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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion
  June 3

Ah yes, another trip to Bend. Every year at this time, I pack up all of my favorite toys and head to Bend for a week of training. Skis, mountain bike, running shoes, kayak if there is room (not this year), and other outdoor equipment are all stuffed into the car for the 11 hour ride to Oregon. The skiing at Mt. Bachelor is always good this time of year and this week serves as the kickoff for summer training. Even though I have been training for a month or so now, this week will give me a good idea of where I am at, fitness-wise, and give me my first "big" week of training since last fall. This year will be especially good because the list of elite skiers who will be there is the longest it has been in recent history. The National Teams and National Development Groups for both cross country and Biathlon are going to be there, as well as the Canadian National Team, and other elite skiers such as Ben Husaby, Pat Weaver, Nathan Schultz, Phil Bowen, Chad Geise, Scott Loomis, and the list goes on.

So after Erik Stange and I got out of work last night, we loaded as many toys as we could fit into and onto the car and headed west towards the land of snow and the Taco Stand. We arrived in Bend this afternoon and after a couple hours to unwind and settle in, we started off the training camp with a run on some of the extensive single track trails. Just an hour and a half to loosen up and prepare for the big week ahead.

June 4

The first morning of skiing. We arrived at Mt. Bachelor at about 7:30 am. Because it is essentially summer, we have to ski early while the track is still firm. By 11:00, the track has turned to mush and becomes impossible to ski on. The routine for the week will be ski early and dryland train in the afternoon. I was surprised by two things during my ski today. First, there is not nearly as much snow as usual. Bachelor typically still has about six feet of snow on the cross country trails this time of year, but this year the average depth was probably only 2-3 feet with a few bare spots (!) here and there. As a result, there was only one 5K loop groomed. Typically there is between 10 & 15 kilometers of trails groomed. The other thing I noticed was that there was hardly anyone on the trails. A few biathletes, but that was it. Where were all the elite skiers who had said they would be here? Did the marginal conditions keep them away? (Only in Bend can you classify 2-3 feet of snow as "marginal." Back east that would be excellent midwinter conditions!) Not that their presence would affect my own training that much, but it is always nice to ski with other people and catch up on their various goings on. The very curious thing was that even people who I knew were in town, such as Scott Loomis, Pat Weaver, and Justin Wadsworth, were nowhere to be found. I figured that maybe they had all taken the day off or gone crust skiing, though such unilateral organization would have been unprecedented. No matter, I skated for two hours and enjoyed having the trails to myself.

This afternoon, I was feeling a bit tired already, only a day into the camp, and I was fighting a pretty severe headache. I still wanted to get in a PM session, but it would have to be easy. So I hopped on my mountain bike for a leisurely ride on the trails behind the house I am staying at. I cruised on the flats for quite a while before finally tackling some hills. In the end, I rode for about 1:50 and ended up feeling better at the end than I had at the beginning.

June 5

Usually the routine is skate one day, classic the next, then repeat. But since we did not see any classic tracks yesterday and the biathlon teams are paying for the grooming, we figured that we might not see any today either. We knew that starting tomorrow, Tuesday, the Master's Camp would take over grooming expenses and would have classic tracks. So we figured it would be better to skate two days, then do two days of classic once we had tracks. Today I was really surprised at how little snow there was and how fast it was going. It really looked as if we had lost an entire foot of base in the past 24 hours. Granted it had been almost 90 degrees in town yesterday, but at this rate, we would be out of snow in a matter of days. There were all ready a few "one-lane bridges," as I called the sections where the trail was only wide enough for one skier to double pole. Better take advantage of it while I can, I thought.

Today we saw more people. Turns out that there had been a false rumor circulated that there would be no grooming yesterday, and as a result most people took the day off. But today, the trails were filled with Masters who arrived early for Torbjørn's camp, the US Ski Team, and a bunch of other individuals such as myself. I also heard that the Canadians, the US Disabled Team, and the US Development Group were all arriving tomorrow and staying for up to 10 days. My first thought was that there would be no snow left for the last half of their respective camps and I was happy I came when I did. I skied with Torbjorn for a while and he pointed out some technique tips for me to work on. My favorite was "ski like you are riding a horse." Unfortunately, this horse did not go any faster when I whipped him. After galloping around for two hours, I called it a morning and headed back to town. I still felt a little sluggish today and I am hoping that a little classic skiing tomorrow will give my legs some rest and help me get back on track. After skiing, it was off to the Taco Stand for the best post-workout lunch anywhere.

This afternoon I went to the local community college's weight room for a strength session. It was a pretty basic weight room without all the equipment I usually use at the racquet club in Park City, but with some free weights, plyometric exercises and a squat rack, I was able to put in a session that had me quite sore on the way home. I think that lunges (like squats except that you step forward with one leg as you go down) are becoming my favorite exercise. I can usually feel them working all the right areas of my lower body. And today I put on a little extra weight and my quads, hamstrings, and a bunch of muscles in my butt (I don't think that's there technical name) were all very tired when I finished.

June 6

Yessir, the party has arrived. Everyone was on the trails today. It was like being at a Continental Cup race in the middle of winter. Well, except that the US Ski Team was there, so it couldn't have been a Continental Cup. But the time flew by today. I skied for over two hours, and I must have skied with at least 15 different people in that time, just catching up and sharing stories of the past few months. Every time I turned around, there was someone I wanted to talk to. In addition, I was feeling very strong on my classic skis, so I didn't really feel like I was working. I was thinking that I would ski for 2:30, but right at the two hour mark, I ran into Torbjorn who told me that there was no reason to overload on hours this week. I should try to feel strong, not run myself into the ground. He said that my on-snow sessions should be between 1:30 and 2 hours. I guess I agree with him on that because last year I trained about thirty hours at this camp and it took me at least a week to recover afterward. So, holding back a bit doesn't seem like a bad idea. So I packed up my warm-ups and waterbottle and made my way to the car.

I was kind of at a lost of what to do for a PM workout today. I had already done one bike ride and I did weights yesterday. I could rollerski, but I see no point in that when I am skiing every morning. As I was trying to figure out what to do, Julie, one of our hosts, suggested that we drive up to Tumulo Falls and go for a run. Having never been to that area, it sounded like a good idea to me. We started our run right by the falls, which were pretty cool, but with memories of Yosemite's many waterfalls still fresh in my mind, this just didn't compare. It was maybe a 30 foot drop, as opposed to the 1000+ drops we saw last week. With a "been there, done that" attitude I checked out the falls and then ran up stream and back for a total run of 1:20. When we returned to the falls, we followed a small "renegade" trail that went down to the falls where you could actually stand behind the water, between the rock wall and the cascades. Now THAT was cool. The power of the water from this eight foot wide stream was incredible. I just kept thinking of the unbelievable force that the water falling off of cliffs in Yosemite must posses. Not something I want to get in the way of.

June 7

This early in the year, it really doesn't make sense to do many intervals. Since we are still building base endurance and won't be racing for five months, speed is not a priority. Instead, it is important to work on technique. A camp like this is a good place to analyze your technique and figure our exactly what to work on during summer rollerski sessions. But after a couple weeks without any hard workouts, I have been itching to pick up the pace a little bit. So today, I decided to do a few intervals and focus on going fast while still maintaining good technique. I did a four minute interval at level III, followed by a 3 min, 2, 3, 3, all at level III with a little IV thrown in for good measure. It felt good to go fast again, even on such slow, draggy snow. I felt much better than I did the first couple days here, but it was still enough to tire me out. After doing intervals, we grabbed the video camera and shot a couple passes of classic technique on a hill, which we will analyze with Torbjorn later. By the time we were done, I had been skiing for almost 2:30 and I was tired.

This afternoon, I had planned another weight workout, but keeping in mind Torbjørn's suggestion for hours this week and the fact that I had been dragging recently, I decided to get a headstart on tomorrow's day off by relaxing this afternoon. My hours are already a little high for the week and I want to make sure that I am rest for the last half of the camp.

June 8

A day off. It seems kind of ridiculous to take a day off when we are only here for a week, especially when the snow is disappearing as fast as it is. But I have been feeling tired and it makes sense to ski in blocks of four days, then rest. It is long enough that you get solid training, but short enough that it doesn't wear you out completely. So on the fifth day, I rest. A leisurely breakfast at the West Side Cafe ( a glaring omission from my list of best places to eat in ski towns), then a bunch of computer work, and some quality TV time took up most of my day. Erik did some work on his skis, but I never got around to it. Because the snow lasts so long here, there is a lot of dirt on top of the snow. Everything that has fallen from the air and trees and over the last eight months is now in one layer on top of the snow. The trails remain relatively clean because they are groomed daily, but if you ski 30K, your skis are going to have a nice layer of gunk on the bottom when you are done. Ideally it is good to clean and wax them everyday so that they will be fairly fast, but I haven't really bothered this week. I'm not using race skis and I don't really mind if they are a little slow. So my skis stay dirty and work-free, while I rest.

June 9

When I showed up at the trails today, I was surprised to see a half inch of new snow on the ground. So much for all the dirt. I skied for two hours in what can only be described as midwinter conditions. Fresh snow and chilly temperatures made for a very satisfying ski. At one point I took off my hat, but I had to put it back on a few minutes later. It was cold out! The best part about this was that the snow and cold had temporarily halted the deterioration in the snowpack. In fact, today they had groomed about 13K, the most yet! I spent most of the time out on the trails shaking my head at how ridiculous it was to be skiing on new snow, in full winter clothes, in mid-June.

This afternoon, I did another weight workout, but I was hindered by a pain in my knee. I noticed it when I finished skiing this morning. I had been practicing my horse-riding technique while skiing, which essentially means skiing more bowlegged - keeping my legs further apart. I think that it was putting extra strain on my right knee and it did not appreciate it. I tried to do squats and lunges, but they hurt too much, so I stuck to arms and stomach exercises, as well as side-to-side jumps, which did not bother it.

June 10

I am starting to see the light at the end of this camp tunnel. As much as I love to ski and just train, I am excited to get home, because I have a new truck and a new home waiting for me when I get there. I bought another old 4Runner to replace mine and I also finally found a place to live. With those two major pieces of my life finally set, I am looking forward to a little less stress in my life. And I can't wait to finally unpack my bags after five months. But before I get to do that, I have two days left to take advantage of the beautifully miserable weather. Once again, it snowed last night and was even snowing while I was out skiing! The kick waxing was a little tricky, but I put on a layer of Start Universal Klister, covered with Toko new snow Red hard wax (hard wax in June?) and it was great. Most other people I ran into on the trail were complaining about their wax and how it was either icing or slipping, or both. As I would ski by people, I would ask how it was going and invariably, I would get a response like "My wax sucks" or "Not very good." I would give them an understanding response like, "I know how you feel" and throw in an intentional slip or two for their benefit, then ski away, knowing that I had lucked into probably the best wax combination of the day. Once again it was midwinter during summer. I love this place.

This afternoon the biathletes organized a game of Ultimate Frisbee. I was pretty fired up to place, because I love the game. About 3:00, I decided to lay down for a little rest before riding my bike to the 4:00 game. I didn't feel that tired, so I figured I would just lay there for a few minutes, then get ready to play. Well, next thing I knew, I woke up and it was 4:15. I was bummed and surprised, and started to get ready to head over to the game. But by the time I was on my bike, I figured that I wouldn't get to the field (about five miles away) until 4:45. Figuring I had already missed most of the game, I just went for a bike ride instead. Which wasn't exactly a bad second option because I found yet another great single track trail near Shevlin Park and rode for two hours before heading home.

Tonight we went our for dinner with our hosts. As we sat down, Erik and I joked that we could probably see more people we knew in the Bend Brew Pub than we would in a restaurant in Park City. Partially due to the tight-knit outdoor community in Bend and partially due to the pricey, snobbish restaurants in Park City. Sure enough, over the course of dinner, a total of nine people we knew came through the door. Granted they were all skiers, but no one had made plans to show up here. Everyone just did. The more time I spend in Bend, the more I like it.

June 11

This morning was yet another great ski in new snow. I'm kind of glad that I never bothered to clean my skis, because after these last few days, they have cleaned themselves. I relished my last ski of the camp, and reflected on the fact that despite my initial worries of snow cover, the last three days were some of the best skiing all year! With only a slight regret that I have to leave, I ended my ski, said good-bye to snow for a few months and got out of Dodge. Another successful camp. Now I just have to keep this training momentum going into the summer. Bring on the Rollerski Series!

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.