Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rock and Ice Wrap-up

Following a long day of travel on Saturday, we are back home to what we now affectionately call Yarkerknife.

Being away from home for 11 days is a long time. Since Sara and I tend to be homebodies, it made it seem a little longer at times. We were kept busy the whole time of our trip though, with race planning, in addition to writing assignments.

I still have a hard time wrestling with my personal Rock and Ice race experience this year. Feeling fairly confident going into the race, it still frustrates me to no end that I ended up with a big fat DNF on day two. I know that I wasn’t feeling well on the week of the race, with the taper, travel and planning, however I wasn’t too concerned about things. I fully expected that as soon as the race started, I would feel better, just like many other times in the past. Obviously, this didn’t happen as I have been sick since and still feel like hell.

Dropping out of the race on day two of six feels very much like unfinished business. I had a roller coaster of emotions going through my head during the later stages of the race, as I was watching from the sidelines. I felt as though I was on the outside looking in. I’m not one to cherish race souvenirs; however I really wanted one of the Rock and Ice finisher awards handed out when participants crossed the finish line. I found myself looking in the other direction when participants were given this memento upon completion of the race. It’s not about the memento itself, but just what it symbolizes.
As much as my race was such a disappointment and a feeling as though my body let me down, it helped greatly that even though my race fell apart early, Sara nailed her race big time. It was very cool to see all of her hard work come together and that she was obviously getting stronger and stronger each day. It was interesting too that Sara seemed to have the same experience this year that I had last year, in that she felt that she changed and truly became an ultra runner during the course of this race. It’s exciting to think of what’s next for Sara this year. It sounds like a 50 miler may be in the works for later in 2009.
As for me, at first upon dropping out, I thought that I might be able to salvage another race sooner rather than later as my recovery would be that much quicker since I hadn’t competed for the entire six days of the race. That is still a possibility, however I need to get healthy first before deciding what’s next. By the end of last week, I was starting to feel a little bit better …weak still, but better. However, my fever has now returned with a vengeance and with it a sinus infection, sore throat, heavy chest and achy ears. Once again, it’s back to getting healthy before thinking about registering for the next race.

In the meantime, I still have some writing to do about the 2009 Rock and Ice Ultra. Looking at it from a spectator’s perspective is not my ideal way of doing things, but has been interesting none the less. There are so many great stories from the race, and having not been wrapped up in finishing the race, I have had the opportunity to see many of these things a little closer than I might have otherwise.

Rock and Ice is the type of race that really gets under your skin. You form many close friendships with people you have just met, but feel like you’ve known them all your life, from race director Scott Smith, right on down to volunteers, fellow competitors, media and the Yellowknife community in general. The challenge and attraction of this type of race is obviously huge and can be life changing for many once completed.

I have had a lot of people ask me if I am planning to run the race again next year. After the disappointment of this years race, I was unsure how I would feel and what my thoughts would be. At this point, I don’t think that I can leave R&I as a DNF, so if I have the opportunity, I think I need to go back.

I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line last year after three of the hardest days of running I have ever done. I could also see that in Sara’s eyes when she crossed the finish this year and that she had learned something as a runner and felt an incredible feeling of accomplishment. Even though I was only racing for a total of less than two days, I do feel as though I learned a little more about the race and what it takes to run well there which would help me in the future. Whether it’s first place or last place, I don’t really care. I just want to cross the line at the Rock and Ice Diamond Ultra.

And, now a few final memorable thoughts from the race…

Race Highlight:
Sara winning the K-Rock three day race. She nailed it and just seemed to get stronger and stronger as the race progressed. Thinking about seeing Sara come across the finish line in first place and having conquered some very difficult conditions, was an incredible sight and will continue to give me a warm feeling for years to come.

You needed to ask? Obviously, getting sick and having to stop.

The first day of the race consisted of extreme conditions. High winds and wind chills, plus driving snow at times where you were out in the middle of a lake and could not see the shoreline.

Bigger than life people and friendships formed. There were so many nice people who we got to know very well, and too many to name as we wouldn’t want to leave out anyone. Special thanks to Scott for doing everything that he does and for putting this together. The volunteers, especially Elaine for being so kind. Ken, for being a friend at camp. All the media, racers and community. So many wonderful people.

Trout Rock Lodge:
Once Sara’s race was over, we had the opportunity to go out to Trout Rock Lodge with the media, in addition to helping at the stage camp finish line. The weather was beautiful and we were shuttled in by a vehicle used by the Swedish military that was a cross between snowmobile, bus and boat. Being at this remote lodge felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. Northern Lights:
We were lucky. I have always imagined what the northern lights would be like and never in my wildest dreams did I picture them to be so beautiful. We had just gone to bed when Scott woke up the camp to tell everyone that they had to get up and see the northern lights. We were treated to a swirl of dancing green lights that connected from one end of the sky to the other. Sara and I walked away from the lodge and out onto Great Slave Lake where the northern lights were so bright and close that it seemed like you could almost touch them. It was incredibly beautiful and certainly something that I will never forget. I was disappointed that I really didn’t get a chance to see much of them last year, but was grateful that Sara and I got to see them together this year.

International Friends:
The first night that we arrived, we met the Italian team of Pietro, Katia, Francesco and Gabriela, and hit it off right away. Even though language was an issue with trying to communicate, we were able to do so and got to know them all very well. It sounds like they are planning to return next year, which will be nice to see them again. There were competitors from a total of 11 different countries taking part in Rock and Ice, making this quite the international field. We got to know everyone pretty well over the course of the race.

Fun times:
It was fun sharing stories with fellow racers. The media was also an eclectic group of individuals who were quick with a joke or story to tell. Some true, some not so much, but all good times.

Sara and I are vegetarians and don’t eat meat. However, when in Yellowknife we were given the opportunity to sample some traditional dishes which included various types of wild meat. All were excellent and while it’s nice to return to our regular diet, it was great to try out these foods that we don’t have a chance to eat regularly. We even made the trip to the world famous Bullock’s Bistro and enjoyed what Reader’s Digest calls “The Best Fish and Chips in all of Canada.” The Arctic Char certainly lived up to that billing.

Each of the races had an interesting story and many weren’t decided until the final day. Congratulations to Mike, Greg, Denise, Liza, Dennis, Shawne, Thom, and of course Sara. Also, congratulations to Phil for fighting it out to the end in the closest race at R&I, and Jenn for gutting it out despite injury and making things close as well. Just completing this race is a victory and a huge congratulations goes out to everyone who did.

We would also like to thank again the following sponsors for supporting us at the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra:

La Sportiva Running Team
Kingston Police Association
Scott Smith (Rock and Ice Ultra Race Director)
Bob Duess/President of Duess Geological Services Ltd (GPS)
PolarMAX (base layering systems)
Outdoor Research (windpants)
Duane Ramsay Alaskan Huskies (pulk design and construction of runners)
Ryan Alford (Snowshoe Magazine)
Jack and Rosemary Spafford
Brennan and Heather Spafford (pulk artwork and support)
Peter and Judy Montgomery
Debbie and Jack McKeown (gear swapping)
Karen Spafford-Fitz & Family (Edmonton B&B)

To read Sara's race report, please click here


  1. Derrick

    Again I am sorry about how things turned out ( it actually bummed me out for a couple of days) but I know you will get another chance at it! Remember what doesn't kill us makes us stronger and I am feeling a sub 18 hour Haliburton 100 later this year!


  2. I still find it hard to imagine what went through your head when you had to finally DNF. The disappointment must have been overwhelming, but it was the right thing to do, no question.

    Recover, have a great summer season and I'll see you up there next year, maybe with a couple of friends.

    Can't wait to read all the articles


  3. I'm glad to hear that you're keen on going back for take #3...You know you can finish this thing and even post a great result! The R&I is definitely one of the toughest challenges I've ever completed, and as we saw on day 1, from diamond contenders to general participants, it gives no mercy!

    Looking forward to seeing you on the start line again in the future.


  4. Thanks for the comments guys. Nice to finally start feeling better and begin looking forward to what's next.