August 19, 2017

“Off Season” Recap November ’09 – April ’10

Me (mouth open the whole course at the Jeremy Wright American Snowshoe Championship). Photograph by Andrea Watkins.

After a summer spent racing XTERRA and road triathlons, I met the “off season” with particular excitement;  however, this year there would be no break in the action as I looked to supplement my Ironman training with some “fun” events to keep my mind and body fresh.  What follows is a recap of a few of my organized winter diversions.

23+ miles in Moab, Utah

November brought me to 23+ miles in Moab, Utah for the Ultimate XC Moab Edition (ufortunately, Moab XC will NOT be held in 2010).  I had signed up for this “race” based on great reviews from trusted friends (Beth Tennant and Steve Pye).  I enlisted an accomplice as well … my new friend Paul Hardcastle.  I set out with no other particular goal in mind other than making an introduction to the Moab terrain and ensuring that Paul had a great experience (up until this point, the longest he had ever run was 14 miles).  A couple of good things had already occurred on my way to Moab: 1) I spent some quality time visiting with my wife, Hope,  on the drive and enjoyed discovering the  “ghost town” of Cisco, and 2) “Bus,” our Italian greyhound, managed to enjoy a Burger King Jr. Whopper—our daughter, Quinn, on the other hand, received a public diaper change in an unoccupied BK booth … I know, “classy.”  Did I mention that I have an incredible wife … it was her birthday weekend and, only after an understandable reaction of pushback (surprised only that I was not whisking her off to more a more civilized local known for celebration), she entirely embraced the Moab adventure.  We spent our first night in Moab at the Red Cliffs “Adventure” Lodge.  We passed on the opportunity to “dine in” at the lodge restaurant or share a lively dinner with our friends at the race check-in spot (Eddie McStiff’s) and instead invited Paul out to our place for a relaxed, albeit a bit late, wheat spaghetti dinner (I had not yet taken up my charge to go gluten-free).

Race morning found us “up” for the challenge.  We left Red Cliffs and followed the Colorado River into the town of Moab and out to the race start.  We met Paul at the starting line and milled around a bit.  We checked in with some of the familiar faces of our racing friends—Beth Tennant, Tyler Walton, and Andrea Watkins, just to name a few.  We all shared smiles and the attendant pre-race jitters in the chilled desert air.  After the obligatory race briefing we gathered at the starting line.  “Go, go, go!” from the race director and we were off.  En masse we lumbered away from the starting line on a jeep trail leading up Pritchett Canyon and out into the unknown of the red Moab dessert.  As for what took place over the next 23 miles …well, for me, it was bliss.  I was a Moab virgin and enjoyed every step that I took … what amazing landscape!!!  I elected to run with my iPod (listening to a trail running mix that featured some cutting edge techno) and stopped only occasionally to shoot some what, after viewing it later surely evidenced, turned out to be “random” video with my new Flip video camera (I am now a huge fan of my MinoHD).  I spent the remainder of my time either waiting for Paul (he had an excellent race) or encouraging him by messing with him—the type of quirky encouragement that I am apparently know for.  One of the “highlights” listed in the race bill was a view of the “Jackson Hole” and the potash factory that is nestled in the valley floor.  Interestingly, potash refers to a variety of potassium compounds and “potassium-bearing” materials (basically, the term includes naturally occurring potassium salts).  Our route provided for a striking and intriguing view of the potash solar evaporation ponds in the valley floor far below.  Enjoy my brief potash “trailer”:

Up and down, around and through … Paul and I moved efficiently through the Moab desert and, after only a “short” wait for Paul at the finish line, we finished this remarkable race together.  Unofficial: me, 5:13:36; Paul, 5:13:37.  Can’t wait for the next one!

Me and Paul Hardcastle, post-race

Interesting race note: After the race, my wife and I enjoyed a “recovery” meal at Milt’s Stop and Eat (a historic diner that serves “burger joint” fare, that just happened to be a named sponsor of  UltimateXC racing).  While enjoying a burger and a malt, we learned that Milt’s had recently been purchased by, BC LaPrade and the elite ultra athlete and adventure racer Danelle Ballengee.  Danelle, as you may recall, fell in the Moab desert in December of 2006 and spent more than two days in an epic fight for her very survival—Danelle set the course for this year’s race.  Thanks Danelle … you are an inspiration!

Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series

With events scheduled for January, February, and March, the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series offered a chance for me to enjoy some cold weather training.  I love to shoe!  Having raced individual events in years past, I opted to take on the entire series of 10K events; however, the weather had different plans and I managed only to make it to two of the three races (the first and the last).  I successfully recruited some new training clients and friends to join me and share in the fun; specifically, Michelle Grubb, Angie Malinosky, and, once again, Paul Hardcastle.  Event #1 was a flash.  My wife and I gathered up Michelle and headed up to Beaver Creek.  Michelle was running her first snowshoe race on a new pair of Crescent Moon Gold Series 12 shoes. I managed to land a vendor account with Crescent Moon (owned and operated by Jake Thamm)—a Boulder-based “green” company that offers some of the best racing shoes on the market.  Thanks Jake!  Leaving out of Creekside Park, the first race followed the familiar course that essentially shoots racers up the Beaver Creek ski slopes and back down again.  Conditions were ideal, the majority of the course placed runners on packed snow, and it made for a “fast” loop.  I managed to beat my previous year’s time and narrowly escaped finishing behind Paul—Paul careened down a step downhill and passed me in a flash only to relinquish his advantage to me on the final climb to the finish.  Michelle had a big finish and an even bigger smile afterwards.  Angie had a blast in the 5K!

The snow moved into metro Denver and kept me away from event #2 (Paul and Angie also didn’t make it).  Michelle spent the night in the mountains and was there to enjoy the second race in the series—way to go Michelle!

Event #3, the Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championship, marked the end of the series and offered the greater challenge of the two races that I competed in this year.  Leaving out of McCoy Park Nordic Center (atop Beaver Creek at the endpoint of the Strawberry Par Express and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts) the final course seemed to track uphill forever!  The final event featured more deep stuff than the first—at one point I managed to fall into a deep powder stash as a result of a misplaced step!  As I squirmed to get up and get going again, a well-meaning competitor (a male) persistently wanted to lend me a hand and help me up.  I don’t know if my self-reliance had kicked in, or I was enjoying the cool snow on my otherwise sweltering body, or I just wanted to be left alone, but I kindly refused … as I worked to extract myself from the deep snow I recall exclaiming: “Go on, it’s a race!”  Paul and Michelle each had successful 10Ks and Angie completed another 5K—again, smiles all around!

The Beaver Creek Series is great fun and offers a great winter training opportunity.  More importantly, it offers a great chance to connect during the “off season” with some of my athletic friends: Anthony (and Michelle) Beeson, Trista Francis, Beth Tennant, Andrea Watkins, and Sonja Wieck.

Pedal Power Winter Triathlons

Race flyer for the 2009-2010 "Adventure Series"

Snow, snow, snow … and cold.  A big storm moved in on Friday night and dumped a significant amount of the white stuff (this was the one variable that could make my race day near impossible … well it snowed a lot).  I rolled out of our rented Keystone condo, leaving Hope and Quinn still in bed, and made my way to Leadville through a partial closure of I-70.  I made good time down Hwy.  91 and arrived at the CMC campus with a determination to best my performance from the first event despite the more challenging conditions.  I was prepared this time!  I had shelled out nearly $125 for a set of “snow tires”—in my case, a set of Bontrager XDX TLR  2.4s along with a container of Super Juice Tubeless Sealant and pressures set at 1 Bar (14.5 PSI)—Bruce’s new recommendations.  However, I was running a dated and unfamiliar rented Nordic setup—actually, I rented Paul and I each a set of gear from the Keystone Nordic Center (FYI, Paul’s rental boots had pink and purple “highlights” … very nice).  At my level of expertise, I figured skis would be the least of my concern (I would most likely end up carrying them anyway) and it saved us a great amount of time.  I met up with Paul at the CMC campus and proceeded to get checked in.  As we trudged across the snowy lot we noticed three things 1) the snow, 2) the wind, and 3) the significantly smaller number of participants (now it was the “H”ardcore of the hardcore)!

These races are run with military precision.  Despite the challenge of the conditions, Bruce assembled the racers at the starting line precisely at 10:00 a.m. only to inform us that CMC did not groom its Nordic trails on the weekends—it would be especially tough out there on the Nordic trails!  With hardly a moment to process this new information we were off!  Another great snowshoe course full of winding roller coaster single track made even more challenging by the abundance of fresh, deep snow.  I hurried into the transition area was soon out on my bike.  This time only a short 1/2-mile hike-a-bike section (Paul caught up with me here and our faces showed our concern about the present bike conditions) separated us from Mineral Belt Trail … once there, conditions changed and my new tires managed to make good and I finally was finally making progress ON my bike—”See ya, Paul.”  After 9 1/2K of “riding” I climbed the winding road back to the CMC campus where my skis were “waiting” for me.  Once on my skis I careened down the fast downhill section … thing were looking up!  Then the climbing began.  This time around I vowed to keep my skis on—with the exception of one “yard sale” and a couple of breaks to run ahead of Paul who had caught up and was pushing me on a few of the never-ending grades, I managed to do just that!  The Nordic course included 2 loops.  Generally, I am not a fan of the multiple loop courses; however, the initial loop provide some beta to allow me to make some strategic skiing choices and to recognize the approach of the diversion trail that would lead to the finish line at the end of the second lap.  I hit the finishing shoot strong and, if only for a fleeting moment, I once again held a thought in my head of “I am getting the hang of this.”  Times for the day: me, 2:44:46; Paul, 2:48:24.

Paul and I lumbered around in the snowy transition area collecting our gear and encouraging the final finishers that trickled in behind us before heading over to the awards banquet.  Bruce wrapped up the race in style: good food and lots of freebies.  I managed to score a pair of technical long underwear while Paul claimed a pair of socks!?  The winners—check out these times: M: Josiah Middaugh – 1:24:52 and F: Lisa Isom – 1:41:55— collected the serious prizes (not the least of which included a customized winner’s plate).  Oh yes, and Bruce raffled away a couple of sweet Street Swell boards!

Takeaway from the Winter Triathlon scene:  As I indicated at the beginning of this account, I am hooked!  I have already spent considerable time researching Nordic skiing gear and technique and am making this series next winter’s “priority” races.  You will likely find me poking around the various Nordic “ski swap” events that take place up in the High Country in the late-fall or improving my technique at one of the many Nordic centers in the area as soon as the trails open!  I am already recruiting others to participate and have a commitment from Beth Tennant.  As for Paul, he is a “maybe”!?

In an effort to make this useful to other “would-be” winter tri competitors, here are some links to some of the more established Nordic centers in the immediate area: Breckenridge and Frisco Nordic Centers, Keystone Nordic Center, and Tennessee Pass Nordic Center.  For a more complete listing of Colorado Nordic resources, be sure to visit the Colorado Cross Country Ski Association.  If you want to meet a fine human being/athlete AND get a great Nordic lesson, be sure to look up Roxanne at TPNC!

RMSS Cycling Training Camp

RMSS cycling team in Moab, Utah

As a member of the “new” Rocky Mountain Spine & Sport Cycling Team, I joined a group of 20+ members in Moab, UT for a three-day training camp.  Held over a long weekend, March 25-27, the camp featured some amazing (albeit very cold) rides.  While placing an emphasis on group tactics and bike handling, Steve Pye of Practical Coaching led rides that took our group through Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and up “The Big Nasty” (a notorious climb up into the La Sal mountains).  I definitely got what I needed out of the trip!  Some great rides and some needed instruction and encouragement as a cyclist.  In addition to the riding, I enjoyed sharing the trip with some old and new friends.  I shared a condo with Anthony Beeson (thanks for the tire change), Tyler Walton, and Dan Harris.

Funny story about the weather.  On the Friday ride out to Canyonlands it rained, sleeted, and snowed—it was COLD and windy.  After some 35+ miles out of hard-paced riding, I turned around leaving the remaining pack to ride the last few miles out to “Dead Horse Point.”  The RMSS support vehicle had long since filled up and headed back to civilization and warmth.  I was very COLD and needed some solid food—Hammer Perpetuem could only carry me so far!   So there I was, alone and freezing in the middle of the Canyonlands National Park.  The goal was to get to the solid food in my jersey (wrapped tightly in aluminum foil I might add) and then head back to the condo at a “training” pace.  There was only one problem; I could not get my full-finger cycling gloves off!  Really … they would not come off … my fingers were frozen stiff (my right hand was no good to my left and vice versa)!  I did not know if the support vehicle would be coming back?!  The wind howled and I was off my bike prancing around trying to stay warm while getting my glove off.  First I tried biting on the “tips” of my glove … nothing doing.  Next I tried biting a bit harder, attempting to bite the fabric of the glove surrounding the middle finger while pulling against my teeth.  My next realization was that my middle finger was starting to ache, then hurt … I WAS BITTING MY OWN FROZEN FINGER!  I gave up on removing the gloves and managed to grasp an open “Raw Revolution” bar with my gloved hand.  I ate the remaining couple of bites of the already opened bar (I had opened it the day before and, in my ongoing attempt not to waste food, had brought it along for a second outing—it spent the night in the refrigerator) and made my break for Hwy. 191.  As I proceeded out of the park I was greeted by Tyler Walton and another RMSS rider who fed me “tour style” … digging into my jersey, removing and unwrapping the foil containing bananas, brown rice, wrapped in a gluten-free tortilla as I held onto the van’s mirror and continuing to make forward progress … thank you both!!!

Once I returned to the comfort and warmth of the Rim Village Condos (really, very nice accommodations), I reflected on the day’s bike experience for only a few moments before turning my attention to getting a run in before dinner.  I had no more changed into my running gear when the “lead pack” returned.  I passed around some invites to join me, but no takers; however, as it just so happened, I was standing in the driveway when a woman approached me and asked, “Do you know of any good running trails?”  Long story short, I joined her husband for a run in the Moab desert (we ran to the NW on the Hidden Valley Trail—beautiful).  As it turned out, both she and her husband were veteran ultra runners.  She had come to Moab to compete in the Moab 100 and he had joined her to provide the necessary support.  See Sonja’s account of her experience at the Moab 100 here—way to go Sonja!  I returned home from the out and back, showered, and headed off to join the RMSS team at a local restaurant.  By the way, my middle finger ached for days—I must have really bit down on it!!!