CanadaMan/Woman - Setting The Scene
Author : Carrick Armer
PhotoCredit : Pyro
This year - in fact, today, July 6th - marks five years since the Lac Megantic rail disaster, where a train carrying 7.7 million litres of crude oil derailed and burst into flames in the centre of the town, killing 47 people and destroying the downtown area.
While the organisers of the CanadaMan and CanadaWoman X-Tri are determined not to dwell on the tragedy itself, the first edition was spawned from a desire to bring people - both local and distant - back to a small town trying to re-discover and re-create itself. And with over 600 racers (plus their supporters) from all over the globe arriving in town, the second edition seems to having a degree of success.
In terms of those participants, in the full X-Tri race there 175 solo racers and 59 teams from 14 countries and territories, ranging from Canada, USA, South Africa and to the comparatively tiny Overseas Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The shorter Sprint Tri on Saturday hosts another 175 solo racers and 25 teams. All those participants are in for a warm day out, with temperatures of 26°C forecast for Sunday, though that's significantly cooler than the 35-36°C heatwave that's dominated the early part of the week.
Course-wise, the Sprint tri competitors have a 750m swim from the Baie des Sables, the site of the T1 transition for the X-Tri, followed by a 20km out-and-back cycle heading south from transition onto Highway 263 then back north. Finally, a 5km sprint lap from the campground, zig-zagging south initially then looping back north to finish back where the whole thing started. That seems much simpler to explain than the full X-Tri course!
The X-Tri participants will start at 4am on Sunday with a short, symbolic 'Wind Walk', from the site of the train crash to the lake itself. In normal triathlon fashion, the race starts with a 3.8km swim in Lac Megantic, apparently named from an Abenaki word meaning “place where fish are found.” Those fish will have to steer clear of the racers, as they make their way westwards from the start across the northern end of the lake to the exit of the swim at the Baie des Sables park where the Sprint Tri competitors had their race the day before.
From there, into biking gear ("changing in the tent only, no public nudity allowed" - specified in the route book) and onto the 180km cycle, with 2500m ascent, along the Route des Sommets - "a 193-km circuit that connects the highest mountain peaks of southern Quebec from La Patrie to Saint-Adrien in the Eastern Townships where panoramic scenery is truly exceptional all along the way", according to the tourist blurb, at least. I'm not sure the riders will appreciate many of the views, as the course is definitely what you'd class as 'undulating'. In fact, there is precious little flat ground on the entire course.
The riders have already been advised of a particularly nasty climb called 'du Morne' at around 80km, just beyond Lac Drolet, and with the last 10km being an almost continuous climb of 400m, it's a fine struggle just to tighten the legs up before the run transition. Any riders that overshoot the transition would rapidly find themselves in hot water and/or Customs, since the transition zone is less than 2km from the US Border.
The final run has its own challenges, not least the fact it's a marathon, with less than half the distance on tarmac, with 1200m of ascent. There's one section particularly noted in the routebook as "Wild Canada section - Be careful, very technical trail with rocks, creek crossing, etc". And after that little joy, they begin the final ascent to the observatory on top of Mont Megantic at 1100m above sea level, on of the centrepieces of the Dark Sky Preserve.
Again, I suspect the participants will have little time to appreciate the stars, at least not until after they've crossed the finish line, though organiser Daniel Poirier says that they advise participants in the race briefing not to dwell on their pace and to enjoy the area and the course. "This is a hard course, and no-one cares about your time and your position. Put the watch down and enjoy the place".
Whether the racers heed this advice or not is open to debate.
For tonight, the participants are registering, sorting kit, and enjoying the atmosphere at the Centre Sportif Megantic, where local vendors have brought food, fruit, beer and piles of cheese. The registration queues are out of the door, but at least it's a pleasant-if-slightly-breezy evening to be outside. And of course, we'll be covering both races, though unlike last year's SleepMonsters reporter Chris Stirling, I won't be racing the main event, never mind winning it!
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