Written by the Warrior
According to the National Capital Commission of Canada, “Each winter, the historic Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, becomes the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest skating rink. The Skateway winds its way through the heart of Ottawa (the capital of Canada), over a total length of 7.8 kilometres, stretching from downtown to Dows Lake… Typically, the skating season runs from January until late February. In February, many activities take place on the Skateway during Winterlude… There are five rest areas along the Skateway. They offer various services and amenities, including change rooms, washrooms, fire pits, food and beverage vendors, and picnic tables…”
Even though, I know that as an Ottawa-ian, I am so lucky to have such an amazing facility right in the heart of the city – and not to mention the fact that it’s free, I must shamefully admit that I haven’t been on the canal for 10 years.
I am kind of a fair weather skater, I only get out there when it’s not too cold or too windy, or too warm that everything is melting, plus I don’t like crowds. So, while close to a million skaters take to the canal each year, I have not been one of them – until this season.
I took the ice with the Dragon and the Tiger Princess on the first weekend of Winterlude this year, when That Guy was down and out with a man cold.
They hadn’t been keen on the idea in the first place, and the thought of skating many kilometers was kind of daunting to them – it’s a 15.6km loop. But once they stepped onto the ice, like true children of the north, they were as happy as a clam.
Me, on the other hand, not so much.
The first thing that I noticed was just how horribly tight my skates were. Have they always been this tight? Or did my feet grow? Clearly the socks I was wearing at the time were not the same ones that I wore when I bought the skates. My feet hurt so badly that I limped for about 500 meters before succumbing to ditching the socks and skating bare feet.
Then, I made the same horrible realization as all those who recently dusted off their skates for the first time in a long time, that “Holy crap, I need to get my skates sharpened”. I know this, because the only line that was longer than the line to get BeaverTails was the skate sharpening line.
And so my first day back on the canal was a series of shocking revelations, from how expensive everything was now, to “what? You need to pay with cash?!”, to how incredibly useful sharpened skates are, to just how badly out of shape I was.
But the most shocking revelation was, that, despite everything, I was incredibly happy to be back and that I missed this quintessential Ottawa experience of skating on the longest rink in the world – even though we only managed 8 km.