Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Powder Day

I ducked out of work a bit early yesterday, but not early enough to do any snowboarding since the lifts close at 4:30. Instead I brought my CX skis up to the Sundance nordic center for some groomed goodness, or so I thought. I was surprised to find out that the nordic center had 3-6 inches of new snow (depending on where you were on the course) on top of the groomed track.

Regretting that I didn't bring my board for a few runs, I set out on my skate skis through the powder. It didn't take long to remember that skating on a powder day can actually be a ton of fun. And there is something surreal about breaking first tracks on a trail deep in the woods below Mt. Timp. I'm pretty sure I was the only skier on the entire mountain. Say what you will about the way that Sundance operates it's resort, but there is no getting around the fact that Sundance is set in one of the most breathtaking locations imaginable. And it seems to me that the folks that run the nordic center are much cooler and laid-back then their counterparts 5 minutes down the road.

I got to the top of the "middle earth" trail and came across the steepest trail in the nordic center called "Jerry's lunch." On a normal groomed and icy day, I only dare go up Jerry's, and even that about gives me a heart attack because of how steep it is. Going down Jerry's on a groomed day on my amazingly fast skate skis would be a death wish for me. But yesterday, Jerry's had not been touched by skis or by a groomer since the snow storms started last weekend...

I think I've mentioned before that I don't really know how to downhill ski. When you add the fact that my skate skis are only about 2 inches wide and have no edges or side-cut, my ability to stay in control deteriorates even further. However, I've never been one to pass up a powder run, so I decided I'd give Jerry's a go. I dropped in and picked up speed pretty quick. Turning to control my speed through about 2 feet of powder was nearly impossible for a hack like me, so I just went with it, hoping that the deep snow would control my speed. I managed to stay upright until I got to the bottom, but I was really flying by the time the grooming and sharper corners started up again at the bottom. It turns out that downhill skiing on CX skis through a 10-foot wide tunnel of thick trees is quite the rush. I did 2 more loops before the nordic center closed at 5pm.

The Sundance nordic center is doing it's "full moonlight ski" on Monday, February 9th, which means that they stay open till 9pm. I think it would be fun to get a bunch of people up there for the CX skiing version of a night ride. Of course, that means we'd need to stop by at Village Inn afterwards. Let me know if you are interested, regardless of skill level. If we're really lucky, maybe we'll get another powder day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bash Winter Tri

My alarm went off at 5:45am and I immediately started making excuses for why I should stay home. Too sleepy. Legs were tired from the previous day of snowshoeing. 7 degrees is too cold. $60 is too expensive. I'm pretty sure if I hadn't stayed up the night before waxing my skis and cleaning my bike I would have stayed home. But hey, I couldn't waste a good ski wax and a clean bike, so I headed up to Soldier Hollow for the Bash Winter Triathlon.

I arrived and instantly felt like an intimidated outsider. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, they had the clothes, the nice bikes and skis (I of course ignored the fact that I had a nice bike and skis) and looked like they knew what they were doing. I lined up for the middle of pack and the gun went off.

As expected, the front row of runners took off and I never saw them again. I ran pretty slow compared to those guys, but I felt okay on the run considering that my prep consisted of 3 runs over the previous 2 weeks. Prior to the past two weeks, I think that the last time I ran with any regularity was in high school.

I settled into my pace along with another guy who ended up being in my age class. The 3 mile run came to an end and I was tired but not blown. The results say I was in 22nd place out of 60 starters. I changed into my mtb shoes in the transition area, and in retrospect I wish I would have just kept my running shoes on and ridden with flat pedals. The bike portion was only 3 miles in length, and I doubt I gained back the minute or so it took me to take off my gloves, change my shoes, and put my gloves back on.

I got on the bike and was instantly passing people. It felt good to be back in my element. I was cruising along at about 20-25 mph on the packed snow thinking to myself, "dang, I'm passing a bunch of people! I might actually do okay here! In fact, I'm pretty freaking aweso..." suddenly I'm supermanning through the air. My front wheel had broken through the top layer of snow, and instantly sunk down to my hub and bucked me off. I crash landed and my bike flipped over a half dozen times before coming to rest. Fortunately even packed snow is a pretty forgiving crash landing surface. I was back on my bike just as the last person I passed was catching up to me. I was able to pull back away before I had to explain myself.

The bike leg was way to short, but I think I passed about 10 people or so. I finished without further incident, I changed into my ski boots, and clicked into the skinny skis. I was surprised at how difficult it was to get my ski legs underneath me after having done the run and the bike. For the first lap, I had a tough time balancing and gliding on one ski, which made it hard to find a good rhythm while climbing to the top of the course. I got passed by one guy about 1/4 of the way into the first lap, but was able to pick off a few others who were also struggling with the transition to skis.

The descent back to the start/finish really helped my legs recover and my second lap went a lot better. It was tough to know how many meaningful passes I made because by this time there were a lot of lappers, but I did repass the guy who passed me at the beginning of the 1st ski lap. During the 2nd lap descent I was cruising down at a pretty good clip when the dude in front of me totally piled it up. It was a miracle I was able to make the high-speed turn with him sprawled out in the middle of it, but somehow I came out of it unscathed. I unceremoniously finished and waited around in my warm car for the results. My car happened to have a great view of the high-speed ski descent and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed watching 2 or 3 more participants wipe out trying to make the turn on their skinny skis with no edges.

The results were posted and in the end I was pretty happy with my 6th place finish. The overall results as well as the more detailed age-group results are posted at the BASH website.

Although I could have done without the run, the race was a blast, and I think if I'll do it next year if I can bring myself to cough up the money again. I hope that doesn't make me too much of a tri-geek. Now if I can only find a race that only consists of a ski leg and a bike leg - now that would be my kind of race. Would that make me a "bi-geek" though? I'm not sure I like the sound of that...

Sorry about the lack of pics. The BASH website says that pics are coming but they haven't been posted yet.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Earning some turns

The plan was to take it easy on Friday in preparation for the winter tri on Saturday. And then Keith tells me that he's planning on snowshoeing up a chute behind Timp and boarding back down. I didn't want to prove Fish's "tri-geek" allegation correct by passing on this in order to save myself for the race the next day, so we met up Friday morning and started trekking above Aspen grove:

The unmistakable Mt. Timpanogos in the background:

Keith drops in:

Keith's old man enjoying the reward:

The snow was surprisingly good and soft up high. Down lower the snow was pretty cruddy, but still fun. This was the first time I'd hiked my snowboard in, and I'm already hooked. I'd been considering whether I should learn to downhill ski and by an alpine touring setup, go all out and learn how to telemark, or just stick with what I know and get a splitboard. After Friday, I think a splitboard is the way to go. I don't know if this old dog could learn how to be a proficient skier of any kind, and snowboarding in the powder is just too much fun.

For my 4-year-old's first day on skis, check out the family blog.

The details on my first tri-geek experience are coming soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Bluebird Day

The plan was to use everyday this week to run, cx ski, or ride in preparation for the tri next week. But then it snowed 18 inches at Sundance. And then it was sunny yesterday morning. I didn't really any other option than to make an appointment with the Bishop instead. Here's a pic of Bishop's Bowl yesterday morning:

Brandon, here's the picture of my ghetto CX ski sled you requested:

Monday, January 5, 2009

First time for everything

Up until now, I've never seriously considered participating in a triathlon. I never really saw the point. Why take away from something I love (biking) to spend time doing something I barely tolerate (running) and something I really don't enjoy at all (swimming - I was going to say "hate", but decided hate was a bit too strong. Barely).

So what could make me change my mind about participating in a triathlon? Trading in my least favorite event of a triathlon for an event I love, that's what. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to do the "Bash Winter Triathlon" up at soldier hollow, which consists of a running leg (on snow), a mountain biking leg (on snow), and a CX ski leg. As is usual, I told my coworkers about this event and they just rolled their eyes and shook their heads.

The format of the event is not ideal, at least not for me anyway. It is a 2.8 mile run, a 2.8 mile bike, and a 2.8 mile ski. Who ever heard of a triathlon where the run and the bike are of equal lengths? Don't the organizers realize that the top riders (not me) will be finishing the bike in about 10 minutes?

I think I've only run 2.8 miles a couple of times in my entire life, so it should be interesting. Earlier this fall when I was doing a lot of travelling, I think I ran 2 or 3 times, and I ran 2.5 yesterday morning and felt surprisingly well. I should mention that I ran it very slowly to try to get my running legs. The first mile was a 10-minute mile, the second was a 9-minute mile, and the last .5 was on 8.5 minute mile pace. I figure I can run a couple more times between now and the race and still feel fresh for race day. No matter what I do though, I'm sure I'll be too far behind after the run leg to catch anyone, but oh well.

Ballpark estimates:

Run: 30 minutes
Bike: 17 minutes
Ski: 25 minutes
Plus transition times (changing shoes/boots)

It's tough to guess how fast I can run or bike on snow, and I've never timed myself on skis, so we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

This and that

I started the year off right with Kenny's freeze-fest up Squaw Peak.  Here we are at the bottom before the gate and the snow:

And here we are at the top (stolen from KanyonKris' blog):

The snow was nice and grippy, for the most part.  I had a few close calls on the way up, but really thought I was going to make it to the top without putting a foot down.  Then at the T before the overlook it got really soft and I finally succumbed to the snow.  From there, I walked at least 3 more times.

Bombing down in the snow was a barrel of monkeys.  Descending in snow is a good way to learn  to trust your bike.  As Craig put it, avoid your front brake, put your a$$ back, and let 'er rip.  Interesting side notes: Craig F. and I grew up in the same neighborhood.  I probably hadn't seen him for 15-20 years until cycling brought us back together.

I've been making pretty good use of my season pass to Sundance.  I think I'm up to 4 days on the skate skis and 3 days on the snowboard (when I say "days", I really mean 1-1.5 hour sessions).  It will be interesting to see whether I put in more days on the lifts or more days on my skate skis by the end of the year.  It really depends on how may powder days we get, because although Chad and I had the running joke about how great all of the "powder days" were last year while skating at Mountain Dell, the pow pow is really meant to be shredded on the snowboard.  On the other hand, a recently groomed icy trail is the perfect conditions for skate skis.

Random thoughts: 

I think that skating is to skiing what road biking is to cycling.  I guess that would make backcountry skiing like mountain biking, and my lift-assisted snowboard runs like the highly caffeinated downhill mountain bikers.  

I really love the skate skis, just as I love a good road ride on occasion.  However, just as my heart belongs to mountain biking, I have a feeling that backcountry skiing or snowboarding would be the ultimate.  The downside?  Death I suppose.  A long, slow and painful burial. Well, that minor detail and the cost of entry.  Are most back country skiers sitting this year out due to the avalanche danger, I wonder?  Or is it a bunch of media hype that can be avoided by one with the proper training?  Either way, someday I think I'll either have to learn to downhill ski and buy an AT setup, or buy a splitboard.

The nice thing about skate skiing is that as long as there is snow, the skating is good, even if the snow would suck for any other snow activity.   My coworkers can't understand how I could possibly enjoy suffering on CX skis in single digit temperatures.  I guess I can't expect them to, just like I can't expect them to understand the joy of a long climb on the mountain bike.  But usually if you get one, you'll get the other.

Okay, so one last random rambling.  I pulled my daughter around in her CX ski sled this morning up at the Sundance Nordic center.  I can't tell you how glad I am that I have a little girl who loves the mountains, loves the snow, and especially loves fishtailing around some of the fast, tight and bumpy turns coming back down to the base.  I thought I was going to lose or tip her over a few times while skiing down, but she was hanging on with white knuckles and grinning from ear-to-ear!  I can't wait till she's on her own skis.  Hopefully sometime this year.    And if you thing that skiing up those hills is tough normally, try pulling a sled up there!