Exciting Pre-Race Meeting Venue! (and a few other updates)

Pre Race Awesome.

We are really excited about our new sign-in and pre-race meeting venue— The Forks Market Food Hall.

Our long-time Finish Line Sponsor, The Forks, has graciously invited us into their beautifully renovated Food Hall for our sign-in, gear-check and pre-race meeting. In addition to being stunning, The Food Hall lets us diversify participant’s food options on the Friday evening. With nearly 20 different delicious food vendors, Actif Epica will be providing racers with a gift card to purchase what they like. Oh, and we should mention The Common— located in the Food Hall, The Common offers a great variety of local craft beer and a discerning selection of wines. You could use your gift card there, too. We recommend ordering your food earlier rather than later to make sure you have time before the Pre-Race meeting at 7:15— the lines can get long when it’s nice out (and the entire city is working up an appetite while out skating the river trail).

Green Action Centre Jack Frost Challenge || Bougeons en Hiver!

The annual challenge from our friends at Green Action Centre stretches all the way back to our first Actif Epica. One of the main reasons we created Actif Epica was to encourage people to get outside and celebrate human powered activity in the Manitoba context, no matter what the weather. Green Action Centre loved the concept and developed the Jack Frost Challenge || Bougeons en Hiver to show that even if you aren’t especially inclined to travel 130km (our original distance) on your own steam in a single day, anyone can do it with friends over the course of a week. If you live in Manitoba, we highly recommend signing up! They’ll also be joining us at the Finish Line on the 18th to celebrate human resilience!

Frosty Face Winnipeg.

Also in the spirit of celebrating the crisp, clean climate of a prairie winter, Frosty Face Winnipeg is a new project that we’re proud to be partnering with. A photo project celebrating Winnipeg as a winter city, Frosty Face invites you to show your love of the cold by sharing pics of your own Frosty Face on Facebook and Instagram with the tag #FrostyFaceWpg.

Important Race Bible and Technical Manual Updates.

Racers: Some important details have been adjusted and posted to the 2017 Race Bible and Technical Manual. We highly recommend you go through it carefully. In particular, we’ve made some changes to the start times and to the shuttle— but there are other new details also. A list of updates can be found here, but please review the whole document. You are responsible for knowing its contents.


My First Time

Thinking of trying your first winter cycling ultra? Do it, you won’t regret it!

However, If you are serious about this— especially if you want to do the 200km ride— you need think seriously about what you are about to attempt: what does it take it to do an ultra? how fit do I have to be? what should I do to prepare? These are all very important questions to consider and you should take the time to think about them.

My first winter ultra was the Arrowhead 135 (220km) in 2012. When I signed up for that race I had a fairly good idea what I was getting myself into, because I talked to friends who had already participated in this event in 2010 and 2011. They gave me a ton of insight on what it took to be successful. I got a really good idea of what I needed to do when I went to the Arrowhead in 2011 to watch a friend compete— what I saw made me take my preparation for my first attempt at a winter ultra seriously.

Ride. Ride. Ride.

I saw that it was hard, much harder than any summer ride that I’d tried. So the first thing I did was ride— a lot. Even before my entry was accepted I ramped up my winter riding, I rode every chance I could. Whether it was only for a couple of hours or for a whole day, I was riding my bike. This did two things: it got me ready for the race physically, and it let me test my gear to see if it would work in the cold temperatures.

I learned that training was especially important in cold weather. You need to ride in the cold, in the wind, and in the snow to know the effort it takes to ride a long time and distance. I rode a 12 hour race in fall (End Tombed). I rode every weekend for a minimum of 4 hours and often longer, and I rode at least a couple of times during the week. I rode to my family Christmas gathering which was a 145km trek. All of these things helped me get physically ready for my first winter ultra.

Riding in the cold for long times and distances also let me see how my bike handled the cold weather. I found out that my bike did work in the cold. It shifted and braked properly, and those rides let me test to see if my freewheel would freeze open. This was important because it gave me the confidence that my bike would perform when it came time for the race, especially after having seen others who’s bikes failed them out in the cold.

Figuring out what to wear.

Riding in the cold also let me test my clothing. I got to know what combination of jackets, base layers, and footwear would keep me warm and comfortable. I had to make sure that I had the right clothing for the longer distance rides. The wrong combination of clothing means you get could get cold from either too little protection or from too much. Because if you overheat, you sweat too much and you’ll get cold from that. You need to figure this out. It’s important. I have seen more than enough cases of frostbitten hands, feet and faces— you definitely want to avoid frostbite. Thankfully I have not seen a case of hypothermia— very cold people, yes, but not full blown hypothermia. Don’t be the first one I’ve seen.

It is also important to test your hydration and feeding systems. You need to make sure to keep your water from freezing, you may not get as thirsty as you do on a summer ride but staying well hydrated in the cold helps you keep warm on your ride. You need to test your food and your ability to get at the food when you are out in the cold. Not only that but you need to be able find the right food that doesn’t freeze solid and become too difficult to eat.

Testing 1,2,3…

Finally, practicing several possible scenarios that could happen during the race was also very important. I would do things like ride for a couple of hours, stop, let the air out of one of my tires, take the tube out put it back in and inflate it again, so I could continue riding (this was also a test of my pump to make sure that it too would work in the cold).This gave me the confidence that I could do this if I had to on a ride.

I also tested my ability to be able to get into my survival setup when it was extremely cold out. To do this I rode for 3 hours on an evening when it was -30. After riding for the 3 hours I stopped in my brother’s back yard to see if I could safely get into my sleeping bag (carrying a sleeping bag is a requirement for Arrowhead). I did this in a backyard because I wanted to make sure that I safe out in case things went wrong – they almost did. At first I felt warm and was not in too much of a hurry, I was surprised by how quickly that changed. It started when I could not get my sleeping bag out of the compression sack, the coldness made it difficult. By the time that I finally got everything out and set up (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and bivy) I was starting to shiver and my hands were getting really cold, by the time I got into the bag I could barely do up the zippers because my hands were so cold – I learned a lot from this experiment, especially what it takes to be safe.

All winter ultras are unique and difficult – the weather, distance, and the terrain you need to navigate make each winter ultra different. The most important thing you can do is to take time to prepare for event, make sure you are physically ready , that your equipment works, your gear is sound – take the time to ride and practice your skills and gear, doing this will make for a rewarding ride.

Taking it even further— all the way to Alaska

Some people (they know who they are) have said that while they love Actif Epica, and while they participate year after year after year, that they think it’s just plain not long enough. So we decided to give them exactly what they wanted. The 2017 Edition of Actif Epica will see extended options of 200 km for cyclists and 162 km for runners. Don’t worry— the classic 120 km race will still be around for the rest of us.

We are very pleased to announce today that Actif Epica has been accepted into the fold of the legendary Iditarod Trail Invitational as an event qualifier. Cyclists and runners who complete the longer stretches will now qualify to enter Iditarod! That will make us the first (and only) event in Canada to serve as a qualifier for the big one and only one of 7 globally. So get your gear together, plan your training, and get ready to register on October 1st.

In the mean time, we would love to hear from you if you’d like to help us out. We’re looking for volunteers to help us organize everything starting in August.

Here’s a media release we’re sending out this afternoon:


Local Winter Ultramarathon Becomes Sole Canadian Qualifying Event for
Legendary Iditarod Trail Invitational

Actif Epica, Manitoba’s most gruelling ultra endurance event has garnered exclusive status as the only event in Canada to serve as a qualifier for the internationally-renowned Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska, becoming one of only 7 events globally to do so.

Spanning the Crow Wing Trail, Actif Epica is adding options for its 6th annual February event that will see contestants travel by bike to Winnipeg from as far as Emerson— a distance of 200km. Actif Epica will take place on February 18th, 2017 and includes options of 120km, beginning in St Malo for Cyclists or Runners, with newly added extended options for cyclists beginning in Emerson (200km) and for runners beginning in Ridgeville (162km).

ITI Race Director, Kathi Merchant welcomed Actif Epica as a qualifier, saying it offers “a great event that is challenging and rewarding to athletes and where they are allowed to learn about themselves, winter travel and the area in Manitoba.”  Actif Epica Co-organizers, Ian Hall and David Pensato are excited to bring the race to a new level. “The Iditarod is really the Big One,” said Hall “everyone who competes in these kinds of ultra-endurance winter events dreams about getting in, so for us to be a qualifier really gives Actif Epica a big boost.”

Dubbed “A Celebration of Human Resilience,” Actif Epica has drawn participants from as far as California, Colorado and even Brazil. “The combination of epic adventure with a unique cultural and geographic experience has earned us a reputation as one of the main events to check out in adventure racing and ultra-endurance communities,” enthused Pensato. Previous editions have seen up to 80 registrants a number that’s expected to increase with the race’s new status.

The Crow Wing Trail provides a unique set of experiences to participants, traversing the Red River through south-eastern Manitoba through to The Forks. Crow Wing Trail Association President, Murielle Bugera is pleased with the attention, saying “Our communities are excited to welcome athletes from around the world. It can be difficult for us to imagine everyone who might benefit from a 193-km continuous trail, and here we have a perfect example!”

The race has earned several distinctions, including being named as one of Canada’s 10 Big Rides (Canadian Cycling Magazine, 2013), a Manitoba Tourism Award for Event of the Year (2014) and one of Canada’s ultimate adventures (Impact Magazine, 2016). Registration for the 2017 edition opens October 1.


Media Contact:

David Pensato