In days past, our Canadian trips concluded with the two day, 160km, Canadian Ski Marathon (of which we only ever managed around 100km). These days our final long ski of the trip has come to be the Gatineau Loppet, a 51km race.
I first did this in 2012 (report here) and Sue and I did it in really tough conditions last year (report here). Those reports give a good indication of what the event is all about so there’s no need to repeat the words here.
I applied three layers of blue wax to Sue and my skis in the hope that it would get us through the race. That just about worked for me – well it must have done because despite some loss of grip I was still going along fairly quickly at the end. Sue wisely added a bit of lilac wax after 30km to give her some grip up the long hill to Huron Cabin. (This year’s route was the same as last year’s – P17 to P2.)
Meanwhile Ken was struggling with a cold, and had his own waxing problems. I was surprised to see him at Huron, from where he sped off on his newly waxed planks, finishing a few minutes ahead of me.
Here’s how the four hundred or so skiers get to the start after leaving their transport at the finish.
It was a relatively warm day – minus 5 to minus 15C, depending on the wind chill. I took a few photos at the start. Here are the ‘elite’ skiers, of whom number 60 is the last person on the trail. He eventually finished in last place – position 358 out of 433 entries, so 75 people either didn’t turn up or missed the 30km cut off (mainly the former).
The Finnish entrants in particular seem to have been very optimistic about their predicted times, which dictates where you start. Here’s the second wave setting off, a few of whom we passed later on.
The conditions were great. After a couple of kilometres I knew the cut-off point at 30km would be passed with lots of time (nearly an hour, as it turned out) in hand, so we could enjoy a relatively energetic ski in lovely conditions on great trails without having to worry about ‘busting a gut’ to make the cut off.
Sue and I started right at the back of the field, in the knowledge that we are two of the slower people taking part. Very quickly you settle into a rhythm and find yourself going along quite comfortably at the pace of the person ahead. There’s no point in carrying any food or water as that is provided at 10km intervals.
During the entire race I had no need to open my bum bag, and I took no photos – the two layers of clothing – icebreaker top and RAB vapour rise smock, long johns and fleece trousers – were fine, with the smock’s zip being used as a regulator depending on the wind, which at times was quite brisk, leaving us to contend with falling leaves and spindrift every now and then.
Towards the end we became aware of other events taking place as part of the same ‘festival’. There are shorter ski races that attract slower participants. These people got in the way, as did the fat tyred bikes who were engaged in a race that crossed the ski trail. But there was just about room for everyone.
It was good to get to the finish in 5 hours 18 minutes, a little behind Ken, and a bit ahead of Sue, (and nearly an hour quicker than last year) where a team of people were removing our timing chips and handing out medals and this year’s ‘gift’ (the event costs over £50 to enter) of a headband.
We all took advantage of the free meal for skiers in the school cafeteria, after which Sue and I lounged around whilst Ken had the massage that helps him wind down.
On the way back to the car, Sue and I adopted the same pose as last year (see header photo) and Ken tried to eat his medal.
Here, for the record, are a few screen dumps extracted from the results pages.
Full results should be here. It appears that Sue and I were the only two Brits taking part this year, in this international race!
And whilst Sue doesn’t often contribute to these pages, she has written a little on Facebook on this occasion:
Conditions for this years 51km classic ski Gatineau Loppet were good, with mild temperatures and good grooming. Starting just after 9am yesterday, in wave E, we enjoyed fast descents, frosting on the trees, and plenty of Gatorade at checkpoints. A strong breeze sent leaves and twigs into the tracks, but was helpful when blowing from behind! A brief re-wax at 30km saw me with good grip to the end, in 5 hours and 41 minutes, 3rd out of six women competing in my age group! Martin took 5 hours 18 minutes. For comparison, the winner took 2 hours 27 minutes!