If we say that all roads lead to Rome, we can also say that all roads can lead to endurance sports ! The reasons that drive an individual towards so-called extreme activities, such as ultra race where the triathlon long distance , vary greatly from person to person. I will therefore share here my personal experience and my vision of the transcendence by the exceptional springboard that is physical activity.
Child , I was introduced to several sports such as swimming, kyokushinkai karate, snowboarding and mountain hiking. As much as I enjoyed these activities, I was not then aware of the vital role they played in my physical and mental balance.
at the adolescence , I instead branched out into the arts and entrepreneurship by founding a music group that enjoyed some financial success, among other things, thanks to the shows produced in my hometown of Drummondville. Sport took the back door in favor of a way of life where drug and alcohol use was often excessive . The group lasted for some time before being disbanded for reasons beyond my control.
There followed a slow descent into depression... Denial and resistance to change left me in a state of paralysis. I couldn't dream or want anything else out of life, my fixed idea was falling apart, just like me. Sensing the danger of drowning, survival instinct took over . Without really understanding the scope of my gesture, I took out my credit card and signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant 2018 !
50 pounds overweight and a smoker, I told myself that I had nothing to lose, that I was going attempt the longest triathlon known without experience, without a coach and without knowing if I was really able to finish it. Out of sheer curiosity, I challenged myself to overcome this Everest for all to see, through the cause of food aid. The local Drummondville newspaper announced my presence at the start of the event when I had never completed a marathon in my life! Donations were raised, the pressure was at its maximum.
For the first time, I tasted the fruit of discipline and the benefits of volume training. It was a true revelation . I realized that mind and body are inseparable. The pain tolerance can be learned and developed. By strengthening the body, we necessarily strengthen the mind, making us more able to face the vagaries of the world and of everyday life.
However, it was with great apprehension and a sleepless night in my body that I took to the starting line for this triathlon of 3800 meters of swimming in open water, followed by a 180 km bike ride and this first marathon which scared me so much. Despite the oppressive heat, I managed to see the finish line in 12 h 33 min. That same evening, I knew it wouldn't end there... I already wanted more, I was going to repeat the Ironman experience in 2019 but what didn't come out of my head was the trail running, especially ultra trail running. I felt that I had just crossed an impassable barrier by running my first 42 km and now I wanted to find out what was behind it.
Not going with a dead hand, a first attempt in 2019 on the 160 km of the ultra-trail Gaspesia 100 in Percé ends with a retirement at km 80. Heavy rains the previous days had transformed the trails into oceans of mud and my naivety in the face of the magnitude of the distance got the better of my knees. I knew my season was at risk if I continued given the drastic increase in the number of km I was putting my body through. So I decided to retire but the pride was still there! I had other goals in front of me like the 125 km of the Harricana 2019 ultra trail completed , a knife between the teeth, in survivor mode.
Again, I wondered what was there beyond the sporadic ultra endurance events. I first heard about multi-day races from the book North of Scott Jurek on the Appalachian trail crossing . He managed to cover around 80 km per day in the mountains for more than a month! With the cancellation of the races in 2020, I therefore decided to embark on my first expedition.
I chose to browse the ''little tour of the east'' which consists of a 625 km loop starting from the town of Sainte-Anne des Monts in Gaspésie . Followed by a support and video production team aboard a converted bus, we set off in the direction of Percé by the 132. Mother nature pampered us with the May 18 hottest in 50 years ! Outstanding temperatures followed all week, leaving me no choice but to run most of the time at night! We finally left the Gaspésie park by route 299 to return to the starting point in 8 days and 12 hours. Changes to shoes made with a penknife, swollen feet, blisters, sunburn, injuries, nosebleeds and hallucinations will have been there! However, I was surprised by the powerful adaptive capacity of the body . Despite a strong start with disastrous consequences, I managed to heal some wounds in motion and to hang on thanks to the exceptional support from my team .
On February 4, 2021, adversity came knocking at my door in a very unexpected way. While helping a friend clear the roof of a building, I fell and fractured my right malleolus in addition to tearing certain ligaments in my ankle... When I arrived at the hospital, the doctor's gaze was saying a lot when she came to give me her report. I was going to go on the operating table, the surgeon was going to put a plate, six vices on one side and operate the ligament on the other. My ankle would never be the same . I was devastated... It was my way of life that was going up in smoke. I had to apply what endurance sport had taught me. To put an end to the panic that was taking hold of me, I made the decision to see what was happening to me as a new challenge. Maybe it was irrational on my part, but I thought it was a test.
I now had the opportunity to challenge the possible again and test the body limits in another way. Once plastered, I wasted no time getting back in motion. Screws were added to my kickstand end caps and I was able to put on the one-legged winter ''race'' outings using my back and arms. I went from a modest start of just a few km per outing to about 60 km per week. The cast was finally removed and the rehabilitation period followed. Three months after the accident, my surgeon confirmed the consolidation of the two operations, like a good Quebecer, “it was well restored! '' It was the green light for more dynamic loading. Rather than opting for a standard rehabilitation in the physio room, I decided to work my ankle on the trail, in nature. Using poles, I traveled short distances that were very painful but oh so rewarding in terms of the mobility gained and the improvement in impact capacity.
In theory, this type of injury takes 6 to 12 months of healing before being able to make a gradual return to activity. Despite my compromised state, I still took the start of the 113 km ultra trail of the Chic Chocs 2020 considered by many to be the most technical trail race in Quebec. After only five months of healing, I expected nothing more than to come out in one piece. During this race, the term semi-autonomy takes on its full meaning because there are only 3 extraction points possible by car over 56 km of trail. There is no helicopter and a rescue would be a grueling logistical challenge. So there was no room for error. Of pain and misery, I have managed to make it halfway through the course . At the end of the outward journey, at km 56 over almost 3000 vertical drop, I was stopped by the race closers preventing me from starting the return... I must admit that I enjoyed my ''lift''!
Following this performance, I started to believe that I could learn to live with my condition and find a way to continue my projects, whatever. I consulted my main partner for the Tour de la Gaspésie 2020 and we decided to repeat the experience but in winter as planned, on the dates decided at the start, i.e. January 6, 2022. I have since been striving to prepare for best I can to this new Everest: 625 km of winter running on the road exposed to the sea and this, only 11 months after my double surgery. More than 2,000 km have already been driven in preparation for this project so far. A film crew will be present and a short adventure film will be made. I would like to finish in less than a week and be carried by good winds, but if the storm rises, I will smile at her with joy.
By this testimony, I hope to have aroused your curiosity as regards your possible. Dare to surprise yourself!