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CSM 2016 Report #1 - I completed my 2nd Canadian Ski Marathon
By:  Scott Walker   (2016/03/02)


I'm happy to report I completed my 2nd Canadian Ski Marathon (CSM). Mother Nature added some interesting twists to this years' 50th edition. Many thanks to the organizers and the many volunteers who make this event possible.

Last year I completed my Bronze Coureur des Bois (CdB) with about 3 minutes to spare. I said it was the most difficult thing I'd ever done. It was long, strenuous and very cold specifically on the second day. Although tough, I wanted to return and see if I could complete the event in the opposite direction. Once again, I was in for a challenging weekend.

I was fortunate to do a fair amount of training with my friend Real, an experienced Gold CdB. He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to endurance sports and the CSM. I appreciated hearing his insights and suggestions. Many of which paid off both this year and last.

Similar to last year, I spent Friday and Saturday night sleeping on a gym floor in Papineauville. It's not the best place for getting a good nights rest but this is one of the things you put up with when you sign up for the CSM. The Gold CdB get to carry their outdoor gear and meals and spend Saturday night sleeping outside at gold camp. Not sure who's got the better deal?

Following breakfast on friday morning we are whisked away in school buses to the starting line. This year the CSM started in Buckingham Quebec and went east to Lachute Quebec. Each day is approximately 80 km. Both days present different challenges but Day 2 (Montebello to Lachute) appears to be more challenging with climbing and descending.

It was snowing at the start of this years event. The temperature was quite mild and as the day unfolded the snow would turn to rain. Waxing proved tp be very difficult and I hesitated putting on Klister until the snow had completely stopped. Even with the klister my movement was slow and slippy. Initially I was thinking Day 1 would be the easier of the 2 but the rain continued and so did my struggles. When I finally reached the 3rd Check Point I found hundreds of people waiting for the next section to open. Apparently a snowmobile and a groomer had gotten stuck and they weren't letting people through until it was cleared. After a lengthy wait they decided to bus people around to the next section.Unfortunately there were far fewer buses than people. Hypothermia started to become a concern. I put on my down jacket and covered it with my shell. I also changed into some dry mitts. I felt ok but the crowd started to get impatient. After missing a seat on the next set of buses I was lucky enough to get offered a ride to the next section by a father and son in their car. I took the offer without hesitation. (later I found out many people waited upwards of 3 hours only to be bused back to the dorm in Papineauville).

I started the 4th section cold and wet. Fortunately I warmed up fairly quickly, although my progress was slow. I think I double poled the next 30 km to the finish in Montebello around 4 pm and returned to Papineauville to a warm shower and some dinner. I waxed my skis and figured out my logistics for sunday.

My neighbor, Steve, and his 2 children had accompanied me once again this year. Steve's son Mathew, who had completed his Bronze CdB with me last year was looking to complete his Silver CdB, a task made more difficult this year with a mandatory 5 Kg addition to our packs. He was also caught up in the delay at Checkpoint #3 and ended up returning to Papineauville after a lengthy wait. The organizers said they would allow all participants to continue day 2 without penalty. Considering the circumstances this seemed fair.

Day 2 started early with breakfast and packing. Many sleepy faces. Coffee tasted good. I didn't sleep much...

Once again we were whisked off in buses to the starting line, this time near Montebello. The Gold CdB had already started their day. The Silver CdB started at 5:50 am and the Bronze CdB started 10 minutes later. Once again it was mild and wet snow was falling. I was eager to get started but I found my heart was in my mouth and I need to get warmed up. I decided on klister from the start today and it seemed to be working better for the moment. Within an hour I saw Mathew and his friends over take me. He had decided to start with them at 6 am. Later I met up with Real. We chatted briefly and continued. Real looked very focused put mildly.

The day changed as the morning unfolded and by 9:30 am I was looking for my sunglasses. It would turn out to be the most beautiful day. It almost felt as if spring had arrived. The tracks were even slushy at times. Slowly yesterday was forgotten...

I knew that the 3rd section would present the greatest challenge for me with extreme assents and descents. I tried not to get ahead of myself and continued to pace myself. I started using a technique I saw people using last year of dragging your poles behind you to assist with difficult descents. This helped considerably. I was making progress but it seemed slow and I was starting to feel my energy dwindle.

Finally getting to the 3rd checkpoint, I realized I need to push if I was going to making the cutoff of 3:15 pm. My progress seemed slow and I started to doubt I would make it there in time. At one point I was passed by a father and son I knew. The father was trying to motivate his very tired son to continue and make the cutoff. He described the up coming trail and hinted of nice descents to come. I tried to stay with them. I would catch them on the climbs and then lose them on the descents. I started taking more and more chances and paid the price with a couple of good falls. With about 3 kms to go and less than 15 minutes to go, I thought I was out of luck. Then suddenly the descents came fast and furious. I was out of the woods but unsure how far I was from the finish line, when I passed a lady sprawled in the snow in a tumbled mess. It took a lot of internal convincing to stop and check on her. She was fine, a little hard of hearing but ok. I sped off and surprisingly made the cutoff with 5 minutes to spare. 2 full minutes faster than last year. Oh happy day! I joined the hundreds of people just on the other side of the departure point for the last section and stopped to enjoy the warm afternoon sun. Oh happy day!

What remained was 15 kms of trail at a leisure pace. My only concern was falling. I was tired and bruised from racing the previous section. I was completely knackered and decided to take my first Gel of the day. I met up with one of Mathews friends and we limped home together. I found out this young fellow was a rower and did a lot of training but this was only his 3rd time on cross-country skis this year, incredible.

I finally made it to the finish line and was greeted by my friend Steve. It was 6 pm. I happily took off my skis for the final time that day. Still in disbelief, I grabbed and hot shower, changed and got back on the bus to make our way home.

Having skipped the 3rd section on day 1, I skied a total of 143.6 kms (21 hours). Not bad for a weekend of fun.

Oh, and by the way, Mathew got his silver CdB too. I never doubted him for a moment.

See you next year at Gold camp,

Interesting Reading. . .
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