Monday, March 16, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #8: Heading North

Training is done, gear has been tested and re-tested, everything is packed and we’re ready to head to the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra on Wednesday. We’ll be flying to Edmonton, staying at my sister’s place; and then heading up to Yellowknife on Thursday.

Before the race, all athletes will be staying in the Matrix Village in large tents right on the ice in Yellowknife Bay. These tents resemble the Gatineau Park Yurts, and are located right next to the famous Snowking Ice Castle. The comfort of the Matrix Village will be replaced with our evening accommodations during the race of teepees and expedition tents stage camps…we will be sleeping directly on top of the snow.

Thursday and Friday will be filled with gear checks, registration and we will also be taking part in the Arctic Response Survival Training. I took the survival training last year and it was well worth it. There were many important winter tips offered that helped during the race. While it was scary hearing about worst case scenarios, it is vital to be aware of what you need to do in an emergency situation. The somber final words we were left with last year were “Be smart. Don’t get dead.” Kind of makes you sit up, take notice and realize that this is an extreme environment and you need to be careful.

What I find really interesting with Rock and Ice is that even with a $6,000 diamond on the line, competitors are not cut throat by any means. The camaraderie among competitors resembles more of an expedition than a race. It’s like everyone is working together towards a common goal of completion. There has been a great deal of sharing of information between competitors already, as many have been discussing different gear ideas and recommendations back and forth with each other. I don’t expect that this would be the same with many other races with this type of purse.

However, having said that, once the gun goes off, the competition is sure to be fierce. Race director Scott Smith has assembled a top notch field for the 2009 race with athletes from Great Britain, Australia, Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, Japan and Canada. Skiers, triathletes, adventure racers; combined with trail, mountain and ultra runners are going to make for an exciting race to follow.

On the Canadian side, look for former national team cross country skier Phil Villeneuve to be the man to beat in the men’s ski. The foot/snowshoe division will be a little wider open, however 2008 champion Greg McHale will be trying to repeat. Ottawa adventure racer Andrew Cameron and former Canadian Mountain Running team member Jason Loutitt will be trying to dethrone Greg.

Liza Pye, also from Ottawa, will be competing for the women’s title in the ski race. The women’s foot/snowshoe race is shaping up to be an epic battle between ultra runner/adventure racers Jenn Segger and Denise McHale. Denise may have the home court advantage though based on her third place finish overall in last years K-Rock three day race at the Rock and Ice.

With a race like this, favorites can sometimes be surprised by competitors with slower personal best times. Add all the competitors from other countries outside of Canada, and things will be very interesting. As race director Scott Smith likes to say, “This is the north and anything can happen.”

The race begins on March 21, 2009, with daily updates and photos available at


  1. Good luck you two, have a safe trip and enjoy your self up there I will enjoy the warm weather here!!!


  2. Thanks Keith. Sure has been nice running in shorts the past few days.

  3. I don't know why, but I find that race captivating. I'm excited for you both. Have a blast, I'll be rooting for you.

  4. Derrick,

    All the best to you and Sara! I can't wait to hear about the adventure!