I know that it is still April, but I am writing in my May journal.
That is because today is the official start of the 1999-2000 training
year. To preserve a sense of continuity it is just easier to assume
that May is the first month of the year and squeeze a couple extra
April days into the month. I hope this doesn't screw up your crop
planting or biological clock or anything. So what did I do to kick
off the year? I went for a run. I know, its not very exciting, but
you have to start somewhere. Besides, I am only supposed to be training
8-12 hours per week this month, so I shouldn't do too much the first
day. But at last I am underway and ready to prepare for an even
better winter next year.
spring in Park City. Weather doesn't get much crazier than this.
One day it can be 70 degrees and sunny, the next it will be snowing.
For example, it snowed all night last night and continued throughout
the day today. It was probably the biggest snowstorm of the year.
Alta received almost three feet of snow! You might expect people
in a ski town like Park City to deal with this fairly well. But
I spent most of my day at work listening to customers and employees
bitch about the weather. Meanwhile I was drooling over the possibility
of going powder skiing as soon as I got off work. When 6 p.m. finally
came, I raced home, threw on my ski clothes, grabbed my backcountry
equipment and headed up to Guardsman Pass. Guardsman a the road
that essentially serves as a divider between Park City ski area
and Deer Valley ski area. In the summer you can drive up and over
the pass and down the other side to Brighton and Solitude. In the
winter, it is a snowmobile trail and makes for very good local access
to the backcountry. I had planned on putting skins on my skis to
climb to the top of the pass, but when I arrived at the trailhead,
I was amazed to find light, dry powder. Two feet of it! I was able
to use extra blue hard wax in May! I followed the snowmobile tracks
up to the top of the pass.
On my way up I encountered two other diehards on xc racing skis.
They were on their way down after realizing that there was just
too much snow to go off-trail through the powder on skinny skis.
I was glad I had my backcountry skis. I got to the top after an
hour or so. By this time, I had a grin on my face a mile wide and
was almost shaking in anticipation of the great run back down. There
were thousands of people down in town complaining about this snow
and they were all missing out on the best powder day of the year!
I decided that since there was so much new, unsteady snow, I did
not want to do any steep backcountry slopes that might trigger an
avalanche. I decided to play it safe and skied along the ridge to
the top of Deer Valley ski area and headed down on of the black
diamond runs. It was incredible. It was one of those perfect runs
where you feel like you are skiing in a cloud, surfing high above
any of earth's imperfections. I was up to my thighs in "the
greatest snow on earth" in May. I didn't do a lot of backcountry
skiing this year, but that single run more than made up for anything
else I missed out on. When I got to the bottom I desperately wanted
to go back up but it was 8 p.m. and starting to get dark, so I called
it a day. But I immediately decided that I would come back before
work tomorrow morning. I had to hit it one more time before it started
I got home last night, I called everybody I knew to tell them how
great the skiing was and to get them o come tomorrow. Unfortunately,
most of them weren't home, and the others had no desire to get up
at 6 a.m. just to get in a few turns. They had no idea just how
good it was, and nothing I said could turn them into believers.
Oh well. Their loss. I got up at 6, made a quick breakfast, and
then headed out the door. If I actually have the motivation to get
up at 6 to do anything, you know it must be good. Since I didn't
have any skiing buddies with me, I decided that I would snowboard
today. The hike up would
be harder, since I would be trudging through 2-3 feet of snow, but
the ride down would be worth it. There is no sensation quite like
snowboarding in bottomless powder. The wide board lets you float
over the top of the snow, barely touching the ground. I think it
feels somewhat like it might feel to walk on water. As these thoughts
danced in my brain, I put one foot in front of the other and trudged
up the Deer Valley. I was about halfway up when I just couldn't
wait any longer. I pulled the board off my pack, strapped it to
my feet and took off down the mountain. I let out a few howls of
excitement as I carved smooth, effortless turns. When I go to the
bottom I was even more excited than I had been at the top. It was
incredible! I quickly picked up the board and headed towards the
top for a long final run. I arrived at the top at about 8:00 am.
I was a little disappointed to find that I wasn't the first one
up here this morning. There was a man on telemark equipment gazing
out at the spectacular scenery as I approached. I said hi and commented
on the amazing weather, but all I got in return was a grunt. I think
he was a little upset to have his serenity shattered by some punk
snowboarder. I thought about explaining that I was a "free-heel"
type as well, just seeing how the other half lives for a day, but
I didnÕt bother. I just let him have his first tracks without
telling that I had already taken a run and then launched down the
mountain myself. I weaved in and out of the trees, over moguls buried
two feet deep, and down the steepest slopes that still seemed safe.
It was a perfect run. I wanted to do more, but it was time to go
lets see. . . I played in fresh snow for a couple of days so now
I feel like enjoying some sun and warm weather. I have today and
tomorrow off, so I packed up the 4Runner with my bike, running shoes,
and tent and headed to Zion National Park. Utah has more National
Parks than any other state and so far I have only checkout half
(three) of them. I've heard great things about Zion and just read
a good article about mountain biking just outside the park. That
was all I needed to get me headed in that direction. The drive took
5 hours, substantially longer than the 3 1/2 claimed by some others,
but not too far for a quick getaway. I arrived in mid afternoon
and quickly reserved a campsite since they were filling up fast.
I then took off for my first hike. Derek, the NEI shop manager,
had recommended that I try "Angel's Landing," though I
had to assure him several times that I am not afraid of heights.
He raved about the treacherous climbs and spectacular cliffs and
said that if I no afraid of heights, I soon will be. Thinking that
he was probably exaggerating, I took off running up the trail. The
first four miles are all uphill at a pretty good grade, but nothing
scary by any means. When I reached the ridge, the trail forked.
Left was the West Rim trail that headed into the backcountry and
right was Angels Landing. There was a small sign about it being
a very difficult trail, watch your children closely, blah, blah,
blah. I kept running.
Soon the trail was out on a narrow ridgeline and I began to understand
what Derek was talking about. The ridge, shown in the picture to
the right, was about 10 feet wide with 1500 ft drops on both sides.
This would have been fine if you could just walk down the middle
of the ridge, but in many places rocks and trees in the way meant
that you had to travel very close to the cliff in order to get by.
But not to worry, there were chain rails to hold onto in case you
slipped. I made it
across the flat section without any problems, but when I reached
the climb, I began worry. It was steep,with no real trail to follow.
The route was lined with a chain that snaked over boulders, around
the few trees that still clung to the ledges, and onward up the
ridge. The ridge was now very narrow and the drop got longer with
every step up I took. I looked up ahead and saw a few brave souls
slowly making their way up. I looked over to the left and saw three
rockclimbers working their way up the vertical cliff. The are in
the middle of the picture on the right. Thats how big the cliff
is, you can't even see the climbers!
I was amazed that the Park Service would encourage people to climb
up here by putting out chains. I was sure that people falling to
their death must be a daily occurrence. Obviously not, but looking
at the trail it seemed that there was a reasonably high chance of
that happening. Then a random thought came into my head. "I
guess this is what freedom is about. The freedom to kill yourself
in a National Park with a little help from the government."
Now that I am back on solid ground, I think I was over-reacting
a bit. I had run up the trail, so I was more tired than most people
would be. My legs were shaking a bit and I was trying to do the
trail as a workout. If I would have just slowed down and taken it
one step at a time, I would have been much better off. I would say
that next time I will go slower, but I have no desire to ever do
that again. Once was enough. I came back after a total of 2 hours
running/hiking and pitched my tent. I planned my adventures for
tomorrow and then went to bed early.
got up at 8 this morning, got breakfast at a bakery in town and
headed south of town to an area called Gooseberry Mesa that supposedly
has some of the best
mountain biking in Utah, including Moab. I didn't have very good
directions and couldn't find the trailhead. So instead I decided
to just park the truck and ride on the many jeep trails until I
stumbled onto the bike trails. It took an hour or so, but I found
the Gooseberry trails and rode there for another 45 minutes before
heading back to the truck. The trails lived up to their billing.
It was the probably the best single trail I have ever ridden. It
was winding single track, made for bikers by bikers. It was technical,
but all rideable. It was an excellent ride. I wanted to keep riding
and explore all the trails on the Mesa, but I also wanted to do
one more hike before heading home, so I quit riding around noon.
In the afternoon,
I hiked up into hidden canyon. Now this trail had all sorts of warning
signs about death, cliffs, children, etc., but it ended up being
a lot more tame than Angels Landing. Sure the 1500 foot cliffs were
still there, but at least the trail was 4 feet wide and smooth.
I felt much safer and made good time to the top. I ran most of the
way, which drew mixed reviews from the many people I passed. Some
thought I must be an elite athlete in training, others thought I
was just trying to show off. I think both sides were right. I explored
back into hidden canyon itself, going over rocks, around pools,
and over trees. I was almost to the other end when I was turned
back by a pool of water with shear cliffs on either side. I guess
that later in the summer this part is passable, but not now. It
was time to head home anyway. Have to work tomorrow. I made my way
back down the trail to the car, packed up, and hit the road.
didn't do much training this past week. I started feeling a little
sick on Monday. Then I spent 24 hours camping out for 24 hours for
Star Wars tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sleeping in a parking
lot is not the best way to get better. But I got my tickets for
two shows on opening day, so it was worth it. When I got home on
Wednesday night, I was sick and exhausted. I took a couple days
to rest and recover, and now I am ready to do a little more training.
woke up this morning and realized I had nothing planned other than
to be home at 4 p.m. to root against the Jazz in their playoff game.
A man had stopped into NEI yesterday and told me that there was
still good skiing on the Mirror Lake highway, about 30 minutes from
Park City. I figured I might as well check it out. Normally in the
winter you can only drive up to mile 14 and then the road turns
into a snowmobile trail. But now that the snow is melting, I drove
up to mile 18 and skied from there. The trail was in great shape.
This time of year you only get the experienced snowmobilers out
on the trail, so it was smooth, not wavy, like it gets in the winter
when all the idiot bubbleheads tear it up. I skied up the road for
almost two hours. When I turned around to head back, I decided to
do some crust skiing in the woods. I jumped off trail into the trees
and made some sweeping turns down the incline. The light was very
flat due to heavy cloud cover but I had to wear my dark sunglasses
anyway to keep the snow out of my eyes (yes it was snowing on May
16). As a result, I couldn't see the terrain layout very well. It
looked like a smooth white carpet to me. That is until I hit a huge
dip and landed on my face. I was ok, but as I fell, I put my knee
right through my right ski and snapped it in two. I was about 9
miles from my car with one ski to get me home. It was then that
I finally put my five years of engineering schooling to work. I
took the tip of the broken ski and jammed it up underneath the metal
pin in the front of my boot, essentially making a short gliding
surface on the bottom of my boot. To keep it there, I used my car
keys to remove a screw from my now useless binding and put the screw
through the tip of the broken ski to keep it from sliding out from
under the metal pin. Using this I was able to double pole back the
9 miles back to the truck. Not the best glide in the world, but
it got me home.
the past ten days, I was in New Hampshire. My brother graduated
from the University of New Hampshire on last Saturday. After celebrating
his graduation for a few days, I went home to Littleton for a week.
It was a good trip, but since it was a personal trip, rather than
a training trip, it doesn't all need to be recounted here. I did
train well though. A couple rollerskis, group bike rides with the
local club, and an OD trail run on the Long Trail in Vermont with
my high school coach all helped make the week my best of the young
season. I am now off and running and ready for an onsnow camp in
June next week.
a week. I got back to Park City on Monday, unpacked my bags, then
repacked my bags and took off for Bend, OR on Friday. And I also
squeezed in a full week of work and a few training sessions in between.
But now I am in Bend, and ready for some skiing. We arrived here
at about 2pm today and checked into our plush condo. We scored on
lodging, getting a nice condo over looking the Deschutes River,
a big park out back for frisbee and soccer, and pool, hot tub and
suana. All at a price that starving skiers can afford. We aren't
used to living the high life like this and plan to take full advantage
of it. This afternoon, Scott and I went for a mountain bike ride.
The singletrack riding in Bend in incredible. Moab is still my favorite
place to ride, but even Moab doesn't have singletrack to compare
with Bend. It is all ridable and while you can cruise pretty fast,
you better be on your toes or you will miss one of the many s-turns
and find yourself off in the woods, as I did this afternoon. No
harm done though. We rode for 2 and a half hours and barely scraped
the surface of the trails in the area. My roommate, and ski team
co-captain, from college lives in Bend and we are looking forward
to having him give us a tour of the terrain later in the week.
course, the main reason we are in Bend is to ski. Bend gets a ridiculous
amount of snow during the winter and still has snow on the cross
country trails in June. It is one of the best places in the world
for offseason skiing. Because it is summer, you have to ski early
in the morning. The snow freezes at night and begins to thaw out
in mid morning. The time from 8-10am is when the snow is at its
best - it has softened a bit so it isn't too icy, but it isn't mush
yet. So we got up at 6:30 this morning, ate breakfast, waxed skis,
and made the 20 minute drive up to the trails at the base of Mt.
Bachelor. The skiing was incredible. The received a trace of new
snow last night which took the hard edge off the icy tracks. I skated
for two hours, very excited to be back on snow. I was a bit tired
starting out, my muscles haven't been used this way very much in
the past two months, but I felt better as I went. There is only
about 12K of trails groomed, but I can't complain about the marvelous
afternoon, I decided to try a workout that Torbjorn has been recommending
to us recently. He wants us to work on our anaerobic capacity. His
theory is that since a good place to work on anaerobic training
is in a place where you can't breath ( and therefore can't supply
oxygen to the blood). Thus, we were instructed to swim underwater.
After a short run, I went to the pool and did my laps. TBK wanted
us to see how far we could make it underwater before we had to come
up for air. Eventually, the goal is to swim 3 lengths (75m) underwater.
I did the drill 4 times. On my best, I was able to make it 2 lengths.
It was very hard. I was only under water for 15-20 seconds, but
I was exhausted and gasping for breath after each one. Right now
it seems impossible that I will be able to go three lengths, but
I'll just have to see the progress I make in the next few weeks.
I will also be interested to see how this affects my anaerobic capacity
for sprinting, etc.