Saturday, January 23, 2010

Which was better?

Went up to Waterville again on my "off" Friday. My company touts the 9/80 work schedule as one of the reasons that makes it an employer of choice.  This means you work 9 hour days until you hit 80 hours, then you get a Friday off. Increasingly though, there are more and more cars in the parking lot on off-Fridays. In fact, when I interviewed for my current position several years ago, my hiring manager said off-Fridays were great. You can come in and really get some work done without so many interruptions! Like that was a bonus. Work longer days just so you can work on off-days to catch up. He retired shortly after I joined the company, but in these uncertain economic times, it seems many of my peers have adopted this mindset. So yeah, others tried to make me feel guilty taking my "off" Friday morning off to ski before going into work.

The conditions were no less than spectacular. Freshly groomed corduroy abounded with barely a soul around. It was wicked cold overnight but temps soon climbed to around freezing with bluebird sky, brilliant white capped mountains all around, and nary a breeze. The snow had half the speed of Weston's Tuesday night slush fest.  The few inches Waterville received early in the week did a nice job sprucing up the trails.  I did some hard work on skis and bike midweek, so I planned to take it easy. I hit everything on the north end at least once, including climbing Beanbender. So much for going easy. There is no such thing as a V-0.5 technique to granny gear up this 25-30% grade ski slope.

There were no other ski tracks on the Livermore side. I encountered a single set of skate tracks on Tripoli. I surmised this skier was very similar in ability to me. I went a stiff tempo pace and very nearly matched this other skier's tracks. Ski angle and spacing per push-off was nearly identical on average. However, my unseen nemesis carried V2 technique further into the steep pitches than I could, so I would fall behind a push or two. But then I could tell where, during a long steep part, he would tire in his (or her) V1 technique as I gained back the lost push-offs and then some. As the grade slackened, the other skier would commit to V2 sooner and gain on me again. Interesting, at least to an oxygen deprived brain. I bet over the 2.5 mile climb, I gained or fell behind no more than two or three steps. It is pretty much impossible to deduce the speed and ability of a bike rider from tracks left in the dirt. On really steep terrain, you can tell where the rear tire slips with pedal strokes, but you have no idea of what gear they may be in, and thus speed or cadence. In skating, the angle of the skis is indicative of the "gear" the skier is in.

I finished with 40.4km in about 2.6hrs with over 3000ft of climbing. It was probably my most satisfying ski session this season. I had originally planned on doing the Freeman Challenge race at Waterville this weekend, but lack of base on the south end forced them to cancel it.

We're finally back to balance here in New England - balance between perfect snow in the mountains and no snow on the Cape. When I saw the last of the snow disappear from Cape webcams earlier in the week, I knew exactly what I would be doing Saturday morning. I left very early to ensure frozen ground. I figured there was good chance the sun could soften things up. It was only 8F at my house when I got up, but 20 degrees warmer than that in West Barnstable.

Even though I felt pretty wrecked from a hard training week, I took the singlespeed with me. It had been neglected for about a month now. Surprisingly, I did not need to add air to the tubeless tires. The fork needed about 15 lbs.  I saw lots of NEMBA forum traffic on Otis. I hit that already this winter before the big Cape snowstorm. I hadn't ridden the Trail of Tears (ToT) since last February. I was itchin' to go back.

30 miles of this!

There was only one car at the Exit 5 parking area, probably a non-biker car. Had me worried. Were the trails too muddy? Still too much snow? My worries soon vanished. The trails were free of snow and were frozen rock hard. Must be everybody went to Otis nearby. I worked my way west on the ToT, then crossed over into Sandwich to ride the narrow moto singletrack. This stuff degenerates into some insanely hilly stuff, especially for a singly geared rider. I found several more miles of stuff I hadn't ridden before that was either 25% grade up or down with very little in between. Dismounts were frequent. I could tell from the few patches of crusty snow that nobody had been on this trail since the snowstorm. The trail was littered with tree debris. No way would my geared bike have survived this. Sticks an inch in diameter were either locking my wheels up or snapping into pieces. Eventually I gave up stopping to pull every nuisance piece that clung inside the spokes, choosing to grind it into mulch instead. Those Mavic Crossrock wheels sure are tough. They're heavy, so they ought to be tough.

Red trace from Feb '09 ride, Yellow from today's ride. The ToT loop
is on the West Barnstable side of the track, the moto loop is contained
in the upper left quadrant of the image.

I did a loop upwards of 12 miles on the moto trail before connecting back into the ToT. I think I logged over 2000ft of climbing in those 12 miles, and the single biggest climb was 50ft. That is a lot of 50ft walls to mash at 30rpm. Hope my back forgives me. The riding on the ToT is much kinder, gentler stuff. I could actually get some momentum going again. The town map is accurate as far as the official ToT route goes. But it fails to show how many ways you can go at some intersections. Thus the map is pretty much useless, as nothing on the ground is marked. You have to guess, and sometimes you guess wrong. It doesn't really matter. I kind of know the lay of the land there now, and all of the riding is about the same. It is all good. I was able to follow about 80% of the route I planned to hit on my way back to the car.

Close-up of partial Moto loop in Sandwich. Flat image fails to convey
how deeply corrogated the topography here is.

I finished the ride with 30 miles, 3800ft in 3.3hrs on the GPS. It was another flawless day for the planned activity. The ground remained frozen.  I never saw another rider, and only twice did I encounter another person, once starting the ride and again right near the end of the ride. That means I had 3hrs of perfect solitude in the middle. It doesn't get any better than that. I do need to get DaveP and SteveG down there some time though. So was the riding better than the skiing? It's a toss. It is interesting to note that even on slow snow, I can skate faster than I can mountain bike in similar terrain on dirt.


Mookie said...

Hey Doug, when do you plan on heading out there again? I'd like to hook up with you and maybe see if CB2 would want to tag along for a day o' fun. I gotta get my mtb back together.

Hill Junkie said...

It would be cool to pull a gang together. Rick from Maine expressed interest too, maybe next month. Sunday Jan 31 is next potential Cape excursion, pending workload, weather and ski conditions. I hope to ski this Saturday if we don't lose all skiable snow. The following weekend, Feb 6 is Lake Placid. Chance I could hit the Cape on the 7th, but a ski marathon leaves you feeling lifeless for a couple days afterwards. I suspect you guys in CT will lose all of your snow and won't have to go to the Cape to ride dirt.