Exercise MOUNTAIN MAN 2013
By Captain Shaun McGuinness
On a crisp moonlit August morning, Commander 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Colonel David Anderson addressed the competitors of Exercise MOUNTAIN MAN 2013 at Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, Alberta. He spoke of “the courage each soldier has displayed by participating in the race” and how “all members of the Canadian Armed Forces face difficult challenges every day, so today is like any other.” Laughter was almost visible as it carried on the frosty morning breath of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group’s most physically fit soldiers. The horn sounded as a darkened mass, lit only by a multitude of head lamps, took its first step to climb the mountain.
Exercise MOUNTAIN MAN 2013 is an extremely challenging competition for the “soldiers of the West” to test themselves mentally and physically. The race consists of a 32km ruck run, 3.2km canoe portage, 10km paddle down the North Saskatchewan River, and a 5.6km “it will be over soon” sprint to the finish line.
The Strathcona Team, led by Lieutenant Stephen “Cooter” Couture devoted themselves to a strict physical training regime which increased their mental stamina and well needed pain thresholds. Strength training, hill climbing, weighted endurance ruck runs, combined with a multitude of energy drinks and power bars, fueled the athletes of the Regiment. Corporal Chloe Chilvers acknowledges, "you are only as good as your training, and the 32km run proves that."
The focused Strathcona participants snaked their way through the Edmonton River Valley as the sun began to rise and spectators dawning LdSH(RC) emblazoned on T-shirts and sweaters could be seen peppering the route. Resounding Strathcona pride and cheers were heard as the competitors raced towards their awaiting canoes. The Portage begins. Many groans were heard as the canoes were hoisted and more than one leg trembled. “Why carry your kit, when your kit can carry you?” must have been the driving force as the only relief is 3.2km away. "After the 32km ruck run, I thought a short walk with the canoe would be a nice change, after about 200m I realized how wrong I was and glad to get the thing off my back at the end” voiced by a smiling Corporal Chris Clegg.
After a 10km reprieve given by the steady wind and river current, leg cramps became the immediate danger as the competitors made their first steps ashore. Good bye Mr.Canoe! Only 5.6kms remain and the loyal Strathcona spectators converge at the finish line. All who dawn our colours celebrated each competitor’s completion of the race with an animated round of applause.
Exercise MOUNTAIN MAN 13 was a motivating event for spectators and competitors alike. Once again the Strathconas excelled and were a source of pride for the Regiment. The team Captain, Lieutenant Stephen “Steve” Couture describes the perseverance needed: "Even though the Mountain Man is an individual competition, it can definitely be considered a team sport. When you've been ruck-running for 3 hours straight and your legs are spasmsing...you feel like stopping. There's always one reason why you don't quit. That reason is every other Strathcona running beside you - pushing you to succeed.”