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Fumes and Fluoros: XC Ottawa's First Racing Trip of 2003/04
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2003/12/15)


XC Ottawa's first official trip of the year started before dawn on the morning of December 10th, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia. That's where I fired up the trusty car which has been my confidante and soul-mate since I left Ottawa for the west coast. The diesel engine of the 1993 Passat coughed and sprang to life with a throaty growl, and we were on our way to the big races in Calgary and Kelowna.

This was to be the most budget trip of my entire racing career. Myself and Megan, the other XC Ottawa teammate travelling with me, used my car instead of renting one. We drove from Calgary to Kelowna instead of flying. We elected to wax by ourselves, without the wisdom of our coach. We stayed for free in Calgary, at Megan's uncles' condo near Canada Olympic Park, on Shaganappi Drive. We stayed in Kelowna under the gracious and kind care of the NTDC Thunder Bay, for ridiculously cheap per-night costs. And, we picked up a little hobbit along the way, Bootsy Hart, to haul our gear and wash our dishes for us, all for a ride in the car and few grams of fluoros.

The races in Calgary were likely a look at the future of cross-country ski racing. The trails at Canada Olympic Park are packed into a small corner of the downhill area- 2.5km of trails wind in and out of an area not much larger than 2 acres. It is wide open and offers amazing sightlines of the entire race course. Despite being quite different from the common perception of cross-country skiing, this was a fun course to race and an excellent spectator venue.

Kelowna was a more traditional race course. The Telemark ski club has a large trail network, over rolling terrain and a large expanse of forest. Where the snow in Calgary was hard and fast, the snow in Kelowna was soft and slow. This is where our lack of a coach hit us hard. Despite Jussi's (NTDC coach) sage advice, Megan and I both managed to mess up our fluoro applications, and our skis dragged throughout the skating race. The classic race was only a waxing disaster for me. Megan had a pretty solid race, finishing in 18th place. I chose a soft pair of skis, and then proceeded to put on 6 layers of wax instead of the three I probably needed. Dumb dumb dumb! I got freaked out about it being 30k long, and I was worried about losing wax, but I needn't have worried. Ah well, I'll get it right next time.

The funniest incident of the trip was a classic gaffe by Megan. Just so the whole world knows, Megan has a reputation for being the goofiest thing on two feet. Actually, she's rarely on two feet because she falls so much. Over herself. If you put together all the ankle tape Megan has used over the years, it would reach from Ottawa to the moon, and back again. Sometime I think Megan lives on the moon. And commutes here on the ankle tape highway. Back to the story... In Calgary, we waxed on the balcony of our condo. The balcony was one of those little fake ones, no more than a foot out from the window. It was a tight fit, but Bootsy and I had managed to wax our skis with the wax bench fixed onto the railing. The condo is on the 16th floor, so we were very careful about losing our skis etc. Megan goes to the balcony to wax with a pile of equipment in her arms. She steps outside and immediately drops the smallest and most expensive thing she was carrying, a block of Vauhti Zerofox, off the balcony. After assuring disconsolate Megan that the wax could be retrieved, Bootsy and I went to look for it. No luck- it was on the roof an adjacent fitness club. The next day, it was retrieved by gaining passage through a 3rd-floor apartment. At least, some of it was retrieved. The wax had shattered into small shards on impact, and very little of it was retrieved.

The trip was a great introduction to the 2003/04 racing scene. The Passat arrived back in Vancouver, none the worse for wear, with 299,534 km on the odometer. Here's hoping my legs last as long as it has!

Happy New Year!

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