Saturday, March 26, 2011

Summary of Cross Country Skiing Season 2010-2011

Our trip to Breckenridge was a wonderful way to end this year's winter sport season. I had known by mid-January that this would be my best cross-country ski season to date, thanks to the fantastic snow cover. Like last year, I replaced my running routine entirely with skiing. Because of the low-impact nature of the sport, I was able to much more, a lot of it in the company of my faithful companion Mellie.
Skate Skiing11:57:53150.9193.7712.624:457.847:39
Classic Skiing5:59:3355.5234.509.266:295.7510:26

Some thoughts on those metrics:
  • Initially, I thought that my dog Mellie was slowing me down. While this may be the case for long distances, it is clearly not the case for the shorter ones, those under 10 km. Especially during races, Mellie was pulling hard.
  • More than half of my activities were with that faithful canine. I am very thankful for the opportunity to be able to ski with a dog at Highland 9-Hole. I hope we will continue to be able to do so.
  • While there was some improvements in my performance without dog, it was by far not as remarkable. I do need to work on my technique.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Skiing Breckenridge New Nordic World

The boys slept in this morning, i.e. when I made the wakeup call at 7:30, they requested another 30 minutes. They did get going shortly after eight. Joe was doing his morning toilette when I suddenly heard him call my name. There was something in the tone of his voice that made me think "emergency." Being afraid of mayhem or illness I was relieved to be greeted by I flood of water emanating from the overflowing toilet bowl when I opened the door. Joe had attempted to undo a blocked toilet using the brush, with no effect. Furthermore, the valve was stuck open and water was still flowing from the tank. I made him turn off the valve and had him use the bathroom rug to mop up the water, wringing it into the shower.
Part of becoming a man ...
I do hold him in high esteem to have done this unpleasant job with only as much as some gagging noises. A call to the rental agency got maintenance and housekeeping on its way. The whole thing ended up being a minor annoyance over what I had thought might be the stomach flu or a severed artery.

The boys were gone and I followed soon. I had called the Nordic Ski Center to inquire about grooming on the New Nordic World trails. I was told that the pisten bully was just on its way. So I went and checked out Mellie at the kennel and headed for the Peaks Trail parking lot, also the trail head for Gluteus maximus and minimus, the connectors for the Heavens Gate and Elk Dance trails. I started with two locals who were doing a quick run with their friendly golden retriever. I left them behind and began ascending Gluteus maximus. After about 100 m (which seemed to also involve an ascent of 100 m) I decided I would be in way over my head following this trail. I ate crow, took off my skis and slid back down to the intersection with Gluteus minimus, a narrow single track combined classic and snowshoe trail. I decided to keep walking. Some returning skiers reassured me that Gluteus minimus would soon join the maximus to terminate at Heaven's Gate. I am pretty sure I know why they call it Heaven's Gate, it's up-up-up. On top of a pass I spotted Hallelujah Hut, indeed a sight to behold.
You gotta be kidding? Up that way?

At the hut, I also joined my friends of the golden retriever and then took a break. A woman with four dogs came towards me and we chatted for a little while. It turned out that she was from Minnesota, too, but came frequently to her second home in this area.
Trying to get Mellie back into the backpack at Hallelujah Hut

After a short rest I kept climbing, made it past the cut-off (I did not have the taste for the full Elk Dance loop with, what the MN woman called the "nasty (down)hill." Some more climbing and I reached the intersection between the return legs of Elk Dance and Heaven's Gate loops.
Up, up, up, to the Heavens' Gate
Only now I fully appreciated the extent of my climb, the downhill seemed to go on for ever. I again carried my skis on the short Gluteus minimus stretch and did the final downhill towards the parking lot. In hindsight it might have been a better option for me to park at the Otter Slide parking lot I could have skated the entire way and avoided the parking competition from the (illegally) parking downhill skiers and boarders.

I returned Mellie, who by now seemed to feel quite at home at the Dog House and also knows the routine. I took a quick dip in pool and hot tub and received a picture message from James, who with Joe and Matt had hiked up half an hour to the very top of Peak 8 to do some more off trail skiing. Looks like that boy is taking after his dad!
James and Joe on top of Peak 8--and the world!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Skiing Breckenridge and Gold Run Nordic Ski Centers

I wish I could build in a few runs on the slopes to get James out of bed before school: so easy to get him up, here. We had about 2-3 inches of fresh powder at the condo and it was still snowing. There were some glimpses of blue sky. Routine as had on the previous day, except more efficient: getting dressed and geared up, cereal for breakfast, sandwiches, courtesy of paps and off they went with great plans for the day.
I was not far behind, having Breckenridge Nordic Ski Center on my mind. I arrived and noticed the freshly groomed trail, pristine, undisturbed cordouroy and no other cars in the lot. I bought my three-day punch card, had one of the friendly staff give me the lay of the land and was off.

I skied Troll Woods, a green trail as a warm-up and Beaver Meadows, a blue as a follow up. Indeed, neither trail held any technical challenge, all inclines were rather gradual but the difference in altitude was a bit more than this flatlander is used to. That, combined with the effect of the thin air made me stop to catch my breath a few times. All in all an excellent outing. It would be great to come out here early in the season to get some high altitude training.

After being done, I went to the grocery to shop for a steak dinner. Then I broke for lunch and waited until 13:30, the end of the rest time at the Dog House, where I wanted to check out Mellie for some skijoring. They got her and she was happy to see me and the harness in my hand.

Once back in the car, we headed for Breckenridge's Gold Run Nordic Ski Area. Like the area in Breckenridge proper, they had set aside their most remote trails for skiers and their dogs. This area was not groomed but at least the lower reaches of the Peabody Placer trail had seen enough use to be somewhat packed. it was a two-way ski-in and ski-out, I decided not to do the Preston Loop which had portions marked as black and because of the distance. It turned out that the entire "in" portion of the Peabody Placer trail is uphill, gaining about 130 m (450 ft) in little more than 2 km (1.5 mi)  and the consequently, the return trip down. Hard work for my oxygen-deprived circulatory system. The higher I climbed the deeper the snow became, adding to the workout in spite of Mellies efforts helping me.

But the Jumbo Overlook at the end of the trail was a nice reward, the clouds had broken and everything was bathed in bright sunlight. Turning back I appreciated how steep the climb had been. To avoid any tangles, I untied Mellie, who was happy to roam and greet some of the dogs that came towards us. When I checked Mellie back in, she was happy to leave me and followed the staff unconcerned. She is such a good and easy-going pup. One thing that amazed me was the area around Gold Run. It looked to me like there were scores of million-dollar homes, all in a log-cabin style, and more going up. Makes you wonder what kind of a recession we were in. Certainly not one affecting people in a certain income category ...

The boys returned after 16:00. It sounded like they had had an outstanding day skiing all over the mountain, a lot off-trail, befriending Matt, a young man from Cleveland of similar disposition who introduced them to some areas that they might have had a more difficult time to find on their own. We concluded this fantastic day with some excellent steak.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting Used to Altitude

After a fitful and oxygen-deprived night I awoke around 6:00. I fed Mellie around 7:00 and took her for a walk trying to reconnoiter access to the nearest lift. It turned out to be very close, only about 5 minutes' walk. I returned and had little trouble to rouse the bys, much less than during a school day. Breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, gear up and off they went. It turned out that there was no informal area to dump one's gear and tokens for the pure-sized lockers were $2 a pop. I bought a few but in the meantime the boys had made an executive decision and brought their stuff back to the condo. Now they were ready to go. They took off in the Quicksilver Super6 chair and vanished into the distance.

My program included dropping off Mellie at the Dog House kennel (unfortunately our condo did not allow dogs nor did it have functioning internet). I thought of combining the drop-off with a slow jog, also to get acclimated. After a thorough consultation of the map, I decided to drive to the Nordic Ski Center to get information on xc-skiing and then jog to the Dog House from there.

We took off by van and the friendly staff at the Nordic Ski Center gave me lots of good info. When I returned to the car, Mellie was eager to go. The first 500 m or so were a steep downhill and I was not looking forward to the return trip. We made our way through downtown and hit the bike trail along the Blue River. Unfortunately, the underpass was closed at ___ Road, I had to do a dog leg across a busy intersection near the shopping center. I was disappointed when the trail became ice and snow covered only a little further. I turned west to Airport Road, which I had planned for my return trip. The road seemed neverending and there was quite a bit of traffic. Dust was being kicked up by tires. We ran along various housing developments and a trailer park. Eventually, the surroundings turned light industrial and the curves became dirt. Mellie was very thirsty, I had trouble preventing her from drinking from puddles. I was not at my best, the thin air wreaking havok with my stamina. A short uphill left me gulping for air and my jog became a slow interval, 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking. I did not notice any lack of stamina in Mellie, besides being thirsty she was eager, as usual. At last we were there unfortunately for me, it was only halftime.

I did make it back, almost 14 km. Pretty sore, too, maybe a combination of the long drive and pounding the pavement.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Skiing University of Minnesota Golf Course Trail

Before the season is over I have to write to promote one of the Twin Cities Metro newest cross country skiing venues, the University of Minnesota's Nordic Ski Center, just north of the UMN St. Paul campus, on the university's golf course. I did not use it more than twice because it does not fall under the Great Minnesota Ski Pass, just like Minneapolis Park and Rec Trails, Three Rivers Parks, Dakota County Parks and others. I purchased the Department of Natural Resources Great Minnesota Ski Pass (GMSP) because City of St. Paul and Ramsey County trails are covered and because I like to ski in some of the state parks near and far from the Metro. Because St. Paul area trails are quite good Como and Battle Creek are great and Highland 9-Hole allows dogs for skijoring), I don't mind restricting myself to these as a matter of convenience.

As a matter of convenience, I would be very happy if the above mentioned park systems would join the GMSP system, and I would even be happy to pay more. 

That being said, some of the park systems that require their own ski passes seem to be a little quicker on the upkeep. Not sure if this has anything to do with the fees charged or the dilution of the take within the GMSP system. The UMN Nordic Ski Center has one of the best-maintained trails around, it can compete with the privately owned Green Acres, which is another gem when all the other seem to be marginal. In addition, like Como Park, it is only a couple of miles away from my home. Sorry, Green Acres, if you were 2 and not 16 miles, I'd be skiing there more frequently, I hate to drive far and I avoid it where I can.

It's after heavy snow, at the end of the season or during that January thaw when the extra grooming stretches the times a trail can be skied. So I decided to pay my dues and ski at UMN today. The challenging workout on its three short but varied finger loops was well worth the $3 I left in the pay box!