my journal


  chronology of a dream

  the list

  reader polls

  training data



  a piece of my mind

  about this site

  rollerski series

comments, problems
  or suggestions:

  send me an email

  advanced search
Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

April 26

Yes, 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.

May 4

Ahh, 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 melting.

May 5

When 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 to work.

May 6

Well, 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.

May 7

I 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.

May 14

I 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.

May 16

I 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.

May 31

For 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.

June 5

What 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.

June 6

Of 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 conditions.

This 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.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.