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"My Best Bonk" Contest Entry - Eric Betteridge ("A Teddy Bear Kept me Company")
By:  Eric Betteridge   (2005/03/03)

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In the winter of 1983-84, I and other members of the McGill Nordic Ski Team took part in the now defunct Laurentian Loppet. It was the first loppet of the Carlsberg Light Series, and the fact that they gave out free samples of title sponsorís product was not lost on the twenty or so of us who regularly went to these races.

Being the first loppet of our season, there were likely some wrinkles to work out with regards to nutrition, pacing and clothing not to mention goal-setting and as the following will show, I should have been more realistic in all these areas.

It had snowed about 5 cm the night before the race so the tracks for this classic event (skating hadnít really been invented yet) were soft. The lead group was fast and the race was long. I should point out that at 6í2Ē and 152 lbs I should have been wearing more than a skin suit and a single layer of polypro for the length of time I was going to be out on the trail, either that or I should have eaten more. I actually canít recall eating, though I know that I did drink at the checkpoints.

The first two thirds of the race went well. I stayed in contact with the lead group and felt strong (donít all these stories seem to start this way?) but then something happened and I began to feel very uncoordinated. In fact I could no longer go down hills with my knees bent because I didnít have the strength to hold myself up. Descending hills with locked knees led to some predictable falls, and used up extra energy as I had to continually drag myself out of the snow at the side of the trail. I began to feel very cold.

My focus was strong, however, so at the last checkpoint I put on the cotton sweat shirt that I had carried so far, probably ate and drank a bit (the details are fuzzy) and snuck past the checkers on to the trail. I say ďsnuck pastĒ because I remember feeling very satisfied that they hadnít seen how out of it I was. The last thing I wanted was for some well-meaning person to give me the help that deep down I knew I needed. I was no longer in contact with the lead group. People must have been passing me but I donít know for sure.

I remember coming out of the woods into a large field or clearing that had a gentle up-hill. As I skied along with my stiff-legged survival stride, I became aware of a teddy bear who was skiing along at the same pace, just to my right. If I had been more lucid, this might have been disturbing, but as it was I told myself that I was doing alright because I wasnít talking to him. The next thing that I recall was hearing somebody asking me if I was OK? I opened my eyes and looked up from where I lay in the snow and replied that I was fine. Luckily for me the two gentlemen refused to take my word on the matter and they each took an arm and skied me to the finish line which it turned out was just around the bend and about a kilometer away. I remember lifting my sweatshirt so that my number could be recorded (I hadnít clued in yet that the time was insignificant, compared to my physical state) and then my team-mates took over my care from the two guardian angels.

I didnít make any friends in the building where we were all gathered at the end of the race. My pupils were so small as to be non-existant, but they let enough light in that I could see food and drink. My friends had to buy replacement hotdogs and hot chocolates for the surprised people who made the mistake of walking within an arms length of me once we had got through the door. It would be an understatement to say that I was hungry, but at least I was conscious.

Though Iím sure it is not the recommended treatment for a possibly hypothermic victim, I was prescribed a hot shower and whatever I wanted to eat and drink by my solicitous team-mates. To get the shower we had to drive to the local secondary school of whatever community we were in and have the watchman open up the building late on a Sunday afternoon. Of this and the trip back to Montreal I have little recollection. I a friends place overnight which had the added benefit of a check-up by his MD landlord before bed and another before he would let me go home in the morning.

 
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