When it came down to it, for me, Winterlude=skating on the Rideau Canal. There were opening ceremonies celebration on Friday evening and we dropped by for a bit. There was a Bed Race on opening weekend I didn’t bother to get us to go to – since it’s not like fancy sleigh beds or anything. There’s a Winter Triathlon that I still think I could have done were it not for the logistics of it all. There were some food events (like WinterBrew). And there was the snow playground at Jacques Cartier Park, also too far to venture out to, even with a Sno-Bus shuttle running every 15 minutes.
As it turned out, both of my girlfriends wouldn’t be skating with me. I was hopefully to meet up with my cousins who were out the same afternoon but I started later and actually passed them without knowing it. It’s okay by me because the “competitive” part of me wanted to do the entire length of the skateway and record it with Runkeeper – thus the only impedance I could allow for was to stop to take pictures!
We could see people heading to the canal in the evening of the opening ceremonies but I had scheduled that our outing would be on the first full day of skating following brunch and some shopping in Byward Market.
I queued for what felt like forever for skates rental from Capital Skates. It cost $17 for two-hour skate rental and boot check ($4 separately) is included. Since they were out of figure skates at the time in my size, I was equipped with a pair of hockey skates. I’ve never worn hockey skates before and, first thing, nearly slipped backwards-darned rounded blades! Otherwise, they are so much wider and more comfortable than figure skates would have been.
While I queued for skate rentals, my girlfriends were walking around and I was alone from 0.8 km onwards after our requisite photos together.
The skateway has markers every 0.2 km and the skate rental was located at 0.4 km. The area between 0.0 and 0.4 km would be the densest of the skateway as an area where people could lace up their skates and practice their skating before going “out in the open”.
The ice was not smooth but it was not treacherous. It snowed the entire time we were out and you could see the snow piling up. Snow hitting on my skate blades was just the slightest hindrance and was not dangerous.
There were a few clusters of “food trucks” with more at the beginning few kilometers. While the Beavertails stand at 0.4 km had a long line up, the queue looked shorter at subsequent food truck stops. They seemed to be located where the skateway widened and the food truck area was separated from the skating lanes with fir trees laid out. I wanted a Beavertail and a hot drink but I didn’t want to stop!
There were many access points to the canal, each with a unique name probably corresponding to the nearest street. I heard that some people skate to work in the winter and/or row to work when the weather warms up. I love that idea but wondered if I wouldn’t find it a hassle to put on and take off equipment.
There were a few points in the skateway where it diverged and I was in two minds about which way to go. I wanted to skate all of it but didn’t know how stringent my two-hour rental would be. The first two forks looked small (and thus lovely and quiet) and I did not follow the fork. When I got down to Dow’s Lake, it was a large fork in the skateway I could not ignore. The distance markers continued out on the fork so I had to take it.
As I skated out on the Dow’s Lake loop, it occurred to me that I was on the Winterlude Triathlon course. I wondered how fast I could have been. Now I’m sure the skating would have been a breeze. That I would have sapped my energy on the cross country skiing and just walked and dragged my feet during the run! What a treat it would be to be on the skateway at an early hour, free of the recreational skaters (not that I’m much better) and with a bunch of speedsters!
After completing the Dow’s Lake loop, I made it down to 7.8 km. I’m so sad it didn’t occur to me to take a selfie! But really, my camera was getting wetting from the non-stop snowfall and when I so much as wrangled my phone out of my pocket and took my mind off skating, I would wobble and nearly fall!
I really wish NPY had been there! A hockey player, he doesn’t like skating in circles and weaving through the same old crowds at public skate at the rink and the Rideau Canal Skateway is the world’s largest skating rink. There weren’t as many speed skaters as I thought there would be. There weren’t as many beginners as I thought there would be either. We simply have to make a trip in the future!
Skating alone was like anything else I do alone outside-I got a little bored. Like renting a kayak for two hours, I see how far I can go in an hour and then turn around. I wasn’t up for doing the Dow’s Lake loop again so I did not do, strictly speaking, 7.8 km times two. At the risk of burning through my cellphone battery already tracking my activity, I amused myself with a Songza playlist of acoustic version of pop songs suitable for listening to while curled up in front of a fireplace!
In terms of discomfort, at times, the snow falling was really big and would go directly into my eyes – a brim to my hat would have helped! My wool mittens soaked through and my scarf froze and scratched my jaw and chin. The skate boot bruised my right inner ankle and at times I thought I wouldn’t make it back. How does one even limp on skates?
Otherwise, the snowy conditions provided a lovely and unique atmosphere (you couldn’t get that indoors!). It was truly wonderous to be on an “endless” outdoor rink and it felt really good to be on the ice. Granted, it was forward direction skating so you never had to make sharp turns (I wasn’t up for crosscuts) and stopping on a dime was not necessary and you’ll naturally slow down on the rougher ice. My challenge to myself was to return on time and not wipe out – both were accomplished as well as an item on my Canadian Bucket List!