Sorry for the delay in getting this post up everyone. In the past 10 weeks, I’ve done 8 races, and between the pictures, the videos, the training, the racing, the editing, the working, etc. etc, I just ran out of time to write my traditional post-race summary 🙂 However, I’m here tonight to rectify that and share with you all just a few thoughts from the Gatineau Loppet this year. I was particularly excited to take part in the event this year, as it would be my first time taking part in a longish race where I skate skied! Yes, this is still my first year on skate skis, so there is still a lot to learn, but it didn’t stop me from signing up to do the 31km (eventually classified as 27.5km) event at the Loppet. I was also there covering the event for Get Out There Magazine, so as has been the case quite frequently lately, I have a video review of the race for all to enjoy at the end of this post too. In addition to the video, I snapped a fair number of pictures over the weekend for you to check out. Click on to read the rest of my thoughts on the weekend, which I’ll keep on the brief side.
The first thing I’ll note (and no, it’s not totally an excuse) is that the Loppet fell exactly 1 week after my completion of the Canadian Ski Marathon, where I skied 160km classic style in 2 days. I’m no expert here, but I’m willing to bet that 6 days is not a sufficient amount of time to fully recover from such an event, especially in light of the lack of training I put into that event! So, strike 1 was no recovery from CSM, strike 2 was the fact that I’m pretty much a rank amateur. Strike 3? Easy, there is no strike 3. I make no excuses for my performance at the Loppet. In fact, I really didn’t care how I really did in the event. I’ll say this much. When I did cross the finish line at the finish, I was completely satisfied, and think I did a great job. By the numbers, I was 20/22 in my category! And 161/213 for men. Yup, pretty low down in the standings. But I’m getting ahead of the story, aren’t I? Let’s rewind and actually have a look at the race prep and action.
Now, let’s be honest here. My desire certainly wasn’t to be that far down the rankings. I’m not boasting here, but that’s not a spot I’m used to being in during a race. Particularly where nothing actually went wrong. I even tried to help myself by having my skis professionally prepped for the race. Ok, not a real professional prep, but I did at least drop them off at a shop for tuning rather than doing them myself. A nice wax job of molybdenum low fluoro for the first layer, scraped and brushed, followed by another top coat of low fluoro scraped and brushed. Sound like Greek to you? No worries, it just means I had then nicely waxed to be fast and slippery in the snow conditions we were expecting. And they WERE good. I had great glide the whole time. The weather was also pretty ideal. Blue skies and the works. The wind picked up a few times during the race, but overall, I was pretty comfortable. So off to the start line we go!
Lucky for me, I had seeded myself pretty far back in the race. I was in wave D, with a planned completion time of around 2hours. Nothing spectacular, but a nice, realistic goal. The starting gun sounded, and all around me we were double-poling like mad to get to the line where we could start skating. However, with the crowds and some hills, it was a little while before I could actually finally try some skate strides. Around me, people were stepping on other folks’ skis, falling, etc. One poor guy had his carbon fiber pole snap like a twig under the weight of another skiers ski. I felt bad, and made a note to make sure I kept my poles to myself.
Once I started hitting the more open areas, I got myself into a nice rhythm and focused on trying to pull out a good technique. I’d like to think I was doing a fairly reasonable job of that, but the video playback definitely showed me some points I could improve on. Deanna had been nice enough to do some filming, and there was a spot where she caught all the front crowd, and eventually, me. Because of that, I had great reference footage of good, average, and bad technique. I placed myself into the ‘average’ category. Weight shift yes, but too short a glide phase.
The course itself was a real treat. Good mix of different trails. Some parkways, some fields, and of course, some nasty little climbs, including the ever-popular climb up to Pink Lake from the backside. Trust me, it’s a great trail to practice your climbing. We also managed to grab a trail I was completely unfamiliar with, which I think was the #15 heading left off the parkway up towards MacKenzie King after the T intersection. This was a nice narrow, climbing, twisting trail where I got to do a lot of practice. While I had started fairly far back, I felt good about the fact that I was seldom passed on the trails. On the contrary, I was doing my fair share of passing. In other words, I was holding my own in my start wave.
After the long, twisty climbs up to MacKenzie King, it was time for the return to the start/finish at the Relais Plein Air, which had a lot of downhills to carry us there. These ranged from short little hills with nice run-outs, up to the very long descent from Pink Lake on the parkway. It was there that I threw caution to the wind and totally bombed down the set classic tracks to see how fast I could hit. In the end, that was 51.2km/hr! If there had been the slightest problem with the track, I would have been a tangled mess of skis and melted spandex! Luckily, I emerged unscathed, and with a giant smile on my face. Unfortunately, my race wasn’t completely without falls…
It happened in the stupidest of spots. Completely flat and skiing smoothly along the parkway. I was a little surprised to see a cyclist heading towards me! Yup, on a mountain bike with knobby tires, this joker was just riding along the ski course heading towards me. Luckily, it’s very wide, and there was absolutely no problem. However, afterwards, as I kept going, my mind wandered a bit, and before I knew it, I planted my pole in front of my ski, causing a nice tumble in front of a couple others. I got up lightening fast, but quite embarrassed. After making it through all the technical bits, this was a blow to my ego. However, with only a few kilometers to go, I could care less.
I finished out the race uneventfully, having a great time in the sun on a gorgeous winter day. Deanna was waiting for me at the finish, and I did my best flying bird impression on the final 100m stretch, by flapping my arms. Nearly fell again, but I was a happy camper. My final time was 1hr 50, so I had beat my goal, although with the adjusted distance, I was actually pretty much right on track. I hung around for a bit for the podium ceremony for the top 51km race finishers, then had a bite to eat, then headed home with Deanna so I could work on the video. All in all, another brilliant race day and a good result for my first long skate ski race. Although I really love skate skiing, I’m not sure I want to race again. It’s a bit maddening to be soooo much slower than others. I suppose with practice and training…. Who knows. Stay tuned to see if I try again next year I guess! That’s it for now. Next up: Snowy ride to Quebec for the Pentathlon des Neiges… Adios amigos.