Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bike? What bike?

I haven't been on a bike four days in a row now, I bet a record long bikeless streak this year. Bike miles have been replaced with ski kilometers. Conditions have been all over the spectrum.  Sunday in Michigan, the snow was deep but glide silky smooth. Then Monday rain mixed in with more new snow and became as sticky as peanut butter. Tuesday was a travel/rest day. Then it was back to Waterville Valley on Wednesday. Some snow fell there after the big thaw. Then the temperature plummeted in a big way.

Last night when I got home, I checked out the weather. The wind was blowing my tiny xD all over the road from Buffalo to Pelham. I couldn't pump gas fast enough on the New York Thruway to avoid losing all feeling in my hand holding the pump handle. Silly below zero windchills. I pulled up the Mt Washington Observatory website to get a glimpse just how crazy cold it can get in Cow Hampshire. The image below says it all. The wind chill was holding steady more than 70F below zero with wind gusting to over 100mph.

It wasn't that cold at Waterville this morning, but dang cold none the less. We skier types can handle this. It's the snow that sucks. New snow that hasn't had a chance to get worked over when it is that cold is about a much fun to skate ski on as Hampton Beech in July. A lot of work pays miniscule dividends.

DaveP and I hit the north end, starting on Livermore Rd. Cascade Brook trail is now open to Junction 29. This means both 800ft climbs are open for business. Coming back down, we passed the Freeman brothers heading up. I grabbed my water at the bottom, then went back for a repeat. Kris and Justin came by at about 40mph on Cascade Brook as Dave and I climbed. Hitting Cascade twice pretty near killed Dave and I.

You know how kids, when they get a new toy at Christmas, they can't stop playing with it? I'm kind of like that with V2 technique right now. It took me several seasons to figure it out. Last season I got it sorted out, and this season I'm refining it. I V2 everywhere I can, even sometimes when it is not the appropriate technique. V2ing all the way up Livermore on sandpaper snow sent my triceps into a tizzy today. I'm continuously testing the limits of newly acquired balance skills. I haven't crashed myself yet this season by overcommitting to a ski, but close. The coolest thing I'm discovering this season is a sweet spot with V2 technique that feels very efficient, where kilojoule expenditure is minimized for a given speed. I have not noticed this before, and no doubt if I can expand this sweet spot to other techniques and greater variety of terrain, I will do much better in ski marathons. This season I aspire to suck less.

We next crossed over to do Tripoli Rd next, the other 800ft climb. The snow was even more abrasive there. I waxed with Swix green, and Dave didn't rewax since last skiing here with blue. I think I had a glide advantage starting out, but abrasive snow like this quickly turns the ski base white. Tripoli was brutal. Kris and Justin were heading down while we climbed. We caught up to their dad, Donovan, up top. He commented the boys were doing their final tune-up ski before Nationals in Anchorage starting this weekend.

I got the biggest ice cream headache ever coming down Tripoli. The temp was surely in the single digits up top, and my eyebrows were exposed and soaking wet with sweat. At speeds of 20-30mph on the steeper parts, any exposed skin stings. Once we hit the bottom, Dave and I decided to do a cool-down lap around Moose Run/Wicked Easy and call it a day. 40km in 2.8hrs with 2800ft of climbing. A slow day indeed, but a cardio workout you could never achieve on a bike, trainer or rollers this time of year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lake effect snow, quirky stuff it is

Yesterday I was bitchin' about not having skiable snow. Along the lakeshore, 12hrs can make a world of difference. I did not anticipate skiing today. When I awoke, there was about 6" of new snow outside. Just to the north got over a foot. Both local skiing options were claiming groomed skiing. Hmm, the place 30 minutes away got less snow and I wondered if it was enough. The place an hour away got a foot and I wondered if it was too much. Both places groom with snowmobiles. A foot of new powder packed by light weight snowmobiles didn't sound like much skating fun. I opted to check out the closer place first.

Snowing three inches per hour at Pigeon Creek

This was Pigeon Creek, a county park that charges nothing to ski the groomed trails. This is fairly common in the midwest actually. As I drove north not far inland from Lake Michigan, the snow depth increased dramatically. Seems some fingers of very intense lake effect had hit the area. Pigeon Creek's snowphone report said they received 4-6", but much more had fallen since earlier in the morning. It looked closer to a foot.

I was dismayed to see they hadn't groomed in some time. Locals rave how Pigeon Creek grooms throughout the day here. The powder was so deep that I couldn't see my skis gliding under it. The good thing was lake effect snow often has good moisture content. Glide was good, despite skiing in ankle deep mashed potatoes. And the snow was still coming down furiously. Brought back horrors from the Rangeley Lakes Loppet a couple years ago.

I did a couple full north and south perimeter loops and swung back by the car to get a drink after an hour. I did not need the weight of a full Camelbak in this mush. I just left the Camelbak on my car and I could skate right up to it.  In an hour, there was already 3" of new snow on my car. Three inches per hour. Not even a snow storm. Just a typical day in West Michigan. The deal was, they weren't coming back out with the roller. After a third perimeter loop, I gave up skiing the less traveled north side. It was just too much work. Couldn't even see my boots gliding through the stuff.

South loop at Pigeon Creek

Pigeon Creek is pretty flat. The biggest hill is 40ft. It has a nice plummet on the back side though. In about 1.5sec, you go over 20mph. It is the Nordic equivalent of the Log Roll at FOMBA.  I did the south loop with this hill seven times. Every time there were two kinds of skiers at this hill. Those at the top with trembling legs dreading going down, and those some portion of the way down digging snow out of their collars and eye sockets. I just tucked it each time. One time at the bottom some little kid said "Wow, that's the fastest one yet!"

Have to put mugshot up so Dave can choke on his Cheerios

I actually got a compliment of sorts from another skate skier. There were only a few of us there among the hords of classic skiers. I was V2ing about 95% of the time, feeling quite good in my balance. This other master skier assumed I had been skiing for many years. I learned to V2 only last season.  I was by far the fastest skier there, but that doesn't say much. Many families with kids. They "get it" at Pigeon Creek too, parents are really good about keeping their children to the side when faster skiers come by.

I skied 2.7hrs, covering only 37.8km. There was 4-5" of new snow on my car when I finished, and the snowmobile was just coming out to roll the trails. Wish I could've skied a few more laps on a packed surface, but I was wicked trashed.  Six hours of rigorous aerobic activity in two days was sweet. Pigeon Creek being close by, I hope to get in a few laps there again Monday morning. Then it's sledding with nephews and nieces in the afternoon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mixed bag conditions

Blog interest seems to wane over the holidays, but I thought I'd put something up for the one or two random readers that happen by. Spending some time in Michigan with family for the holidays. Always good to come back. I do like to stay active during this time, as I totally lose the battle on the food front. The best I can do is damage control, try to get out an hour per day to burn maybe a third of the excess calories I take in. The last several years, the weather just hasn't cooperated. This Christmas seems to be particular challenging. There was no local cross country skiing when we arrived. Then it rained for 36hrs all the way up to da U.P. before it got cold again. That killed XC skiing at the two places three hours away. I called the Crystal Mtn Nordic Center this morning. They said the base was too thin to bring the Piston Bully out, and they were advising XC skiers to stay away from the hills. They were essentially boiler plate. To add insult to injury, all the local roads glazed over. That ruled out rollerskiing too. I will go a whole week with no skiing when I should be well into build phase for races coming up. My mom has a treadmill in the basement, but no ski erg. Bummer.

Fort Custer MTB loops, Garmin track

So what about mountain biking? There was still crusty snow left in the woods. It was a bit iffy, plus just because there is minimal snow here doesn't mean there won't be a foot of snow 10 miles away. Lake effect snow is like that. Today the temp was going to stay well below freezing. Perhaps any residual snow will be rock hard. Rather than drive 156 miles each way to XC ski on boiler plate, I decided to chance a trail ride 56 miles away at Fort Custer Rec Area, land adjacent to a National Guard training base. It is my favorite place to ride in Michigan.

The Trenches on the Red loop. I believe these were actually
used for combat training at one time. They weave through the place
and now make great half-pipe material for riding.

I first had to replace my rear tire. I bought new Nokians but hadn't gotten around to swapping them out yet. I was replacing them because the studs and treads are worn down. But to my horror, I discovered the tube was bulging out of the rear tire in multiple places. The side casing was rotten and splitting apart. One split was nearly an inch long. Must be due to running uber low pressure that the thing didn't explode. I went to a local bike shop to pick up the cheapest non-studded knobbie they had, a Bontrager Connection. Felt like really soft rubber with sharp knobs. Might make a good snow tire.

Section of Green trail on far side of lake

Pulling into Fort Custer, I was bumming. There must have been 4" of crusty snow in the woods. Usually that dooms riding. There was one car in the biker parking lot, and just one set of tracks in the light dusting of new snow. The singletrack was actually in superb riding condition. There was enough biker/hiker/skier traffic on it before the rain came, so what was left was hard as pavement in most places yet not icy. It was totally hammerable material. And hammer I did. If I couldn't ski mountains for three hours, I was going to shred singletrack for three hours.

The Red trail with typical dark overcast in W. Michigan

There are four color-coded loops at Fort Custer, Red (10mi), Green (7mi), Blue(6mi) and Yellow (~5mi). Red and Green are the good stuff, narrow singletrack with some mildly challenging features. Blue is wide singletrack around a pair of lakes, Yellow is beginner material on doubletrack. I hit red-green-blue-red-yellow. Red was too much fun to ride just once. Hammered everything. Never saw another rider on the trails but saw a couple getting ready to ride when I came back to the trailhead one time. This was snow riding at it's best, probably the best snow ride I've ever had. I rode 37.8 miles with about 2140 feet of climbing in 3.3 hours. The non-studded rear tire worked amazingly well, although it did slide around a lot on 20mph doubletrack turns with powder over ice. I managed to stay upright the whole time.

This wasn't the only ride I've gotten in this week. En route to Michigan, we stopped in London, Ontario. There's a MTB trail there called the Fanshawe Lake Trail. It is 15 miles of mostly singletrack around the lake just outside of town. Mostly buff stuff that begs for speed, and on a cold, blustery Christmas Eve morning, there were just a few people on it. There was a faint snow coating on it that did not diminish traction whatsoever. Cathy and Aaron chased down some "Canadian Tylonol" in town for my mom while I rode. I was very fortunate to squeeze this ride in. It was my second time riding the loop. The first time was many years ago, and since then some interesting sections have been added with built up stunts. I finished the 15.1 mile ride in 76 minutes, nicely satiated. We only had four more hours on the road to reach west Michigan.

Skinny benchcut on the Fanshawe Lake Trail. Frozen rock hard.

Some snow is moving into the area now, but it doesn't sound like it will be enough to get XC skiing going, and it will certainly be too much for rollerskiing and off-road riding. We're here only a few more days anyway, so hopefully the same rain that came through here doesn't ruin skiing at Waterville.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Say you hate shopping, and you need to head out with your better half for a bunch of things, be it groceries, Christmas shopping, whatever. How do you deaden the senses enough to endure hours of agony? Or maybe you have a family get-together on her side, and you can't stand half of them. Is there a way to soften the hours of suffering without resorting to chemical substances? You betcha! A couple hours of intense cardio work before hand is one of nature's best anesthesias. If you pummel yourself into the ground, you can endure almost anything later in the day. You'd never do this though, right? You'd want to be in your best form for Aunt Wilma or while looking at jewery in the mall with screaming brats running into you.

It seems half of the New England cycling community was up at Waterville Valley this morning. This in spite of scary below zero temperatures to start the day off. It was -3F pulling off I-93, and probably 5 degrees colder than that at the Valley.  The good thing, there was no wind. The bad thing, there was no glide. Teammates Brett and Jody met Dave and I up there.  Rich Brown and Keith Button just happened to show up at the same time. We spotted several other roadies and mountain bikers while skiing. You wonder where "roadie power" comes from? It starts on the snow. Now.

A hard tempo shot up Livermore got the feeling back in our hands. Livermore was a bit thin in places and not groomed this morning. It was pretty hard and less than ideal for control. We then went over to the other side to hit Tripoli. I hit it harder than Wednesday, but was slower than my fourth time up it Wednesday. It wasn't quite as slow as trying to glide up a sand dune, but close in places. We hit Osceola and a lap around Moose Run before coming back to Tripoli for an encore. I had forgotten my Camelbak and was becoming dehydrated. The earlier hard efforts were starting to catch up to me too. Dave was nipping at my heels the whole way up, and it was his first time on any kind of skis this season.

After grabbing water from the car, Dave, Rich and I went back up Livermore. Dave set pace this time, and just like on the bike, proves he is indefatigable on skis too. I might have a 20 minute power advantage, but he dominates the multi-hour power efforts. I wondered why he hit that harder than when we first started out. Guess he didn't want to leave anything in the tank. Some Christmas parties to go to tonight. We skied 42km, 3000ft of climbing, in about 2.7hrs. A solid workout.

So I go to the mall this evening to pick up new lenses for my glasses (prescription changed a bit). I try to avoid the mall this time of year. What a cluster. I had lenses replaced in my everyday glasses and my sport glasses. Well, LensCrafters managed to break my sport frames and the new lenses in my primary glasses don't fit tight. At one point, I thought they were going to charge me for new frames. Had I not fully anesthetized myself this morning, I would have gone ballistic. To make matters worse, we leave for Michigan in a few days, and they told me it could be 10 days to get new frames. I need those glasses on snow. Macular degeneration runs in my family, so I need to take as many precautions as possible.  Then they told me they can't even get replacement frames at all, I would have to pick out new ones and they would have to cut new lenses for them. So now I have to go back to the retail circus again tomorrow.

I found this interesting set of brief reports on winter sports science put together by NBC and the NSF. I haven't watched all of them yet, but I learned a few things I did not know. The one embedded here discusses the cardio demands of XC skiing.

Looks like the Cape and much of southern New England is going to get pounded. Really bums me out about the Cape. I had hoped to bike there on Sunday. If they do get 20", ToT and Otis could be taken off-line for much of this winter. I might be doing more skiing than originally planned. Weston should be on-line when I get back from Michigan.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Perhaps one reader will recognize what this post is about from the title. At the beginning of this year, Alex and I began keeping tabs on our total climbing. I often wondered how much climbing I did in a year. I guess maybe 500,000 vertical feet, but really had no idea. I never tracked it. I did know that my 10 biggest vertical rides last year netted well over 100,000ft. So in January, I began logging my vertical from skiing, riding and hiking. Most of it was measured with a Garmin Edge 705 GPS. Some of it was taken from DeLorme Topo. A small amount was estimated.

You may have read about Mark Weir, the pro mountain biker that took a challenge to climb 1,000,000 feet in a year. He did it in 11 months, mostly on a mountain bike, and got much publicity for it in the bike mags. That seemed like an awful lot, nearly 3000ft per day on average.

For a while, Alex was ahead of me. But things like trips to Hawaii and North Carolina in the spring quickly catapulted me ahead. Then throw in a Colorado trip in August for another spike-up. These can all be spotted in the plot below. Yesterday's ski pushed me above 600,000ft. That means I climbed on average 1700ft per day this year.  Take out rest days, this average approaches 2000ft per day of activity.  I haven't tallied up how much climbing was on dirt, snow or road, other than a quick scan suggests about 62,000ft was on skate skis. Much more than this would have been MTB on dirt. A million feet in a year doesn't seem like a lot anymore. I have no desire to try something like that. The last time I set a silly goal of riding over 10,000 miles in one year, I had abysmal race results. At my age, I've learned quality pays better dividends than quantity.

I won't track my vertical progress next year. I already capture too many details in my training log. In fact, I'll probably delete the HR and power columns in the spreadsheet while I'm at it. It was interesting to track climbing this year. Now I have a baseline by which to compare going forward.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweet Intensity

For about the last three months, I've been more or less just coasting along in terms of structured training. Zero structured intervals. Cross season is my off season.  In the past, I never had completely cut interval training out of my weekly cycle. I'm not following any kind of plan that says "take three months off from intervals." Can't say I was burned out on intensity. I seem to be burn-out proof in that department. No, I think it was more of just kicking back and enjoying the best fitness of my life for a few months. Did lots of mountain biking. It's not like I completely backed off either. I've done many 3-5hrs rides in the last few months that left me quite depleted.

Enter ski season. I've been training on rollerskis for over a couple months now. At first, it was only an hour a week, then a couple hours per week, rarely with much intensity. Now the snow is here. I have some ski racing goals this winter. "Just coasting along" ain't going to meet my goals. Time to bring some structured intensity back into the training regimen.

Since there is negligible local night skiing right now, I took this morning off to hit Waterville Valley. Of course, I had to do this after the temperature dropped more than 30 degrees from the day before. It was 10F with 30mph winds. Typically, sub-zero windchills really aren't an issue cross country skiing. You generate so much excess heat that risk of frost bite or even discomfort are minimal. What I don't like about skiing in frigid temps is that the snow often has the glide qualities of beech sand.  I pulled into the north end lot just as the Piston Bully finished up the northern half of the north end. Perfect. I finished kitting up and went right for Tripoli Rd. I was the only skier out at the time.

I immediately noticed that glide was not bad at all. In fact, at the bottom, it was quite fast. It appeared the snow dump on Sunday finished with a bit of sleet, and this churned in with snow makes a sugary granular surface that is wonderful to skate ski on. Near the summit of Tripoli Rd at Thornton Gap, the snow was much slower. Apparently the higher elevations didn't get the sleet finish. But it was still good. I hit the 800ft climb aggressively, but not too hard. I wanted to do several repeats.

The descent happens so fast, you really don't have a chance to get cold. Before you know it, you are putting out like 400W for another 20+ minute interval. I repeated this craziness four times. 23-24 minutes from very bottom to summit going up, almost exactly 10 minutes coming back down each time. This scored me over 90 minutes of solid threshold-plus intensity work. I thought about doing a fifth climb, but my fourth one took just a tad longer than my third, so I pulled the plug rather than risk needing an extra recovery day. Instead, I did a couple cool down laps around Moose Run. I finished with 41.4km, 3700ft of climbing, in 2.7hrs on the Garmin. Definitely one of my better workouts this year, on or off the bike. Nothing like a good endorphin buzz in the morning.

Tripoli 4x. For some reason, the GPS track data is missing
for third climb, yet all the lap data is in the lap file. Downward
trend in profile indicates rising barometric pressure.

Workouts like these on snow over the next few months are the basis of road race wins in the spring and hillclimb PR's later in the summer. It's a completely different modality from the bike. Skiing is novel each December when I get back on snow. It's like you can forget about the bike for a while, completely let go even, knowing that your fitness on the bike come spring will be better than if you tried to stay on the bike all winter. And a trainer? F- that. I can't think of anything that would crush my motivation more quickly.

Looking forward to heading back up on Saturday with a posse. Sunday is looking good for a trail ride, possibly Trail of Tears on the Cape.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snowy Hill Action

Couldn't find any takers to join me at Waterville Valley today. Just as well. I needed to ski at my own pace.  I've managed to bury myself deeply in an overloaded state this week. Trying to maintain some time on the bike while ramping up ski training will do this. I call it double dipping. It seems this happens to me this time of year for the last few years now. About the only thing I give up are the recovery days on the bicycle. Keep the tempo rides, then add liberal dose of tempo and harder ski workouts. I'm feeling pretty good about my base fitness right now. Just need to back down a little this week to capture gains made and not get sick. This type of training pays big dividends come spring, when I tend to score most of my bicycle podium finishes.

Osceola, Tripoli, Livermore 2x

Conditions were surprisingly sweet at Waterville. About 30km were groomed. I picked up season pass and drove to north end parking lot. Warmed up on Moose Run/Wicked Easy. A few ankle biters were poking through in the usual early season spots. Next up was the Osceola climb. It was perfect. I was not perfect. Nothing like a good climb to perk up the legs, though. What, climbs don't motivate you when you are firing on about 3 of 8 cylinders? I felt much better after coming down Osceola. The crown jewel of Waterville climbs was next, Tripoli Rd. It gains 800ft and was flawlessly groomed. Looked like only two skaters had been up so far. No benchmark time-trail today. It took me about 20 minutes to climb it. I hope to break 17 minutes on a good day this season. Came close last season.

Now my legs didn't feel very perked up. I've done five repeats up Tripoli before, and I think just one was going to be it today. I crossed back over to the parking lot, picked up my Camelbak, then headed up Livermore Rd for some technique work. The first time up I focused on good V2 form, trying to maximize glide on each leg on the flatter parts. The second time up I left the poles at the bottom. Livermore Rd is a perfect no-poles climb, very similar to Oak Hill on the Littleton rollerski loop in fact. My glutes went into rebellion. I knew if I took my poles with me, I'd cave in and start using them. I recall the first time I skied up Livermore Rd. I could not V1 on the steep parts without stopping to catch my breath. At that time, I was a podium finisher in the Mt Washington bicycle hillclimb. I had the engine, but utterly lacked the technique. It was humbling to see little girls out-climb me on skis. Now I can smoothly skate all the way up without poles on an "off" day. I should try no-poles on much steeper Tripoli sometime.

With that, I called it a day - 34.4km, 2290ft vert, 2.3hrs.  The skies had grown very dark, and snow seemed eminent. Snow it did, on the drive home, which sucked. Clueless SUV drivers in a hurry to get back to Jersey. Lost count of mishaps, including roll-overs. By the time I got home over two hours later, it was raining.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wind Power vs. Pedal Power

My body was in a wretched state when I got up this morning. Saturday's skate ski was a punisher. Even though my technique continues to improve, Brett can still put the screws to me on flat terrain. His V2 is so efficient, barely breaking 140bpm, while I flail away to stay with him. Head up something steep though, I sometimes return the favor.

I certainly was in no condition to race. Not even doing it "just for fun." Frankly, I really don't see the point of racing if you aren't there to give it a decent shot. Why bother. That's what organized fun rides are for. I do a number of races each year when I'm not 100%, like Fat Tire Classic after Turtle Pond, or Bow after Equinox. I can still be competitive in those cases while having fun. There's nothing like a ski workout to leave you lifeless the next day. Performance on the bike is degraded far more the day after a hard training ski than the day after a hard training ride. I wonder if this still holds true for skiers that cross train on the bike in summer.

Saturday looked to be a spectacular riding day, so a ride was still in the plan. Single-digit wind chills ruled out a road ride. ATVs had been on the powerline trails by my house, but I think only limited terrain would actually be rideable. Thoughts drifted further south. Was it Cape time? I really planned to get new tires on my Matrix today. Hmmm, bare dirt singletrack for a few hours or sit around at a tire shop for a few hours. Singletrack won. I can be irresponsible like that. I threw the Titus dualie in the xD and headed to Otis.

Total of collected GPS tracks from myself, Colin R and others.
The Goggle Earth KMZ filed can be downloaded from here.

There were about a dozen mountain biker cars at the Otis trail head. It was so warm on the Cape, I thought about going in short sleeves. Not really. It was about 29F and windy, 10F warmer than at home, enough to dress down one layer. In nine months, I nearly forgotten the lay of the land down there. It is easy to navigate though. A spaghetti maze takes you anywhere from anywhere. Sound of cars on Rt 28 forms one boundary. Rotary to north, base to east, powerlines through middle, and brilliant sun all keyed me in to my whereabouts at all times. I managed to hit bits I never rode before. The few spots that can be muddy were frozen solid. And of course, there was no snow. Except for lots of tree debris, conditions were wicked fast.

Attempting to track stand waiting for shutter to go.

Coming onto the Cape, I noticed a new, huge wind turbine on the base. I knew for years they have been trying to get a large wind farm started off the coast. Way too many people objected. People want "green" energy, but "not in my backyard." Mighty hypocritical. Well, the military base is a totally suitable location for wind energy. You have some big ridgelines in there, and big buffer zones from residential properties. Personally, I think wind turbines look pretty cool. I figured the one I saw from the highway was on Deer Horn Hill. Close, but not quite.

Two forms of renewable power from Mt Zig.

I didn't get to the turbine until late in my ride. My legs were entirely lifeless, so the hills in the area were really dragging me down, even with gears. I normally ride singlespeed in Otis. The wind was still blowing pretty good today, and you can hear the wind turbine a ways off. When I finally figured out how to get right up to it, I was amazed at how big it was. After research, I learned it is almost 400ft tall and generates 1.5 megawatts of power. That is over 5000 cyclists at threshold on ergs. The blades make a very distinct swooshing sound coming around. I bet the tips are moving 100mph. It doesn't turn at very high rpm's, but due to its enormity, the tips are moving faster than you think. The base must be 20ft in diameter. I shot video with my Lumix LX3, hoping to capture sound, but the wind was blowing across the microphone and drowned the turbine noise out.

This turbine went on line in just the last month. 17 have been approved for the site, but now I read the FAA is putting a stop to most of the turbines, citing aviation concerns. Wind power has been around for centuries. You'd think by now we'd get it. But no. A pittance of power is generated by wind in the US. This single turbine increases power generated by wind in Massachusetts by nearly 25%.

First time seeing this one. Stuff like this is scattered all over Otis.
Last slat before 5ft drop said "Good Luck!"

I rode over 2hrs, covering just 21.7 miles, probably my shortest Otis ride ever. I did seek out the most technical terrain though, and did more than usual climbing with 2400ft. With my daulie, I was able to clean sections I've never cleaned with my singlespeed. Good thing, else I have no business owning a daulie. I saw one person the whole time, a walker. Have no idea where the other bikers were. Many of the same cars with NEMBA stickers were still at the trail head when I left. Plan to hit snow again on Sunday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow is for Skiing

Looks like winter may be here for good this time, unlike the false start two weeks ago. Hit Bretton Woods with Brett today on my off Friday. Looking at the morning radar, long fingers of lake effect snow were streaming off Lake Ontario into the White Mountains. It was hard to tell how much accumulation these hit-or-miss ribbons would tally at Bretton Woods. As we hit Franconia Notch, it was snowing quite hard.

I was driving. Most people that ride with me find my driving habits unnerving. Many get used to it. Some do not. My mother for example, will take a dramamine if she knows we'll be taking a trek with me driving. That's for an interstate. Two dramamine are needed, say for the Road to Hana in Hawaii. Brett is another person that has never fully adapted to my driving habits. I get reminded all the time. Don't know why. I've yet to have a mishap. Others may find my driving annoying, but I think Crackberries are annoying. We're heading through the Notch where I-93 necks down to one lane, it is slick and snowing hard. A Crackberry was nearly fumbled when I placed both hands on the dash screamed. Deservedly, I was called names.

It was in the teens and blowing like crazy at Bretton Woods. The parking lot was nearly empty. The golf course was pretty much blown bare. Conditions did not look promising, and I wondered if they were even open. Passes were $10, and the groomer was out. It had snowed several inches since much of the grooming the day before, and some trails were nearly drifted shut. The bits groomed within the hour skated quite nicely. Stuff groomed for the first time this season skated terribly. Punch-through was the biggest problem. A couple trails were littered with tree debris, the kind like snares that can easily capture a ski and give you a bad case of whiplash or worse. The groomer was making passes further up the mountain, but it was essentially unskateable. Plus he kept stopping to cut out fallen trees from recent storms. It snowed a couple more inches while we were there. In about 2hrs, we were cooked. It was all work, all the time. I had little distance or elevation on the GPS to show for all the hard work. Definitely an upper body workout kind of day and worth the trip.

Waterville Valley opens Saturday. Need a one day break I think, then plan to pick up my season pass and ski WV Sunday. Doesn't look good for Ice Weasels CX race on Saturday. Was looking forward to jumping in the SS category with my Dean MTB, but this time of year, snow sports trumps bike sports for me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I coulda used these today

Outdoor conditions are in that inbetweeny state right now. There's not enough snow anywhere to support decent XC skiing, and many back roads are still dicy for road cycling from Saturday's snow dump. After a rare, true rest day Monday, I was eager go at something hard. Had to be rollerskiing. Wednesday is going to be a mess with impending storm. With any luck, I could be back on snow Friday.

There's something not quite right rollerskiing when the ground is mostly white. Even worse, I nearly crashed a couple times today pushing off on icy patches in the shade.  Perhaps Thom P was on to something when he suggested studded rollerski tires. I made my own studded MTB tires before really good ones became commercially available.  Guess I'll have to do the same with rollerski tires until Thom patents and sells his idea to Nokian for a million bucks. Then Nokian can begin producing millions of studded rollerski tires per year. This could be awesome. Skiers could save so much money by not having to pay trail fees anymore or buy exotic, expensive waxes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nashua Ski Track

Was bumming Sunday morning. Just enough snow to preclude rollerskiing and road cycling, but not enough for any XC ski centers to open/re-open. A trail ride might have worked fine. Four hours of that the day before was enough for the weekend. Then on a whim, I called SteveG who lives on the Nashua Country Club golf course. He just got back in from classic skiing on the course. He highly recommended the warmest, wettest wax I had, as the base was essentially slush even though the top layer was dry powder. I put on some cheap fluoro, Fast Wax bronze. The Nashua CC is 10 minutes away. The sun had been on the course for a couple hour now, so conditions were deteriorating quickly. I found anything but the close cropped fairway grass was utterly unskateable. The snow sat on top of the taller grass and skate skis would just cut under it and ride on nothing but grass. A few face plants steered me to a nice 0.7km loop that skated quite well, albeit slow. I managed a fairly strenuous 49 minute workout before things got too slushy. Had I been on the ball, I could have gotten a 2+ hour workout in. Forecast is looking favorable for better ski conditions next weekend.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chelmsford Meander

Seems last weekend at Bretton Woods was just a teaser. No skateable snow was to be found Saturday, unless you wanted to poach some alpine terrain early morning. I live too far away from open downhill areas to pull that off, actually. So DaveP and I had an LSD (long, steady, distance) ride in mind. I stumbled across a trail data base website for Chelmsford and Carlisle recently. There are many snippets of trails open to bikes on public land in these communities. The ride would be quite urban, never more than a stone's throw from houses or super highways, but mostly on dirt. Rain and snow were expected to move in some time after lunch, so we needed an early start if we hoped to get a 50 miler in.

Lime Quarry upper left, Russell Mill upper right,
rail trail left side, power lines center top

Our planned loop would hit, the Cranberry Bogs (where we parked to avoid Mass tax at Great Brook), Lime Quarry, George Wright Reservation, the powerlines that cut through Chelmsford, Great Brook, Russell Mill, Conant Reservation, and Towle Forest. Not sure this would tally 50 miles, but it would certainly be more than 40.

First surprise of the ride was the rail trail that connects the Cranberry Bogs with Lime Quarry. Google terrain view clearly shows it to be dirt, but they paved the sucker! Apparently, when completed, the 25 mile Bruce Freeman Rail Trail will connect Lowell with Framingham. Looked like a top notch affair with fencing, stripes, etc. It will no doubt be a major commuter link when completed.

Dave bombing buff descent in Lime Quarry

The Lime Quarry trails were swept clean of leaves. In fact, we found all of the trails in Chelmsford, including Russell Mill, to be completely cleared of leaves. Certainly makes riding more enjoyable and the tread clearly defined. Sometimes I wonder though if leaf pack helps control erosion. It was my first time riding in Lime Quarry. Nothing exciting. Some decent elevation change for such a small area, and you could go crazy fast in places.

The loop through George Wright Reservation gently rolled, was wide singletrack, and cleared of leaves. Only a mile or so long, so nothing worth going to by itself. From here we followed the power lines a couple miles to another trail shown on the Chelmsford map. I think this one was wishful thinking. It didn't exist. We tried in vain to find hint of trail from both ends. Churning out miles on pavement was all we scored. That kind of sucked. To make this loop work, many bits of trail are needed to keep it feeling like a trail ride. You lose that woodsy feeling with a long, busy stretch of pavement. To top it off, we actually got yelled at by some guy to stay off the grass and on the path. The town map clearly shows public access to conservation land off that dead-end culdesac. It was more like a vacant lot than grass. Got to keep the loonies on the path.

We were putzing along at a recreational pace for the most part. I think Dave was saving himself for a planned Fred Worlds ride Sunday morning. The sky was getting darker. The wind was starting to kick up. Errant drops were felt every now than then. I was itching for a little more intensity and didn't want to finish in another wet slog like Turkey Burner last weekend.

HJ on a slope-side log in Russell Mill

We got through Russell Mill just fine. Didn't exactly clean all the logs. I did ride a couple things I haven't tried before. It was here this spring that I crashed over the most miniscule of rocks. Hope I keep regained skills through the winter. Like to hit some early season MTB races next year.

Dave dropping into the chute on Stone Rowe in Great Brook

The rain became more persistent riding in Great Brook. It wasn't quite hard enough to soak the body yet. Temp was dropping, and snow was starting to mix in. There are a couple trails in GB that can be hammered at all-out race pace. One is Perimeter Trail. I expended a couple matches on that one. A short bit of pavement loops us out and back into GB at the Trophet/Heartbreak loop. I love hammering this loop too. To loop it from entering on the south, you have to go around one and a half times. Going leisurely, we passed a couple guys going the opposite way on Trophet. I thought crap, now I have to watch out for them when I race-pace a full loop, which takes about 5 minutes. They weren't much further along than the first time I passed them when I went buy, and the one guy went "Whoa! Whoa!"  Not as in "dude, you shouldn't be going that fast," but rather, "holy shit dude, you're hauling-A!" Man I miss racing. There was plenty of room for us to ride by each other. I ride a lap or two of that loop at all-out TT pace every time I hit GB. Know it very well, ride it like on rails.  Waiting for Dave, the other two guys came up to junction point and we talked a bit. More than a couple matches were burned on that one. I thought that would nicely cap off four hours of riding.

At this point we knew we weren't going to finish the whole loop. It was getting pretty wet out. We bailed on the Old Morse Rd/Conant/Towle Forest extension. That entails a bunch of pavement anyway linking it up. We finished with just over 40 miles and 4hrs on the Garmin. Pretty flat too with only 2600ft of climbing on the altimeter. Turned out to be a fine morning for riding.  Must have burned a few calories. Couldn't stop eating the rest of the day.  I'd probably add the northern bits to a greater Great Brook ride again, especially if I went back with a single speed. Although I'd be spinning out the whole way down that paved rail path. As I type, the snow is coming down heavily. Could this be the beginning of the end of the 2009 dirt riding? Time to put the new studs on.