Sunday, November 11, 2018

Test Run

I'm just loving my bounding women workouts so much!  I started the idea back in June; I wanted to do bounding workouts on the ski trails at Cabin Creek to improve my skiing, but I didn't want to do them by myself because I'm afraid of cougars.  All I really needed was just one other person, someone to alert the authorities if I were being eaten by a big mean cat, and more people, sure, that would be fun.  And after seeing those awesome training groups of women at MWC, racing against each other and cheering for each other and hanging out with each other at the awards ceremonies, I didn't know why we couldn't have something similar here.  It looked like fun, and I'm all about having fun!  There are plenty of women in the club, and plenty more in the broader community, and yet so few sign up for races.  If it's because of a lack of training opportunities, sister, I've got your back!

As it turned out, a small core group has developed.  Suzanne and Carol join me almost every time, give or take a vacation here and there, and Emily is a semi-regular, working around her biathlon schedule. But I have made every single one of the workouts, and I'm working hard on my biggest weaknesses: strength, dynamicity, and quickness.  I'm watching Norwegian ski team videos and reading training articles and constantly coming up with new ideas to add to our arsenal.  We started out in June meeting every other weekend, and beginning in October, as we get closer to ski season, switched to every week.  Earlier in the summer we had a real live coach -- Ozzie most of the time, and Per once -- and having those expert skiers to follow up the hills, to visualize, to bound in their footsteps, was hugely valuable; I really appreciated their taking the time to share their wisdom with us.

I believe in consistency, in the value of working steadily over a long period of time at something you want to improve.  But can I objectively know if I am improving with all this training?  This weekend was a chance to test my fitness/strength/quickness levels.  Normally our bounding workouts focus on the hilly sections of the Viking and Berg loops; we take shortcuts and backtrack on the trails to avoid the flats and do repeats on all the hills, shorter, longer, longest, steeper and steepest.  This weekend, for a change-up, we planned to skip our own workout and join the time trial/trail run over the full race course that Rune had organized, so we'd be covering the entire Berg/Viking/Ozbaldy complex, the flat sections as well as the hilly bits.

As it turned out, Rune canceled the official time trial, but some of us -- Rune, Suzanne, Rob, and I -- decided to do it anyway.  It was a bright chilly morning at the cabin, perfect for putting your mind into ski racing mode!  By the time I got there, Rune had already taken off on his lap and I never did see him, but Rob and Suzanne were waiting for me in the cabin.  We filled our water bottles and adjusted hats and gloves -- did I mention it was chilly? -- started our watches, and headed out on the trails.  Suzanne and I stick together in our usual workouts, with Rob doing his own training elsewhere on the trails, but this time, we split up; Suzanne is faster than I am, and Rob wasn't planning to do the whole race course, so we were all on our own.  That was okay; just having other bodies out on the trail would hopefully keep the cougars away!

It took a while to warm up, but wow, it was just a glorious morning!  I did stop a couple of times to take a quick picture, but mostly I moved as fast as I could.  I haven't been in running mode this year, but I ski walked with my poles as fast as possible on the flats and downhills, and attacked every single uphill, no matter how big or how small, sprint/bounding up them as hard and fast as I could.  No stopping for recovery at the top; I kept on moving over the top of each hill and back down the other side, just like I would in a race, recovering as quickly as I could so I could sprint the next hill.  It was ... fabulous.  I didn't have any way to measure my improvement objectively, but subjectively, I knew I have never before attacked that course that strongly, never before felt so dynamic and strong on the ups, never had so much fun breathing so hard I thought my heart would explode.  I loved every minute of it!

So now I know the training is working and I'm inspired to keep at it, and I also know the next thing I need to focus on.  Sprinting and bounding up those hills was like I had perfect wax, as every foot plant landed perfectly and stuck, no slipping or backsliding.  The important thing now will be to improve my waxing skills so that I can do the same thing on skis that I can do in shoes, actually putting this new hard-won fitness to work where it counts, on the snow, in a race.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Trail is Born

All of us -- skiers, hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers -- love a good trail to carry us out into the great outdoors.  But trails don't just magically appear; someone put them there, and it's not an easy process.  How does it happen?  Like this ...

First, the land, and the vision.  Nature Conservancy owns the land on top of Amabilis and they are open to our putting in new ski trails up there.  That's half the battle right there!  Then it takes people like Suzanne to work with various parties to line up permissions and make sure we're following the guidelines, and people like Don and Frank to scramble around through the forest, climbing up and down, hanging blue tape on trees to mark a possible route, then moving the tape, then moving it again, looking for the optimal line.

Then we have a trail work party and the chainsaws come out.  Last fall we were able to build about a kilometer of new trail on this new system that Don and Frank are envisioning; last Sunday, I got to go with Don to hack in the next kilometer and see the sausage-making in action.  He had his chainsaw, I had my loppers, and we went to work.  It's an amazing process -- hard hard physical labor, and so so satisfying to see a new trail being born.

That's raw dense forest up there, and Don just started walking into it, knocking down trees that were in the way of the imaginary new trail.  I followed behind, keeping my eyes open for where trees were falling, and moved logs out of the way, chopped down little bushes, loppered branches, javelin-threw smaller trees deeper into the forest to get them out of the way.  It was basically a five-hour CrossFit workout, outside, on uneven terrain and with no water fountains.  CrossFit does that thing where they pick up the end of a log and throw it down, over and over?  Did that.  The kettleball lift?  Did that.  The javelin throw?  Over and over and over.  Hard hard work.

Every few minutes Don would turn off the chainsaw and walk the trail again, deciding, should the trail go around this way or keep going straight ahead?

Only a skier could build this trail, someone who understands and can visualize the best line, the most fluid course, the most fun trail.

Later in the morning, Brandon and Glenn joined us, bringing their pole saws and loppers, to keep clearing the trail behind Don.  And by the end, we had broken through to the next logging road and that section was real - wow!

Then it was time to head back to the cabin for lunch, and to compare stories with other trail workers.  Frank had led a group doing more clearing on the kilometer we built last year, Jim led another group on the lower trails doing more clearing there -- because those damn alders keep growing back!  Some people did a fall snowpark clean-up, very much needed, and some people joined in the trail run so our race timing crew could practice their timing.  And the most important people of all made us chicken for our lunch -- thank you, Kare and Aase!

Such a satisfying day; thanks, Don, for letting me tag behind you like a puppy chasing a stick!

He reported back later in the week:  "We pretty much finished up the trailwork yesterday.  3 saws (mine, Victor and Glenn) plus Frank makes quicker work of it. That said, it was still a 12-hour RT for Frank and I."

Now we just need snow, so we can let Nick loose up there with his groomer.  Winter is coming!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Long Way

Sometimes just getting there is half the battle!  Witness this report from Per about his recent trip to Norway; kind of makes you want to pack your bags and head to the airport, right?  Good luck with the rest of your trip, Per!

An unusually long and complicated trip from SeaTac to Oslo on Norwegian Air

I had decided to go to the Fall work party in Norway, at our family farm time-share, and I had booked everything with Norwegian Air. It wasn't nearly as awful as you might think.  People were friendly throughout the long trip. 

Here is how it went: There was a "small technical issue" with the plane in Seattle and luckily they were already in the town where it was made. It was all over in about 2 1/2 hours. While waiting for the fix to be complete, I met two Norwegian retired couples who had just finished a three-week road trip in a rented Ford Explorer. They were all over the western states, with an emphasis on the best known national parks  They even went to Olympic National Park.  They had relatives  in most of the states they visited, people who had emigrated 75 years ago, at least.  They were really interested in knowing what it is like to live in the US under the present administration.  That passed the time very well. On the long flight I shared a row with  a quiet young couple, with big backpacks, headed for Great Britian.  They slept most of the way.  

The pilots speeded along and won back one of the hours they had lost on the ground in Seattle.  In London Gatwick, we arrived 15 minutes after the departure time of my connecting flight to Oslo.  But at the Norwegian Help counter, I learned that the flight I had "missed" was still on the ground and not going to leave for at least 45 minutes. I got a new boarding pass for that one and hurried to the gate.  I found out first  that the plane on the ground was actually a place setter for the real plane, which hadn't been allowed to land in the first place because of ground fog, but now was in the process of landing, so we should be on our way within 30 minutes.  Our plane was emptied, cleaned and filled with us new passengers within 30-40 minutes.  The plane was closed up with us inside, with nothing happening.  The pilot told us that the morning fog in many places caused havoc all over and for the moment we were unable to be pushed out from the gate because a lack of those push trucks.  What they have to do with the weather is beyond me, but we learned that this was serious and we could look forward to 45 minutes of waiting for an available push truck,  That actually turned out to be 90 minutes. The cabin crew was handing out glasses of water near the end of the wait. Straange that the free water didn't come earlier. Must have been a big deal, since Norwegian charges passengers for any drink, included plain water.

When we were finally pushed out, we felt home free and thought we would just have to take off. The pilot nosed the plane into the vicinity of the single runway, where planes were taking off and planes were landing about every 75 to 90 seconds. The grimmest part came when the pilot came on the air to announce that we were 20th in line to take off.  But we actually left London and landed at Gardermoen at 4:50 pm, nearly 4 1/2 hours  behind schedule.  

Two more events at the Oslo terminal: The Passport Control was over in about 15 seconds.  The agent wished me a fun time at the work week with cousins and uncles. at our farm time-share. And, finally, there were two of us at Belt No 4, waiting for our bags from this flight.  All the other passengers from the flight had already claimed their bags, and ours weren't there!  We got into the line to describe the missing bags and make arrangements for them to be delivered. But we still kept our eyes on the belt, just in case, and suddenly the other fellow's bag showed up alone, but with the telescoping handles completerly broken off, leaving a jagged stump of one shaft sticking up.  Thirty seconds later my bag shows up, completely alone, on the correct belt, and without damage.  I even made the next bus to Oslo with three minutes to spare. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Light to Dark

Are you out there? Are you feeling it? That shift? That tang and push and thrust in the air? Tastes like... Fall. Transition. Light to dark, solar to lunar, Shiva to Shakti, the endless divine cycle, eternal and perfect, ever gently mocking our futile attempts to contain or control it.   ~Mark Morford

I'm a seasonal kind of girl: dark to light and back to dark; warm to hot to cool to cold.  I love being outside in all the changing seasons, but I might love September easing into October the best.  This September has been just delicious, but it's coming to an end and I'm fine with that.  The KOMO meteorologist warned that Saturday would likely be the last warm and sunny day of the year, not to be seen again until late next spring, so I knew I needed to get into the mountains.  It seemed like a perfect day to tackle the Denny Creek to Snoqualmie Summit roller ski again!

The workout is more fun with at least one other person: with two cars and two bikes, you can do two laps, and that's what I wanted to do.  There are probably five or six guys who have said they want to join me next time I do this, so I sent out an email blast to the club, looking for any takers, and got back ... crickets.  No worries; two laps are best, but one lap is better than no lap, so one lap it is!

It's pretty fun to organize this by myself, making sure all the right equipment is in the right place at the right time when I have no back-up.  So I drove up to the pass and parked at the gas station at the summit, then took my bike off the rack, loaded roller skis and boots and locks (and keys!) and water bottle holder into my pack, strapped my poles to the top tube of my bike, and I was off, riding down the mountain in the crisp cool morning air.

This ride down is a good chance to check the condition of the road before I commit to roller skiing back up, and it looked perfect.  It's also a good chance to stop and drink in the scenery, the lovely fall colors smeared across the rock faces of the mountains.  I could have stopped and admired the views all morning, but I had work to do, so I kept on riding.

Once I got down to my starting point, I unloaded roller skis, boots, poles, and water bottle holder, then locked up my bike and pack in the bushes and headed back up the mountain.

The first mile or two is pretty busy, especially on such a gorgeous morning; there are several trailheads along that road and a big campground, so there were plenty of cars and hikers going up and down the road.  But no problem: the hikers were friendly and encouraging ("Get that heart rate up!" "Hey, where's the snow?") and the cars were patient and courteous.  It wasn't long before I had left the deep forest and the crowds behind and climbed up into the sunshine and the views.

As I skied up the switchbacks, I saw the Momentum NW van coming down the mountain, the junior ski team kids finished with their own roller ski workout.  They pulled over to the side of the road and the whole gang, kids and coaches, jumped out to stand by the road and give me a big enthusiastic cheer -- that was so fun!  Hardly ever, like, never, do I get a standing ovation when I roller ski!  I stopped and chatted with them for a minute, hearing about their workout, and then I headed on up the mountain, still smiling at their antics.

And then I was at the top, where the food truck and lunch were waiting for me.

A big bottle of recovery drink and a couple of chicken tacos later, I was ready to head back home, my eyes full of beauty, my lungs full of clean mountain air, and my bones full of vitamin D, stored for the winter.  I stopped to pick up my bike at the bottom of the hill. and turned for home, as happy as can be.

Today, Sunday, the turn toward fall happened: cloudy and gray and cool, with showers in the forecast.  My bounding women workout shifts to every Saturday this week, so today was probably my last chance for one more long easy over-distance hike, and Tiger Mountain was the place to go.  I started with the climb to the top, minding Mt. Marathon winner and APU elite skier Eric Strable's recommendation of sustained uphill hiking (hello, glutes!) as great ski training.  That was followed, as night the day, by, you know, sustained downhill hiking (oh hi, quads!).  I meandered along the side trails on my way back to my car, searching out hilly routes, and ended up with a solid four-plus hours of steady hiking, storing miles in my legs and mitochondria in my muscles for the coming winter.

I may not see Tiger again until next spring, so I whispered a silent thank you to one of my favorite places on earth as I headed back to my car, where my favorite snack was waiting.

What a fantastic weekend!  September is over, and ski season is another month closer.  I'm ready for you, October!

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.