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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

August 1

Apparently taking last Thursday and Friday off was exactly what I needed. I felt great in yesterday's I.R.S. race, and my good result has provided the motivation that I was lacking just a few days ago. I am fired up and ready to train again. Today I did a double session. Usually on Sunday I just do a long run (about 3 hours). But today I decided to do a couple of sessions I missed earlier in the week instead. This morning Eric Maas and I went for a two hour skate rollerski and this afternoon I went for an hour+ run by myself. Neither of these workouts were anything special from a training standpoint, but I really enjoyed both of them. I was just really psyched to be out training again. Its amazing what a difference a few days makes.

August 3

Intervals today. This time of year we are doing intervals twice a week, but we keep the intensity on the low side (level III with a little level IV). The good thing about having someone to do intervals with is that you are sure not to slack off. But just as big a problem arises when you try to stay with some that is faster than you and you end up going harder than you should. This happened to me today. I really wanted to skate ski with Scott since he always kicks my butt on skate rollerskis. I wanted to find out what I am doing wrong by watching him. But in an effort to stay with him today, I put myself under. We did 2x8min on a gradual uphill and followed that with 4x4 min on a slightly steeper hill. It was a good workout for me, but I definitely went a little too hard.

August 4

My parents are here visiting me now for just over a week. My Dad loves to ride his road bike, but since the roads around here are miserable for riding and the trails are so spectacular, I decided that I would show him all the mountain biking trails while he is here. It was kind of cruel to take him on a three hour ride that starts with 2 hours of uphill on his first day at altitude, but he is in great shape and he picked the trail, so I didn't feel too bad. He made it to the top with minimal wheezing, and after admiring a few views, we headed down. As we came down the winding switchbacks through an aspen grove near the end of the ride, I came around a turn fairly quickly and let out a gasp of, "Oh my god!" when I startled a moose that was no more than 5 feet in front of me. It took off down the trail (the opposite way thankfully) while I cleaned out my shorts. When my Dad caught up, we both watched the moose and its mother (I think) for a few minutes before polishing off the ride.

August 5

Today I took my parents on a hike in the Uinta wilderness (I brought a map with me. I learned my lesson last time.) It was a fairly easy, scenic hike but it was made difficult by a passing thunderstorm and the 11,000 ft elevation. Neither of these factors could dampen the beauty of the route though. The alpine lakes and flowers were beautiful and we even saw our third moose in two days. Because of the thunderstorm that had just come through, by the time we got back to the car, the temperature had dropped to 45 degrees! It was a great hike, but instead of going for a swim at the trailhead, we hurried back to a warm hottub.

August 8

As I have mentioned a few time before, I find it necessary to do something crazy every once in a while. To come up with a workout that makes me say, "Wow, I don't know if I can do that" and then go out and do it. Today was one of those days. I really need to work on my leg strength, so I decided that I would skate up the biggest hill I could find without poles. I started in Deer Valley and skied up Royal St., a road that goes up to the upper ski lodge. The road is about four miles with a steep grade almost all the way. It was an extremely good workout for my legs. I made it to the top with less pain than I had expected, but when I tried to run back down, my legs were jelly. I stumbled down the mountain and then laid by the pool at my parent's condo for most of the day. In the afternoon, after a trip to see the aerial skiers and bobsled track at the Utah Winter SPorts Park, I did my second workout. I wanted to see just how much I could abuse my legs today, so I arranged to run from just above town to the top of Deer Valley where my parents would pick me up - about a 2000 ft climb. I cut off the lower part of the run because I thought my legs would be shot. To my surprise, my legs felt great. I ran up even the steepest sections at a good pace and felt stronger as I went faster. I made it to the top in less time than I expected. I was very pleased with the training I did today and my body's response to it.

August 11

As most of you know by now, there was a major tornado in Salt Lake City today. Fortunately, I was not in Salt Lake City. Instead, my Dad and I were mountain biking along the mountain ridge that separates the Salt Lake valley from Park City. For most of the ride, we were keeping one eye on an ominous-looking storm that was moving south to north through the valley. At about 12:45pm, we stopped to evaluate the situation. The storm was growing darker and closer. As we looked down into the SLC valley, all we could see were the black clouds below us that were enveloping the whole city. We had been riding for two hours, so it was about time for us to turn around anyway. We decided not to push our luck with the weather and turned around to head home. It was at this time almost exactly that the tornado hit. At the time we knew it looked bad, but we had no idea it was that bad. We couldn't see funnel clouds or anything because the whole area was just black. In fact, at the same time my mom was across the way on the top of Deer Valley and trying to take a picture of the ridge that we were biking on. She eventually gave up because the sky was just too dark to take a picture. It wasn't until we got home and turned on the TV that we found out what had happened.

August 14

I realized recently that other than the famed I.R.S. series, I haven't done a single race since the ski season ended. I figured that it was a good time to end this drought, so today Scott and I headed down to Salt Lake to do a 5K road race. I hadn't done a road race in years and I quickly remembered why. The pounding on the pavement just does not appeal to me. I had no idea what to expect of myself, so I went out really hard from the start. I was a ways back on the start line so it took me about a minute of all-out sprinting just to catch the lead pack. Because of my ridiculously fast start, I didn't stay with the leaders long. I dropped off and settled in next to the first woman ("I'm sure I can stay with her," I thought). We went through the first mile in 5:10. Faster than I had expected. The second mile went by in the exact same time. Thats when I lost it. I guess I was figuring that it was only 5k, I could blow up early and still hammer the rest of the way. But I started to drop. The first woman pulled away, along with a Kenyan I had been duking it out with. Then the second woman caught me. I tried to fight through the pain for that last mile, but I continued to slow. As I neared the finish, I gave it a final sprint to beat out another guy who had been breathing down my neck. I finished in 16:17. I was pretty happy with my time, considering it was my first road race in at least 5 years. But I know that with a little more speed work and a couple more races, I can do better. I don't really want to do another one of those soon, but I might have to - just to see if I can improve my time.

For some strange reason, I decided to do a second session this afternoon. I was kind of tired after the race, but not too bad. Plus I could feel my legs starting to get tight already from all the pavement pounding. I thought a mild workout might help curb that. I rollerskied for an hour, working on getting my hips up and forward over my gliding leg. This was the main thing that Torbjorn had picked out from a video session that we did on Thursday. After skiing, I did a short stint in the weight room, then soaked in the hottub, and called it a day.

August 15

When I got up this morning, my legs were not as tight as I expected. Possibly due to that P.M. workout yesterday? Anyway, it was a welcome feeling because I was about to go on a three hour run with Addison Whitworth. He and I started in Mill Creek canyon, outside Salt Lake, and climbed up a steep trail for about an hour until we reached a ridge line. Assuming that we would then follow the ridge for a while, we found a trail along the ridge and took off. This trail disappeared after only a few steps, but for some reason we kept going, as if it would magically appear again around the next bend. Surprisingly enough, it didn't. As we continued, occasionally looking at the map (just because I bring a map doesn't mean I won't get lost), we realized that we should have continued up and over the ridge and that the trail was probably below us somewhere. Since we couldn't see it, we keep bushwhacking along the ridge. After about 45 minutes, Addison finally spotted the trail, sure enough, down below us. We headed down, hit the trail and started running again. We ran until we came to Dog Lake at about 2:30. It was quickly apparent how the lake got its name. At the lake and on the trail up to it, we saw at least 40 dogs and their owners. I couldn't believe it. We ran down this trail to our car, watching our steps as we went. A very good run, despite the detour.

I had planned to do just one session today, but when I totaled up my hours and saw that I had just over 19 hours, I debated doing a short workout, just to break the 20 hour barrier. Additionally, today was the last day of the training month, so I wanted to pad the stats a bit. When Eric Maas called to go mountain biking, I just had to go, even though my legs were dead tired from the past two days. I think it is very important not to be a slave to your training log, but sometimes I just can't resist. Plus, this coming week will be easy, so I might as well finish the week off hard. We rode for 1:15, then I soaked in the hottub for half an hour. I almost couldn't stand up to get out, but I was thoroughly enjoying the exhausted feeling.

August 19

It has taken me a few days to recover from last week's volume. I have been pretty tired and unmotivated, but thats what easy week's are for. I took Monday off and I only did one interval workout yesterday and an easy distance session today. I will still get a decent amount of training this week, but the most important thing is to get rested so I will be ready for more intensity and volume next week.

August 20

Warning: If you are my mom, Eric Maas's mom, or anyone who worries a lot, you SHOULD NOT read this.

After trying to ride the ridge last week and being denied by the tornado, Eric Maas and I decided to complete the task today. A couple of hours before we headed out I heard thunder and saw a few dark clouds. But by the time I headed out the door, the sky was clear and quiet. Maas and I climbed up the Spiro trail up to the top of Jupiter Bowl in Park City Ski Area. This 2000 foot climb took us about an hour and a half and by this time the weather had started to get ominous again. The clouds were darkening, but having just climbed all the way to the top there was no way we were just going to turn around and go home. As we headed down the ridge, the sky started to roar again and we were soon being pelted with rain and hail. At one point, the hail was stinging our skin so hard that I turned to Maas and said, "I'm sure glad I'm wearing a helmet!" But it looked like the worst of the storm would again stay to the west in the Salt Lake valley so we kept going. Then it really started raining. The trail got slick, causing Maas to take a wicked spill and get a painful charlie-horse. The thunder was getting closer and we started to see flashes in the distance. We started to pass other riders who were getting off their bikes and settling down to weather the storm in sheltered areas. Some were even making campfires and pitching makeshift shelters. Maas and I stopped to evaluate our options. We could turn around, but we felt that the worst of the storm was coming from that direction. We could take shelter, but we were both already cold and Maas didn't have a jacket. By stopping, we would be risking hypothermia. We decided to keep going even though the ridge was getting more exposed and the lightning was getting closer. As it turns out, the two people who were making a fire were on demo bikes from Nordic Equipment. When they returned the bikes the next day, they told the NEI employee on duty about the storm and the two psychos they saw who kept riding. No one told her that one of those psychos was employed there. Anyway, back to the ridge - Every few minutes, I would stop and reconsider. I desperately wanted to get off the ridge anyway possible, but Maas kept convincing me to keep going. As we circumnavigated the top of the Canyons ski area, the situation got downright scary. The trail was on the exact spine of the ridge with no trees or rocks above us. We were the highest points around for a few hundred yards. To make matters worse, this section of trail was very technical, meaning that there was no quick way across the danger zone. I was already pretty sketched out and was mumbling the famous movie line "I've got a bad feeling about this." We were just about in the center of the exposed area when all hell broke loose. I saw a bright flash and heard the thunder instantaneously. I lept off my bike and practically dove off the ridge. I wasn't sure exactly where the strike hit, but I had no intentions of sticking around to find out. The slope I was on was very steep - its a double black diamond ski bowl in the winter - but I was running straight down it as fast as I could. I wasn't sure exactly where Maas was at this point, but I figured that he couldn't be far behind me. I ran until I was a few hundred feet below the ridge and found a small ravine to regroup in. When Maas caught up, we decided to keep bushwhacking down to a dirt road we saw below us. Maas suggested that we traverse a bit to avoid a rocky ledge section but I was so intent on getting down as soon as possible that I ignored him and went for the ledge. I took one step and my feet slid out from under me. I began sliding down over the sharp rocks on my butt and one hand, while I desperately tried to keep my bike in the air with my other arm. Flesh will heal, $1500 of aluminum won't. I slid for twenty meters before finally self-arresting. I did a quick evaluation to make sure nothing was broken (on me or my bike) and yelled up to Maas that he might want to go around the ledge. We bushwhacked, slid, ran, crawled, and stumbled our way to the dirt road, while the lightning and thunder continued to threaten from above. When we reached the road, we were freezing, bruised, battered, and happy to be alive. We hopped on our bikes and started the rest of our descent. We hoped to start making good time, but the road was extremely muddy, making my brakes less effectivele and making Maas's almost useless. We had to take it slow because we wouldn't be able to stop quickly. Our descent as about 1000 feet vertical on dirt roads and ski trails. By the time I got to the bottom, I was shaking uncontrolably and was covered in mud from head to toe. I even had mud in my teeth. When I reached the paved road back to Park City, I waited for Maas. Because of his brakes, he was a little ways behind and even colder than I was since he was without a jacket or gloves (but don't worry mom - he had his whistle!). As soon as I was sure he was OK, I took off and hammered the final two miles to town as fast as I could. This was not only to warm up, but also because the road was in a wide open field and the thunderstorm had not completely relented just yet. When I reached home, I washed off the bike and myself with a hose, then went inside and collapsed into the tub for a long, hot shower. The things I go through to entertain you people.

August 21

I had planned two workouts today but only one happened. This morning I did a 30 minute pace run in rolling terrain at aerobic threshold (level II-IV). It was my second had session of the week, and I felt pretty good considering yesterday's escapades. I took the rest of the day off to go sailing on one of the largest reservoirs with a friend of mine who has a Hobie-cat. One of the things I miss most about summers in the East is sailing, and anything to do with lakes for that matter. Most of the sailing I have done in on Sunfish, Lasers, and my dad's 22 foot sailboat. I always knew Hobies were fast, but I was not prepared for the feeling of hanging off the side of the boat in a trapeze , going 25 mph (on a sailboat!) with only a thin wire and my feet keeping me attached to the boat. It was incredible! We had a blast and it was well worth skipping my second session for.

August 22

Since my last two trips to the ridge were less than successful, I figured that the third time would be the charm. After all, when you get bucked off a horse, you need to get right back on, right? So in that spirit, Eric Maas, Erik Stange, Rob Whitney, a new Italian skier from the University of Utah, and myself decided to run the ridge this morning. Another foreign Utah skier named Marika also started with us but she was going to just run out and back and then wait at the car for us to return. The first hour was painless, a combination of running and walking to get up on the ridge. The final half hour before the ridge was a bit tougher because we made the mistake of letting the Italian, Marco, take the lead. It wasn't until he started to dust us that Rob told us he has scored in the top 25 on the World Cup. By the time we reached the ridge, Marco had fallen back a bit due to a reoccurring foot problem. At this point, we were making good time and thought we might be able to finish the run in under 3 and a half hours. Marco encouraged us to go ahead and he would make it by himself. We decided that this would be OK if we just marked each of the intersections with arrows and rocks, etc. This method worked well for most of the trip. As we continued at a decent pace, we could see Marco off in the distance behind us, following our markers. We made it up and over the top of Park City's Jupiter Peak and then descended to the pass near the top of Deer Valley, where my truck was parked to get us back to the start. We relaxed and waited for Marco to appear up on the ridge behind us. We got a little bit to eat and drink and waited. We took some pictures and waited. We stretched out and waited. When Marco didn't appear when we expected him to, we began to worry. After all, what would an overdistance workout be without a minor catastrophe? I walked up to the nearest outlook and scanned the horizon. After a few minutes, I caught a glimpse of a single person in a white shirt descending one of the ski trails at Park City, not the ridge trail. I was pretty sure that it was Marco, judging by his location and pace. If he continued down the trail, he would end up in downtown Park City, not at the truck on the ridge. We had to intercept him. We mobilized a search crew. Rob, who was feeling very guilty and concerned for letting Marco get lost, and I would run a trail that took us to the bottom of the ski run that Marco was on. Meanwhile, Eric Maas and Erik Stange would drive down to town and head up Daly canyon, where Marco should come out if he continued on his current course. Rob and I were exhausted, but we ran at our fastest pace of the day, hoping to catch up to Marco. Every once in a while, we would stop and let out a yell of "MARCO!" I think Rob was too worried to see the humor in the situation, but I was fully expecting a random mountain biker or hiker within earshot to yell back "POLO!" I started to giggle every time I yelled. But we got no response. We made it to the Park City trails and headed down the most logical route back to the car. No sign of Marco. We began to worry that he had realized his mistake and gone back up to the ridge. We hurried to the car, now thoroughly exhausted. Fortunately Erik & Eric had gatorade and doughnuts waiting for us. This was heaven, since Rob had been talking about doughnuts the entire run, just making me drool. We scarfed down the food and put together Plan B. Erik & Eric would get Maas's car and drive back up to the ridge. Rob and I would head back to the start to get Rob's truck and Marika, who had now been waiting for almost four hours and then come back into town to meet up with the other two guys. After we dropped Erik & Eric off and headed to get Rob's truck, Rob said, "Watch, we'll find Marco on the street by K-Mart or something." No more than 10 seconds later, Rob yelled, "There he is!" At first I thought he was joking, but sure enough, there was Marco standing at a stoplight just looking around. We picked him up, sped back to get the other two guys and then got Marco's story. He had come down the way I had thought, but he had run into a couple of hikers who had given him food and water (by the way, Marco ran the entire run carrying a single 12 oz bottle of water in his hands) and pointed him towards the resort center. This took him off of our course and into a different part of town. But, thanks to dumb luck, every one was safely off the mountain and headed home. Perhaps the funniest moment came on the car ride home when Marco told us that in Italy, he was on the mountain search and rescue team. I am a little worried that my long workouts are becoming just like VH1's "Behind the Music": They all have some sort of tragedy to keep them interesting.

August 26

Today, I did a brutal workout on the track. I did 6 1000m runs at level iV, each followed closely by a 400m sprint. This workout the same as one I did in JUly, but with 6 reps instead of five. My times were similar to the last time I ran this, with my last 4 1000's all being between 3:11 and 3:16. At first I was a little disappointed that I couldn't run faster, but then I realized that I had just run over 8k of intervals, so I guess the times weren't too bad. By the time it was over, I was completely wiped outand I blew up hard in the last 400m.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.