Monday, March 8, 2010
Serendipity 4. Go skate skiing with an Olympic trials veteran
So, I mentioned in a previous post that I was planning to take a break from the list this weekend unless some fabulous unforeseen opportunity materialized. Of course I should have known it would. This weekend I got to go skate skiing with Nigel, and that's saying a lot. Because Nigel is a nationally-ranked athlete in the biathlon.
Before December of 2009 I knew Nigel as the guy in my U.S. Health Policy class who kept the rest of us on our toes by knowing more than anyone (including the teacher) about the ins and outs of the health care debate on Capitol Hill. When I got a request from Nigel for an extension on his final paper, I knew it wasn't for lack of interest or procrastination on his part. Rather, it was for possibly the most fun reason I've ever heard for asking for an extension -- he had qualified for try-outs for the U.S. Olympic team in the biathlon in Minnesota. How cool is that?
As it turned out, the weather in Minnesota made for problems -- both in the tryouts and in getting the paper in. The hotel the athletes were staying at didn't have Internet access, and so I'd get occasional messages sent from Nigel's phone, which is how I learned that the races were conducted in weather that ranged from a high of ten degrees above zero to a low of ten below. Unfortunately, Nigel didn't qualify for the Olympic team but he did email a stellar paper, when he was finally able to go to his coach's house and use his Internet connection, though I don't know how much of a consolation that was.
When I started the list of 52 New Things, Nigel said he'd be happy to give me some tips on any cross country skiing I might try, but our schedules didn't mesh well, so Dan wound up stepping up to give me my first lessons in both classic and skate cross country skiing (Dan was also working this last Sunday when Nigel and I went skiing so I asked if he'd pose for the picture I posted here, so I could have a visual record of both my cross country teachers). When Nigel said he'd have time to go skiing on Sunday, I thought getting to do my second time out ever on skate skis with a nationally-ranked athlete in the sport was a not-too-shabby score for the Serendipity List. So, I spent most of Sunday afternoon at Bolton Valley skate skiing with Nigel. He very kindly let me set the pace and pretended that it was the most natural thing in the world to be going at a fraction of his usual pace. He even refrained from taking a picture of me during an epic fall, though he had my camera in his hands at that moment.
In addition to hopefully improving at least a little, I learned a couple of valuable things. The first is another of those open secrets that I am probably the last Vermonter to know -- that the ideal time to do winter sports is actually when the weather starts to get warm in March. Though it may turn the Burlington area into a muddy mess, there's still plenty of snow in the mountains, and it's (almost) warm and wonderfully sunny being out and about in that snow. Bolton couldn't have been better. I also discovered that an optimum way to do a new thing that I think I like is to combine it with an old thing that I know I do. In this case that meant mixing skate skiing and talking politics for two and half hours straight with a student whose knowledge of the workings of Congress is just short of encyclopedic. We compared notes on our favorite and least-favorite members of Congress and decried American political culture (and in between I got to hear some cool stories about national and international cross country competitions). For a political scientist trying to become a winter sports enthusiast, it was just about as good as it gets. Overall, an awesome afternoon, and yet another unexpected perk of writing a list of 52 New Things!