Saturday, December 14, 2013


Three ski-bike weekends in a row, woo-hoo! These efforts do come with a cost, however, especially this weekend. Friday Brett and I headed up to Trapp Family Lodge for a skate ski. Long haul, but reports were coming in that they had the most terrain open and best conditions. Of course, lake effect snow was still peeling off Lake Ontario and made driving there and back suck.

Skate conditions weren't bad, but far from the "awesome" we were baited with. Trapp had most of the outer perimeter open. This meant a thousand foot climb if heading straight out that way. Nothing like getting your suffer on right from the go.  The temp was barely into the double digits, and the windchill was likely sub-zero. You almost had to head right for the nearest climb to not freeze up immediately.

With light snow falling and soft surface, crazy kilojoule expenditure was needed to just crawl up the mountain. We were going so slow that my GPS, with custom 0.5mph auto-pause setting, kept thinking I was not moving. Yet I was cross-eyed from going so anaerobic. I need to start getting intensity back into my routine after a four month hiatus, but this was just plain suffering. Brett and I both got a little bitchy, especially after the snowmobile grooming wasn't really wide enough to effectively skate on some of the 20+ percent grade sections.

The descent on Haul Rd hurt just as bad in an entirely different way. Freeze your face off. We were soaking wet from climbing for 30 minutes, then bomb down at maybe -10F windchill. Enough to make you black out from brain freeze. There was no way we were getting in a 30+km skate in these conditions. In an hour, we were both slowing down. That's when the cold can set in so quickly.

When heading back toward the lodge, we noted one of the big cats had groomed the race loop. The freshly minted corduroy actually skied quite nice, better than the snowmobile groomed terrain that had much more time to set up.

It was nice to ski on natural snow cover so early in the season. Even though there were a few thin spots, I never felt my skis hit anything. With the pending storm, it's looking like we could have a long ski season. I'm sure the fat bikers (the bikes, usually not the riders) are rejoicing. I'd much rather shift the emphasis to something different for a few months and ski the white stuff rather than pack it down with tires.

So was it worth heading up to Trapp?

  • 6hrs round trip time in the car
  • Barely escaped multi-car crash coming back through Manchester
  • $42 gas, $23 trail pass, $3 tolls
  • ~0F windchill, sandpaper snow
  • Skiing cross-eyed for 2.1hrs: priceless

I'd do it again. There was no place closer to get that kind of a workout. The toughest 50k ski race in the country is only a month away, and I plan to do the Lake Placid Loppet this year as a qualifier for the American Berkie.

The skies opened up a bit just as we were leaving. Otherwise it snowed lightly the whole time.

Saturday I hooked up with the NEBC gang in Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro state forest for a crusty snow trail ride. Anthony from Cycle Loft was there with a few fat bikes for the guys to try out. There were all manner of other kinds of bikes there, from rigid 26" singlespeed, 29" hardtail and dualies with studded and non-studded tires. Guess which bike ruled?

I felt like I had a touch of death kitting up for the ride. I was grateful for Paul letting me know about it, but regretting saying I would be there. Plus it was +8F at my house (sensor sheltered under our deck). I had several miles of road to get there, almost all downhill. I was going to freeze my face off again.

+4F. How my ride started out.

My left knee was in a wicked funk. I ran hard on Tuesday and again on Thursday. I nearly tripped on Thursday, tweaking something in a knee that has been giving me on and off grief all year. The cold wasn't helping matters. Bombing down Dracut Rd at 25mph, right out of the house, sucked donkey balls. The pharmacy sign at the bottom said +4F. That's about -16C for my friends to the north. The ride was supposed to begin at 9:30am SHARP, so I timed things precisely to get to the trailhead parking lot then. I didn't want to wait around and freeze. I got there with a minute and a half to spare. Were they ready to roll? Noooooo!

Some of the gang just before heading out

It wasn't too bad though. Seemed a little warmer there than up at my house, and there was no wind. Heading into the woods, I was experiencing whiplash riding at the back of the group. I wonder how many of them did a two hour time-trial the day before? I had nothing in my legs, and the new Kenda Klondike tires I just mounted were pretty squirrelly in the crusty snow. Seems the rounded profile likes to plow in a bit. I think they will work great for icy snow machine trails though, the primary reason I bought them. A quick scan of the tires after the ride didn't show any missing studs, despite almost no road break-in period and riding a lot of rocky terrain. That is a big plus for these cheap tires. They are beastly heavy, at just over 1500g each, with 400 studs per tire.






The fat bike guys were able to haul ass in those conditions. Had it been packed down a bit firmer, I think a 29er would have been the best bike. Studs weren't really necessary. There was very little ice. So you'd think Gene on the rigid 26" singlespeed would have been in a world of difficulty, but no. He schooled everybody on that thing. Or so I was told. I was so far back I missed much of the action.

We bombed around for about 2hrs, hitting almost all of the cool singletrack. We hit three sections of tail I've never been on. It was great to get a local trail ride in before the storm. Could be my last local singletrack ride for a long time. I was glad when it was done though, so I could begin the uphill slog back home. Scored another 3hrs of aerobic activity. Sunday's activity looks like a shovel fest.

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