APP GAP Challenge

by Greta, Andy, Perrin, Kennedy, and Tim

[photo: NENSA Facebook]

Greta: Only for ski races do I force myself to wake up at 4:30 am and eat oatmeal even if I’m not hungry yet. Today, for the Appalachian Gap Rollerski Challenge, I woke up just as early, ate oatmeal, and loaded my gear into the car. I was so excited for both the race, but also for the roadtrip to the venue; it was going to be my first road-trip ever since I got my license! Kennedy arrived at my house, and together we drove on a combination of dirt roads and pavement to get to Fairlee, VT. We met Dennis in Fairlee, and he briefly explained our route before we pulled onto the road and caravanned to Waitsfield, VT. There was no traffic the entire way due to the early Sunday morning hour, and the highways were deserted. Driving was fun! Kennedy and I listened to music, talked, and pumped each other up for the race. Dennis drove immaculately, taking pride in slowing down far before the curves in the road so that he didn’t have to use his brakes; way to go Dennis! With a half hour to spare, we arrived well before the crowd at the parking lot for the Mad River Glen Ski Resort and stepped out of our cars into the refreshing misty morning. A few familiar ski faces appeared, and it felt amazing to be back in the Nordic community. After a few minutes, the rest of our Ford Sayre squad arrived, and we discussed our plan for the day between lots of yawns.

Andy: When I arrived at the Mad River Glen parking lot I headed over to the registration table to pick up my bib and race bag. I filled my post-race bag with my dry clothes and running shoes, both of which would be waiting at the top for me when I finished the race. Then I grabbed my classic gear and walked across the parking lot to load my transition zone with my classic rollerskis. Each space in the transition zone was labeled with the athlete’s bib number, and mine happened to be number 59. After receiving instructions from the race officials, all of us skiers hurried back to our cars, put on our skate boots, and collected any gear we needed at the start line. We all piled into an assortment of cars and vans to take us down to our respective start lines (the boys started about 2 kilometers before the girls).

Perrin: Vans full of both gear and skiers of all ages, we headed down the hill we were about to ski up. On the ride we chatted with Dorcas who inspired us with some of her summer adventure stories. After untangling everyone’s poles and skis from the back, we started our warm up ski to the start. It was awesome to see so many amazing skiers – masters to juniors and everyone in between – all warming up together for a race. I think that what draws me to skiing is the strong sense of communal love for the sport. These competitors weren’t our enemies but instead they were our training partners and friends. A weak sprinkling of rain started to drizzle on us, but it felt good to cool down a bit. We (all the women/girls) gathered at our starting line and cheered as each of us began the long climb up the gap.

Greta: As soon as the time for my race started, my legs began to churn, which made my lungs burn. The sky grew overcast, and sure enough, during the first couple V2 strides of the skate race, rain droplets fell from the sky and landed, welcomed, upon my skin. As I made my way up the never-ending climb, I soon realized why this race is called the App Gap Challenge. Even though the race course itself was difficult, the constant stream of cars passing by us roller-skiers at much faster speeds than us was a bit disheartening and smelly from their exhaust fumes. I also kept tripping on the cracks that criss-crossed the pavement. Another exciting addition to the course was the wet rainy pavement that, when pushed hard enough against, would make your rollerskis slip out from under you if you weren’t careful. Especially on the painted lines of the road. I liked all of the challenges; I thought that they fit the race perfectly, and it added an aspect of skiing that we don’t normally get to experience.

One of the best parts of the race was the fact that I was racing with friends from the ski community that I don’t normally get to see after ski season draws to a close. It was incredible to ski race again while being pushed by some of the girls who normally push me during ski season, no matter if we are on snow or pavement. That feeling kept me internally smiling as I hauled myself to the top of the Gap. Even just seeing girls in front of me (like Madeline who started thirty seconds before me) and knowing that they were feeling the pain as much as I was helped me make it through the race with a positive attitude.

After a smooth transition that allowed me to catch my breath a little bit, I started up the rest of the mountain switchbacks on my classic skis. The classic portion was a little unnerving; we were skiing up into the low-hanging rainclouds for who knew how long. I kept skiing, and the satisfaction of classic skiing on a grade that was steep enough to stride up (as opposed to double pole up) settled over me, and I felt almost giddy because it actually felt like I was classic skiing. Keith flew by me, and I realized that I must be almost there! I tried to stick with him until the end, but he was going too fast. It was awesome that spectators got out to watch the race, and it was so nice to hear cheering from familiar faces during my race; I really needed it, so thank you!

I finally made it over the last hump and saw Madeline frantically double poling, which meant she probably saw the finish line. I was so excited! I strode up the last hill and I saw the finish line flag waving in the air. I don’t know how I was able to appreciate the beauty of the scenery given the pain I was experiencing, but I did, and I remember that the scenery was gorgeous; the finish line was at the top of the Gap, which was slung in between two mountains that jutted up on either side of the line. The mist compromised the possibility of expansive views, but it made me feel like I was up even higher; it felt both exotic and like we were flying. The cool fog rushing between the two peaks chilled me after I finished, and as a result I changed into warmer clothes.

After I loaded my rollerskis into the truck and congratulated fellow skiers and teammates on their races, some of the girls and Keith jogged down the road we had just come up as a cool down and to cheer for the boys finishing their races. Everyone looked so strong coming up the Gap (even if they didn’t feel like it), and more importantly, everyone looked like they were really comfortable on rollerskis! One of the most memorable things about this race was that it was one of those races where I had no idea where the finish line was, which can sometimes be a bad thing but can also be a valuable experience; you are able to practice preparing yourself mentally for a long and challenging race, even if you don’t have the best time in the end because of your careful pacing. I loved the race, and it definitely counted for me as some quality time spent in the “pain cave” that we talk about on JNT.

Tim: The App Gap race was the near perfect mixture of the things I love about our sport: skate skiing, impeccable kick (by ratchet and bearing), awesome friends, and a lot of uphill. While the race provided me with three of those qualities in surplus, I didn’t get to truly interact with the awesome friends until the descent and lunch (and raffle haha) portions of the event. Andy, Keith (who apparently had “fire wheels” on the classic leg), and I shared some quality conversations on the 28 minute cool down on the Mad River trails that made me wish the uphill was longer during the race, only to make the downhill longer in duration, of course. Once everyone arrived safely at the parking lot we dispersed and I got to catch up with old friends and future teammates while we waited for lunch! It was admittedly a long wait, especially from the back of the lunch line, but it gave people (Dennis) time to talk up their raffle tickets.

The prizes for the raffle included water belts, hats/headbands, ski bags, day passes for mountain biking, and a one night stay at the Trapp Family Lodge. Not knowing that Dennis had already called dibs on the Trapps prize, I bought six tickets, thinking I could win a headband or something cool like rollerski ferrules. After the awards for the races were given out (congrats to Keith and Elissa on fantastic races), the raffle started. Now Dennis was one of the first people to buy tickets so his numbers were some of the few in the 700s-most everyone else had tickets numbered in the 800s. The raffle drawing ceremony progressed slowly as prize after prize was given away until we had gone through all but the last three prizes: the ski bag, the trail passes, and the night at Trapps. Dennis cursed his luck, “Oh just call 792 already, this is rigged!” He audibly and forcefully whispered it all in a tone that you know (from experience) is light-hearted, but it still loosely resembles seriousness — you know that thing that Dennis does. So anyways, I turned and told him that he is just saving his lucky card until the end! He chuckled playfully at that. No sooner did I say that then his number got called and he won the Fischer Ski Bag!

Andy, Greta, Kennedy, Keith, Tim, Evan (and raffle prizes)

Dennis returned to the JNT group with a smile on his face and some renewed confidence in his tickets. With a beaming smile, Dennis offers to the clump of Ford Sayre skiers, “You guys sure you don’t want to buy one of my tickets? They’re lucky.” The trail passes go, and Dennis is still sitting strong with his ski bag as they announce the final prize; the paid night at Trapps Family Lodge. My mind starts running through calculations; Dennis has five tickets to my six, my odds are better. A simply mind-blowing statistical analysis of the situation. The tension builds, I feel Dennis shift behind me, I watch the ticket get pulled from the bag. “816…” BAM! That’s my ticket! I stand and turn to Dennis, bow and back away from him with outstretched jazz hands. That friendly “competition” with Dennis and the other JNT skiers more than satisfied the fourth quality of skiing; awesome friends.

Red Hen treats

Kennedy: The ride home was definitely an exciting one, which is probably to be expected when riding in a car with Greta. After packing all of our equipment in the car and triple checking to make sure each of us had our respective items, we started to make our way back down the hills towards our much desired swimming location: Kenneth Ward in the Mad River. Although the day was a little cold and cloudy, swimming was still very appealing after such a hard race and the water was definitely very refreshing. With Greta’s constant threats of splashing me, I eventually submerged in the frozen water (just kidding – it wasn’t too cold). After swimming, we both changed into dry clothes and headed towards the Red Hen Bakery for some refreshing treats. My navigational skills were a little messy, but eventually we made it safely to the bakery. We actually pulled over on the side of the road just around the corner from the bakery debating which direction we should drive- I lost that debate :(. We stumbled out of the car, legs exhausted from the race, and into the bakery, excitedly anticipating our warm drinks and yummy pastries. After we watched the bakers use a giant mixer to create huge amounts of dough for a time, sipping our warm drinks, Greta and I sadly decided that it was probably time to start rolling home. After swimming in the refreshing water and panicking about being lost, the rest of the ride was comparatively uneventful. We were still deep in conversation when we finally pulled into my driveway around 4:00 in the afternoon, both sad that the day was over!

And a pic of Evan’s victorious golf team during the golf event the following day:

[NENSA Facebook]

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