Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ice Donkey 2012 - How It Went Down

Daughter Younger had been tagging along in my last few skating sessions in prep of this solo adventure race. It was unlike her to to give up her Sundays to be with her friends to go skating with her mother and when I asked her about it she replied " Cuz I want to do Ice Donkey too". That conversation took place 7 days before the race. I spent the next 5 days telling her why she shouldn't do this race. 2 days before the race she was registered...along with her 12 year old cousin whom she recruited. Cousin's dad was already registered and he was going to do the map reading and keep us from getting lost. My running partner-in-crime, Nicole, had also signed up.

Prior to daughter signing up, my worries were focussed on how I was going to manage the skating section, and...well that was about it. After Daughter Younger signed on I got a whole whack of things to worry about. Once I set her up with my bike, running gear ( second hand store all for under $40. Good gear, too), and snowshoes I was able to relax.

Race day rolled around and she didn't complain at getting up at 5 am. I was not feeling grounded...worried that I would put my shoes in the wrong drop box and have to run in my biking boots. Or worse, I would forget her shoes.

Nicole picked us up and we struggled to get all 3 bikes on her new bike rack. Colin stopped by to pick up Olivia and just as she was entering the car she said she had not drunk anything since waking up. I was so worried about getting the right clothing and gear that hydrating her completely slipped my mind. She was about to start an adventure race without fluids. Colin said he would pick up some water for her and breakfast for his daughter on the way. That was good enough for me as this adventure would be equivalent to playing outside for a few hours. Same difference, right?

As we were following Colin on the way to the race, Nicole became obsessed about her new bike rack and confessed she was worried all 3 of our bikes would either come crashing through the back of her window or crashing to the ground and getting promptly run over. I had not noticed that the rack was swaying from side to side. She was commenting on how nice Colin's bike rack was when all of a sudden he pulled his car over. Just as he stopped the car, his 16 year old rack collapsed in a heap on the road, followed by their 2 bikes. We all brainstormed for a few minutes but in the end he managed to stuff the 2 bikes in the trunk of his little car and we were off again. Colin was calm throughout this ordeal but Nicole and I were basically hysterical at this point.

We arrived at the site 10 minutes later, entered the Forks and began the final registration process. We unloaded the drop boxes and I was feeling generally relaxed. was feeling confident we got everything in the right drop box, especially after Nicole reassured me of this fact 3 or 4 times. Now all that was left to do was go play outside for a few hours. Eventually someone announced it was time for the racers to meet on the ice in five minutes. nicole mentioned we should keep our map handy as we were preparing to head out. Colin replied he never uses a map for these city races because you just follow the crowd. Colin is a wilderness guru. For fun he goes into the woods solo for a few days once or twice a year and once he even trekked in the rockies for a week by himself without getting lost. Upon this sage advice I ignored the guy next to us who had his waterproof map attached to his jacket all handy like and proceeded to stuff mine into the bottom of my back pack. We slapped on a few hot shots and headed out the door.

As were were gathered on the ice listening to the race director give important information, we start to get chilled. Olivia tells me her hands are cold. I don't worry about it too much because her pogies will warm them up once we get going. Except we don't go any time soon with all the announcements. what seemed like 5 or 10 minutes later, Olivia's hands have not warmed up even though she kept them in the pogies. Colin solves the problem by offering her a pair of warm mitts he had in his pack. For all that talking I have NO IDEA what the race director said...couldn't hear a thing from where we were positioned.

Finally we are off! We position ourselves at the very back. A few minutes into the ride we come across what is to be one of many slick patches of ice and experience our first of wipe out. Before we know it we are all alone....except for some guy who is trailing behind us and who is frequently talking into a walkie talkie. I later learn he is what is called the Sweeper. Aprox 20 minutes into the ride we experience our first directional problem. I was heading towards the canoe club ( hey there was a trail) and I do believe wildness man confirmed this was the right way. Sweeper guy sets us straight and tells us to go in the opposite direction. Is it just me, or does this guy think we're not going to last long out here? Shortly afterwards I notice Colin has decided to consult the map.

About an hour and a half later ( I don't do time well so the stats may be way off) we get to leave the bikes behind and put on snow shoes. I glossed over the bike part, but it was the most difficult part of the race from my point of view. The girls were troopers but they weren't having a lot of fun. This was an hour and a half of hard work! Also, for the entire bike portion I was wondering how I would explain to my husband how my child got frost bite while in my care (turns out they were not cold).

We started the snowshoe section of the race in typical fashion by unknowingly going backwards about 1/2 km into it. Colin forged ahead to set us straight. By this time we lost Sweeper guy ( I think we earned some credits by actually finishing the bike portion). This bit gave the kids a rest and they looked like they were having fun again. The sun had come out and it was warming up. Even though I was wearing well worn shoes, a blister formed at my heel from the snowshoes pulling at the back of the shoe. This portion took about an hour.

We arrived back at the bikes and had to ride to the running portion. I don't think we got lost again and this section was basically uneventful...just a nice bike ride in the middle of a sunny winter day.

Next is the running station. colin and the kids get their shoes on first and we tell them to go ahead, we'll catch up. They must have made good time because it is not for a long time later that we catch them. This was a much longer leg than I had imagined and the girls were getting seriously tired ( I think they may have gone out too fast). Around this time the race director phones Colin on his cell. I am not at all focussed on time and have no idea how long we have been out. After what seems like an hour of running I become worried that this kind of endurance might be too much for the girls. Colin informs them that we are getting close to the cut off time. He asks them to think about whether they want to quit at the end of the running section ( which we might finish before the cut off), or complete the skating section, but it will be on our time as the race will have closed by the time we get there. The girls agree they would like to finish at the end of the running section. The last 1/4 of this section they had to dig deep. I try to give them helpful hints which are not helpful. Colin and Nicole also give very encouraging words to the girls. Eventually Colin spots the people at the end and he tells the girls they are waiting to see the girls finish and that they should run strong. This works! After this momentum kind of takes over.

We arrive at the skating section and are greeted by volunteers, Colin's wife, his parents, and his sister's family. How awesome to have this kind of support! I hear Aiyana tell her grandpa they are not going to do the skating portion, but grandpa says something encouraging and the next thing I know we are all in skates and the girls flew off. the girls are awesome skaters and there was only 4 km left. I knew this would be fun for them. They could show their stuff. Nicole and I are left behind but they are always within our sight. We turn a corner and for 2 km are skating right into the wind. The girls are behind Colin and they look very graceful.

We finally finish at 3:45 and someone takes our picture. We are hurried inside the catch the awards ceremony I am told. As soon as we enter there is loud applause from about 50 racers, volunteers, and the race directors. They stayed to cheer the girls. I cannot begin to explain how this warms the heart...to see the generosity of fellow runners give support in this manner. They would normally have gone home this late but they stayed behind to cheer them in. Tears come again even as I write this.

I had no idea that this day would end up ranking one of my best race experiences ever. I take my DFL and hold it dear. The girls did not seem to think it was a big deal, but I am deeply touched by their strength of character. I believe they will always remember the support they received at the end of this race.

Here is a snippet of the event I found on Youtube. I like the beginning portion the best. The rest doesn't seem to fully capture the challenge of Ice donkey in my opinion.Even so, it is a good glimpse of what the day was like.


  1. Wow, you had amazing weather today! We were down at the Forks for lunch and took a walk down the river trail for a bit afterward. We had to work off the deep fried chips, beer, and smoked bbq ribs from Muddy Waters. LOL, love the wipeout action and the view of Esplanade while you're zooming across on the bike. Is it me or did the Human Rights Museum look like there was a giant middle finger sticking up? Congrats on your race!

    1. Someone else made this video. Haha, it is true about the Human Rights Museum.