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2008 Gatineau Loppet Reports: Lofty goals of mere survival.
By:  Alicia Berthiaume   (2008/02/24)


As my training partner, Steph Rees (who, by the way is a two-time Gatineau Loppet silver medalist - both 29km events) would say, Steve and I acquitted ourselves well this year in the 53km skate event. Our lofty goals of mere survival were realized without injury, with the added bonus that we both finished in the top 10 of the women's category. (It is worthy to note however that while Steve is not a woman, these days he does acknowledge this measure of performance, albeit with a smile and a chuckle... or is it a wince and a groan?)

For Steve (SB), who's training was mostly accomplished on the moderate terrain of the Pembroke Area XC ski club, this year's hilly 53km course proved to be no picnic (which he likely would have enjoyed more), and oddly, (according to the split times) presented it's biggest challenge in the downhill section, aka, from Western Lodge to the finish. After demonstrating good fitness and text book technique to delight the photographers (see below) during the uphill section of the course, SB's legs started to feel the burn on the way up Burma.

Steve Bursey, Chris Blanchard
Steve Bursey leading a small ack including 43 David Currie and 134 Chris Blanchard.

Attempting to apply the saying "mind over matter" SB steadily made his way through the top of the course against the protestations of his calves and quads. Once onto the parkway and pointed down hill, SB was able to make the most of gravity while catching some needed recovery for his legs. With his eye on the prize (i.e. finish line) and staving off leg cramps, SB persisted through the final 10km with the help of his pack(s), being led by his friend Megan McTavish. Not to be outdone by the feisty female competition, SB mustered some extra energy for the home stretch, eventually pulling away from Megan in the final kilometres and forcing his nearest competition, Sheila Kealey, into a sprint to the line. Satisfied with his final effort and back in his warm-ups and a snazzy new Gatineau Loppet toque, SB set himself up near the refreshments table for some post-race refueling (ok, now it's a picnic!), taking advantage of the copious amounts of chocolate-covered raisins, oranges, granola bars and washing it all down with hot tea, while waiting around for his other half, Alicia-the-slow-poke, to finish.

Let this be a warning to all of the female skiers of the world, SB is determined to place in the top three next year... in your overall category.

For Alicia-the-slow-poke (ATSP), this year's Gatineau Loppet presented an opportunity to prove that she did not, as was once suggested, need to ski this race with a helmet on. A previous attempt at this distance (2003) concluded with a bump on her head, a foggy brain, and a (hopefully) dented tree somehwere near the first turn off to the Fortune trails on ridge road. So this year, extra care was taken on this downhill. Fortunately, the trails were shipshape, so the offensive corner was cleanly executed sans damage to either girl or tree. Back to the race synopsis: The first half of the race passed fairly comfortably under the protection of packs of varying sizes (that is, the groups were of varying sizes, not the skiers…well, they were too I guess… but I digress). A small amount of longing mixed with negativity was emitted by ATSP while passing the 29km turn-off, but that was short-lived, as the slog up Penguin provided an alternate focus for unenthusiastic mumblings. Once at the top though, in the sunshine, things were looking up, and a now positive ATSP started to believe that she would in fact be able to complete the circuit! Burma was skied solo in a bit of a daydream, but a brief two-way stretch near Huron Lodge allowed ATSP the sighting of SB, and with a few words of encouragement, her energy was renewed as she headed back onto Ridge Road. Maybe her energy was slightly too renewed(?), as the drama of ATSP's race took place not long after that. Unfortunately, while excitedly making her way around a recreational skier, ATSP blew by the right hand turn onto trail 1B and proceeded to head for Champlain parkway. With her head down and charging full steam ahead, it took a few minutes before ATSP processed that the skiers both ahead and behind her now were not there moments ago, and a quick poll of the skiers behind yielded the dreaded response, "yeah, you missed the loop to Western". Drawing on perserverance and the unpleaseant thought of being disqualified, ATSP reversed direction (with a teensy bit of reluctance!) and set out to rectify the unintentional short-cut. After the commotion of the wrong turn died down, the rest of the race mercifully passed with good glide and little fanfare. It sure is nice to see those kilometre signs count down so quickly over the last 15 km! The announcer broadcast ATSP's arrival with a flawless pronunciation of her name (as only the french can) and it was safe to say that the Loppet was officially a success (with not a lick of extra time either as the freezing rain soon began). So that's that.

Thanks to all the organizers and the volunteers out there, your efforts are truly appreciated!!

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