Last weekend I was out canoeing and it occurred to me that while quite a few cross-country skiers do some canoeing or kayaking during the summer, little has been written about its benefits.
Paddling of any kind is a great upper body workout, with cardiovascular benefits as well. Like other cross-training activities, it also can provide a welcome diversion from all the rollerskiing and running that we typically do. Finally, it is a good way to get out and see some wilderness and beautiful scenery. Around here, an many other areas as well, there are many places that you would never get to unless you had a canoe because roads and trails won't take you there.
I should mention that if you have any type of leg injury, it is one of the few types of training that allows you to get outside and exercise for an extended period of time. This brings me to last weekend's training adventure: Canoeing at Lac La Pêche, in Gatineau Park. My most regular training partner is Megan McTavish, who happens to have a knee injury, so, canoeing was the choice last weekend.
Getting there, they say, is half the fun. The normal access road to the lake had not been opened for the summer yet, so I scratched my head and remembered that some other less Volkswagen Jetta friendly roads would allow us to get pretty close to the lake. The trouble was that I couldn't remember exactly where these roads were, so we decided to stop in Lac des Loups to ask the locals at the corner store. True locals they were, in plaid bush jackets, hunting caps and thick beards. Not to mention the thick accent with which they spoke French, which, as you might guess is not my first language.
I discerned from the rather tough looking lady at the cash that if I were to proceed on the road I was looking for with our Volkswagen that I would in no time be in trouble. As I remember it, she said something like " Tabarnak! Si tu prend c'te criss de route la, tu vas te ramasser dans le trou de cul du yable pis to vas brayer pour ta mère". Roughly translated, this means something like " holy @#$%, if you take that @#&! road, you'll end up in the devil's @#$% and you'll be crying for your mother". She suggested a further alternate route, and with my mother being away on a business trip, I decided to take her advice.
We made it to the lake and quickly started paddling. The ice had only cleared a few days earlier, so we decided that we should stay close to shore and play things extremely safe, for falling in this cold water would be certainly dangerous. It became apparent pretty quickly that this was one of the windiest days of the year. The waves were high, and canoe bounced around quite a bit, but not enough that it was particularly worrisome. At least not until we decided to cut across a small bay at the far end of the lake.
Here we found ourselves in the miserable predicament of having waves travelling perpendicular to the direction that we wanted to go. As you might know, canoes are very tippy when exposed to waves from the side. I suggested that we get on our knees as this would be much more stable, forgetting that Megan's knee would not allow this.
The thought of tumbling into the ice-cold water entered my mind with increasing frequency and intensity during this little episode. Needless to say, we were both pretty happy when we made it through this section.
About an hour of paddling later, and we were back at shore. The day had turned into more of an adventure than anticipated. These types of training days do help to make training less monotonous, and are, I think, a great aspect of cross-country ski training.