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

By:  Steven Thomas   (2011/02/25)


Steve's original version can be found at: http://teampackedapps.swtechnologies.ca/race-reports/determination-or-stupidity-its-a-fine-line. Re-published wit permission.

In my ongoing pursuit of the ever famous “Rudy Award“, this past weekend I attempted to tackle item #2 on the list, the Gatineau Loppet (51km skate ski). With only 4 weeks of skate skiing experience under my belt (never set foot on skies prior) totaling a whopping 57km over my 6 outings and no official training/lessons to speak of, I heard countless comments heading into the race like “you’re nuts”, “you can’t possibly do it”, “you’re going to hurt yourself”… well nothing can motivate an individual more than being told they can’t!

Sunday morning comes and despite the confidence I had in myself, those ever present doubts and ‘what if’ sat in the back of my head, but are soon dashed as I surround myself with great friends and a few last minute words of wisdom and well wishes from the more seasoned vets. Having far too little experience on skies, let alone none in this event, I easily seeded myself in the last group to start (wave E), so I was fortunate enough to witness the spectacular starts of the earlier waves.

Wave 'A' mass start in the 2011 Gatineau Loppet

9:08am… wave E go time… or was it mass confusion time? First a false start and as half of us are returning to the start to line up again, the horn goes off again… we all stand there for a second looking at each other, some laughing, some puzzled, some asking if this is the real start, but eventually we’re off and the 51km race/adventure/survival test commences.

Of all the advice I was given leading into the race, the piece that stuck in my head the most was the warning of having your pole(s) stepped on and breaking on the first climb, so as the congested pack climbs the first hill, I settled into the side by side penguin like shuffle to the top. After the first hill things spaced out and the remainder of the race was spent chasing down one small pack of skiers at a time.

The start, first climb and a little downhill

Conditions were absolutely amazing, ok, this coming as a comparison to my lifelong… oh… 6 other ski sessions (LOL). Well it was either the amazing conditions, the amazing waxing that Eurosports had done for me or both as I didn’t ever think you could hit 50+ km/hr on cross-country skis (ya, I think I soiled my pants on some of those downhills).

The climb up past the Penguin Picnic Area was an awesome test of endurance which to my surprise I fought through without stopping. An extra special thanks to the great sportsmanship my fellow skiers showed by moving off to the side as I wobbled past so to not have to break my stride and settle in behind them.

Working through the first 20km

Around kilometer 32, I came along side the great Parham Momtahan who just recently participated in his first  Winterlude Triathlon, (read my Winterlude Triathlon race report) followed that up with the CSM the next weekend and was now out on the 51km Loppet the very next weekend… what an inspiration in fitness! In addition to his abilities, Parham (who had sold me his old skies so I could chase this crazy dream of mine), had also accompanied me on my very first ski session 4 weeks prior and showed me the basics of how to stay upright with these two twigs called skis strapped to my feet (there were a few bruises from falling following that first session). With over 19km remaining in the race and fatigue starting to settle in, Parham shouted out some very encouraging words that helped me push through it all to the finish line “Great work, keep going Grasshopper”.

The remainder of the race was mostly downhill, fast, and taught me a very valuable lesson which I hope to share with any other newcomers to the sport… two words… “WIND BRIEFS”. I’m just thankful that after I thawed out, all my ‘parts’ are still attached! Crossing the line in a time of 3:25:05 I was greeted by many friends with smiling faces, a sense of accomplishment and a desire to do this all over again next year… but this time with some lessons and a little more experience under my belt!

The 51km journey... Accomplished!

An incredibly huge thank you to Parham for everything he did for me (equipment, advice, encouragement), thank you to my teammates, Tiff & Tim (who took me up Penguin two weeks prior and taught me how to do the herringbone), Laurel & Doug (who helped refine my skate technique), coach Dev (who accompanied me on my last practice outing prior to the race and offered up some fine tuning), the guys over at Eurosports (for the lighting fast wax job), to the amazingly friendly volunteers (who gave up their day to stand in the cold and make this race run smooth, not to mention handing out “All-I-Could-Eat” at the buffet stations… uh I mean aide stations) and finally a gigantic thank you to my wife (who watched our 2 year old son while I went off to play in the Gats the two Saturday mornings prior so I could get a little familiar with what I was going up against this weekend).

My 4 week long ski season has now come to an end for this year, but I’m truly excited/thankful I’ve found a new sport to start again next year!

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