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2013 Gatineau Loppet Report #3 - An Irishman's Loppet
By:  Ray McCombe   (2013/02/20)


I came to Canada from N. Ireland in the summer of 2001. In the first week of February, during my first winter here, I went up to Old Chelsea and rented out some waxless skis to try out cross country skiing. I had never actually seen cross country skis before. I skied from P8 to P9 and back and really enjoyed it. When I was leaving the skis back to the shop, I noticed a poster for the Keskinada loppet which was on the next weekend. There was a 25km race. I thought, well, I have just skied about 8km and it was easy, so I could manage 25km. Boy was in for a shock. Anyway, I entered the loppet and returned to the shop the next weekend to rent out the waxless skis. There was a big snowstorm on the Saturday night. On Sunday morning, the roads were in bad shape and I was 20 minutes late getting to the start line . The race had already started and everyone had gone. I asked the guy at the startline "Where are the tracks?". He replied "This is freestyle day". I said "I thought freestyle meant you could do whatever style you want". He replied " I guess you have a point. Off you go. You will find some tracks up on the parkway".

Anyway, I set off and classic skied the whole 25km course. I was not expecting it to be so hilly. I could not get up one of the really steep hills as the skis kept slipping back. Since everyone was gone I had no idea what to do. So, I took the skis off and put them over my shoulder and climbed up. I did finish that year. It took me well over 4 hours and after it, I could hardly walk for about a week........

Anyway, fast forward 11 years to the weekend past. I entered my first 55km classic race with the goal to just finish it. I was expecting a bottleneck with everyone starting out from P19 car park. However, it was fine and the first long hill seemed to spread everyone out. I really enjoyed the first 20km but must have pushed myself a little too much. I started taking cramps in my legs just before the half way marker. Any time I tried to kick double pole, the cramps would start again. I had to stop at a few of the feed stations to try to get some relief by stretching. A Guinness would have done the trick, but they only had Gatorade or honey water. Anyway, I limped on with thoughts of "never again" and managed to make it to the finish line. That was one tough and really hilly race...........

I got changed and had a bite to eat and then headed back out to the finish line. It made my day to see my wife Margaret finish her first 20km loppet. She had managed to get tangled with another skier at the start of her race and came over the finish line with blood all over her nose. A quick trip to the medical centre to get cleaned up and she was fine.

Congratulations to everyone who entered and finished a race. It turned out to be a great day weatherwise and the park was groomed to perfection.

A huge thanks to XC Ottawa for the grip waxing advice. The Vauhti waxes worked well.

Also, a big thanks to all the folks who ski in Gatineau Park and write in reports telling us what grip waxes are working........

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