This is it, race day. The air is crystal clear. The sun is bright and warm. Not a cloud in the sky. The temperature, is a cool, but tolerant -25ºC. It is the wind chill, which catches you by surprise, dropping the temperature to a "brisk" -30 º C. Ah, but this is good. It is perfect weather for racing. Hard, cold, and glossy ice. Days like this only come once in a long time for racers. They stand ready waiting for the race marshal to align the teams for the first heat. Nerves are on edge. Your stomach begins to knot and suddenly thousands of unanswered questions begin flooding your brain. Do I have the right equipment? Are my fellow teammates ready? Did we do everything we could to get our "machine" ready? Is there enough air in the tires? Can we keep it straight? Man I hope I don't pull something. Before you dwell on it further it's your turn. No chance for second-guesses now. This is it. You are ready to go for the 2003 Kiwanis Club of Ottawa Bed Race!
You are standing at the starting line. One hundred meters of shear, blue ice stands between you, the finish line, and your chance for glory. The course is lined, or packed two meters with - snow! You holler at your driver and three other pushers. "Lets GO Guys! We can do it!" but your voice is lost in the roar of the - wind! Suddenly the air is pierced with a loud crack of the starter's pistol, or is that the ice cracking under your feet. It doesn't matter as you are off. Feet flying. Heart pounding. Your lungs heaving with every icy breath you take. You slip, and then regain your footing. Pushing harder, faster. Suddenly everything begins to blur. It is like you are going in slow motion. The cheers, the rattling of the bed, the announcers voice fades away. You and your four teammates are alone. Head down you close your eyes and dig ever deeper into yourself for the last bit of energy. You don't know where your competitors are but it doesn't matter now. With one final push and a grunt, you look up! What? ONLY HALF WAY? Fifty more meters to go! AHHHHHH. After only a few, well many seconds later, you cross the finish line. It is over. "Did we win?" you ask, but the winning team is already huddled for a photo shoot and shaking hands with the judges. Not this year.
So as you push your bed slowly back to the parking lot. Your muscles aching with each step and you ask yourself. "Why do I do this? "What draws me to this - sport?" Is it for the fact the money raised by the Kiwanis Club goes to a good cause? Is it because you want to give something back to the community? Is it building a bed and the race itself? Being part of a team? Participating in something a little crazy but down right FUN! It is all those reasons, but it is also something else. As you look back over Dows Lake the sun is shining, the snow and ice glisten like a millions of tiny diamonds. There are the sounds of skate blades on the ice and the laughter of children and adults alike. Suddenly, a small warmth begins to grow inside you building in intensity, spreading throughout your body, and thawing your frozen fingers and toes. In seconds you are as warm as if you were standing in front of a fire. You then realize why you do it. It is for the love of winter and Winterlude. The chance to get out with family and friends and celebrate a winter carnival admired from far and wide.
This is what living in Ottawa, and being Canadian, is all about. And with that thought you know you will be back next year!