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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

April 11

After a little more than a week of doing nothing, I finally had the desire to put skis back on today. I went out to the Uinta mountain range, east of Park City, for a little backcountry skiing. I picked a spot on the side of the road, strapped my skins on my backcountry skis, and headed up the North-facing ridge. No trail or anything. Just me and lots of snow-covered wilderness. The main drawback to being a ski racer is that I don't always get a chance to do this type of stuff. Of course, I would have even less time to do it if I wasn't a ski racer. Catch-22 I guess. I toured up to the top of the ridge and then picked out a good line for my descent. I was clearly out of practice and fell on my first three turns. After that I started to remember how to tele-turn on x-c skis and made a great run back down to the car. I only skied for about 2 hours, but it was enough for now.

April 13

Well I skied the other day, so I thought I would go biking today. That's the great thing about Utah in spring. You can do it all. Ski, bike, kayak, hike and more. Today I went to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. Its an island in the Great Salt Lake that is a State Park and is home to a herd of buffalo. I tried to ride one loop, but the buffalo literally ran up ahead of me and blocked off the trail. There were about 75 of them in the middle of the trail staring at me, so I figured I should turn around. It was weird because they didn't pay any attention to anyone else who tried to get by. I'm still not sure what they had against me, but I wasn't going to argue. I did a different trail instead. There are pretty cool trails on the island, but not that many of them. The buffulo essentially dictate where they will let you go. A pretty cool slice of the wild in the middle of suburban Utah.

April 16

Utah has some of the best crust skiing anywhere. Today Scott, Erik and I went to Daniel's Pass, 40 minutes from Park City, to ski on the crust. This area is incredible with lots of tree skiing, open slopes and trails to boot. The trick is to go mid-morning when the crust is starting to soften up a bit, but is still firm enough to support your weight. You can ski anywhere. Except that this has been a poor snow year so you have to stay on the north facing slopes. The south slopes are ready for crop-planting already. We skied all around, doing tree slalom, taking jumps, and generally showing off. After two hours we were pretty tired and went home to crash on the couch for a while.

April 18

MOAB!! Since about the middle of March I have been counting down the days until I could go to Moab. As winter started to melt away, thoughts of slickrock, sun, and a Black and Blueberry Stout at Eddie McStiff's started to creep into my head. Up until a year ago I had never been there, but in the past twelve months, I have been three times and plan to double that number this spring. I am by no means an excellent mountain biker. In fact a couple years ago I did a duathlon (run & mountain bike) in Deer Valley. The race consisted of running a single-track loop then mountain biking the same loop. I was the only person in the race to run the loop faster than I biked! The minute lead I had after the run quickly disappeared on the first technical downhill. In high school, I broke my arm in a less-than-spectacular mountain bike accident . I was on a paved road about a quarter mile from my house. But despite all this, I really enjoy Moab. The rides are incredible and there is something for everyone. The town itself has an outdoorsy vibe to it. There is a bike rack on every car and the talk in all the restaurants and bars is always about the rides done that day. Granted all of these people are out-of-towners, but that just adds to the "mountain bike Mecca" aura. Its like being in Hayward, WI the week before the Birkie. Places to camp are abundant, making it possible to keep it an affordable trip. To top it off, its only 4 hours from Park City, making it the ultimate weekend getaway. So last week I convinced the people at Nordic Equipment to let me switch my day off to Monday, got Scott Loomis to go with me, and Sunday morning we were off for a couple days in Moab. I usually like to camp, but Scott wasn't really into that, so we decided to see how the "other half" lives and stayed in a motel. After checking in, we grabbed a guide book and began to discuss ride options for the afternoon over lunch. We both stated that since we had only been for one ride each so far this spring, we wanted to take it easy the first day. But as we started to look at the different rides, ranked "easy," "moderate" or difficult", our "we are cross country skiers, we can do anything" mentality started to take over. We settled on the Moab Rim Trail, which was rated a 5+ on technical difficulty (scale of 1-5) and "gonzo-insane" on physical difficulty. This trail climbed about 1000 feet in the first mile, but according to the book, it was all ridable by expert riders. Perfect. Our warm-up consisted of the mile ride from our motel to the trail head. Then -BOOM- up the hill. No more than a minute later I was exhausted. The trail was so steep that it was hard enough to keep going in a straight line, never mind avoiding obstacles. This was OK though, because you had to get off your bike and gasp for breath every 100 meters or so anyway, so it was better to fall off than give up willfully. After a good half hour of suffering, we reached the top. We were both completely wasted and would have been happy to curl up and pass out right there on the rocks. By this time I was having visions of lying on my bed hooked up to an IV of ice-cold Gatorade. But we pressed on. Another 45 minutes later we were on the ridge line over looking Moab. We took a few pictures, complained about how bad we felt and headed down the other side to complete the loop. After passing though a cool hidden meadow, we came to a section described in the book as "ridable by an elite handful, a portage for the rest of us." Being a definite member of "the rest of us" I picked up my bike and started walking. Hiking down, I was thinking that I would pay good money to see someone actually ride that stuff. It was gnarly. After about a mile we reached ridable terrain and enjoyed the downhill back to town. After a shower and a quick nap, we went to dinner at Eddie McStiff's and planned tomorrow's ride. We quickly forgot today's pain and our skier mentality once again took over and we decided that we would do the Porcupine Rim Trail. This was only rated "Difficult" for both technicality and physical effort, so we figured it would be easy compared to today. Plus it is one of those legendary Moab rides, so we had to do sooner or later.

April 19

My intention was to get up early and ride in the morning, since it was supposed to be very warm today. I guess I never voiced this intention to Scott and when I saw that he was in no hurry to get up I was easily convinced to go back to sleep. By the time we had risen, eaten breakfast at the Moab Diner, and purchased food, patch kits and other necessities for our ride, it was almost 11:00. This meant that we would be riding in the hottest part of the day. Oh well, It was too late to change that now so we headed out at 11:00. The only bad thing about the guide books for Moab is that they are designed for good riders. I am used to hiking and skiing guides that are designed for the average Joe. For these guides, I usually divide the trip time by three and that's about how long it will take me. But no so in Moab. I get very frustrated when most rides take me just as long or, god-forbid, LONGER than what the book says it should. I'm not used to being average and I don't accept it lightly. Today's Porcupine Rim trail is supposed to be between 3.5 and 6 hours round trip from downtown Moab. I was just hoping that we could be closer to the lower end of that range. >From our motel, we climbed up to the famous Slickrock trail on paved roads. This is about an 1000 (?) foot climb but, as opposed to yesterday, it took place over four miles. From Slickrock, the road turns to dirt and climbs more gradually for the next 4 miles. This part was not all that tough, but it was getting very hot and I was worried about exhausting myself too early like I did yesterday. We later found out that the high temperature was 91 degrees while we were riding. When we arrived at the trailhead, we gained great satisfaction from riding by the people who had driven up and were unloading bikes from their SUVs. The first four miles of the trail are all uphill. The bad news is that this is fairly technical riding and I was getting pretty tired. The good news is that it was a short four miles and I was able to ride almost all of it. After taking in a spectacular view from the Rim that looked out into what can only be described as Marlboro Country, the trail was all downhill. For the next 10 miles the road was a bone-jarring jeep trail. The riding was just good enough to let you get up plenty of speed before launching head-on into the tricky sections. It was very rough riding, and my hands, butt, and back were soon very sore. Of course, my mouth was also sore from smiling the whole time because it was a blast. We felt like we were making good time. We had passed about 25 people on the trail and no one had passed us. Soon after I mentioned this point to Scott, three show-offs came flying by. This was OK though because one of them was kind enough to demonstrate the flying head plant right when he got in front of us. He was fine, but for some reason he never caught back up to us. When I was pretty sure that my arms couldn't take any more abuse, the trail turned to single track and smoothed out a bit. This part of the ride was very cool . (Mom, you shouldn't read this.) The trail followed the rim of a canyon. On one side of the trail the land rose up gradually to the plateau. On the other side it dropped off much less gradually into a canyon 1000 feet below. It might not have been all that sketchy, but I was not about to look down and find out. I had heard about this section of single track and was convinced that I would be carrying my bike. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could ride most of it. I did my share of walking over rocks, but overall I was happy with my performance. Its all a matter of confidence and just going for it before you have time to reconsider. My confidence did get shaken when I saw Scott go over his handlebars and land smack on a rock after attempting a drop that he should have reconsidered. But we made it to the bottom intact and cruised back into town on the road. I was very happy to look at my watch when I got back and find that it took 3:25. I finally conquered the guide! I reveled in this for a few minutes and then passed out. For the rest of the afternoon I hung out on a park bench in town and read. I think I enjoy hanging out in Moab even more than I enjoy the riding.

April 20

I was reluctant to leave after a great couple of days. I had to be to work at 10:00 on Tuesday so we hung out in town on Monday night and left Moab at 6:00 am on Tuesday. When I arrived at work at 10:00 it was 45 degrees and raining. I think I'm going back next weekend.

April 21

Last year, Torbjorn had us do a roller ski time trial on May 1 to kick off the training year. At the time, we all thought it was crazy and we received a lot of weird looks and heckling from the rest of the ski world when word got out. But now, 12 months later, I think it was a good idea. I doubt that my results this year hinged on that workout, but it did set the tone for the season. Beginning that day, I knew that I was going to train harder and longer than I ever have. That workout told me that I was more focused than I have ever been and I would see results to prove it. In the end, I had a tremendous season. So this year, when Torbjorn upped the ante a bit, we gave him a few strange looks, but ultimately agreed to go along with the plan. This year he wanted to start even earlier. Today to be exact. Not a rollerski time trial - that will still be in early May - but a 1K pace run on the track followed by a short workout in the weight room. The pace was designed to give us an idea of what is to come. Torbjorn really wants us to improve our running times this year. So by doing 1K today at a pace we want to hold for 3 or 5K, we get a feeling for where we are headed. My time ended up being 3:10. If I could run that for 5K I would be very happy. The bar has been set. Then we headed to the weight room. In a few weeks we are going to have a weight lifting competion and Torbjorn wanted to show us the exercises we should be practicing. Bench press, triceps press, seated row, and military press were among the favorites. For the competition, we will all lift the same amount of weight, for example 135lbs on bench, and see how many times each person can do it. 25 is the maximum anyone has to do. From today's exposition, I know that I better hit the weight room soon. So my training year is off and running before I have even used up all of last year's training log. If you want to beat me next year, you are already a workout behind.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.