Get out and explore Manitoba on your bike and then tell us about your adventure. Go to the Challenges page and select a challenge. When you are ready declare your start, pack up you bike, get the camera ready and head out; let us know when you are done and we’ll set up so you can share your adventure with the rest of us.
As I headed out on my 5th summer challenge I wondered how it would play out. Would be a horror show like #2 on a bike or #1 on foot? The big difference for this challenge was I was with runners and ones I had little or no miles with but at least a common appreciation of immoderate activities. Our group was all over the map for fitness and experience. Life funneled us all together for one common cause which was a first runner(s) finish at a bike dominated Summer challenge. Things were looking good.
Alain, Rheal, Joel and I left Winnipeg in the wee hours Saturday in the legendary Ultra van which has carried many runners to ridiculous activities. We were pumped, the weather was looking great and everyone got their packs down below 15lbs which are all you can ask. Since I mostly spend my time by myself or with folks I’ve known for years I had to keep reminded my Aries personality under control and keep it light and clean. I think I did just that by minimal standards and might get asked out again
Anyhow we left Morden early and started out on a course we pretty much memorized ( no GPS needed) with Joel’s amazing Local knowledge. That fella can sure will in the prairies with a rich history and that’s a big plus while you’re putting in hours and hours on a prairie run. The weather was amazing and the packs surprisingly a nonissue the whole run, how would have thought.
The miles ticked by fast with conversation flowing and we were quickly on our water drop for a shortstop for refills and an assault on the Pembina Valley gorge to the first check point in the park. The downhill was awesome and valley pretty topped off with a pleasant climb out.
Again I just can’t stress how unrealistically easy going the run was with everything falling in place. Part of me wanted the shit to hit the fan as usual but then I’d remember I was getting ready for a 100 mile run in a few weeks and needed an ego builder. This run along with the Falcon 50km fatass I had done a few weeks before built up my confidence to a tragically sad amount I’m sure for Lost souls.
The Checkpoint in the park was another quick stop for snacks and refocusing for the trip out of the valley back to the water stop. There was almost no traffic on the whole run except for the park with was hosting many more visitors than I would have guessed for the middle of nowhere.
Anyone who knows me well will be thinking “How many times did you offend those poor souls Dallas with your stream of consciousness chatter”? For that answer, I guess we’ll have to wait and read the other reports but I really think I did well.
So the final water stop was easily obtained and we were focused on a restaurant In Darlingford for a quick hot meal and the final push into the night to Morden. I’d guess I was at over 50 pictures into the run with my new Olympus em10 mark 2 which I had bought for a fun travel camera. To be honest I was getting distracted with taking pictures and would get left behind which gave me some time to stretch my legs.
Darlingford, man that town seen better times but even with most businesses boarded up the lawns were mowed and not a scrap of litter was to be seen, Local pride definitely makes for an enjoyable visit. The railway restaurant was fast and meals were great. Resting after 40+ miles was appreciated since none of us had gone this far on foot this year never mind with a full pack.
Heading out of Darlingfoed we put headlamps on and blinkies blinking, the night time would be our time. Pst, we owned mile 14n.
We grinded away the miles running into a few sketchy dogs (one house which had a very large kennel and sounded horrorshow like) which I wasn’t really comfortable with but Joel emitted a Jedi animal confidence so I knew we would be okay. That crazy kid has a calmness about situations that’s so contrasting to my scattered chaotic mental state. Past all that situation we could see the lights of the city and knew the journey was coming to an end.
Entering Morden everyone started talking about coffee and Mcdonalds because 15:45 of fastpacking means comfort is earned.
7ish litres of water
7 shitty granola bars
A cheese burger and fries
A couple cups of trail mix and 90 pictures taken.
by Alain Dupuis
The Summer Challenges have been on my radar for the past few years. Last year (2015), I was involved in some early discussions about running Challenge #3 but for various reasons that didn’t pan out. Then a few months ago, Joel Toews put out a call to a few runners to attempt the run. He keenly reminder us, if successful, this would be the first Operation Muerto Summer Challenge to be completed on foot.
In the end, our group size settled on four participants – myself (Alain Dupuis), Joel Toews, Rhéal Poirier and Dallas Sigurdur. We declared our run to take place on August 20th (2016). While I knew Joel and Rhéal very well, I had only met Dallas a few weekends prior to our attempt. I quickly discovered we were in for a fun time with this guy! He seems to have an endless number of stories. It was like listening to a podcast mix on a long road trip. I mean this in a positive way; there were no dull moments.
The Challenge on Foot
Various versions of the route were drafted but the final route primarily followed nearly 90 kms of gravel road. The route looped from Morden to Pembina Valley Provincial Park to “The Cairn” and then back to Morden.
From a runner’s perspective, Challenge #3 is probably the most approachable given you are never very far from a farm house or the occasional passer-by in a pick-up truck. If you get into trouble, there are ways out.
The lack of water sources is the main logistical difficulty. There’s potable water at Stanley Park, a municipal park, and there’s a non-potable water tap at the Pembina Valley Provincial Park. Aside from that, you can plan a route to intersect “Dead horse creek” or “Dead horse slough” but somehow those sources don’t sound too promising. The Pembina River is similarly questionable when you watch the cattle defecating while wading in its shallow depth.
We opted to cache water in two locations – one site four miles north of Pembina Valley Provincial Park and the second site at “The Cairn” at the intersection of Hwys 3 and 31. In addition, we all carried between two and three litres in our packs. We had plenty of water. The ideal weather helped, temperatures stayed cool and topped out at about 20C.
Our itinerary for the day, designed by Rhéal, followed gravel roads with a few miles on a dirt road. The gravel roads were great to run and none had loose gravel to unnecessarily aggravate the footing. That being said, we all mentioned some soreness underfoot from the hard surface all day. The scenery was beautiful and typical of southern Manitoba prairie farmland. Lots of sunflowers and corn in this part of the province.
There were some gently rolling hills during the first part of our journey from Morden to Pembina Valley Provincial Park. And just north of the park, the Pembina River valley represents the most significant elevation change on the route. We travelled across the valley twice as an out and back section to our loop. In comparison, after leaving the Pembina valley behind, the route seemed flatter all the way to “The Cairn” and back to Morden.
The Walk in Progress
As the day progressed we started to walk more frequently. There was certainly some physical deterioration but overall the group stayed positive throughout. As Dallas put it, we’ll be sorry to disappoint the readers because we don’t have any stories of puking, crying or all out meltdowns to report. Personally, my day went very well. I felt I could have run more but I was quite happy to have walked as much as we did. In all likelihood it saved my legs and feet from a more severe beating.
From the start of our adventure, the promise of greasy food became an important motivator. Prior to the attempt, Joel discovered that Darlingford, a small town conveniently located a mile or so from the “The Cairn” checkpoint, had a diner (the Railway Diner) that served pulled-pork poutine. Well, that was enough for us. Whenever things slowed down or breaks started getting too long, someone would say “pulled-pork” or “poutine” and off we went. We really wanted to get there before they closed at 8pm.
All in all it was a great day: we started our run from Morden at 7:15 am and returned in the dark at 10:33 pm; we made our predicted time of just under 16 hours (15:48); we made it to the diner before closing time (although, we all decided gravy would be too much to stomach) and; best of all, we had a blast enjoying great companionship.
With my Germanic roots I come honestly with a love of order when it comes to preparing for challenges such as this. Weeks before an event I’ll adapt a list from a previous run and then use it to make sure I’ll have everything I need, and nothing I don’t. I also really enjoy test-packing, figuring out where gear will go. So two days before Challenge #3, I was test packing, bent over to get some socks out of my drawer and a familiar twinge went through my back. Instant pain and tightness ensued, and all I could think was that there was no way I could participate in this challenge.
If it was just myself, I would have cut the cord, accepted defeat and moved on. However, there were three other gentlemen who had declared with me and I really didn’t want to miss out. Alain Dupuis, the rock, Mr. Consistent. Rheal Poirier, logistics wizard and downhill assassin. And last, but not least Dallas Sigurdur, fount of unbelievable stories, encourager and world-class pacer. The team was set, I had to at least attempt the challenge.
Looks like some runners are going to try Challenge #3, really looking forward to see how it goes for them. Until they finish their run and post their stories and since there is nothing else in the Muerto story hopper at the moment, here is a run down of some bikepacking that I did in South Dakota.
For about a year or so I have been thinking about doing the Black Hills Expedition, a 430 mile bikepacking race that takes you through South Dakota and a bit of Wyoming. I couldn’t make the grand depart date in September so I decided to come out in August and try an ITT, a week before Laura’s marathon which was also in South Dakota. Continue reading “Not MUERTO”
This was my second attempt at Challenge #3. In my first attempt with Pete I (we) failed miserably when Mother Nature decided to throw some nasty weather our way. It did not work to attempt it again last year but a weekend opened up suddenly this year and I decided to give it another try. I quickly got my gear together, picked a different bike than last year (more later), arranged to take an afternoon off from work and headed southwest to Morden to start my second attempt at this challenge.
I am calling this post “Facts and Impressions” hopefully present some factual information about the ride that others can use as well as some impressions of what I found on the ride.