Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bad for whiners, good for winter racers

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After a couple of unusually wimpy Manitoba winters, actual cold is back this season with a skin-numbing, extension-cord-shattering, vertebrae-contracting vengeance.

While that's bad news for whiners who refuse to dress in layers, it's absolutely perfect for winter races where competitors actually look forward to running or cycling in the cold.

While racing in genuinely frigid weather may not appeal to every weekend warrior, it is growing in popularity in Manitoba. For example, a record 60 people have registered so far to run or bike in next month's 130-kilometre Actif Epica race, which is more than double the number of entrants who took part last year's endurance race.

Racing in the cold poses challenges -- deep snowdrifts, for instance.

Participants from as far away as Colorado and California have signed up for the 2014 edition of Actif Epica, which has the potential to be another successful example of how Manitoba can market its extreme winter weather.

Here's a selection of what's planned for Winnipeg in February, for people on foot or on bikes:

Ice Donkey Winter Adventure

Saturday, Feb. 8, University of Manitoba

The race: A five-kilometre winter obstacle course on the Southwood Lands, the former golf course on the north side of the U of M campus. There are at least 16 obstacles on the course. The race is also a fundraiser for the United Way.

Who can take part: Pretty much anyone. Initially an adventure race, with about 70 competitors, Ice Donkey was retooled in 2013 to be accessible to more people. More than 500 people took part last year and up to 600 can be accommodated this year.

Entrance fee: $69. Individuals who raise more than $200 for the United Way receive a full refund.

Registration deadline: Sunday, Feb. 2.

More info and registration:

Actif Epica

Saturday, Feb. 15, Red River Valley

The race: A 130-kilometre endurance race from St. Malo, Man. to The Forks in Winnipeg, open to both cyclists and runners prepared to prepared to finish the route in under 24 hours. Last year, the winning cyclist completed the route in seven hours, while the top runner finished in about 16. Both runners and cyclists must contend with the cold and snowdrifts, though race organizers do try pack down problem areas.

Who can enter: This one's for hardcore endurance racers only. To qualify, runners must have a foot race or multi-sport race of 80 kilometres or more under their belts, while cyclists need to have finished a 160-km off-road race, 320-km road race or a winter endurance race such Minnesota's Arrowhead or Wisconsin's Tuscobia.

Entrance fee: $105.

Registration deadline: Saturday, Feb. 8.

More info and registration:

Icebike Fourteen

Sunday, Feb. 16, start and finish at The Forks

The race: The 14th annual slate of ice-and-snow races organized by Woodcock Cycle features seven races on the Red River and St. Boniface. Three races are for kids, aged seven and under, nine and under and 13 and under. There are three adult races of various lengths (up to six, 12 and 18 kilometres, depending on the weather) and one race for people riding bikes with fat tires.

Who can enter: Anybody, riding any sort of bike, although some form of tread is advisable. Age restrictions apply to the kids' races, of course.

Entrance fee: $15 for each kids race and $35 for each adult race.

Registration deadline: The morning of the event.

More info and registration:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 A14

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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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