This tale began on yesterday’s (Feb 1) blog. Read that one first, if you haven’t already.
It was a sparkling clear and sunny winter's day. I was dazzled by the strikingly brilliant rainbow of colored clothing worn by the skiers as they practiced their stride in the field out in front of the Ranch of the Viking Lodge. Then I was struck by a thought: these skiers are all wearing skin-tight Spandex racing clothes, and there are a lot more skiers here than Fern had led me to believe. A mild tremor, (3.0 on the Richter Scale) rumbled through my self confidence.
That was followed by a Richter Scale 4.3 after-shock, when I took notice of all the skiers in the parking lot with torches and little irons, applying different colors of wax to different sections of their skis. I found this quite interesting, since I had never seen ski wax before. I thought it curious that a person would spend so much effort putting wax on the bottom of a ski, when they could just buy a pair of "no wax" skis, and just be able to "Snap them on and go.”
I found Fern, who once again said, "Good for you, Dave", and added that they would be starting racers "one at a time, with a 10 second interval in between each racer. She had already registered me in the Adult Male Category, and all I had to do was check in.
An announcer called out that all racers should get into line according to their category. The Adult Males were to be started after the Teenage Males and they were to be followed by the Jack Rabbits, which was a club of little kids that were just learning to ski. I took my place in the line and was surprised to discover that there were at least 10 other Adult Males, all of which were wearing colorful aerodynamic body suits. My confidence continued to implode.
The moment of truth was rapidly approaching as the Adult Males slowly neared Al, the local pharmacist, whose job it was to start each racer. I thought that maybe I should come up with some kind of race strategy, and this is the strategy that I came up with: I would ski as fast as I could around the field in front of the Ranch of the Vikings Lodge, and then once the trail entered the bush, out of sight of the spectators, I could slow down to my normal ski pace and enjoy the race.
Before I had a chance to critique my strategy, Al yelled, "GO!", brought down his hand, and I shuffled off down the track, as fast as I could, along the edge of the field. I hadn't gone more than 75 metres when I heard a voice behind me yell, "Track", I wondered what he meant, then he shouted louder, "TRACK". I got the distinct feeling that he was upset with my speed and wanted to go around me, he didn't seem to want to get out of the set track himself to go around me, so I stepped off the track to let him by.
"Get off the track when some yells,'Track'," he told me as he whisked by me. I am a quick learner, and by the time the remaining Adult Males had passed me, I was reacting to the "Track" signal, like a veteran skier. I was beginning, however, to suspect a flaw in my race strategy. I was only halfway across the field, and my body was already sending me signals of an eminent collapse.
My heart was pounding, my legs were screaming, and my throat was felt raw from the rapid breathing. I couldn't maintain this sprint-like pace too much longer. It was better that I gear down a bit and endure some ridicule than to expire in the middle of the field, so I slowed my shuffle, and after what seemed like a week and a half, I finally made it to the cover of the willows and alder.
I immediately reduced my speed again and continued along the twists and turns of the trail through the brush. At least now, I could nurse my ego back to health and enjoy the race. Then, once again from behind me, came the "track" command, this time in a higher octave. I instinctively stepped aside, and let the diminutive gang of Jackrabbits ski by. I took solace in the thought that at least there was no Infant Category in the race.
Surely now, my troubles were over. I rounded a corner and discovered to my dismay, that the trail headed straight up the base of Bell Mountain. This was the steepest incline I had ever encountered in my short skiing career, but I didn't panic. Everyone else, even the Jackrabbits, had evidently made it up the slope, so I tried to think good thoughts, and I began the climb.
It was extremely difficult to achieve any gain in elevation without loosing it in a back slide. The slope seemed to be too much for the little grooves on the bottom of my "No Wax" skis to cope with, which gave up their grip each time I advanced a ski forward. I knew how to herringbone up a slope, but there was no evidence that anyone else had used the technique to climb the hill, so dammit, neither was I.
Instead, I developed my own climbing technique, I call it the " pull and prop" method. Here's how it works: you advance one ski forward, then using that side’s pole as a prop, you pull that side of your body forward until your weight is over that ski, while at the same time your other arm uses every remaining ounce of strength to brace against a back- slide with the other pole.
I successfully pulled and propped my way halfway up the slope, then I was forced by exhaustion to stop to allow my arms and shoulders to recover. Unfortunately, it only took a second of relaxation of my prop arm, for the pull of gravity to send me skiing backwards down the slope, until one of the back ends of my skis dug into the snow, causing me to somersault backwards, which continued until I finally came to rest in a tangled pile at the bottom of the hill.
I had to take off my skis to get back into the standing position again. I brushed the snow from my clothes with my toque, snapped the skis back on, and herring-boned up the hill. I was beginning to seriously question the sales pitch I had been given about "No Wax" skis.
The trail leveled out at the top of the hill and the vegetation changed from brush to a dark cedar and spruce forest. I plodded along and for the first time during the race I was enjoying the scenery. Several times the trail forked, there was no signs or persons to give me direction, so I just chose what appeared to be the most travelled fork and proceeded through the forest. It seemed I was alone in the universe, but I was happy to have the solitude and quiet.
My ski race will conclude on tomorrow’s blog.