Ice Donkey Heats Up the Forks
Race Report by John Ford
As day broke and the fog of a gorgeous +1 degree C morning began to lift, some racers began to ask themselves, "Is this really January in Winnipeg????" After weeks of above normal temperatures and a recent snowfall that wreaked havoc on planning the race course, the Ice Donkey Winter Adventure had finally arrived. Volunteers standing with jackets wide open and gloves off began to corral participants to the starting line at the Forks for the pre race instructions. Race organizers Rick and John shouted last minute directions in the megaphone as adrenaline surged through the racers, clearly anxious to get underway. From the youngest racer at 2 years old in the Family Fun Relay to the oldest Team member, everyone was excited to begin this winter adventure.
"3... 2... 1... GO ICE DONKEY" John shouted, as the solos and teams exploded off the start via winter biking for the first leg of this epic journey. Moments after, Rick called to commence the Family Fun Relay.
For some participants this would be their first foray into cross country skiing, snow shoeing and skating. The smiles on the faces of all were priceless as the mass set off from the historic fork where the Assiniboine meets the Red.
With teams and solos biking the Churchill trails and crossing over the frozen Red River to Lyndale Park en route to St. Boniface and the relay participants cross country skiing, all would converge on the first Transition Area located at the Festival du Voyageur fort. Volunteers shouted, encouraged and supported each and every racer to keep going. Race organizers and safety staff received regular updates of the participant's progress from various Check Points along the way.
Snowshoeing was next on the agenda and the race was on to be the first back to the Forks. Snow was flying as the snowshoers got a taste of what it was like to be a voyageur centuries ago by following an age old route to where the rivers converge. Fast forward to today and the pack had a rare opportunity to witness a spectacular view of the Riel Esplanade needle and the incredible skyline of the Waterfront on the Red.
While the Family Fun relayers' donned skates, the full course participants suited up for the cross country ski loop at the Heart and Stroke Transition Area. Some took time to refuel and hydrate before continuing on this epic trip. Even after racing for over 2 hours, participants still laughed and joked with volunteers and team mates proving everyone was having fun.
The final skating leg took solos, teams, families and relay participants down the incredible Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail for a fast, and sometimes comical, skate to the finish. With music playing and friends, family and spectators cheering, everyone raced to be crowned Ice Donkey's. Some teams skated with holding hands high in the air; others pushed, pulled or towed each other across the finish line. The smiles that spanned from ear to ear made the entire journey a lasting memory for all. In the end fabulous prizes from HOT 103, hilarious antics from Ace Burpee and hot apple cider was shared by all at the Forks Market. Everyone was a winner for participating in this amazing Winnipeg winter adventure.
Thanks to everyone for your hard work and racing hard! Rick and John had a great time putting on this race for all our participants. We especially would like to thank Karen and Amber for their amazing effort. You are now considered part of our "Donkey" family. To our Swamp Donkey Crew: Kurt and Liz, you were always are there putting in 110% leading up to this event and we are indebted. Also a special thanks to Taggart, Rose, Alex, Scott, Jean, and Barry, you went above and beyond to assist on race day. Thanks to all our great volunteers and Forks crew that are so amazing, we couldn't do it without your energy. Thanks to Ace for being the brainchild of this great event. And now our racers: all we can say is Wow! No matter what challenge we throw at you, you're there to take it on, head-first and show us you have the drive and determination!! We will keep working hard because you deserve it!