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Keski Report #10 - Last Cow out of the Chute
By:  Jo-Ann Holden   (2007/02/25)


I love the Keski. Itís a wonderfully organized event and a fantastic way to test yourself from year to year. This year I decided to skip the 28 K classic race and concentrate only on the 28 K skate.

Mike Vieira has been coaching a group of Nakkertok masters. Although we are not talented youngsters, he constantly challenges us to improve our technique and he designs training plans for us. I love the training and organize my life around it. For me, the difficult part is to rest on recovery days, because it requires that you have to AVOID SKIING EVEN IF THERE IS STILL SNOW ON THE GROUND! I am an endorphin addict, because by the end of the recovery week I always feel tire, crabby and in one horrible mood! This Saturday evening, though, the satisfying ritual of glide waxing worked itís magic and I started to feel positive.

These were my goals:

  • No offset except for hill climbing.
  • Start steadily, save some energy for the last third, refuel efficiently and not bonk. (I take as long to skate the 28 K course as the elite skiers take to ski the 53 K).
  • Improve my age group standing against the other seven 50 to 54 year old women..
  • Avoid breaking bones or equipment
  • Pass some people
  • Not be the very last person off the course (as I was in 2004).

I made a big mistake by getting into line too late after dithering about whether I would freeze to death in my very first racing suit. I didnít know that C D and E would start as one immense, welded tangle of skis and poles. My wave has always reminded me of a cattle drive, but more so this year. Although I was officially in the D wave (already way back!) I ended up being one of the last cows out of the E chute!

The first lap was gridlocked but everyone was polite. Many herring boned the first hill out of the stadium, which made passing all but impossible. On the parkway it opened up a bit. Everyone was madly offsetting towards Asticou. My wax (cheap - graphite, 2 layers of green, then a last minute switch to blue) was surprisingly good and I was pleased to be able to use 1-skate to stay relaxed and pass some of the skiers in the throng. Still it really couldnít be called a race: I have to admit to having a friendly conversation with an out of town skier as we turned up trail 5.

Once we reached the first hill, the faster skiers tried to bolt for freedom and the slower ones pulled over. By the top of trail 5, it started to resemble a race and I was able to dictate my own pace from that point. Endorphins! And adrenaline!

The great thing about being able to ski regularly in Gatineau Park is that you know precisely where the hard work will on the Keski course. Half way up Pink Lake I mentally kissed Mike for giving me all those long, intense hill intervals. Surprisingly, the uphills were where I passed the most people. I had dissolved gels in boiling water to keep in a bottle. They didnít freeze and it meant I could have a measured amount of something tried and true every 40 minutes instead of relying on the feed stations. I had much more energy than expected at P5 and was able to ski ďall outĒ (relative term) to the finish.

Great fun! The course turned out to be fine, even though it wasnít as exciting (i.e. dangerous) as usual. I didnít miss the narrow, clogged climb up trail 15. Best of all, there had been no freezing rain the previous week and it wasnít as cold as 2004 .

Personal Highlights:

Andrew Wynd and Mike both cheered me on by name. Judi Agnew rang a COW bell for me. It was sweet music. Thank you!

This year I was closer to the finish when the A wave 53 K skiers zoomed by.

I was well rested (thank you Mike!) achieved my goals, loved the racing suit and survived the cafeteria sandwiches. New, more daring goals are already being planned for next year!

It was fun meeting with my ski buddies after the race and swapping anecdotes.

2008 will be the last year before I move up to that age category where so few women boldly go. It would be sad to be the only one in my age group. Encourage your mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and girl friends to take up the sport. Itís never too late and there is nothing to compare with the joy of skiing!

And finally, thank you to XC Ottawa for providing an opportunity to share race yarns. Everyone of you has a unique perspective on the event. Send in your stories!

View Jo-Ann's photoblog of skiing in the Gatineau Park.

Read Other 2007 Keskinada Reports..

Interesting Reading. . .
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