I think I make the same joke here every year -- "each Ice Weasels must be more difficult to promote than the previous year." This year that "joke" hit new heights... here's the story.
So we lost our original venue. Five years of increasingly drunken and muddy farm-cross took its toll, although it was not the landowner that requested we leave -- it was the town. White Barn Farm, we'll miss you. It took us five year to nail it, but I think we really did manage to put on the best possible cross race you could do at that tiny field, hemmed in by an ever-rising tide of suburbia.
But it didn't matter, it was gone and The Weasel needed a new home.
We tried to move the race to Adams Farm in Walpole, a venue EVEN CLOSER to Boston, which had just put on a successful mountain bike race this summer.
To make a long story short, the difficulty of getting a permit to use Adams Farm and our perception of that difficulty turned out to be entirely mismatched. By the time we realized the scope of the hurdles between us and venue permission, what had initially looked like a cakewalk had turned into Mt Everest, and while there's a chance we could have scaled it -- we wouldn't have known until December 3rd.
So I started looking for alternate venues. We had three weeks.
This is where Paul Boudreau came in.
Twitter Paul is the king of "alternate cyclocross venues," having successfully waged a half-year war with some residents of Gloucester for the right to continue putting on the biggest bike race in New England in their backyard -- and while he might have won that battle, like any decent general, he had a variety of exit strategies for what to do in the event that battle was lost.
So that's how we ended up at Grandview Farm, one of the venues on Paul's retreat path from Gloucester. I first talked to the landowner 19 days before race day; by the time we reached an agreement, it was 12 days before the event. We moved the race officially, gave everyone a chance at a refund (about 8% of racers took this option), and started planning anew.
Then the weather started deteriorating. At first, the long-range forecast showed signs of a Thursday storm, and I was excited; there's almost nothing as fun as a proper snowy cyclocross race. But as race day approached, the storm moved to Saturday, and the weather networks started hyping it up as a Noreaster. I had visions of 300 cars marooned in snow drifts in that field.
And the forecast high for race day kept dropping; it was predicted at 39 on Monday, but down to 22 by the day before the race -- almost 20 degrees below the seasonal average.
Our plan of holding the race in the middle of an empty, windy, frigid field started to look problematic.
We called tent companies. They didn't even want to rent to us, the weather was so bad. I signed a contract saying I was responsible for all damage to the tent; we watched the forecast. I realized my Saturday night might consist of camping in the field and clearing snow off the tent hourly to avoid the five-figure replacement cost.
The tent rental guys decided to work Saturday and break the tent down at 4pm instead.
We built much of the course on the Thursday before the race. I brought some tools to pound stakes into frozen ground, but it was largely unnecessary. We ran out of stakes, but it's ok -- we had a deal to pick up 100+ stakes from ECV that night, and I bought 50 more at my local Tractor Supply Company.
We returned Friday to find an additional night below freezing that rendered the ground impenetrable, and every stepin had to have its hole pre-hammered. If JD Bilodeau hadn't loaned me some tools for this (along with a generator), we'd have lost at least an hour going to buy something for this purpose.
Around this time my hubris with regards to volunteers ("don't worry about it, we're fine, show up if you want") started to rear its ugly head as it was now midday Friday with just myself, Kevin and Thom trying to complete a 1.5-mile cross course.
Toby Wells and Rob Roeslma showed up more-or-less unsolicited and saved our asses. Toby was there to deliver the podium he made and wouldn't take any money for. Rob was there because he follows me on twitter, I guess.
We finished the course with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare.
Somewhere in the middle of this I realized my EMT plan had never come to fruition.
I asked the internet for an EMT and 30 minutes later, Sharon bailed us out.
Noticing a theme, yet?
I realized we had been bringing course material to the venue for three days in all of our vehicles, and were going to have to clean the whole thing up in 90 minutes between the last race and sunset, during a snowstorm.
Chandler gave us his truck to use.
I needed someone to score the races in frigid temperatures, staying stone-cold sober and focused for hours on end.
Christin wouldn't even let me try to find someone else to do it.
We didn't have enough snow fence, but the Goguens brought some.
I didn't have a tent with walls for timing, but it's ok, Kurt Johnson let me use his.
We weren't able to track down our (six!) kegs far enough in advance, but no problem, Chip Baker spent half his Friday driving around to get them for us.
We didn't get our barriers until 7am Saturday morning, and we didn't get them into the #@$%$ frozen ground until forty-five minutes before the first race, but it was worth it because Dan Barrett made us the best looking barriers in the history of cyclocross.
I lived at Ryan Kelly's house for three days and he personally worked a 12-hour day with me on race day, setting up, announcing, and tearing down, for which I repaid him for with... um... a loaf of bread and a bottle of Russian dressing.
On race day, every single time I turned around someone asked me if there was anything I needed help with. Lesli Cohen, Ian Schon, Matt Sousa and Ford Murphy were there from 7am to 4pm.
At race's end, with the sun going down and a snowstorm barreling down on us, a small army of racers stayed around to help us tear down the course, clean up the trash, and load Chandler's truck in record time.
For the first time in Ice Weasels history, I was too cracked from promoting it to even try racing. Instead I "relaxed" during the elite race by attempting to announce it with Ryan.
The next morning, I looked at the internet, and Vickie had completely broken it.
Christin and I spent the entire Sunday sorting course material in Ryan's barn, driving 4 hours all over Massachusetts returning said course material, and posting results.
And you know what? It might have been the greatest four days of my life. But I hope I never have to do it again.
Thanks to everyone out there who helped us, thanks to everyone who made the decision to come out and race despite the venue change and extreme temps, and thanks to Grandview farm for letting our merry band of misfits take over the place for a weekend.
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