.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

It won't pass judgment. That part is up to you...
By:  Karl Saidla   (2008/10/20)

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Zoe sent out the team workout schedule for the week, and I got a laugh out of the entry for tomorrow which said something like: Tuesday, 7:30 AM. Penguin. Workout of Death (5:5 X6).

Yes, this one has been on the minds of a few of us since we first saw it on the fall training plan at the beginning of September. The above description, translated, means Z4 ski striding intensity on Penguin hill, 6 times 5 minutes with 5 minutes rest. The forecast calls for 7C and rain at the time of the workout. It will be one we remember. I know we'll get through it though-we always do.

This got me thinking a little bit about the infamous Penguin hill, and more specifically, about both my and other people's long standing relationship with it. I just checked my old training logs to see if I could pinpoint the date of my first Penguin workout. I discovered that no, this first workout occurred a season before I recorded anything worth keeping. But looking at my logs did jog my memory enough to allow me to remember when it was, pretty clearly. It would have been in November of 1991. I actually remember a lot about that day when I think about it. I can remember what poles I used (still have those around, actually), what running shoes I had, roughly what clothing I wore, as well as that day's chosen starting and finishing points, not to mention who prescribed the workout-Nakkertok's Dave Mallory. I guess, in one way or another, this must have been an important day or I wouldn't remember it so well. So, this November will be 18 years after my first Penguin intensity workout. That means I definitely should have learned something from Penguin and what sometimes feels like the nonsensical activity we do there. But what?

Well, obviously, Penguin has a kind of magnetic pull. I keep finding myself there, workout after workout, year after year, without really questioning it. If it's October or November, Penguin is a given. Not only that, since 2002 I have actually lived a stone's throw a way from the bottom. I didn't do this on purpose-it just worked out that way.

I have learned that Penguin is a pretty versatile training facility. What's more, it's free and you don't have to make any reservations. I have walked it, ran it, ski strode it, mountain biked it and skied it at all kinds of different paces, up and down. I've experienced pretty much every emotion you could in a ski training/racing context while on Penguin.

I have learned that Penguin, as daunting as it sometimes is, can be comforting as well. It never moves, and it never fundamentally changes. I know exactly what kind of pain the first few steep pitches will bring-heavy legs and arms and lungs protesting that this is only the beginning. I never forget the slightly nervous feeling I get while waiting the last few seconds for the first trip up the hill to start. I know where to draw my line in the dirt with my ski pole, and I also know exactly which tree I should be passing after 4 minutes have gone by. The same goes for 5 minutes. Finally, I am keenly aware of satisfaction I will feel jogging home with my throat still burning from the cold early morning air.

I have learned that Penguin can be a great ally in preparing for a ski season. It's the right length, has a variety of pitches, and it twists and turns just enough to stay interesting, even after all these years. It's easy to get to and is always ready to accept you for a tough workout, or even an easier one. It's always willing to offer that aforementioned satisfaction along with a nice view from the lookout.

Penguin is to be respected. What makes it great is also what makes it dangerous. It is very easy to go too hard. If you ski stride up it with good technique you will easily be going hard enough without much real ambition required. Go too hard, too often, and the result is predictable-major fatigue. Maybe even a ruined ski season. So you have to use it wisely.

I am well aware of the fact that I am not the only one who has had these kind of thoughts about Penguin. Many skiers have used this hill over a long period of time. In a way, it's funny that we don't have more record keeping associated with such an established legend. We don't know how many Canadian champions have trained there, who has done the fastest time, or who has traveled its length the most times. While it would be interesting to know these things, maybe not knowing kind of adds to the mystique.

It's there for anyone who wants to test themselves, however and whenever they want. Penguin is a jewel that isn't owned by anybody and which doesn't pass judgment. That part is up to you.



It never moves, and it never fundamentally changes.


I keep finding myself there


Satisfaction-every time.


"2 more....no slacking off". Sometimes we hate this guy.


....That part is up to you.

 
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