Saturday, September 1, 2018

Winning August

August, how I loathe thee.  Smoky, hot, lazy, unmotivated: too far from the end of last ski season and too far from the beginning of next ski season.  Traditionally it's the month where I lose interest in everything and just give up, vowing to do better in September.

But not this year!  This year I managed to win August, to keep moving, in one way or another, just about all month.  With the exception of that one super smoky stretch of days, I continued to bike to work, I roller skied in Discovery Park after work and the Centennial Trail on the weekend, I ran stairs at Discovery Park and hiked at Cougar Mountain, I lifted weights in the free gym, and I kept up the bounding women workouts every other week.  One week Suzanne and I were the only ones, and that worked out great, and the other week we were lucky to have Per as our substitute coach.  That was really fun: I haven't worked out with him since our Tiger Mountain Wednesday night workouts some years ago, so it was fun to join him on the trails again.  His workout was mellower than the one Ozzie puts us through, and had a different purpose, so it was a nice break from the usual.   But the important thing for me, the queen of inconsistency, was that I've made it to every one of our bounding women workouts so far, and I think that mental focus has contributed to my continuing to work out through my least favorite month of the year.  I come to the end of the month fitter and stronger than I normally am at this time of the year, and that's a win!

But now, ahh, it's September 1, the meteorological first day of fall, with winter starting to look real.  The weather experts promise us that we're past the smoky hot days, it's a little chillier in the morning (and yesterday it RAINED!), and the leaves are starting to turn.  It's time for the long pants and heavier tops for the bike to work; it's time to charge up the headlamps.  It's getting darker noticeably earlier, so that means it's time to adjust the workouts.  This week I didn't have enough daylight by the time I left work to do the Discovery Park stairs, so instead I reacquainted myself with the Stairs from Hell at 85th Street in Ballard.  Eighty steps total, and I had forgotten how steep and hard these bad boys are!

I managed to eke out five repeats, and by the last one, I had to pull myself up the last few steps with the handrail.  A good time to stop, but this is one awesome workout, and I'll keep at it until that one gets too dark, too.  And then I'll switch it up again; one of my favorite things about loving outdoor sports is being out in the changing weather and the changing seasons all year 'round, always keeping things fresh and fun ... even if August can be a struggle.

Goodbye, August.  Hello, September!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Smoke Alarm

So I was called for federal jury duty -- yuck -- and I arranged for the full week off from work.   Then I was excused before the week even started -- yay! -- but I still had the full week of freedom, so I thought, training camp!  I was envisioning roller skiing and trail running and bounding and biking and all kinds of good stuff, here at the tail end of summer.

But then this happened:

We had some smoky days in the previous weeks, when I still managed to bike to work but cut out the heavy-breathing intervals.  This, however, was a whole 'nother category of smoke: wildfires all around us, with a high pressure cap over the area holding in the oppressive heat and blocking the winds.  It was just plain nasty, and officially "hazardous," officially the worst air in the country and among the worst in the world (after Mumbai, for heaven's sake), officially the worst in the century, so the plans for training camp went away.

Instead, I made up a new project: trying a different coffee shop every day!  I had so many on my list that I wanted to try that some days I had two lattes, in different places -- poor me!  It was so much fun, and a great chance to spend some leisurely mornings with friends I don't see often enough.  When you're not racing back to work, and you have a delicious steaming cup of coffee in front of you, great conversations have time to meander and develop, interesting ideas come to the fore, new ways of looking at life can percolate.  I ordered the same drink everywhere I went, in the interest of science, and had some mediocre coffee, some very good coffee, and some really outstanding coffee, and I found that most baristas, like any serious craftsman, are more than ready to talk about their craft -- I learned so much about this new world of coffee!

But now I'm ready to go back to work and to get back on the training wagon.  That was a super fun week, smoke and all, but winter is a little bit closer and more hard work needs to be done.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Habit Forming

I have plenty of weaknesses when it comes to trying to be a real skier, and lack of consistency in training is one of them.  I'm working on that this year, and one way that's working out great is the regularly scheduled, every-two-weeks Bounding Women workout.  Yesterday was toasty again, and I would have hunkered down in my cool dark house reading all day ... EXCEPT that I knew Coach Ozzie and maybe some bounding women would be waiting for me at the cabin!  So I filled up my water bottles and headed to the sunny hot mountains.

And it was a scorcher.  There were three of us Suffer Sisters, along with Ozzie, and we gamely tackled the uphills and downhills of the Cabin Creek trails.  Ozzie was merciful to us and skipped the trip around Ozbaldy -- it was just too damn hot -- but we did do one of the other hills twice to compensate.  He noticed at one point that we were slacking off in the heat, our bounding wilting into a shuffle, so he stopped us and gave us another demo of proper bounding technique.  I'm finding that bounding alongside him, trying to match his stride and cadence, is immensely helpful.  "If you can see it, you can do it."  Somehow, knowing that your friends are sharing your pain makes it easier and for sure more fun; as always, I am so grateful that people will come and do this workout with me, even in these ridiculous conditions!  Plus, the wild strawberries are almost ready!

Today was even hotter and the sky was smoky with forest fires.  I wasted valuable relatively-cool hours this morning debating with myself about whether I deserved a rest day, whether it was seriously too hot to be outside, whether, in my infinitesimally small bit of the vast uncaring universe, it even mattered existentially if I roller skied or not.  Then the other part of my brain reminded me that I'm trying to build a habit of consistency, of getting out there every day, that ski season is only five months away and my competition is probably training today, and that the day was only getting hotter, not cooler, the longer I dilly-dallied.

So I got in my car and headed north, to the Centennial Trail.  I called it a win just to get in my car and drive away, I gave myself bonus points for actually parking my car at the trailhead and putting on my boots and skis, and I showered praise on myself for skiing away from my car and down the oven-temperature asphalt.  Today, I decided, was not a day for strength or intensity -- way too hot for that.  It was a day for slowing things down and focusing on technique: weight transfer, driving forward with the driving leg, reaching for another inch or two with each stride, as Ozzie told us yesterday.  I told myself I'd be happy with five repeats of the gentle hill, and after I did five and hadn't died of heat stroke, I thought I could do one more. Six.  Could I do seven?  I could, and I did.  One more?  Yes.  Nine?  Yes.  Ten?  Oh yes, but then my water bottle was dry and my brain was bubbling in my helmet, so I stopped and slowly rolled back to my car and the shady tree I parked under and the cold thermos of Nuun waiting for me.

A tough weekend, but the training habit is just a little more firmly in place, winter is another week closer, and I am hugely satisfied as I head back into the work week.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Scorcher Torture

Skiers are made in the summer, the smart money tells us, but summer is also when it's, you know, hot.  I am not a lover of heat (by which I mean anything over about 70 degrees).  No, I'm with Jeff Cox when he says:
"So bring it on, baby.  Give me the blues, make 'em bitter, make 'em sweet.  Let the cold wind blow.  Make it sting."
But winter doesn't care about my whining and complaining.  Winter says, I'm coming, crybaby, ready or not, and I'm going to be a lot more fun if you're ready.  So I fill up my water bottles with ice, dig out my sunglasses and SPF 50, and head up to the mountains.

Saturday: another Women Who Bound workout at Cabin Creek.  Six of us this time (including a couple of new faces, which is always fun) and Coach Ozzie.  There are so many things I love about this workout: I love having the trails all to ourselves instead of dodging hordes of hikers; I love seeing my friends pour themselves into the effort, working hard but still laughing and joking; I love getting to spend the morning with Coach Ozzie.  I love the trees, the birds, the trail, the cabin, the sweat dripping sunscreen into my eyes.  I'm proud of my Bounding Women; it's a long drive and a hard workout, and yet, there we are, laughing and sweating and bounding and moose-hoofing and checking heart rates and comparing training stories.  It's so good.

Sunday: back to the Denny Creek/Snoqualmie Summit loop with my roller skis.  This time, instead of the Tall Boyz, I had the Elite Boy, elite Birkie waver Chris Q, as my training partner, and Mandy Q as domestique.  Our plan was to meet at the summit gas station to organize bikes and cars, but I was a little ahead of the Qs, so rather than making them come all that way to get me, only to turn around and head back to Denny Creek, they headed straight for the start of the loop and I loaded my roller skis into my Birkie pack, strapped my poles to my bike, and rode down to meet them.

I told myself I would only do one loop if it was too hot, and it was too hot by any definition of the word: in the 80s when we started, and poking at mid-90s by the second loop.  But I brought lots of water this time, and in my first loop, I stopped often to drink; my goal was to get to the top with an empty water bottle, and I did!

Mandy Q photo
Mandy was biking with me as I worked my way up the switchbacks, which was such a welcome diversion, and I told her I thought I was going to live and I was willing to tackle a second loop.  So she texted ahead to Chris, who was waiting at the car, and said I was coming back down, too.

We piled ourselves and our equipment, including Mandy's bike, into the car and headed back down to the bottom, then turned around and started back up again.  Definitely hotter, definitely less shade, but I had guzzled a full bottle of cold Nuun on the way down and I was feeling ready for the challenge!  I finished another whole bottle of water on the second loop back up.

Chris started his loop at the Denny Creek exit; I started about a mile up the road, where it begins to be steadily uphill, and made a game of seeing how long I could stay ahead of him (and still keep stopping to drink water).  He and Mandy caught me at the top of the switchbacks, not far from the top, and with an encouraging "We're almost there, Debbie!" from the Qs, we finished it off.  Toys back in the car again, we drove the remaining little bit to the food truck for lunch and conversation in the beautiful delicious I-could-kiss-you shade.

Then it was time to head home.  My bike was locked to the guardrail at our starting point, so I stopped there to pick it up and I was done.  Cooked.  Smoked.  Broiled, but happy with the effort, and another wave at winter, not that far away.  I'm whining, but I'm doing it.  Now if I can only keep doing it through the next two hot months!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Up the Mountain with the Tall Boyz

Roller skiing on the old highway from Denny Creek to Snoqualmie Summit is a Kongsberger training staple, done by many members over the years.  I did it with Rune a couple of years ago and thought it was so amazing -- we roller skied up the mountain! -- that I really wanted to do it again.  So this is the year:  I put out the call to the membership list last week and got two takers.  Well, because they're both scientists, I didn't get a firm affirmative -- there are always more data to consider!  Jonathan, with a new baby at home, said there was a non-zero chance that he could come, and Tim, with a proposal to write, said there was a 75% chance that he could come.  Being a glass-half-full kind of girl, I took those as yeses and began to plan.

To maximize flexibility, we each brought our own car, rather than car-pooling, and Jonathan and I, planning to do two laps, brought our bikes.  Tim had to get back to work after one lap, so our plan was to make sure his car was one of the ones left at the top.  We met at the gas station at the summit, a perfect meeting spot because there's plenty of parking and ... a food truck!  We left my car, Tim's car, and both bikes at the gas station, then loaded roller skis and poles and helmets and water bottles into Jonathan's car and drove down to the bottom.

We parked in a pull-out on the side of the road, just past the wooden bridge.  Jonathan's dad was there, too, and left his motor scooter in case we needed an extra shuttle.  He brought his bike and was planning to do some exploring around the summit.

So we unloaded, took pictures, and started up the mountain.  The road is perfect, smoothly paved, winding through the forest and then switchbacking up to the top, but it is relentlessly uphill, and the switchbacks, when you leave the forest, are smack out there in the sun.  When I did this with Rune a couple of years ago, it was September and I bet we saw one car all day.  This time, surprisingly, there was a steady stream of traffic all day; the cars weren't going fast and they were very patient with us, but there were a lot of them, probably because it was a gorgeous sunny day and there are multiple trailheads along that road, but also probably because of the  big construction-related traffic jams on the west side of the pass.  We figured people who knew about this road were diverting off the freeway.

No matter; we were out for a workout and we definitely got it!  Did I mention already the relentless uphill and bright sun?

Jonathan on the upper switchback, Tim and I far below on the lower switchback

Just before we got to the top, a line of cyclists passed us, on their way to riding 110 miles!  Chris was in the group and stopped to chat; that's him in the bright green helmet.

For the first lap I made the mistake of trying to keep up with the Tall Boyz, who are a lot stronger than I am.

Such an unattractive place for a workout; wouldn't you rather be in the gym? 

I skied too hard and didn't drink enough, and got to the top pretty dehydrated and overheated, but still jubilant at making it to the summit!  We said our goodbyes to Tim, then Jonathan and I got ready to bike our skis back down to the bottom.  Jonathan was on skating skis, which are a little shorter and fit nicely on the rack on the back of his bike.

My classic skis were a little longer, but fit perfectly into my official Birkie pack, which seemed kind of appropriate!

We strapped our poles to our bikes and rode back down in our ski boots, which was a little bit tenuous but worked out okay.  I couldn't even imagine a more gorgeous route for our two-sport workout; it was just such a pure pleasure!

And it was so fun to ride down with Jonathan.  Secret talent: he knows rocks and can identify bird songs!  The thrushes were singing their little hearts out, loving the beautiful day as much as we were.

Back down at the bottom, we locked our bikes to Jonathan's car and started back up again.  I knew there was no way I could keep speedy Jonathan in sight, so I told him to go on ahead and I'd meet him at the food truck.  I slowed way down for the second lap, stopping often to take a drink and even pour a little water down my back.  I'm not gonna lie; those switchbacks were tough the second time!  I skied from tiny shady spot to tiny shady spot, taking a short break each time I could get out of the sun.  The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River parallels most of the road, and there were places where the soft cool breeze coming off the river probably saved my life!

But I made it!  Sort of.  At the summit, with literally my last stride and my last smidgen of energy, I hit a rock with my roller ski and came crashing down, scuffing up my knee and startling the couple climbing out of their RV right there.  They looked at me in curiosity and asked if I was okay; I couldn't stop laughing and said, I'm just. so. tired!  I saw Jonathan across the street at the food truck giving me the thumbs up, so I waved back, gathered up my stuff, and staggered across the street.  Getting to the food truck became my only goal in life, and when I got there, I found that Jonathan's father had bought me some chicken tacos that were so insanely deliciously just what I needed that I could have wept with gratitude, except that I was so dehydrated.  I inhaled them both in approximately ten seconds.  Best tacos I've ever had.

So we sat in the shade and ate and drank and told stories and recovered; what an absolutely marvelous afternoon!  Finally, it was time to pack up and go home, already thinking about when we can go again!

Notes for when we go again:

Safety: blinking lights are required.  Jonathan and I both had them; Tim did not, and he was pretty much invisible in the shade/sun/shade/sun kaleidoscope on the road.

Pacing: it's pretty steadily uphill the whole way.  Pace yourself, and don't forget to look at that spectacular mountain scenery.

Refreshments: bring water.  Lots of water.  A nice bottle of Nuun chilling in the river would have been very welcome after the first lap and before we began the second!  And for apres-ski, food truck.  So good.  Food truck.  Yes.

Many thanks to the Tall Boyz for this wonderful adventure, and to Jonathan for all of the photos except the one at the top, which Tim took.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Women Who Bound -- Off and Running!

Bounding and moose-hoofing are good ways to train for the ski season (which is, ahem, only six months away), and doing it with your friends on actual ski trails is even better, and doing it with your friends on actual ski trails with the one and only Ozzie Nordheim as coach and visual inspiration is, simply, The. Best.

Going to MWC in Minneapolis in January was mind-blowing in multiple ways, but one of the big ones was seeing women in their 50s and 60s and 70s who were strong and competitive and fantastic racers, and thinking, I want to be one of them!  Suzanne and I talked about this, and about how to encourage more women in our club to line up at the start line of races.  If you look at KSC race results, you see that the number of women's names is a fraction of the number of men's names, even though there are plenty of women in the club.

So we decided to organize a women's bounding workout, figuring that if you see it, you can be it, and if you train for it, you can do it.  Today was the first installment, and people, we had so much fun!  There were six of us, along with Coach Ozzie, of varying levels of fitness and varying levels of experience, out for some solid training on a spectacularly fresh and cool Saturday morning in June.

Thanks for the photo, Carol!
We met at the cabin at 10:00, made introductions all around, filled up our water bottles, and headed for the trails.  Ozzie had scoped out a variation on the Berg/Viking/Ozbaldy loops that maximized the number of uphills -- some short and steep, some longer and less steep, some relentless (hello, Ozbaldy!), but a perfect variety that exactly duplicated our race course because, of course, it was our race course!

For this first workout, there was plenty of stopping to talk about race strategy and technique, plus lots of laughter and chatter, and best of all, demonstrations of proper bounding technique from the master, Ozzie, who has been racing and instructing for more than 70 years!

After we finished, we headed into the cabin for lunch and spirited conversations about heart rate monitors and training ideas and vacation plans.  It was a most splendid day, and we'd love to see more women come and join us next time!  We're going to do this every second and fourth Saturday of the month until the snow comes, meeting at 10:00 at the cabin.  People will come and go as their summer schedules allow, but that is the plan, and based on how it went today, I'm thinking there could be some strong women on the start lines next winter!  Maybe you're one of them?  Come and bound with us!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Why We Do It; How We Do It

Anyone who has been paying attention to the skiing world knows what we're supposed to do to train: easy distance, intensity, strength.  But sometimes we might wonder, why?  What is the benefit of each type of training?  Lucky for us, US Ski Team coach Jason Cork suffered through a running race recently and afterward spelled out exactly what he lacked by being undertrained:

  • I hadn't been doing a lot of easy volume (necessary for physiological adaptations which allow a person to exercise easily for long periods of time)
  • I hadn't done any intervals (necessary to build the capacity to move quickly; to minimize physical stress while doing so; and to build some economy of movement)
  • I hadn't been doing strength (helpful when you are climbing uphill and hopping between boulders)
So yes, the big three, in varying ratios of importance depending on whom you ask.  Traditionally you've wanted to do mostly easy distance, with small amounts of intensity, but a more recent school of thought says, yeah, that's all well and good if you're a young strong national team member whose job is to train, but those of us who are more seasoned, shall we say, and don't have unlimited time are better served with larger doses of intensity training.

I like that; I think intervals are fun!  So as the summer begins and next winter looms not all that far away, with big plans (again) for the ski season, I work on figuring out a training plan that works for me, that's possible in my own life.  My biggest limiter, besides the fact that I'm lazy as can be, is that I don't want to drive to work; I don't want to pollute the planet any more than I have to, I don't want to pay for parking, and I don't want to sit in Seattle's ridiculous traffic.  So I can take the bus or ride my bike.

Biking is terrific and I love it, especially when this is the kind of thing I see on my ride home:

And on days when I'm stuck at work late into the evening, it's nice to know that I still have an hour bike ride ahead of me to get home, so I'm going to get that workout in whether I want to or not!  But I learned in previous years that a training diet of just biking is great for cardiovascular improvement, but not so much for strengthening the legs, and specifically those little lower leg and foot muscles that you need for classic skiing, and the arms, which also come in handy for skiing.  So biking yes, but not every day.

Taking the bus a couple of days a week is the other option, and the only problem with that is that once I get all the way home, I'm not motivated enough to turn around and head back out for a workout.  But yay for me, I figured out a perfect solution!  I drive my car to the Ballard Bridge, park for free on a side street, take the express bus downtown, work work work, take the express bus back to the bridge, and there is my little car, waiting to take me just a ten-minute drive to Discovery Park, where an evening of roller skiing or stair running awaits before I ever go home.  I'm so happy with this solution!

And somehow, through an amazing alignment of the stars, everything came together last week.  I biked to work three days, and on one of those I stopped off at the free gym in my office building for a solid 45 minutes of lifting heavy things and putting them back down before I rode home.  The other two workdays I did the drive/bus/drive/Discovery Park thing and ran the beach stairs one evening and roller skied hill repeats one evening, squeezing in one more just before dark.

The weekends are easy: one day I roller skied on the Centennial Trail, a fun combination of double poling and uphill striding, and the other day I headed to Cougar Mountain for some easy distance on the bright spring-green trails.

It was a perfect week, a perfect mix of volume, intensity, strength, biking and hiking and rolling.  The odds of being able to pull this off week after week, all summer long, are pretty slim, but man, if I could, a serious fitness base would be built and the ski season would be a whole lot more fun.  At least now I know it's possible; I know how to do it.  Many things can get in the way, but ... why not give it my best shot?