The Défi is dead! Long live the Défi!
At the end of August, we got the bomb via Facebook: M. Fortier would no longer organize the Défi. But instead of letting the event just die like that, a group of skaters took charge "unofficially", created a FB page for the Défi amical (a new version of Défi) and in just a few days we had more than a dozen people confirmed to once more skate on the third Saturday of October.
There was some discussion about doing the Défi in September, because the weather would be better, but as we were already in September, the organizers preferred to keep the traditional date, with the understanding that for next year we would discuss more about the date.
After some consideration, I decided to do my Défi starting and finishing at my own house. I live near the km 115, so I could do the last 13 km first and then meet the other skaters for the "départ amical" at the Verdun Auditorium. There was no point in forcing my wife to take me to the starting point by car and then have her get me back at the same place at the end. If this was going to be unofficial, then for sure I could do it my own way. I announced that at the event page on FB and got a positive reply from the organizer, so I was set.
Mother nature is a b!@#$!
One week before the Défi I did my last long training session, I skated 38 km around Montreal. It was glorious, the weather was perfect: it was a bit cold, but it was dry, it hadn't rained in days, the pavement was just right for some skating.
But then the temperatures started falling and the winds got stronger. The leaves of the trees fell down in tons, it was really hard to skate in those conditions (I go to work through part of section 5 of the Défi and could see the conditions worsening day by day).
Then on the day of the Défi it rained non-stop overnight. The tons of leaves transformed in one immense mess...
Nevertheless, at 5 am on Saturday morning I was ready to go:
I must have skated even slower than my usual pace. I had imagined that I would have a few minutes to talk to the other skaters when I arrived at the Auditorium, but when I got there the organizer said "So, we're all here? 3, 2, 1, go!" and off we went for the first Défi amical.
As usual, I was one of the slowest skaters, most of the others just went off and I never saw them again. I only left behind one female skater. I don't know if she had had other experiences with the Défi. She did not seem to have even a lamp with her. Skating in the dark, alone is not something I would like to do. I never saw her again either, so I must assume that she gave up at the first stages of the event.
So I was skating in the dark, with just my head lamp to help me, when I got to a place where I was not sure where to go. I continued forward and ended up in a mud patch. I fell sideways. My only fall of the day, but pretty annoying considering I was all dirty now. Then I looked around and saw that the bike path at that point does a hard turn to the left. Oh well, I cleaned myself the best I could and continued on my way.
I had seen some snow in 2004 or 2005 but it had been very light stuff. This year, it snowed for real! We had some real snowing in the first hour or two. I had never seen that during the last thirteen Défi events in which I took part. What an experience!
The rain did not stop at all in the beginning, I got thoroughly wet inside and out.
The path seemed longer this year. By now I almost know the Défi path by heart, but everything seemed to take longer to show up. For instance, I got to the end of the first section at 7h51, one of my slowest times ever for this section.
DNF again! :-(
Going through the second phase of the Défi under the rain and the cold was painful. Around midway of the second section I had already decided that I was going to quit once more, there was no way I could finish the Défi under those conditions.
Around km 45 another skater showed up; she said her name was Catherine and she had started later. She asked me how I was doing, I told her I was going to quit, I was just looking for a public phone to call my wife. She was gracious enough to lend me her cell phone to make the call.
I talked to my wife and we agreed that we would meet at my regular "quitting point", soon after the end of section 2 at the corner of St Charles and Pierrefonds.
My fellow skater went on by herself, I continued as well, but much slower, because it would be some time before my wife could come and get me.
This is me when my wife (and my daughter, what a surprise!) arrived to take me home:
My hands are black because my gloves started releasing a lot of dye with all the rain I got. It would be days before that ink would disappear...
At home, after a good shower and a nice meal I went to check the computer to see what had transpired. In the end only five of the ten or twelve people who started the event finished it. This is what they got at their arrival:
Yes, it snowed enough to get some little snowmen on the bike path! Wow!
I announced my DNF on the FB page and told them that next year I'll do my Défi in September. There is no point in waiting for so long in the season.
Thanks to Christine for organizing the FB event page; to Pierre for the yellow arrows and all the info about construction; to Catherine for lending me her cell phone; to all the other skaters and friends that one way or another made this event possible; and, of course, to my wife for rescuing me from the cold and bringing me home.
Plans for next year
As I said before, there are talks already about doing the Défi in September, which is a good thing. For my part I intend to do the Défi more than once: I'll do it in May/June, then again in September with the rest of the gang and if we have dry weather on the third Saturday of October I'll do it once more. I just won't skate in the rain and in the cold anymore. It's absolutely not fun at all.