This weekend was the "Tour de Rumford," and the two weekend races were basically the biggest nordic races other than Nationals to ever happen on the east coast, with 400+ competitors on both Saturday and Sunday. And unlike a cross race, only about 10% of these racers could be considered anything less than hardcore.
So that's a recipe for a pretty serious beatdown, if you ask me. But let's start with the good part.
Friday was a freestyle sprint relay, and unlike the weekend races was lightly attended. After my first partner bailed at the last second I ended up with Josh Plog, who skied well enough that I was the slower link on the team, but only by a little. So we were a good team.
The course was a 1.2k lap with a pretty long climb in the middle. I was on the opening leg (six legs, with each skier skiing 3) and I ended up randomly assigned to the front row. Thanks to my cross experience, I recognized this as a great opportunity to be that guy who gets the holeshot on the first corner and then blows up. So I grabbed some sponsor time (if only I had sponsors...) while leading the pack around first corner, through the straight and back under the bridge. Once the climb started, a steady stream of elite juniors passed me. I have some video of this, and thankfully I got out of sight of the camera before the real explosion happened. I'll get the video up soon.
Anyway, I finished the first lap in around 6th or 7th, then lost another place on my next lap (the team's 3rd) to push us back to 8th place. Josh got that place back for us, and I hung onto it on my last lap, and then Josh brought us in in 7th out of 16 teams. I was a little disappointed that we couldn't compete with the top guys, but I had no idea what was coming....
Saturday was a 10k classic on a 1.7k snowmaking loop. 6 laps, cross style, except it was interval start every 30 seconds. And my number was 186... so I started one hour and 33 minutes after the first skier. In fact, by the time I was done, almost 2000 racer-laps had been skied. Let me just say... the course was not exactly in good condition. The hills were torn up sugary snow, the tracks were obliterated on every corner, but the real problem was the pole track, which was utterly pulverized.
But that's not really a good excuse, because plenty of people starting back when I did had decent results. I thought my race went ok, but I neglected to factor in that I was racing at the back of the pack with all the scrubs like myself. The D1 college guys and all the good juniors were already done with their cooldowns by the time I start, so I didn't get the reality check of them smoking me on the course. When I finished, I figured I had done ok -- when I checked the results, I was 139th out of 184 finishers. Whoops.
Sunday was more of the same, 10k skate with girls going first. Spent an hour freezing watching the girls race, then trying to warm up, eat and hydrate, finally getting on the course at 3:03 PM with number 162 this time. Standing on the start line, my excuses were plentiful.
But there was one reason to be optimistic. My brother showed up with a friend of his, and they had a megaphone. And they were on the hardest part of the course, and they were being jackasses. They said stupid things to me, which made me smile and ski faster, which made me grimace and ski slower as soon as I got out of their sight. I had seen the megaphone pulled out at cross races before, but I dismissed it as a silly gimmick -- I was so wrong. First off, anything you say into a megaphone is louder than people cheering, and because you don't have to strain your voice to yell it comes through a lot clearer. I could hear that damn thing loud and clear for like 80 yards in both directions. Secondly, it's way easier to be funny talking into a megaphone, because you can vary your tone and be sarcastic, which is pretty much impossible if you have to scream at the top of your lungs.
In summary, megaphones are great in the hands of anyone who is shameless and clever. I don't want to name any names, but I can think of one guy who needs to bring a megaphone to a Verge race next year.
Oh, right, the race. I hurt a lot, but I did a little better, 133rd out of 187 finishers. I can't believe the day has come where I was happy with 133rd place.
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