Cleaning the Garage

The children’s size snow pants are gone from the basement, along with soccer cleats and a lot of assorted kitchen clutter that was banished below ground sometime prior to the 2007-2008 renovation.

This weekend my task was tackling the garage. Like so many others, our garage is good only for storing crap, and the longer the stuff stays in there, the crappier it becomes. We’ve got broken bike helmets, rusting scooters, dried cans of boat varnish, and bicycles that haven’t seen daylight since the last time the little building was thoroughly purged.

Fortunately, I found myself on a ski slope instead of cleaning the garage. The sun was shining, the view was gorgeous, and I’d accomplished one minor part of the job (enough to rationalize being 60 miles away): I’d removed a whole bunch of gear to do a fun race.

the view alone was worth the sore muscles

The race, called the (inaugural) Up, Down, and Around Challenge, was set at Mt. Wachusett ski area in Princeton. It was comprised of running, biking, and skiing, all at an angle my legs aren’t accustomed to. It was steep. But more than completing the individual portions of the race, I had to figure out which gear to use and how to make it work most efficiently for me.

Unlike some people I know, I don’t have whole gear rooms in my house. I have one good pair of running shoes that would suffice for most of the race. I have one pair of 20-year-old downhill skis. I rode the bike portion of the race last weekend to check it out, and determined that my 12-year-old hybrid would be somewhat more efficient than my mountain bike (undetermined age) because the route didn’t require deeply knobby tires, and there was an opportunity to gain time speeding down Bolton Road near the end of the 8-mile route. However, the hybrid’s health is in question, and I frittered away last week without getting it tuned, so I went with the mountain bike (which has a better granny gear anyway, so important in this race).

Then there were the snowshoes. In confidence, let me tell you I hate snowshoeing. It’s a lot of work to do what I would rather do enjoyably on my cross country skis. I don’t really understand the people who come into the store clamoring for snowshoes, but I humor them because most of them need some motivation to get outside and keep moving in the winter months. Nevertheless, I had an inkling that the portion of the race that required hiking to the top of a ski slope in April would best be accomplished with snowshoes. And I was right.

Taking the snowshoes and poles were the best decisions I made. Others were trying to get up the slushy, sloppy ski slope wearing just sneakers or hikers — and carrying their snowboards under their arms. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a tough climb, and sliding backward with every step was not an option. So the shoes fit fine over my sneakers, bit into the icy slush as I needed them to do, and the poles helped enormously to keep my momentum going as I passed insufficiently equipped competitors. Did I say it was a tough climb, especially after completing the first 10 miles of the race on foot and by bike? Tough. My calf muscles are still twitching.

Some racers had specialty packs with sleeves that hold a snowboard or skis on such a climb. I found one of my daughters’ old school backpacks that has loops on the outside. That would suffice to strap on the (heavy, huge, old) skis with bungee cords. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. The ski boots were inside, my awesome new ski helmet (by far the newest piece of gear I used!) strapped to the back. At the summit, I unlooped the bungees and swapped my running shoes and snowshoes for the ski boots, then zipped down to the start of the end: a giant slalom course that was the finale of the race.

spring slush dominated the ski portion of the race

Because this blog is authentic and honest, I can tell you I fell on my butt during the ski run. It was very slushy and messy and completely unfun. I didn’t have gloves on and that hurt (but I had my helmet on!). It probably ruined many of the gains I’d made on the bike and hike portions of the race, but whatever. At that point I wanted just to finish, to walk on level ground for a while and calm the screaming calf muscles with ice and beer and ibuprofen. And it was still better than actually cleaning the garage, which I will get to, eventually.

In closing, I would like to add SHUT UP to the guy who kept chatting me up about my old gear all day. I don’t care that you had a pair of Rossignols like mine in 1990. I don’t care that I wore rear-entry boots. In case you hadn’t noticed, dude, I was in front of you!


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