Pent up Crees

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The pain of every breath clung to the dried-out windpipe leading to my lungs that were grasping for relief from the ordeal called the pentathlon. However, this particular pentathlon was done all at the same time, with no breaks in between events.

Each gulp of air I took had the potential of swallowing a mouthful of mosquitoes, that kept me constantly on the move, as the only breeze around was created by myself rushing by in tiptop fashion. Running through an environment that was not meticulously fashioned by German engineers nor any liquids chlorinated specifically for your pH balance – this was real outdoor stuff.

This is the annual challenge issued by Nemaska, its gauntlet flung down proudly proclaiming its status as being the toughest pentathlon on the planet. It’s officially called a triathlon, with portaging as part of canoeing and swimming also included. But still, it’s a tough course.

It’s held during the summer and involves traditional physical movements, like paddling, portaging and running with a dash of modern cycling and swimming, making all for all – five sports and qualifying as a pentathlon. Probably one of the most televised (at least on Maamuuiitau) events, this multi-sport leaves everyone a winner. Since there are so few contestants, you are bound to be in the top 10 in your worst portion.

This is not the first time these types of endeavours were carried out. I remember one event that involved a single 16-mile (not those wimpy kilometres) portage heavily loaded with grub for weeks – in those days, grub meant flour, lard and tea bags, with canned foods for dessert. Followed by weeks and weeks of paddling and walking, along with portaging and portaging and more portaging.

All this to get to the succulent beaver meat – the fur was really meant for sale, but for those out there who don’t know a beaver from a muskrat, beaver is good to eat. A limited amount of swimming was involved, mainly just enough to recover from a spill or a slip on muddy shorelines into the Little Fort George River. After all that, carry back a load heavier than the grub brought in, back home over frozen grounds. Nary a bicycle in sight, this event took 10 weeks from start to finish.

In more recent summer sporting events, beach volleyball is making a comeback, much to everyone’s delight. The Frisbee is actually thrown around more often and a softball is slugged around in well-lit grounds. On occasion, a tire is changed involving a lot of wrist action and swearing, really increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. Sometimes, a clothesline is actually used.

A diminishing dollar and high prices has put a damper on the “carrying the heaviest groceries” event. And more and more frequently, a bicycle is used to get around, meaning that we too, are changing with the times. Perhaps the next event will lead back to our roots as a nomadic people, symbolically at least, before the rifle was introduced might be a good theme to do. This new-old pentathlon would involve building your canoe and paddles out of local materials. Now that would be a worthy event!

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