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2008 Gatineau Loppet Reports - A Classic this Year My Best!
By:  Carolyn Stewart   (2008/03/08)

All these snow storms, mercy, enough! Some how we Ottawa residents have to find a way to enjoy the snowy season and for me its the skiing. You never know what nature is going to throw at you for the weather, just look at this season storm upon storm. With lot's of xc skiing mileage, I would enter the Gatineau Loppet. Not the long haul 53 km, but the 29 km classic and race it. This year was the 30th Anniversary there were also special participation pins given out for number of years participating.

For me the biggest challenge was making it out of the start gate! Well first off, I almost didn't make it to the race. I decided to use my fancy GPS to help get me there, since I didn't go last year and had kind of forgotten the route. I left in good time to get there, trusty computer plotting enroute. Mistake, don't rely on technology. After a wrong turn off on the #105, the computer had me going on the #50 to Montreal, back tracking using a paper map (at least I had a back up) and arriving a bit late, I was rushed to get my race kit and get ready to start. Some years I have a buddy or race support, and things generally go smoothly, that is the way to go. My best friend said he will be there next time, so I hope you will be (you know who you are :o)

The next challenge was getting my race numbed pinned on. I know it seems simple, a child can do it but they weren't sturdy Tyvac with tie bibs in my race anyway, and the flimsy paper ripped just 15 min before the start. I put my skis down to try to fix this and they somehow got mixed up with quite a few other of the same brand and colour sceme. So, low and behold as I ran through the entry gate and went to put my skis on, I had the wrong pair! This never happened to me in my life! 10 min to go and I don't have my skis. Momentarily, I envisioned not making it out the gate. Fate didn't seem to be on my side this morning. I ran back to the entrance and miraculously found my skis sitting there on the ground and nobody looking for their missing skis. I ran back through the gate, officials looking at me strangely and squeezed my way into the already full tracks for my wave. That was my warm up! Three minutes later the horn sounded and our wave was off in a flurry of poles.

It was a cold start but definitely not the coldest Keski. The snow was fresh powder, squeaky sounding, great conditions, easy to wax for. I had good wax (thank you Fresh Air Experience) but not really fast. I didn't go expensive flouros. Cold conditions are good for speed but very cold can also be slow. The race course was excellent (thanks to the race director and staff) This new course allowed the pack to thin out before Trail #15 and the hills which can sometimes get congested and potentially nasty (I was pushed down one year). The first 8 km were relatively flat with some rolling terrain near the lower part of the park and we took a lap back through the stadium at the start and the announcer called out our names. Not many people spectating since it was so cold. Then we went up the hilly terrain, mostly uphill towards Pink Lake. A rest stop on the parkway and I drank lot's of honey water and sport drink since I knew what lay ahead the killer hill towards MacKenzie King. I also carried my own trusty ELoad drink and it works.

I passed a few people along the way. By this time, the field had spread out considerably fastest people a few minutes to a few km ahead of me and progressively slower participants spread out over miles. Next excitement, I almost fell coming down the hill at MacKenzie King, on a not very well groomed corner in shade, where someone else had fallen. I managed to hang on one ski in the track, while the other going over a snow drift, miraculously stayed on my feet, regaining the track.

I was working hard but felt strong and fast. Great glide, I was flying. A few more uphills, downhills, then back on the parkway for a long downhill. This part of the skiing was roadway, and although not technical, you had to keep your form together and maximize stride and glide. A sign, 2 km to go, then down the some nice sweeping curve downhill towards the finish line. I was alone for the last few kms, felt good, so I picked up the pace. Coming into the last km to the finish I pushed all out and was pleased to see the clock and my finish time 0f 2 hr 26 min. Results a PB! 114th/306 skiers from 19 countries and 3rd in my age group for a Bronze medal! It was my first medal in skiing and my fastest race. And to think, I almost didn't pass the start line. There were some very competitive women in the 40-44 (including the winner) and also the 45-49 age group. Great to see that some of us get better with age.
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