Ah, November…it’s that time of year. When the U.S. Ski Team heads to Northern Europe, and the members of the Manhattan Nordic Ski Club drive two hours up the New York State Thruway for the Kingston Rollerski Race.
You might be asking yourself why anyone would name a rollerski race after a rotund Jamaican-America rapper. However, the classically trained Mr. Kingston performed at Bowdoin during my senior year, and I can attest that his artistic prowess more than merits a rollerski race bearing his moniker. It doesn’t get much better than Fire Burnin’ on the Dance Floor. I also hear that he performed this song with Odd-Björn Hjelmeset in an attempt to woo Therese Johaug.
Anyways, on Sunday, I skied up the hill from my Harlem abode to meet my friends Sproule, Tim, and Sean for the drive to Kingston. Sproule’s GPS decided to take us on the scenic route, via some pleasant cornfield-lined backroads, but we arrived with more than an hour to spare.
My thinking about how the race would unfold is as follows:
–I am not as fit as Sproule or Tim, but I have been training enough that I was under the impression that I could go fast enough so as not to embarrass myself.
–Given the quality and number of skiers I was aware of residing in the Hudson Valley Area, I would probably finish third, and return to my Harlem apartment triumphant with the spoils of victory, which hopefully would include a fresh-baked pie, or something.
Upon our arrival, I noticed a disturbingly large number of athletes who actually appeared to be at least semi-competent on skis, including several from clubs that I’d actually heard of, like HURT Nordic. Who knew that when you drive two hours north from New York City, you end up close to places that actually get snow and have skiers? However, I still felt pretty confident when I lined up at the start, behind a guy who was wearing a bike jersey, and filling just about every inch of it.
My feelings of confidence lasted about as long as the 50-meter double pole zone—at the conclusion of which Mr. Heavyset Biker took off like he was on an actual bicycle, along with like five other people. I watched, and breathed heavily. After the somewhat frenetic start, I found myself in a group with three extremely skinny and gangly kids (one of whom I later learned was actually 32 years old), which I desperately clung to for two laps of the dead-flat 5-kilometer course, drafted like a true master blaster, and managed to sneak around one of them for an impressive 11th place finish, only two-and-a-half minutes behind the 46-year-old winner of the race, and roughly the same time behind the similarly aged Mr. Heavyset Biker. Results.
Lessons from the day?
–A reminder that despite the fact that I do relatively frequent interval sessions in Central Park, and am almost certainly the third-fastest cross-country skier in all of New York City (that’s 8 million people, for the record), those 7,999,997 other people will generally not be my competition in most rollerski and real ski competitions over the course of the winter. Instead, the competition will be people who also do frequent interval sessions—likely of higher quality—train more than me, and have more talent and potentially other helpful things like coaches and Scandinavian heritage.
–The Hudson Valley actually contains some residents who are legitimate cross-country skiers.
–Re: rollerski wheel speed– Do not bring a pea shooter to a gun fight. Or, if you’re going to show up with a pea shooter, be prepared to have the guns inflict grievous wounds to your pride.
Other than that, I would like to offer mad props to Kingston Nordic Skiing for putting on a fun and rad race for the low price of $20, which included a bag of free stuff like gels and drink mixes, and also lunch.
Finally, I will relate the following humorous anecdote, facilitated by my friend Peter Minde.
Peter: “Nat, this is my friend Josef. He lives in New Jersey, but he used to be on the Polish National Biathlon Team a while ago.”
Nat: “Oh, so you probably didn’t get to know Justyna Kowalczyk then, huh?”
Josef: “Kowalczyk? Oh, I know him! He lives in New Jersey, right?”
Josef: “He lives in New Jersey?”
Nat: “Uh, never mind.”