The supporting role

When snow threatened to once again derail last weekend’s test of human versus machine, I must say, a teeny, tiny, selfish voice inside was rooting for the snow. I can admit this now, seeing as how the weather held off long enough to grant safe passage to all – no thanks to me.

See, unlike the heroic ironclad athlete, last weekend I was assigned the less glamorous, yet nevertheless vital role of shuttle shlep. That’s right, while spouseman grappled in the wee morning hours with the more important topics of layering, GU flavors and tire pressure, I had the thankless task of waking up, loading small child and dog into car, and driving north. Simple enough – and lord knows, I’ve racked up a few hall passes of my own over the years. But why did payback time have to come so early in the day?

See, as part of my support crew duties, I was required to be on the road and past Purgatory by 8 a.m., which is pretty much unheard of in my household. There’s a reason we do afternoon Snowburners and I’ve never gotten first chair on a powder day. I am not a morning person. Especially not on the weekends.

And while I was thankful that at least I did not have to ride my bike uphill for 50 miles, my mission was almost as daunting. See, like any hard-working (read: tired and crabby) mother who values her weekends (total slacker) I was worried (terrified) by the thought of entertaining my 3-year-old daughter for several hours in a remote mountain village during the off season cooped up with a couple thousand of my new best friends (just shoot me). Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing but respect and admiration for our hearty neighbor to the north. But it’s one thing when the lifts are running, the sledding hill is open or the backcountry beckons. It’s entirely different when the main form of activity is standing around. Sure this might sound OK in the adult mind, given enough coffee, beer, or both, but is unthinkable, torturous even, for anyone with tiny legs and the attention span of a fruit fly.

“What’s the news?” I growled from my slumbering cave around 6:30 a.m. on the fateful morn. I was hoping for good news, that the race was cancelled. I would feign disappointment, mutter “maybe next year,” and pull the covers over my head with nary missing a cycle of valuable REM.

“No news. I guess the race is on,” the jovial morning person in the living room called back.

Oh, how painfully true. With the lightning quick speed of a sloth on Quaaludes, I dragged myself from bed, pulled on whatever was in the pile on the floor, brushed my teeth, made an apathetic attempt at assembling supplies, and plopped into the driver’s seat.

As we neared the city limits, I vaguely remembered something about taking the back roads. But by the time I hit the highway, it was too late. I had pulled the Iron Horse rookie move and found myself in a 35 mph conga line through the valley. Once the bottleneck broke, I had 13 minutes to make it up the hill for the cut-off. It was time to put the pedal to the metal, which in a 1999 Subaru is a little like gunning an electric can opener. You can hold down the throttle all you want, but it ain’t gonna get the job done any faster. We finally sputtered past Purg with a white-knuckled 2 minutes to spare – and only five hours to go.

Once we hit our destination, the adrenaline rush of the Purgatory time trial had faded and I was in desperate need of caffeination. To avoid the crowds, I had planned to camp out in a local coffee shop until it was time to position myself at the finish line, like a dutiful wife. I passed some familiar faces along the way and told them of my secret plan.

“You mean that coffee shop,” they snickered, pointing to a line that spilled out the door and down the block. Now normally, in my morning stupor, I would crawl across broken glass for a chance to drink lukewarm Sanka with powdered creamer. But with the small octopus plastered to my leg starting to protest, it wasn’t an option.

Thus, we set out for the playground instead. I was almost over my coffee withdrawals when turbulence hit again. “I have to go pee …now,” the tyke demanded as she went into an urgent potty dance. While I like to think she inherited my good looks and winning personality, it’s also a cruel twist of genetics that she got my impossibly weak bladder. Knowing porta pottie row was a good country mile away, I scanned the bushes. No use - aimless refugees were everywhere. In a last ditch effort, we set out in search of a friend’s house. The directions I had gotten the day before were sketchy: behind the Laundromat … on the left …did she say lavender siding? Alas, my sieve-like memory proved correct, and I thanked god that, although I had forgotten sunglasses, a stroller, warm clothes and cold beer, at least I remembered directions to a bathroom with hot water and clean towels.

And so it was, rotating between the car, playground and potty – with an ill-fated mission to the shrine thrown in – that we somehow managed to keep our sanity on that blustery morning. With a constant watch on the clock, we finally made our way to a street corner to await the arrival of our triumphant cyclist. The minutes dragged on as I anxiously scanned the incoming crowd while trying to ward off narcolepsy in the tot, who by now had taken to rolling in the gutter. I began to sense something had gone terribly wrong when my phone rang.

“I’m at the chutes,” he said as I wracked my brain. It was spouseman - obviously broken down along the road, at the base of some avalanche chute I was supposed to be familiar with.

“The chutes?” I asked panicky, looking up toward the road, as if I could spot him and send out the search party.

“Yeah, you know, down here at the finish line,” he said casually. “I’ve been here for a while, I’m just hanging out.”

It seems that somehow, despite hours of anticipation, I had failed miserably at my new job. I had missed the grand finale, that cherished Kodak moment where the jello-legged road warrior rides across the finish line, greeted by his adoring fans and showered with gifts. All I could offer was an ornery child covered in gutter muck, some smashed Fig Newtons and a feeble, “hey, way to go.”

But on the bright side, I now know a few tricks for making the mission go more smoothly next time, as well as some suggestions for organizers (jumpy castle and bloody marys to name a few.) And in the meantime, I’ve got a whole year of sleeping in to prepare for it.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows