Monday, February 25, 2013

Skiing!....In Trees!

The stars are finally aligning for what looks like a pretty decent tail end to this winter season.  We've finally been able to string together some consistent precip with some consistent temps and this weekend marks the first time I've been able to really ski Cannon in probably a little over a year.

Saturday was a bit strange weather wise in the Notch.  Gorgeous at the base. Sun was out, temps were mild.  Climb 1000 vertical feet and you've got dense freezing fog, 20-30mph south know the usual.  The snow was still pretty good and holding up to the traffic well.  Jim and I got to some early recon seeing what wooded lines were in and what needed a bit more coverage.

Obvious wooded lines were already played out but the coverage was good enough to still ski them without much issue.  Other lines with a bit more junk could still use another shot of snow but a handful were riding just about as good as they usually do.  It was great to finally duck in and have at it.  I felt like my 'glade eyes' came back fast this year and I was linking things fine in the tight stuff before too long.

Mittersill was scraped pretty clean but I found a line or two that was still a bit fluffy.  I bet Sunday was pretty nice over there early but it doesn't last long with that chair running nowadays.  Luckily even the slackcountry has slackcountry up in the Notch and Shaun and I decided to try our luck Sunday finding the goods.

Goods = Found

Looking up at our prize

Find them we did and we found them first.  An easy 4-5in had fallen at elevation overnight (on top of everything else we got during the week) and it was still snowing at a good clip on the skin in and during most of the day.  No one had been in here since the latest round of precip so we were looking at at least a foot of untouched.

The initial skin in is nice and gentle, perfect to get warmed up.  Its followed by some sporty terrain for a bit that required us to boot up a pitch until we could contour around again to our target.  Skinning up the actual line was a bit tricky but we got a track set that was workable.  Its a fun little run; decent pitch, stuff to jib off of a bit.  It would be nicer if it was a bit longer but the top of the line gets pretty choked out as it heads up to the ridge so we actually didn't skin all the way to the top.  There is an obvious stop point for the best part of the line where we transitioned.  From there its probably a couple hundred yards of fun...rinse and repeat.

 Shaun dropping in on lap 3

We got 3 laps in before heading out.  We were starting to feel the up by then and had gotten the best of the snow on the line itself.  The out was surprisingly fun even though it is a bit more low angle.  All in all probably one of the most successful days I've had in the backcountry.  Simple plan, executed without issue in great conditions.  Forecast for the next few looks pretty decent, hopefully the temps stay where they need to up north...

Monday, February 11, 2013


I'm tired.

Luckily this storm wasn't all NWS hype and it did indeed deliver as advertised.  All said and done we probably got just under 2ft at the house.  I was staged and ready, took Friday off and was outside enjoying the actual arrival of winter from Friday morning straight through to Sunday afternoon.

Friday/Saturday at Cannon was interesting.  Storm skiing through and through.  Friday things were just getting going but it was already snowing and blowing real hard in the Notch.  Just about whiteout conditions and pretty damn cold.  It was blowing hard enough to keep the conditions on the variable side.  The snow was having a hard time accumulating on the trails with all the wind.  I had a sweet run in with a pre-teen who either had a seizure or just randomly decided to shoot erratically to his left just as I was coming by him on the dump out from Spooky creating a need for some evasive action.  Lucky for him I'm real good at evasive action so no collision but I did hit a junk bump right after that my weight was no longer properly distributed for and I had a pretty sweet little explosion.  All in a days work.

Got up real early Saturday to dig out to get to Cannon for first chair.  I lucked out and both Meredith and Sanbornton plowed right before I left and the drive was actually really easy considering this was one of the biggest storms of the last few years.  Oh, and snow tires are AWESOME.  I highly recommend Conti ExtremeWinterContacts.  There is no stopping the Fit.  Saturday was one of the deeper days I've had at Cannon over the last 5 years or so but good god did it hurt.  I don't think temps got over 15 up there and the wind was howling all day so wind chills were easily below 0.  We went to the top once and that was one time too many.  Immediately went deep freeze riding the cannonball and we all got frostbite on our noses and cheeks on the way down and had to stop in the Peabody for coffee to get everything warmed back up.  After that we stuck a bit lower and lapped the Front and some of the sheltered lines off the Peabody.  Unfortunately the woods are not in play up there yet.  There was enough snow from this dump but just no base and too many of the lines still had all kinds of garbage showing.  It was a good day but the temps and lack of wooded action made it hard to fully enjoy.

Sunday was the pick of the weekend IMO.  Snow was a bit more played out but the weather was perfect.  Shaun had been stuck in Boston for Saturday but was itching to get out on his new AT setup so we decided to check out Cardigan and Clint tacked on as well.  Lots of other people had the same idea.  Tons of cars in the parking lot.  We ended up seeing quite a few other people I knew.  Apparently I've been recreating in this area long enough to know about 30% of the people who would show up on a day like this.

AMC Lodge

We stuck to the plan of ascending Holt/Clark trails to PJ Ledge and then we decided to go a bit higher to see how the summit looked.

 Shaun sweating to the oldies

view from PJ Ledge

Shaun got a pretty sweet trial by fire as there are a few tricky spots and some technical skinning as you get higher.  He got all the good stuff; cross fall line, steep switchbacks, thin cover on slab, the WORKS.  The summit was pretty wind scoured but it looked at least marginally workable so we continued up a bit to a little sheltered spot about 1/4 of the way past tree line to transition and get some calories.

Summit conditions

You definitely had to 'think light' on the way down and we probably all did at least a little bit of damage to edges and bases but nothing catastrophic and I would say worth it overall for the views, etc.  I made it down to slab on one turn and slid out and basically elbow dropped granite which was awesome.  Once we got down to the Alexandria ski trail the fun really began.  It really is a classic CCC ski trail. Really fun terrain, good pitch and the snow had held up great from Saturday's traffic.

After Alexandria we made the short skin over to Kimball's to take that back down to the base.  It was strangely very wind affected even though it is lower down and very sheltered and wooded.  Its a fun lower angle run.  About half way down I tried to plow through a wind drift that turned out to be a bit deeper and more dense than I thought it would be leading to full on somersault antics.  Great way to end the day.

I really hope we can end this winter with a bit more legit winter weather and lots more recreation opportunities like this weekend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Race Plans for 2013

I've gotten into the habit of doing a 'road map' post for the coming race season and its about that time of year.  Our winter has unfortunately stalled again this season and I find myself thinking a bit more about what I want to try and get done on the bike this year.  Training is getting a bit more structured / painful so here we gooooo.

I had a great season last year and I am very keen to continue to build on that trend.  I am training more efficiently with the time I have now but so far I am probably a bit behind where I was at this time last year.  No matter how motivated you are its just so much easier to train hard when you have someone organizing everything and telling you 10 more or 30 more seconds when you think you are cooked.

The last few years I have tried to add something new to me in some way each season to mix things up and push the boundaries a bit.  The EFTA series is great and there are a few that I will probably never miss, unless there is a tornado or flooding, but the amount of traveling required to get the entire series with the increased costs of travel nowadays makes some of the races hard to justify.  Lately I've been feeling that if I'm going to be traveling in the 2+hrs range then the race should probably be over 30mi.  That eliminates I believe 3 of the NECS races this year but luckily for me most are about 1.5hrs or less away (benefit of living in about the center of New England)

For 2013 I have decided I want to try and fill the gap those 3 races are leaving with some longer endurance stuff.  I tried this several years ago with lackluster results but that was several years ago and I am a much stronger rider now than I was then.  I think some of my best results from 2012 were in the NH100 and the Bradbury12 and I probably could have done even better in the 100 if I hadn't lost a cleat 3/4 of the way home.  I am beginning to feel like I am solidly in the 'law of diminishing returns' zone and nearing the ceiling of my VO2max genetic capacity when it comes to really sharp high end fitness.  I spend about as much time training as I am prepared to, I've been at this 'full time' for 6-7yrs now and I'm not sure how much faster I can get in a XC format race.  Its not that I think I can't get any faster in XC but I feel like I have more room to improve at the more slow burn / prolonged suffering events.

Over the last 4 years I have gone from 'I don't know if I can even do this' to being comfortable enough to really push and race these events and I feel like my results in these events are getting closer to folks who typically dust me at XC distances.  So now I want to see how far down this rabbit hole I can go.  Based on what I'm seeing now I don't think its outlandish to say I could be up with the geared expert riders in the 100K or 12hrs in a year or two or maybe completing a hundred miler if I do this right.  We'll see.

Tentative 2013 Schedule:

5/11 - Wildcat 100(km)
5/19 - Willowdale (? EFTA doesn't have this date in stone yet)
6/9 - American Cancer Society Charity Century (maybe)
6/16 - The Pinnacle
6/21 - NEMBAfest
7/7 - Moody Park
7/21 - Horror at Harding Hill
7/28 - Millstone 12
8/4 - VT Ski Museum Epic
8/18 - NH100(km)
9/? - Bradbury12
10/? - Gordon Barker No Brakes

No idea if I can make all that happen or even afford all that.  I've got 4 longer format races spread across the summer.  Need to decide how I will race the 12hr events (solo / team) but I think this is a pretty good mix.  Still maybe get in 5 EFTA races as well as some other events here and there.  Now that this is written down it seems a bit ambitious...I still need to build singletrack in Central NH, ride for fun, enjoy a cocktail or two, be a homeowner and all that other life stuff.  We'll see if I can get it all done.