2009 Gatineau Loppet Report #4:Jason er Anson in search of the golden fleece
By: Anson Lake (2009/02/18)
"What a Weekend"..it doesn't get much better than this. Having completed 22 consecutive gatineaus allows me a little perspective; from +10C and 6'' of water on lac meech.. to wind chill numbers that don't bear repeating and every conceivable condition in between...this is definitely a "High Water Mark" for the Gatineau....in light of the benign conditions, it doesn't seem such a great loss not to have had Ridge Run.
This being my last year in the 55-59 age group, and rehabbing from a broken hip the previous year, I could have persuaded myself to just cruise this one and wait for next year; destiny however was hatching other plans for me. My age group is populated by 2 guys who so dominate any age group they are in, that only a few elite skiers ever get a look-in. When I look at the winning times I might well believe that these guys are from another planet...such is the disparity.
Last year whilst perusing the results, I happened to notice that they were actually 1 Gatineau year older than me. "Voila"...I think this is my year to win the class and suddenly it looks possible. Why I hadn't noticed this before is beyond me, as obviously I could have been winning the age group in the last year... all those years!!! So the die is cast; I am inspired by thoughts of a podium finish and though I am striving for the top step, in truth I will accept any step. My training plan goes onto the big ring and I find myself doing things that I had never contemplated weeks before..things like roller skiing and weight work in June along with a regular compliment of road cycling. Since I live in Southern Ontario, where winter is never taken for granted, I am heartened by the arrival of early snow and as it turns out consistent snow...the gods are smiling.
In keeping with my n-th. degree personality, I have decided to "Go Big Or Go Home" as my waxing strategy and to that end have parted with the necessary green ones to augment my wax arsenal with the necessary powders, blocs, rillers, roto brushes etc that will accompany me on my journey to the "Next Level" of waxing. But, can I handle the ultra squeaky Gatineau snow that so frustrates skiers from warmer climes?? To back-stop this fear, I bulked-up on cold snow waxing info gleaned from numerous websites and was actually looking forward to the slow snow challenge. I even took a few days off and traveled to Ottawa to ski the course beforehand....no cold snow though...-5 to start warming to 0...feels like Southern Ontario I thought as I finished, but I knew better as next day was -26C and squeaks aplenty. Two weeks prior to the event I began documenting Ottawa weather conditions with the intent of not being surprised this year. So intimately familiar was I with the conditions, that I felt as though I could actually feel the snow...both on the parkway and in the woods...such was my preoccupation with "Having The Wax".
Finally the day arrives and I find myself in the 3rd. row of the B wave, idly wondering if I may have bitten of more than I can chew. I really prefer the C wave as there are more females there to chat with while waiting for the start....but destiny beckons me. I have a clean start and even remember to start my HRM beforehand. The Asticou loop is fast..very fast and I will record my highest HR here and hope I haven't gone out too fast and live to regret this little vanity The Penguin feed stop reminds me that I will have to refine my feeding methodology yet again, as the clip on the gel pack holder seems permanently attached to my waistband. when I finally disengage it i.e. Rip it off...the gel is sooo viscous, I waste precious time squeezing the plastic container and waiting and waiting. Alas I have been squeezing a little to hard and a goodly portion of the gel attaches itself to my glove...enough of this I thing and reclip it to my waistband on the front this time, where 10 minutes later it has worked it's way down into my crotch...well at least it's warmer there.
Propelled onward by visions of a podium finish, I eagerly await the Black Lake climb hoping I can conquer it with the same aplomb of a month ago...strange now that it seems longer somehow and there's less 1 skate and more offset in this version. There are also more distractions this time in the constant chatter of skis, poles and heavy breathing behind me, with skiers seemingly trying to pass, without ever doing so. I train alone and in races I find this chatter both stimulating...in that you are enticed to go faster...and distracting in that it seems like either someone is passing you or appears about to pass you.
The feed stop in the loop at Huron is dominated by another frustrating attempt to locate and use my gel..cumulating in the removal of my sticky glove and pole. I vow never to try and use it again for the remainder of the race. Time again to make up lost ground and re-pass the same skiers as at Penguin, but now the Hunt starts in earnest. I have long known that the trip down the parkway, while rumored to be almost all downhill, is a wrecking yard for tired skiers slowly trying to navigate hills that seem to go on forever. It is here that skiers must confront their fatigue and find the will to push on while watching helplessly as hard won progress in other sections and the hope for a "Good Time" vanish in a thick fog of metabolic fatigue...suddenly skiing isn't as easy as it was even 20 minutes ago.
This year I have good pop going down the parkway, the wax gods are still smiling and it's time to feel the exhilaration that comes from skating easily uphill using the 1 skate and knowing you will finish strongly. I don't want to convey the impression that I am skiing like Pierre Harvey here, but everything is relative and I try to maximize my advantage and pass as many skiers as possible whilst preventing others from passing me.
The finish is just ahead...there is no chatter behind me...just an easy 1 skate to carry me over the line. And that podium spot, well it really isn't that important is it...what matters is that it was a fabulous day to ski and I had a good race.
Anson Lake, Bib 261