic was a magician…seriously, no joke, so stop laughing.  He does mechanic work in his spare time as a hobby.  Upon arrival we dropped our magician off along with 10 or so bikes and a countless number of specific requests for him to ponder.  Next stop was check in, massage and dinner.

It didn’t take long to realize they take this sport to a whole other level on this continent.  It seemed like the entire city shut down just to send us off at the start.  That to me was one of the coolest moments of this trip, when people saw that we were Canadian they would ask us to sign the race start list or our rider cards.  The older folks would even thank us for the help in the war.  Even though we personally had nothing to do with any of that, it was a reassuring feeling and made us feel welcome.

(Clifford and his teammates during the team presentation for the Canadian U23 National Team in Belgium)

In our meeting before the race (which we do before every event) we went over who to watch from other Nations and our jobs were all given to us as individuals for certain objectives during the race. My job, keep Simone (our team sprinter) out of the wind and be his shadow. Cool, easy. HAHA ahhhh shit.Leading up to this race I had no expectation, no feeling of nerves or anxiety, which was surprising to me as I had expected to be making a few runs to the porta potties before the start.  Believe me, it was a nice feeling to just be relaxed and chilled out before one of the hardest races of my life.  After the team presentation and all the meet and greets were finished, we lined up and listened to some fat guy smoking a cigarette  yell something about how some guy named Fabian Cancellara had won this race a few years back.  When the gun FINALLY went off, it was dead silence for all of 5 seconds.

(Patiently waiting at the start line…)

Back in the race and everything was back to normal.  I got some water and food to the boys, and found Simone near the front of the group.  The next big obstacle was a 5km bridge that went straight over the ocean.  With a sharp left turn, we were straight into the cross wind that we had been warned about.  The pack shattered into 4 or 5 smaller groups.  Thankfully I was near the front and was not caught out by the wind.  However this bridge looked like something out of the matrix or twilight zone.  On a cloudless sunny day, we were suddenly riding in a rain/fog storm.  The turbulence of the waves and wind had caused the air to become a pure cloud and the only thing you could see was the rider in front of you.  Crashes happened, and the pack split up even more.  Once out the other end of the cloud and back on the actual land again, we had an endless number of skinny narrow roads and turns to negotiate.  It felt more like a giant sized crit than a road race.

(Racing flat out in Belgium with a ‘living in the shit’ face on…)

With 50k to go, I heard someone yell flat.  Just our luck it was Simone.  So I jumped off my bike, got my rear wheel on his bike, and gave him a running push to get back in the group.  Problem for me was that the team cars took the highway around the narrow roads because they could not fit.  So I waited for a wheel for what seemed like an eternity, only to hear the honks from the team cars through the trees across the ditch.  So I jumped across and waved down a neutral wheel car.  Then paced back on for 10k or so only to have Simone hit the deck on the finishing circuits.  It was not a simple crash either, it took out half the team and Simone was badly injured.  We waved down a civilian with a vehicle and had to lift him into the car to get him to the hospital with what looked like a broken hip.

(Brad representing good ol’ Team Saskatchewan at the Canadian National Championships and looking quite aero)

Overall, it was the most hectic day of my career. From the start, right to the finish was pure fucking chaos. Now when I look back on what was, I think it is all pretty cool. Who would have thought that we’d be doing this? Each day now I always think to myself, am I truly living up to what I would consider a good day? Do I want to just be normal and chill out? Or do I want to go do crazy, usually stupid shit with my friends?  I will always choose the latter.

Remember: If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.


(Brad’s legs looking jacked as fuck and rocking an impressive tanline, true dedication from this cyclist. Also, to people who are embarassed of their tanlines that they have acquired from training… show them off with pride! They are like badges of honor you get while living in the shit. Be proud of them!)

Pink Is The New Yellow

By Rob Britton.

To give you an idea of what is involved with preparing for one of the biggest races of the year I have to take you back a few weeks, so you know where it all comes from…

I was about to head out to a race I truly love. The ‘SRAM Tour of the Gila’. It’s a very unique race held every year in Silver City New Mexico, a few years ago the race was nearly cancelled due to lack of participation and then it was saved by a certain Lance Armstrong. Since then it has only grown and now it is one of the premier races in the US. The past couple of years I’ve had some great success here with a podium on the “queen stage” finishing among the top 10 twice. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been to altitude to prep before the race and with the average elevation over 6000′ this would prove to be a serious hurdle…and I paid dearly for it. The disappointment of the tour of Gila was a powerful reality check for me. Plus, paired with the feelings of watching someone you consider a friend win the biggest cycling race in Canadian history you get something very special. Watching Ryder during the Giro d’Italia was amazing and the motivation I gained from that will last for years to come.

(Rob Britton and Ryder Hesjedal at a local race in Canada. Ryder became Canada’s greatest cyclist ever this year with a win in one of cyclings grand tours, the Giro D’italia)

Since my mid season wake up call things have turned around dramatically and are going very much in the right direction; I couldn’t be more pleased. Some of the highlights over the past couple weeks include winning the GC and defending my title in the time trial at The Victoria international cycling festival (a prelude to the Ryder Hesjedal tour de Victoria). I was lucky enough to have my parents there to watch and winning in front of them was a great feeling and also a sign that the form was building the right direction.

(Rob second from the front here racing for Team Canada at the 2011 Pan American games… this team set the Canadian Record for the team pursuit and placed 5th overall at the games, narrowly missing a chance to race at the finals)

(Rob modelling the new Canadian National team kit before the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, one of the premier races in Canada and part of cycling’s World Tour, where all of the best teams in the world come to compete.)

Next up was the Tour de Beauce, Canada’s only UCI level stage race held every year in the Beauce region of Quebec. This race and I have a bit of a love hate relationship as I’ve had some great times and fond memories here but also huge disappointments. So it was with mixed emotions that I took to the start line. Thankfully I would not be disappointed and the legs showed up for work every day! It was a good thing they did too because everyday I was pushed to the absolute limit, and as the race wore on I would start to realize I had a real shot at a great result. On the final stage I was sitting in 10th and only 1:43 from 1st so I decided I would lay it all on the line that day and go for broke. With the days break established up the road I bridged across the 1 min gap solo and thus became the virtual GC leader. I drove the break as hard as I could. The defending United Healthcare team would bring us back with half a lap to go…I was disappointed not to have moved up but I could take real satisfaction in the effort put forth, I was going for the win and it didn’t go completely unnoticed as I received a lot of compliments form various team directors…inspiring, given that the whole purpose of the year was to get results good enough to bounce back to a pro team.

(Rob and his former Bissell teammate crushing the field and winning together at a spring race in the United States)

Leaving the tour de Beauce in the rear view we were off to the road nationals, only a short two hour drive from where we were staying and located in beautiful Lac Magantic QB. Doing the Beauce- nationals double is always a gamble but in the past its payed off and at this point there was nothing to loose. The week in between however was exceptionally hot… 40C hot! Upon finishing the time trial I was rather concerned I may have killed more brain cells than I could afford to loose. The sport is less than healthy at times. Similar to last year I would be left with a bad taste in my mouth after the time trial. 7th is a far cry from the result I know I was capable of, especially after finishing 6th at the Beauce TT which had a significantly deeper field.

On the morning of the road race we were treated by grey sky’s and the high likelihood of rain…lots of rain. As if it were on cue the rain literally went from, spitting to full on biblical downpour in a matter of minutes. I’ve ridden in some rough weather before but this was honestly something else, visibility at times of about 30 ft and when you’re elbow to elbow with 160 other guys going70+ kph that can be a bit nerve racking! I went into this race very focused but equally as relaxed, I knew I was capable of a great ride but all the cards had to fall the right way and with 12 spider techs and a half dozen pro tour chaps. Never the less, once I could see what was going on in front of me I marked a move by Ryan Anderson of spider tech at about 40 km into the race and that would pretty much be the start of a long day! 4 other would soon bridge across and our gap would grow extremely quickly and top out at 6 mins. It’s quite a challenging place to be in when you realize you have Svein Tuft, Michael Barry and David Villeaux all riding a lethal tempo to bring you back. With 20 km to go Barry launched a big attack and choosing to take 4-5 years off my life, I followed. It stuck. We were away. Mike Barry, Ryan Roth, myself and 2 Optum pros. It was a great move and the one that would go to the line…however I would not have the gas to make it there with them. I came off when Barry hit out with only 8 km to go and while I did claw my way back to them inside the final km it would prove to be a little to late. I took some solace in being up there and proving to myself I was still very capable of racing with the best in the country finishing fifth overall.

(Rob on the podium of the 2012 San Dimas Stage Race where he guest-rode for the professional ‘Competitive Cyclist’ squad)

I’m back home in Victoria now and getting ready for my final push on the season. With the tour on and “Ryder-nation” in full swing it’s made for some great motivation and training days. I’m looking forward to this next little bit and can’t wait for the talks on 2013 to begin with teams. Who knows, maybe if the dice lands the right way I’ll roll into nationals with more them a few team mates!

Thanks for reading.

Rob Britton.

(Rob killing it at the Tour of California in 2010, which is the largest and most prestigous stage race in the United States. Can’t wait to see what 2013 brings for this Saskatchewan born cyclist!)

isupportlocalbikeshops.com report from the Banff National Park Bike Fest

Reported by Cuylar Conly.

Banff National park Bike-Fest is the marquee stage race in western Canada, second only to BC Super-week.  The race covers 296.5 km in five stages throughout Banff National park.  The prestigious race continues to attract the most talented professional and elite cyclists from across Canada.  I have contested this race with several teams and it is my pleasure to participate this year as part of Saskatchewan’s first ever Trade Team.   In its inaugural year Team isupportlocalbikeshops.com intended to legitimize its program at the elite National Level.

Team isupportlocalbikeshops.com is a grassroots movement designed to harvest the young cycling talent of Saskatchewan and prepare them for extensive National and International competitions. To field an elite team at Banff Bike-fest requires a roster of 5 to 7 men.  Team Boss Barret Kropf drew on local veterans as well as fresh talent to build a 100% Sask-made men’s team.  The new talent includes Alyosha (yosh) Boldt transitioning from triathlon to cycling, and Barret Dunbar who uses his big cross country skiing engine to make quads quake on the local race circuit.  Among the veterans are Brad Kerr ex-PRO turned firefighter, Cuylar Conly and Chris McGarity each with extensive North American race experience now returning to Saskatchewan to complete University Degrees.  Rounding out the six man team is the Saskatchewan-to-Gatineau transplant Nathan Underwood, repatriated for this special occasion.  With a strong but untested team Banff Bike fest would be trial by fire for Team isupportlocalbikeshops.com.

Stage 1 – 1.5 km individual hill climb

Although labeled a hill climb, the winners will complete the parcours in approximately two and a half minutes.  This is not one for the light-weights and favours great strength paired with un-parralled acceleration.  It should come as no surprise that those who are feared for their sprint where also favoured this day.

With any prologue it is important to give your maximum performance; the small time gaps produced on the first stage could become important in the final shake-down of the race.  One by one the racers sprinted up this hill and no one from isupportlocalbikeshops.com would hold anything back.  You can learn a lot about yourself in three minutes.

As I am balanced at the start line I remember to breathe.  Breathe in.  Breathe out, breath in. Breath out. Five, four, three, two breath in, one breathe out, GO!  I’m flying, I love flying.  The intensity of the effort seems to warp space and time as 1.3 km pass in an instant and the final 200 m last for an eternity of blinding gravitational hell.  Gasping for breath I cross the line.  I know I wasn’t the fastest, in-fact I predict that I will finish mid to top third but damn that felt good.  My sensations are the best I have had all year.

Kris Dahl of Team H & R Block won the prologue with a time of 2:31.  Expectedly I finished in 24th 19 seconds in arrears.  Our team’s top finisher was Nathan Underwood in a time of 2:48, good for 22nd.  Curiously it was noted that all of Team isupportlocalbikeshops.com finished within a 5 second cluster. This lead Barrett Dunbar to remark, “Gee, do you think we train together too much?”  Nevertheless a team of compatible strength bodes well.

Stage 2 – 81 km 1A Sprint Road Race

They call this race a sprint for a reason.  At only 81 km this is one of the fastest road races you can find.  The current record for the elite men is 1 hour and 31 minutes requiring an average speed of 53 km/hr.  Despite the rolling terrain the speed is just too high for a successful breakaway; ironically it is such attempts to breakaway that maintain the blistering pace.  The result is a fast and aggressive stage on narrow roads which typically ends in a crowded uphill bunch finish.

The strategy was simple myself and Alyosha would look for an early breakaway “just in case…”.  While if you were not for the breakaway you would just sit in, stay safe and conserve.  Chris McGarity has the fastest kick for any of us and in the closing kilometers Barret and I would attempt to position him.  Nathan Underwood was to conserve all energy for the Individual Time trial the next day and Brad Kerr would assist.

After considerable delays due to black bears on the race course. The race began with a neutral procession out of the town of Lake Louise.  After the pace car pulled off the speed tripled now pushing 60 km/hr.  Many racers made attempts to escape the peloton.  After following several doomed breakaways it became apparent that this race would end in bunch sprint and I became content to sit in.  The attacks continued and the pace remained high.  Kris Dahl was in the leader’s jersey and so his H & R Block team set about maintaining momentum the front.  Good, we let them burn.

With 20 km to go there was a changing of the guard at the head of the peloton.  Team Rundel Mountain lined up for a seven man pursuit taking control of the lead-out for the rest of the race.  From this point on Rundel mountain had absolute control and burned out one man at a time all the way to the finish, where Sean Crooks stormed the line before all others.  With a lead-out like that they deserved to win and the only excuse you have is, ‘why didn’t we do that.’

Regrettably isupportlocalbikeshops.com did not factor into the finale.  We all finished safely within the peloton.  Our greatest success was that those targeting tomorrows Time Trial felt as if they had hardly broke a sweat.  Once again I was very pleased with my sensations, even chasing back on from a flat tire had felt trivial.  Unfortunately that was the last time I would feel good all week.  While the others took R & R by the pool or played a light hearted game of soccer I experienced an exponential increase of some rather nasty symptoms.

At about 6 o’clock that evening I had a full on upper airway infection.  I went straight to the store for the appropriate care package including ginger tea, cough syrup, throat lozenges, and salt water.  Despite my best efforts to minimize the symptoms I knew that tomorrow my race was about to get very, very hard.

Stage 3a 21 km Individual Time Trial

Upon waking on the morning of the Time Trial I knew that I was in no condition to contest such a race.  Indeed my continued participation in the Banff bike fest was becoming uncertain.  I resigned myself to race for the time cut (115% of the winner’s time) in the hope that my chest infection would subside in time for the evening’s criterium race.  In the race for last place I would be joined as well by Chris McGarity.  He had his sights set solely on a strong criterium performance and choose to conserve his energy in the time trial rather than race all out.

The rest of team isupportlocalbikeshops.com was prepared to lay everything out in this race.  The time trial is one of the greatest opportunities to create separations in the General Classification.  At 21 km and large undulating elevation change this course always reveals the overall contenders.  Years of training go into every time trial performance and every detail counts.  The preparations have been made and the equipment is dialed in.  On race day focus can be the defining factor in a good or bad race… unless the equipment fails.

The team is warming up before the race.  Some chat and stay light hearted others prefer to listen to music and get ‘in the zone’.  As the start times approach everyone prefers to find their own space and the team disperses for individual warm ups on the road.  Ten minutes before his start time Nathan Underwood whips back into the team camp looking pale and agitated.  He is using a team disk-wheel and his shifting is atrocious.  Having failed all standard trouble shoots we realise the source of the problems is the 9-speed cassette which will obviously never work with his 10-speed shifters.  WTF! No one on our team even uses 9-speed and to this day the origins of that cassette remain mysterious.  Between the two of us we kept one level head and in record time the 9-speed was gone and replaced with the appropriate 10-speed cassette.  Now focus, and get to the start line.  Crisis Averted.

Kris Dahl of H & R Block was once again victorious against the clock finishing in a time of 26:47 riding at an average speed of 47 km/hr.  My race was pretty miserable despite electing to ride a slow pace (+ 5:37 off Dahl’s time) the race of truth was much laboured while unable to breath.  Still I held out hope that I my symptoms may subside over the next ten hours.   The rest of the team performed admirably between + 3:24 to + 3:32, with the exception of Nathan Underwood who rode a marvellous race to finish in 10th only + 1:31 off Kris Dahl.  The time trial made for clear demonstrations of strength leaving H & R block a well-established lead.  The importance of Time Trials in stage racing cannot be ignored, but two stages remain and the Queen stage on Tunnel Mountain would not be taken lightly.

Stage 3b 50 km Criterium

Day three at Banff Bike fest was a scheduled double stage day.  We had raced an individual time trial in the morning and would race once more in downtown Banff at dusk.  After the Time Trial the team recovered by down town coffee-shopping, or with some light soccer in the park.  Unfortunately for me my chest cold was getting worse and not better.  At our lunch meeting I voiced my concerns about finishing the race and this would become my only goal.

That evening the criterium was held in down town Banff on a 1 km rectangular circuit.  The race course was pancake flat with wide 90 degree corners.  There was literally nothing to hold back the charging peloton.  Even the afternoon rain had subsided leaving freshly dried, oil free pavement.  Tonight’s race would be an absolute breakneck event.  Our speed was astonishing!  The Elite Men’s field completed the 50 lap race in a time of 51:49, pushing an average speed of 58.9 km/hr!

The pace was driven by an unrelenting stream of attacks however at this pace no one could escape the peloton for more than a few seconds.  The racing was fast and aggressive.  Fortunately with experience you realize that riding a criterium is more weighted on skill and intuition than a capability to ride at 58 km/hr.  The race was so smooth that “sitting-in” was almost relaxing at times.  In particular it was Nathan Underwood’s goal to expend as little energy as possible, which he accomplished with great poise.

Chris McGarity on the other hand pushed himself right into the dog fight.  He was well positioned in the scrum at the front of the race, waiting to capitalize on any hesitation from the field.  The hesitation never came and in the closing 10 laps team Louis Garneau wrestled control of the peloton away from Rundle Mountain to launch their man Noah Bloom to the finish line just ahead of the charging field sprint.

I was at this time overcome by my symptoms.  Unable to race at the level demanded of me, I was forced to abandon.  The rest of team iSupposrtLocalBikeShops.com all finished without incident in the peloton.  Recovery is the hidden contest behind stage racing, and the team does it right with beef, pasta and chocolate milk.  Bike racing to a large extent is decided by attrition and tomorrow on Tunnel Mountain there will be war.

Stage 4 – 143 km Tunnel Mountain Road Race

The Queen stage at Banff Bike Fest comes on the final day of the race.  This 143 km epic traverses the Tunnel Mountain Pass 11 times.  The climb can be broken in to three legs.  From 3 km to 5 km is the first pitch where the pace is often hopelessly exuberant.  Then from 6 km to 9 km is a long false flat along an exposed ridge.  Then between 9 km and 10 km are two steep pitches in rapid succession, over 143 km this is the breaking point for many racers.  From the Peak of Tunnel Mountain the race literally dive bombs into town, the decent is so steep that you feel as if you are downhill skiing.  At the base is a high speed hairpin requiring nerves of steel, followed by another technical chicane and a 500 m drag to the finish.

After the ITT H & R block was clearly commanding this race, with Kris Dahl in the lead they had controlled the peloton since day one.  Now with the longest and hardest stage before us, we simply saw them with targets on their back.  Nathan Underwood had come to Banff with only one stage in mind.  He had held back on every stage while maintaining a strong GC position ( only + 1:48).  Team iSupportLocalBikeShops.com entered the Queen stage with quiet confidence, nothing was out of reach.  Our intent this day was that none should make it to the finish without expressly earning that right.

We were not alone in our assessment; Team Louis Garneau also had a man within striking distance on GC and the pressure was on from the gun.  Alyosha and Barret were attentive in the opening lap and featured amongst the opening attacks.  Each found his way into a very large group forming ahead of the main peloton.  With over a dozen riders this was more than a break-away, such a group was neither taken lightly by the peloton nor was there effective collaboration.  Doomed to fail, there was continued aggression followed by descent amongst the escapees.  Dave Gerth of Team Louis Garneau was the sole rider to survive this massive attack and he would build a lead of 4 minutes over the next60 km.

The fatigued H & R Block team was on the defensive, forced to ride tempo or risk letting a lone escapee walk away with their prize.  The green squares made a valiant chase to keep Dave Gerth on an acceptable leash but as they tired and the climbing pace slowed three teams stoked the fires.  Team Louis Garneau, Team Rundel Mountain and Team iSupportLocalBikeShops.com all preferred to keep the pace hard on the climbs, and so the race found its rhythm.  H&R block chased on the flats and the gradual slopes, then on the steeper sections the three aforementioned teams pressed on to keep the pace hard.  The violence was yet to come.

With six laps ( 78 km ) remaining  Dave Gerth remained several minutes ahead becoming visibly exhausted.  In the peloton just over half the field remained though there had been no attacks.  Now on the first steep pitch Nathan dropped an atom bomb.  Nathan attacked with ferocity on the lower slopes of the climb, catching all the GC contenders off guard.  Only two riders held onto his pace, Trevor Gunderson from Pedal Head Road Works, Dan Wood of Edmonton Road and Track Club.  In one lap the trio crossed to Dave Gerth.  With Underwood driving the pace the gap began to grow once more.

It did not take long for the peloton to realize this threat.  On the next time up the mountain there was yet another searing attack.  This time the attack was driven by Rundle Mountain Cycling Club and a second chasing group was formed.   The chase group consisted of  Gord Jewett (RMCC), Chris McGarity (iSupportLocalBikeShops.com), Sean Bunnin (Top Gear – ROAD) Mike Rothengater (Garneau Evolution), and Aaron Schooler the lieutenant of H&R Block and best placed GC rider in the break.   Bunnin and Jewett were trying to cross the gap to the leaders while Schooler and Rothengater were trying to defend for their team leaders still in the peloton.  Chris McGarity was looking for a free ride across to help Underwood in the break.

The peloton was rapidly falling behind the chasing group of six.  It was in no one’s better interest for the chase group to remain intact and as they closed within a minute of the leaders Schooler, Jewett, and Bunin attempted to dislodge one another.  Chris McGarity valiantly clung to their pace for as long as he could.  Alas it proved too much for him as well as Rothengater.  Schooler, Jewett and Bunnin crossed the gap to the leaders. In the meantime Gunderson had lost contact with the leaders and would finish well behind on the day. With a little over 3 laps to go the leaders were Gerth, Underwood, Bunnin, Wood, Jewett, and Schooler.  The remnants of the chase group now pursued in vain, while the peloton was all but lost.  Chris McGarity having wasted himself across the mountain side abandoned.  Chapeau.

In the lead group Underwood was no longer the best placed GC rider he was trailing Schooler by 31 seconds.  Significant energy had been expended on his part already but his will to fight was not dampened.  Nathan kept on the offensive while Aaron sensing this threat turned to diplomacy.  Knowing he could not single handedly keep the reins on Nathan, Aaron enlisted the help of Sean Bunnin.  In exchange for pulling in attacks Schooler agreed to provide a lead-out in the finale as well as a portion of cash prizes.  Bunnin was agreeable and Nathan’s attacks were thus wasted.  The combined efforts of Bunnin and Schooler meant the lead six would be finishing together.

True to his word Schooler came charging down the final straight with Bunin in his slipstream.  Sean’s deal was fruitless as Gord Jewett was fastest to the line.  Underwood made an impressive effort for the win as well crossing the line in third.  The remnants of the chasing group trickled in one by one and the peloton had finished 6 minutes down.  The carnage on the Tunnel Mountain pass had resulted in a complete shake down of the General Classification.  Schooler had moved from 5th to 1st, Underwood climbed from 10th to 2nd (just 31 seconds behind),  Jewett and Gerth moved up from 27th and 29th to 3rd and 4th respectively, and Bunnin had vaulted from 48th to 7th.

Cycling is the hardest sport in the world and Banff Bike fest has again proven to be one of the most unpredictable and exciting stage races in Canada.  Team iSupportLocalBikeShops.com may not have won but they did prove that you can’t call a race on paper statistics.  And with a pool of junior talent sitting just behind the curtains there will be more surprises from this team in the future.

The athletes would like to thank Kenda, Fluid, Ryder’s Eyewear and iSupportLocalBikeShops.com

Cuylar Conly


Two Very Different Tales of The Grey Owl Trail Run… By Ben Nicholas

Hey guys. Just thought I’d give a quick post on my recent ‘Grey Owl’ trail run I did in late August of 2012. To anyone who hasn’t done this run but wants to, I highly recommend it! It’s a gorgeous/well-marked single track trail in northern Waskesiu and is easily the nicest run I have done in Saskatchewan. It’s approximately 45 km total if you go all the way to the cabin and back starting from the service road.

For equipment I used my Salomon race vest (with a 1.5 litre hydration bladder), 2 cans of coke in the breast pockets, 2 snickers bars, 4 gu gels, and a light rain shell. My total time was 4.5 hours with my splits being almost identical (5 minutes faster on my way to the cabin). My run went relatively smooth, only stopping my watch once for approx. 15 minutes when I got caught in a freak hail storm on the north end of Kingsmere lake and had to run under a camping hut for cover. I have never seen/ran through hail like that before in my life, let alone in August… it was weird! Anyways, I brought my camera along to take some pictures / videos!

The trail is very well marked, you should never feel like you are lost, and there are even KM markings along some of the trees!

There are quite a few small creek crossings, but if you’re careful you should never have to get your feet wet!

Such nice views of the forrest the entire run. Runs like this go by fast as you never stop having something to look at!

One of the sketchier creek crossings along the trail…

Twice along the way to the cabin you run along the beach of Kingsmere lake.

Gotta sign your name in the guest book… definitely a Grey Owl tradition!

The first peice of hail that struck me in the face. I definitely sprinted along the north end to find cover, dropping F bombs the entire way.

First bear shit siting…

And second…

Nice shot of some of the views you get along the trail, doesn’t get much better in Saskatchewan!

Overall the run went pretty smooth and I had a blast, but this trail is also host to the scariest time I’ve ever had running…. In January 2011 my training partner Wapoose and I picked a weekend to complete the trail, unaware the forecast turned out to be -30 degrees celcuis the entire weekend. After taking the weekend off of work and making the trip north, we didn’t want to back out and thought to go ahead and do it anyway. This wasn’t your ordinary trail running in winter, there was 3 feet of snow, the trail was 100% untouched, and I had brought aesics road running shoes to complete the journey… big mistake. At this point in my running I had never actually worn ‘trail running’ shoes, or owned a pair of goretex shoes, but running in the winter in the city you don’t really need them to be honest, even in -30. This beast was a completely different circumstance however, and I learnt very fast how my gear was insufficient to complete the run.

Normally Wapoose and I have a blast training together and doing big runs, this time, within the first hour it felt different. We barely talked, it took forever to warm up, and within 90 minutes, the straw in my Camelbak was frozen and I was unable to drink anything. We were able to run some of the first hour, but we soon realized it was almost just as fast to power hike in the deep snow and took 1/4 of the energy to hike instead of run and to go the same speed. Wapoose made the decision that we weren’t moving fast enough on the trail… so we cut down to Kingsmere lake and decided to bomb it straight ahead to the north end of the lake towards the cabin…. another scary situation. The lake was entirely frozen, but the snow was crunchy and would hurt against the shins every single step. Imagine trying to hike through knee deep snow (and I am 6 foot 3, and it was easily knee deep snow/ice on me), and having to actually work hard to move only a few kilomters per hour, in -30 degrees (with the windchill who knows how cold it was) with very harsh winds blowing onto your face as you now have no cover from the trees or forrest, definitely not fun! Anwyays, when we were on the lake, occasionally we would take steps and our feet would sink into the ice leaving a giant wet foot print. Seeing water on the lake definitely freaked me out, and I think Wapoose could hear it in my voice that I was no longer having fun or enjoying myself. We would have to sprint when we felt our feet sinking like this, which tired us out as we were unable to tell when the wet spots in the snow were coming. After making it to the north end of the lake, I announced I could no longer feel my left foot, and I quickly layed on my back, took off my shoe, and changed socks. We trudged along even more, and made it to the ‘X’ sign at the north end Kingsmere lake, where Wapoose decided we wouldn’t make it today and that we should head back. Thank God he did, his decision here definitely saved my toes, as we would have had to go 4 km to the cabin, and 4 km back, and there was no way I could have handled much longer then we were out there on this day.

When we decided to turn around, we were already out there for 3 hours! 3 hours and we we still 2.5 miles from halfway! I couldn’t believe how slow it was moving in the snow like it was! Just a few months prior, Wapoose and I did the entire run in 3 hours and 50 minutes moving near our threshold on the way back from the cabin… now we were lucky to be moving 1/4 of that speed, and I was frozen. Fast forward another 90 minutes of trudging straight across Kingsmere Lake, and I announced once again, “I can’t feel my left foot”. Wapoose looked at me, grabbed his pole, and poked my foot with the sharp end of it. Once I saw what happened and realized I had not felt a thing as his pole stabbed my foot, I started to freak out like I never had before. I panicked for a moment until Wapoose told me to shut up and that I’d be fine. He layed down as well and gave me his left shoe, which was a Salomon goretex shoe, so now we both had a road running shoe, and a winter running shoe.  But we still had easily another 90 minutes to go. The next hour was almost peaceful for me, as I stopped caring about my foot and couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d be fine if I lost a toe or two and that it shouldn’t really affect my ability to run and/or walk. I still remember this feeling, almost accepting your demise and pain, which has proven to be an essential skill in the larger ultramarathon running races I have done (2010 Canadian Death Race and 2011 Sinister7). You just accept your pain is never going to leave and move on.

The next hour however, Wapoose started to freak out. He said he felt responsible for my foot and that he should have told me I couldn’t have done the run on the shoes I had broughten. (We had a discussion the night before to decide whether or not the run was even possible with the shoes I had, and both decided I would be fine and that we would make it). When we finally moved off the lake and back onto the final few kilometers of trail before the service road, we were pumped to see Wapoose’s dad looking for us. We had given him a timeline of where we should be and that if was taking much longer, something was probably wrong. He said he felt worried and decided to run up the trail a bit to see if he could see us, as he wasn’t comfortable with waiting any longer. Wapoose instantly told him the scenario I was in, and I continued living in my own head, almost having forgotten about my foot now as it was completely numb and I was done caring or worrying about it, as I had almost completely accepted now that my foot was goingn to be completely messed up. When we made it back to the truck, it took both Wapoose and his dad to rip off my Aesics shoe (turns out Wapoose’s salomon shoe saved my other foot), and we discovered the sock was completely frozen to my foot, which again took both of them pulling as hard as they could to rip it off. I remember telling them to pull easier or they would break my ankle from having to pull so hard to get the sock off… Herb put me in his truck and instantly started cruising back to Waskesiu, calling his brother who is a doctor to ask what we should do.

We had been out there for over 7 hours with temperatures dipping much lower then -40 with the wind chill, and when we got back to Waskesiu all of my toes turned black (including my big one). Thank God the color came back within the hour… or else I would have lost some of my toes. The run has left me with a very large frost bite scar along the side of my foot, and was easily one of the sketchiest experiences I have ever had, sportwise and not. I had brought my camera with me that day, but we literally only took 4 pictures, as it was the last thing on either of our minds that day. Picture of us driving to the trail. How scary does that look?! What the hell were we thinking!? Haha.

Me almost completely frozen on the lake, I think this was taken shortly before my freak-out on the ice.

Wapoose trying to keep me focused on our way back to the vehicles.The aftermath… I almost wish we would have taken a picture of my foot when my toes were black, the color came back within the first hour. As you can see, my feet weren’t just frozen… my right side was cut and scarred the frost bite was so bad. My pinky toe lost all it’s skin and it looked like I had put my foot in a fire.

More or less what the scar looks like now on the right side of my foot.

Well, this was definitely the scariest ‘Living In The Shit’ experience I have ever had… if this story has taught anyone anything, I hope its that if you are planning to do an epic hike or run in -40 that you wear Goretex shoes! Haha. To this day even, when someone complains about being cold walking to their car or some other bullshit excuse, I’ll say “You don’t know cold, trust me” and I mean it. An experience like that is something you never forget, for better or worse!

Wapoose: A Post From Someone Who Was Born ‘In The Shit’

To you all that don’t know me I am William Urton or better known as Wapoose. Endurance sports have always been a part of my life. I can remember my first big endurance event being the 55km Saskaloppet ski race when I was twelve years old. Now twenty-three I continue to push my body’s mental and physical limits. My parents’ avid cross country skiers had me doing regular 10km skis at our Ranch north of Duck Lake by the age of six. I feel from doing endurance based sports for so many years my body starts to crave these physical and mental challenges. The satisfaction gained from pushing your body as far as it can go gives me a high that I have not found with anything else.

(The Urton boys on the way to Grey Owl’s Cabin)

Ben Rempel and I go back a long ways. I can remember our first event together. I believe we were thirteen years old and competing in the Frank Dunn Triathlon. We were both doing the cycling leg which to you who are not familiar is a 63km bike through Waskesiu National Park. From here cycling has been a big part of our friendship. From the annual spring Penticton road bike training camp to battling it out at Canada games to where we are now.

(Very oldschool picture I dug up and scanned onto my computer of Wapoose and I before the road race of the 2005 Canada Summer Games)

(Wapoose hammering at the start of the Canada Games Time Trial)

I have always been into running and started doing ultra type of runs when I was 14 by completing the Grey Owl Run in Waskesiu in five hours. This run is a 45km run through Waskesiu’s wilderness. From this point on ultra running was in my blood.

I told Ben that I would give a post about my most recent “living in the shit” moment. Let me tell you I have never lived in the shit like this before. This was the 2012 Grande Cache North Face Death Race. 125km of single track mountain terrain over 18000 ft of gruelling vertical. I have to admit I felt completely unprepared for this race due to my career of flying Twin Otters in Northern Saskatchewan taking up most of my summertime. Nonetheless I thought I would give it a go and see what my body could pull out.

(Right before the start of the 2012 Death Race)

Leg 1 (19 km of rolling single track trail): Known as one of the easier legs is approx 20km. Ben and I ran most of the time together setting an easy jogging pace. All felt good so far but with 105km to go that does not mean much.

Leg 2 (27 km including 2 mountain summits): This section of the race known as slug fest takes you through creek beds and some of the deepest mud I have run through with two mountain passes to be conquered. About mid way through this stage my body started feeling the previous months of sitting in the cockpit stationary. I could feel slight spasms of cramping that would not subside and pain in my quad’s when descending any hill. Running towards the final stretch before the feed station I was seriously thinking that my body was not going to let me do it this year.

Leg 3 (21 km of rolling technical single and double track trail): Sitting in the feed station I had a stunned look on my face. Scott Cranston and my dad which was my pit crew were shoving salt tablets and Advil down my throat. I sat there for about 10 minutes before saying, “Fuck it I got to get moving.” I think it was more that I was angry at myself that I kept moving. I started off on this stage walking and limping down the hills. Back at the feed station Scott and my dad were talking and saying I think Wapoose is done after this leg. My dad has seen me in many of my races and said he hadn’t seen hurt on my face like that before. About 30 min into this stage I started feeling like I was coming back from the dead and started a slow jog. I was able to run the rest of this leg without stopping right to the next feed station.

(Proof of Wapoose eating Chunky soup, this video is right before Leg 4 from the 2010 Canadian Death Race where he proceeded to set the 5th fastest ascent up Mt. Hamel. Too bad we didn’t have my little brother to videotape this year’s race! Also proof that you don’t need a GPS to run long distances… or even a stop-watch for that matter. Haha.)

Leg 4 (38 km including Mt. Hamel, the definitive mountain summit of the Death Race): Chowing on a filthy can of Chicken noodle soup and a few salt tablets I was thinking holy shit I might be ok. My dad said he thought they would be hauling me out of there by this feed station. Starting off on this 38km leg up Mt. Hamel I was already 70km into the race which had taken me 9 hours. Starting the ascent up Hamel I started feeling the familiar pain that I had felt in the second stage. My legs were tighter than they have ever been and my body felt extremely taxed. This 15 km ascent up Hamel took me 2.5 hours. I felt pumped to be at the top knowing it was mostly downhill and flat towards the fifth stage. Well this all felt awesome until I started descending and realized the uphills were easier on the legs than going down. My quads were on fire and I had a long ways to go. I started walking backwards down the hills to save my legs a bit. I had no idea what to do but keep going. I thought if I could make it to the little feed station 100km in that I could drop out there and catch a ride to town on a little mountain road. It began to get dark out and my head was in a strange place. I felt at peace and kept a steady pace knowing that I just needed to get to that feed station. I finally got there at 10:00pm. When I got there I thought fuck it lets push the envelope a bit more. There was a 5km loop that needed to be completed before starting the 10km descent to the fifth stage. During this loop my body started fading fast. Tripping and falling every 10 min I was starting to feel worried and felt anxiety like I’ve never felt before. I got back to the feed station at 11:00pm. I’m not sure what I was thinking but I decided to attempt the final 10km to the feed station where my dad and Scott were waiting for me. Down this hill I did whatever I could to keep going. Food was not an option due to my stomach being ruined. Knowing that this is all I had in the tank and that I would not be going farther than this I gave it my all. This last 10km took me 2 hours and let me tell you I don’t think I have ever pushed my body so far. My dad and scott being concerned walked down the trail about 1 km to see where I was and found me staggering along to the feed station. I got there sat down and said boys I don’t think I can do anymore. I had reached 105 km by 1:30 in the morning. Being out there for 18 hours my body was totalled. My legs started going into spasms and my dad threw a good pound of A535 on my legs. After about 15 min of sitting there I went to get up to walk to the truck but my legs wouldn’t move so Scott and my dad lifted me up and hauled me into the truck and when we got back to our place hauled me into the trailer.

You would think I would be disappointed with myself but I was amazed at what my body let me do. Thinking I was screwed 40km into the race but yet letting my body take me to 105km gave me great satisfaction. Although I was in pain I thought look at what a person’s body can do if they let it. All the pain I was feeling gave me a high by reminding me that few people get to push their bodies this far.

(Wapoose hammering at a cross-country ski race)

I’m sitting here in La Ronge right now where I live writing this and smiling. None of these memories are bad at all. They may sound gruesome and not enjoyable but because of the person I live off experiences like this. I’m looking at my feet seeing some of the aftermath of this race with a few toenails still wanting to fall off. All I can think of right now is doing it again next year. This story is my definition of “living in the shit”. For those of you who have not lived in it I suggest getting stinky. You won’t regret it. I am William Wapoose Urton and I truly love living in the shit!

(Ben Rempel, Wapoose, and the Herbavoire checking out the course for the Death Race, already can’t wait for next year!)

(Wapooose doing what he does best… ‘Living In The Shit’)


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