You have all noticed it, right? Bright sunshine? Melting snow? The fresh smell of a winter’s worth of dog poop thawing out all at once? That smell of poop can only mean two things. First, Spring is almost here. And second, the good folks at Febreeze should have done their homework before naming a scent “Alaskan Springtime.”
Well, maybe three things: spring, poop, and the Tour of Anchorage. The Tour is an annual point-to-point race through the middle of Anchorage and, in my mind, marks the end of the ski season. Not that we’re done skiing after the Tour. Heck, we’re not even done racing (see http:// http://www.skan24.blogspot.com). Even in a relatively poor snow year like we’ve had this year we can still look forward to groomed trails at least into April. But nevertheless, with the Tour done, the ski season is done. This is probably a good thing, as it minimizes the risk of my again sabotaging C’s skis.
As you may or may not know, cross country skiing is a mix of skill, fitness, and wax. It is not a simple matter of purchasing skinny skis and starting to slog, you have to prepare those skis. And not just once, but (ideally, albeit rarely in practice) multiple times over the course of a season in order to match your skis to conditions. Cycling fans may equate “preparation” with doping, but in this case preparation means waxing. It is a ritual that can be taken to an extreme, but even at its simplest requires picking an appropriate glide wax for the temperatures. Pick the wrong wax and you can turn an otherwise fast pair of skis into long strips of Velcro that grab and hold on to passing snow crystals like a child to his mother’s knee on the first day of kindergarten.
Luckily, for big events, the major wax companies each have local representatives who pay attention to the weather and provide wax recommendations with the expectation that we, the skiing public, will dutifully purchase what they, our corporate overlords, say we should. The Tour always takes place on a Sunday, and this year, as in previous years, Saturday was in part given over to waxing. I searched on line for Swix’s recommendations. C furrowed her brow at what I found. “Purple?” she asked (for convenience, wax manufacturers use different colors for different temperature ranges).
“Purple,” I said with confidence.
Note that C and I may disagree on the details of what transpired next. I make no pretense that I am providing a balanced accounting here. This is my blog. If C wants her own forum, she can start her own blog or respond in the comments. Nevertheless, I assure you that what follows is exactly how it went down. After finding the wax recommendation, I announced that I would go to our local ski shop to dutifully buy wax consistent with the recommendations of the professionals. I turned to C. “My dear,” I said, “I am prepared to leave our home and drive some distance to spend our hard earned cash on PRECISELY THE WAX THAT WE WERE JUST DISCUSSING. Would you like to come? I remind you, this will be your opportunity to PROVIDE VALUABLE INPUT INTO THE WAX THAT WE HAVE AVAILABLE WHEN, LATER TODAY, IT IS TIME TO WAX OUR SKIS.”
C was sitting in front of a very large TV that I did not even know we owned. She looked up over a bag of pork rinds and let out a short snort of air through her nose. “Can’t you see I’m watching my stories? What do I want to be leaving the house for? Just get on out and leave me in peace.” She then turned the volume up, her attention divided between the screen and rinds, my entreaty forgotten.
I took my leave, bought some wax, and came home. C had polished off the pork rinds and appeared to be well into a forty-ounce bottle of cheap malt liquor, perhaps her second as I did not remember the empty in the corner being there when I left. I began setting up what passes for a waxing bench in our house, but is really just a couple of clamps put on our kitchen table and a bunch of newspapers that we hope will capture the mess. I again turned to C. “My dear,” I began, “I am now going to wax my skis. As you know, since we looked at the Swix wax recommendation together and I then proceeded to leave the house for the sole purpose of buying wax consistent with that recommendation, I will be using PRECISELY THE WAX WE HAVE DISCUSSED. Did you want to wax your own skis, or did you want me to wax your skis as well? Please be advised that if I wax your skis, I will be applying PRECISLEY THE WAX WE DISCUSSED to your skis as well as mine.”
C, roused by my voice, shook her head to try and clear the malt-liquor haze. “Where have you been?” she asked. “What? Wax? Yeah, whatever, just wax my damn skis and shut up. And get me another forty while you’re up.” Her chin fell to her chest, a half eaten piece of fried-chicken forgotten in her lap.
I proceeded to wax both of our race day skis. I spent hours, ironing, scraping, polishing, back and forth along the grain, creating a canvas of speed and performance, the base saturated with perfection and love. I took the skis out and walked them a few blocks to Chester Creek, a portion of the trail used in the Tour. I held the skis aloft and cried, “Behold!” The snow cowered, individual crystals trampling one another in their attempt to flee from the power contained in the skis, the perfect wax.
Later that night, as C woke up and began scouring the kitchen for left over pizza or a can of Spaghetti-Os, she did thank me for waxing.
“Thanks for waxing my skis,” she said. “Now, what did you put on them?”
Color rushed to C’s cheeks. “Purple? Purple?! You put purple on my skis?!”
“Yes, the wax recommended by Swix, precisely as we discussed on multiple occasions over the course of the day.”
“Let me see that recommendation,” C roared. I took her to the computer, and pulled up the Swix recommendation I had been relying on (which, by the by, is located at http://www.tourofanchorage.com/2009/SwixWax.pdf). It took C no time at all to notice what you, the blog reader, may have also noticed right away just from the hyperlink.
“This recommendation is from 2009!”
“Ummm,” I managed.
“2009!” C repeated. Suffice to say, over the course of the discussion that followed, C made it abundantly clear that if it had been up to her, she would NOT have used purple wax. Chances are good I will not be given the opportunity to wax her skis again. In my defense, I didn’t even know they had an internet in 2009, much less would have been posting wax recommendations.
Despite what I might characterize as an insignificant wax snafu, the Tour was a good day on skis for both C and I. The race is run at three different distances: 25k, 40k, and 50k. You may recall that C and I have swapped back and forth between the 40k and 25k over the last couple of years depending on how we individually judged our fitness and ability at the time to ski the longer distance without breaking into tears. C’s work schedule kept her off of skis for a good portion of January and February, so she slotted herself in the 25k. I signed up for the 40k. C brought home an age-group silver medal (her second, with a prior age group gold in the 40k in 2011), while I toiled in obscurity in the middle of the pack (yet managing to shave 13 minutes off of my time from last year). We don’t question whether faster skis would have brought C home the gold. It is best not to poke at that wasp’s nest.