Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some things are better not knowing

I went into the office to work several hours on Saturday, giving the ice on roads some time to burn off. Feeling somewhat rested, having taken it easy the previous two days, I felt the need for some hills. In the afternoon, I headed up to the Uncanoonucs by Manchester, NH for some hill play. There are several great climbs there, ranging from 500-800ft, including Chestnut Hill, Mountain Rd and Summit Rd. I hit all of them, Summit twice. I have some decent history on Summit Rd, which rises some 500ft in about a mile. It was time for a fitness check.
After a solid 45 minute warmup getting there, I gave Summit Rd a go. My PR is 5:40, an estimated 430-440 Watts average effort. I did a 6:03 climb with a PowerTap once and recorded 417W. I had the same bike used in those efforts.

I went out like usual from the bottom. About 90 seconds into it, I found myself in a spot of trouble. I hit deflection. Ugh. The steep 15-20% grade sections pushed my speed down to 6mph. I normally hold at least 8mph on these bits in a good climb.

I reached the end of the pavement, and thus the summit, in 6:45. Major disappointment.  Now some will say it's only January, so why worry? Well, you don't make up a 19% deficit in two months. Or even four. It just doesn't work like that. Time to invest in a PowerTap, me thinks. I haven't trained with one in a few years now. I need to recalibrate perceived effort to reality. A power meter is the best tool for this. Plus, the newer PowerTap models barely have a weight penalty, don't needed any messy wires or sensors, and work with both GPS's I own.

I went on to pummel myself up Mountain Rd (12 minutes), Summit Rd a second time (7:30min) and back side of Chestnut Hill (6min). A gorgeous afternoon to be on the road and a solid workout despite disappointing feedback.

After turning my legs into minced meat on the bike, the pummelling continued in the mountains on skis. Dave and I headed up to Waterville Valley on Sunday. Conditions were suspect after the warm temps and rain earlier in the week. But trail passes were being offered at nearly half price (to astute Director's Diary readers), so you can't turn that down.

What we found was additional opened terrain, moderate temps and magical sugar granular that you might get only once a season. It was FAST with good control. We did the usual warmup with a couple laps around Moose Run, then climbed Upper Osceola, then hit the 800ft Tripoli climb. No intervals today, and at a non-strenuous pace, we climbed Tripoli two minutes faster than last week when we hammered. The descent was ridiculously scary fast. Having taken a serious header on this descent in the past, my brakes came on big time. Still got down in record time. That was so much fun, Dave and I did Tripoli a second time.

We crossed over to the Livermore side. Cascade was now open as an out and back to nearly the summit. Awesome. Only problem, having skied two hours with a slow-twitch freak like Dave, who was just getting warmed up, meant bonk time. I hadn't eaten or drank much. I bonked spectacularly on Cascade. Hallucinogenic bonk. Trembling legs bonk. Blurry vision bonk. It was awful. Dave was probably getting cold by the time I made it to the top. I wolfed down a granola bar and inhaled about half a Camelbak's worth of Gatorade. I was hoping in the next 15 minutes of descending, some of that sugar would hit my blood stream and turn my brain back on.

The descent make the bonk worth it. We cruised 15-20mph much of the way down on the slight grade Livermore Rd is. Made you feel like a superhero. I was somewhat rejuvenated upon reaching the bottom. Good thing. We still had one more climb to go, to the top of Upper Snows, which also just opened this weekend. The bonk was gone, but now general fatigue was setting in. I'll take fatigue over bonk any day. There were a few rocks poking through near the top, but no big deal. Other than that, everything else we skied was fully covered.

A little loop at the bottom insured we broke 50km for the day.  Saw many familiar faces on the trails. All smiles and amazement at how good the conditions were. And I almost abandoned skiing this weekend.  We finished with 50.5km, 3600ft of climbing, in 3:05 on the Garmin. That was a record distance ski for me at WV, but not record fastest or vertical. It is interesting to note how similar hilly MTB rides and skate skiing in the mountains are. This ski had similar vertical, bit more miles and time, but almost identical average speed to hammer MTB ride I did on the Cape a couple weeks ago. Both take similar amount out of you too. Wonder if I can take a rest day on Monday? Last Sunday I asked the same question here. My addiction to endorphin was too great. I caved and ran 5 miles last Monday.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In the groove

The snow dump earlier this week blessed the mountains with more snow. Unfortunately, the snow dump on Saturday hammered the Cape. Looks like no dirt riding for a while. The good news is I'm well equipped to handle almost any kind of winter conditions now. Studs for icy roads or trail riding, fat bike for powdery or loose snowmobile trail riding, and of course, cross country skis to complement riding.

A group of us headed up to Waterville Valley. The temp had risen to -1F (-18C) by the time we got there. At least there was zero wind and bluebird skies. The recent snow hadn't had a chance to transform yet. I suspected uber grippy, squawky snow. It was clearly a green wax day. The north end trails had been groomed by the big cat. Grooming was vastly improved over last week. I take anything negative that I said last week back. The snow was slow, especially for Dave and Isaac. They didn't bother to wax. Their pain, my gain. The Nordic Center was deserted, along with the trails. Something about some silly game later in the day.

With the bridge out on Swan's Way, we had to drive up to the north end. A couple warm-up laps around Moose Run prep'd us for the Osceola climb, which Dave hammered. Next up was the 800ft Tripoli Rd climb. No skaters had been up it yet. The slow snow was going to make it hurt. Dave set a nice tempo most of the way up, then relinquished the lead before the upper wall. Great. Just as in cycling, mental games go on during skiing, especially among friends. You lead and think crap, Dave's still right on my heels, I must be going too slow, so you ramp it up. Meanwhile, Dave is thinking crap, Dougie is going too hard, I'm barely hanging on here. Neither want to be going that hard.  Psychologically, it is harder to lead than follow. Not sure why. I hadn't planned on any interval work during the ski, but going up Tripoli was encroaching on interval pace. Needless to say, I had no choice but to pick up the pace a bit on the upper section. No heart rate strap this time, but I bet I was up there. Had Dave and I not had poles to hang our body weight on, I'm quite sure we both would have collapsed into the snow at the summit. Good times.

The descent was marvelous. High friction snow kept speed in check. I was feeling really good about my form today. Been working on left foot commitment, and it is paying off. Had much less ankle fatigue going on. Mint conditions no doubt helped. I probably V2'd more at WV than ever before. My cold wax job made for a relatively speedy descent. Dave would later pull out his race skis, which he did wax, and put some hurt on me.

We did a couple more laps around Moose Run/Wicked Easy before heading over to Livermore Rd. Isaac was toast by this point with about 25-30km skiing, working against the higher friction his skis had. I wanted to get one drill in during this ski: a no poles climb up Livermore. With the dry snow, it would surely work the glutes over well. Dave agreed. I have always suspected Dave puts way more upper body into skating than I do, as he does core work year 'round. This earns him the nickname Buff Dave. This little experiment might expose the difference in upper to lower body ratios between Dave and I. I'm an upper body weakling, so I derive most of my power from legs while skating.

Even after Dave pulled out his race skis with cold wax, it was easy to free-skate ahead of Dave on the steep bits. It's about weight commitment, knee/ankle bend, and leg snap, avoiding the junky middle. I feel like I'm really starting to get it. We talked with Donovan Freeman, who was training for Craftsbury, for bit at the top before free skating back down. I love free skating back down Livermore. It is so easy to get into a rhythmic groove.

I was out of water for a while now and ate next to nothing. Bonk was imminent. We picked up poles and headed up Livermore a final time. Bonk happened. A couple other skaters were coming up behind me and I wasn't about to let them overtake me. Stupid, how that happens. My legs were all blubbery and vision crosseyed when I got to the end. Mission accomplished.

We finished with 44.3km, 2500ft of climbing in just under 3hrs moving time. A solid day on skies, especially for Dave, being only his second time out. Within 30 minutes of finishing, I inhaled a Gatorade, banana, two extra sharp cheese blocks, plain bagel, bottle of chocolate milk and a coffee. That barely held me over until I got home. The last four days have been a solid block of running, biking and skiing. Wonder if I can force myself to take a well-earned rest day on Monday?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow Biking!

Starting to look a lot more like winter around here. Conditions finally justified taking the fat bike out for an honest assessment. I went up to Massabesic Lake Friday morning where 2-3" of fresh powder fell on 2-3" of old snow. Had no idea if any of the trails would be rideable. It would have been lower risk to head south where <2" light powder fell on bare, frozen ground. Regular tires would have been just fine in those conditions.

Wind was really kicking up and dumping snow out of the trees.

I biked around the lake the way the FOMBA Turkey Burner goes. Areas where hikers tamped the old snow down were quite fast. Then I hit a long stretch of untraveled doubletrack. It was work. The interesting thing was it was totally rideable. None of that frustrating barely able to control the bike stuff. The fat bike went where I pointed it. I just had to deliver 2-3x the power to the pedals.

FOMBA Hemlock trail.
Bumping trees usually resulted in getting buried in snow.

I hit a few FOMBA singletracks. These trails rode very nicely with the fat bike. There had been some bike traffic through there when the old snow was soft, packing it some and leaving many ruts under the new powder. Now problem for 4" wide, 10psi tires. I crossed paths with another rider on 2" studs on Hemlock. He was doing fine in the singletrack, but get into the rough on doubletrack, not so fine.

FOMBA Woodpecker trail.

My plan was to ride 3-4hrs and loop around Tower Hill Pond for the climbs. I climbed part way up the gravel road then hooked a left onto a fire road that had some recent truck traffic on it. Maybe logging is still going on back there? About five seconds later, I'm plowing snow with my face. There was glazed ice under the new snow. Fat tires don't do too well on ice. Studs probably wouldn't have helped much either. Body took the hit just fine. Derailleur hanger didn't fare as well and needed "correction."

A hiker with spikey snowshoes came by. I asked if he'd been out before the new snow came. He said yes. I asked if there was a lot of ice under it. Yes, again. I abandoned the Tower Hill Pond loop and worked my way back. I figured I'd go for a run when I got home instead. I finished riding with 20.4mi in 2.4hrs on the Garmin. It was steady, hard tempo work the whole time.

Some initial fat bike observations:
  • The wide Q-factor made my knees and hips a little ornery.  Probably good idea I didn't go 4hrs with hills on first ride.
  • Gyroscopic effect of massive tires is noticeable even at modest speeds going downhill.
  • Fat tires don't make it easy to ride through snow, they just give you back control so you can keep moving.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Comfort Zone

I've taken it pretty easy for the last few months, taking a total lackadaisical approach to training, and riding in general. It was fun. No stress, only stress relief. Plenty of stress at work right now. I didn't feel the need to compound work stress with maintaining structure in training. But it's time to get more serious. I've picked things up a notch over the last week. A week ago, I did the winter triathlon at Craftsbury. That was an hour of solid threshold effort. Weston sprint race on Tuesday night was followed by hill intervals loop on Wednesday. Saturday was a solid first day on mountain snow with several sustained ski climbs. How do you cap off a week like this? Chase Jonny Bold around on his home turf! I needed to get pushed further out of my comfort zone.  JB had been bugging me for a couple years to join him on a ride in his neck of the woods, and his invite this week was perfect timing.

Many cyclists that skate ski have commented how skiing trashes your legs for riding. Not sure why this is. You could go out and do a three hour hammer ride on Saturday, then still do ok on the bike on Sunday. But do a three hour hammerski on Saturday? It seems to have double the impact. Maybe because skiing is a secondary sport, we're not as conditioned for it, and thus more bodily breakdown occurs. I suspect there's more to it than that. Skiing is weight bearing. It uses all your body's major muscle groups. There is no free-wheeling recovery. Your heartrate stays consistently higher than a comparable workout on the bike. For this reason, it is superb cross training in my opinion.

Mike Rowell, Dave Dornaus and I joined JB to ride the Trail of Tears and moto loop near JB's house on the Cape. It was freaking cold Sunday morning, 2F when I left my house with way below zero windchill. It wasn't much warmer on the Cape by 9am. It was going to be a challenge to keep water from freezing. The first few minutes are always the toughest. Heading straight into the wind on the road brought tears to my eyes with an icecream headache.

We no more than got into the woods when MKR's tire went soft. New tubeless setup. Perhaps the bead didn't seal well. We pumped it up extra firm and started up again, having lost the warmth we just started to gain.

That wasn't the last of our tire woes though. JB had a tire go soft next. Some CO2 was added, thinking that would be it. But no. Seems the Stan's had dried up in that tire. We stopped again to put a tube in. By then we were quite warmed up and sweaty. It doesn't take long with near 0F windchills to get cold fixing a flat.

A Stan's "booger." When the liquid is gone, this is what's left.

The pace was very peaky, which I struggled with, having skied the day before and just not having much top-end these days to begin with. I figured three hours going like that would surely cause something to pop, probably cramping. The terrain doesn't have huge vertical difference, but it is densely rippled with non-stop 50-100ft climbs at 20+% grades. On many of these climbs, you either put out 400-500 Watts or you were walking. Do this over and over and over, well, you get the picture. JB made sure I didn't dangle to far off the back. MKR was always right on his wheel, and Dave was usually halfway between them and me. I dressed right and actually stayed quite comfortable. Keeping my Camelbak from freezing was different matter...

We had yet another tire failure. Wouldn't you know it, the tube JB put in went flat. So another 29er tube went in his tire. Turns out Dave was carrying a 26" tube, yet he was on a 29er too. So that meant with three 29ers running tubeless tires, we had no more spare tubes left among us. The lone 26" rider, me, was covered with two spare tubes. This seemed like a bad omen to me. We were only half way into the ride.

Crossing over to the western side is the moto track. It is a skinny singletrack ribbon, often with a 6" wide rut right in the middle, and runs about 15 miles. It was also soft and full of crunchy hoar frost. It sucked the life right out of you. There's not a flat ten feet of tail on this side and the hills are bigger. I sensed impending doom. I've ridden this several times alone before, so I knew what was in store.

I did my best to stay with them. My quads were screaming. The total number of minutes I spent in the anaerobic realm on this ride was more than I did in the previous three months combined. It was just what I needed. I managed to clean a couple steep bits the others botched. That felt good. But there was no rest, even on the descents. It was power to the pedals all the time. There are some seriously steep plummets in there, where your suspension completely bottoms out in gravity cavities. Fun stuff, but you had to always be on guard for ruts that tried to steal your wheels out from under you.

All good things must come to an end (fortunately for me in this case). We started to work our way back, now with the wind to our backs. It really hadn't warmed up at all since we started. The wind was out of the northwest, so no ocean warming. We got back to JB's place with 27.4mi, 3500ft, in 2:45hrs. Hard to believe there's that much climbing on the cape. I don't get that much riding 27 miles in North Conway or Kingdom Trails. My legs believe it though. I felt a little better after JB commented "that hurt." A great ride. Beats the trainer that so many others resorted to on this cold day. Thanks for the invite JB!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


We finally got some respectable snow in the mountains. Most years I can begin skate skiing on Thanksgiving weekend. This year we are running about six weeks late.

Snow almost up to the picnic table bench seats

Brett and I met up with Isaac St Martin and Dave Penney, who came up with spouses and child. There was a surprising amount of snow up in the valley. It was surprisingly cold too. It was 31F leaving the house early but only around 16F at WV with wind. Haven't had a chance to acclimate to that yet.

I had been on snow four times already this season, all machine made. None of the others had put skate skis to snow yet. For once, just maybe, I had a slight advantage. Even though there was maybe a foot of very dense, crusty snow on the ground in the woods, the trails were groomed only with the snowmobile. This meant very uneven, fiercely undulating surfaces that were soft in places. The Nordic Center has a new director. It will be interesting to see where he takes the place. WV charges more than any other Nordic Center in New England. You'd think for a full $19 trail fee, the trails could have been buffed out a bit more. Shouldn't complain though. Ski areas are no doubt hurting this season, and skiing natural snow in the mountains beats the heck out of Weston.

We warmed up on Livermore. The out and back up this gradual 400ft climb nets almost 10km. Then it was over to Tripoli. I had intentions on getting some serious intensity at some point during the ski, and the 800ft Tripoli climb seemed like a good place to start. It hadn't been groomed that morning and had another 2-3" of dry powder on top. The snow got drier and slower the higher we went. The climb went 20 minutes, a few minutes longer than typical. Brett and Isaac had no interest in hammering their first time on snow.

Brett cresting Tripoli Rd with Isaac a bit further back

We hit Upper Osceola next, a 400+ft climb with some seriously steep diggers in it. I didn't bury myself on this one like Tripoli, but at least threshold effort.

We looped around Moose Run next, a flat, normally crazy fast loop that is a blast to V2 around. Not today. The groomed snow, while mostly firm, followed the nap of the earth. It was virtually impossible to find a rhythm on it.

Back at the base of Livermore Rd, we scooped Dave up after skiing with his wife and son in the pulk. There was still a lot of moisture in the snow, and by now, the heavy traffic on Livermore packed things down pretty firmly. It was a lot faster than our first time up.

I led coming down Livermore. There were a lot of hikers on the trail, including loose dogs. Dave was skiing behind me. Bombing down one of the steeper parts towards the bottom, a group of five or six people had three loose dogs, including a bullmastiff. This thing was chest high. He spooked, ran in front of me, then suddenly stopped. I had nowhere to go. I skidded, and my skies actually went under the dog as he's trying to lunge sideways away from me. How I stayed up is beyond me. I was doubled over the dog like a bun around a hotdog. I've had to deal with loose dogs many times over the past three months. This one pissed me off. Signs clearly state dogs must be leashed and hikers must not walk on trails without snowshoes, both rules they were breaking.  I screamed at the people "Dogs must be on a leash!" The guy said "We don't have a leash." Well, the maybe you should leave your f'n dog home. I didn't say it, but I sure felt like it. Dave was giggling behind me, seeing the whole episode unravel.

We skied 35km in about 2.4hrs with 2300ft of climbing. Great first day in the mountains on snow. I suspect conditions will be even better on Sunday after skiers pack things down and they re-groom. I'm tempted to go up again, but some time on dirt with the bike is needed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Night Snow-Worlds

Continuing with my fitness recovery plan, I made it down to Weston Tuesday night for the training sprint race. The 1km course of machine made snow was in superb condition. What would we do without Weston this winter? I didn't bother waxing my rock skis since the triathlon this weekend. They were surprisingly fast anyway in the almost slushy granular that got only faster as the temperature dropped.

With such a short course and a fairly large crowd, we did a NASCAR start. We self seeded, then did a neutral lap around the course. As the "pace skiers" approached the start/finish line, they ramped up the pace to race pace. By then, we were well strung out. No pile ups, no broken poles, no blood stains in the snow. Even though I did eight warmup laps before the race, my body was unprepared for the shock going from 20% to 110%.

My goal was to not get lapped. I'm normally about 20% back from the leaders in these sprint races. We were doing five race pace laps, so that meant the leaders would be coming up behind me for the finish as I began my final lap.

I found it hard to not flail. The speed was so high most of the time that poling didn't contribute much to the effort. I found others to draft for the couple middle laps, but then realized I was losing places by doing this. The last lap I stepped out of my comfort zone and passed several skiers (not just lapped skiers). This was good for another 5bpm jump in HR.  Been a long time since I've brought myself to the hurl threshold. Weston is good for that. As Marv Wang commented in the finishing chute, intervals on the bike seem so much easier after a Weston sprint race.

I finished in 19th place. My Garmin time for the 5.3km race, including the neutral lap, was 15:04. It was the third time I skied in five days. Woo-hoo! All on machine made snow, of course. Glad I didn't invest much into rollerskiing this fall. With no snow in the mountains and rain on the way, I don't know when I'll ski again.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I never really closed out 2011. Hectic work schedule has been getting in the way of many things. Here are a few introspective thoughts on 2011 and going forward into 2012.

I generally strive for about 600 hours of aerobic activity per year. I consider anything that raises my heart rate to 2-3x resting rate an aerobic activity, even things like hiking or shoveling the driveway. 600hrs per year is about 10-12hrs per week. In winter months, less is usually achieved, but the deficit is easily made up when I go on trips in summer months.

I have maintained a training log in Microsoft Excel for 10 years now. The format is very simple and has changed little over the 10yrs. Recorded are usually conditions, who I trained with, how I felt, and the usual metrics of activity, distance and time. Here's how my 2011 activity broke down:

Most notable here is this is the first year in many that I've logged more trail riding hours than road riding hours. Perhaps I got a little burned out on the road scene. What also hasn't helped is that most of my favorite road races have gone by the wayside, like Jiminy Peak, Turtle Pond, Bow and others. I've become a bit more risk adverse since my 2010 mishap too. Road competition is not without risk. Here's a weekly snapshot of 2011.

The weekly average is a little more uniform than most years, excluding the trips. The trips I failed to go on in 2010 due to my injury were made up in 2011. I experienced some amazing rides in my favorite places, plus a new favorite place, the Italian Alps.

Exceptional trips were offset by lack-luster competitive results. Psychologically, I don't invest heavily in results objectives.  It takes too much fun out of staying fit. Then when results are not achieved, despair sets in, and you begin to question why you train at all. I've seen this happen in other people. The process of staying fit should be reward enough in of itself.

2011 pretty much lacked any sense of direction or goals. Training became less bike centric as running became part of the mix. I suspect running diluted my cycle training some, especially since I used my customary recovery days to run, which was anything but recovery. I don't see this changing much in 2012. I may experiment with run-bike brick days to get back my rest days.  Not having the same snap on the bike doesn't mean I'm less fit. I can run 5km infinitely faster now than a year ago. That has to count for something.

Perhaps one of the high points of 2011 didn't involve a bike at all. I ran the CIGNA 5k at a sub-6min pace. That in itself isn't very noteworthy, but I had accumulated a lifetime total of running to that point of only around 35hrs. I couldn't run a mile in high school before asthma doubled me over in a hump of wheezing flesh.

The last three months of 2011 have been pretty much a free-wheeling affair. I used up any residual fitness I built up over the summer by just riding. No intensity, no hill intervals, just blissful riding. The record low weight I maintained without even trying all summer didn't last. Many late nights with takeout food at work packed it on quickly. So here I am, going into 2012, feeling a bit like Fat Doug back in 1993, when I believe this gem was taken:

No idea what I weighed there, but it had to be more than 230 pounds. Besides boosting VOmax, intensity also spikes the metabolism for many hours after exercise. I need to get back into that regime again.

Work will have me pegged out for another 3-4 months it looks like. That makes trips hard to plan. I didn't get into Battenkill this year, partly because it filled more quickly than I anticipated, but also because I don't think I'll be ready for it. No trips, no early season race, equals no strong motivators on the horizon. How does one break this death spiral?

Normally I get the bulk of my training on skis this time of year. But we all know how well that is working. There is a new series that started last year called the Winter Wild series. These races go to the top of a alpine ski mountain and back down. You may use whatever means you want, but what you take up must also come back down. For example, you cannot plant downhill skis at the summit, snowshoe up, leave snowshoes at top, then alpine ski down. You must carry downhill skis up, then ski down carrying snowshoes. I would like to try one or two of these with skate skis. Looks like winners were typically on skate skis. Going up would be exceedingly intense. I cannot think of a better way to achieve a fitness boost. Snowmaking at these venues gets around the snow drought were in.

I plan to hit the longer MTB races again in 2012, including a new Leadville qualifier in NY. I still want to solve the cramping issues that plague my endurance events. There are more experiments in training and diet to try.  Trips will no doubt be part of the picture later in summer too. I hope to visit Sun Valley Idaho this year, maybe in lieu of going to Colorado in August.  Need to get high at least once a year, and Sun Valley offers terrain that could rival Durango. Regardless how the season pans out, I will still have fun riding bikes in many stimulating places.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Craftsbury Winter Triathlon

I was bummed when Gunstock cancelled their winter triathlon coming up in a couple weeks. The whole New England Winter Triathlon series seems to have died. There are no events scheduled at Weston or Wachusett either. I figured that I dabble in running and skiing, so why not try some of these events to get my fix on?

Then while perusing the web for events to hit this winter, I saw that Craftsbury Outdoor Center was hosting a low-key triathlon this weekend. I didn't really plan my week around this, but I just had to do it. This would be a perfect event to gain exposure to this sport. The price was right, only $5!

This tri is a 4k run, 7.8k bike and 5.2k ski. The run and bike are on one course, the ski on another. The bike is taken two laps around the same course we run. Studs and spikes were recommended for bike and shoes respectively. Hmmm, that could only mean the skiing was going to suck.

I brought my new snow bike (with no studs) and a hardtail with studs just in case they got snow overnight. Then I could pick best bike. I also brought Yaktrax for my street running sneakers. For skis, I brought my rock skis, which were just ground and hotboxed, so they were in pretty good shape.

Since this event was listed just days before Craftsbury held it and not promoted, only around 20 people showed up. A few looked pretty serious. For bikes, it looked like most people "brought what ya got." Winter beaters. Many had studs at least. The few people I talked to had never done a winter tri. I had plenty of time to warm up on skis and the bike. The signage on the maze of trails was very hard to follow. I thought surely I would botch this up. It was not a closed course, so no tape was placed across any wrong-ways.

Transition area

Studs most definitely seemed the way to go. The natural cover was a conformal coating of crud. It varied from ice, patches of dirt, ruts in ice from when mountain bikers rode it when it was warm, and chunky snow in open fields. I was pretty sure I would have to shoulder my bike in one section once it got chewed up. My greatest fear was rolling an ankle. I did not bring my braces. I decided the Yaktrax's were too much. I felt they made my ankles more prone to rolling on uneven ice, and nobody else was wearing them.

Ski course. Blip on left was like Mt Weston but steeper I think.

Lining up, I could tell there were some serious runners in the group. We took off. I never felt so pathetic in my life. In a minute, I was gasping and falling off toward the back of the pack. I knew my fitness has dwindled significantly over the last three months. I haven't done any intensity work since early October. The weight I put on didn't help either. I estimated this thing would take anywhere from 45min to an hour. I paced accordingly. Surely enough, I started reeling runners back in. First highschool girls, then others. There were some pretty big rollers out on the course. Double digit grade stuff. At least they were icy, so I could make some time back on the bike. What would my legs feel like after a tenderizing run?

The run took me about 18 minutes.  I came into transition, donned a helmet and hopped on. I put flat pedals on my bike with toe straps. This approach sucked, as the pedal structure and tread pattern on my running shoes were not compatible with each other. I could not get my feet in. I had to reach down to each foot to work the strap around my foot. Two guys I fought hard to pass in the run now passed me back on the bike in my fumbling.

The first lap around on the bike I was a bit tentative. After 20 runners and unknown number of bikers went through the field, it was too squirrelly to ride. Running in snow, uphill, with a 27lb bike sucks. Especially just after running.  Fortunately, the rest of the course was icy and favored power. It didn't take long to drop the two guys shadowing me and to start seeing more riders. The chunky field got a nice path beat down in it too, so it was easily rideable on the second lap.  By the end of the bike leg, I had put nice time on all but one competitor.

The two bike laps took about 27 minutes.  By now, about 45 minutes into the race, I was was feeling pretty wrecked. I entered transition again, pulled shoes off, then put ski boots on. I felt cramping twinges doing this. This transition took forever, probably over a minute. The Velcro on my two poles were stuck together. Then I got the left and right hands wrong. More bobbling on the course. Surprised half the field didn't pass me again. I cleared the transition area just as the next closest guy behind me was coming in. I wondered if he was a competent skier? I hadn't skied any of the ski course, so I had no idea what was in store.

In short, the ski course was spectacular. It was all machine made snow, deep base, and a super fast sugar granular. It was the kind of stuff you dream about. We did two 2.5km laps. I was very apprehensive at first, scrubbing speed around blind-turn descents, not knowing what lurked around the bend. The second time around, it was no holds barred. Well, almost. I still scrubbed speed on one turn. My nearest rivals never caught me. I came into the finish in 1:02:57, in second place, about 4min back.

First time I wore HR strap in years. Pretty consistent for an
hour, I'd say. Highest peaks were hit on skis.

That was the most fun I had in long time. Where else can you do a running race, mountain bike race and a ski race all on the same day? I believe the guy that beat me is Sheldon Miller. He used his cross bike! Sheldon is local and no doubt has home turf advantage. I probably gave 2min up to him in the run alone, although I don't think he was the fastest runner.

A lot of lessons learned here. Better transition organization is needed. Tangled ski poles should not have happened.  Toe clips suck with running shoes. I might consider swapping shoes in transition and riding SPDs. I believe Sheldon swapped shoes. I should have previewed the ski course too. My second lap was 20sec faster even though I was imploding.

After the race, I skied five more laps around the race course. The few other trails open looked in pretty rough shape, as they were natural snow cover only. Just the 2.5km race loop had machine made snow. The course turned out to be well marked and my initial fears were unfounded.

Run/bike course on right, ski on left.

The good folks at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center say they may schedule a couple more of these this winter and more widely promote them. This first taste of winter multi-sport was nice with just a handful of people there. I can only imagine what it would be like with hundred or more going off at once. It takes me about three hours to drive up there, but I would go again, especially if they get some real snow so I can ski the rest of the trails.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Maintenance Ride

The holidays are no exception to the current trend (expectations) that we work on our paid, off days. I did take liberties at lunchtime today to get a respectable ride in. I also took a razor sharp pruning saw with me to clean up some remaining October storm damage.

Gave me the willies riding with this strapped to my Camelbak

You see, some of the available terrain isn't exactly sanctioned riding material. There are no scheduled trail care days. These trails have probably existed as long as humans inhabited the area. Local residents walk their dogs on them. They are used to reach secret fishing spots. Kids no doubt party and skinny dip along the route.  These trails also make for fine lunch ride getaways.

Walkers have beat down paths around some of the storm dead fall. Unfortunately, these lines have no flow and entail a bit of bush whacking. The dead fall was too big to move single-handedly, so it had to be cut into pieces to be moved. Mission accomplished. Next time through will have flow.

A large portion of my ride hit sanctioned trails in Wasserman Park and Horse Hill Preserve. These areas are rigorously maintained by NEMBA and others. It was hard to believe riding on January 2 in October conditions. I rode 21 miles in 2hrs, mostly on trails.  There were a few greasy spots, but in large, the trails were dry. I'm quite fortunate to have so many miles of singletrack so close to work. In less than three minutes out the door, I'm on dirt. Excluding Mine Falls, I'd say there are 30-40 miles of singletrack and ATV trail within six miles of where I work.

Too risky to put GPS track "out there"