Tag Archives: winter

Making the Best of the Season

Well hello there everyone! Seeing as I’ve finally gotten caught up on all my race reports for the past little while, I guess I can take the time to write up a post on something other than hard physical activity. Let’s start with a little question for everyone. What is the single best thing about winters in the Ottawa / Gatineau Region? Well, I’d say just the simple fact that we have them! Yup, there are so many fun things that we can do even when the temperature drops and the white stuff flies around. With that in mind, I present to you this blog post, which is meant to share a few of the things that Deanna and I have been up to over the past couple months of winter wonderland weather. Between Gatineau Park, weekend guests and the yearly Winterlude, we’ve been outside quite a bit.To see a bunch of pictures from our various winter outings, check out some of the pictures that I’ve posted to flickr. For more of the gory details, just read on my friends!

To put this post in perspective, I should mention that Deanna is not really used to cold and/or snow. It was one of her apprehensive moments when taking the plunge and moving in with me. In order to properly get her ready, I warned her that there would be some really cold days and lots of snow. However, those things just make a nice hot chocolate and/or glass of wine by the fire that much better, right? Also, we kitted her out with a really nice poofy down jacket and heavy mitts before she even moved here. Once she arrived, we also got her into a nice big pair of stomping boots. And for Christmas? Some long johns and merino wool socks of course. Outside of the weather stuff though, I also told her there was tons of fun stuff to do, and it was my personal mission to show her the positive side of winter.

For the most part, this winter has managed to deliver all the right ingredients, without being overly insane. Low snowfall for the first while, mixed with some really cold periods, then warmer periods. Then a nice big dump of snow, and of course, very agreeable weather for Winterlude (well until the final weekend, but that’s okay, we still got out lots). As I was planning to do the Mad Trapper snowshoe races, the Gatineau Loppet, and the Winterlude Tri, I knew that I’d want to get out for skiing, skating, and snowshoeing. Lucky for me, Deanna is always keen to try new things and join me outside.

Since the new year, we’ve managed to get out on the canal several times, as well as a few times on an oval track by Lac Leamy. We’ve also been out skiing many times, especially since Deanna really got into and bought her own full set of gear. As for snowshoeing, we’ve been out a few times as well, both here at Lac Leamy as well as out at the Ark during and after Mad Trapper races. Every time we’ve gone out to do stuff, I caught Deanna smiling many times, and am pretty sure she’ll now admit to not hating winter tooo much!

Besides the normal outings we’ve been enjoying, we even got to both head out and try something pretty new. Deanna had been out once, but me? Never? What am I talking about? Snowboarding! Yup, ActiveSteve tried something new. It was humbling (and frustrating) to pretty much be a complete novice at something. Things were made all the more difficult because the day before, I’d raced the 51km Gatineau Loppet, which had me feeling pretty much like I do after a marathon. Muscle control was lacking, and pain was prevalent. However, I stuck to it for almost 6 hours, including our instruction with a good teacher. I pushed myself to improve and get the right technique, and am pretty sure that with practice (and a couple more outings), I’ll get it! It pervaded my brain so much that for the next 24 hours, I dreamt about it, and kept visualizing what I had been taught. Deanna was equally challenged with this, as the only other time she went, it wasn’t a true ‘mountain’ experience in her mind. Edelweiss was much bigger than she expected. Trust me, we were both equally sore for the next couple days 🙂

Some of the most fun we’ve had was also sharing winter with family and friends. Deanna couldn’t wait to get out and do stuff with her sister when she visited. So on that weekend, we did the canal skating thing, and also went for a nice cross-country ski, where Deanna was already improving to the point that she would give pointers to her sister. It was great. A few weeks later, another couple friends from Toronto came to visit, and once again, we found ourselves skating and skiing. We’d hoped to go for a snowshoe as well, but in the end, it was too much to cram into 2 days!

However, while the last friends, Karen and David, were in town, it was also the start to Winterlude! On arrival, we headed to the Museum of Civilization for the kick-off celebrations. It was amazing. The fireworks were probably the best we’d ever seen! And that included both Canada Day this year AND the fireworks competition. We couldn’t believe how long they went on for, and the great music to accompany. Afterwards, we wandered the snowy venue with hundreds of others. The next day, it was off to check out the Snowflake Kingdom, where we went for a sleighride (before the horses went crazy!), and did the big snow slides. Also, we checked out the amazing Ice Sculptures in progress. The following weekend, we returned to look at them again, under the coloured lights. As always, the work was dazzling and amazing!

A few of the other things that make winter special and memorable are things like walks in the snow and playing in the backyard with Jonah. Also, just generally strolling in the winter wonderland can be pretty special. And what wintery active day is complete without a nice cheese fondue? We’ve had several since the start of the new year. This was made especially nice by the fact that my dad bought us a nice new set as a ‘housewarming’ gift for Christmas. Yum!

So there you have it folks! A little story about the fun of winter. I know others like Kev working on backyard rinks and the like. Although it sounds like a lot of work, I know he also loves that stuff. Bottom line is that I hope you are all making the most of the winter we are lucky enough to have! It isn’t all that bad, right? Tomorrow I’m off to my final winter race of the season, then it’s time to actually start thinking about spring / summer training. Yikes! Bye for now!

Slipping and Sliding 50km to the Finish

Welcome back to another race report. This was a tough one, and one which required me to try a new skill the night before the event! I’m talking of course about the Gatineau Loppet, a 50km cross-country ski race that I just completed over the weekend in the classic category (as opposed to skate skiing). The real challenge in this year’s race was the crazy weather that we had in the days leading up to the event. In spite of the crazy conditions, I had what I would call a successful race, and was very happy to cross the finish line. The best part of the event was that once I completed it, I was able to say I was now 40% of the way to my 2011 Rudy Award. Yup, event number two is in the bag, and the next 3 events will be in MUCH warmer conditions! Obviously, I wasn’t about to tote a camera around with me on the course, but there are a few pictures from before I started, as well as some thumbnails I grabbed from the ZoomPhoto page. To see all the pictures, check out the folder on flickr. After that, click on back and read the rest of the story.

Ahh, the Gatineau Loppet. One of the biggest winter events in Canada, and at a minimum, the largest cross-country ski race in the country. As part of the World Loppet series of ski races, this event draws people from all around the globe to take part in it. Over the course of the weekend, over 3,000 racers will don their skis and take a crack at the skiing in Gatineau Park. There are a full range of events, with distances of 5km, 16km, 29km, and the big one, 50+kms of skiing. On Saturday, all the events are classic style, and on Sunday, all the events are skate skiing style. Naturally, I was signed up to do the 50km classic style race. Earlier, I mentioned 50+km. The reason is that depending on conditions, the course is quite often modified from year to year, and this year was no exception.

For starters, this season sort of had a slow start when it came to snowfall. Although I’d bought an actual ski pass for the park, the conditions a lot of the time just hadn’t been all that great. However, in early February, it finally looked like things might be turning around for us. We got a substantial dump in one storm, and I had hoped we’d see more. Regardless, with that snow, the groomers got to work, and the trails were pretty good. As such, I hit the trickier sections of the Loppet course several times to train, concentrating on the steep, narrow, twisty trails, which are the most fun, and where I could make up ground. But that would only happen if they were part of the race. After all, last year things had been shortened somewhat, and the tricky bits removed.

Well, Deja Vu set in for 2011. The week leading up to the Loppet was an absolute nightmare when it came to snow. We had a string of 3 days of unbelievably warm weather, peaking at 11 degrees Celsius on Friday! Yes, THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE!! Snow was melting at an alarming rate, and no new snow would be there. Grooming would be difficult, and conditions uncertain. Well, wouldn’t you know it though. The forecast over night had the temps going from 11 degrees down to MINUS 12! Can you say flash freeze on the course? It was likely to become very icy when we lined up for the start. Accordingly, the wax recommendations all called for blue klister.

Blue klister?!? I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I thought klister was really only for warm days, with the snow was too wet for hard wax. Well, it turns out klister is also really good for ice. However, the forecast also called for a light dusting of snow, like 1-2 cm overnight. In a nutshell, the absolute worst possible conditions. Hard icy base covered in a little powder. That meant the klister would need to be covered with hard wax. Again, I didn’t even know that was possible, as klister has the approximate consistency of honey! How does one ‘crayon’ hard wax over top honey?

Internet to the rescue. I followed all the advice, and did the following. 2 days in advance, I started by ironing in 2 layers of green base binder to my kick zone. At the same time, I started my glide waxing by hot waxing my glide zones. The night before the race, I applied my blue klister, using a hair dryer and spreader. Weird stuff. I then set the skis outside to sit overnight and hopefully freeze up. In the morning, I pulled them in, and sure enough, the ‘honey’ was set nice, but tacky. Over that I was able to put two light layers of blue hard wax and cork it in lightly. You really don’t want the klister and hard wax to mix. When I was done, I was pretty impressed with my wax job. I didn’t test them, but put full faith in my job, and Deanna and I headed to the start line.

Conditions were crazy. There was a bitter, howling wind blowing in our faces, and the thin layer of lycra covered in nylon made me a little cranky. I just wanted to get going, but they pushed back the start by 30 minutes so we were stuck hanging around waiting. Luckily, we were in a heated building (with the skis outside, as you REALLY don’t want to warm up the klister!). By the time we were finally lining up for the starting gun, I just wanted to get skiing to warm up. Luckily, and happily, I had a new set of bluetooth headphones to try out, and my iPod was streaming heavy tunes into my skull as I twitched in anticipation.

At 9:30am, the elites in Wave A took off. It wasn’t until 9:36 that my group, wave D, departed on the trails. It was a pretty painful start. Slow going, lots of wind, and lots of ice. In the first 10km, I took two mild spills, but already started making up ground and passing people. The engine was running smoothly, and the skis were working flawlessly. I had a stupid grin on my face everytime we hit any type of incline. In spite of the ice, I was able to run up almost effortlessly, barely once slipping in the tracks. I couldn’t ask for better. The only downside was that once again, all the tricky trails had been cut out, and we were left racing almost exclusively on the [boring] parkway trails.

Another consideration of a long race like this is nutrition. To address this, I had decided to carry my camelbak, and had 1.5L of nuun with me, as well as 3 gels, and 2 packs of honey stinger chews. The bad news? My hose froze right at the start, so I basically carried the extra weight the whole time for nothing. Also, I never ate my own food, as I was too focused on racing. Instead, I would grab a drink and snack at each aid station when possible. This is where the clip-on clip-off poles were a god send. I’d grab the food and drink, then keep moving, using only one pole while I fueled up. This worked quite well.

I am pleased to say that I felt good for the entire race. One of my early falls was on my wrist, which made my double-poling pretty difficult, but luckily, my grip was good, and I was able to ski for virtually the entire race without losing traction, even at the end. Throughout the day, the weather changed several times. Sometimes, we’d have gorgeous blue skies and sun beating on us. Then for the next 15 minutes, clouds would roll in, wind would pick up, and we’d even have a bit of snow. Very odd stuff. I’m also happy to say that I was not really passed at all the entire time. I think I counted only 2 or 3 people that ever passed me. On the contrary, I seemed to make up spots the whole time, which gave me a great feeling all day. Rather than fading out, I seemed to stay strong the whole time. There must be something to this more relaxed approach to training eh? Or perhaps my 8 years or base endurance training are finally paying off?

When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt great. I attempted a mini jump at the finish line and even pulled it off! People were laughing and cheering for me, and I had a big grin on my face. Moments later, I was re-united with Deanna, who came back for the finish, and we hung out at the finish for a while, as I chatted up a few other friends that I knew in the race. We all agreed it was a tough day, but for the most part, it seemed everyone stayed pretty warm and enjoyed themselves. That’s always nice to hear. So how did I stack up year over year? Well, my pace was up 0.2km/hr. Last year I was 183rd, this year, 156th. Category-wise, I was 13 of 14 last year, but this year, a respectable 9 of 22. Not bad at all! I’ll definitely take it.

With that race out of the way, I have only one final winter race left, the 4th Mad Trapper snowshoe race. My next Rudy Award events aren’t until the warmer weather sets in, with my next likely event the Ottawa Marathon in May. Guess it’s time to start thinking about summer training. But before that, there’s still time to enjoy winter, which is precisely what I’ll be writing about in my next post. Till that time, stay cool friends 🙂

Winterlude Triathlon: Starting 2nd ‘Tri’ at Rudy Award

Good day friends! Well, I’m starting to feel better about this whole blog post thing now. I’ve almost caught up to my race reports with this posting. As the title implies, I’m going to be talking about the 2011 Winterlude Triathlon in this post. This event is the first official qualifying event I have to do this year in order to get a Rudy Award! Many of you have probably heard me talk about it in the past, as it is something I’ve always planned on doing. So what is it? Well, basically you have to complete 5 events in a calendar year: the Winterlude Tri, the Gatineau Loppet (53k ski race), Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (360+km in a weekend), a full 42.2km marathon, and an Iron-distance triathlon. For me, it’s never been about the events themselves, but more about the timing of some of the events. After all, I’ve done all those events before, and do long adventure races and multisport events as well. So I know that I have it in me. For pictures of this year’s Winterlude Tri, head over to my flickr page. Afterward, come on back for more stories about it.

The Winterlude Tri is just one of those quintessentially Canadian events that we have around here. Where else do they hold a race that starts with an 8km skate on the worlds longest skating rink, follow that up with a 6km cross-country ski leg, and then capped off with a 6km run along the canal and its’ snowy banks? Well, in a nutshell, nowhere! I wouldn’t classify this as an overly strenuous event, as it is over relatively quickly, but you still need to do some prep, and if you have any visions of placing well, you have to be pretty talented at all 3 disciplines.

Sadly, I am not that talented at these disciplines. Let’s review where my weakness lies in this event. For starters, the skate itself. Unless you have some serious training with respect to pace lines and how to draft really closely with others, you are poop outta luck. Great for speedskaters and inline racers, but not for a guy like me, who gets out on the canal a few times a year and rollerblades strictly on a recreational basis in the summer. In order to try and get a leg up, I did finally bite the bullet and buy my own nordic skating blades. Basically, these guys are 19 inches of metal fury on the ice. They use the same bindings as cross-country skis, which makes transitions a breeze.

Second event, the ski. Well, I’ll say this much, I’ve improved a lot at skiing in the past few years. After discovering the joy of skiing, and getting a nice set of superlight skis, I’ve made great gains, and am even now racing in long events like the 53km loppet. However, keep in mind that I ONLY skate using the classic style (as opposed to skate skiing). What does that mean? I have no hope of coming anywhere near the front runners. They are easily 50% faster than me on snow.

That leaves me with the run. My forte, my happy place. I can really redline here and actually see results in that I can pass lots of people. However, due to circumstances this year, that made very little difference. Keep reading and you’ll find out exactly why that was the case this year!

The lead-up to the race this year held great promise. The ice on the canal is the greatest it’s been in years thanks to a number of factors. I’d gone out on my new blades a few times to test them out and was pretty happy with the smoothness and speed I could get. We had a great base of snow, meaning that the night before the race, the groomer would be able to do a really good job with the snow. The run? Well, that just needs a flat surface, right? Well, they opted to modify the run route taking racers onto the actual ice surface. That could be interesting….

Deanna and I had company for the weekend, so the night before, we picked them up at the train station and checked out the Winterlude opening. I’ll save that stuff for another post though. I managed to not stay up too late, as I had to be up around 6am Saturday morning. Race was starting at 8am. Happily, Deanna also joined me, although our guests opted to sleep in. As a reward, I brewer her a pot of coffee as I ate my breakfast. I arrived, and got set up with a few minutes to spare. Barely enough though. I took a pit stop in a porta-pottie, and due to the line-up, just barely made it back in time to clamour onto the ice and into the pack of skaters.

I set myself up at the tail end of the ‘long bladers’. That is, in front of all those wearing hockey skates. After all, it was inconceivable that I would be any slower than them, but also unlikely I’d be part of the front group of ‘real’ skaters :-). My guess was very right. About 15 seconds after I picked my spot, we were off. I did my best impersonation of a long-track skater, trying to tuck in with people and keeping a hand behind my back. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for smaller groups to form, and for me to find myself towards the rear of this group. Also, it was hell on my lower back. Never underestimate the pain of being hunched over on the ice skating your brains out. When I finally rounded the last bend to hit transition, I’d been skating just over 20 minutes for the 8km course, and was in 61st out of 330.

Running over to my ski stuff, I went for a fast transition, assisted by the fact that my new ski poles are clip-in with my gloves (super-sweet feature). Unfortunately, my right boot binding was blocked with ice and snow and I had to fight to knock out the big ice chunk to get my skis on. Damn! Once fixed, I charged up the little starting hill onto the 2 loop course. It was clear that I was in a minority here. I could only discern maybe 2 other sets of pole marks from classic skiers. Regardless, I double-poled my heart out, and even stepped out of the tracks to take a few skate strides now and again. It was frustrating to get passed by all the skate skiers, but all I could do was keep pushing. Eventually, I passed a the other classic ski folks, and I’m pretty sure I would have won the solo race had there been a ‘classic’ category :-). The 6.2km ski took me just over 33 minutes, and I was the 89th fastest of the 330 peeps. Not terrible I guess.

Okay, time for the run, and time to burn it. I cast off my skinny sticks, donned my trail shoes and tried to run fast. Small problem. Running on solid smooth ice is really not easy. We were sort of equalized in that you could only run/shuffle at one pace on the slick ice without yaktrax. To make matters worse, I once again learned a lesson about double-tying laces, as my shoes came unties after the first 1.5km, and I had to pull off and re-tie. Luckily, I kept passing a number of people and was buoyed by this. Unfortunately, an earlier mistake on the course led to a dramatic shortening of the run. Our ~8k run was chopped down to 3.7km, the majority of which was on the aforementioned slick ice. So much for really making up ground there.

Right before the finish line, Deanna was off to the side snapping my picture, so I decided to detour to give her a quick kiss before finishing the race. After all, it wasn’t going to hurt my standing, and would hopefully make her smile 🙂 It worked, and I subsequently crossed the line with a grin on my face. In the end, this run of 3.7km took me nearly 16 minutes (so quite slow for me), and I was the 56th fastest on this leg. Where did that place me overall at the finish line? Well, I was 64th overall, and 17th of 52 in my category (men 30-35). Event number 1 of the Rudy Award was in the bag!

After finishing the race, I hurriedly collected my stuff, grabbed a cup of warm chicken noodle soup, and we headed back to the parked car. After all, we had guests to entertain! We made it back home before 10am, after which I proceeded to cook up some breakfast for everyone before we started the ‘real’ day!! Not a bad way to wake up and get energized, right? In my next post, I’ll share some of the fun we’ve been having outside of the race stories. But don’t worry, there’ll be another exciting race story after that too, since event #2 of my quest for Rudy Award in 2011 is on Feb.19th! Till then, enjoy this crazy weather!

Into the Darkness for Mad Trapper Race #3

Welcome back to another exciting chapter in the winter racing saga of ActiveSteve! I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as blog posts go. I’ll only be a couple posts behind once I get this one polished off for you all :-). Let me start by saying I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting races. Although this was actually just another snowshoe race, there was a slight twist on the topic this time around. Mike decided to turn off the lights on us, and make this a night race! Any of you who have raced or trained at all in the dead of night will realize that this has the potential of completely changing the way things unravel. Mountain biking is particularly challenging at night for example. With that in mind, I was pretty excited to try this race with a big headlamp strapped on my head. On account of the darkness, and the fact that my primo photographer Deanna was also racing, there aren’t many photos taken by us. However, fellow race-goer Jess Madott did provide some, that I’ve put in a folder on flickr! However, read on for a synopsis of the events that unfolded before, during, and after the race.

Well, as mentioned in the opening, the major difference between this race and every other snowshoe race that I’ve taken part in was the fact that Deanna was also strapping on the metal shoes and taking part! She’d been hemming and hawing since I first mentioned the series, and really wanted to take part, but needed to see it for herself a bit first. Well, because this was a night race, the fun factor was just too high for her to pass up I guess, and she signed up, even renting race snowshoes from Mike for the race. She opted to take part in the 5k race, which was a single loop, while I was going for the full pain of two loops.

Not only was this race set up at night, there were also the standard perks lined up. Namely, a well-marked course that challenged everyone as much as they wanted, as well as a post-race meal to fill all our bellies at the end. In addition to those things, Mike had also announced that there would be a big bonfire in the backyard, and that the party would continue after the race for any who wanted to hang out. BYOB, crank the music and stay for a while in other words. Deanna and I decided we’d definitely stay for a while, and play it by ear depending on what other people decided to do.

Being a night race, the lead-up and preparation were a bit different from usual this time. I’m used to getting up bright and early, stumbling around, eating my oatmeal, then driving out to the race for the 10am start. However, this time, we had to fill our day with all sorts of other activities before heading out. We decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go for a little cross-country ski then run some errands during the day. Before we knew it, it was later in the afternoon, and we had to be on-site for registration prior to the race start of 6pm. We hadn’t made any real food plans, so the standby option was to grab subs at Subway on our way home to get our gear. Opting to eat a full 12 inch ham sub, in hindsight, may NOT have been the ideal pre-race option. Perhaps if it hadn’t been about an hour from race start it would have been better!

We arrived at the Ark with about 40minutes to spare before the starting gun, and were happy to see a fair number of racers were going to take part, including a few old faces that I hadn’t seen in a while. In particular, Mike Abraham would be racing. He and I had previously run neck and neck in another Mad Trapper (the Canadian Champs I believe). The total number of racers was 33 between the 5 and 10k races. There were only 10 males racing the 10k, and a full 14 ladies doing the 5k. Looks like that is a bit of a trend. Either way, the numbers are somewhat irrelevant, as the calibre of racers I was up against was pretty spectacular as usual. Along with Mike A, the incomparable Dave McMahon was also racing. He of course prefaced it with “I’m no threat, I did a 2hour time trial earlier today [on skis]”. As if that would make me feel any better when he eventually mopped the snowy floor with me in the results.

This time, my jersey number was in the 30’s, so that was no indication of the result I hoped for. Accordingly, I decided to shoot for top 5, after all, there were only 10 of us, right? Well, it just wasn’t going to be my night this time. I’m not entirely sure what happened over the next hour and 9 minutes, but I didn’t get my goal. In fact, I finished a (in my view) dismal 7th of 10! Also, I was a full 8 minutes off the winner, Alex Michel (no surprise there). This was my worst gap of the year. Ironically, it was not for trying on my part. Far from it. I noticed my heart rate over 190 (maxing out at 192) several times in the race. This was even greater output than the last race.

In spite of the hard work, I was gapped pretty early on by the front racers in lap 1, left in 6th chasing the ankles of Glen Day for a long time. However, by the time lap 2 started up, even he had gapped me, and eventually, Mike Abraham, who had been behind me to that point, put a little move on my and passed. I tried to gauge my pace in the hopes of dropping him on the last major climb, as I felt I could out-climb him. His only edge was on the flats. Downhill, we were both fearless and fast. Uphill, I always felt a little slowed down. But on the flats, he had a better kick. He took advantage of that at one point, and it was game over for 6th place. Hello 7th!

All in all, the race was hard fought, and once again, I tip my hat at the tenacity of the competitors vying for the win. I suspect the were pushed to greater levels this time as a result of some of the new blood at the race, as 3 of the guys ahead of me this time were not ‘regulars’ in the Mad Trapper circuit. Oh well, there’s still one race to go in the series, and it looks like in the overall points standing, I will be unable to rise up out of 4th overall to nab my hopeful 3rd. Such is life. It will still have been a blast fighting my way through all four races this season.

But enough about me, right? Deanna for her part, had been quite concerned at how she might fare in a race situation in the snowshoes. However, knowing her fighting spirit, I had no concerns. Her greatest fear was that she would get lapped by the eventual 10k winners, and happily, that didn’t happen either. In fact, she managed to nab 8th in her category with a time just over 58 mins. So although she only made it to the finish 3mins ahead of Alex Michel, her fear was not realized. I’m pretty sure she was both happy with her race as well as amazed by just how friggin hard snowshoe racing in the woods at night in the hills can be! Regardless, I’m pretty sure she could be convinced to do it again. And I’m also quite certain she’d have her eyes on improving her result. I love her fighting spirit!

With the race behind us, it was time to focus on the post-race activities. Even though I’d had that footlong a mere 2 hours ago, I wasted no time in tucking into all the delicious food on offer. Double brownies? Why not! Tasty chips? Yes, please! Lasagna and soup? Don’t mind if I do! That’s the big perk of racing and training all the time, food is of little consequence. To wash down the grub, I’d brought along a few cans of Keith’s Dark. Yum! Once awards were done, I also tried to get the party going a bit by attempting to start some tunes. In the process, I nearly destroyed Mike’s giant external hard-drive, which almost made him cry. In the end, I opted to put on the radio and head back to the warmth of the woodstove.

In the end, not too many people stayed behind, so those of us that did just sat around the stove enjoying a couple beverages and chatting about the race and life in general. Met a few more people, and just generally had a good time. We were on the road heading back home around 9:30 or so. An early night by most Saturday night standards, but we’d had a fun time just the same. I for one hope that Mike repeats the night race idea in the future. It attracted some new faces, which is always good, and provided a new challenge for others. Well done all around!

So there you have it, 3 snowshoe races down, and one remaining at the end of February. A few other races, and that’ll be it for my winter racing schedule. Hard to believe it’ll soon be time to focus on the summer activities. Good thing Deanna and I are already spinning a few times a week in the basement 🙂 Till the next post, have a great time friends! I’ll write again shortly. Next up: Winterlude Triathlon!

Slight Delay to Race 2 of Snowshoe Season

Howdy all. The good news is that this post is about something that happened in 2011! The bad news is that I’m *still* several posts behind, although I vow that I will rectify that :-). Since this race didn’t really have a whole lot of exciting twists and turns, I should be able to fill you all in on the details in relatively short order. As the title of the post suggests, there was a slight delay in this race. While it was scheduled to run on January 8th, mother nature simply didn’t co-operate, so Mike delayed it a full week to January 15th, in the hopes of scoring some more fluffy stuff. Given the conditions of the last race, I don’t think anyone minded waiting for course improvements. To see some pictures that Deanna managed to snap at this race, head over to flickr and check ‘em out. After you’ve seen the pics, read on for the whole sordid tale.

As it turns out, the week delay certainly assisted with the snow conditions, and we got a few little dumps of snow which allowed Mike to set the course and have enough coverage that we would hopefully not need our life jackets when crossing watery areas. Given that the temperature also went quite low, that was not going to be a problem. Once again, due to the uncertainty of the course, Deanna decided that she would once again stay on the sidelines and volunteer to help, as well as snap a few pictures of racers. Good thing too, as otherwise, I likely wouldn’t have a picture to accompany the post.

As is traditionally the case, the 2nd race of the Mad Trapper race series is the ‘hilly’ course. What that essentially means is that you get to cough up your lungs as you bust your tail to run up the hills. Granted, not everyone opts to push so hard, but at the front of the pack, I have no choice but to redline the entire way. Additionally, I had been given jersey #4, and consequently, I stated right off the bat that I would be racing to snag 4th place. Bold words, but I felt relatively good, and figured I could push through the pain.

The overall numbers were relatively small again, with a total of 32 racers taking part in both the 5k and 10k races. In my category, there were 11 racers. Many of the usual suspects, which of course meant there would be no ‘cruising’ today. Frankly, I don’t mind having less competitors though, as it means more brownies, casserole and/or lasagna for me at the finish line :-). Yup, as is always the case, my motivating factor was to finish as fast as I could in order to score some of the sweet post-race meal that Monique and Mike always have on hand.

With faces and core totally covered up, it was time to get the race underway. Mike gave us the final instructions, and the race started in earnest. My face was covered, but very shortly into the race, I had to peel that down, as I was starting to overheat. It’s amazing the kind of energy you ‘burn’ and subsequently expel as heat and sweat, when you are climbing steep hills with small hunks of aluminum framing on your feet! Once again, I was determined to hold on to the front group as long as I could. This race, we were a mere 4 person grouping. Before lap 1 was even over though, I was dropped by the speedy front runners, and had to just focus on my own pace all alone. I tailed #3 for a good bit, but even he started gapping me.

Not to fear though, I knew that I was sitting in 4th place, just as predicted! However, I had no idea how far back the next competitor was from me, and was extremely paranoid that I’d soon hear the thud thud of a racer on my heels. With that in mind, I kept pushing myself, even though my heart rate monitor clearly showed that my heart rate was averaging well over 180bpm! Looking back on the final stats, I averaged 176, and hit a max of 189bpm. Youch! At my age, the theoretical maximum is now supposed to be somewhere around 184. Guess I’m in shape. Either that or I’m headed for disaster. Nah.

Lucky for me, hanging on to my pace and pushing paid off, as I crossed the finish line quite comfortably in 4th overall. I was a bit less than 5 minutes behind 1st place, 3.5 minutes behind 3rd, and a cool 7.5 minutes behind 5th. As you may imagine, that meant I spent a lot of the second loop chasing ghosts and being chased by them. It’s sometimes to keep the focus when you have no reference point. The top 3 guys were still milling about at the line, so it was congratulations all around before retiring to the heat of the Ark for the grub and awards.

After we’d filled our bellies and socialized enough, Deanna and I packed up and headed home. As usual, it was a stellar race, and everyone there had a good time. We didn’t stick around for any additional snowshoeing this time, but instead rested up to head out for a nice ski the next day around Lac Leamy. Deanna is really getting into the swing of winter, and she was looking forward to another round of ‘practicing’ with cross-country skis. It would appear that she may be interested in picking up her own pair shortly too. Exciting times! We’re having a blast so far this winter. I definitely think she’s seeing some of the positive aspects of winter around Ottawa 🙂 And here’s hoping all of you are as well, since there is so much to take advantage of. Speaking of which, there is still a full week of Winterlude left, so get out there if you haven’t!

Slushy Start to 2010-11 Showshoe Season

Okay my dear friends, it’s high time I catch up on race reports with you all. Sadly, I’ve just realized that I’m fully 4 posts behind on my race summaries, and that is simply unacceptable. Being that it’s Super Bowl Sunday and all, I’ve decided that I’ll write a post to point out there are lots of other sporting events out there, many of which just don’t get their due :-). Case in point, snowshoe racing. Obviously, winters in the national capital region are long and bring lots of snow. Hibernating or ignoring this fact is one way to deal with it, or conversely, we can embrace this, which is precisely why events like The Mad Trapper exist! This post will fill you all in on the first race in the 4-race series for this year. As usual, you can also head to flickr to see the set of pictures I posted from the race. Read on for the slushy details.

As a lot of you are already know, the Mad Trapper series is something I’ve been happily taking part in for years now. In the world of races, particularly in the Ottawa/Gatineau region, there really is no other event to be beaten in terms of pure enjoyment and value for money. By registering for all 4 races, it cost me a mere $25 per event. For that, at every race, I get a clearly marked, extremely challenging physical race. But more than that, I get the company of like-minded and great friends to race against (if I want to push hard), and I get an awesome post-race atmosphere that ALWAYS includes a full MEAL, not just stale half bagels and bananas. Chips, cookies, hot soup, casserole or lasagna, brownies, drinks… Yeah, all that!

With that in mind, it is simply astounding that more people don’t make the under an hour drive to the race site which is nestled in a beautiful region of Quebec boasting many ski resorts, and other off-the-beaten-track attractions, the Ark (host of the races) being one of those attractions. Sure, I’m friends with Mike, the race director, but so is pretty much anyone who goes to a race out there! Those ‘in the know’ always want to come back, and I’ve yet to hear anyone say, yeah, it was fun, but I don’t think I’d do it again. At any rate, I’m digressing a bit, but I think the publicity is well worth it (although if 400 people suddenly showed up, I suspect things could change!)

So, back to the actual race. This one took place fairly early in December, on the 11th. In past years, we always seemed to get heavy snow early in December, which was gone by the end, which is what prompted Mike to move up the race. Sadly, we still didn’t fare too great on the snow front. There was enough snow to host a proper race, but just barely. Throughout the week, many of us were wondering if this would actually turn into a trail race instead of a snowshoe race, but come week’s end, Mike emailed everyone to let them know it was ‘game on’.

As this was one of the final weeks that Deanna was going to be ‘visiting’ me before moving in, she decided she wanted to come out and see what this stuff was all about, and join in on the fun. Armed with her new puffy purple jacket, we both went out together. She’d decided that due to the uncertain conditions, she’d forego racing this one, but instead would just volunteer as needed and take part in post-race fun.

After arriving, a quick look around confirmed that we would be starting the series off the same way we normally do, with the usual suspects ‘shoeing’ the line and competing for the win. Although again as usual, it was fairly certain how the chips would fall. For my part, after the scan, I was hoping to be top 5 in this one. As this was the ‘flatter’ course, we were going to be subject to 2 identical loops. Normally, the first lap consists of packing down the course and the second lap is slightly easier, and the speed picks up. Things were a little different this time though. Due to the poor snow cover, the second lap was actually slower. As we started running, the snow gradually turned to slush, and patches that were snowy on the first lap turned in to swampy, slushy messes on the flats on lap 2.

Of course, the course conditions did not slow down the head of the train, and the race was hotly contested, mainly on lap 2. I was surprised and quite happy to be able to stay with the lead pack for the entire first lap. Mentally, perhaps I was just trying to impress Deanna as we passed the start/finish the first time. After all, my training hasn’t been what I’d call very ‘stellar’ of late! Regardless, it felt good on lap one. However, shortly into lap 2 I started dropping off the pace a bit and myself fighting hard to maintain my position and try to give James Galipeau a run for the money.

Looking at the results, you can see it was a pretty fast and tightly-fought race. I ended up coming in 6th place, a mere 46 seconds behind James and 28 seconds in front of the next finisher Gilles. Damn! I was also only a bit over 2 minutes behind the leader. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to the winners in a long time. Could this be foreshadowing a strong season? Only time will tell. At the finish, Deanna was there to greet me with hugs and kisses, which made life all the sweeter. She’d made a few friends while waiting, and we then launched into the buffet spread.

After the awards and socializing, Deanna and I stayed on for a little while at the Ark. I got Mike to show Deanna all around the Ark and the work he’s done in order to be fully ‘off the grid’ as far as power goes. She was most impressed with it all. We also strapped on snowshoes once again, and Mike, Monique, Deanna and I headed out for another snowshoe around the property, as Deanna hadn’t been on snowshoes before. We trekked out to Mikes sugar shack, where he showed us the work he was doing on getting ready for next spring’s maple season. He plans to tap 1000 trees, and has a lot of high-volume processing gear in place in the shack already. Very cool.

All in all, it was a great day for a little road trip to Low, Quebec. The race and my result were very satisfying, the food at the finish very filling, and seeing Deanna out in the snow and smiling made be very excited at the thought of her moving in and spending time outdoors with me in the winter doing ‘stuff’ :-). That’s all for now folks, but rest assured, I still have another 3 races to blog about, so there IS more on the way at some point :-). Take care, and have fun out there, Winterlude is just underway, and already, it’s been amazing!