This morning, Pierre-Olivier and I had a chance to ski with Alex Nilsson, a pretty interesting fellow from Cranbrook, B.C. We met in the parking lot of the Walmart in Kanata at 9am. That's where Alex and his wife, Nicole, had parked their camper for the night. They were bright eyed and ready to go roller skiing, which was a bit surprising since they are on day 70 of the same routine. You see they have been on the road since June 25th when Alex left Victoria, B.C., and began his roller skiing trek across the country. They have covered nearly 5000km to get to Ottawa and he's got a few more to cover before he gets to St. John's.
P-O and I acted as tour guides to the nation's capital, and also had a great chance to chat with Alex along the way. At 70 years old Alex has some great ski memories and he shared a few with us. He recalled his youth in Sweden listening to to the World Cups on 3 different radios at once; the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian broadcasts so he could really keep track of the races and all his favourite skiing stars. He also fondly remembers the 1988 Calgary Olympics and watching the Svan vs. Mogren battles. He said it's likely he'll watch the World's best this winter in Silver Star and Calgary as the World Cup comes back to Canada.
So just how do you decide to roller ski across the country? Lots of reasons - Why is a 70-Year-Old Swede Roller Skiing Across The Entire Country of Canada? When Alex met Dev Paul who was returning from his morning ride in the Gatineau Park and suggested that if he were thinking about doing it he should just pick a time and commit to it by telling people of his plan. Once you've done that, you're ready to make it happen. Simple as that.
Today was a rather short day as we only skied 25-30km along the bike path from Kanata along the Ottawa River Parkway to Parliament Hill. Alex has covered as much as 120km a day in the Prairies, but found that if he averages 60-75km a day in Ontario he doesn't feel too worn out. So how do you prepare for this sort of thing? Well, there's no simple training plan but a glance at Alex' biography would suggest a likelong love of sport and endurance tests would be a start. Alex told us about participating in marathons, 24 hour events, short and long track speed skating, his love of competitive soccer and telemark skiing. Lately there's been mountain biking, road biking and doing core strength work. He'd like to get into trail running in the near future.
Nicole, who drives the camper, prepares meals, scouts routes and hazardous pavement, got a chance to park the van and do a little biking as well. I think they both enjoyed the day a bit more than some of the others along Highway 17. But Alex reports that he has been most impressed with Northern Ontario after hearing horror stories, but the landscape was similar to where he grew up in Sweden and the roads were generally good. He also met some very nice OPP officers who wished him well. He's got some great stories to tell about his journey so far. He can also describe the best and worst pavement across the entire country. Here's hoping the road is smooth the rest of the way. Good luck!