Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend update

It seems my fitness is rebounding nicely since getting serious about intensity after the first of the year. Ever since my injury last year, I lacked focus and drive to hit those "high notes" in training. Not anymore.

DaveP saw to it I hit many high notes skiing on Saturday. We went over the Northfield Mountain in western Mass. It is one of my favorite places to ski when they have good cover. Northfield is custom designed for the Hill Junkie, as all the trails go up.

Temps were quite mild. Dave and I decided to get right down to business and charged up 10th Mountain trail first thing. Immediately, we had to shed some layers. I buried myself for about 20 minutes heading up to the high point, tallying over 1000ft of climbing on the way. We bombed down Reservoir Rd and Hemlock Tr to the bottom. Most trails were groomed to perfection.

Next up was notorious Toolybush Turnpike. This climb is sadistic. One sustained section in the middle held over 30% grade on my Garmin. Dave drilled it all the way to the summit. I hung on by a thread. Looking at my vertical climbing rate, we went a lot harder on this one than 10th Mtn. I was now damaged goods. On the way down, cycling legend Tim Johnson passed us coming up. The elite Hot Tubes team was there too.  We tucked all the way down Reservoir Rd.

Next up was a basic Reservoir climb with technical 10th Mtn descent. I could no longer stay with Dave as he punched it to the summit. Surprisingly, 10th Mtn was getting a bit scraped off. I think the other cyclist skiers there were going down that way each time. Good practice for Lake Placid I thought to myself.

Base area at bottom, all trails go up

I had serious doubts about going up a fourth time. At least Dave was starting to feel it too. We went up Hemlock Tr, which was way steeper than I recall going down it on our first loop. I suffered. One more tuck down Res finished the day. I was utterly trashed, logging probably 90 minutes of threshold-plus intensity. The Garmin captured over 4000ft of climbing in 36km and 2.7hrs moving time. No junk miles in that workout.

Classic Hill Junkie ski workout

Sunday I was lamenting no place to ride. Recent snow had not set up enough on local snowmobile trails to make them rideable. Roads were dangerously narrow. I was not about to get on my spin bike. I wouldn't last 30 minutes on that thing. Cathy puts it to good use. I needed a three hour ride, as I had ridden only one hour all week. What to do?

Perusing the forums, I found a terse post on marginal rideability of Willow St trails on the Cape. Hmmm, I thought if it was marginal there, the snow map gradient suggested it would be less marginal further out on the Cape. It didn't take long before I found myself with bike in car and Starbucks Clover coffee in hand heading down Rt 3.

Sure enough, there was only 1-2" of snow at Nickerson State Park. Late morning, the snow was still below freezing. The riding was pretty good, better than two weeks ago when there was more snow and ice there. Surprisingly, I found lengthy sections of singletrack that had nary a human, coyote, rabbit or raccoon track on them. I spoiled perfectly undisturbed snow. Those were the best trails to ride. As the temps rose, some of the foot traffic packed trails loosened up and became challenging to ride. Maybe three or four times I dismounted briefly to crest steep pitches. Overall, it was a great ride. No vehicular risk (except for getting there) and almost had the place to myself. I got my 3hrs, nice steady tempo effort with bits-o-intensity mixed in.

In tapering for the Lake Placid Loppet on Saturday, I don't want to run later in the week. I felt beat to crap Monday morning, but knew I had to get at least a short run in today or I wouldn't get a run in for 10 days. Don't know where the motivation came from to lace up the shoes. I figured I could just do a basic two mile out and back. But the strangest thing happened. I reached the turn around point and didn't feel too bad, so I decided to do an extra lap on the half mile long dead end to make it a 5k run. At the two mile mark, I dissolved into a groove. I added yet another lap. I ran a total of 4.2 miles, the longest run to date. I felt like I could have run one or two hours at that pace, around 7:45. I haven't pushed any speed yet. Soon I would like to benchmark a mile though. I think I'm ready to open up for just a mile to see what happens. I didn't have any issues after upping my distance 30% today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weston 6k

I had reservations about hitting Weston this Tuesday. I hadn't recovered from a hard weekend, and to ensure my lack of recovery, I ran my fastest 5k yet at lunch. I'm still pathetically slow on foot, but a 7.5min pace is enough to throw my hamstrings into a tizzy. The good thing I'm experiencing in running so far is that I seem to have no joint issues. Only muscular. I know how to deal with that.

I brought two pairs of skis with me this time. I'm sick of doing a bunch of warmup laps, only to find my skis slowing down before the sprint race. I still botched the wax job. I planned to put Toko HF red on but used regular hydrocarbon wax by mistake. Rather than wax, scrape and brush again, I sprinkled on and corked in a minuscule amount of Start pure fluoro for 0 to -6C. Turns out the temperature was colder than this. I can never get this right.

I swapped skis right before the race. It was the first time I put my "race" skis on this season. I had no time left to ski on them. They are shorter and have a softer flex than my rock skis. They handle wicked different. I was going to kill myself going off in a mad dash with nearly 100 maniacs on skis I was completely not used to.

After doing well two weeks ago (last week was cancelled), I lined up a little closer to the front. Alec Petro and I argued who should go in front of the other. I was feeling tired so I queued up behind him in the same outside lane. Brett Rutledge was also a row ahead of me. I planned to keep an eye on him.

We go off and I hear the usually entanglements behind me. No crashes in the rows ahead of me. I stayed in Alec's draft for a bit. Once we got around Mt Weston, ColinR came around me. He must've started way in the back again. I jumped in Colin's draft, until a hole opened in traffic and Colin was gone just like that.

Brett was dangling well ahead of me in no-man's land for much of lap one. The laps are big now, over 3km. Going over Mt Weston starting lap two, I finally closed the gap on Brett with Alec in tow. I was completely gassed when Brett asked me to pull through. I couldn't maintain the pace. Brett pulled on the return from "The Flats." He's so much smoother than I at speed. Eventually it was my turn to work. I pulled for a good portion of lap two. We caught Bob Burnham. Now I had three guys in tow.

After a brief recovery with less than 1km to go, I was back up front again. Another group was dangling just behind us.  The hills were much bigger this time than two weeks ago. The trail gods made massive machine made moguls. They spread it around to accentuate the natural rizes in the course.  Altogether, I'd say this doubled the climbing around the circuit. Climbing is where I flail less and have any hope of putting distance on Brett. I punched the last two climbs with all I had left. It worked. Sort of. I did not ditch Bob Burnham. He handily out sprinted me to the line. I did cross the line with a small gap on Brett and Alec.

Kevin Galeaz along one of the cut into machine made
moguls. Looks like dirty Charles River snow to me.
Photo: Jamie Doucett

The race was about 6.2km and took me 18:46, good for 19th place overall out of record number of 94 finishers. Exactly same place finish as two weeks ago.  The course suited me well. Lots more climbing than before, wider and nice flow. The volunteers do a fabulous job pulling this race together every Tuesday.  I will be doing the Lake Placid Loppet on February 5. A 10k race is planned for next Tuesday at Weston. Not sure that is a good idea so close to a 50k spanker.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chasing Olympians

After a so-so ski day Friday and a fantastic ride day Saturday, I was looking for a tie breaking ski day on Sunday. Forecast called for bitter cold. I waxed with Swix CH4. Hate working with the really hard waxes. I do have a scraper sharpener, so at least a dull scraper is not an issue. Strangely, it was warmer at Waterville Valley than at my house when I got up. It got well below zero here where it stayed clear overnight but hovered around zero up north where it clouded over.

One of my primary reasons for heading up to ski again this weekend was to demo a pair of Salomon S-lab Skiathlon boots. WV had Salomon and Atomic there for a demo day. The Salomon rep was highly knowledgeable of boot fit issues, having broken his ankle several times. In my case with the protruding medial malleolus, the S-lab family of boots was not the way to go. They have a very restrictive carbon fiber heel cup. The rep noted that I tend to pronate when I load my foot. He felt custom orthotics were the way to go, and he gave me contact numbers for two highly reputable guys in NH and VT. That is something I'll probably wait until this fall to work on. I may have my hardware removed and don't want to pay for orthotics until my ankle looks a little more natural.

I was feeling quite wrecked from six hours of skiing and biking the previous two days. I planned to ski only two hours and not hit the biggest hills. I brought only a little food and water with me. It was wicked cold. It wasn't a comfort issue at all. It was a glide quality issue. My skis felt awfully slow. At least the grooming was perfect this time and the base had set up very firm.

It is a rare occasion when Waterville opens 100% of their trails. I had to ski the Village Trail even though the trail report said to "bring your sense of humor" if you ski it. It was groomed no more than four feet wide in a few places, necessitating a lot of double poling with skate skis. I think I've skied this trail only once before, many years ago. I wanted to head out this way, as it defines the perimeter of the XC trail system and brings you to the lowest point.  Once you pass under Rt 49, nice grooming resumes, and it is all up from there.

By the time I hit The Hairpin, I already logged over 800ft of vertical. My average speed on this squeaky snow and 20% grades was pathetic. The firm base did make descents a blast, unlike last Friday. The up-down up-down of Criterion didn't help my pace any either, but it sure was fun bombing down from the high point.

Crossing over the golf course, I spotted a couple familiar faces. They were making kick wax adjustments it appeared. We would cross paths several more times on the north end.

Still following the perimeter of the trail system, I turned right on Swazeytown against all common sense. This turns into Beanbender, an alpine slope that holds steady 20-25% grade with steeper bits embedded. I surely thought I was going to stall out before reaching the top of this 600ft climb. My quads and glutes were screaming, and my triceps were ready to seize up.

Bombing down Upper Snows to Cascade, I met Kris and Justin again. They must have come up Lower Snows.  They headed up Cascade with me chasing. I guess they weren't killing it, as I was able to stay with them. True, they were on classic skis and double poled must of the way up while I put serious skate effort into it. I knew what would happen as soon as we crested the top. I was still shocked at how quickly they disappeared around the switchbacks back down. Zero speed was scrubbed. They cornered the 180's faster than I opened up on the straight-aways. And I probably went the fastest ever down that descent. Skogs, you would have been impressed.

The duo were stopped on Livermore again when I flew past. But they started down right behind me. Great. They caught up and passed double poling in the tracks.

I had pretty much skied the remaining muscle twitch out of my body by this point and accomplished what I went up there for. But dang, that Livermore descent was too much fun. Could I pull off a full perimeter ski? Normally I like to go there fresh when attempting that. What did I have left to do? Hmm, Moose Run/Wicked Easy. Sounds easy, right? Then there's Upper Osceola. OK, that'll hurt a little bit. Oh, then there's Tripoli Rd, the wickedest climb at WV. I'll be whimpering on the way up if I make it that far. The pesky little climb called Pipeline after that would surely finish me off. I decided to give it a go.

I passed Kris and Justin one more time en route to Moose Run. Moose was a nice breather. My legs were getting wobbly heading to Osceola. I brought one Gu with me, and that had to get me up two more major climbs. Climbing Tripoli sucked. The temp was dropping all day and the wind had picked up. My outer layers were frozen solid, including my lobster mitts. I was slowing down and needed to get back fast. The snow on Tripoli sounded just like a snarling cougar. I couldn't even hear my own heavy breathing over the howl my skis were making against the snow. So many kilojoules being expended, so little reward for it. The descent was nice though. I scrubbed speed off at 45kph because I got scared. In a tuck, you could probably go over 60kph on this one. Even on a mountain bike with disk brakes on the pavement underneath, 60kph is scary. The snow was slow to push against while climbing, but fast bombing down with flat skis on the crests of firm corduroy.

I was in pure survival mode on Pipeline. Interestingly, both feet were hurting in the same way that my left foot has been hurting. I guess if I flagellate myself long and hard enough, even my "good" foot will cry uncle.

Perimeter profile, counter-clockwise direction

I got back to the Nordic Center with 44km, 3:10hrs and 4150ft of climbing on the Garmin. That was certainly my hardest workout this season. Skied the full perimeter too, which can't be done too often. Now I need a week off. Nine hours of hard work in three days has left me ragged. Not looking promising for Tuesday night at Weston.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Toxic Plume

One loss and one win so far this weekend. Skiing Waterville Valley Friday morning was a bit of a disappointment. Overnight snow was not groomed, contrary to posted trail conditions at the Nordic center. Dave and I headed out via Swan's Way to the north-end in 3" of dense powder. The aggressive snow structure and cold temps made it quite the slog. To compound matters, I essentially had yellow wax, as that's how I prep'd my skis for Weston, which was cancelled. I did throw some blue on, but it seemed like it just drew the yellow up and I was still left with a pretty soft base. It also didn't help matters that I didn't take any rest days all week. I felt ok first pushing off but soon realized I was quite tired.

Dave and I decided to see how much of the perimeter we could ski, given the slow conditions. First up was the Tripoli climb. I led this time, as last week Dave took me down when he caught his ski tip right in front of me. The powder got progressively deeper as we climbed. Near the top, my ski tips could glide under the powder without disturbing the surface. It was so hard to not catch a ski in this stuff. I think it took me over 23 minutes to climb Tripoli, when it typically takes 17 minutes. That climb nearly destroyed me.

Dave is a better descender than I, as he teleskis and does some back country. His skis were gliding better than mine too, so he led on the way down. Part way down, when Dave was at least 200m ahead of me, I suddenly lost my breath. What is that!? Dave was barely in hearing range when I shouted out WTF! His hysterical laughter answered my question. I thought he was going to ski straight into the trees he was laughing so hard. He was mighty proud of the noxious emissions he left in his wake.  I can't win. Dave wipes me out going up Tripoli or asphyxiates me going down Tripoli.

Upper Osceola was a repeat slog. It didn't look like it had been groomed in two days. Already over an hour into it, I realized I wasn't going to last three hours in these conditions. Even the downhills required some work. There never was any recovery. We did a tempo paced loop around Mouse Run/Wicked Easy before heading over to Livermore Rd.

Livermore Rd had been groomed that morning. It made a big difference. My cranky left foot was bothering me in the deep stuff, as I had to lift ski tips high to clear the deep powder. That put extra pressure on the top of my foot where it hurts. I did run an experiment. I did not clinch down the draw-cord inside the boot. I left it very loose and relied only on the tension the zippered seam would create. I think it helped, as going on two hours into the ski, I had negligible pain on groomed surfaces. Regardless, Dave was still going strong and I was completely blown. I told Dave not to wait for me as I sauntered up at a barely aerobic effort.

Cascade was now fully open, but that meant more deep powder and 20% grades. The groomer bypassed it in favor of Upper Snows.  The descent switchbacks were an obstacle death course. A few waterbars were very deep and exposed, potentially catching your ski tips when you are hauling. What would break first, the skis or both your legs? The imprint at one of the crossings showed somebody bit it hard. I wondered if it was Dave, but when I caught up with him later, it wasn't.

Tripoli, Osceola, Cascade and Snows climbs

When we got back to the south-end, the groomer was just finishing up there. Figures. The new corduroy skied quite nicely. I was past done. I logged about 35km in 2.8hrs, one of my slowest skis ever. In contrast, I skied over 50km in about the same amount of time at Bretton Woods a couple weeks ago. Great workout, but it could have had more fun-factor.

On the winning side, Nickerson State Park was fabulous on Saturday. The snow is completely gone. As I drove onto the Cape, there was maybe 8" of snow at the Sagamore Bridge. At Exit 5, Trail of Tears, there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground, but maybe rideable. I kept going. At Exit 7, the Willow St trails, there was no snow. I decided to keep going to guarantee I'd be riding on dirt. The Willow St trails are a pretty small set anyway. The ground stayed bare to Exit 11 for Nickerson State Park.  The temperature was mild on the Cape, in the mid 20's. It was in the single digits at my house.

Typical conditions at Nickerson

I took my GPS track from last week when the locals showed me how to link up all the singletrack by following their tracks in the snow. I would never have remembered all of it.  With the snow gone, other trails were now exposed, so now I could explore. I did manage to bring two more tasty bits of trail into my ride. Many explored spurs ended up in people's back yards though. I felt surprisingly good despite being so wrecked the day before. Probably all psychological, as riding bare dirt in January can have that effect.

Nickerson, same spot, week ago and now

I saw only one other rider and just a few walkers with dogs during my ride. Pretty much had the place to myself. I finished with 28.3 miles in 3:04 hours riding time and 2640ft on the altimeter. Nice tempo workout with frequent, short bursts.  Nickerson doesn't quite pack the fun-factor of Otis or ToT, but when you have two feet of snow in your yard, it's as great as riding in Moab.

Planning to hit WV again on Sunday. High temps will struggle to break 0F. Time to break out the Start Green wax. Need a tie breaker for this three day weekend. Hoping for another win.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Weston Tuesday night sprint race was a wash. Literally. Saturated new snow and rain coming down hard cancelled the hurt fest. Probably just as well, since I've been nursing an ornery foot for a while now. I came to work prepared. In addition to skis, I brought running shoes and a bike with studs. Checking the snow before lunch, it was the moist, slippery kind. I thought hill repeats on Greens Pond Rd might not work so well like during last week's blizzard. Running was completely out of the question. The only other options were to go to the YMCA for a lunch time spin session or maybe a drop-in session at Kevin's gym.  I hadn't been to Kevin's new location yet. When I asked SteveG at work if he was interested, it was game on. He likes to see me suffer while attempting new stuff. Guess I have to take back what I said about avoiding "smelly clubs."

Not being a regular at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning, I never know what to expect. Today's workout was completely with kettlebells. Core, balance, legs, upper body, nothing escaped punishment. Kevin and Michele were both there for this session. There was one other noob on the kettlebells, so Kevin gave us a little one-on-one on proper technique. I don't remember all the names for the moves we did. Each went a minute of reps, six or seven different moves, sequence repeated four times. The one woman in the group worked with more weight than I could handle for a couple of the moves. Try balancing on one leg, bend all the way forward with other leg extended straight back such that leg and back form parallel plane with ground, then lower and raise kettlebell with arm opposite standing leg. My balance is pretty wonky. Needless to say, this evening I hurt in places I've never hurt before. Running, pushups, situps, skate skiing and cycling still allow many parts of the body to atrophy. Even though I've broadened the number of muscle groups I stimulate on a weekly basis, I need to do much more.

One of the hardest things for me to do relative to the other participants was stretching afterwards. My hamstrings are a huge limiter in how far I can bend forward. The workout and stretching also made it very clear my left ankle is not what it used to be. Its limited range of motion got in the way a couple times, and I was surprised how bad it hurt when pushing it.

Skate skiing has not been kind to  my left ankle. Initially, the medial malleolus became inflamed. I suspected the protruding screws just under the skin were to blame. A little padding below the knob help alleviate this. But a greater pain developed in the forefoot, not in the ankle joint at all. It involves the tendons or bones that go out to the big toe. Skating can cause intense burning sensation, and the pain can linger the following day. This has flared up in a big way over the last two weeks where I skied nearly every-other day. I got some of this pain rollerskiing, but rollerskiing only twice a week gave enough time to fully recover. Frequent skating on snow had an accumulative effect. This type of pain is consistent with a stress fracture. Why only the left foot has this problem, I don't know. Could be technique related, but the fact it is my left ankle with slightly limited dorsiflexion might be behind it too. I do notice my left ski boot seems to bind tighter over the top of my foot than the right does. This could put excess pressure on tendons.  Cycling does not cause any discomfort. Running doesn't seem to inflame the injury nearly as badly as skating does, even though running is the most abusive thing to put your ankles through.

Screws and bone calus make for pronounced medial malleolus

I find this quite frustrating, as skiing has become a passion only slightly behind cycling. I skied at Waterville last weekend with my busted up 6 year old boots (black and yellow Salomon's). It seemed to alleviate the discomfort some while skiing. Salomon doesn't make a boot like those anymore, and if I went to Alpina, I'd have to switch all my bindings over. Not sure what to do at this point.

Anyway, it was good to have some more weaknesses exposed at Kevin's gym. The new facility is spacious and clean. If you are in the Nashua area, drop in for a lunch session some time. Sessions are very reasonably priced.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mid Cape Conditions

Along Little Cliff Pond, Nickerson State Park.
Hard to believe there is 16" of snow in my yard 2hrs away.

Saturday's ski left me feeling pretty wrecked on Sunday. I was still intent on riding though. I had only gotten one short ride in so far this week with any intensity. I had planned to ride three hours locally on Sunday, but wouldn't you know it, we received a dusting of snow over night. That made the roads a mess. I was hoping to ride some back dirt roads, but a dusting of snow can render studded tires useless on the ice underneath. A straight up road ride was out of the question. Besides messy roads, the snow banks are higher than cars around here. Cars have to pull half way out into the road to see if anything is coming. Guess who they'll see last? That skinny dude in spandex riding on the edge of the road!

Stewing in sorrow Sunday morning, I was perusing the MTB forums to see if anybody was riding anything off-road. I thought P(trail_ride)<0.001 given how much snow there was everywhere. But somebody out on the Cape said mid-Cape conditions weren't too bad. Hmm, I've gotten suckered by info from the web before. I was jones'n to ride, so I kitted up headed down to Nickerson State Park in Brester.

Snow depth dropped quite a bit south of Boston, maybe half what we have at the house. There was clearly still too much snow crossing over the Sagamore Bridge to ride ToT or Otis. However, by Exit 7, some bare Earth was starting to show here and there. I thought about stopping there to ride the Willow Street trails, but that is a pretty small place. I stayed to plan and headed almost all the way east on the Cape to Nickerson State Park. I've never been there before.  To my dismay, it almost looked like there was more snow there than four exits back at Willow St.

I parked off Joe Long Rd and began riding south along a paved park path. It sucked. It was 3-4" deep chunky, foot traffic pock marked crud. In my tired state, I had no motivation for the hills. I thought to myself "I drove two hours for this!?" There were no bike tracks to be found. I assumed I'd been had by the web again.  I covered about 2 miles in the first 30 minutes.

Cliff Pond

The shady side of Cliff Pond

Then I spotted bike tracks heading into singletrack. I followed.  A pair of tracks merged into another trail, and suddenly, there were numerous bike tracks. This was more like it! Not only did the traffic pack things down nicely, there was almost no snow to pack under the heavy evergreen canopy. This became good riding.

Typical singletrack conditions

Another rare instance where tires touched dirt

The terrain in Nickerson is surprisingly hilly. The trails are buff. Throw crusty snow into the mix, it keeps your speed honest. Only a couple very brief instances did grade exceed traction, forcing dismounts. It was great to have the tracks to follow, as I would never have been able to piece together that much singletrack without backtracking or missing sections altogether. The first photo of this post was an anomaly. Better than 99% of the time, I was riding on snow.

A lot of singletrack was ridden at Nickerson

I never saw another rider. Saw skiers, walkers and equestrians though. I bet locals don't get to ski that far out on the Cape very often. I finished my loop of the park with 20 miles, 2:50 hours and 1900 feet of climbing on the Garmin. I got my fix. I was fully satiated. Conditions were not what I typically go to the Cape for, but the Cape came through for me no less.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

69 on Tripoli

A gang of us hit Waterville Valley on skate skis today. We finally got a chance to capitalize on our season passes. WV didn't get hammered by the storm like southern New England did, but they got enough to open most of their trails. Exiting the highway, the bank sign said -5F (-21C). That sucked. I didn't bring a heavy enough thermal layer for that cold, and temps like that with aggressive new snow demand wax like Start Green. I used cheap Fastwax Blue.

WV had a nice loop opened on the south end of their trail system, which included going up and over the "Hairpin Turn." Conditions were absolutely deplorable. The south-end trails should never have been opened. There was insufficient cover with much dirt, vegetation and rocks poking through, in addition to the most uneven surface imaginable. It was the worst skating conditions I've experienced. I wonder if WV's new ownership is somehow related to this. They upped the price to $19 for a daily pass, the most expensive anywhere I've Nordic skied. At Bretton Woods, $17 gets you a warm shower and clean towell after you ski. Granted, due to dearth of snow, they are probably under financial pressure to get something open. But conditions on the south-end today were uncharacteristic of WV.

Dave and I promptly bailed out of the south-end trails and took Swan's Way over to the north-end. Brett back tracked to find Jody and to hit Criterion next, but I wanted nothing to do with Criterion after sampling trails near it.  The trails on the north-end need much less cover to produce good skating conditions.  Swan's was pretty treacherous getting there, but after reaching Lower Oseola, we realized we should have just driven over there to start.

On Bob's Lookout trail

Tripoli Rd was next on the agenda. After experiencing the hurt Dave put on me last weekend at BW, I wasn't going first up this 800ft beast. Dave set a stiff anaerobic pace up the first 200ft or so of vertical. Then the grade slackens some, maybe even descends a tad, before the steepness resumes. On this little breather, I filed in closely behind Dave as the speed picked up. I no more than caught his slipstream when he decides to stack hard. He caught a tip I guess. Anyway, he knew I was coming in as he curled in fetal position. It was unavoidable. One of my skis went under his body. The other, my bad left leg ski, got all twisted around backwards. So there we laid in the middle of Tripoli Rd, going ouwie. My face was stuck in Dave's crotch, and his near mine. He was on my skis and I could not untangle them. I was on him and he couldn't reach his skis. I think we laid there half a minute before we figured the Chinese puzzle out. Glad nobody was there with a camera. It was definitely tabloid material.

This incident ruined my perfect record so far this season. I hadn't fallen yet, on rollerskis or on snow. The incident was the strongest test yet of my healed ankle. It took a pretty serious twist. I was able to ski ok after getting up, but my ankle joint is a little swollen tonight.

I led after that, finishing the Tripoli climb. The last 200ft rises at about 15% grade. I punched it as hard as I could, easily Weston race pace. The snow had no glide whatsoever. Climbs like Tripoli are hard enough when conditions are good and are twice as hard with sandpaper snow. I think that was the hardest I've ever heard Dave gasping when he reached the top. Yeah, baby!

I led up the Upper Oseola climb next, also at a hammer pace, before doing a nice tempo pace cruise around Moose Run/Wicked Easy below. Then it was over to Livermore/Cascade for the finale, another 800ft climb that gets wicked steep at the top. Conditions were quite good. The north-end trails are flat enough that WV was able to groom with big equipment, unlike snowmobiles used on the south-end. I imploded at the 2.5hr mark climbing Cascade. Dave's slow twitch composition means he was just getting warmed up.  At least it was a thousand foot drop back to the Nordic Center.

Dave and I finished with about 43km in 3.1hrs moving time and 3380ft of climbing.  One of my slowest skis this season, but probably my hardest workout due to the slow snow.  Definitely the kind of workout I needed.  Finally got some serious vertical in. Saw several other cyclists there, including LaRocque, Buckley and Petro.  Debating whether to hit Northfield Mtn next Friday or save the legs for a 30k race on Saturday. Race course conditions in NY are not looking that promising. Weston on Tuesday again... definitely!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Tuesday night crazies

I pretty much shrugged off high-intensity efforts in my riding most of last year. That has changed since coming back from Michigan last week. It is time to get serious with my training again. Battenkill is just three months away.  I've found the Tuesday Night Sprints at Weston are one of the best ways to drink deeply from the intensity well. I debated whether to actually recover for this week's speed fest. If I didn't get a run in at lunch on Tuesday, the approaching storm would make a run the rest of the week highly unlikely. I'm not about to join some smelly club or buy a treadmill for home. I despise indoor training. So a lunch run it would be.

I didn't run long, but I did run sub-8min miles for the first time. Aerobically, I could probably run a 6min mile, but I would damage every piece of connective tissue in my body. I'm still running with the Nike Free's, and even these short, easy runs make my calves and Achilles tendons hurt. It will take me several more weeks before I can add distance and speed to my workouts. Each run does become less painful. My hips no longer hurt during running.  This run managed to nicely tenderize my calves for skiing a few hours later.

Conditions were superb at Weston. 28F, no wind, and very fast packed powder. Fast is usually not that good for me, as it brings out the worst of my flailing technique. It is fun though. I minimally fussed with my skis.

A huge crowd assembled at the start, a record number in fact. Last year I could finish in top twenty with a smaller group, so I seeded myself in row 7, four per row. LukeS was ahead of me in my lane, and two rows up was BrettR. Warming up, Brett commented that he applied more-expensive-than-cocaine pure fluoro wax to his skis. We tend to go neck and neck at Weston. I guess use whatever edge you can gain. Conditions certainly favored him, since he is more efficient at speed.

We go off. A few young guns staged further back bolted ahead. That meant going into the initial oval, I was more than 30 places back. The start was quite civil. I didn't see any crashes, but plenty of skis and poles were being crossed. I quickly started picking guys off. Beginning lap 2, Colin passed me. Hmm, he must have started way back to just now pass me.

I caught and passed Brett in lap 2. Brett stayed glued to my ski tails. I continued to flail away and bridge gaps, recover a bit, then pass the guy or two I caught. Luke skied away from me at the start. It was great to sit in his draft for a while when I caught him. He could really nail the 180 turns and accelerate out of them, but towards the end of lap 2, I made a move to pass him on a hill with Brett in tow.  Jamie Doucett captured a great photo just after this move I believe.  Did Brett ever come up to take a pull? Noooo! But he did bark orders for me to close gaps and stay in the slipstream.  I was dying, making good progress, so I was willing to accept the status quo for the time being.

Me with Brett and Luke in tow. Photo: Jamie Doucett

I could gap Brett on the climbs, but he'd always get back on. On lap four, I made a killer move. I slayed Mt Weston, leaving Brett behind two guys I passed and gapped. I thought that was a deal clincher. I quickly caught two more guys but was too gassed to pass them. They slowed a bit, and before I got to the clubhouse, Brett was back in my draft. I figured I had one more chance to gap Brett for good at the club house climb. I punched it again, but near the top I got too close to a female skier and she skied up on my pole tip. I nearly pulled my arm out of the socket and came to an abrupt stop. So much for gapping Brett. He was right on top of me now. I had been pulling hard for 2.5 laps, so I forced him to come around. Maybe I could take him at the line, but that was a slim chance since it was mostly a downhill approach.

I was seeing cross eyed by the time we came around the last barrel, so I threw out the white flag. I think Brett drilled it anyway, not knowing if I was gunning for him. I finished with 5.6km and 16:27 on the Garmin. This was good for 19/89 place overall, with Brett in 18th. Respectable finishes for both of us with such a large group. I skied for another 45 minutes after the race to finish the night with 25km.

It's been a long while since I maintained that kind of intensity. My metabolism was jacked all night. I don't think I slept more than 2hrs, even though I was in bed 8hrs. I could have slept better after drinking two Starbucks darkroast venti's!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hang up the phone and ski

I just finished perhaps one of my best ski weeks ever - 121km in about 7.3 hours. This is surprising, given the dearth of snow locally. Bretton Woods is the only place with natural snow that I'm willing to drive to right now. Machine made snow at Weston helps fill the void with everybody else being close. I will never break even on my season pass at Waterville Valley. The season is nearly half over and I've yet to ski there.

I had Monday off from work and went up to BW solo. Conditions were lightning fast, although challenging. They groomed throughout the day, churning up saturated snow that would immediately crust over. It afforded great speed, wax optional, and just enough control to keep things from becoming too sketchy. I skied 51km in less than three hours and felt like I hardly got a workout.

Friday I went back to BW with DaveP. I commented to Dave I'd like to focus a little more on intensity this time. I'll have to be more careful what I ask for in the future. Conditions were as good as they get. For the first hour, we laid first skate tracks on freshly minted, crisp corduroy. Not quite as fast as Monday, but close. I could easily hold 25kph coming back on B&M just free skating. We did a full 16km perimeter loop first, heading up to Crawford Notch, then across on Clinton. Next time over we took Sebosis. I had to stay out of Dave's way. He was ripping up the climbs.  I turned my self inside out staying with him. We saved the best for last, Coronary Hill. I thought I was going to have one half way up. This was over two hours into the ski. I threw in the towel and let Dave ski away. I certainly got the intensity I was looking for. It used to be when Dave, Brett and I skied together, Brett led, then me and Dave followed. I think this pecking order is reversed now, with me still stuck in the middle. Dave and I skied 42km in 2.5hrs. I skied fewer klicks at less speed than Monday, but was trashed afterwards. Wonder what was different??

Friday's ski with Dave. Nearly everything was open.

Saturday's ride. Never knew when tires would crash through ice
or hoar frost. Nearly endo'd three times.

Sunday I was feeling quite trashed from skiing and a 2.2hr hilly trail ride/4.5k run I did on Saturday. It wasn't worth going all the way up to Bretton Woods again, so I met Brett at Weston. Again, conditions were absolutely marvelous. We started late morning, just after the duathlon wrapped up. I wasn't looking for intensity this time, but still managed to get suckered into some hot laps. We skied with Sakalowsky, Feist, McNatt and others. After a while, the pace ratcheted up to near my Tuesday Night Sprints pace, and I got dispatched off the back. Brett and I also worked on drills up "Mt Weston."  This blip rises >30ft at a very steep pitch. It was deep sugar granular. Brett gets bogged down in this stuff so we did repeats, including without poles. Very hard. My glutes got worked over. I skied about 28km in 1.8hrs. Interestingly, I accumulated 1800ft of climbing on a golf course. If you do a 30ft mound enough times, it adds up.

While skiing at BW on Friday, I couldn't help but notice how many young skiers had earbuds jammed into thier skulls. How can you taint skiing in such a beautiful place by bringing the outside world with you? It seems every year cases of attention deficit increase. Our society has become addicted to continuous stimulus. Facebook and Twitter seem to capitalize on this, where most users don't bother putting more than one coherent thought together. Readers can scan the feed, and if a status takes more than 30 seconds to read, they can just skip down to the next one.  No need to strain your brain and follow a train of thought for a few minutes.  Facebook is killing Blogger. That is too bad, as I enjoy reading stories.

I almost had to yell at a young girl at Weston today. Many people get annoyed by shoppers yakking on the phone oblivious to those that have better things to do with their lives and want to be done quickly. Most of us will publicly chastise drivers that fiddle with mobile devices while driving too, although who's not guilty these days? Well, how about yakking on a cell phone while skiing on an extremely crowded track? Yep, I've seen that now too.

Biking has taken a back seat to skiing lately. I got in only 3.3hrs of non-recovery pace riding this week.  My ankle is holding up so far. I should be able to get through this ski season without having the titanium hardware removed, but inevitably it will have to come out.  Riding does not cause any discomfort.  I hope to make it back to Weston Tuesday night for the hurl fest called Tuesday Night Sprints if work doesn't get in the way. This is how I feed my intensity addiction this time of year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010: Highlights and Lowlights

2010 was quite a rollercoaster ride for me. Hope I don't ever have another year like it. The season started so well, wrapping ski season up with my best marathon finish ever, several days of epic riding in Tucson, then a podium finish at Battenkill. Things came to a screeching halt when I taco'd my ankle at the beginning of May. That left me in a cast for over two months, the peak of the racing season, and left my fitness in shambles after that. I missed a prepaid Italian cycling trip and the Leadville 100 MTB race, which is hard to gain entry into.  I did bounce back quite nicely, although I haven't recovered the VOmax levels I used to be able to ride at. I really had no motivation to train in that regime as the season ended. Hopefully the fire will rekindle as the 2011 competition season nears.  A few photos summarizes how 2010 felt for me.

Tucson: Several days of perfect riding conditions in March with Dave.

Result of a May 9 dab gone awry.

Hours later, titanium pins, plates and screws pull the pieces
back together again. I think the two pins will have to come
out some day, maybe this fall.

Colorado trip, including Pikes Peak hillclimb, less than two months
out of cast.

6-Gaps in September.

A wake-up call. Low bone density will necessitate more weight
bearing activity in 2011.

Year-end tally. Hours were not that far off my target of 600. SkiErg,
Hike, Run and Spinning were not present in any significant amount in
2009 and make an appearance in 2010 as part of my recovery.
Running and hiking will increase significantly in 2011.

There will be changes for me in 2011. First off, I will be racing with a new team, Stage5/Cycling Fusion. The IBC sponsored team I've enjoyed racing with over the last three years is disbanding. We'll have a strong contingent of Masters 40+ riders on the Stage5 team roster. There should be great synergy, as we're all passionate epic ride/hillclimber types. There may be a stage race or two in my 2011 plans. Of course, that may necessitate finally getting a TT bike.

I will need to make running or equally stressful (in a good way) activities an integral part of my training plan in 2011. It is imperative I not only curtail additional bone density loss, but get myself back into the normal range. Competitive road cycling and mountain biking are risky enough without frail bones. I do not need to suffer a hip fracture. I'm still feeling my way around in this new territory. How the tri-guys do it, I don't know. I've been running a few weeks now, 2-3 miles at a time, 2-3 times per week, at 8-9 minute pace. Very easy, yet it makes me hurt. My current thinking is to add these short runs to my hard days, as even these short runs mess up a recovery day.

I will try again to tour Italy. Instead of the Giro tour, I opted to go on the June Trans-Dolomites tour this year. The Giro tour is longer and will not hit Passo Stelvio, my number one climb I want to do in all of Europe. The shorter June tour is slated to ride over Stelvio. I also hope to ride one day off-road at elevations to 10,000ft in the Swiss Alps. This would have been utterly impossible in May of 2010. There was still way too much snow. I'm most grateful to Peter Thomson, who is giving me a substantial credit for my missed trip. Legally, Thomson Tours didn't owe me thing. I may buy trip insurance this time, however.

I'm still undecided if I want to do the Leadville 100 this year. Due to my injury last year, I can bypass the lottery system but would have to pay full entry fee again.  My interest in Leadville has waned some. I thoroughly enjoyed the low-key Pikes Peak hillclimb event last August. It will be held again this year. Rumor has it Chris Charmichael might be getting involved. This year's Pikes Peak event will happen just as the new Quiznos Pro Challenge winds down. Of course, I would stick around afterwards for a week of high country riding in Durango or Crested Butte.

Goals for 2011? I kind of gave up on setting goals. To ride and race at the level I enjoy, I know I need about 600 hours of aerobic activity in a year. Most of this comes from skiing in the months of January and February. The cardio intensity of skate skiing lays a superb foundation for cycling specific training in early spring. My number one goal is to have fun. It's all about the process. If a nice result comes my way, it's a  bonus, not my raison d'etre.