I just added a whole passel of new links on the sidebar, but let me just point out one that I added a month or so ago. Aldo is a stalwart classic bike nut. We met ever so briefly at a Cirque du Ciclisme in 2002 or something like that. We almost met for longer during the ride associated with the Cirque when I nearly ran into the back of his Paris-Robaix derailered bike when he slowed slightly for a stop sign and I did not slow quite as much, thankfully he is mostly unaware of that fact. Anyhow, he has an excellent blog that pretty much has been a festival of obscure french bike lighting, it has the currently unwieldy name of another delivery of old french lights to the island of misfit bicycles. Please check it out. Here are some small selections of goodies from his blog, click any photo for the source post. Huzzah the french.
See that picture above? With me and the 7 foot tall bear costumed skier? Those were the good times. The Alley loop starts on Elk Avenue which is the downtown main drag in Crested Butte. This year we started by going up Elk avenue and looping back through the alleys. We were supposed to follow the guy in the bear suit through the sketchy parts of the alleys as a neutral start. Here is what happened. I was on the front row of the starting line. Buddy the Bear was in front of me. The race started. Everyone started skiing except the bear. The bear was still dancing. I hit Buddy the bear hard and bounced off. By the time I recovered everyone was way up the road and the bear still had not figured out what just happened. That, pretty much, sums up my race. You need not read any further, that was the best part of the report. For those who are looking for the usual overblown, late and too wordy report, please read on. For everyone else, thanks for coming by.
Start area with imposing massifs in the distance
Paul and I made the drive up to Crested Butte to race the Alley Loop race. We left on a friday, made it uneventfully under clear skies up to Gunnison by midday. We checked into a hotel (the tidy and cheap ABC motel) and I walked around Gunnison for a while checking out the town and photographing bikes. I had a nice chat with the owner of Tomichi cycles about the wealth of local mountain biking and skiing, and then headed back to the hotel. Paul and I then headed up to Crested Butte to get our reg materials and get some dinner. By the time we got back to Gunnison it was 4 degrees F and dropping.
Whole famdamily, crested butte is good stuff
The next morning we awoke to -12F at 7am and shivered our way for some grub at the W cafe there in Gunnison. I think I got serviceable huevos rancheros with bacon. Yum. We headed up to crested butte which was reading a balmy -5F as we pulled into town a coupe hours before the race. We scored a nice parking spot right next to the course and got our chips. Temp now -4. I took my time getting my chip for the ankle, hitting the loo and getting dressed for the race, by the time I was all suited up for it was 5 or 6 F at 9am. And my hands had no feeling at all. Poor glove choices (none) while getting the skis out of the top of the car and my boots laced left me with numb fingers. I skated around a while and realized they weren't getting better, so I went into a local restaurant and warmed my hands in the bathroom sink. Better.
As usual it was a snow cruiser fiesta in crested butte
I skated around a bit and watched the kids races, got warmed up and realized that even though it was probably 8 degrees, it was not the 15 to 20 degrees the forecast called for and the squeek squeek emitting from my skis meant I was waxed a bit warmly. I did a warmup loop with my buddy Clay and former SWnordic ski member Denny and then watched them line up for the start of the 42k. Right before the start Lenard Zinn (also a former los alamosite) came by and said hello and disappeared into the 42km race pack and was gone as the races had begun.
Pre race hyper dork pose. Oh yeah.
A few minutes later I lined up on the starting line and then, well, read the first paragraph again. After that, I furiously sprinted up Elk Avenue passing about 20 people and ended up at the back of a pack that seemed to be a good fast bunch. We turned off of elk avenue and into the twisty alleys, replete with 90 degree turns, bridges and little whopdedoos. Despite the lack of a pace bear, we took it pretty sanely through the alleys and as things opened up, off we went. There was lots of passing and jockying for position and after a bit I settled into a good group. Alas, we soon came up upon the tail end of the 42k race and there was some chaos trying to pass through them. I got a little too jiggy trying to weave between racers and I crashed and one of my skis buried itself in the side of the tail. It took a while to get it out, I had to back up slowly to get free of the snow bank. The pack I was with skated off into the distance and I chased futilely.
The 42k skiers do three laps of a course was the same as the 2 lap course us 21k skiers did, plus an out and back loop, so after a while the 42k racers split off from our race and then further on, faster 42k racers who had done the out and back already caught up to and passed us. This is nice as you can watch much faster skiers blow by you and occasionally get a burst of speed. You can also get demoralized when you see some fairly young looking women wearing purple spandex with puffy tails and mouse ears blow by you like you are standing still... Alas, after my crash, I was getting a little demoralizd and was skating and squeaking along and looking at my ski tips.
Finally the first lap was done and we skated through some back alleys, up elk avenue and then down some more back alleys at the start of lap two. This year I had a pretty clean shot at the alleys on the second lap and was moving pretty fast and proud of how I handled all the little turns bridges and whoopdedoos. At this point Lenard Zinn lapped me and said kind words of encouragement as he zoomed by me. A few minutes later I came upon him in pain on the side of the course being tended to by a spectator. He crashed and dislocated his shoulder I found out later. I yelled out to some spectators to help him (who told me the guy helping him was a doctor) and I told the next course marshall of the crash (she said help was on the way) and I skated out into the meadow.
The second lap was about as squeaky as the first, but as I got into my rhythm of ski tip looking, I realized that Crested Butte is a beautiful place and maybe I should look around. So I did and boy is it pretty out there. I kind of got into an enjoy the view epiphany and then looked down again and realized that my knees never really get balanced over my ski. I think I have always done this, but never noticed. You get more glide the more balanced over the ski you are and I was kind of buckled inward as I glided along. Self realization!. I tried to work on this and work on getting my poling to the right better and my V2 smoother and suddenly I caught and passed the guy in front of me. Yay me.
Look at the bent right knee, I don't think it should be doing that
I started skating hard for the finish and though I was tired I felt pretty great and I headed back into town for the finish. Just before descending into town a guy came out of nowhere to pass me, I followed him as he skated away from me and then I was surprised to see he finished just ahead of me instead of heading out for a third lap like the 42kers. Crap. there goes that last pass... But anyhow, I finished and felt good. Though I warmed up quickly during the race, it was still quite cold out, maybe 10 or 12 F, so I ran to the car and changed into my warm clothes and watched Paul finish strongly and then, a while later Clay finish well in the 42k. The race had a New Belgium Brewing company sponsored beer garden with a free cup of beer for all racers, so I headed to the finish, got some free soup and a beer. They had a nice dark beer with high alcohol content and espresso infusion or something. It was delicious. I usually am not a fan of dark beer that has strong coffee flavors in it, but it might have been the post race hunger, or it might have been good. I think it was a one off beer, I have not seen it in stores or on their website.
Post Race Frosting
The end result was 16th overall male in the 21k in a time of 1:30:32. Despite the slight miswax it was about 15 minutes faster than last year, which is probably close to 100% due to faster conditions. There were four guys ahead of me within a minute and that was probably the group I lost contact with when I fell on the first lap. Oh well. Next time, no falling for real. I really need to stop doing that. Overall it was a great race and a bunch of fun. Maybe the marathon next year...
Paul and I caffinating at the Camp Four
After the race Paul and I walked over and enjoyed an excellent espresso in a tiny paper cup at Camp4 coffee, then we hopped into the car and drove to Gunnison for more coffee and eats at the Bean. Then we zipped home, enjoying the views, including seeing a bobcat, bald eagle and a herd of antelope in a five minute period between Gunnison and Saguatche. Damn, Colorado, you are good.
The Bean in Gunnison for more coffee and grub afore the long drive home
Clay put on a couple of ski races with the help and hosting of the Enchanted Forest staff. Saturday was a classic race that started pretty early and I did not make it. I did not want to stay away for two nights and I was still pretty banged up from the previous weekends chama race. Paul and I drove up on Saturday morning, stopping at the bean for breakfast burritos and coffee and then made our leisurely way up to enchanted forest for some classic sking.
Saturday's breakfast burrito (formerly)
As I mentioned before I bought a two pairs of waxable classic skiis and, even though the race went poorly the week before, I was eager to try them out. I organized nicely in a tackle box I got a garage sale. I carefully waxed one pair of skis with some hard wax, and saved the other for the likely klister conditions. I have avoided getting waxable classic skis for years as I was not all that psyched for the lore and magic involved in getting proper kick, but boy is it cool to have a little toolbox stuffed with carefully organized waxes.
The mighty wax box
Anyhow, when Paul and I got there, it was warm and getting a bit warmer. So klister it was, with the advice of Clay and a few others I reapplied the swix blue klister that had worked reasonably well the week before. Paul, who hates klister, went with some super warm hard kick wax. We headed out on the trails and it was clear that it was much warmer than either of our waxes could handle. We double poled around for an hour or so and returned for a snack. I cleverly applied Universal Klister , which, in theory, would work in a huge variety of warmer conditions. I will now refer to as UMAKlister which stands for Universal My Ass, which might tell you how the rest of the day went. I actually had great kick, but no freaking glide as the wax was filled with a giant snowball after about 15 minutes of skiing. I realized if I kept moving and did not stop at all I could get reasonable sking done. Paul still had nothing, so I skied back an forth on the trail while paul walked around on his skis. He looked like he was having fun, and it was, upon reflection, a pretty good day, so I kept on skiing. Later I ran into clubmember Tom who clued me in that UMAKlister was too warm for the day, I needed violet Klister, and he was getting amazing kick. Feh, Universal my ass.
Anyhow, after a not unpleasant, but could have been much better classic ski, Paul and I headed down the hill to the charming burg of Red-River-filled-with-Texans. We checked into a reasonably cheap and clean motel. I almost got brained by a giant chunk of ice falling off the top of the two story hotel. Missed me by about 12 inches. And then I took a nap until dinner. Paul and I won dinner as we were the first at the "good" mexican place so we got the coveted spot right in front of the fire, and then we ate and then to bed.
Next morning we awoke early and went in search of food. The 8:30 AM on a sunday race start made it a bit hard to find food early enough to digest before the race. WE located a little cafe/pastry shop that had egg sammiches, atem up and drank some coffee and headed to the race. Got there, paid the fee and got out for the warm ups.
The UNM team was there as well as the "Los Alamos Team" as I overheard one of the enchanted forest owners say. Hey! Thats us! Specifically it was me, Clay, Paul, John B., Dina, and maybe Tom and Rich? Anyhow, there were a bunch of us there. Go team!
Hanging at the start line, Paul in the foreground, in the middle Me, Hans Noordik, Shawn, front row, the UNM ski team
I registered, pinned on the numbers and then got my warmup on. The course seemed really fast. After the warmth of the day before it was quite cold and there had been a bt of new snow over night. That plus the fresh grooming and my skiis ran like the wind. As I skated around and mostly just stood in the sun to kwwp warm, I watched the University of NM team warm up. They are much faster than me. It is a joy to watch people who really know how to ski go.
Anyhow, the race lined up and started quickly. I got a decent start. I watched most of the UNM team and clay and JohnB ski away at a furious pace at the start. I settled behind a UNM woman and a guy who was taller and possibly heavier than me. The first half of the course was a twisty loop with sharp turns and some short straightaways with a couple of hard climbs thrown in. I kind of tucked in behind the UNM woman an big guy (even bigger than me, named Hans Noordik if you can believe it) and was actually drafting for a while. What a blast. I watched the two ahead of me skating with form I could only dream of having. I was tucked in just skiing along and rarely poling. My skis were fast and the draft was working well. I knew these two would drop me at some point, they were too smooth, but I was enjoying the ride.
The first half of the course ended with a hard steep short hill followed by a long twisty descent. The two ahead of me dropped me on the up hill a bit and then put what seemed like 30 seconds on me on the descent. They were tucked and stepping the turns, I was bolt upright and snowplowing a bit. I think I was the fastest person in the race who was snow plowing any. I was constantly wiping clean the carve groves and step marks through the tighter turns with my wimpy snow plowing. I am not sure that I am really going to get all that better at high speed descending on xc skis at my age, but it is definitely something to work on.
Shawn trained pulling this the day before the race
As I transitioned from the long downhill to the long long climb that started the second lap I heard another skiier come up behind me. I was able to drop him a bit on the climb, but the second half of the course was the long climb followed by a bunch of rollers with more downhill than up, leading back to the finish. So through the rollers we went. I was able to ski away from the guy behind me a bit on the uphills and he would catch right back on on the downhills. Finally there was one sketch downhill that I was checking my speed on at the top and he came by me in the classic tracks and tucked. Turned out it was Shawn who was a former HS skier and had great form, but limited fitness and really good descending skills. Also he was on rental skiis. And he spent the previous day pulling his kid around in a sled behind him. After the sketchy downhill, there was a steep uphill, I pegged it to catch up to him, but I blew up and watched him smoothly ski away from me. Dammit. Form crushes fitness yet again. Note to self, learn to ski better.
Post race awards ceremony, clapping for JohnB and his gloves
We had a nice award ceremony and I finished fourth in my age group in a time of 39:48. Which is smoking fast for the 13 odd kilometers that the race was. The winner was even smoking fastier in just under 28 minutes. Wow. Even though I did not place in my age group, I got an extra cool participant ribbon, as I was a participant, see? Anyhow. Fun race.
After the race, Paul and I headed back to the bean and repeated the burrito breakfast of the day before and headed home. It was a good day.
It appears I have made about 600 posts on this blog since I started way back on 9-15-2005. I posed the question then: Will I fill the blog? Answer: Yes. I have done filt the hell out of it.
For relatively recent readers this blog was started when I was housesitting and taking care of a creaky aged cat named Mosca, hence Moscaline. As my 4 month stint as a house sitter came to an end I transitioned from cats, to bikes and cats, to whatever the hell the blog is about now (bloggold!). The tiny namesake passed on in Dec 2006, but somehow in her honor the blog keeps going. So anyhow,thanks for reading all! I have a mindless drive to inform the mostly faceless 150 or so of you who check in daily that has kept this blog filled from the start. Truly, it is you, dear readers, that have made this possible. Also, only you can prevent forest fires, and stay in school, and say nope to dope, etc...
Piles of race reports and other stuff are in the to-do box, as well as other unspecified adventures still to come, so stay tuned.
Sunday morning (January 18th) I awoke early, made a to go bowl of oatmeal a couple of sammichis and a thermos of the tarik-patented-french-no-press coffee and hopped in my uncharacteristically packed the night before car and drove up to Chama to race the Chama Chili Classic xc ski race. I did this race two years ago as my first xc-ski race ever and I internalized a few of the lessons learned for this edition. 2007 report here. Due to baby induced dithering we made no motel reservations and decided since Aida hates schedules I would just zip up and do the race and then come on home in one day. I am getting a bit aged for such shenanigans, but lets do it for the children.
Black Mesa on the way to Española at the break of dawn
The racing schedule has expanded to 5 and 10k classic ski races and 5 and 10k snowshoe races as well as a combined King of the Mountain class for the best time in the 10k ski race and 5k snow shoe. Naturally I signed up for that as I am an idiot. The reasoning was that most of the xc ski racing I do are "half marathon" 22 odd kilometer skate races, so I needed to get some longer racing in. I am pretty decent on snowshoes, so there we are.
One of my lessons from the last time I did this race was that I should get some waxable classic race skis so I can actually go faster on the downhill portions. Waxable skiis take some getting used to techniquewise and there are some nasty intricacies with waxing to get on top of, but I watched lots of people zip away from me on long downhills last time and I was determined not to let that happen again. I bought some used classic race skiis from the Dark Lord of Waxing last month and I have been out on them 4 times total including the race. In the non-race practice sessions I can get going classic style pretty well with speed replacing technique. Failing that I just double pole or herringbone. So there was my race plan. A mixture of fitness over technique and a default of poling and running on my skiis. Also coasting real fast on the downhills.
Anyhow, I got up to the race site with some extra time so I could check out the course and see if my wax worked. The race site is 12 miles north of Chama just into colorado in a nice big basin that tends to be a sun dish and get really warm. Warm is hard to wax for. I got a quick lesson from my pal ken on applying klister. The hive mind of experienced skiers decided the magic kick wax was Swix blue klister with swix violet hard over top. I checked in with my buddy Clay and he confirmed the choice. So I applied the tubular glue like klister over my kick zone and then attempted to get the hard wax on top, with limited success. I said, eh, fukkit, and went to warm up. The wax seemed good. The turnout was decent maybe 35 people in the 10k ski race, 45 in the 5k and another 30 plus snowshoers. There were three of us idjits in the combined 10k ski 5k snowshoe competition.
Sort of near the start line, it is purty here
When I did the race 2 years ago, the race started with a huge climb and scary descent. This year the first big hill was dispensed with. The course did roughly the same thing with much more gradual climbs and descent. The loop was a bit over 5k and length and since I did it twice on skis and once on snowshoes, I mentally divided it into 7 parts. 1. Flat start loop with a small climb and a faster twisty descent through some trees and some rollers leading to 2. The long gradual climb on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad grade with a sharp climb at the end 3. A long fast fun downhill 4. Part one of the long steep stair step climb and then it is done 5. Oh no its not, that was a false flat and then it keeps going and you can't see straight. 6. Another long downhill with a sharp climb exclamation point and then 7. Twisting down back through the trees with a fast downhill to the finish.
Shack near the start line. Why is there a shack here?
So my ski race went a little something like this. Double pole in the tracks in the frenetic start. Ski up on the person in front of me, try to get out of the tracks to go around. Crash. Get up, go up the climb, crash. Go through the fast twisty part in the trees. Nearly crash into trees, but instead crash in snow hard enough to have bruises. Look up to see the next group ski neatly away from me. Get up, ski frantically, crash. Have my teammate Dave, who is probably worse than classic skiing than me, come up upon me and inform me that if I keep crashing that he will beat me. Get up and then crash in front of Dave again. Get through the rollers and then, I am now on part two.
I finally get into my rhythm and end up in the front of a small pack with no one in sight in front of me. And that was pretty much it. I sort of maintained my place ahead of two other people for the rest of the first lap. I was slipping out a bit as I got tired, I had some issues with my already sketchy classic form and the fact that I did not do a great job getting the wax spread evenly did a number on my ability to kick. Stupid xc skiing. I got through the first lap OK with only a few more falls. I do have to say that my skiis were fast, much much faster than my touring skiis. Last time I did this race I was double poling furiously on the downhills in the tracks and still getting dusted. This time I had to step out of the tracks on the downhills as I was far exceeding my ability to stay upright in the soft tracks.
A nice meadow that is surrounded by the course that you can't see, see?
Here is a brief grooming interlude. The course as it stands is untouched snow most of the winter. My fellow SWNski club teammates Clay and the aforementioned Dave spent two full days grooming a course and setting classic track for this race. They do a spectacular job. I would estimate there was at least 6-8 feet of untracked snow on the course that they hack into a course with two set classic lanes. Spectacular grooming fellows. I swear I will be better at skiing next year and I will not have to use soft tracks as an excuse...
One of the SWNski club snowmobiles with its cover off presumably cooling off after two days of grooming
Anyhow. I get through the first lap and no one is anywhere ahead of me, there are two other skiers that are sort of close behind me. Unfortunately I was so off pace in my race that they started the 5k race in between the group ahead of me and me. I started wending my way through the tail end of the 5k race. I get to the railroad grade with a minimum of falling through the woods. As I ski up the railroad grade I loose alot of my grip, so I alternate between a weak kick ski, a weakening double pole and occasional falling. One of the skiers behind me passes me after a particularly good fall. The only good news is that I pass one of skier ahead of me who is sking with a broken pole. Coincidentally it is one of the other skiers in the ski-snowshoe KOM competition. Sweet I think, at least I have not broken a pole! I feel buoyed as I pass him, but this is fleeting as I more or less fall completely apart on all the uphills remaining. I get passed on the long up hill by the only other skier near me and then finish in 55 minutes. Not without wiping out hard again on the final descent to the finish line. This was good race as it was 15 minutes faster than two years ago, but bad as I kind of had a disaster of ski, lots of crashes and form issues and no grip in the second lap. Bah.
Now I had to go and run a lap of the course on snowshoes. I figured that I had crashed so often and so violently that I probably needed to get the snowshoes on ASAP and start running before the soreness kicked in. I was perturbed to see that I lost my sunblock chapstick from my pocket during a crash. With the snow bowl reflector effect, I was worried that I would fry. But the race must go on. They had already had the main snowshoe race start, so for the KOM competition they had us start whenever we wanted after the race time trial style. I did a relatively quick turnaround and strapped on the snow shoes and started running. The first part of the race was slow as my body was not completely on board with the idea of continuing racing. As I got through the woods I felt more into it, and despite the lack of anyone near me, I focused on keeping the pace high and close to my limit rather than just jogging it. As I ran up the railroad grade I was pleasantly suprised to see a purple tube smack in the middle of the trail. It was my sunblock. I scooped it up and then continued on my merry way. I played mental games to keep myself motivated, this is where I divvied up the course into sections and tallied completed sections while I pushed myself harder. I really ran hard on the course parts 4 and 5 up the big hill and then powered on to the finish. The thing I like about snowshoe racing is that you can sort of glide down hills by skating on your heel tips with exaggerated long heelstrike strides.
I finished up the race, sort of enjoyed a beer (stupid overly hoppy beer not so good after racing) post race with the rest of the club racers and felt the soreness kick in. I ate a sammich, changed and talked to some more people before heading back down the hill. I took some photos of trains in the railyard and headed back to the High Country for the post race chili feed and award ceremony. I ate a heaping bowl of chili and realized I would never stay awake for the drive home if I waited much longer. So I decided to booger off back home and had an uneventful if scenic drive home.
Choo choo like trains in the Cumbres and Toltec Railyard
Turns out that I won the King of the Mountain decisively. Broken pole George was about 5 minutes in back of me in the run and a minute back in the ski. If he had not broken a pole, it would have been closer, but that's racing, I am surprised I did not break a pole myself given all my crashing escapades. I won a nice chile ristra and some other goodies. Yay me. I was very sore the next week but it was probably worth it. The ski was, as I said, rough, but all in all a good day.
The University of NM team showed up and dominated the race, but they graciously declined to include themselves in the awards. Thus Los Alamos skiers had a great day with most of the skiers placing somewhere in the age groups. Good job everyone.