Sunday, January 20, 2013

I need a recovery month

Conditions remain quite favorable for winter endurance junkies in northern New England. A three-day weekend for me, I got in a liberal dose of hard breathing activity. In fact, I gone at it pretty hard five days in a row, with a snow-bike, run, skate-ski, snow-bike and another skate-ski. The skate on this fifth day definitely exposed cracks in the foundation.

Waterville Valley held up remarkably well over the big thaw a week ago. A little snow spruced things up nicely. It was -7F when I waxed my skis up with green hydrocarbon wax. I was in no hurry to head up, hoping it would warm a little. It was windy too. No idea what the windchill was. At least the temp was above zero (>-17C) when I got there.

I feared slow, abrasive snow, but the crispy corduroy was reasonably fast. Grinding up Beanbender first thing seared my lungs with the cold air. I used to have serious asthma problems in these conditions, but ever since I discovered that a high dosage of Omega-3's can cure that in some athletes, I've not had a single incidence of EIB.

Cascade Brook descent with alpine ski area visible through trees.
The descent was roped, but freshly groomed and actually the best condition yet this season.

I hit almost everything on the north end, except the Tripoli Rd climb. I don't think I would've survived the eight minute descent without something freezing up on my body. I was going to do just one lap around the mostly flat Moose Run/Wicked Easy loop, but I was totally in the zone. The skiing was perfect, and my form felt spot on. I did not want to stop V2'ing around this loop. I had such a rhythm going.

Pristine day from Bob's Lookout. Not visible: bitter cold.

I skied 41km on a granola bar and single partial water bottle. It froze up before I could drink much of it. I used to guzzle about 70 ounces from a Camelbak on a ski of this duration, so I'm pretty psyched to have learned this winter if I dress down a bit, I need much less water. I no doubt am a bit dehydrated when I finish, but it beats lugging 6 pounds of water around on your back.

I really needed a rest day on Saturday. There were hopes of a road LSD ride materializing. Didn't happen. On a whim, I loaded the Mukluk fat bike up and headed over to Silver Lake State Park nearby in Hollis. I new there was a vast snowmobile trail network there. After talking briefly with Kevin Buckley while skiing Friday, he mentioned the recent snow ruined the trails for studded riding. Thus I thought I'd give the fat bike a try.

At lower elevations, there wasn't much snow cover. The temp was rising rapidly too, making things greasy. Right from the parking lot there was a heinous climb that about killed me with my lead legs. The view up top from the orchard almost made it worth it. I had no map and no sense of the trail network. I was totally winging it. I did have my mapping GPS with me, so I could at least backtrack to my car if I had too. Plus I know the roads well in the area.

View from the orchard hill. Thin cover here.

The snow machine trails were very well marked. I thought about following signs to Wilton, where I new there were really big hills. One promising route petered out in somebody's backyard. I got on Trail 501, a main route, that supposedly went to Wilton. I climbed up to a vista on the back side of Birch Hill. That stung.  The view was definitely worth it. I've ridden to the tower on Birch Hill many times, but not recently, and had no idea just below the top there was this fantastic view from snowmobile trails.

Deep cover on loop trail.

View from Birch Hill Vista. Uncanoonuc's in distance through trees.

The descent from Birch Hill into Brookline was a blast. Still firm, and the 4" wide tires were impervious to the snow machine ski ruts. I ended up on the Brookline Rail Trail, which was extremely rough and rooty. It popped out on Potanipo Lake, which was a maze of snow machine tracks on all directions. I had no idea where to pick up more trail, so I hopped on Rt 13 and headed north back towards Birch Hill. Third time up did damage. I worked my way back on different trails from what I headed out on. Rt 122 was closed by Silver Lake due to wind taking a big tree down with power lines. I was lucky to be able to get out. The fire department locked the gate I went in at and they moved cones for me at the other end to let me out. This was my best ride yet on the Mukluk.

In the two days on snow, it is interesting to note I skied and rode almost identical distance and vertical in similar conditions, yet my average speed on skis was 16% faster. The workouts are here and here.  My Mukluk is not only a fat tire bike, it is a fatty weight-wise. It weighs 37 pounds. This entails more than 20% weight penalty over skis (total weight of body and gear). I believe this accounts for most of the difference in between the two activities. Plus, nothing quite glides on snow like well waxed skis.

On Sunday, Weston had a race going on, so it was back up to Waterville Valley. They had gotten snow since Friday, and conditions were even better, to start...

My fifth day in a row without a break, my expectations were very low for any kind of athletic performance. The glide was nice though, and I went right for Tripoli Rd. A couple guys I thought I recognized from Weston pulled in behind me. Great. I'd much prefer chasing rather than feel like I was being chased. Funny how something stupid like that makes you go harder than you wanted too. I didn't feel half bad though and ended up drilling the last steep wall hard enough that I had to hang on my poles to prevent from falling over. Good stuff.

The sky turned dark. The wind kicked up. It looked like a summer thunderstorm was blowing in. The temp was rising above freezing too. On my way up Upper Osceola, it snowed hard for about 10 minutes. This new snow sucked. Literally.  It was super saturated with moisture. That combined with the facts that my rocks skis have no structure left, I waxed with green the prior time and red hydrocarbon this time, my glide went from good to about as bad as it gets.

For those few that might have worked with wood before... you know how wood glue starts to set up and then it gets hard to adjust pieces by sliding them around? Well, this new snow was like tacky woodworking glue. I could not point my skis straight down the fall line. They would just suction up to almost a stop, then I'd stumble in a near face plant. It was actually better to snowplow a little all the time, as the scrubbing prevented suction. What I would've given for a structure tool right then... This was only 45 minutes into my ski, so I was bumming.

I bailed on the Moose Run loop and suffered through a Cascade Brook climb and Snow's descent. I came so close to crashing multiple times, either face planting from suction or butt planting when my skis hit a fast patch under pines where the wet snow didn't reach the ground.

I wrapped up with 34km, a little less than I planned, but a lot more effort than I planned after the wet snow drop. It was a good weekend, 114km on snow, about 8.5hrs worth and 8000ft of climbing. I have noticed that the wide Q-factor of the snow bike can aggravate my knees a bit, which I don't really notice until I climb on skis the next day. I seem to be adapting to it, but this does concern me. I don't want to ride the fat bike all summer just be be conditioned for it when snow comes. There's still some uncertainty if it will remain in my quiver after this season.

No comments: