August 1st, 2011
The beginning of August marks the end of the summer for me: I start orientation at Columbia Journalism School on the fourth—this coming Thursday.
But before any more discussion of my impending move to the city, there’s some important business to attend to—namely, a wrap-up of the last few weeks of my summer.
Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to participate in my first multi-race weekend since my escapades at the Craftsbury Spring Tour. First up was the Old Hallowell Day 5 K—a pleasant jaunt down (and up) the streets of my hometown. The race literally went past my front door, which was pretty awesome.
Any time I go to a 5 k or a smaller road race, I always hold out a little bit of hope, usually until I arrive at the start line and get a look at the competition, that I might be able to win. I suck at running, but every once in a while you can look in the local paper and see results for 5 k’s that have the winner running it in like 19-and-a-half minutes, which is achievable even for me. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the registration table, there was a disappointingly large number of legit-looking skinny people wearing visors and sunglasses—not to mention a really tall, really skinny shirtless dude with a chestful of tattoos, including one that said “sic semper tyrannis.” Prancing around shirtless with ridiculous tattoos is okay if you’re legit, but as it turned out, the guy didn’t even win, so, bummer for him.
Anyways, the race started, and for a couple hundred meters I ran with the huge pack of people that sprinted out of the start, including a very not-legit-looking girl with tie-died leggings who looked like she was 15 years old. Initially, this did not seem like a promising start for me, but after about 45 seconds of running she got tired and all the people who sprinted out of the start died and the pack thinned out. I settled into about sixth place and did battle with a handful of folks over the rest of the race. Highlights included when I dropped a guy wearing those stupid running slippers, and also when I accidentally spit all over some poor woman’s car. (It was totally unintentional—there were like 200 meters to go and I was dying—but it was still hilarious enough to make me laugh through the excruciating pain.) Ultimately I finished seventh, as well as FIRST PLACE IN MY AGE GROUP, which meant that I got a kickass mug that I meant to bring with me to New York City but forgot at my house.
The second event of the weekend was a bike race at the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the very next day. My friends and I call this race, simply, “the Clam Fest,” but to Yarmouth residents, spectators, and readers of the local newspaper, the event is known as the Yarmouth Clam Festival Professional Men’s and Women’s Professional Bike Race, which makes it sound about 10 times more badass than it actually is. For whatever reason, the Clam Fest bike race holds some kind of mystical appeal to the people of Yarmouth, and apparently, if you do it, you are a badass, even if you’re like me and you haven’t cleaned your bike, you have hairy legs, and you haven’t actually used your bike in eight days because you’ve been busy moving all your sh-t to New York City. Fortunately, however, nobody in Yarmouth was aware of my personal history, and thus all morning people looked at me like I was a huge baller, including many long stares, and questions about how far I’d come to participate. (Answer: I woke up half an hour ago and drove the 15 miles from Brunswick.)
The treatment continues at the start of the race—there’s always a national anthem (helmets off!), and approximately one zillion spectators yelling and screaming. Technically, I suppose the Clam Fest is actually a “professional” race, since the top six get paid, but in reality, it’s about 50 local amateurs for whom the race is the focal point of the season, 48 or 49 regional elite amateurs, and one or two actual professionals. Just to hammer this point home, this is a professional bike racer:
This is not a professional bike racer:
All this is not to diss the race at all—it is far and away one of the most awesome athletic spectacles I have the privilege of participating in, year after year. It is just to highlight the wide gap between perception (of the spectators, that the race is a Lance-Armstrong-style production) and reality (that I ride a bicycle with mismatched bar tape and a dried leaf that has been stuck to the front derailleur for six weeks).
The race was extremely painful, and not actually very much fun—the best part about it was when it was over. It was very, very hot—my estimate of the temperature pegged it at somewhere around 350 degrees F—and because we were hurtling at breakneck speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, I was too scared most of the time to pull out my water bottle and drink from it. By the time the race was over, my internal temperature had reached the point where it could only be cooled by one thing: a lime rickey, which consists of seltzer, lime, and sugar, and which I think is the only consumable item at the Clam Festival that costs less than $300. It made me feel a lot better. I finished with the group and I didn’t die, which were the two criteria I had to fulfill for the race to qualify as a success.
With the conclusion of the epic race weekend, it was time for my athletic focus to shift to ultimate frisbee. I’ve been playing in a summer league in Portland since June, and the weekend following the Clam Festival, we gathered for an awesome barbeque and lawn games session to prepare ourselves for the next weekend’s season-ending tournament.
That tournament was Saturday, and after a regular-season campaign that saw us go 19-1, our juggernaut of a team swept five straight games to win the summer league championship. It was awesome, although our team captain is known throughout the region as a huge jerk, so our victory was met with disappointed silence by the dozens of spectators who had been rooting ardently against us.
Today (Monday), I’m on a bus on my way to New York City, where I’ll be living through next May while I spend a year at Columbia Journalism School. That’s half of the reason I’m moving; the other half is so that I can really ramp up my post-collegiate cross-country skiing career as a member of the Manhattan Nordic Ski Club.
I will not be employed by FasterSkier on a day-to-day basis for the next year, but I do plan to stay involved and in touch with the website as Topher, Matt, and the rest of the robust and talented staff keep it growing and changing. I also plan on continuing to chronicle my athletic shenanigans on this blog, whether it’s rollerskiing in Central Park or Alleycat racing in Brooklyn. Thanks for reading!