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2011 CSM Report #1 - I can't resist the Canadian Ski Marathon!
By:  Linda Payne   (2011/02/15)


I heard the ripping sound in my leg as I fell, smack in the middle of a very churned up, rocky downhill on the first section of the CSM. I sat there a few seconds while other tourers gazed down and waited. Likely having the same anxious thoughts that caused me to put on the brakes at the wrong time.

The three down hills on the first section of this year's re-route were quite tough, and I should have walked the last one. I took my skis off and got up with some difficulty and skiers started to whizz by, snowplowing for dear life. Some falling. Getting up again. Some fiercely hanging on. Not too many that I saw took the hills well; the better skiers were long gone. This is the one debatable aspect of the CSM: risky downhills. They get riskier as more people go down snowplowing. They were likely ideal or close to it for the first few skiers. After several hundred skiers, not so much.

My husband had asked me not to do it again. My track record for risky downhills and injuries isn't good.

But I can't resist the CSM.

Where else can citizen skiers ski long and hard through groomed back-country, and get so well supported? After each section of skiing (sections vary from 10 to 20K usually), there is food, hot honeyed water, and great good cheer. Warm buses to take you back to town. The music is hot and the marvellous volunteers dance while they brew up soup and warm Gatorade. I can't thank them enough. They even wax your skis! I had my skis cheerfully, quickly and perfectly waxed 3 times over the course of one day. They bring out the army for midway checkpoints, water en route and road crossing duty.

On this year's trail, my favourite part was skiing across a lake on beautiful track set with enough snow to be able to pole well. Where else can you find that? As we descended the turn and little dip onto the lake into glorious sunshine, we were struck by the incredibly beautiful view of receding skiers across the expanse of snow to the horizon of surrounding hills.

This is one of the great things about the CSM for me: the opportunity to see myself as part of a continuum, looking forward and being able to glance backward to see others engaged in the same journey. I can be alone in the outdoors, feel safe and never lonely.

The CSM offers different things to different skiers. I have friends who specialize in being coureur de bois. That is, they make a commitment to ski all 10 sections (180 K) in the two days. This requires some training.

Many others return year after year as a tourer, doing a section here or there and having a social weekend away. I am an experienced tourer. For years I cherry-picked the sections with my friend Helen. Let's see, we'll do this section, catch a bus to that section, then do two sections and head back to the B and B or the Chateau for a hot bath, hot chocolate and open the wine. No real training required.

This year my friend Kumiko and I made a commitment to training and austerity, and stayed in a classroom at the high school in Papineauville, a.k.a. "the dorm", paying $100 for two breakfasts and Saturday dinner. Our classroom of tourers held a wide assortment, mother and daughter duos, a family with 2 children sleeping in great estate on blow up mattresses under the blackboard, lithe young women from rowing team from McGill. A busy man who ran in late and popped open his cot, read his book and made notes. A woman who treated herself to the CSM every 10 years, and did better every decade. Another jolly girl from McGill who decided at the last minute to come and ski a few sections. Some of the classrooms that got set up early Friday night were very clubby, and everyone seemed to have agreed to how to organize. Lights were out by 8 pm in these rooms.

I've been doing the CSM now long enough that I've seen kids growing up over the course of the years. On the trails I met up with a father and son duo from west of Ottawa that I've chatted with over the past 5 years, and a farrier from the Poconos that I met years ago on a bus. Apparently several members of her family were skiing but starting at different sections. One lovely woman we skied with briefly told me that she and her husband just like to do a few sections every year, if they can. She was skiing on her own, enjoying the day and the scenery, her husband was somewhere ahead. She made the right decision and walked the hill I'd had my tumble on. She kindly offered to take the photo you see of me and my friend Kumiko, and was delighted to finish her three sections.

I was delighted to finish my 3 sections as well, although before the tumble, I'd had ideas of at least four sections. At the end of section 3, I got what I needed: a hug from my friend Martha in first aide, and a warm waiting bus.

Back at the dorm, there were the usual war stories being traded. Mostly people were patching up their feet in public view, chatting and happy with their accomplishment for the day. Heaven knows, no one but another CSMer can appreciate what they've just experienced. My husband thinks I am nuts.

Kumiko and I returned home to Ottawa after dinner Saturday night. My leg was too sore for another day of skiing and one night on the floor in the stuffy classroom was enough for both of us.

I am already thinking about saving for better accommodations next year, planning on walking a few hills and training even harder. I can't resist what the CSM offers. Don't tell my husband.

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