In life as in nature, the storm often strikes without warning. In February 2021, following a dumb accident, I had to rush to the hospital for double surgery on my right ankle. Six screws, a plate and a ligament reconstruction later, my young ultra-marathon career seemed to be over before it had even begun.
I decided to defy the odds, to keep the projects on the calendar while relearning to run with my new condition. Starting from scratch a few metres at a time imposed humility on me. The absence of movement having given me a thirst for running like never before, I thought that a 660 km in winter conditions around the Gaspé seemed a reasonable project... or almost!
Living in my Dodge Grand Caravan, I was able to put on the elevation training while camping at the foot of the mountains. Living as a "full timer" in a non-insulated vehicle allowed me to be in constant contact with nature and to acclimatize to the cold gradually as fall turned into winter. A mixture of 2,500 km of trails, asphalt and ski resort runs will have put my rebuilt ankle to the test. "If it still holds after all that, it will hold for the rest, I told myself.
On January 6, 2022, I finally set off on the "little trip across the East" accompanied by a support and documentary production team. The Quebec winter was definitely there. It enchanted us with its presence, with temperatures dropping below minus thirty before the wind, which sometimes blew up to 100 km/hour. The difficulty brought by the exposure to the elements was compensated by the beauty of the landscapes. Icefalls and snow-capped peaks, raging ocean and pack ice, sunrises and sunsets; everything was there to inspire the soul.
Fellowship quickly developed within the team and deep bonds were forged through shared success and adversity. We became one, each one an essential part of the tribe's progress. One for all, all for one. Without filter and without sleep in the long 13-hour nights of the Gaspesian month of January, we knew how to keep our harmony and our good mood. It didn't spare me the moments of mental fatigue where sadness and exhaustion were sometimes mixed, but what would an ultra be without these typical lows... Fortunately, the ascent is also a classic!
On a multi-day endurance effort, digestion becomes an important element, as it is vital to maintain our caloric assimilation capacity. I personally love to eat, but the sheer amount of calories you have to take in can make it difficult over time. That's why choosing foods that you actually enjoy is so important.
Running an average of 20 hours a day and needing 350-400 calories per hour, I have gobbled up several hundred Näak bars on my journey... among others! I challenge anyone to do the same. I must admit that the four different flavours were able to swap the sickness of the place. I did not experience any digestive distress during my odyssey and I attribute this success in part to the ease of digestion of Näak products which were an important tool in this adventure.
It was with great pride and gratitude that we arrived in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, eight days later, back at the point of origin of our journey. The team had prepared a surprise arrival line for me and I was doused with cheap champagne, followed by a poutine feast washed down with micro beer. It was perfect, thanks life!
The multiple parameters involved in multi-day races fascinated me to no end. As a second experience, the first being another tour of the Gaspé Peninsula in May 2020, I noticed a few mistakes to be corrected, such as better sleep management or respect for silence when necessary. Recovered and back in training three weeks after the finish, I have a burning desire to set off again towards other horizons.
I plan to run alone, autonomously with a small cart, for several days, or even a week. I want to know what a long crossing requires without human and material support. I will therefore carry provisions, a sleeping bag, a tent and a sleeping mat. I also want to spend more time in the mountains and will attempt to FKT (Fastest Know Time) on the Gra01 in August 2022, chasing Mathieu Blanchard's time.
The Appalachians are beautiful and this major project gives me shivers of excitement and fear at the same time, which is a good sign! In the meantime, I will participate in the 160 km Gaspesia100 in Percé on June 17, 2022 to take my revenge on this course, the scene of my first ultra in 2019. You could say that I have a lot of work ahead of me!
I invite anyone who would like to get involved in future adventures or projects to contact me personally, I will be happy to discuss with you. The best part of this adventure are the friendships that come from our follies and that's why I'm not done making them yet.
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