Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snarling Snow

I'm running out of ways to describe the recurring snow conditions at Waterville Valley. Only once this season have I encountered what I consider fast or even average conditions. It is always so freakin cold up there, and they always seem to get a dusting of abrasive snow after they groom. Today the snow snarled with each push of your ski, as if it were retorting "and where do you think you're going!?" No where fast, that's for sure.

Three of us went up, Skogs, Dave and myself. We started together but didn't stay that way very long. I was on a mission. Today was my last major workout before tapering for Lake Placid next weekend. I signed up for the 50k skate race. I wanted to go harder for less duration today. I only wish my harder effort netted a little more speed and distance than usual. It didn't with the slow snow. The boat loads of new snow were groomed out nice though.

We started out just like last weekend, doing the full south end perimeter. I drilled all the climbs. Concerned about imploading too soon, Skogs told me to just go on ahead, don't wait. I went 85 minutes before taking a breather to suck down a Gu at the top of Cascade Brook Trail. Taking Beanbender to get there was killer. I told myself before getting to Beanbender I wasn't going to do it again on sandpaper snow like last week. I did not need to strain hip flexors or a groin muscle. I just can't pass up a punishing climb though. I tricked myself into thinking I could just "soft pedal" it. In 12F sandpaper snow, there is no soft pedaling. For about 7 minutes I averaged 3mph. I was an inch of glide away from herringboning the sucker. I thought to myself I bet I couldn't even ride a mountain bike up it without wheelying over backwards, so skiing up at any speed is probably success.

I came down Cascade then crossed over to Lower Osceola to do the other 800 footer, Tripoli Rd. I met Brad Ek and Brad Sheehan at the bottom. I've skied and bike raced with Ek (NHCC) before but didn't recall ever meeting Sheehan despite the familiar name. Maybe an Exeter ride? A little research shows he rides for and is team director of the Metlife cycling team. Ek and Sheehan happened to be heading up Tripoli also and asked if I wanted to join. They are excellent skiers. Sheehan V2'd all but a few of the steepest bits of the Tripoli climb. I was having trouble V2'ing on the flats in this dry snow. Impressive.

Sticking to my mission of going harder shorter, I called it good after climbing Tripoli and headed back. The sun was working just a tad of glide into Swan's Way back to the Nordic center. Figures now that I was done. Turns out Skogs and Dave didn't ski with each other very long either. Dave did Beanbender and Cascade but not Tripoli. Skogs skipped the biggest climbs altogether and went for some flat land cruising around Moose Run and Wicked Easy. Skiing doesn't afford the luxury of "sitting in" like cycling. Minute differences in fitness or technique are quickly exposed. I don't mind waiting at the tops of climbs on the bike at all for others, but when you are soaked in minimal layers with windchills near zero, waiting on skis isn't a viable option. We each got back to the Nordic center within minutes of the planned rendezvous time. Despite chilly conditions and slow snow, it really was an awesome sunny day to be out in the mountains. 34.8km, 1036m vertical in 2.6hrs for the day.

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