Family says 14-hour, 160-km adventure race in Essex a good bonding experience

People are gearing up for the sixth Essex County adventure race this June.

South Coast Adventure Race expects about 150 participants in June

Carl Montcalm will run his sixth South Coast Adventure Race with his daughter Beth Mifflin and son Steven Montcalm this June. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Some families may try to bond over family dinners or a weekend picnic — but one father and his kids bond by training for a grueling 14-hour adventure race covering 160 kilometres by foot, canoe and bike. 

"It's a bonding thing... sometimes," said Carl Montcalm, sharing a laugh with his race partner and daughter Beth Mifflin.

His son, Steven Montcalm, will also join the pair in this year's South Coast Adventure Race (SCAR), which is entering its sixth year in Essex County. 

"It's awesome because I'm at a stage in life where I don't see my family that often, so it forces us to train together and spend some extra time together," said Mifflin. 

Robert Pula said that they work hard to make sure the race is competitive for veteran adventure racers but also something newcomers can enjoy. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The three-person team will join more than 100 other racers on June 15. The event raises money for the Essex Region Conservation Authority and Rotary Club of Windsor St. Clair. 

The race:

  • Ten to 14-hour race through Essex County.
  • Checkpoints are placed in areas where people will need to bike, canoe and trek to.
  • The course is unmarked so teams need to navigate using maps and compasses to hit checkpoints.
  • Teams can have two or three people.
  • Registration is capped at 150 racers.
  • Oh - and it's a dark start, with teams leaving in the early morning hours.

Here's why this family team decided to sign-up for the SCAR race.

A father, his daughter and son will run the South Coast Adventure Race in June. 0:40

Tough, but not impossible

The designers of the SCAR course are the Pula brothers, a pair of adventure racers who have travelled to races and competed at the highest levels.

This race is believed to be the only 14-hour adventure race in Ontario for 2019, making it an popular event for competitive racers.

Finding a balance of a course that's tough enough for veterans but welcoming for first-time competitors isn't easy.

"That's probably the biggest challenge of putting this race together," said Robert Pula, who believes there's a nice mix of veteran racers and newcomers.

Racing to win

Mifflin and her father raced in the previous versions, which was only an 8-hour event, and attended a workshop on this longer race for a few tips and tricks. 

"We were hoping for some advice on the longer race that they're doing this year," said Mifflin, who calls herself a "recreational athlete."

The expanded course, which changes every year, is one they hope to complete in a competitive time.

"He's a competitor," Mifflin said with a chuckle as her father agreed.

Andrew Pula organizes the grueling course each year with his brother Robert. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"This is my sixth year, and the first five, every year I said I'm never doing it again," said Montcalm, who said the biggest challenge on these races is the unknown.

"It's a lot of decisions to make and you have to make them as a team, and sometimes that doesn't work out. It has to be sorted out on the run, and that's part of the conversation, too."

Andrew Pula, who organizes the races with his brother Robert, said it's special to be part of an event that shows off parts of Essex County most locals might miss. 

"I would say that's probably the biggest thing I've gotten out of doing these races for the last six years," he said.

"Most people think of Essex County as a flat barren landscape, it is definitely flat, but there's a lot of nice little spots."


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