October has come, and with it the changing colours of fall in the Gatineau Park. Local tourism is booming as people come to the Park to enjoy the colours of fall, using the many scenic driving routes and chairlift rides to accomplish their yearly commune with nature. Some, however, prefer to enjoy nature more directly, and for this dedicated and slightly imbalanced crowd there are plenty of diversions, foremost among them the annual Fall Rhapsody Mountain Run. This run is a 5 or 10 kilometre cross-country race up, down, and around the ski slopes and back trails of Camp Fortune marked out by Dave McMahon and XCZone. As this is pretty much home turf for XC Ottawa, the team decided to come out in force, to reclaim the 10 km championship won by racers Tom McCarthy and Karl Saidla in years past.
The start was crowded with royal blue XC Ottawa shirts, as 10 members of the team began the race. Craig Storey, Tom McCarthy, David Zylberberg, Lee Churchill, Arno Turk, and Chad (aka "Hull") Yurich all ran, along with the entire junior squad, consisting of Skeets Morel, Bruno Leduc, Ed McCarthy and Chris Mamen. As the figurative gun went off, all present jockeyed for a spot near the front of the pack before the trail became technical single-track. By the time the race reached Cookie Monster, the first major climb, it was led by Dave McMahon who, doing only a single 5 km loop of the course, decided to push the pace. Hard on his heels came Tom, David, Ed, Lee, Arno and Chad, along with some of the other racers. Dave McMahon soon dropped back, and Tom, David and Ed formed a lead group, chased by Lee, Arno, and Dan Murray, another skier.
The course, though beautifully marked, yielded up a few surprises. It was a fairly constant up-down, crossing and going down a Fortune ski run at several points, and dotted with switchbacks. Asides from cutting down on speed and leading to a few trees being grabbed to aid cornering (if only it was so easy on snow), these switchbacks gave a good view of the progress of the race to both the chasers and the chased. A bit of rain had led to a bit of mud, and not every footfall was as solid as could be hoped, but the relatively warm weather during the race helped keep conditions as safe as any course of this one's nature can be (though there was at least one reported sprained ankle casualty). From time to time, however, there was a jump above and beyond the call of duty - the two trees fallen on the trail were the most shocking, as they were totally unexpected and had been absent the day before.
Quirky trails aside, XC Ottawa had a wonderful day, capturing the top 5 spots. Tom finished first, recapturing his title from two years before, with brother Ed close on his heels. They were followed by Lee and David, also sprinting to the finish, and Arno rounded it off by beating Dan Murray to the line. Also in the top 10 were Chad, at ninth, and Skeets, at 10th. All in all, a great day defending the home trails.
- The blur of colours on the start line
- A view of the second lap from the chalet
- Tom holding off Ed's last charge
- Tom leading Ed to the finish line