What with all the cold temperatures lately, it’s not surprising that there has been some good old-fashioned misery in the world of outdoor recreation.
Take the Wolf Chase race at the Loup two weeks ago, for example. For Saturday’s giant slalom race it was 10 degrees with 20-mph winds. An unprecedented number of racers (190!) from 10 teams showed up, undaunted — or at least wearing masks of false bravado. The race field was 50-percent larger than it had ever been in the past, and since the Loup Loup ski team only has bibs for 145 racers, additional bibs were borrowed from the Methow Valley Nordic Team. (Bib No. 81 still needs to be returned, by the way.)
For race volunteers, the amount of set-up, race monitoring and tear-down meant being outside in frigid temperatures for up to 10 hours each day. “A real suffer-fest,” said longtime volunteer Jeff Brown, with a palpable sense of glee. But to some degree, he added philosophically, the rugged conditions made the race more memorable: “We always remember the races where we suffer, just like a great ski trip. Who remembers sunny weather and spring snow? Bring it on.”
Jeff, along with another Loup veteran, Chris Stern, spent the race weekend herding young racers to the starting gates, most of whom were frozen and many of whom were crying. But drowning out the sounds of the wailing was the soothing Southern drawl of announcer Bernard Wathen, who distracted and entertained the spectators by assigning racers funny nicknames as they crossed the finish line, such as Maisy “You’re So Crazy” Shaw and Graham “Cracker with Melted Marshmallow and Chocolate on Top” Sheley.
For Sunday’s slalom race, skies were clear but it was near 0 degrees at race time, says Jill Sheley, who along with Ingrid Patterson organized the race. Adding to the weather challenge were a couple of administrative hiccups, such as the PA system giving up the ghost, a misprinted trophy that awarded a “U-12 Girls Second Place” trophy to a boy, and the necessity of changing the official results to accommodate a racer disqualification after awards had already been announced and distributed. That meant that one youngster had to return a medal — ouch. But, Jeff Brown might add cheerfully, “Who remembers the races when they took home a medal? Whereas no one could forget a race when they had to return a medal.”
Looking on the bright side, “at least no one fell off a chair,” Jill points out, referring to an unfortunate incident from a few years back — an incident that is no doubt imprinted indelibly on at least that skier’s memory.
“The race weekend sounds awful,” Jill admits, “but with everyone pitching in, it felt good.” Jill notes that the sweetest moment was when a tiny boy tugged on her coat, proudly held up his fifth-place trophy, and said “It’s my first trophy!”
“This happens because we live in a great community,” says Jeff, adding that to sustain that spirit of camaraderie in the face of hardship, “I plan to put ice cubes in my boots for tomorrow.”