This video makes me want to break out the roller skis and put in some miles.
Nothing makes a good race season than lots of hard slogging in the rain. And mountains.
There's no photos, at least that I know of, and there's no awesome tale of victory except for the victory of finishing. But it's time to get the blog rolling again if only as a record I can look back it. I could write it in a text file on my desktop but where's the fun in that?
This winter I chose to take the skiing training down a notch and, therefore, make my family like me more. It's sort of worked. I skied a bit more with the kids, and my wife, some friends, and some people who are way faster than me on the bike. +1 Social Capital, -1 Ski Form.
Not that I'm actually any good. I started classic skiing when I was 23ish, and only logged any decent km in one or two years previous to this one. I've got the basics but would probably embarrass myself in any respectable nordic country and I don't count Canada in that group of nations.
Initially this past weekend I had planned to ski the 20km skate on Saturday as well, but circumstances and flooding basements disrupted kid watching arrangements so I was sidelined as I watched my wife take something like 3rd overall, and my kids 1st and 2nd in the 500m and 2.5km kids race respectively.
They had it tough. Saturday was the rainiest skiing day I've ever seen, and the trails were fast but loose. Everyone was wet to the skin with pruny hands and soaked feet.
24 hours later, 15 cm of snow had fallen on top of the wet, now icy trails, and I had no idea what the wax was going to be for the -9 temperature. That and the drive up to Hardwood took 30 minutes longer than expected.
So, it happened that we rolled into the parking lot almost exactly 30 minutes before the start of the race. I needed to wax my skis, get changed, organize my food/gels/drink, warm up and get to the start.
Conveniently I managed to warm up by running around, stressing out, and thinking really hard about klister vs hardwax.
Nobody in the wax hut had a clue as to the definitive kick wax. New snow with icy patches in the tracks. Universal Klister, Blue Klister, Violet, Red, Blue were all suggested as options. In the 15 minutes it took me to wax, my thinking changed through all of them. I ended up with a Rode Blue klister ironed in as a base with Swix VR40 ironed over that, with Swix VR45 next, and finally a thin layer of the Start Black Magic flouro stuff corked in.
And it actually worked, mainly. If I had the technique of Alex Harvey it would have been about perfect.
Sadly I am not that good.
I got to the race start about 30 seconds before the whistle, having thrown my gels, and water bottle, at my wife hoping she would know what to do.
It turns out she got them all to me at exactly the perfect time and place out on the trails. It was fucking awesome.
My goal for the race was just to go strong, and perhaps, if I was feeling good, ski it in just over 3 hours. I told myself that I'd feel O.K. with 3.5 hours.
So off we went, a surprisingly small field. Roughly 7 people. Shocking really considering how many people ski at Hardwood each weekend. (There were many more for the 20km, but still less than 25 total)
I started fairly strong, as I had resolved to see if I could stick with the leaders for a while. I've a bad habit of getting dropped early. Maybe not surprisingly, with such a small group, 3 of us pulled away a bit up the first climbs and I noticed I had to get out of the tracks just a bit sooner than my competitors.
We skied well together, taking turns at the front plowing through some loose snow, chatting a bit, but slowly increasing the pace. I had slightly better skis on the downhills, due to less grip, and soon it was just two of us.
And then the delusions of grandeur kicked in. Maybe I can win this! With the first 10 km section done I was in the lead, feeling good, and passed the family who gave some hoots and hollers. If I can hold on to this guy to the finish, I know I can win in a sprint.
As we climbed out of the start area for the tougher back half of the first 20km loop my nearest competitor slowly started to pull away on the uphills, and I couldn't get back on the flats or downhills, not without killing myself. My back began to twinge and I decided to ski for second. Looking back I couldn't see 3rd place.
At about 15km, just after climbing a hill, the trail turned, and I couldn't see 1st for the first time. There was a fork in the trail. I wasn't sure where the sign was pointing, and I decided to follow the normal path of the trail.
And you know what happened. My decision added something like an extra 350m including a sizable hill, or about 2 minutes. Just as I entered back onto the trail system, I saw 3rd place turning a corner about 50m back. Fortunately my kids weren't there to hear me.
At this point I was struggling to keep form with my sore lower back. Certain readers of this blog will say, "I told you to work on your core!" and they'd be justified in laughing.
By 20 km 3rd place had pulled in behind me and then went by, quickly moving out of sight.
There's not much to say about the second 20 km. It was a struggle and was simply an exercise in trying to maintain some technique, my pace slowed, hr dropped and I wished for the finish.
I ended up 5 min back on 2nd, finishing in 3.5 hours almost exactly.
All in all it was a good long workout and I'm feeling mainly recovered 2 days later, ready to crank up the riding.
Next year I'm hoping to do somewhat better, train more, do the Gatineau, and even head overseas to a proper Loppet. Also, I hope more people show up to what is a very well run event at Hardwood.
I'm made my decision, and I'm pretty sure I'm sticking to it.
Last year at this time I was worrying myself silly trying to build up fitness for the double Gatineau Loppet. It turned out ok after having spent November through February getting ready.
This year I thought that bike riding up until December, then taking some time off, and restarting in January, would be fine.
It is not fine.
After my second ski session this winter I realize I'll need an extra month at least to get up to racing for 3 hours. An extra month of hard effort and lots of resting while the kids do my chores.
So this winter I'll be taking a bit more relaxed approach, and rather than abandoning the family to go off on my own all the time, I'll enjoy things more and stick around. I'll still get in some good time on the snow but I won't feel pressure to sacrifice fun. I'll also work on some at home projects.
So I won't go to Ottawa this year.
It's a tad disappointing, but I'll do, perhaps, one local race. And next year I'll plan the training better.
And then? 2012. The double in Gatineau, and then the Vasaloppet in Sweden.
Today was the Fisher Loppet up at Hardwood Ski and Bike.
I did not race which is probably for the best. Perhaps I'll give the 40km a shot next year and see what happens.
But today it was nice to spectate and see my lovely wife take 3rd place in her category despite having the worst skis ever manufactured by Fisher. They are truly terrible and and glide like bricks. We have agreed that she gets to buy the next pair of skis. This is tremendously generous on my part. I have my eye on a nice pair of Fisher RCS carbonlites/
I have been told that she'll divorce me if I post her picture here. So I'll go and post it on facebook...
But, the medal winning didn't stop there for Team Slowdad. No Sir! My family ensures I learn my place by constantly putting up better results than I do.
My 4 and 6 year old lined up side by side for the 5 and 6 year old .5 km race. Two skiers going off every 30 seconds.
It was warm out, at least +5 deg C, probably more, so it was getting a bit slushy, but our team had the secret advantage of having done all their training in snowpants, and now... the snowpants were off! This is a big deal and it confers, I believe, as big an advantage as taking EPO. Next year you'll see the entire Norwegian XC team training in snowpants.
I didn't hold out much hope for a successful ski prior to the race. Everyone was in full on crank. #1 was whining and complaining about pretty much everything, and # 2 was crying, yelling, and saying that he didn't want to ski AT ALL!
And of course nobody was listening to me. Hell I even bought everyone their favorite milk beverage but that bribe only lasted about 2 minutes.
So, we managed to get the recently removed and abandoned skis back on the appropriate feet and made it to the start. #2 was whining that Mom was going to have to help him and that he wasn't going to race.
As they got released from the start, the magic kicked in. I've seen this a number of times now and I think it's a good lesson for parents everywhere. It's likely your kid won't want to race during the entire lead up. It's also highly probable that they are going to love it while they are doing it.
So off they shot. My oldest hammering away like an obsessed Ivan Babikov with a look in his eye that makes my heart melt.
My youngest after the first 10 feet started yelling at Mom that "You're not allowed to help me!" He kept up that spirit for the rest of the 5 minute or so race and placed 5th, smiling the whole way.
My oldest took home gold. A very proud moment for him, especially after seeing the recent Olympics and learning what it means to stand on a podium. He is currently sleeping with a bunny rabbit and his medal.
My proudest moment? Just as he was turning to climb a small climb to the finish he cheerfully announced as he skied by. "Dad! I'm doing my best!"
Given that he was having fun while doing it, it's all I can ask for.
I woke up this morning fearful. After 49 km ending in a sore back yesterday I was worried just how I would feel.
As the 5:30 wake up call rang I wiggled my toes, slowly moved my legs, and turned over, stretching my back. I was pain free!
But I was tired. And my nose felt like a balloon.
Hacking up foul tasting green stuff didn't give me a lot of encouragement either.
As I sat at breakfast I was so tired that I could barely eat but I forced myself to eat as much as I could. The fact that they Holiday Inn was serving those croissant type things filled with chocolate helped but not starting the race today entered my mind. Actually the thought seemed to just poke at me the whole time.
I had a lot of excuses lined up. I am sick. I am tired. I have only skied once a week to get ready for this. I have a blister on my foot.
But as I looked around the hotel restaurant I saw everyone else casually chatting, drinking coffee, and eating very little by my eye. They all looked so ready. If they could do it, then why not me.
And so I drove over to the race, around 7:30 and scored the best parking spot ever. There's a lot to be said about getting a nice parking spot. It makes you feel good knowing that you have less of a trudge back, hauling your sorry self, limping along.
I sat down inside, letting the time pass, desperately hoping that my body would somehow feel less fatigued. I secretly hoped someone would offer me a free coffee. No good Samaritans materialized.
Everyone else looked great. The young guys with their A-Wave bibs, fit women with ripped abs, and old guys with forearms like ropes. Italian, French, English greetings as old friends reconnected.
Someday I am gonna be one of those old guys...
Snow was falling, and it was about -6. I waxed a little warmer than that. I expected slow, ground up, grinding snow.
Folks were out warming up. The Swix guy was yelling at people he knew and was waxing, or at least polishing their skis. He did not point at me and make my skis super fast. Maybe I should switch over to Toko, not that I really have much of a full wax box.
I walked around and tried to get my legs loose as they were super tight, and not in a super hero like way. My spindly arms sore.
I lined up, as I did yesterday, in the back with the D wave. Things were a little less cordial than yesterday and a few E wavers, and D wavers snuck under the tape to gain a few places in the C wave. Others pushed to the front to fill empty gaps. Standard stuff in any mass start race.
The start was more crowded and much more hectic than yesterday with people trying to skate over top of each others poles in the hope that it would cause the person in front of them to fall so they could leap over them and sprint to victory.
And then a small miracle, through the choke point, everyone lined up in two columns and orderly made their way forward to the parkway. The single individual who tried to pass everyone by double poling through the ungroomed snow did not succeed in his quest for glory. He's probably now telling his mates that he totally could have caught Robin McEeever if only we would have let him through.
By the time I got to the parkway I figured I was in serious trouble. A ligament on the outside of my right knee felt like it was being stabbed every time I put weight on the leg. Not good. Bad even.
It was going to be a long day. A long day of stabbing.
So I did my best to keep up with those around me. And we climbed. And climbed.
The crowds were very polite up Penguin Hill. Nice and orderly. Nice Canadians. Nice Canadian Penquins. Much better than I remember it being. I hate that hill though. The steep climbs just keep coming.
Around this time my knee was only throbbing and I could start to ski evenly and with something approaching proper technique.
And then I passed someone.
And then another person.
My skis were not terribly fast, but slightly faster than those around me so I started to ever so slowly catch people, particularly on the rolling and downhill sections.
Km 10 to Km 30 was actually fairly uneventful. Lots of climbing, where I held my own. And downhills where I picked up a bit of time.
I skied along behind some older guy for a long time, trading places occasionally. We had a nice chat.
It may surprise many who know me that I actually like people. Especially old guys who cross country ski.
Just as an aside, to those people who think I am in good shape, especially people at the office, go hang out at a cross country ski race.
At around 35 km I was surprised. I was very tired, but less tired than when I started. I wanted it to be over, but could at least imagine myself getting through the last 10km.
Slowly I passed people. Bit by bit I cruised along, stealing a draft where I could.
And soon I was at the turn off to the finish, about 1500m away from the finish.
Fortunately for all those around me, I was not grunting and crying.
Up ahead I saw a guy wearing a crazy looking, colour clashing, spandex suit and I made it my mission to pass him. There was no way I was going to have him appear in my finish line picture. And I pushed just a bit harder to catch him before the line. I did, and I hope that in doing so, he decided that he needs a more aerodynamic suit, and therefore will have to buy something less outrageous.
And so, I finished and got my double. And ate my weight in chocolate covered raisins.
I came in at 3:14. And met Saul Goldman, owner of Velotique. A very inspiring individual if there ever was one.
Name Time PaceKM Category CatPlace GenPlace
Rob MacEwen 3:14:07.4 15.1 Men 35 - 39 28/40 181/348
I'd put this one at pretty close to a personal best for me. Mid Pack, not quite mid pack for my age. A little slower than my fastest result. When I was younger I finished a bit farther back.
In closing I'd like to thank Buckley's Cough Syrup. A strong shot of that before a race does wonders.
Thanks to the Gatineau Loppet for renaming themselves again and putting on a solid event. I'll be back.
1 down, 1 to go.
I've got to say that it's a good thing the race was shortened from 53km to 49. Another 4 km would have killed me I think.
Now, anyone who knows me understands that I'm a glass have empty kind of person, so I'll break the trend and start with the positive. Strange but true.
My skis were killer fast. Awesome. In the tracks quite possibly the fastest skis I've ever had. It was remarkable.
On the longer downhills, when I didn't get stuck behind someone less awesome than me, I would rocket away from those behind me. I could easily make up 100 m on the downhills, on a couple of the longer ones it was closer to 200 m.
Unfortunately I got caught behind people 3 or 4 times on long downhills. Trying to pass outside of the tracks was completely impossible and when I tried I lost massive amounts of momentum, but caught back up when I got back in the track.
The wax easily bought me 5 minutes over the last half...
But today wasn't about the glide wax. It never is in classic races.
Last night was fine, the usual stuff. Waxing skis, chatting with Norwegians. Trying to find some carbs to hammer down. I went for Indian. Lets just say not the best idea, but no disasters.
I popped into Peccos, the local ski shop, where the guy working the desk had little clue as to what the kick wax of the day would be. So I bought a couple options. Maybe that was his plan.
The consensus, the day before, and the morning of, was Swix VR45. So on it went 5-6 layers.
The start was as I remember it. Limbs and skis flailing around, and a choke point 400m from the start. Someday the organizers are going to fix that. Like maybe by 2017. But, everyone was pretty civilized and sorted into 4 tracks, and then 2 tracks pretty quick.
I got super scared after the first km. My skis had no grip what-so-ever. I swear when I am scared.
Fortunately the groomed tracks up the first hills were made of more new snow and I managed to get some purchase. It didn't appear to be as good as those around me, but lets just blame my technique and move on.
I'll have to download my hr file and look at it in more detail but the first half played out pretty much as I had planned.
Km 0-10, I pushed a little to keep with the pace of everyone in my wave which was a bit faster than it should have been.
Km 10-20 I felt pretty good, skiing well within myself and backing off when the HR climbed to the high 160s.
Km 20-30 I started to pass a few people, particularly on the small downhills but also on the shallow uphills. I had to do a lot of herringbone when others didn't but skied my own race and kept steady.
It was starting to get pretty lonely as the pack thinned out.
I knew something was wrong when a fairly fat guy passed me up a long uphill... And then another one. I had to go find a less skied in track to get any grip. Mr Fat 1 and Mr Fat 2 skied away with apparent ease. I knew I was in trouble.
Trying to get grip really started to hurt my back, and all the slipping was hurting the hamstrings. But the Refresh and the Carboom were doing their job and preventing any bonking.
Km 30-40 The uphills were brutal at this point. I was alternating double poling and running in the soft snow. The downhills where fun however. When I passed by 40km I checked my watch and saw it was going to be very close to get in under 4 hours.
Km 40-47 There were a few long gradual uphills. I hate them. People were blowing by me. I tried to run up the hills and then gave in, said, "Screw the Back" and put out the best double poling I could muster. Uphill, downhill, flats, and I managed to pass the bastards who had just passed me. Well, most of them anyway.
Km 47-Finish Yay for flats. My back, suffering. My legs, sore. Eyes, crossed. I picked a guy about 100m ahead of me and let loose. Sure I was mid pack, but I can't stand to cruise over the line.
I hammered as best I could, the bear unleashed. I probably looked like a flailing idiot but I don't care. I was making a lot of grunting noises, which my wife would strongly disapprove of.
I went by my target and shot for the line. By this time I was actually in tears, and not just small ones. But big OMFG this hurts tears.
And so it ended.
The end result:
Cad. Categ. Gender @ @
Place Temp km/h Plce/Tot Plce/Tot Categorie Huron Gamelin
165 3:55:49.5 12.5 3520 17/30 141/292 Men 35 - 39 2:10:10 3:25:43
I'm just about mid pack, almost on target, and a smidge better than the last time I did the race back in 1998. Not bad for a 12 year break.
I must say the the volunteers were very good, and much friendlier than what I remember. I just think that the race packages are very weak. All you get is your bib and your chip. Kinda lame.
Anyway, now it's time to rest, eat, wax the skate skis, rest, eat, sleep and then try and pull out a decent time tomorrow in the much more crowded Skate race where everyone tries to ski over each others skis.
Twas the night before Loppet and all through the place
Everyone was worrying about the wax...
I'd write a whole verse but I'm heading to bed. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.
49 Km Classic.
Nobody is really too certain about the kick wax. But I've gone with VR40.
I've seen a fair number of people dumping Cera-F on their skis. If you don't ski that's probably $20 in wax per pair of skis.
I have a mild cold.
I have a headache
I am not sure eating Indian food is the best idea. But I still ate so much, in the interests of carbo loading, that I feel the urge to puke.
Oh, and weirdly enough, my hamstrings are starting to hurt again. Seems to happen when I taper and sit around a lot.
I am starting in the second last wave tomorrow. The goal is to put up a decent time to get into a better wave next year.
And now to bed.
Well here I sit.
After skiing for about 6 hours this past weekend I am doing basically nothing this week prior to the Gatineau escapades this weekend.
We'll see how the strategy works out. I keep having to tell myself that I'm not going to be able to hammer for 3 hours and put up a good placing. Mid pack would be amazing I think.
The snow in Gatineau Park seems poor at best so I suspect that the race will be shortened somewhat. I've never done a Gatineau Loppet that didn't have some kind of weather issue but not having much snow is a bit of a surprise.
The skiis are prepped, the gear is washed. The only thing to do now is make sure I get to the start line.
And Watch the Olympics
Two mutually exclusive activities.