Woulda coulda shoulda. I blew the kick wax – er, klister – but in a different way.
In a Subaru with a failing clutch, I went on dawn patrol to Notchview for the Bread and Jam race. Several years ago, I’d skied a couple of skate races here, but never managed to make it to the Bread and Jam until this year. This classic technique race features a prize table laden with… you guessed it, artisanal bread and homemade jam.
At the start, it was overcast, and colder than most people had anticipated. We went off from a field by the lodge where the multiple tracks were set just a little too close together. Shoulder to shoulder, we were constantly in danger of stabbing someone else’s foot or ski until we went up a little rise into the woods.
It was the usual mad scramble as 50 people funneled from four tracks down to one. In the close confines of the start, I chose caution over aggressiveness and settled into the train, farther back than I would’ve liked. The field strung out a bit on the first downhill and subsequent climb, which spat us onto a windy field. There was virtually no flagging here, and the flat light made it really difficult to see the margins of the trail. Which would have been OK if the trail was straight, but there were S curves downhill back into the woods.
With only two small orange cones for guidance, I took this downhill conservatively and wasn’t surprised that people pulled away from me. I figured that being local, they knew the race course better. I scooted by Dave Birrell, who was collecting himself after a hard fall, and kept going.
At the base of the winding climb in the woods, I went by an Amherst College skier, chasing a Lenox High School kid and a guy close to my age. Over the crest, there was an intersection with no flagging. We all paused. WTF, which way? Luckily we guessed correctly and went straight.
On the climbs, I gained on the people ahead of me, but the accordion stretched back out on any kind of a downhill. Weird. I should closed on them, especially the kid from Lenox as I outweighed him by 40 pounds. Double poling like crazy, I could at best maintain the gap.
On the second lap, I figured that I’d blown the glide wax. It was five degrees colder than I’d anticipated, and I just didn’t have the glide I’m accustomed to. But for a change, I’d nailed the kick wax. Or so I thought.
Nothing to do but dig deep and push the pace. I double poled the last downhill and turned to the finish, and 20 feet from the line, Dave Birrell blasted past me. As we caught our breath and chatted, he suggested that even though my skis weren’t grabbing, it wasn’t bad glide wax, but instead klister that slowed me down. Lesson: have more than one brand of klister in the box so you can pick and choose.
Despite my lackluster glide, I felt like I’d finally put together a complete race. I was able to go hard and my body felt as good as it’s felt all winter, this winter of not being quite right. I can’t ask for anything more than that.