Running out of gas: A lesson learned at an early age

FasterSkierFebruary 14, 2005

Around these parts, one of the most famous races used to be something called
the Nakkerloppet. About 15 or 20 years ago, it might have been described as
one of the “the big three' of Ottawa area ski races, along with the Canadian
Ski Marathon, and the Gatineau 55 (now the Keskinada). The Nakkeloppet does
still exist, but only as an organized tour, not as a race.

What made the Nakkerloppet special was that it was deceptively hard. The
distance was only 25 to 30kms, but the winning times, as I remember, were
often close to two hours. The point-to-point course was hilly, bumpy, twisty
and narrow. It could almost be described as a backcountry race.

When I was about thirteen I made my first attempt at the Nakkerloppet. Of
course, I fell into the trap of trying to keep up with older and more
experienced competitors, a couple of whom were parents of other kids in the
Nakkertok racing program that I was in at the time. Still after about 10k or
so I finally settled in to my own pace. Somewhere just around 18kms in I
began to feel the warning signs of impending bonk. I was a bit unsteady on
the downhills, I felt a touch of hunger, and I kept catching myself looking
behind me. This was before the days when people carried water or energy gels
with them, so all you could do was make a mental note that it would be
important to fuel up at the next feeding station. I didn't really have to
worry, because I didn't have more than a few kms to go before the last one
at Moral cabin. Those were a long few kilometres though. I started to move
more lethargically, and imagined little chocolate bars dancing away in front
of me. Finally I arrived at the feeding station. I stopped completely, and
drank about four cups of that old honey-lemon drink. Needless to say it
tasted very good. I also gobbled up some chocolate chip cookies or
something. I recall hearing one of the volunteers warn me that this was not
an “all you can eat buffet”.

It was about here that my personal nightmare started. Standing at the feed
station I could see Alain Roth (one of the aforementioned parents) coming
around the corner to also fuel up. Perhaps you can understand how I most
definitely did not want him to catch me. He was close to 50 years old! Now
granted, I was thirteen, but thirteen-year-old boys have a habit of thinking
they are much older than they are. Him beating me would have been shameful
at best.


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