Sunday, January 19, 2014

When Mother Nature gives you dry trails, you ride. When Mother Nature gives you snow, you ski the shit out of it.

With this week's ski race at Trapp cancelled and next weekend's Lake Placid Loppet postponed until March, I sought out riding opportunities on my off-Friday. Most of Massachusetts was snow free, and if you went far enough south, you could find dry trails with zero ice. Reports from the ground said Goat Hill at Uxbridge was in primo condition. That worked for me, having ridden there a few times now. Living on the NH/MA state line, it's a pretty quick jaunt down 495.

I was a bit skeptical heading into the woods. It's mid-January after all, so there has to be frost in the ground, right? And when temps rise above freezing, that frost turns into a layer of quagmire that can't drain through the frost barrier. My concerns were quickly allayed. The trails were firm and dry. In fact, a couple places I kicked into the soil, I could find no frost. I started thinking my planned 3hr ride would have to be extended.

I've yet to ride with anybody down there, let alone locals with inside trail knowledge. I glean tracks from Strava and hit areas that most others seem to work into their loops. I have no idea what most trails or areas are called, unless they are identified with specific Strava segments.

Blackstone River Valley

I first worked my way out to the nice rock ledge overlooking the Blackstone River valley. A couple serious anaerobic efforts can be put in along the way on steep grades. Then it is off to a couple lengthy loops away from the river. No idea what first is called, but it is fabulous, flowing singletrack. The second is called Puddin Loop in Strava, although it is off a dead-end road called Puddon Rd. The 5mi loop teaches carving skills in tight quarters. Very dense young forest there. The trail weaves up and down the large, domed hill many times before the loop is closed.

On loop west of Quaker St.

A mile or two of road brings me back over the river to the valley. A loop in the northern portion of the state park meanders over tillings of some sort with some fairly narrow plank bridges several feet over water. Lots of fun-factor.

The best is saved for last, the Goat Hill trails. Last time I ran out of time (and energy) to ride both sides. This time I climbed north and south sides, taking the circuitous descents down each side. There are some A and B lines here. I did not do any big rock moves. I'm a wuss.

Final descent on Goat Hill. Notice how disgustingly dirty I got (lol).

I cut out West Hill across Rt 122 this time. There are other trail sections that can be worked into the loop too, easily bringing the total up to 45+ miles if one desires, and with no more than 2-3 miles of pavement. I finished with 36.6mi in 4.2hrs moving time with 3700ft of climbing. My bike was actually cleaner finishing the ride than before I started. That is how dry the trails were.  I was thoroughly torched from numerous deep digs during the ride.

What was supposed to be a rain/snow event on Saturday turned into a major snow dump. We got a solid 6" of heavy, wet snow at our house. Nothing like complimenting the prior day's lower body workout with some solid core work shoveling the driveway.

Solid 6" of new snow on Seavey Hill in Pelham, NH.

The fat bikers were all giddy with the new snow. I don't know. 4mph slogs breaking trail, while really good outdoor exercise, seems like a means to an ends, rather than an ends in itself. I'd rather ski it than ride it. You go much faster and you are doing something very different with your body and mind. Nordic skiing is arguably more aerobically intense too, as it is weight bearing and you use all of your major muscle groups, not just a couple. Skiing can build your cardio base while bringing some balance back to your body.

I no doubt will take advantage of the fat biker's efforts. Come deep freeze time, they will have nicely packed the trails for my skinny tired MTB...

Anyway, Brett and I wanted to hit Jackson in upstate NH, but he had an evening commitment and the roads would still be highly suspect early Sunday morning. We decided to go the safe route, pick the low hanging fruit, ski Weston near Boston. Monotonous, no doubt, but ski time to drive time for both of us would be excellent. I can get to Weston in about 35-40 minutes.

Intensity at Weston isn't imposed upon you. You have to want it and work for it. Jackson gives you 20-30% grades in the mountains, Weston gives you rolling golf course. Starting out at 9am, wet, sticky snow was falling. The course was freshly groomed but still saturated with moisture. I used warm HF wax with warm structure. Not sure it helped much.

We could take "hot" laps with no obstructions. I guess most Weston visitors are not early risers. But by 10:30, the place became a mob scene, making hot laps challenging. Put a couple hundred kids, newbies and competitive skiers on a sub-mile circuit adds another whole dimension to technical terrain.  During the ski, I did six near race-pace laps and another three laps without poles, which destroyed my glutes. The light snow stopped within an hour, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped a degree or two by the end. The course speed improved. I was working less hard as I got tired but lap times stayed the same. That is always nice.

Brett, recovering from a cold, had enough after 20 laps. I skied another 7 laps with Marv, who had just gotten there. I finished with nearly 41km in 2.5hrs moving time and a surprising 2900ft of climbing on the Garmin 510. I guess if you climb 25-30ft a hundred times, it adds up. A high value workout for sure, although I wouldn't want to ski that many laps there very often. It's not too often I ski more than 25 miles at over 10mph average, especially with continuous punchy climbs. Fun stuff.

I got home to see my neighbor shoveling her driveway. Her husband is away with their truck with the plow on it this weekend. So guess what? Yeah, Cathy and I helped shovel out another large drive way right after skiing. Wonder how my body is going to feel for Tuesday Night Worlds at Weston?


the bully said...

Speaking of fatty's. I got my fix Sat/Sun and then some grooming action with the sled. All set for your lunch rides. Wasserman will be fast tomorrow. Enjoy. We have 3 groomers now.

Hill Junkie said...

Might miss the window. We're on edge of major snow event Tues night into Wednesday. Could get only a little, could get a lot.