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Title:Keskinada (aka: "Gatineau Loppet")
Date:Sunday February 17th, 2008
Author:Mary Gorski
Each year I spend about a week working in Ottawa, Canada. I sandwich the week with two ski event Last weekend was the Canadian Ski Marathon -- a tour. This weekend was the Gatineau Loppet, formerly known (until this year) as the Keskinada or Keski. Everyone I talked to seems to like "Keski" better -- it sounds cutesy like the "Birkie" or the "Noque" -- but no one in-charge asked any of us not in-charge of our opinion on the name, so that's that.

Anyhow, the race formerly known as Keski offers two days of skiing -- classic and freestyle (or skate). There are a variety of distances each day ranging from 53 kilometers to short kids' races. There are even silly team races where teams of 10-12 go against each other on single sets of skis, meaning giant pairs of skis that are worn by 10-12 people at once. The snow version of those giant canoes. Very funny.

I signed up for the 53K classic race on Saturday and the 29K skate race on Sunday. Since I had done 64K the week before at the CSM, I decided that I'd simply see how I felt after Saturday's ski and leave Sunday optional.

Frosty temperatures were predicted for Saturday -- sub-zero Fahrenheit. I planned accordingly and wore some of my toastier ski togs. At 7:30, I tiptoed out of the house (no one wakes early here at the priests' house on Saturday -- evidently it is their day of rest) and headed to the car that I was to borrow. I started it up, thinking that I should scrape the frost off of the glass, but then figured that I'll just drive slowly until things defrost. With limited vision I drove slowly into the snowbank and got the car stuck.

Thinking that it would be inappropriate to take the Lord's name in vain in the parking lot of a rectory, I tossed out a couple of F-bombs instead. Then I got the shovel and dug myself out. It really didn't take too long, and I warmed up well.

So across the river I headed to Gatineau -- a town and recreation area in Quebec, 10 minutes from where I stay in Ottawa. I checked in, organized my stuff and headed to the start line. Though it was about -2, there was no wind and the sun made it feel surprisingly warm. I thought to myself, "I wonder if I am overdressed?" But then the gun went off and away I skied. And soon I sweated. Like a pig in Lycra I sweated. I guess I didn't need those wind pants since there was no wind. I tried to take off my vest, but somehow had it entangled with the pins and number and finally gave up. Just the day before I heard that I got into Badwater so I decided to call this my first heat training session. The best way to prepare for the heat is to be hot.

I was a hot babe in the woods.

Up the hills I sweated. Although I love to classic ski, I still consider myself quite a novice when it comes to the fine art of waxing. But my kick was good -- I seemed to have nailed it. Wahoo for me! Up, up, up we went... finally getting to the highest point in the park -- an overlook which looks over a lot. This was after about 35K of skiing primarily in an upward direction. I thought to myself "Surely 35 up must mean at least 20 down." But alas, through some geographic quirk, 35 up only earns the skiers about 5-6K down. It seems impossible, especially when one is treated to a nice 2K downhill, but to get back to the bottom, and the finish, skiers still generally have to head uphill. It must be something the with the Canadian metric system.

Back to the wax. As I noted I was pleased as punch that my kick was strong. But on the few flats and downhills, it seemed that perhaps that kick was a little too strong. Did I actually put glide wax on, or perhaps I accidently did the whole bottom of the ski in kick wax?

Oh well, my focus is Badwater and pushing myself downhill could only be good for building my strength. Allez, allez!!!! Some five hours later, I made my way across the finish -- somewhere in the middle, or perhaps sagging middle, of the participants. A skier whose focus is generally more on quantity than quality, I was happy to have had a good day. I chatted with a few other skiers over a late lunch and headed back to the rectory.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday... what should I do about Sunday? I wasn't hurt and I could still sit up and take nourishment on my own. I really should go and do that 29K skate race. But I did have a pretty strong sense of fatigue and I have the Birkie just a week away.

Since I was in a rectory, I decided to let God decide. I wouldn't set an alarm. If I woke in time to go to the ski race, I'd go. If I slept late, I'd go to church. As I turned out the light I said a little prayer and told God, "You're the omnipotent one, you decide."

At 6 a.m. I woke, feeling more than a bit groggy than the day before. Since I really didn't have to get up for another 45 minutes to make the race in time I figured that 6 a.m. really wasn't decision time. And then my eyes wandered over to my ski bag, and I saw my number... and my timing chip. Shoot! I had to get that timing chip back. If I have to drive across the river again to bring back the chip, I might as well ski first.

Out of bed and down to the kitchen for a strong cup of coffee. Into the car -- the windows of which I scraped this time. Without hitting even a bump of snow, I made it onto the street and headed to Gatineau.

Remembering the sauna I had created for myself yesterday by overdressing, I backed off a few layers. Heading uphill, this generally felt pretty good. And since again, by some quirk of geography, skiers needed to do about 20K up to do 9K down, I was generally comfy... except for those rare downs, on an open parkway, into the wind. Afterward I wondered to myself, "Why are my arms burning?" When I put on my dry clothes I noticed that they were both a beautiful color of red. A sunburn without sun. Must have been wind burn.

Oh well, something to think of at Badwater when I am consumed by the heat. "Remember when you windburned your arms and could barely turn the wheel of the car to get home?" Yeah, it's all prep for Badwater.

Anyhow, though I was once again in the sagging middle of the middle-of-the-pack, I actually felt pretty good at the skate race. It had been three weeks since I touched my skate skis, so it was probably good to get on them before the Birkie. I guess I am trained now.

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Posted:February 18th, 2008 2:13 pm
Last Update:February 18th, 2008 2:14 pm
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