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Race ready

This year’s Sleeping Giant Loppet will have two number one bibs in honour of a couple of skiers who have participated in all 33 races.
ROn Lappage, left, and Guy Latimer (Jamie Smith)

This year’s Sleeping Giant Loppet will have two number one bibs in honour of a couple of skiers who have participated in all 33 races.

Ron Lappage, along with Guy Latimer, will wear the number one bib March 6 when the 33rd annual race kicks off at Sleeping Giant Park. Lappage, a retired Kinesiology professor, said he joined the race in 1978 because some friends were competing and he wanted to go along. 33 years later, Lappage said the race has become his "annual endurance test" and he enters no matter what. Over the years he hasn’t let illness, weather or broken equipment stop him from skiing the Sleeping Giant.

"It doesn’t seem that long ago that we started but 33 years is a long time," Lappage said. "Come hell or high water I’m always out there."

Lappage said the first year of the race, a v-shaped gorge stood between racers and the finish line. The gorge was so steep that skiers had to take of their wooden skis and climb down the gorge to keep going. Another year, a fellow skier stepped on Lappage’s pole and broke it in the middle of the race. He had to run back to his car, grab another pole and get a ride back to where he had stopped the race before finishing.

For Lappage, the race isn’t so much about the competition as completing it.

"I think there’s a distance for everybody to try and there are always people at your level to ski along with," Lappage said. " I just try to do the bet I can every year."

Retired teacher Guy Latimer started competing as a challenge to himself to see if he could ski 40 kilometres. Over the years, Latimer said it’s about seeing how fast he can do it. It’s also become a family affair for Latimer as his children have won the race and his wife has placed second a few times. He said his personal best has been 10 th place so far.

"I’m the one that’s done the poorest in it but I’m also the one that’s been in it the longest too so I guess that’s my claim to fame," Latimer said.

In 1988, Latimer said there were 10 people who had competed in all 10 races. The route used to start on Pass Lake but unseasonably warm temperatures made the ice unsafe that year. By the end of the race, the temperature had soarred to over 16 C making it the warmest race Latimer has ever seen.

"It was mashed potato snow coming in. People were coming in in shorts and halter tops it was an amazing year," Latimer said.

Both Lappage and Latimer say they want to keep skiing in the race for as long as possible.

"I’m not going to stop something will stop me I suspect," Latimer said.

Loppet coordinator Peter Gallagher said this year’s track is in fabulous shape. He said crews have been working out at Sleeping Giant all winter and with a new groomer coming in next week, the track will be hard and fast, perfect for racing.

"I guarantee any skier that’s in town and they’re looking at gray icy snow banks that’s not what you’ll see at the park," said Gallagher. "The skiing is great."

The Sleeping Giant Loppet had just under 800 participants last year from 4 to 84 years old. Organizers hope to get 1,000 people this year.

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