Friday, February 13, 2015


With record snow tallies, the "Tuesday Night World's" at Weston is thriving. I missed a week when I suspected dubious conditions. But the last couple weeks were fabulous. A challenging, nearly 3km course is now laid out over the original snow-making area and a long finger out into the "flats."

I came to this week's race slightly less tired than last week's. I lined up in the A-wave one row further up, row 8. Based on my finishing place, I could line up one or two more rows up. There are about 15 rows in each wave. But I'm not a strong starter and tend to get gapped in the first 500 meters. It is better that I not create a bottleneck. But it also means I have to fight like hell to gain those dropped positions back.

We do a rolling NASCAR start. After about 200m or so, the race goes live. Actually, it felt pretty live as soon as we started rolling. Robert Faltus started just behind me but promptly passed me and latched on to the lead pack of 20 or so skiers. That pack proceeded to go bye-bye as a gap opened and there was nothing I could do about it. Dang! It was perfect powder conditions, zero wind, upper 20's for temp. In other words, it doesn't get better than that. Didn't I warm up thoroughly enough?

Nobody was coming around me either, and the other half of the A-wave was either content with me up front or became as instantly gassed as I did.  I didn't single-handedly drag us up. Skiers started to get spit out of that lead group and I think Mark Doughty and one or two others might have come up for stints. We scooped up Robert.

By end of lap two, I think we were down a 5-some, me, Robert, Mark, Bob Burnham and Jessica Snyder. After a big pull, I got tired on the flats on the third and final lap. Jessica and Bob came around. Jessica took a massive pull, being small and not leaving much of a draft in her wake. I was gasping.  That was enough to pop Robert and Mark off I think, but they were dangling oh so close behind. I know from experience if I come into the finish with Robert, he'll decisively trounce me.

With less than two minutes to go, it was Jessica, Bob and me on the lower part of the course below the club house. Bob caught a rut and very nearly went down. I nearly went into him and he didn't even crash! That is how close together we were skiing and at a pretty good clip there too, having just dropped down. Then not 5 seconds later, Jessica apparently did the same thing and hit the deck hard. How Bob and I both avoided stacking on top of her is beyond me. There are many turns and hills in those last two minutes. I could not hold Bob's draft the rest of the way in. I crossed the line about 3 seconds behind him for 14th overall and 12.7% back from winner.

Was not a fast conditions night, but it was probably my best TNW race so far. Form felt decent, which it should in perfect conditions. Didn't make any tactical errors either. I've learned you have to be super aggressive in the first couple kilometers. Gaps will open, and it is too easy to be complacent and hope "somebody" is going to come around to pull you back up there. Just like in a bike race, if it matters to you, that somebody is has to be you. The last couple races I spent a lot of time out front with others in tow. Fun stuff, my primary mid-week workout, and it looks like I can count on it for many weeks to come.

I'll leave you with a photo from Friday's ski at Windblown. Mt Monadnock may look pretty, but it was a frightfully cold, windy day.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What's in your pie chart?

I've been keeping a training log for going on 15 years now. Only aerobic activities are quantitatively tracked. It would be cool to animate the distribution of my activities over the course of a year. In a good winter, Nordic skiing would quickly dominate my pie chart, only to be squashed back down as summer moves in and cycling hours grow. Then as the end of the year approaches, skiing would start to push back on cycling hours again.

This winter is proving to be the particularly challenging to get quality riding in outdoors. By quality, I mean riding without constant fear of vehicles taking you out on roads barely wide enough for two cars to pass. Or riding off-road without constantly battling for control in powder. Or fighting weekly snowstorms.

I've learned several years ago to not fight ma nature when she thwarts your attempts to ride. Let ma nature be your ally.  There are many snow sports that can be enjoyed for similar durations and intensity levels as riding bikes. One I've become particularly fond of is skate skiing. The cool thing about skate skiing is how similar it is to mountain biking. The aerobic intensities, the average and max speeds, the adrenaline rushes going downhill, lung searing climbs, in the woods away from cars - all very similar between the two activities.

Even though I have a mountain biking trip to Arizona coming up in less than four weeks, I've pretty much given in to the fact that skiing is going to carry my fitness over until then. Just as well. I have a 50k ski race the week before my trip.

I ordered some snowshoes, so before this winter closes out, there will be an additional colored slice to my pie chart. Maybe next winter will be a dud and mostly riding will be had. Either way, I'm covered.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Isn't it ironic...

don't you think? A little too ironic... and yeah, I really do think. The words of Alanis Morissette come to mind when looking out the window.  Nordic skiers and fat bikers alike were doing the snow dance while a snow drought persisted, and now we have snow by the foot.

I've never been one to "ride" indoors. I find it mentally abrasive, no different than say being blasted by music you hate or overwhelmed by the stench from a landfill. I've dabbled with indoor trainers a few times but just couldn't reach that flow state of mind that is achieved by moving yourself through the outdoor environment.

There was one year I missed only three days riding outside. I had no goal of riding everyday outside. Things just happened that way. I think the days I missed were due to business travel. I rode trails in the winter when I could. A 26" wheeled mountain bike with 2" wide tires didn't offer much float. The snow either needed to be super powdery or frozen granular. Winters were hit or miss. Some winters I was banished mostly to the road, until I discovered that Cape Cod often stays free of snow when the rest of New England is socked in white.

Was there a way to embrace the snow without involving two wheels? Yes there was. That is when cross country skate skiing entered the picture. This was something more aerobically demanding than riding and used many of the same muscles. How awesome was that?! If conditions got too crappy for riding, there was a high probability conditions would be superb for skiing. There was no way to lose!

This has been my modus operandi for a better part of a decade now.  When roads become dangerous and trails too deep to ride, skis perfectly provided the means to achieve an endorphin enhanced state of mind-flow.

Earlier this season, trails were staying bare, maybe a little snow cover, and sometimes a lot of ice. Had to drive to find marginal snow to ski, but the local riding was pretty good, especially just a bit south. Fat bikers were actually driving north to find snow to ride their bikes on! It had never occurred to me to drive somewhere just to ride a bike on snow when you could ride right here on dirt. My how things turned around. The fat bike phenomenon caught on way faster than mountain biking itself did or the singlespeed movement did. Wonder what that Kool Aid was spiked with?  The bikes evolved at a dramatic pace too.

The lack of snow earlier this winter was quickly made up. The last two storm accumulations were measured in feet. Everybody should be rejoicing, right? This is where paths diverge between the fat biker and Nordic skier camps.

You see, there never is such a thing as too much snow for a skier. More is always better, ensures a long and prosperous ski season. Riding off-road is a different story. When a large snow dump occurs, at first the trails are unrideable, even by fat bikes. There is too much resistance and even 5" wide tires won't float on two feet of powder. The trails need to be packed first, no different really than Nordic trails being groomed for skate skiing. Local snowmobile clubs will pack their trails. However, sled traffic often keeps the surface pretty loose and soft. Rideable, sure, but fun, maybe not so much.

The utopia fat bikers seek is packed singletrack trails. How does that come about? You enlist teams of your fat bike friends to go snowshoe stomping the trails. Great exercise in the great outdoors, a worthy activity all by itself. But say the trails are just starting to pack enough to ride and another big snow dump moves in. Son of a bitch! Start all over again. Buy a fat bike to ride in the snow, then when it snows you can't ride your bike in it. Oh the irony!

To be honest, I wouldn't mind more off-road riding opportunities during the winter. I tried a fat bike for a season and a half but had to part with it after it repeatedly crippled my knees. I can only assume the really wide Q-factor was behind this. So I've been pricing out 29er+ bikes. These basically are a regular 29er mountain bike designed to accommodate 3" wide tires yet still have a standard width bottom bracket. A 29er+ is far from a fat bike, but it at least splits some of the difference.  The only reason I haven't moved on this yet is I would really like to put 3" studded tires on it, and right now nobody makes one. There is probably not enough demand for somebody to ever produce one. So what to do?

In the mean time, I'll continue to log ski miles and see how many 40 and 50km days I can do this season. Everybody should embrace the snow. Shoeing your favorite trails shouldn't just be a means to an end. The process of staying fit outdoors should be reward in of itself.