Thursday, March 3, 2011

Penguin at the Derby

The Stowe Derby had always been on my radar. Last year I saw Justin Cox's Derby tee shirt at a cross race and began peppering him with questions about it like I was a 13 year old girl talking to someone who had been to a Justin Bieber concert. That Derby came and went without me attending. I wasn't ready to leap into the unknown. But I spent considerable internet hours checking it out.

This season I've been helping out with the local high school nordic team. It's been a great way to get out every day on beautiful trails and exercise and get some time with the kids outside of the classroom. At one of our early February practices Les, the head coach, circled up all the coaches to see if we'd be game for a team entry into the Derby. That was the kicker I needed. Game.

We made the trek up to Stowe from Leb at 6 in the morning arriving at Stowe High School around 8. 10:29 would be our start time. We got our bibs (#293 for me) and shwag and took the bus to the mountain. Since we had some time to kill, we hung in the lodge. At 9:55 we took the chairlift up. It felt very strange to be dangling skate skis off a chairlift, a first for me. The top was blustery. I warmed up with a few uphill spurts and made my way towards the start around 10:22.

"Number 293! You missed your start!"

What!? The next wave was lined up ready to go. The starter just started yelling for me to "Go! Go! Go!". I hung a second to try and see the team. Les had actually already gone down and I hadn't seen him. Bill was still dropping his bag off and Chrissy, the final teammate, was hanging back a bit. With the starter yelling at us to go, I began the Stowe Derby rather frantically. Don't start the Stowe Derby frantically, start cautiously.

Conditions were atrocious. Now that I survived I would call them thrilling. However, I remember being wide eyed and chanting "shit, shit, shit" whenever I could get my lips to move. There was a lot of fluff that had fallen and was still falling. The lines around corners were tiiiigghht. And only one line per corner because the berms were so big. I ate it a few times. Usually, when there was a camera or a crowd nearby. I figured out later that the crowds and cameras were at their respective locations because of the spills.

The downhill was done and over in an eternal 11 minutes and change. Then began the long trudge into Stowe village. The trail was "mashed potatoes" to borrow Les's term. I'd push and lift my ski and move a foot. Only 7 miles to go! I passed a fair amount of people, but got buzzed by a few serious skiers. I fell on a bridge, trying to V2 across, when a tip got caught. Of course there was a line of cars backed up right by the bridge because when I get humiliated lots of people should know. It was a long trudge. And it was awesome at the same time.

The thought I kept in my head for most of the race was how excited I would be to see my wife. She drove up later in the day to watch the race. I was prepared to tell her how much her coming up meant to me, that I understood I am not an easy husband to deal with, what with all my racing and competitive jumpiness, yet she's always supportive of me and my racing and training. I was going to tell her all of this and this is what came out:

Anyhow. I'll be back next year. 134th in the long course skate. Not quite what I was hoping for. I got beat by a certain nemesis, so it will be a long 364 days, but I will be back.

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