I had a spot in the race, as I had gotten lucky two years earlier and won one of the 95 open lottery spots that well over 1,000 people had been denied. The dude who is point man for Mt. Baker LBS, Eliah, said to me that if I didn't feel up to running the race this season, that I could take my spot and use it next year. Which any smart man would do seeing how I was going to be the oldest in the Mid Masters category and really don't stand a chance of making the main event against 40 and 41 year olds who are hungry for some duct tape, not to mention the fact that the drugs I'm on aren't performance enhancers, there life enhancers.
This was the strategy I had to ponder, do I try and race without a chance of placing to say I did it or do I save my spot for next year when I'm the youngest in the second oldest category at the Banked Slalom? To which I'll throw it out there now, I'm going to win Grand Masters next year. There, it's been said. Hold me too it.
Lisa had been on the fence on whether I should run the event or not but the day before we were to go up to Baker she gave me her blessing to give it a go. "You should do it, I would be good for you to give it a run thru. Take it easy though, and don't hurt yourself." So Thursday morning at 5AM we departed Seattle en route to Mt. Baker to sign in, get our bib, duct tape it to our leg, side slip thru the course once and then let it rip.
I got to race once on Thursday and Friday, then hopefully make the finals and give it another two runs on Sunday. For Thursdays run I was pretty nervous thinking that I just wanted to prove to myself that I could make it down the course with out falling. The conditions were typical Baker Banked slalom and the course had a shit load of snow snakes waiting to jump out of the snow and throw you to your ass. Gorio helped me strap in and pushed me pass the "Brit" who has been calling racers to the shack for all the years that I've done the LBS, which this was my 8th year. She gave me a hug and said "good to see you here Johan." When I pulled into the shack, there was Amy Towbridge, formally known as Amy Howat. Amy and her family own Mt. Baker and have tried to run this race for the last 32 years. They've only had to cancel two races, and last year was one of those times. Amy looked at me looking out of the shack nervously and said "Johan, I can't tell you how good it is to see you in here." I looked at her and a ton of emotion hit me and said "man, I don't know if I should cry or give myself a pull out of here." She suggested I pull out of the shack and boom I did.
The first four turns are always the worst, or always have been from what I remember. If you make the first four cleanly, the rest of the race is smooth sailing. I suck-sessfully made it thru the first four, hit five, then six, then seven and started to think to myself "Jesus, this is getting harder and harder, why is this so freaking hard?" The nightmare continued all the way to turn 43 when I crossed the line. I looked at the other dudes who made it down and we all agreed that we just made our way thru the biggest nightmare we'd ever been awake for. That shit was hard.
Friday was a different day though. The snow softened up, the course was fast and smooth and snow was starting to pound. Friday was the day that Milo and Mac were doing two runs thru to qualify. I only had one more to ride seeing how my full pull on Thursday wasn't good enough to get into the main event. My stress level was pretty high seeing how Milo is the oldest of the age class he's competing in and Mac was the youngest in the same class. I barely got a good waxing on both their decks when in years past I would have at least a dozen or so waxes sitting in the base. Milo ended up qualifying 3rd and Mac got 6th, which was good enough because they were only taking 6 to the main event on Sunday. I rolled into the shack for my second run thinking that again, my goal was already accomplished, I made it to Baker AND I was running the race. But something changed as I watched Corey Mac from HCSC go before me. He was ripping thru the banks and it looked way funner than just trying to make it down with out falling. My hands went from pushing myself out of the gate to actually pulling myself out of the gate. Naturally I was all over the place because my style is called "linked recovery's" but it felt like I was actually trying to qualify to race on Sunday. I shaved something like 15 seconds off my time from the day before and was pretty satisfied when I got to the finish line, but it wasn't enough. So be it. I'm gonna win next year anyway.
Saturday I hit up Matt Cummins, One Ball Jay's wax master, and asked him if I could come over and throw some secret sauce on the boys snowboards. When I went over his pad, Temple Cummins and Tom Burt were there saucing up so I knew the boys were gonna get the goods. After waxing I took the boards home and hot boxed them in the sauna we had at the condo at 160 degrees for about 10 hours. That really baked the wax into the base.
Sunday was go time. Milo and Mac got to the top of the course with about 20 minutes before they were to make their runs. I looked at Milo and said lets rip a warm up, while Mac was over fighting his Canadian friends. Different strokes for different folks. On the chairlift ride up I could sense Milo was putting a bunch of pressure on himself to win. I said to him: "This race, is just a race. No one will remember it in another week or so. Just go out there, give it hell. If you fall, think about why you fell and fix the problem, then clear it out of your head and make the second run a go. This race is about so much more than the race. We already won. We're here."
Milo ended up putting down two hammers with his first run being the fastest of the group and then his second run being 2 seconds faster than that. Mac had a great first run but was physically out gunned. Dude is like 85 pounds and on a 130cm deck, competing against Milo who is 140 lbs and on a 154cm deck. Heavier and faster. For his second run, I went 3/4 down the coarse to watch him rip the bottom half. Apparently from what people tell me, he was faster than anyone on the top section and ended up crashing in one of the corners about half way down. When he came by me there was a set of roller jumps. Little guy pumped the first one and sent the largest method off the second one. There was a crowd gathered at the cave down the way a bit and they totally erupted in approval of little guys wizardry. I was pretty proud that despite coming up short in the race, he won the event. In my eyes at least. Actually we all won, because we were there.
Below is another 30 photo's that tell another 30,000 words. Enjoy...
Part of the reason this event was so special is that Jake Jarvis made it out. Jake was an 11 year old grom in Steamboat that we sponsored at Powder Tools. Now he's 37 and the head buyer for all snowboards at Christy Sports. FYI, both Mac and Milo had faster times than him. Just saying Jake.
Maggie Rose Carrigan. Party Martys ripping daughter.
Mama Hades and Kind Bro know.
Griff still has it. Uhhhh son.
Jamie Lynn saying what up to the boys.
Tammy Carrigan and Foot Ball. AKA Robby Morrow. Footy rode a 1990 Sims Halfpipe at the event better than most pro's rode modern boards. Meats still got it.
Vice President of the Malkoski's with the Prez, Lisa Macomber.
Pie ay ah
MBHC 1985 race vet.
One of the best runs of the event too!
I shot this with the Sony A6000. Polish Productions is back!
THIS was a great weekend. Thanks babe.
The Clines and most of the Malkoski's. Milo bailed. He's 15 ya know.
The Sauna wax oven works.
Gnar about to get some. Owen Cline is giving him dreamy eyes in the reflection.
The Method heard around the event! I'm on the fence in the yellow and race co-coordinator and LBS extraordinaire Gwen Howat is on the fencing. Great shot Ryan Davis.
Gnar knows whats up. Junior class better watch out next year.
Milo's lucky 13 number.
Juniors...Gold tape! Little guy on the right is Finn Finestone and man could that kid get after it. Congrats on the bronze.
These three will NOT be on People Magazines most handsome list. Not with this shot at least.
Pretty good winners loot!
Thank you Mt. Baker, Amy, Gwen, Brit, Eliah, Duncan, all the volunteers, cooks, employees, lifties, Mt. Baker Lodging, Clines, Canadians, Chomlacks, Traeger Grills, Luke Edgar, One Ball Jay, Matt Cummins, Graves, Jake, Griff, Gorio, Lisa Mac, Union Binding Company and Coal Headwear for making this the best LBS I've ever been too and done the shittiest at.
Next year. Next year.