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KeskiDads - My 50 Before 60
By:  Stuart McTavish   (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.

That was my goal, set about 5 years ago, that I would ski the Keski 50 K classic before I was 60 years old. I guess I am a bit like that OLD ( over 50 ) guy that chased Karl to the finish line when he was 13 years old. We are not going to let this sport be totally taken over by the young and fit.

I did not rush into the 50 K.. The first step was to get some good equipment, which I did with Megan's help. Life is a lot better when your skis do not weigh a ton. Then I did the 10 K at Keski. It was actually harder than I thought. In the past, a 10K event was to go to the start line, send the kids off, then go and talk to the other parents until the kids finished. Did not take much effort at all.

My next step was to ski the 25K. This time I did it all wrong. I was caught up in the spirit of the race and pushed it too hard at the start. It was a long and lonely day out on the trails feeling totally dead. The next year I did the 25 again, but this time I took a slower pace at the start and actually stopped when I felt I had to. I completed the 25K much faster ( 1 hour shorter) than the previous year and felt brave enough to announce that I was going to do the 50.

This time I was a little apprehensive as I estimated my time would be between 5 and 6 hours. That was a long time to keep up any type of continuous physical activity, especially for an office boy. I actually did some weight training and some work outs in the gym. I should have done more, but what I did really paid off.

On the day of the big event, I headed out to the start line with my freshly waxed skis, thanks Megan, and started off in the last wave. This is not a bad place to be for a beginner. The fast enthusiasts are all ahead of you and the trails were not crowded. There definitely were no people trying to pass, or to push me faster than I wanted to go. I actually passed some people from the earlier waves, so they must have had a hard time with everyone trying to get past them.

I had read some of the articles on the XC Ottawa web site about "Bonking", and I actually tried to follow some of the advice. I did stop at every feeding station and had a drink and something to eat, but that did not stop the bonk, which is a very interesting four letter word.

I did not bonk by being hit in the face with a frying pan as reported by others. Mine was repeated smaller hits, and after each hit, someone tied the frying pans to my skis.

My legs were the real problem. I started to cramp up at about 25 K, so I had to focus on not pushing it too hard on the hills and totally seizing up. The best comment I heard was " the little bit of time you gain by pushing it too hard on the hills, you lose many times over later on in the race".

The blister started at 30 K. It was both a bother and a blessing. A bother, because it hurt. A blessing, because it took my mind off the other pain. The pain brought back memories of the blister on the same heal in the 25 K, but had somehow been forgotten in the ensuing year. Probably would have been a good idea to keep notes and take corrective action.

At 40K I convinced myself that even in my present physical state, which was not very good, I could ski another 12 K, and that was what kept me going. Each 1 K marker told me I was 1 K closer to the end. It was also good to know that it was a 52 K course because when I passed the 50 K marker, another skier that was travelling at about my pace, lamented " I thought that this was a 50 K race !!". I actually totally bonked at the 50 K marker going up the last hill. I stopped and really wanted to quit. Megan, who was skiing with me at the time, yelled at me to keep going, and as that was the only way to get to the car, I did.

1000 m to go was the most welcome sign all day, and it was at the top of a small hill. The end was in sight and so was another skier. I followed one of the Do's and Don'ts of the Keski, and I sprinted into the finish, at least that is what I thought I was doing. It probably looked like a leisurely ski pace to the few people still at the finish line.

It was over !!, I had actually done it, and within my estimated time frame. Life was good and I could finally sit down. Could not walk because of the blister, but it is only skin, and skin grows back.

Will I do it again? Probably not. But I will go back to the 25 K and have more fun. It is a good way to force yourself into doing some training and to keep in shape, because you certainly will pay for it both on the trails and off if you are not.

So, lessons learned to be passed on to those other non athlete skiers:

Set a goal and plan for it. Tell others so it will be harder to back down, Set the goal high enough that it will be a significant challenge, but not so high that you mentally give up. Get some good equipment. Remember what hurt last year and take corrective action. Training is a good thing to do, it keeps the Bonk Man away, and Go out and Ski.

Interesting Reading. . .
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