Monday, December 7, 2015

A day in the life of the Fort Kent Outdoor Center

       The IBU A-licensed venue in Fort Kent, Maine, USA has been evolving for as long as I can remember. That's over 15 years, losely. When I was in middle school we did a "field trip" to the new venue and watched the Jr. Nationals for biathlon circa 2000. The place was half done and may or may not have had four walls yet. The amount of force it took to have the facility and trails up and running was asking for a lot. Today it still amazes me that how much dedication goes into maintaining and improving the place.
        There was a time when we didn't have a rollerski loop. When we finally did it was only a few minutes long. The fall that had the extension paved was a nice upgrade. If you were crafty enough you could stretch it out to 20 minutes. Those sort of additions make a huge difference when a large bulk of your job is spent on the less than exciting roller skis. The rest of the trail system isn't paved but is kept in great condition. The grass is mowed regularly. This actually makes a difference for early and late season skiing. For whatever reason people tend to stay on the pavement even when the grass is dry. It's unclear why, but apparently most people are less afraid of sharp pole tips and expensive gear than they are of... grass.
A slightly more foggy morning. 
          There is an undeniable dedication to grooming at the FKOC. Though not always spot on, when you see the building that was constructed strictly for the benefit of the groomer you can count on hard packed trails more often than not. It's unclear who was in charge on one not so great occasion, but it's impressive when you can do all the wrong things for trail grooming in one morning. After driving up for an important high intensity combo session I found myself dodging the groomer at around ten AM. Ten AM being the beginning of peak usage for the trails. I've actually had nightmares involving this situation. Needless to say it makes more sense to groom when the trail is more vacant. Also, the best time of day to set tracks is early morning. Right before the coldest part of the day. The late morning job of this day, with no exaggeration, actually made the conditions worse... To really cap off my rage the groomer proceeded to stop in the middle of the range while I was doing combos. Yes, the range flag was up. These workouts are key and take a lot of energy to do, so when you have to stare down the groomer in a fit of rage it doesn't help the cause. If you don't you want to see an expensive piece of equipment that isn't cheap to run put to bad use then don't repeat these events. End rant. The rest of the time the trails are top notch. Despite only a few centimeters of snow the trails were being rolled at two in the morning before training last Friday. During this time of year, those efforts are what really make the quality training sessions happen.

             At almost anytime of the year you can expect to see someone around working on a new project or fixing a door hinge if need be. The local athletes helped removed the excess brush when the stadium was being expanded this fall. During the height of this construction the roller loop would be covered with rocks and debris. Instead of leaving the mess there with no regard to the athletes that depend on the pavement the leaf blower was put to good use. In the end, the bulldozer and it's wrecking path were never in the way of training.
Sunday December 6th 
           The FKOC has been a fail safe option for years. I'm not going to divulge into what I think of other venues, but let's just say some venues seem to work against you. Perpetually locked doors, grass growing up to the targets, moldy roller loops, and an organizing committee that stays in hibernation most of the year.  To be fair a lot of venues meet this description. What it so great about the FKOC is that it fits the opposite of this. When you need a place for quality training you can count on the drive up to Fort Kent. If you're looking for a place that's providing a physically active opportunity for the public the FKOC club is doing there part ten fold. Though I'm still bitter about that one occasion back in March, making a point of the effort that goes into this place is the least I could do.

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