Saturday, December 9, 2017

Adrenalina!

"Have these guys figured out that, when you and your fellow competitors have given it all you've got and the finish line nears, it feels better to celebrate the effort than to digitize the outcome?"
One of the coolest things, for my money, about belonging to a club centered around a particular activity -- say, cross country skiing -- is discovering that fellow club members have other sides to their lives that I don't know anything about.  Take Ian Whyte, for example.  You've seen him on the ski trails and at the races, Ian with the flowing silver mane.  But I bet you didn't know that, in a parallel universe, he's actually a distance skateboard racer.  I didn't even know there was such a thing, but there is, and he's damn good at it: first in his age group in the International Distance Skateboarding Association rankings last year, fourth this year but aiming for first again next year with some improvements in equipment and technique.  Finding out about this is so much fun!

Turns out the biggest distance skateboarding race of the year is called Adrenalina, held in San Diego. Ian was there racing and sends us this awesome report: a peek at a piece of the world of sports that we're probably not familiar with, a chance to broaden our view and taste something new.  Thanks, Ian, for the report!

Adrenalina, the First Time
Ian Whyte
swellandsnow@gmail.com

Photo: Kevin Kennedy


Adrenalina. The last couple of years, my friend Smooth Phil starts asking me if I’m going to do it almost as soon as the season’s last Pacific Northwest Long Distance Push (LDP) skateboarding race is over. What’s an Adrenalina? This year, I’m going to find out.

One thing I do know is that Adrenalina is a marathon, which means that if I’m going to do it I’ve got to figure out how to do this pumping thing that has enabled Sandbagger James to thrash me all season. So I call the guy from the board company-which-will-remain-nameless and ask him if the company can get behind getting me set up with a hybrid push-pump board in time for me to train on it a couple weeks before riding it at Adrenalina. He checks with the board-maker and they say right-on; yet, somehowever, my departure for San Diego comes and I go without said board ever materializing. Fortunately for me, Pablo, the organizer of Adrenalina, turns out to be both the owner of Adrenalina Skate Shop in La Jolla and one of the warmest, friendliest, most accommodating and empathetic dudes ever. On Thursday before the Saturday race, he sets me up with a board and bushings that will work with the trucks I bought for the board that never arrived from the unnamed company. After a poke (the Hawaiian tuna and avocado poke, I mean) from the restaurant down La Jolla Boulevard, I am on my way to Fiesta Island, home of Adrenalina, the Skateboard Marathon.

The Marathon is six laps around the island. I push off on my new board and it’s cool, and it pumps, but, man, I’m so much higher off the ground than I’m used to being. I cruise a couple of laid-back laps, but I wonder about the effect on my back of the added height during higher-speed pushing over six laps.

(Here I pay homage to my 11-year old rider son, who is not here because he will keep goal for his soccer team back in Seattle later the next day, and share with you, likely against your will, that my fear, with respect to the additional height of the new deck, is that the other shoe might drop. Drop. Get it? Sorry. And, actually, I was making Dad jokes long before I became a Dad.)

Friday, I roll back out to the shop. It’s packed today, riders from all over the world are rolling in to pick up their race stuff. Somehow, Pablo and his colleagues Henry and Ben find a way to get me on a deck that will get me a little lower, a Gravity deck with cool wave graphics. Not that the graphics matter a little. They matter a lot!

Angela is in the parking lot when I get to the island. Angela is a saint, married to an angel. Okay, they’re human, she and Chris, but the races they put on every year in Arlington, Washington, are heavenly. Actually, every LDP race I’ve ever ridden is like that in its own way, and for each race you can draw a direct line from the organizer’s soul to the heavenliness of the race. Kelly McGuirk and Conan Gay (Oregon’s Push in the Woods and Bend Beatdown, respectively), I’m talking about you! Angela and I push and pump a lap around the course. The board abides!

Meanwhile, SP,  SJ, and the rest of the PacNW team (the ‘squatches) are rolling in. They are too funny, usually. But sometimes they’re just right. Okay, most of the time. Collectively, we drive waiters crazy, especially crusty old controlling Cro-Magnon cuisine-slingers in Little Italy on Friday night.

I pin my number on my race shirt and watch “The Accountant” on the Best Western cable feed, allowing the omnipotence of Ben Affleck’s character to permeate my soul and fill me with delusions of skateboard marathon grandeur, until I see my board out of the corner of my eye and remember that, its profound copaseticity notwithstanding, I still haven’t really figured out the pumping thing.

RaceDay. My eyes and nose trip over each other coming to terms with the fact that there is a legit java purveyor, Café Moto, blessing us with coffee forty feet from the start line. I am overcome with gratitude. I’m not kidding. It’s one such Adrenalina moment among many.

Pablo counts down from fifteen, and we’re off. I push and push and push and push and pump and push and push and push and pump and push. A lot of pushing, really. SJ catches up with me on Lap 2, and we leapfrog and draft and so on through the middle of Lap 4, when I am overcome with balance issues. I never go down really hard, but I come off my board like five times on the lap. By the end of it, I’ve lost contact with SJ and the wolfpack of four or five with whom he’s rolling. I think I’ll make it back, but, really, when you lose contact like that, unless wolves within the pack totally lose it, it’s over.
Photo: Lance Curry
I keep pushing on and pumping too, though, and I do catch a few people in the last two laps, and enjoy a pitched game of leapfrogging and drafting with a bushy red-bearded thirty-something who later turns out to be a teenager.  At some point the lead pack passes me, and I amp up my cadence to lose ground less slowly to them as they fly by than I would have had I not begun to amp. Soon they will pass under the big red glorious International Distance Skating Association banner that arches over the finish line, the four of them, holding hands, confounding traditional concepts of competition, something they have done in several races recently. It’s revolutionary, really, when you think about it. The competition thing comes from caveman days, when losing meant death, hunger, like that. Have these guys figured out that, when you and your fellow competitors have given it all you’ve got and the finish line nears, it feels better to celebrate the effort than to digitize the outcome?

Photo: Mike Frank
Apres-LDP racing is festive. For me, it’s euphoric, even, independent of how I stack up against the competition that day. Endorphin levels are high, but it’s more than that; something about what a unique place in the endurance sport landscape we’re carving out for ourselves.

Apres-Adrenalina: Massage therapists from San Diego Sports Medicine, burritos, Gatorade, all kinds of skateboard industry tents (including Gravity Skateboards, who made the deck I rode and many more). Then Pablo takes the sandy stage. For three hours he has implored the faltering and the charging as they crossed the line to begin another lap, yet he seems to have saved the highest gear of his infectious enthusiasm for last, celebrating the speediest of the day up to the podium: Schwag time.

SP and SJ organize a PNW ‘squatches photo shoot. We are proud. We are friendly. We are awesome. We are purple. We are funny. We are family.

Photo: Brad T. Miller
A couple hours later, I’m sitting on the beach, scarfing Ceviche before I head to the airport. I love Ceviche. Any trip that ends with Ceviche becomes a good trip. This one becomes a great trip, one of the greatest 60-hour push-in pump-outs ever. My eyes slip from the Pacific horizon to Alyssa-from-Chicago, LDP royalty, engulfing herself in the crashing waves with her friend. Next time I’ll bring the longboard that gets wet, stay longer; that will be a different Adrenalina. This one, this one is number one.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Isbjørn is My Spirit Animal


Ah, a full week of heaven at Silver Star over Thanksgiving!  Seven days to ski/eat/sleep/chat with friends/repeat.  The first part of the week was the best: gray and cold and snowing hard every day, my favorite kind of weather!  Skiing by myself every day deep into the storm, not another soul in sight, reminded me of how much I love polar bears, and that reminded me of these words by one of my favorite authors, Tim Cahill:

"I wondered, then, why I saw something of my own inner life in the polar bear. Indeed, there was something of everyone's life, some universal identity. It was about three in the morning, a rather hopeless time, when you think about the loved one who died, the broken relationship that was supposed to last forever. We've all been there: wounded; weak. We retreat into isolation, perhaps self-pity. If we survive -- and we will -- the broken parts heal over. We are, perhaps, stronger than we were. Whatever hurt us, whatever nearly broke us -- it's still gone. We're lone travelers across a barren landscape, but in time, we begin to move through it with assurance -- powerful, completely wild, and independent. Like the ice bear."





At the end of every afternoon I skied out of the dark and reconnected with the human world, with chai and soup and conversation at Bugaboo's, my home away from home, then headed to the rooftop hot tub at my condo.  With the bubbles turned off, I let the snowflakes fall silently on my head and soaked away the day.  Then I was starving for dinner, either by myself in my condo with a good book or catching up with various friends at the Bulldog, people I only see once a year at Silver Star.

Later in the week, the alpine slopes opened, more of my friends showed up, and the temperature warmed then dropped again, leaving the trails a little chunkier and slidier.  I found a manageable hill and added some solid hill repeats, 4x10" one day, and then a little steeper 15x2" another day.  Happy muscles, happy skier, happy day.  The week was just the break I needed from all the cares of the real world, and the perfect length -- by the end, I was happy to ride home with Peter and Lisa, snug in the back seat while blizzards raged outside the warm car, and happy to go back to work the next day, knowing that the snow and the wind and the deep, dark forest, the weasels and deer and moose, and farther north the hunting polar bear, are all still out there somewhere.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hooray for Trail Work!



On how many trail work days have you found yourself so energized and excited by the project you're working on that you rush through lunch so you can hurry back to the trails and keep working?  Yeah, in my experience, never.   But that's what happened today, and the reason, as several people said to me over the course of the long day, is that it's a hell of a lot more fun to build new trails than it is to maintain them.

Build new trails?  Yes!  A small handful of KSC members put in some very focused, committed, and creative work recently to forge a partnership with the Nature Conservancy that allows us to build new trails on Amabilis -- seriously!  Here is Suzanne's synopsis of what's been happening:
"... the proposal I pulled together [is] a rather thin preliminary proposal in anticipation of a more robust plan and grant application in March and sent to TNC Sept 1. Frank, Don and I collaborated on this throughout the summer. The red trails on the map are the ones we wanted to finish up this year. You will see that is a bit ambitious given our time frame. We have not yet finished mapping out the final plan (the five-year goal) and that will include additional trails radiating out from the saddle and also trails on Forest Service land. Don is the genius behind the trail plan; Frank is the genius behind the viewpoints and culvert reparation needs, and the networker extraordinaire (he set me up with the TNC people); and I am the writer and the make-happener (holding the whip on due dates, and keeping our eyes on the main goals.) Rune and Keith are both very quick on legalistic turnarounds. We are a good team."



So the paperwork was signed on Thursday, two days ago, and today we met at the cabin bright and early on a breathtakingly gorgeous October day, carpooled up to the saddle on Amabilis, and built a new trail from scratch!  Don and Frank led the way with their chainsaws, cutting down the trees in the way of the new trail, and the rest of us followed behind with loppers and clippers, trimming the branches off the down trees and throwing the debris into the forest so the new trail doesn't look so raw.  We moved the logs we could off the trail and left the others for tomorrow's chainsaw gang, and lightly trimmed the huckleberry bushes so they won't gunk up Nick's groomer (yes, this new baby trail will be groomed!).

It's not pretty yet; pretty trails aren't built in a day.  But tomorrow Jim and some others (maybe you?) are going to head up there to chop up the big logs and trim down the stumps we left behind, and the Wednesday crew will do some more magic then.  It's possible we'll get snow by the end of the week and this year's trail work season may be over, but we've made a solid start on the new trails.  The one we built today is only a kilometer (we can only do so much in one day!), but it's going to be a lovely addition to the existing trail system on Amabilis (and it has a surprise peek-a-boo view that you will love).  Best of all, it demonstrates a new and valuable partnership with the Nature Conservancy that is going to have a long-lasting effect, especially as the trail systems along the I-90 corridor get more and more crowded and climate change has us climbing higher and higher looking for snow.

It was an immensely satisfying day; many many thanks to everyone who showed up, either to work on the new trail, or to spruce up the old trail, or to get the snowmobiles and other machinery in tip-top condition, ready for winter.

Pulling a cut tree ...

... and flipping a cut tree

Don, the human bulldozer

Chris

Jeff, looking a little like a male model!

Ryder (smarter and better behaved than many humans!), Linnea, and Sharon


Uber trail designers!

No one is too young for trail work!

Rudy shows us how dogs do trail work

Glenn, dancing with the trees

October

Part of the gang

Trees down, new trail coming into view

More new trail

Frank says the branches we threw into the woods will look like this in 10 or 20 years, or 100

One more picture of happy-dog Rudy

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Going It Alone ... Or Not


I am a grade-AAA introvert, happiest when I'm alone in the forest or on my bike, especially if a little weather is swirling about.  But over the last few years I have become quite lazy, and my raging river of motivation has dwindled to a trickle.  Change is required!  I remember how much my introverted little self enjoyed the training group with Sam a couple of years ago; there's something enticing about having a set time and a professional instructor and paying real American dollars, so all I have to do is show up and follow along and an hour later, I have a good workout checked off.

So a couple of months ago I started taking a hip hop dance class.  My primary purpose was to be like Jessie and to try to encourage a little quickness and lightness in my stodgy body.  I didn't expect to love it as much as I do!  My music horizons have broadened, I'm discovering a new kind of athleticism, and I've made new friends; the two coolest kids in class have Facebook-friended me, which is a certain kind of awesome.  Plus, of course, it is a great workout.  No matter how tired and grumpy I am by the end of the workday, if I can just change into my workout clothes and get in my car and get to the studio, then I don't have to think anymore; I just (try to) keep up, and by the end of the hour, I'm sweating and exhilarated and, yes, another good workout is in the books.

Now I've started thinking about strength.  Muscular strength is always critical for me, with my floppy loose joints, but becomes even more critical as the years go by and I don't want to end up hunched over a walker.  But muscular strength requires work, and see re: dwindling motivation.  I am far weaker than I was back in the days when I was doing triple Mount Si's and 60-mile bike rides for fun, and that is not a good trend.  There is a perfectly good free gym right in my office building, and it's a nice one -- not some skanky corner of the basement.  So how many times this summer have I gone to this nice free convenient FREE gym to do a strength workout?  Um, once.  Clearly I need to try the hip hop/group instruction approach.

So I went to a weight-lifting class.  It's not nearly as much fun as hip hop, and the instructor doesn't make me laugh right out loud like the hip hop guy does, but it's a good solid hour of weight lifting, using free weights instead of machines (a plus) and hitting all the major muscle groups.  And it's hard; I'm going to be hurtin' for certain tomorrow, as my dear old dad likes to say.  But once again, all I had to do was show up and let someone else take over, and I got in a good workout, doing much more than I would have done on my own.

And then, because I really truly am a happy introvert, I headed to Cougar Mountain for an hour and a half of solitary trail time, silent except for the treetops rustling in the wind and the leaves crunching beneath my feet.


My motivation muscle blinks and yawns and says, wait, what?  And I say, wake up, little feller; there are adventures ahead and there is work to be done.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mt Baldy Trail Race -- The Tortoises and the Hares

October 1: summer is over, ski season is winking at us from around the corner.  It was a great day to head up to the ski trails and do some training with your friends!  Lucky for us, today was the first annual Mt Baldy running/hiking race on the Cabin Creek trails, and conditions were perfect.  The forecasters had promised "unsettled weather," and that's just what we got: cloudbursts mixed with sunny intervals for driving over the pass, temps in the mid 40s and intermittent drizzle at Cabin Creek, and more cloudbursts for the drive home, with just enough sun breaks to show off the dazzling splashes of red and golden vine maples, barely visible through the wispy fog.

Augustina's photo
Augustina's photo
The race was one loop around the Viking/Ozbaldy/Berg loop, and it was a definite case of the tortoise and the hare.

(missing from this photo: Ozzie (wandering off somewhere) and me (taking the picture)
The uber hare was Jeff Hashimoto, of course, who ran an extra loop just for fun -- as Jim pointed out, we were glad he only ran one extra loop so we only had to be lapped once!  He ran by the tortoises on a steep uphill and we could only gape slack-jawed at how effortlessly he flew up the trail, barely touching the ground, as we whispered, "How does he do it??"  The other hares were David Tower and Jim Slyfield, coming in second and third.  Race director and organizer Rune would have been a hare, too, but he injured his knee and biked the course instead, leading chief timer Augustina, showing no mercy, to blow the whistle on him and DQ him.

The three little tortoises -- Victor, Ozzie, and I -- were far behind the others, but that's okay: we made up a fun workout for the event, hiking the flats and downhills and charging every uphill, no matter how short.  Every time the trail inclined upward, we shouted, "Up! Up! Up!" and Victor and Ozzie bounded with poles, while I ran up with quick little feet as fast as I could, trying to grow myself some fast-twitch muscles.



It was an awesome day; as Ozzie pointed out, our trail system is perfect for training and it's a lot more fun to do it with your friends!  With any luck, Rune will organize another one of these events before the snow falls and we're back on skis.

A big big THANK YOU to Rune, for coming up with this idea and making it happen,



and to chief timer Augustina and assistant timer Joan for herding all the cats and tracking their times.


Augustina's photo
And of course, thank you to everyone who showed up for such a fun morning, especially my fellow tortoises, who saved me from doing it by myself and being tragically eaten by cougars.  Let's all do this again!




Not enough eye candy yet?  Here are more photos Augustina took: