Nearly 250 Canadian Army soldiers competed in the grueling Mountain Man Exercise on Sept. 7, an annual triathlon that tests the limits of physical endurance and awards competitors with lifetime bragging rights.
Taking place in the Edmonton river valley, Exercise Mountain Man is hosted by, and primarily geared towards the soldiers of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.
This is the 19th edition of Mountain Man in the last 20 years.
The race started at 5 a.m. at Hawrelak Park and what ensued was close to 50 kms of various physical challenges including a 32 km foot race while carrying a rucksack, 3.2 km portage, 10 km canoe down the Saskatchewan River and a final 5.6 km race to the finish.
“It’s as gruelling as it gets,” said Maj. Chris Read, planner, and manager of Exercise Mountain Man. “They’re pretty beat at the end.”
This year’s male overall winners were Capt Eric Henderson, who placed first; Cpl Jerrod Bolitsky, who placed second; and Cpl Thomas Emslie, who placed third.
The overall female winners were Lt Alura Castle, who placed first; Capt Ashley Collette, who placed second; and Sgt Geri-Ann Davidson, who placed third.
This year’s Ainsworth Dyer Award, which recognizes the most improved time, went to Capt Michael Feiner.
Major unit teams to take the top three spots were the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry; 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry; and 1 Service Battalion.
Additionally, this year’s minor unit teams to take the top three spots were 1 Field Ambulance, 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron and the British Army Training Unit Suffield.
Although the event is only one day, competitors put in months of training in order to successfully complete the race. They are briefed by nutritionists, physical trainers, and physical therapists on the dos and don’ts of pushing the body.
“They’ve been given all the necessary tools before the workup training starts to ensure that when they finish, they can finish in the best condition mentally and physically as possible,” noted Read.
Exercise Mountain Man not only builds a sense of esprit de corps among competitors, but it also helps to ensure the high physical fitness mandate that is required of these soldiers.
“Physical fitness is a very significant component of services in the CAF. It’s something we owe Canada, to be able to provide that strong, proud, ready force,” said Read.
Competitors also take part in the race for the glory of placing first, second or third or racking in unit titles.
“That provides a significant incentive to a lot of people to maintain a very high level of physical fitness,” commented Read.
For some, it’s about just finishing the race. While for others, who have taken part in Mountain Man multiple times, it’s about making it in the top ten.
“Even if you just finish, that’s a very significant accomplishment in one’s life. But then to do it under five hours is quite impressive. That’s a very high level of dedication,” stated Read.