E Load/E Mend Marathon Race Report:The Gloppet? Yeah, that's what we call it.
By: Karl Saidla (2009/02/16)
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.
Steve Paradine has come up with this elegant moniker for the Gatineau Loppet now that we can't go around calling it the “Keski”. I wonder if it will catch on. Regardless of what you want to call it, every time I've done this event, I've learned a few things about the race, and a few things about myself.
This year was unusual and quite a bit different from what I have come to expect. We had a rare combination of the course being run almost entirely on the parkway network (please, don't get me started on this one), lightning fast snow conditions, and perfect weather.
I guessed that this would result in a ski race that played out a bit more like a road bike race typically might, and I think I was right. It became pretty apparent early on that this one would be quite tactical in that it was very difficult for anybody to ski by themselves (without the advantages of drafting).
I knew that in all likelihood, the strongest person in the race was Thomas Freimuth from Germany. I kept my eye on him pretty closely as I figured he would be the one to decide the race. For most of the course we skied in a group of 6 with most us employing different strategies to avoid doing much work at the front of the group! For sure, the long steady climbs of the parkway began to take their toll. I started getting the “twitches”, (cramps in legs) by Champlain, which did make me a little nervous. Thanks in part to the all the E Load I drank, they never turned into full blown cramps.
Eventually I decided that I had to at least try to make something happen, mainly because I am not a particularly great sprinter (or maybe worse) and would much prefer (I mean REALLY WANT) to have at least a smaller group to contend with at the finish. I also just thought that I just wouldn't feel satisfied otherwise. I remembered how awful it felt to get left behind in a previous year going up the the long gradual hill past Kingsmere at about the 40k mark, so I thought this would be a good place to “try something”. I basically “floored it” at the bottom of the hill and kept it there until I crested the top. Unfortunately, the result I was looking for didn't happen. I did have a lead of 5 seconds or so, but the group, rather than being strung out, were all together. I was fairly certain that I wouldn't be able to make it through all the open windy sections between there and the finish without getting caught. Before I had much time to think about it, on the very next downhill, they swallowed me back up like a lollipop. From then on I prepared for what was sure to be a nasty battle up Mt. Bleu hill.
Nasty indeed... Mr. Freimuth, quite predictably, took the lead as soon as we got on trail 5, and increased his speed in several, “painful for me” steps as we approached the hill. He made his final acceleration where the hill gets steep, and though I think I managed fairly well to actually accelerate as well, he clearly had more horse power to work with (meaning that he pulled away in a way that looked almost effortless from my vantage point). The group disintegrated, and I tried not to look back and push hard right to the finish. At the finish he was about 7 seconds ahead, and Luc Theriault (who incidentally, I have been racing against since I was 14) was about 7 seconds behind me. I was left satisfied with the result and my effort, and also pondering what I would have to do, training-wise to have just a little power and speed at the finish. Always good to have projects to work on...
For once, it was sunny and warm at the finish, so I stood around, ate the obligatory chocolate-covered raisins, and soaked in some very good atmophere. I was really happy to watch the end of the women's race as well. Some of my thoughts from that period included “Sheila finally won!” and that she really deserves that after so many years of hard work and numerous close finishes in the past. Megan finished second and I thought that this was a good race for her too because so far, the really long races haven't been her “favorite thing”. I've been trying to convince her of the merits of the long races, and this might help a bit! There were a myriad of friends and familiar faces milling about in the sunshine, finishing the race, and last but not least, shooting the breeze. Fun stuff to see, that's for sure.
So it wound up being a very nice weekend overall, and I caught up with a lot of old friends and acquaintances, which is really a big part of what the Gloppet is all about. Congratulations to all the participants, organizers and volunteers. Thanks as well to everyone that helped XC Ottawa out this weekend with wax, skis, handing out water bottles, and cheering loudly!
See you next year!