Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Some run to Mexico, others race outside

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Last year at this time, tough-talking Manitobans who love to get outdoors were griping about mild weather and the absence of snow. This year, many of those same people are trying to book flights to Puerto Vallarta.

Thanks to actual snow and a sustained deep freeze, we actually have a winter this year. And those conditions have arrived just in time to prepare for a pair of races that celebrate genuine winter weather.

Here's what's planned for Winnipeg over the coming weeks:

Ice Donkey Winter Adventure

Sunday, Feb. 10

The goods: A five-kilometre obstacle course.

Location: The former Southwood Golf Course grounds at the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

What's up: Now in its fourth year, Ice Donkey has dropped its earlier multi-sport format in favour of an obstacle-course run. The change was made to open up the Winnipeg race to more participants.

"People loved the old format, but you needed all this equipment. As long as you can run, you can do this one," said Jan Cmela, one of the organizers with Swamp Donkey Adventure Racing, which runs a total of four events throughout the year: Ice Donkey, Pain In The Assiniboine (June 23), the Dirty Donkey Mud Run (Aug. 17) and The Swamp Donkey multi-sport race (Sept. 21).

Unlike some of the other events, There's only one tier of competition at Ice Donkey, although the large number of entries means the race is divided up into several heats. The idea is to encourage participation from anyone, not just superathletes.

"Our goal is to get people off the couch and outside, regardless of the weather," Cmela said. "The obstacles are meant to bring back the memories of when you were a kid and played outside in the winter."

Duration: An average of 45 minutes per competitor, though the very fit may finish in far less time.

Participants: Approximately 300 in 2012. Somewhere between 400 and 500 are expected this year.

Registration deadline: Feb. 8

Entry fee: $65 plus GST

More info:


Actif Epica

Saturday, Feb. 16

The goods: A 130-kilometre endurance race for cyclists and runners.

Route: St. Malo to The Forks in Winnipeg, passing through St. Pierre-Jolys, Otterburne, Niverville and St. Adolphe along the way.

The goods: Inspired by Minnesota's Arrowhead 135 winter race, Actif Epica launched last year with the intention of challenging cyclists to a marathon slog through deep snow. But mild weather last winter allowed three racers to complete the route in just over six hours.

Race conditions this year should match the expectations of an event that's intended to pit participants against the elements.

"We looked at the conditions here and thought southern Manitoba is the perfect place for a long race. The defining feature here is the wide open spaces and the extreme wind," said David Pensato, one of Actif Epica's organizers. "The idea is in Manitoba, we're tough and resilient and the winter doesn't stop us."

The race is open this year to people on foot, who get one extra hour to complete the course, which utilizes portions of the Crow Wing Trail, crosses the Red River Floodway and winds up with a section on the frozen surface of the Seine River. Both cyclists and runners are allowed to stop and rest along the way, provided they ensure their bivisacks are in sight of the trail, for safety purposes.

Pensato said he isn't sure who will find the race more difficult this year -- cyclists, who can move more quickly on open stretches, or runners, who don't have to carry bikes through deep snow. "It all depends on the conditions that day," he said.

Duration: Cyclists are allotted 24 hours to complete the race; runners get 25 hours. In 2012, completion times ranged from 6:10 to 13:28.

Participants: There were 35 races in 2012. Organizers are expecting 60 to 70 this year.

Qualifications: Entrants must have completed a 200-kilometre road race, 100-kilometre offroad race or a 130-kilometre mountain-bike race. Other racing experience and/or cold-weather experience may be considered.

Registration deadline: Feb. 9

Entry fee: $75

More info:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 C10

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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