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KeskiDads - My 50km Keski
By:  Jim McCarthy   (2005/02/25)


Canadian skiers are largely funded by the Bank of Mom and Dad. If you aren’t a ski racer or parent of one, you may wonder why it is that parents allow their children to spend hundreds of hours gliding on skis at their expense. Seems silly... almost as crazy as those racing suits they wear. Well a year ago XC Ottawa athletes asked their mothers to share their thoughts on having a ski racer in the family in the SkiMoms Series and now it's time to hear from the Dads that recently did the Keski.

I had never really contemplated doing the 50 km Keski until a few days before the event, when Edward basically started bullying me about it - supported by his Mum. My previous Keski experience was a couple of 25-kms, once with Edward when he was 10, and my longest previous skis were a couple of 3-section days on the Marathon, again chasing Edward.

My standard ski-outings tend to be 15 to 25 km long, depending on the time I have. This year I have skied more than usual, including the Nakkerloppet, and once I had made up my mind to do the Keski, I did dash out for a ski on the Thursday before. I figured it would be a survival exercise, but that I would have little trouble doing the first 25-30 km, after which I would in any case be on the down-hill stretch.

I unknowingly followed most of Karl's advice in his Last-Minute Do's and Don'ts (including a decent breakfast) and prepped a little more than I usually do before a ski, including combining Jack Sasseville's waxing advice in the recent Ski-Trax, with some of Edward's suggestions. Nothing radical: just base binder ironed in and 5 layers of VR-30, which carried me nicely through the event. (Note to readers: just building up my street-cred here!)

Out on the race, the big frustration was the start in Wave E. I stayed indoors a bit too long to avoid getting cold and thus ended up about two-thirds of the way back in the grid. I had resolved to start at a comfortable speed, but that speed was much faster than the mob could move, and I did not get clear of the mob till we joined the Parkway after Pink's Lake. After that, it was pretty clear sailing. I was initially concerned about making the 11:15 cut-off at Keogan but I made it comfortably in spite of the early delays - though I'm actually not sure they cut off anybody.

I had resolved to rely on the feed-stops for fluids and food. Two cups of gatorade and one or two cookies gave a great boost each time and the stops were frequent enough that I never felt depleted. This is the first time I've really depended on these on-course feeds and it worked very well for me.

As anticipated, it did get a lot harder after 30 km. I had worked up a sweat and my clothes were soggy and cold on the down-hills. The weather had been briefly sunny but turned blustery and snowy, so much of the last 20+ km were only marginally fun; impelled by the need to "make it". I was conscious after repeated encounters with Megan that Stuart McTavish was also doing it; I didn't care about feeding Edward's ego by beating another XC Ottawa Dad, but I knew he'd finish with that kind of support, so I had to as well.

Nothing looked as good as the sign saying 1000 M to go, and yes, I did sprint to the Finish.

All of the above may look pretty pedestrian to the XC Ottawa semi-pros, but to me as a first-timer it was a bit of a revelation to learn some of the same things others have learned before. I did some things right (wax, feeds) and some wrong. Lessons learned: 1) get into the grid early - I'm sure I'll still be in Wave E next year; 2) find a way to dress to stay more comfortable, and most importantly 3): do some longer skis prior to the Keski.

Will I do it again? Yes! In spite of the last 20+ km, there is a perverse pleasure and fun in proving you can do it. And the first time gives you a goal: surely I can shave 15-20 minutes off that time.

Interesting Reading. . .
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