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2011 CSM Report #2 - First Time CDB Gold Ski
By:  Paul Dale    (2011/02/15)


The weekend was good.

The grip was fantastic both days, so that took away a lot of stress.

Stress seemed to be the theme this year for me. Stressed about the weather and the snow that was in the forecast for Sunday.

Stress about eating and drinking enough. Stress about muscles and my nagging Achilles tendon.

Stress about the crazy-wild downhills and making the 3:15 cut-off time.

The first section on day one was slow due to the long lines at the top of all the downhills so it was a bit of catch-up for the rest of the morning. However, by noon I was confident I would make the cut-off.

The weather was all over on Saturday: beautiful snow in the morning that sparkled from the light of my headlamp. Then there were moments of sun and blue skies and then more snow. But it was mild and the glide was good and the conditions were better than I thought they would be.

The gold camp was different than how I imagined it. Sparser, busier, and more populated. And the smoke. Unbelievable.

At night, it got very quiet at around 8 pm as if there was some silent agreement that this was "lights-out" hour. I was asleep until I heard the groomer in the distance. Then, the guy who was sleeping beside me began to suffer from leg cramps and he literally kept me awake from 11 pm on. He was moaning and whimpering so loud it drove me crazy. And I was so exhausted; I was desperate to get a couple more hours of sleep. It wasnít one of my more favorite nights of camping.

But it was beautiful to see the glowing embers and sparks, the sleeping bags, and the moon and stars. That was one of the prettiest moments of the weekend. Even my tired mind could appreciate that sight.

On Sunday morning, at 4 am, most of the camp was up and about. At 5:30 we left with little fanfare and I watched the snake-line of headlamps disappear into the distance.

It was cold for the first several hours and the glide was very slow but the grip was good. I skied well and happily until a series of long climbs at around km 38 robbed me of any joy and excess energy. You could see this big climb just take it out of a lot of skiers. The third checkpoint was quieter and faces looked more fatigued. Iím sure mine did at least.

From that point on, it was hard work broken up by a few kms of feeling good (usually on downhills or after a gel). However, I had skied well enough in the morning that I had 4 hours to complete the 27 km section to the cut-off checkpoint. I was a little less stressed out at that point. I tried as best as I could to keep my thoughts in the present and not think about how much distance was left. I tried to keep my thoughts constructive. Quitting was never an issue, but the mental struggle was tough. I was just trying to find any kind of rhythm.

A little after 2 pm, a snowstorm started but the final checkpoint was not too far away. At the checkpoint, the stress just melted away and everyone was all smiles and relief. Itís almost like having two finish lines! I threw on an extra layer and my mitts, ate my frozen Snickers bar (nothing was better all weekend, the highlight for me!) and just death-marched it into Montebello. I skied behind two happy students from McGill and we double-poled it in.

My ski buddy greeted me at the finish line and that was a very nice sight. We hightailed it to Papineau to give in my results and pick up the gold pin (my first), and then I inhaled a quarter-pounder and fries in less than 4 minutes.

When I got home, I showered, listened to the kids about their weekend, and then I was asleep before 7:30.

Overall, it was harder than I thought it would be. Even though I was better prepared and trained than in previous years, the effort required to carry the heavy pack all day took me by surprise. The second half of each day was a lot of work. I couldnít escape or ignore the fatigue and the weariness of limbs. And it took longer than planned to ski sections.

If I do it next year, I will not worry about time cut-offs. I would like to become a better classic skier though. I want to find that extra gear. I know itís somewhere.

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