A freezing cold half in the middle of a Montreal winter...yes please!
This is a race put on by the Canadian running store chain Running Room (or here in Quebec Coin Des Coureurs).
They have some fun races that are well organized but seem to have a corporate cookie cutter feel. Their philosophy is to get people into the store, signed up for a training club, then set one of their races as the goal. Not a bad system, just not really my cup of tea. I tend to do a couple of them every year, but they are always B races to test fitness and practice pacing/nutrition etc...
The real draw for me with this race is the idea of a challenging winter run...I love running in the winter! It was a cold one but that was to be expected. I arrived a couple of hours early to park and pick up my race kit. Parking can be tough on Ile-Ste-Helene so an early arrival is always recommended. The nice part is that the start/finish area is steps from a metro station so public transit is a great option! Race kit pick up was easy enough and I used the 10-minute out and back to my car to drop extra stuff off as a warm up.
The swag is ok. It's a backpack with the store's logo on it...but really feels mass-produced and cheap...no Patagonia or North Face gear here! We use it as a diaper bag.
The course scenery is pretty basic; it actually skips the nicer parts of the island but there is a lot of construction going on so that may have been why they did that. Part of the run is on the Gilles Villeneuve F1 race track which is kind of nice. I felt the whole experience to be somewhat underwhelming as I have run there recreationally as well as photographing several races there...been there done that! It was nice seeing everything shrouded in white though, gave it a different feel.
The footing is icy for sure! It's a Montreal race in the winter! Make sure you wear traction aids or shoes with lots of grip! One thing they should add is warming pads in the aid stations as the road was treacherous there due to the spilled water and Gatorade! The pads could melt the spilled liquids! Careful out there!
I took it a bit easy and stuck with the 2-hour pace group and they ran a great pace...nice and steady!
The finishing meal was a highlight though...after freezing for a couple of hours hot pancakes were amazing!
Overall it is a pleasant experience, a bit on the expensive side, but not one that will stand out after years of racing experience. The Running Room races and good and reliable, kinda like upscale fast food. You know what you will get every time and it fills a hole in your belly but you wish it was something better...