Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Monday, 20 February 2012

Sunday 19 February 2012 – The Gatineau Loppet Freestyle Event - 51km

Santa on Penguin Hill - 19/2/12

Yesterday, the Classic Loppet, today the ‘Freestyle’ Loppet.  This involves the use of skate skies, and is a very energetic activity.

Luckily I don’t have any skate skies!

On the other hand, Santa (above) appears to have acquired some; maybe they were a Christmas present?

I went up trail 30 from Kingsmere (P7) on a lovely sunny morning and shouted encouragement to the skiers from a corner near the top of Penguin Hill, by Wattsford Lookout, which enjoys views over Ottawa.

Santa was only just behind this group of fairly elite skiers, who had taken just over an hour to reach this 20km point along the 51km course, which was the same course as for yesterday’s ‘Classique’ race.

Elite Skate-skiers climb Penguin Hill - 19/2/12

At this point very few skiers stopped for a rest at the corner.  They powered on up the final steep ascent prior to the excellent trail to their next support point at Keogan.

On the final ascent of Penguin Hill, above Wattsford Lookout

A Brit who was also in yesterday’s race, Steve Hesketh, went past in a big bunch of speedy racers.  So far as I can see, there were just four Brits amongst the 416 who completed today’s race, and Steve was by far the quickest of them.  (As yesterday, when he was an hour ahead of me and three hours ahead of the other two Brits.)

Half an hour after Santa, with the field thinning, and even a lad from Leeds, Gordon O’Neill, going past, Ken powered his way up Penguin Hill for a chat at the corner.  By this time I was chatting to many of the skiers who were finding the hill a little much to complete without a rest, and Ken also felt he had to stop and say hello!

Ken McNair on Penguin Hill - 19/2/12

It was a lovely day.  I pottered back down to P7, relishing the nicely groomed surface and the emptiness of trail 30.  Then a short drive to P9 at Dunlop saw me donning my old skis for the last time for this trip and heading up Fortune Parkway to the support point at Huron. 

It didn’t take long for my target to arrive, and again Ken was happy to stop for a chat…..

The Loppet support point at Huron

…and a posed shot with his mouth full of a mixture of Gatorade and chocolate covered peanuts…

Ken enjoys a munch and a drink at Huron, only 16km to go!

“I’ve got to go now” he announced “that lad from Leeds is just ahead of me and I don’t want to be beaten by someone who has no access to any proper training facility.” (Freestyle skiing doesn’t have a large following in Leeds, so far as I’m aware!)*

So off he went, and so did I, enjoying my final descent down Fortune Parkway.  It was a lovely day, and the trail was quick, so the 20mph descent of the final long hill was a satisfactorily exhilarating conclusion to this year’s ‘adventures on planks’.

Here’s a parting shot of the Parkway, by Fortune Lake, yesterday afternoon, before the final descent to P9 car park.

Fortune Parkway on a sunny Sunday afternoon - 19/2/12

That’s it from Canada for this year.  I’m shortly off to catch a plane.  Hope you enjoyed these postings.  It’s back to ‘plodding’ this week.

I will be putting up some pictures on Picasa, in particular of the images I took yesterday at Wattsford Lookout whilst waiting for Ken.  I’ll place a link here.  If you are a skier who appears in any of those images, and you would like a full size copy, let me know through the ‘Contact us’ button on topwalks.com, and I’ll send it to you.  It’ll be my pleasure.

* BTW, Ken came in 365th out of the 416 finishers, in just under four hours, nearly a minute ahead of Gordon from Leeds, who came a very commendable 366th – the second Brit on the day.  And for Ken that completes Parham Momtahan’s ‘Triple Challenge’, comprising the 160km Canadian Ski Marathon, and this weekend’s two 51km Loppet races.  Only a handful of people (less than 20) have completed this daunting challenge.  Well done Ken!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Saturday 18 February 2012 – The Gatineau Loppet Classique

At the start of the Gatineau Loppet on 18/2/12

Regular readers will realise that whilst there’s nothing I enjoy more than a plod in the countryside, I am up for the occasional challenge.

Today that challenge was the 51km Gatineau Loppet.  It’s only a short drive to the start, so an early rise wasn’t needed to get to P2 to meet up with Susan and Roy, who ‘collect’ Loppets.  (Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose!)  Ken, my chauffeur for the day, was also there, proudly sporting his ‘Chelsea Masters’ technical top.  You can make what you want of my gear - it’s all very old, but it works.

The ‘Classique’ is the event for ‘cross-country’ rather than ‘skate’ skiers, and today’s entry comprised 331 folk from 22 different countries.  Our group of four, pictured above at the start, represented three of those countries.  I also discovered Sophie, a French Canadian friend, at the start – she was doing a 31km version of the Loppet, the two events being arranged to start together.

We started at 9am in four ‘waves’, at two minute intervals.  The other three were deemed suited to start in the third wave, whilst I was down amongst the duffers (sorry, Sophie) at the back of the field.  Whilst there was a little aggressive behaviour after the start, when ten lanes of skiers rapidly contract to two lanes, at my end of the field everyone was pretty well behaved.

The previous night I’d helped Ken prepare the skis in an attempt to get a bit more grip and glide from the warm conditions than we had last week.  Green klister had been ironed on top of a layer of glide wax, allowed to cool outside for a while, then some magic (as it turned out) violet klister was ironed on top of everything else before putting the skis back into the cooler.

It worked, I was soon actually passing people on the hills, and was moving along at a reasonable pace.  All went well for about 7km, when I failed (yet again) to negotiate the turn from #5 down #26 – where Helen is pictured in yesterday’s posting.  This time I bashed a thumb, which though not life threatening, remains swollen and  mildly painful.

It was another warm, sunny day, clouding over later with snow flurries.  Lovely.  At the back end of the field most participants were enjoying their day out, the only ‘race’ being with the cut-off times, which quite a few were worried about.  So I had some nice chats along the way and soon realised that given the excellent waxing of the skis, being ‘cut-off’ was not really a worry.

I carried a few spares in a bum bag – clothes, two pairs of gloves, waxes, first aid kit, food, etc, but it never got opened, the drinks and food being provided by the six or so feeding stations along the route being more than adequate.

It’s not a flat route – there’s about 900 metres of ascent, including several steep hills that have to be ‘herring-boned’.  It was after one of these hilly sections (trail 15) that we emerged past Pink Lake onto Gatineau Parkway and down to ‘The Notch’, where there’s a support point.  Here, after just 15km, I spotted Susan and Roy, just ahead.  They remained that way for the remaining 36km – a target – though they never saw me or heard my shouts of encouragement from just a few metres behind them on a couple of hills where I was quicker.  I just didn’t have the technique to keep up with them on the flatter sections, and they eventually finished just a few places ahead of me.

We all met Ken coming the other way where there’s a little loop in the route around Huron Cabin.  He was nearly 30 minutes ahead of us at that point and finished even further ahead, in a very commendable (for an ex-pat Brit) 4 hours 17 minutes.

Whilst the klister was great for going up hills, mine was affecting the downhill glide over the last few km, but not enough to do anything about it.  I’d expected to take about 6 hours for the 51km, but by some miracle came in just under 5 hours.  I didn’t see any of the other Brits in the race – one finished an hour ahead of me and the other two were two hours behind.  So if there had been awards by nationality I’d have got a silver medal!  As it was, we all got a Buff.

For my own benefit as much as anything, the Loppet website is here, the results are here, and my Garmin gadget’s data is shown below: