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9 inches of good ice by December 30, 2010.
9 inches of good ice by December 30, 2010.

Preview: "Skate the Lake" on Big Rideau Lake

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Marco Smits grew up skating outdoors in the Netherlands before he married a Canadian and settled in the rural lake country of Portland, Ontario.

Smits thought the area's excellent natural ice should do more than just hold up ice fishing huts. So, back in 2004, he inspired a bunch of hearty volunteers to clear a one kilometer oval track and launch a noteworthy community sporting event.

The 7th International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon - affectionately nicknamed 'Skate the Lake' - is back for 2011, after taking a breather over the Vancouver Olympics.

This Saturday, January 29, skaters of all ages and abilities will descend on tiny Portland for 5, 10 or 25 kilometer events.

Ottawa correspondent Lucy Martin caught up with Smits by phone to hear how this year's preparations are coming along.

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A view of the oval on Big Rideau Lake. (photos: Portland Outdoors)

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