2011 CSM Report #3 - 'Race Report'
By: Lynette Chubb (2011/02/16)
Well, OK… so it isn’t a race (just finishing 167km over the weekend is the big carrot). Though to be honest, there were hundreds of Garmins recording tracks and lots of behind-the-scenes comparisons being bandied about for bragging rights to the best times and average speeds.
Due to lack of snow cover again this year, the Marathon course was diverted from its traditional 160km linear trail between Gatineau and LaChute, to an 83km loop through the Kenuak reserve in the Laurentian hills north of Montebello. The loop was trackset Friday night and the 2000? skiers traveled it in one direction on Saturday, then reset overnight so they could travel it in the opposite direction on Sunday. Limited snow cover challenged the trail groomers who performed miracles overnight to magically transform the first day’s rutted, moguled, rocky trail into a hard-packed smooth fast run for the second day. Only occasional patches of leaves, sand, gravel & rock tops were fairly easily avoided - the Marathon is hard on ski bases though!
The warm weather kept the 1st Aid crew busy with blisters, but the good trail conditions kept serious injuries at a minimum. The weather was perfect for waxing conditions until the occasional snow squall would fill the tracks with fresh snow that got a little grabby on occasion.
As a Safety Volunteer I headed out at 6:30am, headlamp glowing in the snowy dark, to 'Sweep' Section 1 (12km) after the first wave of Coureur de Bois Skiers (CdB's = skiers who intend to complete the entire Marathon distance in the time allowed) had left on Saturday morning. The horizon to our right turned pink as we headed north. The trail, (especially the hills) was pretty rough after the first 'wave', so after a 'take off your skis and walk' downhill just past km 4, we radioed back to the start line to ask the Start crew to advise all subsequent skiers to walk the steepest downs because they were getting messy and dangerous. The CdB's are fast, so we had the quiet woods to ourselves, no accidents or injuries & there was no need to sweep any stragglers off Section 1 at all.
Then, at 10:30 we (we ski in pairs -one 1st Aider & one radio operator/1st Aider) were sent out of Check Point 2 to Patrol the 2nd Section (26.5km), which took us about 5 hours due to numerous blister treatments & radio testing stops (this section was too long for radio contact from either end & we were testing for the 'dead zones'). We leapfrogged with the same string of Tourers most of the way, developing a first-name relationship with a few of them. Once we reached Check Point 3, we changed into our warm clothes & spent the rest of the afternoon nodding off between blisters in the Safety van and waiting for the final 'Sweep Patrol' to herd the last few exhausted skiers safely into the Check Point where they ravaged the hot drinks & snack tables before stumbling onto the heated school buses for their ride back. We were able to close down operations and got back to the motel about 7pm where we pillaged the buffet tables before meeting for a quick review of the day (yes - we did have a few tales to exchange!) and a re-stock of our 1st Aid kits. Quick hot (aaahhh) shower & unconsious for about 10 minutes (well... the 6 hours felt like 10 minutes) before our 4:30am alarm.
On Sunday I was in the crew sent to the far north end of the reserve (Check Point 9) to set up by 8am and be ready for the fastest skiers (the first arrived 9:17am) and few busloads of Tourers (shortly after 8am) who were dropped off to ski south. I was sent out on Patrol again around 10:30 and this time our mobile Safety 1 was trying to follow along a parallell road & patch in to our location as much as possible. We need to know where we can make contact in case we come across any skiers who need to be evacuated. This was the same section I'd skied yesterday and it was mostly a gentle wide easy 26.5km of mostly logging road, with only one hill that I'd remembered from the day before that I was fairly sure was going to be a walk -it had been scraped to the bare rock (even though it was an uphill?!) and had several steep drops and a sharp turn right at the bottom.
Around every corner I was looking for that hill and it just never appeared. My fellow patrolers & sweepers on that section were in the same 'ne deja vue pas' state of confusion, and we ended up concluding that the trail guys must have somehow re-routed to bypass the only dangerous spot in the whole section. We later compared GPS tracks by super-imposing them as well as asking Gaetan & Denis, only to have all sources confirm that the trail had NOT been re-routed and that the groomers had performed an absolute miracle on that hill, magically smoothing out the roughest steepest parts so that the entire Section was a delight to ski. We heard later from the skiers on Section 10 that the groomers had wrought similar miracles on that notorious section as well.
We arrived in Check Point 10 just as the final rush of CdB skiers was reaching it's peak - the rush coming through Check Point 10 in the hour before cut-off time was awesome. I never saw so many Coureur de Bois skiers in one spot before – it was great – I got to hug my 'Gold' guy and help out a bunch of my friends as they staggered through onto the last leg into Montebello. Being the second last section of the day, our sweeps straggled in in the dark, caked with a sticky layer of the swirling snowstorm that had begun mid-afternoon. Once the final skiers departed and our sweeps reached the next Safety (evacuation) Point, We closed down CP10, packed up and headed for the banquet in Papineauville, arriving in time to see my man and his two buddies awarded their Gold bars and 'Hat Trick' Awards (for completing the CSM, as well as a full running Marathon and a Century Bike Tour, all in one year).
Overall registration for the CSM was down, although registration for Gold participants (skiers who do the entire distance carrying a minimum of 5kg of food & gear so they can sleep out overnight in Gold Camp) was up by 100 and there were a record number of women (75) in Gold Camp overnight, so the guys had to be a little more civilised about where they emptied their bladders. The age range of these skiers is inspiring – they ranged from 12 to 82 in Gold Camp!
It’s an incredibly intensive weekend for most, but it can also be a great family experience – we saw quite a few permanent bibs (folks who had completed the entire CSM at least 5 times) escorting their kids (and even their grand-kids!) along the trail, just taking it easy & enjoying the new trails, scenery, animal tracks and fine weather. Lots of folks opt to do the Marathon as a Tourer, meaning they can ski as many or as few sections as they will enjoy – there is a heated bus waiting at every Check Point to take them back to HQ.
So… all in all, a successful weekend for everybody - in spite of the fact that it seems like every place else in the whole freaking world got more snow than we did this winter!
Kudos to the CSM!
We were SHORT OF VOLUNTEERS on the Safety team this year. So this is a heads-up for next Feb – although we need to ADD YOU to our CONTACT list NOW!! (You can always reply N/A later!)
The Safety team needs volunteers for one intensive weekend, willing to work hard outdoors and able to ski and perform first aid. Other qualifications which would elevate you to ‘most wanted’ would be a ham radio operator’s licence, good navigation/driving skills & able to operate a skidoo with toboggan.
More detailed information can be found at: www.safety1.ca To get yourself on the contact list for next year (& in time for their first aid training), contact Richard (Safety 1) at email@example.com.
The Safety team are only 20–30 of the hundreds of volunteers needed to run the CSM, so if the above qualifications don’t fit, tons of other roles can be found at http://www.csm-mcs.com/volunteers/index.html.