A pattern has emerged over the last few weeks. We get a snow storm mid to late week, great skiing over the weekend, race Tuesday night at Weston, then ride trails that are just nicely packed down on Wednesday before the next storm hits. Repeat. Not a bad routine, other than weekend riding has been pretty sucky. I refuse to do indoor workouts when there is always something you can do outside to get your fix.
This past Tuesday, Weston finally had the full course groomed. We'd be skiing on natural snow instead of gritty Charles River snow. A 10km race was planned. I was stoked. No matter how badly work is pulling me down right now, I was not going to miss Weston. I was not going to feel guilty leaving work three hours earlier than my usual 8pm hang it up time.
I was a bit dismayed to find the course very hard packed. It was pretty much my worst case conditions, where I flail and become a menace to everyone around me. Ugh. Was the Piston Bully down? I warmed up on my edgeless rock skis and old cold wax on them. The snow felt a little sluggish, as the temp was plummeting, and the packed powder hadn't yet been transformed through a thaw cycle. I then swapped for my race skis. They felt even slower! I waxed warmer, Toko Red. After this happening two times in a row, I'm beginning to think my race skis have a structure that is better suited for warmer, transformed snow. I didn't want to go back to my rock skis like I did the previous time, as my race skis edge so much better on the hard pack.
I lined up a couple rows further back than usual, being apprehensive of conditions. We go off, and as soon as we started to go up the climb, somebody skied over one of my skis and I went down. The two of us tangled up with others caught almost on top of us. By the time I got on my feet again, I was DFL and my race was gone, like around the bend and out of sight. Bye-bye. Guess that pretty much settled it right there. I wasn't going to be a menace to anybody in this race.
I chased like hell to get back on, catching the back of my wave as the first of four 2.5km laps was wrapping up. The problem now was, there was a large group skiing three across and no way to ski up through them. Pretty frustrating. On the long straight, things strung out single file. I drilled it and picked up maybe 8-10 spots. I was seeing cross-eyed after that effort, yet still a minute or more back from where I'd normally be in the race.
I sensed my skis getting slower. They shouldn't have been picking up dirt, as I'm pretty sure Weston did not make dirty snow since the storm. I found myself not able to coast in the slipstream on downhills, a very unfortunate situation. Crash, explosive intervals to gain back spots, only to have deteriorating glide. At least I would go home with a solid 30 minute anaerobic workout.
In the third lap I broke free of a long paceline. Don't remember if I bridged or took others with me, but I found myself skiing with Tom, Ulandt and Viktoria. It was no trivial matter staying with these three. There was nobody in sight ahead of us. No point in trying to bust free either, not that I could have.
In the fourth lap, Viktoria blew us apart and I finished fourth out of our group, 25th out of 85 overall. Pretty crappy finish for me, but I was not disappointed in the workout I got. You simply can't get that on your trainer in the basement.
Wednesday I hoped to ride trails near work, reading mixed reports that the MTB trails at Horse Hill were marginally rideable, even for fat bikes. I was skeptical it was that bad. There was a snowshoe race there over the weekend with a lot of fat bike traffic since. It got very cold overnight. The snowshoe course had to be in good shape.
I headed out with my 29er with studded tires that barely measure over 2" wide. I tried going in my usual way on Quarry Trail. It sucked and I turned around. Not enough traffic to pack it. Was I looking at a 90 minute hammer session on pavement with studs? It wouldn't be the end of the world. It was a gorgeous day. Riding is riding. I rode several miles around to the main trail head. Another rider was fixin' on heading in with skinnies.
The snow was marvelous. I would have no trouble getting a solid workout in. I followed the snowshoe course, which was further packed by fat bikes. Anything else was a no-go for skinnies. I finished a full perimeter loop in not much more time than I would in summer. Good stuff.
I've riled up the fat bikers here a couple times. Some may think I hate fat bikers, or even fat bikes. Not true. I admire their perseverance to prep trails for riding after a big snow dump. It means I can get on the same trails that much quicker, rather than waiting for snowmobiles or foot traffic to pack trails. What I don't appreciate is fat biker supremacy attitude, just like nobody cares for attitude roadies or down-hillers can have. We're all cyclist, riding for health and fun.
I've been riding Horse Hill in the winter for 12 years now, way before NEMBA starting building there, and certainly before fat bikes came on the scene. Too be sure, winter riding opportunities were much more sparse back then, primarily on snowmobile tracks after a thaw-freeze cycle. But there was some good riding to be had. I remember stuffing my front wheel in a stream crossing once and pile driving head first into the water. Four miles back to work, down Greens Pond Rd. Not pleasant.
I'd still own a fat bike if the stupid wide Q-factor didn't destroy my knees. Apparently I'm one of about 1% of riders very sensitive to Q-factor. I see the Surly Krampus can accommodate 3" tires with standard Q-factor. Maybe that is a good 'tweener snow bike. Still hard for me to rationalize though, as there aren't that many times a year where trails are too soft for skinnies and roads are too dangerous.
So now another major snow dump has arrived and the cycle starts over again. Weston hopefully will be mint on Tuesday. Will the fat bikers have the trails packed for me by Wednesday?