Helen Smith's First Hand Account of BC Race
Thinking about entering….
Entering the catamount challenge really required no thinking whatsoever. It’s a no-brainer. After hearing about it from Liz, and looking at pictures online, I thought this would be a really fun event to gain some perspective and some fitness. Of course, I needed a partner. Who better to ask than Rose Long- whom we all know as the craziest of the crazies out there. If anyone would do this with me, it would be her. Also, considering last-year’s participants, (Eric Tremble, Justin Beckwith) I knew this race would be hard-core. I want to be hard-core. So, I entered the race on Skireg, regretting that $50 I would never see again just slightly. Little did I know this race would be worth every frickin’ penny.
I decided that we needed to do some reconnaissance skiing to figure out what Rose and I were up against. I consider myself a pretty good classic skier, and I felt pretty good about racing. Rose and I skied for two days on the Catamount Trail, climbing from Bolton to the top and back down the Bolton side both days. The snow was great, lots of powder, and it was EASY even! I was feeling good, and I think so was Rose. We knew our light touring equipment was going to work. I had light Karhu skis with a race classic binding and my Rossi X-ium classic race boots, which I love. Rose had a similar setup.
It’s 5:30pm on Saturday, the day before the race. Rose calls me from the Skirack. “Helen, EVERYONE says we need metal edges or we are going to DIE.” I freaked! It had rained, it was icy, and the conditions were going to be nothing like the week before when we tested our equipment. I don’t own skis with metal edges, I don’t own AT or telemark or backcountry equipment. I was always one of those “Nor-Dorks” through and through, looking for the lightest and fastest equipment. Ok back to Rose. At this point I am yelling at her that I have no choice and the Skirack closes at 6pm and why the heck didn’t Jake suggest this to me earlier and blah, blah, blah, I’m so mad because I hate last-minute changes! I race down to the Skirack, and Rose and I decide that our light touring equipment is the way to go. After all, the real race is going up, right? So we should get up faster than anyone else!
This part is easy. Get up early. Eat breakfast. Get in the car. Buy bagel and coffee for second breakfast. Pick up Rose, pick up Eric Tremble. Get to Trapps. Chit-chat with people (Sam Von Trapp!!!!!- so exciting!) Get to the start line.
Woah baby. Things started out well, then I started to get tired. Rose wanted to go faster but I definitely could NOT GO ANY FASTER. Then things got worse as the trail steepened and got skinnier. My trusty Karhus no longer gripped, and I was running out of room to herringbone. So, I took off my skis and tried to take large steps as fast as I could. I’m light, so I didn’t punch through. I did see tracks from a pair of S-Labs, though (Can’t miss the double bar imprint). It must have been Eric Carter, from the UVM ski team, who tried to do this on his race equipment. Wow.He must have been having a tough time, because like Rose and I, he didn’t have kicker skins. They were key. What was great is how many people I saw on the trail! There were touring people that we passed, race people that we passed, and we were passed by racers as well! You could ski a whole traditional Nordic ski race and not see this many people. Traversing the top was INFURIATING, as the trail wound back and forth, and when you thought you might be at the top, the trail kept going up!
Rose and I got to the top, and there were two ski patrol sitting there, looking as cute as can be in their little red coats, taking in the sun and the view. The vista was incredible. I was thinking that I could not decide if I was in heaven or hell. My heart was pounding, my legs were shaky, my feet and shoulders hurt, but the sun, snow, and smiles from the patrol made me feel as though there was no better place to be in the world. I took a quick look around, asked who was leading the race, (Eric Tremble, YAY!) and took off (ski’s still off!) down the trail.
I was a bit scared coming down, and spent some time on my butt, steering with my fists. Rose too, I think, but she was behind me and didn’t want to go first. I think that she pushed me up, and I pushed her down. I was so thankful for her presence the whole time. Coming down on the groomed trail from Bryant Cabin was so nice, I finally felt like I was racing! Finishing was great too, with the spectators and people on the Bolton trails cheering.
I took a quick shower, and grabbed some food and water. I could have spent the rest of the day and night at Bolton talking about the race with everyone else who did it. Everyone was so excited, and everyone had a different story to tell, even though we all skied the same course. It is not often that you feel so happy and tired at the same time. Not to mention the prizes. Everyone got one (some got two!) and the food really hit the spot. I think this race and the Lake Placid Loppet get the prize for best après-ski spread!
The day after…..
A little sore, but not too bad! I think that this race is a real challenge, and the name really fits. The participants and organizers made me feel lucky to live in Vermont, where outdoor activity, fitness, and health are really valued. I think that this race is a different experience than any other Nordic ski race, and it was obvious that you don’t necessarily need race experience to do it. It’s all about toughness and endurance. I am looking forward to doing it next year, and I hope that more and more people sign up, as it was an unforgettable experience. But next year, I will OWN a pair of kick-ass kicker skins.