The Canadian Ski Marathon

By John Hauser

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“Wait, is my tongue actually freezing?” This unique, and rather ridiculous thought entered my mind just after sun rise on day two of the Canadian Ski Marathon, or CSM for short. I was about 25 kilometres outside the quaint town of Montebello, Quebec, en route to La Chute, located an additional 60 kilometres down the trail. I had learned not to think much about the total distance remaining.  A distance which seemed almost impossible. 60 kilometres would be the longest nordic ski of my life, if I hadn’t just skied 82km the day before.

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Like any large task, the best strategy for completion is to break it down into manageable chunks.  Complete those one at a time, and eventually come to the larger goal made up from those smaller parts. Where I stood, I was on Section 4 of the 10 sections that make up the full Coureur des Bois route of the CSM. I only had 3 sections remaining, and with section 4 being the longest of those remaining at 21.1km, through my shaky rationalization, the end seemed achievable [Coureur des Bois is French for “runner of the woods”, or “lumber jack”, the CSM emulates the travel of the Coureur des Bois of the past as they carried furs, letters, and other important items across Quebec].

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Playing the numbers game can be a welcome distraction when you are spending nine to ten hours a day on your skis. It’s a simple game to play as the metres tick by.  But at times there are more immediate concerns. In this case, a possibly frozen tongue at risk of frost bite. Day 2 of the CSM began at 6am in frigid -20 degrees Celsius, with winds gusting up to 30 kmph, which brought a biting wind chill.  I had looked at the forecast shortly after my 4am wake-up and I thought I had dressed appropriately for the weather. Thick merino wool socks, wind proof briefs, thermal long john’s, insulated ski pants, thermal synthetic long sleeve base layer, a thermal long sleeve cycling jersey, a heavy primaloft insulated parka, balaclava, toque, clear lens sun glasses, wind proof gloves, and over-mitts. Every square inch of bare skin was protected from the cold. Except for that moist fleshy muscle inside my mouth. Now, thawing out anything in your mouth seems simple enough; “close you mouth, stupid”, then let your body’s natural furnace do it’s thing.  The problem with skiing with your mouth closed is that you’re still required to breathe. Breathing out my nose, the moisture in my breath instantly froze to the lenses of my glasses, rendering me blind. So there I was, blind, with a freezing tongue in the middle of the longest cross country skiing event of my life. Like so many things in sport, the answer to my predicament was simply to suffer through. The concern of a frost bitten tongue is likely quite irrational. So I continued down the trail, stride after stride, metre after metre, until eventually, I reached my goal that seemed nearly impossible a few hours before. 163 kilometres across the terrain of the Laurentain mountains from Mont Tremblant to La Chute.

Yours in adventure,

JH

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Post script:

Now in my mid-thirties, my goals in attending sporting events have changed since I was a younger competitive athlete. Where my goals were once personal bests, and podiums; they have now become more about enjoying the challenge of an event, in essence, the personal challenge of completing an event.  I also take the time more than ever before to take in the scenery around me, and enjoy the memories formed on the trails and roads. Whatever your reason for taking on a sport, I hope you enjoy every moment of it, even the suffering 😊


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Wild Rock is looking to grow our team!
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We're on the hunt for a friendly, motivated outdoor enthusiast and salesperson to jump on board and share their skills and passion with our Wild Rock family. Experience in an outdoor adventure, cycling, or other retail environment is a major bonus, but if you believe you have the enthusiasm and willingness to learn, please do not hesitate to apply.

Send a resume and cover letter to [email protected] or (even better!) come into the store and introduce yourself to Tori or Brayden. We'd love to meet you!

Wild Rock is an equal opportunity employer that offers lots of perks and a work environment that is hard to beat. Anyone is welcome to apply. Please note that this position does require some lifting (up to 50 lbs) and regular use of stairs. Please apply by Friday, January 18th.


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The Outside.
 
 
 
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I was walking with my head down when the dirt ended. It was raining. Not torrential, soaking rain, but the kind of rain that’s more like wet air; constant, light, and misty. Impenetrable. Cold. Eight degrees is lovely in the sun, or even just when your clothes are dry, but wet it feels like your bones are frozen.

I stopped when the footpath led directly into the ice. Under my feet was orange sand scattered with chunks of obsidian while ahead of me blue ice topped with a few inches of snow ran perpendicular to the path I walked.  It seemed to go on forever.

The map had warned me that the path crossed a little finger of the glacier, but what had looked small under my pen looked insurmountable in real life. Everything had looked smaller on the map. The scale couldn't be comprehended from a folded piece of topographic paper. The only small thing in this place turned out to be me and I found myself slapped in the face with my lack of experience.

I was a total hack job.

As it turns out, filling a backpack with camping gear and dehydrated food then flying to a frigid, treeless country to hike its backcountry does not make you ready for it. I guess that’s partly what I went for; to be confronted with this moment of raw insecurity; to figure my way out of whatever mess I got into so that I’d feel more capable in other parts of my life. So there I was, standing in my Gore-Tex leather boots with my Osprey pack filled to the brim with all the right things, not knowing how to move forward. I was freezing my ass off.

 

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If I couldn’t find the path on the ice, what was I going to do? This question pressed uncomfortably at my mind but at least it was a distraction from my blistered, swollen feet. In this moment I knew that I was facing six or seven more days of this pain; of this indecision. I begrudged every gram of weight in my pack.

This was hypothetically only two kilometers from the camp I was aiming for, but it would be a lot further if a glacial excursion left me lost in Icelandic backcountry.

How will you feel if you walk all the way back?

Good point, me, but how will I feel if I get lost and die of hypothermia?

Pretty stupid.

Whose idea was this?

As I stepped onto the ice, my internal voices continued to argue, and I kept walking. I could pick out some footprints here, or a shallow depression there, and once in a while even a gloriously tall wooden trail marker in the snow. It turned out I didn’t need orienteering mastery.

A few hundred meters in, I looked back. The air was like a blanket of water and I couldn’t see past the snow through the fog.  Walking through a sea of frosted grey and white while the ground faded into the air where they met was a wild sensation. 360 degrees of wet nothing.

I have never felt so alone or, frankly, been so alone. 

So I cried. Obviously.

I released the straps on my bag and dropped it into the snow and just stood there crying. Don’t get me wrong; this was at a time in my life when I had a few things to cry about. But this wasn’t entirely about those things. It was more a kind of emptying.

Because The Outside lets you do that: feel whatever you want and stand there pouring it out with no humans around to react. The Outside is utterly indifferent.

To call it indifferent sounds negative, but indifference does two things: it forces us to take total, sole responsibility for what we feel, and at the same time allows us to feel anything. We don’t have to justify it out there.

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At home this time of year, light fades, temperatures drop, and fatigue and sadness creep in. I don’t want to go outside. Hiking, climbing, and riding my bike all sound less appealing than eating, reading, and watching movies.

So I do them for the indifference. I do them so that I’m outside where I have to, and get to feel what I’m feeling – illogical or unreasonable as those feelings seem.

Then I go home and tell myself to remember how good I feel so that I can talk myself into it again tomorrow.

On that particular walk, home wasn’t in the cards. The only card I had to play was that of forward movement; the next camp; my tent. The sun came out for about 6 hours that week. Nothing dried and there was nowhere to hang it anyway. I had blisters on 6 toes and one of my nails came out, but I didn’t get swept away in any of the glacial rivers.

That hike was filled with more beauty and more physical misery than any week since. It sucked. Seriously.

 But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I wish that special kind of misery on all of the people I love because of how much it made me - and let me - feel.

I wish it on you.

[T]

 

 

Tori is our resident adventurer here at Wild Rock. From Icelandic adventures to climbing in deserts to weekends spent in hammocks. Live vicariously through her in The Journal!

 
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Why We Love Gravel.
 

WHY WE LOVE GRAVEL

The Journal is the space to Go Out and Play with Wild Rock

 
Kieran. Gravel. A match made in Groad Heaven.

Kieran. Gravel. A match made in Groad Heaven.

Gravel, Hardpack, Dirt, Chip Seal, Rail Trail, Groad- whatever you want to call it - riding a bike off the pavement opens you up to a whole new world of that many never thought was a  possible on a bike. Riding gravel has been a long-time favourite of ours here at Wild Rock - here is why we love it so much.

 

Quiet Roads

The reality of cycling for many of us means we are competing for real estate with cars, trucks, buses, scooters - a world of mechanized monsters that can be downright scary at times. The beauty of venturing off the beaten path of our tried and true paved routes is that quite often the vehicle traffic (save for some farm equipment) is much lower. Part of the fun of many gravel rides is actually counting the number of cars you see. I doubt it will hit double digits.

 

More Adventure

Typically we ride the routes we know and are comfortable with. But often this leads to rides becoming, well a bit stagnant (how many trips have you made up River Road?). As soon as you point your wheels down a dirt road that sense of adventure stirs up inside you. There is something just plain fun about riding a bike on gravel, and we love the break from those sometimes monotonous rides and routes we have hammered along too many times. Gravel roads open you up to new rides, great views, and quite often destinations you didn't even know existed.

 

Better Rewards

This one isn't backed by any measure of science. Gravel riding offers some pretty unique challenges, sometimes those hills are a little bit tougher, you need to pay more attention to the road that lies ahead, and it takes a little bit more umph to turn those pedals. Hey, that's all part of what we love about it. At the end of a good gravel ride that cold can of Coke, double scoop of Kawartha Dairy ice cream, or the pint of Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion is just a little bit better. No science, but I will let you make your own conclusion on this one.

 

Really Good Stories

Looking to jazz up your Instagram feed? Need better stories for Monday mornings at the office? Well how about riding your road bike on dirt - "that's crazy!", "you did what?!?", "there was a porcupine?!?" - see you can thank gravel riding for that. The road less travelled has always told a better tale, why not write a new story on what you can do on a bike. We love gravel and hope you take the leap and give it a go, or if you happen to be a regular gravel grinder - ride it more and bring a friend.

 

Check back for more as Gravel Week continues at Wild Rock. Be sure to check out our Gravel Bike Sale. See ya on the dirt! [J]

 
Absolute Perfection.

Absolute Perfection.

 

Jamie is our Athletic Department Manager, trend seeker, and digital dude. He is always up for talking about the latest gear, proper sock height, and Trappist beers from Belgium. He also loves drifting his gravel bike on loose corners.

 
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