Three pieces of advice for first time racers (and helpful for all racers)

Actif Epica is a great day out on the trail. We’re pretty sure you’ll see some amazing places, meet some amazing people and that it’ll be a challenge you’ll remember fondly. Lots of good vibes! Inevitably though, there are the nagging questions, the questions that surround the ultimate one: ‘will I be able to finish’?

Here are three observations. These are the sources of most issues for people in previous years of Actif Epica – some serious enough that they prevented people from finishing. Hopefully they can help you feel more comfortable as you make your final preparations.

Safety Gear

In order to finish, you need to start. This means you need to pass the gear check on Friday (yes, it’s Friday the 13th). Pay attention to the mandatory gear list and make sure you have every item on it. If you fail, you’ll need to remedy the situation before you start… this means that if you show up early for gear check you’ll have more time to make an adjustment. There are usually a few gear check fails initially, but so far, we’ve always gotten everyone to the start line with their required gear all set. You’ll want to avoid the stress, though – double check the list ahead of time and leave yourself time if you need to make a change. And ensure you have all your stuff with you. There will be gear checks during the race and/or at the finish. We do this as a condition of our insurance and our special event permits from Province of Manitoba, City of Winnipeg, RCMP and Winnipeg Police Service.

Batteries

For your safety and ours, you need to have functional marker lights on at all times (“real” LED blinkies, not turtle lights). If your lights aren’t on, or if the batteries die, a race director or checkpoint volunteer can ask you to remedy the situation in order to carry on (or DQ you for not having safety gear). So… put fresh batteries in your lights or ensure they are fully charged. Keep in mind that almost no alkaline batteries will last in the cold and many NiMH batteries won’t make it either; you’ll need to carry spares and change them out. Or you can use lithium batteries, which tend to be less affected by the cold. This one has caught a few people in past years. The same advice goes for your GPS batteries, if you are using one.

Hands

The number one physical thing that has forced people out of the race is cold hands. Just getting frostbitten fingers is bad enough. It’s doubly dangerous when you consider that your hands can get so cold they stop being able to function properly. You can quickly wind up unable to do things— things like putting more clothes on or using your cell phone to call for help. Keep in mind that hands can get cold fast. Make sure you have some serious extra mitts easily available (not at the bottom of a bag) where you won’t hesitate to pull them out at the first sign of trouble. And having a chemical hand warmer (like Hot Pockets) with you isn’t a bad idea in case of emergency. Seriously. Remember to keep them relatively warm (e.g. in an inside pocket), since they don’t work particularly well if you try to use them at 25 below.

Ask Questions About Everything

You can never be too informed. If you’re wondering about anything at all, ask someone. We’ve even opened up a new section of the site for questions and answers and conversation. Even the most seasoned pros learn little tips from each other all the time. We’re in this together out there, and (despite what it may look like to some people) we do it all to have a good time.

Yeti Like See Bike!

Quick Route Guide

We’ve got a more complete spectators guide coming out shortly, but in the mean-time, here’s a quick guide to each section of Actif Epica:

Secteur 1, St Malo to St Pierre

  • 25km, beautiful park vistas, followed by some wild trail sections
  • Optimal viewing sites at St. Malo park gate or looking south from PR205 at Perrault Road (don’t drive down this road – typically very soft snow)
  • Watch to see who is in the lead! Runners start one hour before the cyclists – who will make it to St. Pierre first?
  • Prime activity from 7am to 10:30am

Secteur 2, St Pierre to Crystal Spring

  • 17km, a scenic road section along the Rat River, ending with a few tough miles north of Otterburne
  • Optimal viewing spot at Rat River Bridge (River Oak Road)
  • Watch the racers come through Otterburne – past the giant grain elevator and the tiny post office
  • Prime activity from 9 am to 11am

Secteur 3, Crystal Spring to Niverville

  • 20km, huge prairie skies and wide open spaces beautiful park vistas, followed by rough trail and …
  • A great viewing spot at Fontaine Road (watch for deep snow close to end of the road)
  • A neat feature on this part of the course is on Alarie Road, just north of PR305 – the road has a zigzag in a place where French and English land surveying traditions meet. This is unique in the region. Depending on driving conditions, it may be possible to drive through these zigzags, or you can watch from PR305 as racers weave their way north and east from
  • Prime activity from 10:30am to 4pm

Secteur 4, Niverville to St Adolphe

  • 12km, a short section, but one of the most exposed to the wind, and finishing with a trail section leading to the checkpoint in St Adolphe
  • A great place to watch is to visit the checkpoint in St. Adolphe and then walk through the park on the course
  • In the park, check out the historic ferry which crossed the Red River before the bridge north of town was built. There are also a number of restaurants in St Adolphe if lunch is calling you
  • Prime activity from noon to 3 pm (cyclists) and then 6-11pm (runners)

Secteur 5, St Adolphe to University of Manitoba

  • 29km, probably the toughest leg of the race – with prairie winds, the crossing of the massive Red River Floodway, and then a tough slog through deep snow in Maple Grove Park
  • Optimal viewing site at the corner of Chrypko Road and Two Mile Road (north side of the Floodway)
  • If you’re up for a walk, you can hike up the Floodway hill from the viewing spot and see the true enormity of this flood control structure. Check in at the University of Manitoba checkpoint and visit race sponsor Daily Bread Café for some warm soup or some hot coffee.
  • Prime activity from 2pm to 7pm (cyclists) and then 9pm to 1am (runners)

Secteur 6, University of Manitoba to The Forks

  • 15km, a mix of trails and quiet streets, finishing on the Red River Mutual trail (on the Red River)
  • Optimal viewing sites at the Forks Market Atrium finish line, or head down to the Red River ice to check out Rendezvous on Ice, grab a bite, have a drink and watch the racers come in
  • Watch the special medal presentations at the finish line, and see all The Forks has to offer
  • Prime activity from 3pm to 9pm (cyclists) and then 10:30pm to 2:30am (runners)

130km? I could never do that. Oh yes you could.

Maybe you’re new to winter running or cycling. Maybe you’re the brother/sister/kid/spouse/co-worker of an Actif Epica racer. Heck, maybe you’re a super pro snowshoer who is just not into riding or running all day. And maybe you’re thinking 130km? In one go? In February? That’s CRAZY. And who’s to say you’re not wrong? Thankfully, my friends, there is an alternative.

If you’d like to take part in the Actif Epica experience in, let’s say, a different way, we urge you to consider signing up for the Jack Frost Challenge, hosted by our good friends and event supporters at Green Action Centre. Bougeons en hiver: The Jack Frost Challenge pushes teams of 1-5 people to skate, bike, ski, snowshoe, run or walk a *combined* total of 130 km the week of February 8-14, 2014.

Walk the dog? Yep, that counts. Weekend ski? Yep, that counts. Ride to work one day? You get the idea.

With a team of five, you only need to cover 26km each (that’s 5.2 km each day). For reference, that’s about a 45 minute walk, or a 20 minute ride. You got this.

And what do you get for undertaking such feats of winter wonder? A chance to win some great prizes from MEC, Fort Whyte Alive, Festival du Voyageur and FROGBOX Winnipeg (who is offering $30 off $100 for each registrant). Plus some fun, maybe some health benefits and some cost savings, and the satisfaction of having snapped your fingers in the face of winter and said “na-uh-uh”.

You should totally sign up.

We’ll see you out there!