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CSM 2016 Report #2 - Never Again. Til Next Year.
By:  Laurel Johnson   (2016/03/07)


Mother Nature is a powerful lady, and this year, she flexed her muscles for the skiers of the CSM. For the Coureurs de Bois, the CSM is a very challenging event – 160km of skiing over two days, with a variety of terrain from easy to not. This year… it became … a slogfest.

Short story – I skied 7 out of 10 sections, but still earned Silver (credit for the entire distance, 160 km over 10 sections) carrying a 12lb pack. On Sunday, I skied all five sections, 85km, in 11 hours, 45 minutes. To put this misery in perspective, during the Jackrabbit in January, in conditions that can be described as perfection, I skied 105 km in 11 hours, 57 minutes. 13 minutes longer, 30km more.

Incredibly long story, matching the relative duration of my experience - Kudos to the organizers – in the weeks leading into the CSM, there was not enough snow and I can only imagine the fretting that was going on. Several days before the event, they put out an email reminding people that the CSM is an adventure, and the lack of snow was going to make for a more difficult journey. Then, just a few days before, we received a gigantic snowfall – 50cm of fresh, deep, fluffy stuff. They groomed. And then on the Friday night, hours before the CSM start, it snowed again, 15 cm, another significant snowfall. Saturday morning, it rained. They groomed again…

Saturday morning, we were sent off with fireworks, me in the pack of those seeking Silver status, Gold ahead of us, Bronze behind, tourers would start later. The first great challenge arrived quickly. Perhaps because of all the fresh snow, the trail was narrow, very narrow, too narrow, and in the first few km, we were frequently at a complete stop, waiting to climb, waiting to descend, waiting to make any progress at all. The first 4 k took 1 hour. Once we finally got moving, the next challenge presented itself – no grip. Rain was coming down on top of fresh snow and my wax was not working for me. I hit the first checkpoint and found out that the waxing volunteers were applying Klister. Off I went, Klistered up, and my grip was much better. I was wet from the rain, but warm from my exertion. Happy as a clam, I was leapfrogging with some of my wonderful training buddies – Maude, cousin Becca, her hubby Ian, hoping that I would see Roger, Julie and Sereena who as Gold Campers had started ahead of us. The second section went very well and the memory of all the stopping near the start faded.

I blasted through the second checkpoint – top up liquids, re-apply Klister, potty stop, kiss kiss to all friends – and then… grinding halt. The groomer had gotten stuck in the deep wet snow between the second and third checkpoints. I believe they tried to send snowmobiles to groom beyond the stuck groomer, but that didn’t work either. They were not letting the skiers proceed, and decided to bus people around this section to resume at the next checkpoint. The problem was, there were far too many skiers and far too few buses. The Bronze folks had started to arrive (which meant dear training buddies Heather and cousin Tiffany were now with us) and buses were dropping off tourers who would start at this section. A bus would come and hundreds of people would approach, trying to get one of the 40-some seats. It was still raining, and the warmth from exertion was no longer available.

I want to say thank you here – to the volunteers at Checkpoint Death, as we called it. They were amazing. They circulated in the crowd distributing hot drinks. They sought out people looking particularly cold offering shelter in a few running vehicles. They did everything possible to ensure that we were safe – cold but safe. Our band of merrymen formed a penguin huddle to share our body heat. We were three hours waiting outside in the rain, wet to the skin, before we were able to get on a bus.

In the end, they called the day. People who managed to get on an earlier bus were able to complete the other two sections. People who arrived at the checkpoint very early, while the situation was still being assessed, managed to leave and ski around the groomer, before the organizers took greater care to make sure no one left. I struggled at the end of Saturday – I have never not completed something that I set out to do. DNF is not an option. I can only say that at no time could I have done anything differently to get a different outcome. I wasn’t willing to abandon my gang of friends, and why would I be entitled to a spot on an earlier bus over someone else? Would I shove my way past others equally desperate to get out of there and carry on? Obviously not. It was quite the bonding experience, we maintained our high spirits and are now thinking we should get t-shirts made to commemorate the moment. Er, moments, many, many moments.

That was Day 1. Day 2 can be summed up as follows: No grip or too much grip. The rain had stopped and the track had frozen overnight. Ice. The day warmed up and occasionally it snowed. Fresh snow and Klister do not mix. We needed to Klister on the ice and the minute we hit fresh snow, we fell over. The Klister wore off quickly on the ice but in the snow, there was plenty enough Klister to cause big clumps of snow on the bottom of our skis – much like walking on snow stilts. In stretches of snow, I would scrape off Klister only to put it on again a few km later when the ice returned. It was so bad it was comical.

I made the final checkpoint with 15 minutes to spare, arriving with a few friends already there and my two cousins close behind. We had other friends who decided take a bus at an earlier checkpoint, either knowing that they would not make the cut-off or deciding that in the circumstances, they didn’t care.

I achieved Silver status, for CSM 2016, a year that will be remembered. I always choose a mantra for endurance challenges, and like the Jackrabbit, my mantra was Enjoy the Journey. Over the course of the weekend, I also gave credit to the ditty, adopted from The Cars: I am here for a good time AND a long time!

Never Again. Til Next Year. The unofficial motto of the Coureurs de Bois Gold Camp.

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