Monday, March 9, 2015

Camel's Hump Challenge 2015

What an amazing day.  Its so rare to get all the various stars to align when attempting events/efforts like this but as cliche as it is yesterday couldn't have been any better.  Weather conditions, snow conditions were perfect. My gear worked flawlessly. This is what I looked like all day:

I rolled into Huntington early.  Nothing like combining the change to DST with having to get up at 4am to drive up to northern VT.  You get started on the Camel's Hump Nordic Area trails which are a cool tucked away backwoods network of groomed and ungroomed stuff.

this part of the country is not ugly

shoot the gap and off into the wild blue YONDER

Things got going with a mass start send off and the gentle climbing starts basically immediately.  We had a pretty hilarious group think navigation issue early on, probably within the first mile.  I had been towards the front of the first group but had basically been following a group of two that seemed to know where they were going.  But when the trail T'd they stopped and turned around and waited for me to get there.  They asked me if I knew where I was going and I said "nope I'm a first timer, I thought you did...and I'm pretty sure there is a group of 35 people behind me who thought the same thing."

As that big group began to arrive at the T we started trying to figure out who had done it before and of course we were all basically 1st timers with maybe 2-3 who had done it before but couldn't remember which way to go.  Things probably could have been marked a bit better early on but luckily we guessed right and the group finally made it to the potion of the trail on state forest land that is excellently blazed with yellow tags with 'Challenge Trail' right on them.

up up and away.

Much of the first half of the course is gentle climbing / traversing.  I had been a bit worried about my setup.  Seemed like a lot of folks had kicker skins or slightly beefier gear but the snow was ideal for grip with scales and the grade of the contour we were on was pretty much perfect.  A nice gentle climb in most spots and when it got steeper it was wide enough to herringbone for a bit if needed.  Even though the climbing was sustained it was sporty terrain with small little descents here and there.  For my alpine skiing friends it was just like traversing to a slackcountry glade for the first 4 miles or so haha.  I realize that partially sounds horrifying but I actually really enjoyed it.  It was challenging in spots on the lighter skis and kept things interesting.

fun undulating terrain

The terrain throughout was really amazing.  Textbook VT birch glades, cliff bands.  I really think that if you enjoy spending time in the woods and consider yourself a skier of any kind this is a must do event for any New Englander (or anyone for that matter).  Just about every part of the locale and event is classic New England winter recreation.

As we got around the north shoulder of the mountain the terrain got a bit less climby and more up and down as we wrapped around the east side and headed south.  Very fun short little descents and cruising traverses with small little climbs.  Perfect for metering your effort and getting short little rests in.  Mid point rest area was just after we crossed the Monroe Trail heading to Wind Gap.  Really spectacular views / terrain here.

heading into Wind Gap

Right after Wind Gap we even got treated to a small but legit alpine glade.  About 75ft wide, maybe 100 vertical feet or so.  Something I wouldn't have even thought about or really even noticed on my AT setup but navigating on my waxless setup was interesting.  I've gotten pretty comfortable on those skis but it certainly wasn't pretty in spots.  After that its one last gentle climb to gain a ridge and shoot through a saddle by Bald Hill and then its basically sustained descending all the way to the finish maybe 2-3 miles worth?  Super fun traversing, letting the skis run a bit.  Perfect way to end the day.

They had warm chicken noodle soup waiting for us, some excellent smoked ham, all kinds of cheese, apple cider.  I got a pint glass for my efforts as well as a really cool winter sports specific camelbak pack thanks to my generous family making me one of the top fundraisers.


Super excited I found this event and I highly recommend anyone / everyone check it out.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gluten Free Homebrew

For those who don't know yet I'm experimenting with a gluten free existence (well 90/10 give or take if I'm being realistic).  Decided to give it a try based on a bunch of articles I had read of folks suggesting eliminating gluten in an effort to reduce RA symptoms.

I had tried and tried to find every reason to explain RA away since I have been dealing with my myriad of joint issues.  But the issues that have persisted are some of the most classic early warning signs for RA and a whole lot about how my issues have behaved screams of RA.  Looks like a duck, sounds like a duck.

Once I had finally decided to except that there was a decent chance I was dealing with RA the research began.  HOW DO I FIGHT?  Western medicine chooses to go after the immune system with some nasty drugs that won't be finding their way anywhere near my body.  Luckily the internet had some better more natural strategies the most common of which was eliminating gluten from your diet.  So back in December of last year I went for it.

Long story short its been going well so far. I've gotten to experiment with some new foods and it hasn't been too much of a struggle.

I haven't been avoiding beer entirely of late but I have certainly cut back quite a bit.  I've never actually researched how much gluten remains in beer after it is brewed...I probably should.  But gluten free beers are becoming a thing as gluten free diets become more and more trendy so I figured what the hell I'll make a stab at one.

This is actually the first time I've put together a recipe / kit myself choosing my extract and the individual hops and when to add them etc.  I've always just followed directions given up until now.  New territory for me.  Could be disastrous.  Time will tell.

I haven't decided what to call this batch yet.  I almost feel since this is my first truly custom creation I'll need to wait and taste it first.  Here is what I ended up going with:

  • 6lbs White Sorghum Extract
  • 1oz Warrior (60mins)
  • 2oz Cascade (1oz at 15mins, 1oz at 5mins)
  • 1oz Sweet Orange Peel (5mins)
  • 1 cup Maple Syrup (0mins)
White Sorghum is the most common gluten free grain / extract to use with brewing.  At least from what I can tell based on availability.  When making the wort it had a 'unique' color and smell to it.  Not bad per se but different.  I went a bit heavy with higher alpha hops and tried to get strains that trend a bit citrusy.  I've read that sorghum can have a bit of an after taste and the best strategy is to try and hop it away, that is if you like hops.

I do, so I went with Warrior at 60mins to do the brunt of the bittering and then later additions of Cascade to round things out.  I also tried adding some sweet orange peel for some aroma and hopefully some masking of that aftertaste.  And just for shits and giggles a cup of Maple Syrup for a bit of color and body because #NEWENGLAND.  Also toying with adding some more syrup to secondary but that will be a game time decision.

My fingers are crossed.  I think the cards are stacked against me a bit with sorghum but hopefully its at least tolerable.  Maybe serve it with an orange slice you can bite on after each sip in case it really sucks haha.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Backcountry Recon Mission

This has been a long time coming.  Finally got out in my own 'backyard' to poke around a bit.  I'll probably be codifying this post.  No point in sending the entire internet to my backyard as it were.

I had a run in with a line that looked interesting this past summer and I had made a mental note to myself that I should probably come back and check that out in the winter.  Although I also noted the terrain seemed like it would need a decent amount of snow to fill in and really be safe and enjoyable to ride.  Queue Feb of 2015 and there is no longer a need to worry about snow depth.

This was a general recon mission with low expectations.  My main plan was to ride this line I had scoped out over the summer but there was some other stuff I wanted to get my eyes on as well.  I was solo so decision making was conservative and I was going to stick to the plan seeing as that line had the highest probability of actually being reasonable.

First part of the skin up is a real treat.  Perfect grades to get warmed up, the sun was out and its a good thing because it was pretty damn cold...again.  I spent most of the early skin up glancing into the woods trying to find those tell tale signs of tracks or slightly open sections of woods that might be rideable.  Before too long you get to see the lower sections of the line I was intending to ride and things looked good.  Deep, open and no one had touched it,.  This sort of surprised me seeing as the line is super obvious and reasonable to hike to.  I figured at least someone in the area would have ridden it since the last major snow fall.

I was taking a round about way to the summit so after seeing the lower parts of the line I traversed north a bit to where the path to the summit multiplies by 3.  I choose the Blue option because it heads over to a drainage that I had an inkling might be rideable.  There was only one track ahead of me and it looked to have been set before the last little accumulation we had.  Again this trail was great for skinning.  Even terrain with reasonable grades.  I was actually somewhat surprised I was able to skin all the way to the summit, I thought there might be a section or two that might require a bit of booting.

To my surprise the drainage actually looked pretty darn appealing.  Sporty but certainly doable, at least for as far as I could see.  But it didn't seem ideal to be heading off into the somewhat unknown solo so I stuck to my plan to stay a bit more centrally located on the mountain just in case.  I'll leave that for another day when I can talk someone into checking it out with me. Rest of the skin up the blue option to the BRT was good.

working my way across the ridge just below the summit

Navigating the ridge got a bit interesting in spots.  Wind was drifting the snow and obscuring the trail in spots.  I had a set of snowshoe tracks to follow but even those tracks disappeared at times due to wind.  I was eventually reminded not to just blindly follow tracks in front of you when navigating in the backcountry.  Remember kids just because someone has already gone that way doesn't mean that person wasn't a complete idiot heading in the complete wrong direction.  As I followed the tracks I began to notice (too late) that the brush around was getting tighter and tighter and then I realized I hadn't seen a blaze on a tree for awhile and BOOM off trail and wandering around. WEEEEEEEEEE

Luckily I've poked around this area in the summer a few times and my sense of direction is pretty good.  I cheated a bit and used Google Maps with the sat image overlay to verify I had the right bearing to hit the fire tower I was shooting for.  Turns out I had already gotten myself pointed right at it, just had another few hundred yards to go.

Temps warranted a quick transition (and little to no picture taking) and I got on my way.  The top section of the line was a bit tighter than I had been anticipating but still completely reasonable and actually down right enjoyable and it only got better as I went.  Little bit better than boot deep fluff with a nice smooth consolidated base underneath.  Good pitch, able to link turns without issue.  I couldn't really believe my luck.  For some reason I had completely prepared myself for a shit show of really sketchy skiing but this was downright shred.

Absolutely great the whole way down.  Intersected the lower skin line and most days I would probably have transitioned back over and gone to do that drainage.  But I had a plan and I nailed it so I figured I would scram and go get some other stuff done at the house.

Very likely this is going to be one of my new go-to spots.  Lots more potential in the area and close to home.  Lots more recon missions to come.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fat & Furious at Gunstock v2.0

More snow. More people. More course. More windchill.

Race number 2 in the Polartec series and the final weeknight race at Gunstock.  Word must have gotten out a bit from the last race because attendance was bumped up at least 20 or so riders I would say.  And that is despite it being quite a bit colder this time around.  Last race was maybe 20+ degrees, no wind...last night was maybe single digits with a nice solid breeze making things pretty damn RAW.

I think I layered about right but trying to do relatively intensive cardio "comfortably" in single digit temps is a pretty tough nut to crack.  We hid out in the warming hut until the start.  Things got pretty hilarious within the first 30 secs.  I was lined up next to Eric from Chainline and got a slight jump on him in the initial scrum.  But then he screamed #braaaap! and tried to shoot a gap to my left.  He pretty much made it but clipped my bar mitt going by sending me into a pretty sweet tokyo drift.  I was able to steer into it and eventually got sorted without going down.

Turns out it was a fortunate mishap because about 200 yds later there was a carnage pileup just after a 90 degree right hander at the bottom of a hill.  Very likely I would have been right in the middle of it had it not been for my earlier dust up.  Thanks Eric!  Got around the tangled bodies and bikes and got to freezing my ass off.  Caught and came by Eric early on the first climb.  Thought about returning the favor but figured luck would have me going down as well and it was far too cold for too many shenanigans.

Lap was longer this time around.  They sent us a bit farther out and increased the length of the climbing.  There was even a hike a bike section that was just a bit too steep to ride seated and traction did not support out of the saddle hammering.  Pushing a 35-40lb bike up a snowy slope in bike shoes is really fun!  Luckily it was just a short little headwall.

Descent on the course was rolling and fun but COOOOOLD.  There was one section I was actually getting caught on because I was just rolling it while others were hammering.  I didn't feel like creating any more of my own windchill and I was usually catching those guys back on the climbs anyway.

No clue where I was again this time around.  Felt like top 10ish after the start.  There was a bit less lapping this time around due to the longer lap.  A bit after the halfway mark I was having issues with my right foot.  For some reason my left foot was completely fine but my right was a brick.  Completely numb.  My hands had a rough patch early but came back around as I warmed up.  I was lapping through at one point and for some reason I had it in my head that there would likely be 2 laps left.  There were 4.

No idea why I was that far off in my head I could see the time on my Garmin and knew how much was left.  Temps must have been affecting my math skills...or maybe I was suffering from HACE. Either way this was a pretty decent mental blow.  I was getting a bit worried about the thaw out horror show I was going to have with my foot and I even thought my face might be at risk as the temps dropped and wind picked up.  Wasn't sure I had 4 more laps in me.  I kept at it, I was still feeling ok from a power standpoint and I wanted to get a good effort in.

I was coming into 2 to go and feeling pretty certain I was going to call it and head to the warming hut.  But lucky for me I had been caught and lapped by the top 2-3 guys on that lap and I was no longer on the lead lap.  I was still thinking about just calling it and getting some hot cocoa but when I came through they yelled one to go! and quitting with one lap to go just seemed silly.  Kinda funny looking at my lap times my last lap was about 30sec faster than my second to last lap and was I think my 4th fastest lap overall.

Finished up in ?th place and then tried not to puke while thawing out. GOOD TIMES.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Doublehead: Round 2

Winter seems to have finally arrived in New England.  At least as far as snow cover goes.  We are now clear of #Blizzard2015 and another sleeper event a few days later that dropped a decent amount across NH.  As is usually the case after a few days like that Bill reached out looking to get into the BC somewhere.

We were both looking for somewhat of an easier shakedown tour.  We were both on new setups for the first time and also both looking at our first days skinning for the year.  Always nice to ease into it and we were looking at forecasts for some brutally cold temps and wind on the day.

We decided on getting the Doublehead ski trail, an old CCC trail we had both done together back in 2009 (has it really been that long?!). We were both pretty green in the backcountry game back then.  It is really fun to look back on that post to see what I packed and how silly of an endeavor that was compared to how easy and straight forward our second attempt was.

view of Washington from N. Doublehead

The snow was good albeit a bit tracked out. We got there pretty early but Doublehead is a popular spot being right in Jackson and being a somewhat easier run it caters to a wide range of folks.  We were probably 3rd or 4th up.  Skin up was nice.  Certainly way better than hauling all your gear with snowshoes.  New skins were great, lots of grab although I think my G3's had way better glide but that might have been partially due to the days snow conditions.  I'm not a huge fan of the tail clip.  I was worried about them after trimming the skins and I definitely had a fun time trying to get them off with cold hands on the transition at the top.  Not horrible but way trickier than my old G3's and on a day like yesterday a few extra mins struggling with a tail clip can mean you get pretty damn cold.

double fall line!

you'd think it was nice and warm. you'd be wrong.

Hi Mom!

I actually got the layering just about right and was able to regulate my temp by keeping my pace reasonable and shedding mittens and unzipping halfway up.  Other than the tail clips I was able to actually transition pretty quickly.  Somewhat surprising since I am usually pretty rusty first time around and bumble with my skins.  I guess crazy cold temps and wind can get you focused a bit on being quick and efficient.

Ski down was great.  Its a fun trail, uses the terrain well and is decently steep in spots.  Keeps things interesting and is just long enough to feel worth it and get a nice burn going.  Couldn't have asked for a better shakedown.  Just enough to test gear and fitness but not leave me shredded.  More snow in the forecast tonight into tomorrow. Looking good for more days like this one in the near future.