I’ve been skiing for almost my entire life and racing for quite a long time, but this past weekend was the first time I’d ever challenged myself to a distance race longer than 15 km. No, I didn’t race the 53 km, I’m saving that one for later. Instead, I decided to tackle the 29 km classic. Being a complete newbie to this long distance (and the art of “feeds”) as well as not having skied the course before hand, I knew I was in for a few surprises and decided that instead of really focusing on “racing”, it might be better if I went in with the goal being to give it my best shot and just “go with the flow”!
The week leading up to the big day was a hectic one as this was also the week leading up to the start of Carleton’s Reading week. This meant a busy week filled with midterms and other crazy things. One of these things being the purchase of new classic boots because I’d lost my only pair at the previous weekend’s races in Sudbury. Nevertheless, Friday night just after 7 pm, my last midterm ended and I met up with Zoë to head over to the Carleton wax room to prep my skis and deal with other necessities for the next day’s race. With careful instructions from John and the rest of the team, we got our skis all ready for our race. Now it was time to make sure our bodies were also ready. Never having taken a feed before, I really had no idea what to do or what works best, but I figured Power Gels would be a good place to start.
Saturday morning turned out to be a cold but beautiful day, absolutely perfect for a classic race. With a great wax job from John, it was shaping up to be a great race or at least a great ski. The only problem was the far away parking which made getting in a good warm up impossible, unless running from the car to the race site holding your skis counts! At the start line I managed to tuck my two feeds into my spandex suit– one to be taken after the first 10km and the second sometime around the 20km mark. With 3 minutes left till the start of the B wave, I was as ready as possible and eagerly awaiting the start of the race!
The first 9km section that loops back through the stadium was great. Despite a small “bonk” on the only real hill of that section, everything was going really well and I got my energy back after my first feed in the stadium. The next 7 km also went quite well regardless of the fact I’d never skied the hill up the back of Pink Lake. (I find sometimes not knowing what you’re in for can keep you giving your best effort because you never know when you’re going to pop over the top of the last climb)! Coming out onto the parkway after the extensive uphill gave me a considerable amount of energy, probably due to the sunshine and all the people cheering along the trail, however, all that energy quickly dissipated after the 16km mark. Perhaps it was because my first feed had worn off, or perhaps it was the daunting uphill that greeted me as soon as I left the pack of 53 km racers who were continuing along the parkway. Regardless, as soon as I looked up the first hill of trail 15, all my energy seemed to seep out and I began to wonder why I’d been so excited to do this in the first place! Eventually I got to the top of those hills and was able to take the second feed on the first downhill. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Powergel more than that one! Once back on the parkway, the rest of the race almost flew by with the exception of the last (very flat) 3 km. Having come flying down Pink Lake hill in the frigid temperature and then going straight into double poling, I found my back seizing up, a lot. Alternating back and forth between kick double pole and diagonal stride seemed to be the best method and it eventually got me across the finish line!
The post race feeling of accomplishment combined with the beautiful day and wonderful post race refreshments made for a great event that I was very happy to have been a part of. I would like to give an enormous thank you to everyone who helped out with the Gatineau Loppet! I can’t believe this is my third year in Ottawa but my first time doing this race. I’m looking forward to next year’s event, now that I know what to expect, hopefully I’ll be a little more prepared and able to “race” the entire distance!