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Karl Saidla: Man or Machine, an exposé
By:  Riel Allain   (2013/10/19)

This is a first of a series of exposés on some of  the people in XCOttawa's community.

The first section of the article will answer all the usual, but necessary questions. The 2nd section will cover some of Karl's wisdom. And go to the end for pictures.

Karl Saidla (born 28/01/1977)

Marital status:

Married to Megan McTavish

XcOttawa athlete since:

2001-02 (he has been with XCOttawa since the start)

Before that:

Training Center at Thunder Bay from 1997 to 2001

And even before that?:


Favorite Nakkertok coaches:

Dave Mallory, Steve Paradine, Alan Mortimer, Brian Ray

Current Occupation:

PhD student at Ottawa university (Thesis on something to do with health and transportation… you can ask him)

Hours trained yearly:

Between 550 and 700 for the past ten years. And regularly for the past 20 years.

Nationals attended:

20, each one since 1993

Favorite nationals:

In no particular order,

Whitehorse 2010

Newfoundland 1997

Canmore 1994 (on Olympic trails)

Favorite trail:

Pleasant Valley (#22) in the Gatineau Park

Favorite racing trails:


Best race:

Canmore 30 km puirsuit World Championships trials 2009 - 9th

National Championship 30km skate 2002- 5th

Favorite Workout:

Long slow distance

Favorite intensity:

Long and continuous (20 minutes and more)


Bench Press (all-time best of 160 pounds for one repetition, 45+12.5 pds on each side)

 (I had meant about his personality, but he really wanted people to know about his weight lifting abilities, on the other hand, he was once able to do 20 pull-ups in a row)

In terms of his person:

Not a fast thinker, did not go on a single date in high school, overanalyzes things


Diplomatic, good at doing accents, storyteller

What not to bring at karl’s dinner party:

Cottage cheese

Favorite music:

Fiftymen (country music, although this is the only country band that he likes)


Karl’s fall layer system:

Leg layer: short-tights with a pair of light tights over top. The tights must have zippers along the side for quick removal. Karl has found a pair of adidas tights that to do the job.

Upper body layer: A light synthetic layer as a base. Covered with a windproof, rainproof jacket which is light enough to fit in your water belt.

This layer system, according to Karl, has been an “evolution”. Indeed, Karl has developed a layer system that, just in recent years (maybe 2009), has reached its final form. Of course, the achievement of the final form was a result of so many fall practices, many of those, starting off being cold and miserable, then becoming so hot you feel like you are in a Finnish sauna. However; despite having found the ultimate fall wear, Karl insists that: “it was not forced evolution, it was more of a process”.

The system enables Karl to quickly strip down by either: removing his upper-top layer (his light wind/rain jacket) and storing it in his waterbelt pouch. In addition, Karl can, for further cooling, simply unzip his adidas tights and sport his fashionable tight-shorts.

By adopting the Karl fall layer system, you can sidestep years of trial and error and simply enjoy your fall workout without freezing or boiling.

I also asked Karl if he had any advice for any 13-15 year old who liked skiing. This is what he had to say (paraphrasing):

 The most important thing is to do what you want to do (i.e. follow your dreams). Take time to concentrate just on skiing if you want to see what you are really capable of. However; you do not need to take this time right after your first years senior. You can wait for after university (Karl said his best years in terms of fitness were 2008-09-10, he was 31-32-33). It takes time to develop to your full potential. And this development (or training) has to be sustainable, enjoyable and part of your lifestyle (I have witnessed Karl rollerskiing and biking to work a number of time). In addition, to truly reach your maximum capabilities you need a coach that understands you and that you have a good relationship with (luckily Karl has John Suuronen, with whom he has had a great relationships with since 2005)

 The Man himself. Notice the watch. Karl also has a watch system, a heart rate monitor for training, a cheap sports watch (seen here) for everyday use and a nicer watch for more formal occasions.

Here he is again by the kitchen (apparently not always this dirty) , posing for the camera. He is not wearing earmuffs... I'm not sure what that is.

Karl posing in their new sauna. This was Wednesday night, after going to the gym. While most of us would have given up and worn whatever was convenient, Karl maintains a both natural and stylish look for a relaxing evening.

Megan in the shower (currently under construction). This room-for-two shower is within arms reach of the sauna, the ideal post-ski setup.

Like most skiers, the Saidla-McTavishs have a ski bench year-round which can also serve as a workbench.

Megan making their Breakfast for the next week with local honey from Val-des-monts (purchased at the Provigo on St-Joseph Boul. - the best honey around!)
Megan is also sporting a black watch which happens to be Karl's 2nd "sports-everyday-use watch", which was not acquired through purchase (i.e. Karl would not have purchased a 2nd sports watch, because his watch system was already complete with its 3 watches). This one was "probably given or won", although its history cannot be accurately determined.

Lastly, I asked many of karl's friends to describe him in one word (or a word that they thought of when thinking of Karl), this is what they said:
forever young
Nana Mouskouri (a singer who's song may or may not have led to karl's conception, the singer is also, like Karl "unusual, but legendary")
brilliant philosopher (again)
the love of my life (Megan watch out!)
unbelievably stylish
skinny ankles

I also asked Karl for 3 words that describe himself, with Megan's help, he came up with humorous, absent-minded and social.

Next up is Megan McTavish!
Interesting Reading. . .
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