Saturday, March 28, 2009

High Plains drifter




I've been in Ft. Collins Co. working with a colleague, Cameron Ghalambor, who is a professor at Colorado State. One of Cameron's Ph.D. students is Corey Handelsman, who has run both Hardrock and Massanutten. Cameron had just returned from Catalina Island with his closest work buddy, Scott Sillet. As a grad student, I spent a couple of weeks in Alaska with a group that included Scott's wife, Christine. Scott's brother is the exxxxxxxtreme harrrrrrrrdcore tree canopy ecologist Steve Sillett. Check out his bio and spend a nice evening reading about his reasearch in the canopies of the giant redwoods. Or buy the book. Or watch the film when it comes out. He is a badass.

Cameron and I didn't climb any tall trees this week. But we had long, productive work days, good food and beer in the evening, and I did manage three morning runs. I also managed to bring New England weather with me - last week it was 70F in Fort Collins but during my stay we had cold mornings (this morning's run started at 15F) and a nice spring blizzard on Wednesday. All three runs were along the Poudre ("pooder") River trail, which is nearly entirely cement with some blacktop sections. But there are nice dirt paths that meander in and out of the woods along the entire route. The trail is flat, flat, flat as you might guess of a trail running along a river on the high plains. The first run was novel. The second was in about 1" of fresh powder at the start of the blizzard. The last was sort of monotonous (I said it was flat, flat flat) except that there were a couple of really, really fast guys cruising along. I thought about packing skis with me but the forecast didn't suggest snow. During the storm I was bummed, since I hadn't packed my skis. Turns out, they would not have been that great anyway since they continously plowed the cement part of the trail during the snow and skiing the side trails would have required frequent crossing of the cement sections.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

James' climb-o-rama loop

James D. is back and ramping up for the Hardrock so we took off from his house on his version of the climb-o-rama loop with Morey, Sasha and Rodney. The dogs were dragging us on the road until we got to the trail when we were able to let them off leash so we could slow down a bit. The route is an uphill powerline trail for a few hundred yards, into the woods for some tight single track, onto the gasline which everyone (except sparkplug) remembers from their visit to Blackstrap Hell, into the Blackstrap Hill preserve up, up, and up to Blackstrap road. At this point, Sasha caught a scent and took off to someone's house and we never saw her again. I hope she didn't take someone's chicken. James and I called for about 10 minutes then James took off with Morey and Rodney to the Skillins tree farm side of hell while I called for Sasha a bit more. At this point we were at the exact furthest point from our houses on this run. I decided the best option was to run down Blackstrap Rd. to my house to get my car and drive back up and just sit by the road and wait (Sasha is attracted to our cars). I was also hoping Sasha would not pick up my scent and follow on the road. James and I arrived to the junction of Blackstrap and Hardy Rd. about the same time (he by trail). As Rodney and I pulled over to my house, I told James that a very likely scenario would be Sasha would backtrack to my car in front of James's house. Sure enough, when James turned onto his road, he turned around and there was Sasha following him. Phewww. Good thing because I needed to sleep well last night because I'm in transit to Fort Collins Co today. I am now sitting in an airport in NY (not sure if its JFK, Laguardia, or Newark) having just finished a not very good pancake, french toast, sausage and faux syrup breakfast. Oh well, James and I agreed it's nice to get back out on the trails running, even though it was 25 degrees.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Winter wrap-up

Downhill



Cacky and I were hoping to drive to Sugarloaf and get some sweet spring skiing/snowboarding in but the weather isn't cooperating; from their website: "Temps today will be on the chilly side, with highs at the base expected to hit the low 20s", which doesn't quite capture the weather at the top of the lifts (see image to right from snow-forecast.com). Tomorrow morning I'm headed to Fort Collins Colorado to do some work with a colleague, and was hoping to get some nice spring trail running in. I'll be there and I'll be running, but not in sunny skies and 60F. Sam and I joined the Pennoyers for a great day of downhill yesterday at Sunday River. The Pennoyers had skied once this year, the Walkers zero (although Sam has been screwing around on jumps in our's and friends' yards). So we decided to park at White Cap lodge and do White Heat for our first run. The very groomed out crushed ice in combination with few other skiers on the hill made it surprisingly easy, especially for a first-run-of-the-year. Shockwave had also been groomed so we stayed on this side of the River for a few runs, then began to work our way North, stopping at Peak Lodge for lunch, continuing to Jordan Bowl for some afternoon turns, then one long run back to White Cap lodge. It wasn't spring skiing but it was better than I thought it would be. Niceley groomed crushed snow that never softened up into mashed potato except near the base, which we didn't see until our final run. No lift lines except Barker, which we only took once. And a mix of clouds, snow, and sun. We got our money's worth:
Total runs: 24
Total Distance: 69K
Total Elevation Gain: 8,400M
Avg moving speed (morning): 13.4 K/hr*
Avg. moving speed (afternoon): 17.9 K/hr#
*a moderate workout speed on skate skis
#race speed on skate skis

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rite of Spring



Today was the first full day of spring*, which seemed an obvious choice to ski Pineland in order to give thanks to the various gods and godessess of snow and winter, and especially my arch enemy, the goddess of Gloucester Hill, after all, she let me escape with only a fleshwound this year. Oak Hill was fabulous. Lots and lots of snow in there - only the entrance and exit are bare. Gloucester Hill was a wee bit frozen, but she let me by so I snapped a photo of us. She looks quite tame in the photo, but that's her magic. The Campus loop was also quite good and worth a visit. Except the cloverleaf (or hilltop) - the last two leaflets were glare ice on the downhill and and uphill with a little bare ground at the bottom. Forget the cloverleaf no matter how good the first downhill looks. The River Valley loop was divine but will be gone soon. Ski it tomorrow or wait 'till December. The Valley Farm loop was mixed. Most of it was quite good but the hills following the end of the Hemlocks were glare ice on the downhills and bare ground on the uphills. Except the last climb exiting the Valley Farm, which was glare ice going up. All of this was skied between 1:30 and 3:30, so much of the ice in the segments with open canopy from the deciduous trees had softened up. I'm pretty sure most of Pineland would have been deadly this morning.
Total Distance - 20.5K
Total Time - 1:56:15
Number of stops to take pictures: 4
Number of stops to unbind and hike across roads: 5 (the Valley Farm Road was open)
Number of stopes to unbind and walk down hill of glare ice: 2

*the vernal equinox was yesterday at 7:44 EST

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bretton Woods race report





The Bretton Woods ski marathon today was
the pinnacle of my classic racing career, despite this being my first classic race. It can only go downhill from here. Why? 1) We had absolutely stunning bluebird skies over the Presidentials, 2) we had wicked fast snow conditions, 3) my kick was the best I've ever had for klister (my basis for comparison is pretty small), 4) I didn't bonk, cramp, dehydrate, or explode a binding, 5) and I placed 13th overall and 3rd in my age group!

#5 needs some qualification. First, all fast skiers enter the 50K, I just did the 25K. Second, this was the first year of this marathon. Third, there was intense competition for ski bodies including the Junior Olympics, the J2 festival, and the NCAA championships.

The race itself was wicked fun. I waxed my skis last night with Rode Chola and Rode Blue klister, but was told to cork in a hard kick wax over the klister; I left that until this morning. Easy enough. Except I couldn't cork at all because there was too much friction to rub the cork up and down the ski. Even worse, my cork got stuck in the Klister and little bits of cork were now in my wax! Hmm. I went for a little test run but the starting area around the Mt. Washington Hotel was so flat that I couldn't really tell if I had any kick (I need a hill for that). There was a little pile of snow off to the side so I skied up this and it seemed ok but I kind of freaked out so went in applied a warmer klister (Rode multigrade). No iron, no torch, no blow dryer. And no time because the race was starting in about 4 minutes.

The start was interesting...and not very competitive. After about 2K, I was the tail end of the lead pack, and whoever was behind me was way behind me. I double poled much of the beginning and did some striding over the few steep sections in the first 10K. Somewhere in that 1st 10K was a long, gradual climb which I double poled entirely. This was followed by a wicked fast downhill on what is probably a logging road or gas line or something because it was straight-edge straight. Unfortunately we had to take a 90degree turn before reaching the bottom and start climbing again. The #12 finisher, Anna Schulz, came out of nowhere (did she start late?) and passed me just before this turn. I did a little more striding on this climb but still mostly double poling. I totally dropped Anna on this climb (I say this facetiously; read on). The top was around 17K; I thought this was it for climbing and it would be downhill to the flat area around the hotel but I was surprised at the last 5K, which was a real roller coaster with short steep ups, twisty turns, right angle turns, and some fun downhills. I fell twice on the final descent, this last one allowing Anna to pass me with about 2K to go. I guess I hadn't dropped her! And props to her for negotiating around my splayed carcass and skis on the tight turn. The final 2K was all double poling and a few more downhills. I was double poling hard toward the finish but noticed the runout after the finish line was only about 18-20 feet and thought that I'd never be able to stop in that short of a distance since I can't hockey stop (at least in public), so I actually snowplowed across the finish line! I went and changed into dry clothes and then watch a few 50K finishers, including Colin Reuter, who gave me great racing advice a few posts ago.

The organizers of the race put on a first class ski marathon. Behind the finish line was a tent with two monitors, one showing the real time 25K finishers, the other the real time 50K lap times and finishing times. Wow was that kewl! Following the race, there was a sit down lunch in the Presidential Ballroom of the Mt. Washington Hotel. And free beer from Sam (thumbs down) and the Woodstock Brewery (which is really Shipyard) (thumbs up). For the raffle, they stuck a huge sheet of paper up with bib numbers. If your bib number was on there, you won a raffle prize; probably most bibs won a raffle prize. The prizes were quite good. I won a swix jacket that looks like something I might wear snowmobiling in Rangeley. For the awards, they only announced the overall winners. For the age group prizes they just said come on up and collect your award (a Mt. Washington Hotel pint glass). Good stuff. Too bad word will spread and ruin any chance of repeat 3rd-in-age-group next year.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bluebird skies

That's a beautiful picture...if I were into running right now. But despite my little venture yesterday, I'd like to keep skiing until April 1. While it's spring in Portland, it's still winter at Pineland, but a week like that to the right cannot be good.

I did 3 laps of Oak Hill this afternoon, minus Gloucester Hill, which was roped off. I think they actually groomed Oak Hill this morning but it froze over and ranged from frozen corduroy to frozen hard pack. A pack of elephants in high heels could have run on it with no damage to the surface.

I finally met Nate, Shannon, and Little Finley (is that his full name, Danielle?). They were in the Oak Hill parking lot packing up to leave when I arrived. Some other familiar faces were there. Ben and Nate Niles were on Oak Hill. Nate will be representing Maine in the Eastern High School Championships at Rangeley next weekend. And John Eldredge (Pineland runner) and John Tarling arrived as I was finishing. John T's son Sam is representing New England this week at the Junior Olympics in Truckee CA. He finished 3rd in the B final (or 9th place overall) of the sprints on Monday and 6th in the 15K skate race yesterday. It's pretty cool to see Maine and New England skiers competing nationally and internationally.

For those not going to the inov-8 factory, not going to the North Face endurance race, not going to Bretton Woods, or not running Bradbury Saturday morning, you should head up to Black Mountain in Rumford and watch the NCAA cross-country championships (alpine is at Sunday River). Alpine and XC are combined for scoring (wierd huh?). UVM is currently in 2nd after the first day of alpine and XC. Dartmouth is way back in 7th. Middlebury is 8th. Colby and Bates are also there. Dave Roberts' (runs the Pineland Farms TR) daughter Elise placed 11th in classic today behind a bunch of names that sound suspiciously finnish, nowegian and swedish.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I ran

No not the country. The activity. Really. 4.25 miles! With Rodney and Sasha - on the roads (to Hell). Now it's time to hang the shoes back up and find some good snow. I hope Pineland is skiable tomorrow and Friday. Bretton Woods 25K on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Post race musings

1. Pineland is too good. The trails at Pineland are so beautifully laid out, and the grooming has been so good this winter, that certain parts of my skiing repertoire are not being challenged and improved. This includes especially making 90+ degree turns at speed and with a grooved out channel with soft piles of snow pushed to the side.
2. There is a very small midpack and essentially no back of the pack in these ski races. It's bad for the ego but maybe that is good because it is fewer people to have to pick my way through.
3. That said, the Pineland winter-tri brought out many back of the packers! The only point of comparison is Matt Lunt who had the 3rd best ski time at the winter tri but was 56/86 at the Rangeley Loppet.
4. Most everyone uses a water bottle belt in the ski marathons, not camelbaks. The problem is one bottle isn't enough so you have to have someone hand you a new bottle at the lap, or I guess tuck one along the course somewhere. My camelbak worked pretty well and I wanted it especially to carry a set of dry gloves in case my first pair got too soaked and my frostbitten fingers chilled. That didn't happen. But maybe I'll start practicing eating gels while moving (not so easy with glove and poles strapped to the hands).
5. The timing crew/race director made several mistakes in timing and awards. Some were fixed during the awards, some that I know of were not. This included Dave Roberts  (runs the Pineland 25K and Craig Cup) 2nd place in 10 year age group but no acknowledgement during the awards. And this guy actually finished 10 minutes slower than the official results (he's got a nice race report, by the way). How did that happen and why didn't it happen to me?
6. The report is that all of the new england ski races have been down in numbers this winter,by 20% or more, despite the good snow and weather. It will be interesting to see how the trail race numbers shake out.
7. Cross-training - I cannot recommend hanging up the running shoes and skiing all winter highly enough. It's a great way to rest weary joints but maintain super fitness. Plus the downhills are just wicked fun.
8. Today has been the first day that I've thought about running (not actually going out and running but thinking "what a nice day to run").

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Monday - BC on Blackstrap must be on the schedule



Another Monday, another fresh dump. Or mini-dump, at least. The radar has been interesting today and I'm guessing snow totals will vary wildly. I hope Pineland got some of this because it needs it.

For the Rangeley Lakes Loppet weekend, Cacky and I stayed in Rangeley with neighbor John and Neighbor Sarah and their kids and friends Hugh and Colleen Coxe and their kids. Our kids stayed home and gamed all weekend although Sam did get out on his snowboard jump. After the Loppet on Saturday, the plan was some downhill (snowboarding in my case) on Sunday but the weather over Saddleback was nasty, alternating between wet, wet, snow and even rain. So we left Rangeley by 11AM and John, Hugh and I agreed to ski Pineland instead. I wanted to use yesterday as a recovery ski but I chose to classic instead of skate because my skate boots were still dripping with sweat. Striding was really, really slow on the wet surface. I hadn't glide waxed my classic skis since the temperature was in the 20s and they showed it. I used the uphills to really work on my kick, like I saw the Bates skiers do last week. No bad but I still had to get out of the track a few times. John and I didn't run into Hugh until after the ski, but we all had a nice drink and Debbie's cookie together in the Market. After the ski, I was really, really, tired, went to bed at 9:30PM and didn't get out of bed until a little after 8AM. That's pretty unusual for me but I guess I needed the sleep.

Since today is Monday, it snowed and that means BC skiing with the dogs. We had a nice 6K ski on Blackstrap Hill. The dogs were off-leash on the trails but not Hardy Rd. Hardy Rd. had not been plowed all day and I kept the skis on and had the dogs pull me down the road to my car. It's about 200 yards from the trail head to the car parking area and is all downhill. The dogs loved it, but not as much as I.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rangeley Loppet 50K



Nat Steele, the director of the Rangeley Lakes Loppet switched me from the 25K to the 50K on Thursday and, despite having trained for the 25K, I did race the 50K. It's much harder for me to plan my times skiing than running, since the times are not only course dependent but conditions dependent. But I figured 3:30 if the conditions were good and 4:00 if they were bad. The temperature never dropped below freezing Friday night, and I was worried about slow conditions. I was surprised at how fast they were though. The 50K is two 25K laps. I finished the first lap in slightly less than 1:29 so was way ahead of where I thought I'd be. Conditions for the second lap deteriorated. The wind picked up and was in our face for a good part of the first 5K of the 2nd lap. The sun had also come out and was warming up the snow. The climbs were still great but the downhills were now much less fun and more work. This course has several very long downhills and we were screaming down these on lap one. On the second lap, it felt like I was trying to slide across rubber. Tom Page, who has run in some of the Bradbury and/or Pineland races, passed me very early in the first lap, but I caught up with him and passed him at about the 46K mark. Then on a downhill turn at 47K, I snowplowed a little too hard and he shot past me like a bullet and stayed ahead of me to the end. I had the energy to ski much harder over the last 3K, but not the will. The second lap was exactly 14 minutes slower and my finish time was 3:12:48, which is 17+ minutes faster than I thought my fastest time would be. So I'm pretty pumped about that. Sadly, I placed 8th out of 10 people in my age division! If you look at the results, you'll also see that someone named Jeff Walker got a DNS in the 25K.

My hydration and fuel management went much better than the GG300. I hydrated for 3 days prior to the race. I wore a camelbak with the Heed that I won in the raffle at Great Glen. The heed is pretty good but it wasn't quenching my thirst like water. Turned out I wasn't drinking enough, although I was drinking about every 20 minutes. On lap 2, I did stop at two aid stations for water and a gel pack because I needed something other than the heed.

**update** Ski races don't post overall results, just by age/sex divisions. So I took the results and exceled them. Very humbling. I finished 67th out of 86 racers.

Friday, March 6, 2009

boot cam

The Stowe Derby is a xc race from the top of Mt. Mansfield, down the tote road and through the village of Stowe. The first 3 miles is all downhill and on one of the original downhill skill trails in the US. This guy filmed his descent with his boot cam! It's amazing how few sections he had to skate (in which case the camera view goes all over the place).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tapering

Now that it's less than 48 hours from my big race of the winter, I decided to do some online research on tapering for ski marathons! Not only did I find something on tapering, I found a whole training schedule. I'm impressed, but wish I had found it in December. Never too late to start the schedule though. Let's see, 2 days before the race it says "2 x 5 min intervals at race pace, 1 hour total", so I went to Riverside to ski. I forgot what pace the intervals were supposed to be and did my 2 x 5 min a little above race pace.

And as far as a slippery slope of a 50K ski marathon sliding me to a 50K, 50M or 100M trail race, I think the only slope I'm on is to Canada.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Going Long

OK. All you ultra types have shamed me into getting off my FA and moving up from the 25K to the 50K in the Rangeley Loppet this Saturday (March 7). I'm going to curse all of you during that final 10K. I have actually thought about hydration and energy though, so hopefully I'll be better prepared than my last 50+K.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Classic...part deux



Skiing has been rather schizophrenic the past week. Last Wednesday was stunningly gorgeous with fresh snow and bluebird skies. Then Thursday-Saturday were nicht so gut (except the BC skiing saturday morning). Well, Pineland is back to where it was last Wednesday. The sky was blue and cloudless, the temperature was fair, and Mt. Washington was brilliant. The classic tracks were a little soft, and a little windblown in the fields, but who's racing?

I classic skied all 21K of the woods trails. On the long runout after Gloucester Hill (Oak Hill), three Bates boys passed me and I hung with them for the rest of the Gloucester Hill loop (they were in slow technique mode). It was beautiful to watch them stride up the last hill on the Gloucester Hill loop, just before it rejoins the Oak Hill trail. They were in ABC super slo-mo and taking fairly long strides. And they set their wax pocket perfectly every time. Maybe one of them was Sylvan Ellefson, one of the top classic skiers in the NCAA. Regardless, I enjoyed the free lesson.

21.1K, 1:44:27 total time, 1 rasberry hammer gel compliments of the winter-tri.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fresh Tracks on Blackstrap

Will and I took Rodney and Sasha to the Skillin's tree farm on Blackstrap Hill today. Will was on snowshoe and I was on my toy BC skis. It was perfect. We made fresh tracks in to the powerline, then hopped on a fresh snowmobile trails up the sisters to the ridge line. The snowmobile trail continued on the ridge, but we made fresh tracks again down through the Skillin's tree farm. I did a couple of yo-yos so I could descend in tracks.




Sunday, March 1, 2009

Trail Monster Winter Tri

Ian, Randy, and I entered the 1st annual Winter Tri this morning as a relay team. Our race report is really really short: DNF. Randy's rear hub was out of commission before the race even started and we couldn't find a replacement bike. Ian went ahead and started the race (the snowshoe leg) hoping that a miracle might occur while he was out. None did, except maybe his wicked fast run after doing 50k in the snow yesterday. I went out and skied the course and it was *perfect* - oh to have raced it! But I got in a furious and fun 16K. Great to see Fezzik Dunn and the "Baxter Bacon Van Hays" team go fast and to see Floyd L. and Mindy & Pete volunteering on the course.

Pile it high...