The North American Speed Skating Marathon Championship Weekend at Skate the Lake in Portland, Ontario has run its course once again with near perfect ice conditions! Long-time speed skater Willem Langenberg from Alberta toasted the volunteers on Saturday evening at the Legion dinner. “I’ve skated on natural ice in North America and Scandinavia for several decades and this oval on the Big Rideau Lake is second to none!” Another long time Skate the Laker, Catherine Kwiecien from Windsor Ontario added “Skate the Lake is the highlight of my marathoning season.” “How do you manage to order up such perfect ice?”
The races started Saturday morning; however the first challenge was for the skaters to brave snow covered roads to get to the event only to have to face that weather once again out on the oval where the west wind threatened to reverse any skaters that slacked off coming up the north stretch. Sunday morning was much easier to contend with though frost bite was a bit of an issue for some skaters. Track-side volunteers were busy handing out hot packs and hot chocolate to keep the skaters going for the longer races.
Sergio Almerella started the day in classic style once again winning the 10 k in 24:21 well ahead of Brian Graham with 24:52. Marketa Graham won it for the women coming in at 26:21 followed by Carole Woodstock in 30:48.
The first marathon of the weekend was also taken by Sergio Almeralla in 56:17 for the 25 k followed by Alex Zamojski with a time of 56:39. Catherine Kwiecien in her usual style won in the women’s category with 1:08:35 well ahead of Tonya Hoferek in 1:10:28.
The mood on the ice lightened in the afternoon as the Kids under 12 took to the ice for the kids 5 k race. Congratulations to Luke Allan of Portland for winning and to two and a half year-old Kale McGuire for completing over 2 laps of the challenge! We will certainly be seeing more of Kale as his legs get longer!
Jake Marse had a great day on Sunday winning both the competitive 5k and the 50 k marathon with times of 10:39 and 1:57:51 followed in the 5 k by Portland’s Chris Allan with 14:09 and in the 50 k by Jeff Erenstone in 2:08:33. The women’s 5 k was taken by Chloe Segal in 13:32 ahead of Emma Wheeler in 14:14. Catherine Kwiecien proved her marathon stamina a second day in a row easily winning the 50 k for the women in 2:11:17 even after kindly drafting for Portland Outdoors’ president John Bongers for several laps! Heidi Hatch took second in the women’s 50 k in 2:43:23.
All skaters and spectators alike kept warm during the weekend thanks to the efforts of Renee Bongers and Bryanna Flannigan and their extensive crew providing an endless supply of hot pea soup. For the families that braved the weather there was horse drawn sleigh rides, skating, hockey and curling that was enjoyed as well as the ever popular fireworks at dusk!