by Brad Hardstaff

During the 2010 Birkie, a few cm of early morning snow made for a last-minute waxing nightmare. To make things even more challenging, I was among the first 200 or so skiers forced to scramble over the Elk Island fence before the massive gate was unlocked. One of my skis was damaged in the ensuing mayhem. At the first rest station, a kind volunteer wielding a screwdriver tried to tighten the binding, which was rapidly coming loose. But alas, just a few km later, the screws gave way and the binding almost lifted right off the ski. I glided to a stop on my remaining good ski and stepped off the track, thinking I was done for the day.

Suddenly, a total stranger magically appeared from the edge of the forest, shouting something like, “Here! Take my skis! I’ve thrown my back out and I can’t finish! Give me your skis and keep going!”

Flabbergasted, I said “But… who are you? And how will I find you?” He said something like, “Name’s Jack. Get to the finish line and look for someone in a Fast Trax outfit. Good luck!” Further resistance seemed futile, so I thanked him profusely, handed over my skis, stepped into his and double-polled back into the race.

I immediately discovered that the stranger’s high-end skis were extremely well-waxed and very fast, with way less kick grip than I was used to. So despite adding more grip wax at the next couple of stops, I ended up mostly trying to double-poll the rest of the 55 km course. Eventually I reached the finish line and sure enough, spotted an attractive woman in a spandex Fast Trax suit. Greeting her, I asked “Do you know a guy named Jack?”  “Yes”, she replied with a smile. “He’s my husband!” I thanked her and handed over Jack’s skis. She said to come by Fast Trax in a few days to pick up my skis.

A week or so later, I rolled into Fast Trax and for the first time, was properly introduced to Jack Cook, the owner. We spent an enjoyable few minutes reminiscing about the race, which was by then affectionately known as “Waxageddon.” When Jack eventually gave back my skis, I immediately noticed they were like new. The binding was remounted and both skis were cleaned and re-waxed. Despite my objections, Jack very kindly refused to let me pay any money whatsoever for the excellent work.

Needless to say, I have been sending everyone I know to Fast Trax ever since!