I must smell of Canada - the eponymous geese chased me along the canal towpath!
Monday, 19 February 2018
The Diefenbunker complex was constructed in the late 1950s when the Cold War was at its height. I remember well the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. There were about 100 people employed here, with scope for over 500 people to shelter from a nuclear blast for a month. The desk shown above is in the President's Office. Thankfully it was never needed, the only president in office who visited the site being Pierre Trudeau.
The site was decommissioned in 1994 and now houses this interesting underground museum on four levels.
Sunday, 18 February 2018
P17 (Wakefield)>#53 extended>#50 from P19>#36>P11>#36>Fortune Parkway>Champlain Parkway>Gatineau Parkway>#26>P2 - 51 km, 840 metres ascent, 5 hours 30 mins including 2 mins stops.
First of all, the previous evening, a visit to a school in Mont-Bleu, in French speaking Gatineau, is required in order to pick up bibs and timing chips. We obtained entry from a car park by a back door and joined a long queue, armed with our confirmatory emails. After half an hour in the queue, and after being queue jumped by a French group, we reached a desk where we were officiously informed that we must supply our bib numbers in order to receive our 'envelopes'. The bib numbers were on display about a metre to our left over a low barrier, thus easily accessible to the man who was demanding that we leave the queue to get our numbers and rejoin it at the back. He who had been quite happy to serve the people who pushed in front of us. We refused to move and eventually got our envelopes, which were supposed to come with a 'goody' (a hat) that the man serving us deliberately failed to hand to us. Luckily we saw that everyone else was getting one and eventually we managed to escape with hats and envelopes. We could easily have missed another desk where you have to scan your timing chip in order to 'register'.
Altogether an unnecessarily stressful hour that we really needed to prepare our skis.
Stage 2 of our preparation was a pasta supper, prepared by Helen (not doing the loppet) aided by Sue (I collected her envelope) with rather greater efficiency than the shambles at the high school where we hadn't had time to look at the Expo stands, other than to take note of waxing advice for the following day.
Stage 3 involved the waxing of skis. Susan was using waxless skis so just needed the tips and tails preparing with glide wax - a fairly quick job. Sue and I skipped this bit of preparation as our tips and tails looked OK, and the waxing of the main wax 'pocket' - the central part of the ski - was more important.
Ken is an expert at this task and sorted out our waxing before tackling his own, with Sue and me acting as 'commis' waxers. The race day temperature was expected to rise from about minus 18°C to not much below freezing, on a sunny day, making waxing a complex process. The outer layer needed to be quite hard (blue) for the cold start. Underneath that, a layer of violet wax would be more suitable for the warmer conditions that would prevail after the blue wore off. As a base, horribly sticky klister wax would allow the skis to grip on the warm afternoon when the violet wax had worn off. So the three waxes were applied in reverse order, each needing to be rubbed in and cooled outside before the next layer was added.
Meanwhile, Shane and Stephen needed to do little by way of preparation at Lester and Lynette's B&B as they both have smart new waxless skis with 'skins' - a mohair grip zone. Such skis have improved a lot and have become more sophisticated since we bought our waxing skis.
The planned early night didn't quite come off, especially for Ken, whose last job was to meticulously prepare his skis after everyone else had turned in.
Come Saturday morning, we were up at 5.45 am and were on our way to the Mont-Bleu school soon after 6.30 am. Skiers are taken from there to the start at P17 car park outside Wakefield in a convoy of school buses. The start takes place in five waves - A to E (based on predicted finish times) - and as usual Sue and I hung around in the warmth of the school before heading to the last of the buses. We know our place, and were joined at the start by Stephen, also setting off right at the back of the 458 (in theory, actually closer to 400) strong field.There was no wind, so despite the cold temperature we kept tolerably warm before the start, a good half hour later. There's a service for taking jackets back to the finish at Mont-Bleu school that some used, whilst Stephen and I came ready to ski.
Ken, Susan and Shane started ahead of the three of us, in earlier waves. Being at the back of the field isn't bad. There weren't too many in the 'E' wave. "These are the people who haven't done any training" observed the announcer. The multiple start lanes soon reduced to three and everyone was pretty polite. Sue, Stephen and I skied pretty much together, catching up with Shane around the 32 km point at P11. Here Sue stopped to have her skis waxed and achieved the pay off for that by passing me some time later along Champlain Parkway. She soon then caught up with Stephen and skied with him to the end, just behind Shane and just ahead of me.
Our results are shown below, estimated in my case as my timing chip didn't work at the finish and as far as the organisers are concerned I dropped out before the end. (Not impressed.)
Ken: Position 300/458, 4 hours 45 minutes, 28/43 in age category.
Susan: Position 329/458, 5 hours 4 minutes, 8/10 in age category.
Shane: Position 364/458, 5 hours 25 minutes, 36/39 in age category.
Sue: Position 365/458, 5 hours 26 minutes, 17/21 in age category.
Stephen: Position 366/458, 5 hours 26 minutes, 13/21 in age category.
Martin: Position 371/458, 5 hours 30 minutes, 22/27 in age category.
Less than 40 skiers finished behind me, so the 458 total must include nearly 50 who paid the £60 entry fee and didn't turn up.
We all reconvened in the school hall for a 'free' school dinner, and noticed Superwoman, Karen Messenger, who we met in Estonia and in Canmore last year, receiving an award (and cash) for being the second woman to finish. Her husband, Erik, was the fifth man to finish (assuming the leading men's timing chips were working). Well done to both of them.
That just about brings our Canadian skiing exploits to a conclusion for this year, with today being a chilling out day for Sue and me whilst Susan drives home to Connecticut and Ken takes part in the 51 km skate skiers' race over the same course as yesterday. He has just checked in with the news that he did that in about four and a half hours. Well done Ken!
We return home tomorrow, so don't expect much of substance on here for a few days.
Sue and Stephen are pictured before the start, and the four of us who finished more or less together are pictured at the finish.
Any more questions, Conrad?
Any more questions, Conrad?
A fuller report will follow, but this is just to reassure readers that all went well, despite the official results showing me as a non finisher as my timing chip must have broken.
Four of us, Shane, Sue, Stephen and me all finished up to ten minutes inside five and a half hours. We are pictured above. Ken and Susan finished some distance ahead of us.
More to follow tomorrow.
Saturday, 17 February 2018
Snow flurries were followed by bright sunshine and a stroll for me and Sue beside the river.
Bibs and timing chips were retrieved from a rather shambolic collection point at a school in Gatineau.
Skis were waxed and pasta duly consumed, followed by Susan's offering for the day, some giant cup cakes, and the last of Ken's tasty birthday cake.
Thursday, 15 February 2018
Ottawa to Mooney's Bay and beyond (a walk) - 16 km, 100 metres ascent, 4 hours 29 mins including 1 hour 30 mins stops.
On a rainy day in Ottawa, Sue and Susan chose to indulge themselves at the Nordic spa in Chelsea. They kindly dropped me off in town. After a bit of sight seeing, shopping and lunch, I walked back home via the Rideau Canal and Mooney's Bay. The paths were wet and slippery in the warm temperatures (+6°C) and skiing wouldn't have been that enjoyable today.
A few snaps were taken en route:
The Supreme Court
A War Memorial
The Art Gallery and Spider
An Ice Sculpture
The Rideau Canal - closed today on account of the high temperatures
Wednesday, 14 February 2018
P8>Gatineau Parkway>Champlain Parkway>Fortune Parkway>Gatineau Parkway>P8 - 22.3 km, 415 metres ascent, 2 hours 57 mins including 9 mins stops.
Whilst Shane and Stephen had opted for the 'Parkway Loop' route, Sue, Susan and I had planned to go to McKinstry cabin and the Fire Tower from P12. But despite being another blue sky day, Ridge Road to McKinstry had a thumbs down from the Park management. Temperatures would start at minus 8°C and rise to plus 5°C, tricky conditions for waxing the skis.
We decided on a clockwise trip around the 'Parkway Loop', with Susan on her waxless skis and Sue and I borrowing Helen and Ken's waxless boards. This worked well, albeit Sue complained about having to work a bit harder than usual.
The highlights of the outing were the frozen waterfall on Champlain Parkway, pictured, and meeting up with Shane and Stephen coming the other way up Fortune Parkway. Stephen was proudly displaying some new skis with 'skins' on them.
Lunch in Tonique Restaurant in Chelsea was good, but allow plenty of time if you go there...
A leisurely afternoon will be followed by 'Party Time'. Ken has a big birthday and the five of us will be joined by S and S, their hosts Lester and Lynette, and our old friends Michael and Sayuri.
Sue is busy decorating a cake...
P19>#50>#55 Taylor Lake Loop>Renaud Cabin>#54>Lusk Cabin for lunch>#54>#55>#50>#51>P19 - 19.5 km, 340 metres ascent, 3 hours 43 mins including 1 hour 8 mins stops.
A blue sky day, at first anyway, found Sue, Susan and me meeting up with Stephen and Shane at P19 - Lac Philippe - car park. Thankfully Stephen's gear had all found its way to the start today.
The trails were icy and fast downhill. Waxing was tricky and despite moving from light blue to blue, Sue and I still had very little grip by the end of the day. Stephen and Susan fared better with their waxless skis, and Shane's skins seemed to work ok.
We met a coach load of school children at Renaud Cabin, taking a break before setting off to set up some quinzees (like igloos) for an overnight adventure.
Lusk cabin was toasty warm for a leisurely lunch, after which Shane and Stephen returned direct to P19 whilst the three of us took a slithery alternative down trail 51, which despite its gentle gradients was 'nur für guebte' today.
Tuesday, 13 February 2018
P11>#36>#50>Herridge Cabin>Healey Cabin for lunch>#50>#36 via beach>P11 - 22.4 km, 380 metres ascent, 4 hours 8 mins including 1 hour 10 mins stops.
After freezing rain yesterday evening, it was fortuitous that the grooming machine had freshly prepared today's excellent trails. Our planned starting time of 10.30 was delayed by an hour after Stephen discovered he had forgotten to load his ski shoes. Replacement kit was hired in Chelsea.
We had Healey Cabin to ourselves for a very leisurely lunch whilst the sun shone outside.
Sue, Susan and I were joined by Shane and Stephen on today's classic trail with wonderful swooping (but not too swooping) descents. They saw a beaver yesterday; today I saw a deer and Sue and I spent some time watching a flock of chickadee type birds high in a tree by trail 36.
The Wellington Gastropub provided an excellent evening meal for all seven of us (the five skiers plus Ken and Helen) tonight.
A great day on the skis, and later...
Monday, 12 February 2018
P7>#30>#1>Keogan Cabin>#1>Huron Cabin>#1>1b>#2>Western Cabin for lunch>#2>#1>#3>Fortune Parkway>#1>#30>P7 - 25.3km, 360 metres ascent, 4 hours 17 mins including 53 mins stops.
Sue, Ken, Susan and I met up with Shane and Stephen in the vicinity of P7 car park. The latter two skied with us to Huron cabin, via a brew stop at Keogan cabin, before returning to base. (It's unwise to ski too far until the muscles have 'bedded in'.) Meanwhile, Susan shot off to Western cabin and wasn't seen again until the end. Sue, Ken and I paused at Huron then proceeded to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the warmth of Western cabin, which overlooks the Ottawa River. Sue is pictured outside the cabin, and also later on trail 3 (the Burma Road) that was in great condition in today's relatively mild temperatures - minus 9 to minus 12°C including wind chill.
Saturday, 10 February 2018
Mooney's Bay - 3 circuits plus add-ons - 10.8 km, 40 metres ascent, 1 hour 45 mins including 6 mins stops.
On an overcast, relatively warm, day with light snow falling, we decided to give Gatineau Park a miss and obtain a bit of exercise at Mooney's Bay, where there's a pleasant 3.4 km circuit within a five minute drive from home.
We met Shane and Stephen, who completed a couple of laps with us before returning to their base to get sorted out for the week ahead.
This lazy day forms part of our annual 'beach holiday'. Today's pictures show Sue with Shane and Stephen, posing in front of a sign that warns about the risks of swimming off this beach. The lifeguards, as you can see from the bottom picture, were taking a break.
The picture shows Ken finishing whilst the tail walker, Michelle, follows Sue at the start of the second half of the horseshoe.
The Morning Owl café provided good coffee and cake for most of today's 16 participants (I hesitate to describe us a 'runners' - more like slow joggers!)
Friday, 9 February 2018
P17>#53>#52>#50>#55>Renaud Cabin for lunch>#55>#50>#51>#53>P17 - 24.5km, 410 metres ascent, 4 hours 6 mins including 36 mins stops.
Sue and I were joined by Ken and Susan for this excellent outing in pristine conditions. Lac Philippe glittered as we passed by on trail 50.
There was plenty of room in the lunch cabin, which now has dotted windows to stop the birds flying into the glass. Judging by the size of the wild turkeys that lurked below the feeder, such an incident could spell disaster for the window as well as the bird!
Sue and I took the shorter route, trail 51, back to P17 car park, whereas Ken and Susan, who are faster skiers, took the slightly longer trail 53. We all arrived back at more or less the same time.
A coffee shop in Chelsea provided a good choice of apres ski nourishment - Sue is pictured with hers.
Back at base, Shane and Stephen (who we met last year on the Exodus trip to Estonia) called in for a cuppa on their way to stay at Lester and Lynette's air B&B. They arrived on the same AC flight from Heathrow as we did last week. We will be seeing them from time to time over the course of the next ten days or so.
Now we are seven!
Thursday, 8 February 2018
P3>Gatineau Parkway>#5>#15>#35>Pink Lake>Gatineau Parkway>P3 - 16km, 245 metres ascent, 2 hours 42 mins including 24 mins stops.
A blue sky day, not as cold as expected at minus 12°C plus wind chill. Quiet on the trails. Trail 15 is another favourite, as is the fast Parkway descent from Pink Lake, so we were happy. It was warm enough to stop for a cuppa and cake on the trail (no cabins on this route) - an unexpected pleasure.
Chatted to a couple of chaps from Nova Scotia. Apparently there is no snow there and everything is green. They are in Ottawa for the CSM (Canadian Ski Marathon) which takes place this weekend. None of our gang are - for the first time in living memory - doing the CSM this year.
Helen has a cold so visited the doctor. Susan arrived from Connecticut. Ken went to work (soon to be a thing of the past as he retires at the end of the month).
More visitors are expected - watch this space.