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2008 Canadian Ski Nationals: Classic race, A hairy situation - March 18th
By:  Edward McCarthy   (2008/03/19)


I’ve always imagined that to someone with little knowledge and experience of ski racing, race sites in the hours before start probably look like scenes of total chaos. There are coaches trying to find the right wax; testers running around with the next thing to try; racers trying to find their bibs, their starts, their race skis, the best place to warm up and do their intervals; and, in this traveling circus of ours, old friends running into one another and stopping for a quick chat. There’s really an intricate structure to it, one where everyone and everything seems to have its place. At the same time, there is a change in atmosphere from race to race. There are days when it’s -6 and hard, and Carrot will work beautifully, and the coaches, with a beatific air about them, have a relaxed way of looking for the best way to get that final iota of glide out of the perfect grip. There are days when there’s fresh powder and soft tracks, things are a bit more complicated, and everyone looks a bit more focused, concerned about conditions; things go faster, conversations are shorter. The scale is infinitely variable.

All that to say that the pre-race atmosphere at Callaghan Valley this morning for the first individual race of Nationals, the short distance classic, was somewhere on the extreme end of the scale. We’re talking somewhere beyond chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off crazy. After a training day when no one could find a wax that worked, we got hit with a race day that was somewhat worse. Temperatures had been hovering around zero, dipping below at night, and the course was hard; then it started snowing wet, heavy flakes. The tracks glazed, and nothing seemed to work, but the loose snow caused icing, and nothing seemed to work. To be honest, it was kind of funny – I’ve never seen so many coaches so frustrated, all at the same time. At least one very experienced waxer called it the worst waxing situation he’d ever seen. Wow!

One of the results of this was that everyone went out to race on something slightly different. Out of XC Ottawa’s three women, one used waxless skis, one used a klister mix, and one used “hairies” – a type of ad hoc waxless ski made by severely roughing up the grip zone of waxable skis using sandpaper. In the event, the hairies and klister were questionable, and the waxless were slow on glide. It seemed that the best wax results of the day were got by skis specifically made to be hairies, like Fischer Zeros (for those of you doing early Christmas shopping, this would be the gift for the skier who REALLY has everything (else); friends of Karl take note). Personally, I ended up getting (four minutes before my race start) an untested blend of hard waxes. Despite being more or less entirely slick on the tracks, they iced up beautifully to run up hills on the upper half of the course, and de-iced immediately on the downhills.

Along with our waxing troubles, however, XC Ottawa athletes did produce some highlights! In what was probably the strongest field in a Canadian race this year outside the World Cups, Megan powered her way (she did power… there was a lot of double-poling) into the top 20 Canadians. Alana was the 5th Canadian junior, a great finish she’s hoping to improve on throughout the week. Kudos to John for keeping his sanity and his cool throughout the day, and to Eamonn Watson, wax tech extraordinaire, for his hard work making up for the easy waxing job he had with us in Silver Star this fall. Congratulations, as well, to Nakkertok for the great results posted by their juniors. Lucky dogs, going after the sun turned the trails to easy-waxing slush...

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