This weekend was, as all of New England knows, the now annual UVM Canival/Trapp’s Eastern Cup weekend. With a college carnival, eastern cup, and JOQ combined, there are always a lot of skiers at this one. This year only Saturday was combined, with the college kids racing by themselves on Friday, and the eastern cup operating by itself on Sunday. So we all raced Saturday and Sunday, in a 10k skate and 15k classic. The skate race went well enough. I got caught by Ben Koons after a kilometer and then Pat at 2k, but skied the rest of the way with these guys. That was nice enough, except when we went by the Dartmouth crowd, all of whom would cheer for the two guys with me and tell them to put the hammer down and “drop this loser.” Real nice. I guess college spirit dies slow.
Anyways, it’s Sunday where the real action came about. After a perfect blue sky day Saturday the skies opened up and dumped 6-10 inches of heavy wet snow all over northern Vermont. Trapps did a great job packing it down and grooming it so it was hardly noticeable when we got there, aside from some tricky waxing. But that heavy new stuff has a capacity for suction. I had forgotten about this until about 1k into the race, as I was double poling across a flat. Then my memory was jogged by a sound almost exactly matching the sound made at 0:23 of this song. My handle, still attached to my hand, had lost it’s pole. A bunch of things raced through my head. First, I tried to use it anyways, like a phantom limb. That didn’t work. Then I figured I’d just hang onto the handle, because as any rollerskier knows, a good handle and fresh strap is worth its weight in gold. Or at least, worth at least 30 dollars. Then I realized I would probably want to put a different pole in that hand at some point, given there was 14k left and my poles almost always help me ski faster. So I ditched it. The next thing I realized was that I was in the most isolated part of the course and I had the biggest hill coming up quick. I needed a pole asap. Fortunately a parent was down at the bottom of the hill and I yelled for a pole. He got ready to hand me one when I yelled “left hand!” He started to look and see which was left and which was right, but then I realized it might be too late so I yelled “Either side-doesn’t matter!” He threw it out in front of me as I passed him, I fumbled it once and caught it. It was the wrong side, but it was also the right length. I skied up the hill holding on hard, and things were ok. On the ensuing downhill, I realized this pole strap wasn’t going to work for me and I’d need another one at some point. As I came to the top of the next hill, at 3k, I yelled to the crowd at the corner I needed a left pole. I gave them plenty of warning and Will Sweetser was there with a pole. Pole number 3. I grabbed it, took one look at the pink tape on the top, and realized this wasn’t going to work either. At 6′1″, I need a pretty long pole. And usually long poles don’t have pink tape. My suspicions were confirmed as soon as I tried to use this thing. It was 140 cm at most. I used it for a few awkward strides before seeing another group of coaches and yelling for a left hand pole once again. I was getting pretty good at that by this point. A coach came out of the crowd with a pole, stuck it in front of me, and said “It’s a 160, left side.” That was music to my ears. I strapped this thing on and knew pole number 4 was going to be just right. I skied out the rest of the race with this pole, even though people offered me poles for the next 7k. I considered switching at times because I thought I’d have a chance at hitting double digits if I tried, but decided against it.
Now I thought that once I got the last pole I was done with the fiasco, but I was wrong. Upon finishing, I realized I had taken poles from folks I didn’t know and traded them poles of other people I didn’t know. Plus, I didn’t even know where my own pole was, or who’s pole I finished with. That took some serious figuring, but with the help of the announcer I got everything sorted, and each pole was returned to it’s owner.
Days like this remind me of how much help people are willing to give when a little thing goes wrong. So thank you: the Bowdoin parent for the first pole, Zoe Erdman for the short pole, Will Sweetser for giving me the pole, Tim Weston for the last pole, Will O’Brien for finding my pole, Pete Davis (announcer) for helping me find the owners, Tim Reynolds for helping me find Zoe Erdman, Tim Whiton for helping me find the Bowdoin parent, Marc Gilbertson for offering me his poles to cool down with, and any of the other folks who offered their poles after I had found a fit.