Thank you to our Marathon Article Series sponsor, e load, who provides XC Ottawa athletes with what we believe is the best sport and electrolyte replacement drink available. Check it out at www.eload.net.
The preparation required for long distance races always seems to be a little bit more involved than for short distances. Special attention has to be paid to things like ski selection, waxing, clothing choice, and nutrition. Sunday's Canadian championships long distance races were even more labour intensive than normal, largely thanks to an ominous weather forecast which called for a snowtorm of roughly 35cms of wet snow overnight, to end sometime in the middle of the races, with the temperature rising from about 0 to plus 2. The race courses used also vary significantly in elevation, causing about 3 or 4 quite distinct types of conditions on various parts of the course. This was, truely, a waxer's nightmare.
The day before the races, XC Ottawa team members tested skis and wax, but we realized that we were likely doing this mainly for "future reference", because the sky was clear and cold enough to make waxing much less difficult than it would be the following day. In the afternoon we prepared as many as 3 pairs of skis for the race, some of them with 'hairies' which refers to roughing up the kick-zones with sandpaper as a substitute for grip wax. In the evening we mixed up no less than 60 bottles of e load for our 6 competitors. We were planning on consuming roughly 1 litre per hour for each racer. This is a fairly involved job, but extremely important for the 30km (women) and 50km (men) races, which usually take between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. We have also been adding the e load zone caps to the drinks to provide a little bit more electrolyte, which has been helpful in preventing cramping. Finally, we distributed e load energy gels to our helpers who would be passing them to us over the course of the race on specific laps.
We awoke to the sound of rain pelting the roof of our house in Squamish, which meant that in all likelihood it would be snowing like "there's no tomorrow" at the racing trails near Whistler. The drive up proved that this theory was correct, with the car thermometer reading 0 C and snow coming down in huge fat flakes as we pulled into the parking lot. As was pointed out with a less than gleeful tone 'il y avait de la neige en masse'.
Coach John and our waxing assistant Tom McCarthy had actually arrived some two hours before us, and we were more than slightly glad to hear that they believed that, generally speaking, both the 'hairies' and a grip wax combination of Vauhti Super Binder and Vauhti Silver hard wax were working reasonably well, at least for the time being. We hemmed and hawed over when the snow would stop and what would happen to the tracks as the day wore on, but eventually time wore out and we made our individual choices. Everyone except Ed opted to race with the 'hairies'. For those of you who are into this kind of thing, the glide wax was Vauhti Silver, covered with Vauhti Zero Fox Powder.
Then, the racing got going. Justin, Karl and Ed started to toil around the very challenging 7.5 loop which they would repeat until 50kms had been completed. Megan and Sheila were out at the same time and on the same loop doing 30kms, while Alana and Zoe were racing in the junior women's 15km. The support staff were incredible at handing out the 60 bottles of e load and e load energy gels, being ready with spare poles, sandpaper, and wax, and also yelling out encouraging words like 'Karl, right now you are about 30 seconds behind your wife! You can catch her on the next uphill'. This group, to whom we owe a big thanks are: John Suuronen, Tom McCarthy, Dianna Thomas, James McTavish, and Ken Murray. Thanks as well to Adam Kates who made some elegant deliveries of e load on several occasions.
XC Ottawa had it's best day of the week. The 'XC Ottawa Race of the Day' went to Zoe Braul who took a spectacular 5th place in the Junior Women's race. Sheila and Megan were among the top 10 Canadians in the Open Women, with Megan 7th Canadian and Sheila 10th. Karl also finished 10th Canadian in the Open Men's 50km with Ed 27th despite the fact that he had to stop to put on klister part way through. A special word of congratulations went out to Werner Schwar of Thunder Bay, who in finishing the 50km, completed his 25th consecutive Canadian Championships. Way to go Werner! For full results, please visit www.zone4.ca, for pictures from the day, go to http://www.xcottawa.ca/article
T he waxing situation did prove to be an important factor. A look at the results sheet shows that only about 43 of of about 80 open men's starters officially finished. Part of the reason for this was a controversial decision to remove 'lapped competitors' from the event. Given that some people actually had to re-wax on several occasions, many people were lapped and forced out of the race. In some circles it was argued that this took something of the essential spirit of competition out of the event, while others countered that this was necessary because of the number of skiers on the course and FIS rules. Overall, this year's Canadian Championships were terrifically well organized and a pleasure to be a part of. Thank you very much to all the race organizers and volunteers. The new Olympic trails manage to be, at the same time, spectacular, challenging and fun. We have much to look forward to at Whistler Olympic park, with both World Cups and the Olympics on the horizon. So with that, XC Ottawa wrapped up its 7th season and has already begun to think about next year. Hope to see you out doing some spring skiing!