Ultra-trail: ready for one of the toughest trails in the world

Ultra-trail: ready for one of the toughest trails in the world

UPDATE DAY

A Quebec runner challenged himself to complete one of the most dangerous mountain races on the planet in two days.

“The goal is to finish alive and standing,” jokes Quentin Six, a 43-year-old Franco-Quebecer, who will be at the start of the mythical Grand Raid of Reunion Island on October 20. < /p>

Also called the “Diagonale des Fous”, this mountain race is aptly named: 165 km to be covered in less than four days, most often without sleeping, with four peaks over 2000 m in altitude to climb, and 10 000 m of elevation gain in total. For comparison, it would be like going up and down Mount Albert 11 times in Gaspésie.

“It's clearly one of the two toughest ultra-trails in the world, says Jean Fortier, general manager of the Quebec Mega Trail (QMT) race. The temperature, the rocky terrain and the big drop make the conditions very difficult. »

Recently become a father, Quentin Six explains that he will not take unnecessary risks during the event.

“If I have to take breaks, I will take them, assures the runner. My primary goal is just to cross the finish line, but I would like to avoid going over 48 hours of racing. It would mean going a third consecutive night without sleeping and running, and would be very bad for the body. »

Physical requirement

Jean-François Cauchon, who finished seventh in the Diagonale des Fous in 2019 in less than 26 hours – a record for a Quebecer – says the race is particularly difficult. 

“The changes in temperature are drastic, I had a heat stroke during the event, says the ultra-trailer, however experienced. We leave from the south of the island at 10 p.m. to reach the summit of the volcano during the night, where the temperature is around 0 degrees. We then go down to the Cirque de Mafate, where it is almost 30 degrees. It's trying. »

To acclimatize well, Quentin Six will arrive on Reunion Island two weeks before the start of the race. In addition to running nearly 100 km each week, this Montreal osteopath prepared by participating in ultra-trails organized throughout Quebec.

“I started with ultra-trail from Bromont at 65 km, and the last one I ran was the QMT at 110 km, he explains. I try each time to increase the distance in order to be ready to face the 165 km of the Grand Raid. »

Withdrawals and hallucinations

In addition to a large number of withdrawals and frequent injuries, runners are sometimes seized with hallucinations related to fatigue on very long distance races.< /p>

“They are commonplace on the Diagonale des Fous and can be dangerous with the ravines that line our route,” said Pierre Maunier, president of the Association du Grand Raid. It's a demanding race that pushes you to really surpass yourself. Do not risk taking part without having a minimum of physical and mental preparation. »

A discipline that is gaining in popularity here

Ultra-trail – running in the middle of nature over a distance of more than 42 km – has a growing success in Quebec.

“This year, we gave out more than 1,200 bibs, says Jean-François Tapp, director of the Gaspesia 100, a trail race between sea and mountains in Gaspésie. In 2016, we barely had 65 runners. »

Same story with Jean Fortier, General Manager of the Québec Mega Trail race.

Jean Fortier, General Manager of Québec Mega Trail.

“We had more than 2,600 participants in 2022, it's a real record,” he says. There are approximately 20% more enrollments each year. »

Going beyond yourself

For the organizers, the growing popularity of this sport would come from the feeling of surpassing oneself that it provides.

“The feeling of personal accomplishment is very important when you run long distances, analyzes Mr. Fortier. Rather than the performance of time, the runners want to finish the event and go to the end of things. »

Although he had never run an ultra-trail three years ago, Quentin Six quickly became a fan of the discipline.

“It's an almost spiritual experience for me,” he explains. You are surrounded by nature, and you have to find the mental and physical resources to overcome the effort. In these moments, you reconnect to the essentials and you think of your loved ones. » 

Community

According to Jean-François Tapp, the community aspect of ultra-trail also contributes to its success.

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“Road running has had a great dynamic in recent years, but it is more focused on the individual, he analyzes. People are turning more and more to trail running, because the races often last two to four days and the runners have time to discuss on the starting line, at the bend of a trail , or after the event. It creates a real sense of belonging. »

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