Pain in the Ass...iniboine
Looking for a challenge to tackle next, I decided to finally try the race I have been wanting to compete in for years - Pain in the Assiniboine. Pain in the Assiniboine is an adventure race in which participants start at the Forks then cycle west to Beaudry park along the Harte trail, and then hop into boats and paddle from Beaudry park back to the Forks again. The full course (referred to in the official literature as an 'extreme spanking') is roughly 32 kilometres in either direction.
I initially wanted to participate in Pain in the Assiniboine since it combines two sports I enjoy (or at a minimum, for which I own all the required equipment). When you live in a perfectly flat city which hosts two flood-prone rivers, these two skills are simply good to know. You can cycle around town when the water levels are low, and paddle out of town when the dykes fail. This isn't just a race, it's preparation for the apocalypse.
Despite receiving some sceptical comments from a couple racers with mountain bikes at the start line, there were never any conditions my cyclocross bike couldn't handle (or be carried over...). The race began with a 'neutral start' across the Main Street crosswalk near the Forks. Due to the inherent difficulties posed by 250 cyclists trying to negotiate a single track trail simultaneously, the neutral start lasted until we hit Wolseley. From there we proceeded quickly to Assiniboine Forest, slowing significantly when we hit the corduroy trails through the woods, and then gaining speed as we followed the Harte trail.
After reaching Beaudry park we switched from bikes to boats and set off towards whence we came. I'd like to preface this by saying that a 32 kilometre paddle is in a totally different league than riding 32 kilometres by bike. The cycling went smoothly and by the end I felt ready for more, but paddling was a battle against the wind the entire way. I hadn't paddled the Assiniboine west of Assiniboine Park before, so I had a really hard time judging my progress for the first half of the race. When I finally got my bearings I was pleased to know that I was halfway done, and when the Forks came into view I was overjoyed.
While the weather was ominous the entire race, I managed to escape any precipitation while on the course. It didn't start raining until shortly after I arrived at the finish line and within half an hour a torrential downpour started. At some points in the race I would have appreciated some rain to cool off, but I really can't complain - at least the weather forecast was accurate for a change.
In the end, I finished with a time of 4:31:12, split between 1:19:01 of cycling and 3:12:11 of paddling. Within the male solo category I finished 19th out of 29 racers. Looking at the results, everyone finished with fairly similar times on the cycling portion of the race but it was the long slog down the river that really broke up the pack. Interestingly, competing as a team had a significant time penalty compared to solo racers. Had I been a team (of one), I would have placed 41st out of 85 teams.
Overall the race was a lot of fun and I would consider competing in it again. I raced solo, but I am interested in trying Pain in the Assiniboine as part of a team in the future. Something about the esprit de corps seems enticing, or at the very least providing some company for my paddling misery.