Sunday, February 27, 2011

ToT, Finally!

In recent year's past, trips down to the Cape were special because I could escape the snow and ride primo trail on bare earth. This winter has been exceptional though. Another six inch dump last night meant the local roads just got narrow again. I've been on my road bike once in about two months. I'd rather poke needles in my eyes than ride an indoor trainer. Regular snow dumps render the snowmobile trails anywhere from unrideable to wishing you didn't ride them. So this year I've been feeding on leftover crumbs on the Cape.

Recent rain pretty much killed off the snow on the Trail of Tears. Looking at Cape webcams Sunday morning, there appeared to be only an inch or so of new snow in Yarmouth. It was either a snow slog on the Cape or the hour I rode on Wednesday would be it for the week. It wasn't a choice really. In two weeks I'll hopefully be riding 4-5hrs per day, more than I have been each week these past two months. I need to get a few spin hours in my legs, regardless of how trashed I was from a punishing ski workout on Saturday.

When I got to the Exit 5 parking lot at ToT, it was full. Numerous MTB tracks headed into the woods, a good sign indeed. There was about 1" of new wet snow on the ground. It was snowing lightly. I brought my winter beater with studs.

I quickly learned that a greasy inch of snow was no problem to ride in at all. It was studs over rocks. I had no idea there were so many rocks at ToT. Never noticed them before. I suspect most of the terrain there is glacial eskers, the rock piles glaciers left behind in the last ice age. Carbide studs gain absolutely no traction on granite stones. Climbing a 20% grade on polished ice? No problem. 5% grade with embedded baby heads? Forget about it.

I also found something more terrifying than riding on snow over ice. It is riding down a steep hill chocked full of wet baby heads with studs. My front tire ricocheted off rocks faster than a pinball in a cluster of bumpers. How I managed to not eat dirt a few times is beyond me.

After seeing my average speed drop below 7mph, I cut out the 10 mile Sandwich extension, figuring I'll get my three hours in on the ToT system alone. I started my loop counter-clockwise and was setting first bike tracks everywhere I went until I passed the Bike Barn gang going the opposite way. There must have been eight riders in that group. All smiles.

Towards the end of my loop, the non-stop skidding on rocks started putting my nerves on edge. Glad I cut out the extension. I also found my index shifting to be no better than a random gear selector. Seems the salty road hill repeats I've done over the last few weeks have corroded the rear derailleur cable. If I wanted to drop down to a smaller cog, I had to click at least twice, usually three times to get one cog shift. Then if I left it there, I was good for one or two ghost shifts later on, always at the worst time. So I had to make sure if I clicked twice and it moved one, to backshift once to hold it there. If I clicked three times and it gave me one shift, I had to backshift twice to hold that cog. What a pain. You develop an intuitive feel for this rather quickly, but sometimes I could just ditch gears altogether and ride a singlespeed.

I finished the ride with 20 miles in 2.9hrs, certainly my slowest ToT ride ever. I've never ridden it in snow before. I should've brought my dualie without studs to make sure it still works before boxing it up for Tucson.  Still worth heading down, as there just wasn't any local viable alternative. It took considerable focus to keep my eyes open on the drive home. Saturday's ski was partly to blame.

Four of us headed to Waterville on Saturday to ski on a freshened surface. We were concerned conditions would be soft, but found the south end nicely set up. Dave, Brett and I planned to ski the perimeter while Steve, who's been on snow only a few times this winter, opted for something a little less ambitious. Somehow Dave lost or misplaced his shades and headed back to the Nordic center from Drakes. Brett and I continued.

I was on my new WS skis and Brett was on his racing RCS skis. I absolutely could not stay with Brett on the descents, not even tucked in his draft. I was rather B.S. about my new skis, having been through eight wax cycles now and four ski sessions. My attitude toward my skis softened some a little later...

It was cold in the valley, and the new snow was quite aggressive. Heading up Beanbender was killer. Brett led, but about 80% of the way up he capitulated and let me pass. Hmm, if I buried myself, at least I could stay with Brett. Approaching Cascade, we met the groomer coming up Upper Snows. The new corduroy he left was loose. It sucked. I told Brett he better not have bastardized Cascade. He didn't. There was about an inch of powder on top of what must have been groomed overnight and set up nicely. Actually, Cascade was the nicest skiing trail there, probably because it had been more hours since it was last groomed. Brett and I were only two minutes off my record perimeter pace at the top of Cascade.  The snow was a bit sandpapery, so that meant we were going pretty hard.  Again, Brett dusted me on the descent.

Dave caught back up with us on Lower Osceola. We did a loop around Moose Run, then a jaunt up Upper Osceola. My wheels came off at that point. Every last strand of fast twitch muscle fiber was used up. Only the two strands of slow twitch I possess were still twitching. Brett had reservations about hitting Tripoli, but we hit all of the perimeter so far, so convinced him we needed to finish the deed. The groomer had made a recent run up this too, and on the steeper parts, we found the surface to shear a bit on push-off. I thought the trails were perfect before the groomer came through, just some drifting here and there. Grooming destroyed the firm surface that had formed overnight. When I later mentioned this to director Mike Seeger, he hinted that maybe if I skied with a flatter ski, it wouldn't be a problem. We had passed him on the north end during our ski, so he knew what the conditions were. His comment was a bit tongue in cheek, but a bit true too.

Coming down Tripoli, Brett blasted away from both Dave and I. Brett and Dave had virtually identical Fischer RCS skis. Dave and I waxed with Blue. Brett mixed in some Start Green. Could it be that my skis were slow today only because of wax choice? It could easily have been a Start Green kind of day. My skis were no slower than Dave's, which ironically, used to be my skis before I sold them to him. I never liked how the RCS's handled. I like how my World Cups handle, but the speed is still suspect. I'm very hesitant to use my WC's at Rangeley next weekend.

Brett and I logged 44km in 3:09hrs with 4200ft of climbing on the Garmin. I think this was my third full perimiter ski this month at WV. There's a little bit of everything in that loop. 6+ hours and 7000-8000ft of climbing, all on snow, for the weekend. I'm in that happy delirious place.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weston 10k ITT

I had some reservations heading to Weston Tuesday night. There hasn't been a major infusion of snow lately, and conditions were pretty dicy the last couple weeks. They did a pretty nice job tilling up the frozen granular though. Conditions turned out to be better than the last couple weeks.

I brought rock and race skis again. I got a little more aggressive waxing my new racing World Cup skis. I took a metal scraper to them, a few firm passes to mow down the aggressive structure. I then waxed with Start Green to harden the bases up a bit, then finished with Toko HF Red. On my rock skis, I slapped on some Fastwax fluoro for about the same temperature range as the Toko Red.

I warmed up on my rock skis with rounded edges. Control was an issue, and I couldn't push off very hard without slipping on the firm surface. I did two laps. Conditions were fast, but didn't seem quite as fast as last week. Then I got on my race skis. They were slower. Not a lot slower like last week, but still noticeable. They also still made the grinding sounds against the ice, like fish scales on waxless classic skis. Only periodicity in the base structure can do that. I've never heard a skate ski make that kind of sound. I did one lap with the WC's before stopping for race instruction.

We were doing three laps, woohoo! That's almost 10km. It seems there's a race to the staging area these days. I got shut out again and had to bully my way into the sixth row. There were supposed to be four per row, but a fifth set of tracks kind of cut through the staging area so there was more like 4.5 rows. That meant I was like 25+ skiers back.

We go off, and of course the guy in front of me is really slow starting out. Normally I'm timid in the start, not wanting to crash myself or anybody else. This time I got aggressive and moved up right through the middle. I latched onto the lead 20 guys heading out onto the flats. Guys started popping off, and each time I buried myself to get back on. This lasted half a lap, then I popped off too. From that point on, I was in no man's land. Essentially I raced a 10k individual time-trial. I felt good and gave it all I got. Skis were most notably slow on the descents. But crisp edges helped make up for it. I could really put out the power on that surface and not give any time up on the corners. That ensured I stayed redlined the whole time. Coming into the finish on the third lap, I heard somebody gaining on me. It was Victor. Don't know how I held him off on the descent, as he's really good on classic Weston granular. I finished in 26:23, good for 14th place overall. That was easily my hardest 26 minute effort in several months. Nearly hacked out a lung after I finished.

I skied three more laps after the race. My skis did seem to get a little faster and make less grinding noise as laps went by. Leave it to Weston chopped ice to break in skis. I don't have time before the Rangeley Loppet to get them professionally stone ground. I should be able to get another long ski on them at Waterville this weekend and maybe Weston again next week. Then whether I use rock or race skis at Rangeley will depend on what kind of snow is on the ground in two weeks. New snow, rock skis. Transformed snow or warm conditions, race skis.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Everything but ski on dirt

Got in a bit of everything this weekend, including a fine ice-bike ride, trail ride and skate ski in the mountains. Trail conditions were perfect at Nickerson on Friday, then after the deep freeze resumed, local snow machine trails were in mint shape for riding. Saturday's ski kinda sucked through. Lead legs and lead skis. More on that in a minute.

The warm spell left NH roads muddier than Cape trails. I figured why risk riding on roads still too narrow and obstructed by still too tall snow banks with snow melt turning road sand into gravy mix. A trail ride at Nickerson seemed a much more reasonable option on my off-Friday. I didn't think this all the way through though. Coming back around Boston on Friday afternoon leading into ski vacation week was a huge blunder. I have this rule, if you must drive to the ride, the ride should at least exceed total round trip driving time. Friday's drive back alone totally violated that rule. I surmised that commuters who put up with Rt 128 traffic on a daily basis must be psychotic.

The ride in and around Nickerson was sweet though. Hit tons of new-to-me trail south of Rt 6 on the singlespeed. I haven't had a real singlespeed workout yet this winter. I soon realized something was amiss. I struggled to clean even modest grades. Last winter I regularly hit hills with the SS. It takes some serious leg force and core strength to muscle over inclines. It's not all strength. There's a technique to it as well.
I wanted to explore more of the moto trails south of Rt 6. These trails were dry and nicely bermed by moto traffic. Guys with 250cc's between their legs don't care how steeply they climb. Fall line is always best, right? And if it was loose and sandy, no problem. Those beefy knobbies would just accelerate a rooster tail of terra firma out the back, generating thrust that way. Yeah, I ran the numbers. Spewing 2kg of soil per second at 27 meters per second alone is over 1 horsepower that is being used to propel motorcycle forward. My legs can't spew anything off the back tire. Instead, my legs just stop and I fall over.

After finishing up riding a bunch of new trails south of Rt 6, I re-entered Nickerson. The non-moto trails in Nickerson are much more tame. Still didn't matter. Approaching three hours into the ride, I pulled the plug on finishing the remaining singletrack and limped back to the car on a paved path. My quads were more noodly than overcooked pasta. Finished with 30.1 miles in 3:14 hours.

Thirty miles of SS dirt.

Saturday, Brett, Dave and I went up to Waterville Valley. It snowed about 3" overnight up there. Many trails were still closed due to warm spell we had. Isaac St. Martin walked in while we were kitting up and he joined in the sufferfest. I brought only my new skis.

Heading out, I immediately started dangling way off the back. I was cooked from SS ride day before, and my skis were still sandpaper slow. This really sucked. They were super grabby. If the tips got at all into the fresh, abrasive snow on the edge of the trail, I'd nearly face plant. The others marvelled at how fast the conditions were. I was soon skiing by myself. I didn't have it in me to try to stay with them, and I didn't want them waiting for me.

I solo'd up Tripoli Rd. It was not groomed and was a slog and a half with 3" of dense, abrasive powder to plow through. No skaters had been up in fact. Coming down was almost as much work as going up. I was not feeling the love for my new skis. They seemed quite sketchy descending too. That could be due to having nice, sharp edges and what I had been on most of the season was rounded off. Could be they are too stiff too.

I compared my new WC's with both pairs of RS:11's I have. The WC's seem to have similar tip flex as my broken race RS:11's, but softer tip flex than my rock ski RS:11's. For mid flex, they are very close to my rock skis, but slightly stiffer than my broken race skis.

Flex comparison. New World Cup top, old RS:11 race ski bottom.
Thread in middle to compare which ski flattens sooner.
RS:11 is about 1mm closer at this applied force level.

Back at the Nordic center, I talked to Steve Weber about the slowness of my skis. They had been through three wax/scrape/brush cycles so far. Steve didn't have an answer, but said he'd talk with the Atomic rep for ideas. Exiting the Nordic center, Donovan Freeman (Kris and Justin's dad) overheard me whining and asked about my skis. Looking at my base, he said my structure looked quite aggressive and good for warm conditions. Hmm, I told him it was the factory cold grind. He said "well there you go, send your skis to Boulder Nordic and have them properly ground." That is advice I shouldn't question.  There's no time for a grind before the Rangeley Loppet. I might be on my rock skis.

Saturday was not one of my better ski days. Would have been better off with a rest day. Covered 36.4km in 2.5hrs with about 2850ft of climbing. The others did a little less climbing but extra laps around Mouse Run for more distance.

Sunday morning was bitter cold with 15F temp and sub-zero windchills. I was too wrecked to do anything meaningful, like drive somewhere and bike or ski. I figured the local snowmobile trails would be set up nicely now. If they weren't, I'd just turn around and call it a day.

From my culdesac, I can gain access to official sled trails at the top of Seavey Hill. The descent sketched me out and forced a dismount on 40% grade. Too much ice. Sign at bottom warned snowmobilers of ice ahead and to turn around. I was going to head east crossing over into Massachusetts for a bit. I've never followed this route before, since it tends to be flatter than the hilly country just to the north.

Winter riding doesn't get any better than this.

The trail had a consistent crunchy surface. Great for traction and control, but it did require some work. There were two major ice crossings in my ride. The first was in wetlands on the Dracut/Pelham town (state) line. Sketched me out with the wind. Surface was as shiny as a mirror. Setting the camera on the ice to take a time delay shot of myself, the wind blew the camera across the ice. I had to find a crusty patch to set it on.

State line wetlands. Only way is to cross ice. No work-around.

I did a lollipop loop at the end of my out-and-back ride over Little Island Pond. This was a half mile or so, completely exposed, ice crossing. Twice I dabbed to keep from being blown over. The second time, the wind was so strong that with both feet on ice and studs scraping, I was sliding sideways and no way to stop it. Yeah, that sketched me out a lot. Don't need to hip check on ice while I'm still working out low bone density.

Coming back up Seavey Hill, the sun started softening things up a little. The sled route goes right up the fall line. I could barely push/carry my bike up that. Post holing to the side was about the only way.

Snow won't be gone any time soon.

It was a fabulously brilliant day to be outside. I had to work a little just a couple times during this ride.  I ran into Ray Cloutier and friend on top of hill near Dutton Rd, also enjoying a fine day on studded tires. They started from Methuen side and were heading out towards my end of the trails. I never encountered snow machines. I finished with 21 miles in 2.6hrs and just under 2000ft of climbing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Barely Survived

I've been so busy I forgot to say a word or two about Weston on Tuesday night. My routine for the past several weeks has been to bike and ski myself into the ground over the weekend, "recover" on Monday by running, then bring only ski stuff to work on Tuesday. I have no choice but to ski if I'm to get in any workout at all. This Tuesday, Weston was in a state I tend to avoid - smattering of loose granular over frozen granular.

I brought my new skis. I thoroughly saturated them with Toko base prep, then finished with Toko HF blue since the temp was expected to drop below 20 by the end of the night. I first went out on my rock skis, which I quickly slapped on a layer of cheap Fastwax fluoro. The conditions were frightenly fast. My rock skis have completely rounded over edges. I could barely keep them under me. Particularly scary was coming over the whoops at 20+ mph, momentarily experiencing zero gravity, then landing on polished frozen granular. My legs just wanted to squirt right out from under me. No way was I going to race on this. BrettR and JodyD where wise. They stayed away.

After two laps around the 3.2km course, I brought out my new World Cups. Down the hill by the clubhouse, I nearly face planted. They were butt slow! WTF. I know new skis take a few ski/wax cycles to reach maximum glide, but this was awful. I bet they were at least 20% slower than my rock skis with cheaper wax for similar temp range. The WC's handled superbly though. I could actually edge on the crud. The new WC's also have a little softer flex in the tips, making them handle quite differently all together. I skied one lap with them, actually getting my heartrate up due to the increased friction, before putting them back in the bag. More wax work was needed.

Back on my rock skis, pre-race instruction was being given out. Man there were a lot of people there for sketchy conditions. No way was I doing it. Nope. Not thinking about it. But when everybody took off to staging, I figured what the heck. What's the worst that could happen, a little ice rash? By now the first 10 rows were filled and I wedged myself in about 10-12 rows back.

We go off. Things seemed way sketchier buried in the middle of the pack. At least 50 skiers were ahead of me. I could not even see the front. Heading out on the flats, I pretty much coasted along, maybe a little double poling here and there. There was nowhere to go. I was stuck behind a huge plug. I would coast up on ski tails on the descents.

It wasn't until coming around the last barrel in the first lap when skiers piled up, that I broke free of traffic. I think I finally had to open my mouth to breathe going over Mt Weston beginning the second lap. Now I was getting a workout, periodically passing 1-3 skiers at a time. My skis offered no edge. I relied heavily on poling and skid turns around the 180's.

I passed upwards of 25 skiers before crossing the finish in 27/89 place. 17:29 for 6.4km is almost certainly my fastest ski there despite being held back for half the race. Amazingly, I even stayed upright. The whoops at race speed totally sketched me out. It was hard to keep skis on the deck with such speed. I skied about 28km in just over 1.5hrs, nine full laps of the course for the evening.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Da Cape again

From this...

 to this...
 in two hours.

Multiple reports suggested the local snowmobile trails weren't quite ready for prime time yet. They were rideable, but with a lot of work. Reports from the Cape said the ice was 99% gone at Nickerson. Should I attempt a ride from my house, risk rising temps and a death slog? Or should I go for a more sure thing, which required four hours of commuting by car? It was a tough decision. I wanted to ride upwards of four hours without hating life slogging through sloppy snow. I went for the surer bet.

Crossing over the Sagamore Bridge, there was still a lot of snow on the Cape. I brought my geared winter bike with studs. I wasn't getting robbed again like last weekend when I drove down without studs and found nothing but ice. There was no ice or snow by the time I reached Yarmouth. I thought seriously about riding there and checking out a few trails I hadn't ridden yet, but Nickerson is so much bigger. I've also been eyeing a trail on south side of Rt 6 between exits 10 & 11 near Nickerson while driving. I just had to figure out how to get to it.

The ice indeed was 99% gone at Nick. I skirted along the western flank and hopped over Rt 6 to find that trail I saw. I didn't realize there is an undeveloped state park there, called Hawksnest State Park. The park has a large network of moto singletrack and doubletrack trails. I worked my way west until I ran out of undeveloped land. I didn't ride anywhere near the highway. Now it was time to find the singletrack that hugs the highway for the return.

From Exit 10 overpass, I could see the trail pass right under me along the shoulder of the highway. But access to it was either land-locked or fenced off. I turned onto Oak St. A couple of unmarked dirt drives went back to sandpits. I probably startled a couple kids getting some parked back there. Still didn't find the trail. Up Oak St a bit further, I spied my access.

This moto trail was a blast to ride, just like the trail at Otis that hugs Rt 28. Lots of climbs and high speed descents with bermed turns at the bottom. All good things come to an end. I crossed back over Rt 6 and resumed my ride in Nickerson after picking up about 15 miles outside Nick.

Nickerson on right, Hawksnest on left. Need to explore
that little triangle in the middle further.

Studs weren't necessary, but I was glad I had mine a few times. There was a 500ft patch of hockey ice along Cliff Pond, then again some treacherous descents in the northwest corner by the powerlines. I would never have survived the latter without studs.

The ground stayed frozen as the temps rose into the upper 30's. It was actually quite mild to be riding in the woods. Saw three other riders out but lots more tracks. I finished the day with 36 miles in 3.7hrs and nearly 3000ft of climbing. My best ride in a long time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

All Rights

This rest of this week seems to have reversed a couple weeks of bad training luck. No more wrecking equipment or arriving at destinations only to find it icy and then being inadequately skilled or equipped for the conditions. Wednesday I got in a superb intervals workout on the bike. Four solid 6+ minute VOmax efforts plus a couple shorter efforts along the way.

Thursday I had a good run, taking advantage of the dry roads to run my fastest 4.2 miler yet. I paid for it pretty dearly the next day. My Achilles tendons and calves are very sensitive to bump-ups in distance or speed with the Nike Free minimalist shoes I'm using. They pretty much demand a forefoot strike with a bent knee. I don't seem to experience any knee pain at all, a primary purpose of using these shoes. But calves get punished, as they must absorb impact with eccentric contraction. Running for now is only a remedial activity to boost bone density. I can take as long as I want to boost speed and distance. I may though, at some point, invest in a more traditional cushioned running shoe for some speed workouts. I'd like to benchmark a mile. I think I would regret benchmarking a mile in the Nike Frees. I would continue to do my short 3-5mi runs in the Frees to save my knees and do occasional longer or faster runs with more cushion. I wonder if the form I am beginning to adopt would go to crap as soon as I put a cushy shoe on?

Saturday, I had another superb workout. DaveP, SteveG and I headed up to Waterville. They remain 100% groomed with no thin spots. A perimeter loop was looking like a good challenge. Richard Brown and Keith Button showed up at the same time. Since Dave and I were likely to pummel each other, Steve opted to ski with Rich and Keith. A bunch of other cyclists were there too.

Dave and I set out on a counter-clockwise loop, just like I did solo a couple weeks ago. It is easy. You go out the Village Trail and take all right hand turns until you get back.  The Village Trail was now in excellent shape, the best I've ever seen it. Most years it doesn't even open. Once we hit the climbs, Dave lit it up. He didn't let up until after Criterion. I thought surely I doomed myself trying to stay with him.

Skiing the Perimeter CCW is sadistic because you must climb Beanbender (normal skiers descend it) and Tripoli Rd (biggest climb) is saved for last. Dave put me up front on Beanbender. Grooming was immaculate, but the glide wasn't the fastest. There's no way to "soft-pedal" up Beanbender. It buries you no matter what.

Dave led the charge up Cascade. I wondered how he never seems to slow down. The switchbacks down were in mint condition. Dave put many seconds on me there, as I haven't mastered parallel ski turns around hairpins at speed.

I ended up leading around Moose Run/Wicked Easy, at a firm tempo pace V2ing. We had three more climbs after this. Dave charged up Osceola. Interestingly, we had gone past 2hrs and I hadn't imploded yet. I usually implode at the 90min mark on hammerskis with Dave.

On Tripoli, Dave and I agreed to switch off pace setting on the false flats. I set pace for the first 300ft, then Dave did the next 300ft, then I finished off the final 200ft of vertical. Yeah, I got stock with setting pace for 500ft of climbing. Why does setting pace mess with your head so badly? Anyway, I figured this was our last major climb of the day, so why not empty the tank on it? Dave always appreciates that in a way only endorphin junkies can understand. We both stood cross-eyed for a minute upon reaching the summit at Thornton Gap. My triceps very nearly seized up. On the descent, I had to yell at two women who had a loose golden retriever in the trail. The dog ran right in front of me going 20+ mph. And they looked at me like what was my problem.

A final short climb up Pipeline meant we were home free. I was still going pretty strong gliding back into the Nordic Center. I was quite psyched how well I felt for the last half of the workout. I'm pretty sure my average effort was higher than during the Lake Placid race last weekend. Dave and I managed to pummel each other into a stupor during this workout. No chemical substance were needed. We skied 44km in 2.9hrs moving time with over 4000ft of climbing. This was 16 minutes faster than my perimeter ski a week ago, and I said that was my hardest workout to date. Sure hope this helps me on the bike in Tucson in four weeks.

I had a dual agenda at Waterville. They had a pair of Atomic World Cup skate skis that were pretty close to what I needed. I asked them to hold them for me until Saturday. They are 190cm long, hard/cold rated, with 65/2.8 flex numbers. A 190/hard is probably a bit too much ski for me, but the factory tested flex of 65 is within my range.

Smiling again.

I brought in my broken race skis and the rock skis I used. Peter did the "card test" for flex on a deck made for this. My rock skis are permanent marker labeled with 76/3.0, which would be very stiff for my weight of 165 lbs. I'm skeptical of that number and don't know it's origin. My race skis were not marked but felt much softer. Both pairs are RS:11's I bought used from private parties. I was surprised to see my race skis were actually stiffer than my rock skis. The race skis are 2cm shorter too. Then we put up the new World Cups. These were squarely in between the two pairs of skis I've grown to like. That was a deal clincher. With a 20% season pass holder discount from a non-inflated starting price and free transfer of bindings, I got a decent deal. Now I have to prep the bases and get some time on them before Rangeley.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weston was so stupid fast...

...that I didn't race it. It rained during the day, then the temperature plummeted just before the race. Not much can be done about that. Normally I avoid Weston in these conditions, but what else am I going to do?  Grooming did manage to loosen things up in a few places. What sketched me out the most was the unpredictability of conditions. It went from frozen superchunk to loose over hardpack to glazed hardpack randomly along the 3.1km loop. One wreck with broken equipment per week is enough for me. Crashing on frozen chunky granular hurts too.

BrettR started tonight's race, which went three laps for almost 10k, but bailed during the first lap. He's much better on hardpack than I am, so I was doubly glad I didn't line up.  Guess a few people stacked pretty hard. Instead of racing, I waited for the race to take off, then I tooled along at the back. Probably passed half of the field with minimal effort. I could double pole way faster heading out on the flats than skate. The wind on the return was something else. Gusts had to have been over 30mph.

I got robbed yet again of a quality workout. Snowstorms and tapering last week precluded zero intensity work. I got some decent intensity at Lake Placid before I broke my ski. But then I got iced out of a good ride Sunday and similarly tonight. My anti-trainer principles will probably get the better of me this spring. I fret over how I'm going from 3-4 hours of light riding per week to 5hrs of hard riding per day in Arizona next month. Alex is going to slay me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nickerson Failed Me

After the Lake Placid Fiasco, my weekend didn't get much better. I had a boat load of pent up frustration to unleash on the trails at Nickerson State Park. I fired up the NOHRSC snow cover map to learn there was zero snow cover on much of the Cape. Or so I was led to believe. With the recent rain and warm temps, I didn't even need bother with studs. I threw my singlespeed in the car with no studs and headed two hours south.

Conditions at the Trail of Tears trailhead didn't look good at all. There should have been very little if any snow there per the map. But there was at least 6" on north facing slopes. That did not bode well for Nickerson further out on the Cape.

Arriving at Nickerson, there was a smattering of snow here and there in the woods. That didn't bother me. What sent me into a fit of rage was what I saw on the paved bike path. It was boiler plate ice. It seemed anything that saw foot traffic after the last snow dump got packed into ice, then the rain polished it up nicely. Maybe the singletrack under the pines would be ok...

Typical doubletrack on south end

I headed out, unable to ride any doubletrack. Bush whacking to the side was even impossible in a few spots. With temps in the 40's, the wet ice was nearly impossible to stand on. Not sure studs would have worked. I wanted to HAMMER, not daintily tread on non-stop ice. I went into the first section of singletrack near Ruth Pond. Less ice, but still way too much to keep any kind of flow going. After three miles of riding along side trails bush whacking, I pulled the plug and headed for pavement.

At least it was a stellar day to check out the ocean. Looks just like
Lake Michigan on Christmas break.

The Cape Cod Rail Trail wasn't much better in places. I headed out towards the end of the Cape, unable to generate any kind of power with such a tiny gear on my SS. I wanted to make my muscles hurt. I wanted to vent off Saturday's race. Instead, I was building more frustration. Some sections of the rail trail needed to be bypassed on roads. It was too icy. I crashed once on the rail trail. I did visit the shore on both sides of the Cape. It was a spectacular day out. I suppose on the positive side, it still beat riding a trainer indoors.  I rode about 38 miles in three hours and was somewhat satiated. Hopefully the weather behaves and I can make it down to Weston for a proper venting.

Red is Nickerson trails, Green is this week's paved route

Monday morning I was completely trashed. Unreasonably so. I couldn't figure it out. I've done longer skis than my failed Lake Placid race this season and felt fine a day or two later. It finally occurred to me why my hips, back and shoulders hurt so badly. Friday morning I spent over an hour coercing snow off my roof through dormer windows with a shovel I taped an extension pole too. This required all kinds of core and upper body English that I am completely unconditioned for. It must be that hurting me today, three days later. I surmise that it isn't getting older that makes us less flexible. It is becoming a creature of habit, never using certain muscle groups. Habits become more entrenched as we age.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lake Placid Fiasco

The Lake Placid Loppet causes me to tremble every time I think about it. I first did this race in 2004 with barely a season of ski experience. It took me nearly 4hrs to complete it that year and I finished 62/65 of the 50km skiers. I managed to stoop to new lows during this year's race.

Nothing went well in preparation. A double-dip snow storm midweek meant I didn't get to Weston on Tuesday. I went a full week without skiing. In fact, I went a full week without doing much of anything. That is very uncharacteristic of me. After a punishing ski a week ago on Saturday, my body nicely overcompensated by Tuesday, then promptly went over the peak and downhill. By this past Saturday, I was all stiff and lethargic.

I didn't sleep more than 20 minutes the night before the race. Don't know why. Wes DeNering, Brett Rutledge and I carpooled and shared a room at the Willkommen Hof B&B. I cuddled up with my noise machine. It sufficiently drowned out the snoring of the other two. Yet I could not sleep. I wasn't stressing over the race. My only goal for the race was to not crash. I've yet to finish a Lake Placid Loppet without crashing hard on one of the hairball descents.

Wax tips for the race were all over the place. Forecasted high was around 30F, but lows ranged from around zero to +11F. The temp was actually in the 20's by race time, but the relatively new snow was cold, soft and aggressive. I waxed way too warm. I had good glide starting out, but by 10k in, I felt like I was on sandpaper snow.  Things only went downhill from here.

I lined up in third row. We go off and I soon realize that third row was like 2/3 of the way back. I got stuck in a long conga line working its way up Porter Mountain. Brett was about 12 guys up and Wes was right in front of me. On the first significant downhill about 4km into the race, I took the outside line. Wes went to the inside. The two guys immediately in front of me went down and of course blocked any exit path for me. There was no way for me to recover and I didn't want to hit anybody, so I bailed. That really sucked. Not even 10% of the way into the race I already missed my only objective for the race. Now Wes and Brett were clear out of sight.

I began hammering up Porter Mtn. Soon I caught and passed Wes. Brett was now just four guys ahead of me. The descent from Porter gave me the willies. I scrubbed speed. Wes came flying by. In the next couple of minutes, Wes put at least a minute on me. Brett must have handled that descent better than I, as I never saw him again.

Russian hill was next. I caught back up to Wes. Don't remember if I passed him again. I do know that after the Russian descent, I never saw him again. How can I learn to descend like that? Climbing is easy. I get creamed on the descents. I figure I give up 15-20 minutes over the course of three hours by scrubbing speed off on every descent.

By now my skis were getting slow. After the race, Brett commented his got faster during the race. He waxed with blue, I with red. I finished the back 10k of the first lap without much issue. I had hoped to at least finish the first lap without getting passed the leading 25k skier. I not only got passed, but got passed with about 10k to go. This guy passed me in the first tunnel. I didn't know there was enough room for two skiers in there. He flies into the tunnel, yells out to me that I'm ok, and flies by on the rough outside the tracks. Could have sworn I heard his clothes (or maybe skis?) rubbing against the corrugated culvert tube. Is that nuts, or what?

Beginning the second 25k lap, I was slowing down a lot. My skis were slow, and I was getting slow. My hips were hurting. Must have been from all the power wedging down hills. The second lap is always a frightful mess. Hundreds of skiers have been around it by now, including all the 25k skiers, most of the 50k skiers on their second lap, and all the classic skiers that started an hour earlier. The soft base was chewed up into foot deep ruts across the width of the trail. Alpine skis? No problem. Flimsy free-heel skate skies? I come undone.

I stayed upright down Porter and Russian. On the last hairball descent, the one where they have multiple EMTs with radios, I tanked hard. I had no choice but to ride a rut, and the rut got the better of me. I face planted spectacularly. I plowed at least 30ft with my face leaving a deep gouge in the snow. Both eye sockets were packed with snow. The spectators cheered once they saw I was alright. I told them I got an instant icecream headache. I had snow packed in everywhere. I was surprised nothing hurt too badly.

I got back up and continued the descent. As soon as I got up to speed, wham, I face planted again. WTF! It felt like I nailed a rock. Impossible with a 2ft base. I looked around to see if I hit a gel wrapper. I hit one earlier and it nearly took me down. Nothing there. I started back up. I got into a little powder again at speed and wham, head slam with no warning. What was going on?! I was pissed now. Same ski came to an instant stop.

I pulled the ski off. I thought maybe something happened to the binding. The ski looked fine. I ran my hand down the length of the ski and felt a crease in the front half. What the... My ski was cracked. Every time I reached speed, the front part of the ski would fold over backwards and the ski would just bury into the snow. Race over. I had about 10 easy kilometers to go.

It appears in the initial crash on this descent I drove my knee into the front part of the ski. This fractured the ski and explained why my knee cap hurt. This race was going no where good for me anyway. My first ski DNF.  Best I figure, I would have finished about three minutes behind Wes, in 8/11 for age group had I not wrecked. Brett took 6th and had a pretty good race.  What sucks the most is I owned only one good pair of skis. My rock skis are in pitiful shape. Skis are getting pretty picked over at this point in the season. Not sure I'll replace them before next season. Maybe its time to start thinking more about all them bikes hanging in the basement.