Monday, June 29, 2009


Looking at Little Haystack and Shining Rock from the Agonies

The Lafayette-Lincoln-Little Haystack ridge happens to be my mom's favorite hike in the world. Unfortunately she couldn't make it this time, so just one parental unit came to try to set a new Jospe-record for that loop. I think our previous best had been somewhere around 4 hours, maybe just over. Its 8 miles with 4200 feet of vertical, so nothing too epic, but definitely enough to make you a little sore the next day (or three). We got up entirely too early, hoping to avoid some afternoon thunder showers, and by 8am we were on the trail. Of course, five minutes into it, I started up Falling Waters trail, which is the reverse loop. We realized this and turned around, but had to re-pass a family and a guy with a big pack, so I felt pretty stupid. The feeling didn't last, though, as it was just one of those days when you're rejoicing in movement, in life, in sunshine and clouds and trees and one step after the other. We started out at an easy jog, trotting along on the flats and hiking the steeper bits. By the time we got to the agonies (so named by the hut-caretakers apparently, as its the steep part and they have to cart all sorts of crap up to Greenleaf hut), we started passing various groups of Quebecois. Not sure if they were all one group or what, but it was nicer when we had the trail to ourselves.

Some days, its impossible to be serious

We were at the hut by 9, a three-mile jaunt, including our little "detour" up part of falling water trail. We like going up the bridle path because it means most of the ridge is downhill, which is faster and more enjoyable than the other direction. I have only hiked this ridge in the other direction once, when I was hiking with Anna and she was peak-bagging and wanted to get Liberty and Flume as well as the usual three. The trail up Flume is steep enough that you don't want to go down it - sheer rock face - hence that loop getting hiked in the "reverse" direction. Anyway, after a brief stop for water at the hut, we continued upwards, to Lafayette.

At the top of Lafayette we discovered we had cell service, so called Mama to inform her that we were at the top of her favorite mountain, and then we started jogging down the ridge. The clouds were slowly coming over the ridge, but there was no wind to speak of, and they were really stuck on one side of the ridge. It was really cool to look down the ridge and see clouds engulfing one side and sunshine on the other.

Looking into the abyss of the cloudy side

The obligatory action shot

About two and a half hours after starting the hike, we were at the top of Little Haystack and about to head down. The weather was starting to look less nice, but since we were leaving the ridge, we figured it didn't matter. There were a lot of people still heading up, though, so I hope they all made it over with no lightning or other bad things happening. I tend to descend pretty slowly, and I was still worried about my knee, which I tested with a two-mile run on Monday. If I can run two flat miles, I'm fine for an 8-mile speed-hike, right? Anyway, the head Jospe mountain goat was willing to go slowly, so we carefully stepped our way down, and then jogged through the flats at the end. It was sunny at the bottom, so we did the super-PRO thing and sat in the frigid stream afterwards to ice our legs. At least, I did.

In the end, 3:45, and since we're not counting my ten-minute detour, its actually 3:35. And, I never stopped the watch for our multiple photo-op stops. Definitely a new record =)

Most good days in the mountains ends with something like this...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Musings and a double pole time trial

Has anyone ever used rainx on glasses? I feel like it could be a very useful application, unless of course its too toxic to have near your skin like that.

Of course, now that its 80 degrees, sunny and humid, the moisture on my glasses is on the inside, not the outside.

CSU ran its first double pole time trial of the season yesterday night. We had seven juniors and three coaches doing the test, and Jamie took another 10-12 beginners to figure out how to rollerski. I was fairly impressed with my double poling performance - I've had elbow tendonitis that started last summer and never went away in the winter, so I've been taking it super easy on the rollerskiing front this summer trying to lose that injury. But between actually doing my physical therapy exercises and stretches and wearing my nifty little elbow brace, my elbows stood up to the pounding. Luckily, on uphills, it eventually just becomes a strength thing, because you're going too slowly to actually get your hands up, so there is less pounding. Or something.

My times were pretty good, compared to last september. Last September I skied a 12:46 (we add the times of the four reps - they were 3:08, 3:10, 3:13, and 3:15), and yesterday I skied a 13:31 (3:14, 3:26, 3:23, and 3:28). That is 5.7% slower, but, its June, and I've rollerskied less than 10 times so far. So, I'm happy. Previous data points that I have for myself:
August 06 - 16:56
November 06 - 15:01
June 08 - 15:17
September 08 - 12:46
June 09 - 13:31
I guess I like how that trend is going. These have all been on the same pair of Marwes, so at least its consistent.

It was definitely fun mixing it up with the boys - since I haven't been racing much, my competitive spirit is really chomping at the bit. The first one we all started together, I started in the back with Olga, and we quickly passed Rion (second year J2) on the initial steep pitch. Then it leveled out, and I pulled ahead of Olga a bit. We turned the corner and it got steep, and I reeled in Bob Burnham (coach, who had just gotten off a plane from China that day) and Nick (second year J1). Nick has been training this summer, so hopefully he'll see some serious improvements this winter. I could see the Burnham boys ahead of me and Neil and Luke and Frank ahead of them, but I didn't want to burn all my matches on the first hill. By tucking the downhill (gotta love taking that corner at 30+ mph!) I caught up with Luke and Frank, but waited for the full 4 minutes to elapse before starting my next one, behind the boys and ahead of Olga, Bob, Rion, and Nick. This one felt hard, although I was able to stay with Chris when he caught up to me.

The third one I decided to start with the Burhnam boys and Rion and Neil, and although Neil pulled away quickly, I was able to ski with Jimmy up through the top. We ended up dropping Chris and Rion, because Jimmy wasn't about to get girled and I was right there. Back to the bottom and I found myself starting behind Luke, with Jimmy and Chris just behind me. After the first steep pitch I didn't hear Jimmy's poles anymore, and realized I'd snapped the elastic of having a rabbit in front of you. Or just his will to double pole. I was trying to really engage my core, since it is considerably stronger than my arms these days, and then I saw Luke and realized I'd reeled him in with my slightly slower tempo. I tried to convert him to my ways but he was hyperventilating and flailing, and I couldn't get him to slow down to speed up. I dropped him, but couldn't put any time on Neil, who was (I believe) the winner of the day, if you don't count Frank. Good times, but my elbows might be suffering for this one for a couple days...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Travel diet

Last summer, I set myself on a travel diet - I am only allowed to travel more than some set distance (which tends to change based on what I feel like doing, but lets call it 30 miles) from home every other weekend. I stuck to it pretty well, and by the end of the summer I was rested and richer than I would have been otherwise. You ever add up how much you spend every single weekend when you go racing or doing cool training adventures? Of course, racing gives life a purpose, therefore its worth it. But I like the theory of the travel diet, so it went into effect this summer, too.

My point, of course, is that I wanted to go racing this weekend, but I can't run (local options abound for running), and the only two bike races were either Housatonic Hills, a 2.5hr drive each way, or some mountain bike race in NY, a 3hr drive each way. So, I didn't race. And it was raining and I was too wimpy to go outside in the rain, so basically I spent all day Sunday wondering what people do when they're not racing or training. I eventually settled on cleaning the apartment and making bread. I experimented with Manni's no-knead bread he's been making from the NYT recipe, and it was as easy and delicious as promised. Took all day, but hey, thats what I was going for.

Of course Saturday, I put in five hours on bikes and rollerskis. It turns out that skating makes your legs tired, so when you try to ride a bike after skating, you don't go very fast. It also turns out that if you ride on bald tires that have cracks in them, little round stones can give you flats. If, perchance, you don't bring anything to change said flats, you have to buy a tube off a passing cyclist, and you just might leave your wallet lying in the grass by the Harvard general store. Luckily people are honest and said wallet ended up at the Police station. Not that any of this could possibly apply to me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Knee report

I got an MRI for my knee, since that was what the doctor recommended and I was still bitching and moaning about being injured, and the results finally came in. Luckily its not a torn meniscus, which is what the doctor thought it might have been. Those require surgery, so I'm pretty relieved. The MRI says its a bone bruise, which apparently are like the common cold - they can be mild, moderate, or severe. I gather the severe ones are often associated with ACL tears, as the tendon can't hold the bones in the right places and they rub against each other and cause a bruise. In those cases, it lasts for years, and can cause degeneration of the cartilege overlying the bone, so its pretty serious.

My ACL is not torn, and I have a mild to moderate bone bruise, so I don't need to be too worried about the whole degeneration thing. The bruise is on the inner part of the knee on the front weight-bearing part of the thigh bone (there were lots of medical words describing that point, luckily Dr. Bouscaren translated for me). This would explain why the knee hurts when I straighten it completely.

Supposedly, it'll be better in a couple weeks, if it isn't improving or its getting worse, they'll have to do arthroscopic surgery, which I'd rather avoid. Its already probably 80% better than when I initially hurt it, which translates to being able to bike and rollerski, but no running yet. I'm allowed to run once I can do it pain-free and with no pain afterwards. He did think hill bounding would be ok... =)

My mental outlook is considerably sunnier right now than a couple days ago. I feel a little like I dodged a bullet. Body, do you think we can cooperate now and get back to getting super ski-fit? Thanks!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A small ski rant

There's been a lot of jibber jabber recently about how much US skiing is sucking and various ideas about why. Not much about how to fix it, but to their credit the USST is trying to come up with a "pipeline" for junior skiers to follow and they've made some changes. NENSA is following suit, trying to stay in line with the USST, which makes sense, from some points of view, but seems exceedingly biased towards juniors, from other (my?) points of view. Because NENSA is not a governing body of a team that has to compete and hold its own internationally, it is the governing body of a region of skiers, and should be supportive of all its skiers.

Plenty has been written about how we need to bring in more skiers, particularly juniors, how our juniors need to train more, how we need access to free/cheaper equipment, how we need to keep our juniors training well in college or delaying college if they're talented, yadda yadda yadda. Something that hasn't been brought up is senior skiing. Seniors and masters don't count for as much in the USST's eyes, since masters are far less likely to represent the US internationally (although there are definite exceptions), and to the USST, if a senior skier hasn't been in their sights since they were a J2, obviously that skier isn't going to amount to anything. Once you hit 25 you better be winning medals or you're gone. Oh, that Valaas girl, yeah she did alright, got a silver medal at U23 world champs, no big deal, but she didn't medal on the world cup, and geez, shes 25, so we better let her go. Make room for some more 19 year olds. They're the ones with a future. Man I wish I'd seen the USST heads squirm when they had no choice but to add Sarah Konrad to the Olympic Squad since she's wicked fast... and old.

Its no secret that I'm not olympic material. I picked the wrong parents (but only in terms of mitochondrial density. They're pretty good for everything else). No matter how much I train, there is no spot for me at that level. This doesn't bother me too much, since I tend to enjoy what I'm doing for "training". The thing is, there are a lot of other skiers out there, who were skiing with me as a junior or in college, who aren't skiing now. There are plenty of reasons that they don't ski anymore, I mean, 25 is the point where life, job, relationships, marriages, kids (god forbid), living in cities, it all catches up with you, theres no time to train 600 hours a year for a sport you have to drive three hours each way to compete in, just to get your butt kicked by someone who doesn't work and is "living the dream".

What happened to that middle tier of skiers? Where have they all gone, and more importantly, how can we get them back or keep them in it? Most post-collegiate skiers know what it takes to be successful in skiing, and know that they no longer have the time (or inclination) to do it. I bet thats why you see an increase in numbers in cycling around the senior level - you can race bikes as a weekend warrior and there will always be someone slower than you, but that won't cut it in skiing when you only have the pros to race against. There is no cat 5 in skiing, and if there were, there would be no seniors in cat 5. For whatever reason, its a given that if you are going to be a senior skier in the US, you will live the life of a pauper, "chasing the dream" sleeping on couches, eating ramen, and playing video games in your downtime. This leaves you where when you turn 40? Oh, right, totally inexperienced in the so-called real world with no savings to speak of and nothing to show except a lot of frequent flier miles and some overuse injuries. So basically, if you're between the age of 23 and 30, you have three choices: 1. join a pro team. 2. Try to ski without said pro team and suck. 3. quit skiing.

It would be great if there were some support for senior skiers. Just because we have "real" jobs doesn't mean we have a lot of money, and the way this sport is going, that is a definite necessity. NENSA claims they're trying to do something, so they set up the Craftsbury Green Team. Great, another pro team that requires giving up your job, your life, your location, in order to chase a dream in a region where there is no dream to chase. This isn't what I'm talking about when I ask for senior skier support. We need a support system for people not on pro teams. Why does cycling do so well with numbers in the senior age class? Population centers (and snow) aside, one nice change is prize money - every Joe Shmoe putting on a race pays out top three, at least in the upper cats. Does skiing do this? No, where would we get the prize money from? NENSA charges 1.75 times as much as a bike race charges for entry fees. Where does it all go? I mean, I can see added expenses for using the ski area and grooming. I know NENSA is a non profit and always looking for money, but seriously, skiing is not cheap, and incentive to win back an entry fee would get more people coming.

More support for seniors? Well, maybe just not cutting them out. In the past, NENSA has let seniors come to the REG camps because they qualified. Now, because they're trying to stay in line with the USST, the seniors are cut out. Because god forbid that a senior skier would want to improve also. We weren't picked up by the so-called scouting programs as J2s, therefore we don't count, we'll never amount to anything. In the past, NENSA has allowed a "NENSA quota" to participate in the October USST camp at Lake Placid. No longer, now its just for NENSA juniors. Come on, guys, we haven't given up on life yet. Just because you are at a certain level doesn't mean you don't want to improve. But apparently, according to NENSA and the USST, once you hit a certain age you don't really care if you improve or not. You're too old, death and master skiing is right around the corner. There are no opportunities anymore.

I know NENSA is working hard to promote senior skiing. And all I have to add is bitching, nothing supportive or helpful. But I think its stupid that you lose so many skiers after they leave college. At least Boston has Weston - there is a race series thats growing, and not cutting out seniors. How do you get that crowd to come do real races?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


"Excuse me, can I ask you a question?"

I look up from my contemplation of the sidewalk, at an unkempt man in a dirty sweatshirt. He looks like a homeless bum, but I'm in Harvard square, so he might just be a professor for all I know, or a grad student.

"I'm hungry". He puts his hands on his stomach. "I'm trying to collect some money to buy some food".

"I have a pear". I do have a pear. It was my snack for that afternoon. I'm willing to share my food with hungry people, but this guy just wants money. I know my pear is safe.

"A pear? I can't eat pears".

"Then I can't help you"

I can't help but feel sad after this sort of encounter. What's that saying about counting your blessings? I hope this guy gets himself clean someday, but how likely is that? Sometimes I guess I need a reminder that there is a lot more to the world than what I see in my little sphere.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The ZOO!

I went to a funeral this weekend, in MI. It was good, Tean was 94, and she would have been really glad to be the reason to bring everyone together. Its just as well that I wasn't racing, since I still can't really walk normally. I'm getting checked out this week, I sure hope its nothing too serious. Its normal to be unable to straighten your leg, right?

The cousins went to the zoo.

The polar bear tunnel. One of the bears felt it was necessary to sit on top of the tunnel and scratch his butt.

Obligatory charismatic megafauna shot.

The zoo was awesome, I hadn't been to a zoo in forever. Too bad the lions were asleep on a ledge, though, I really wanted to see them walking around.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lactate Testing

Riding my road bike on a dirt trail, only a couple roots in the way, with a heavy-ass trainer hanging over my shoulder, forty five minutes late and completely lost in the woods at Walden Pond. Eventually I found the CSU skiing crowd, they'd set up a tent in case it was raining and there were the testers and a couple parents standing around while the kids were running a loop in the woods. Rob and Allen (I think) were in charge of the clipboards, while Peter and Joe were the finger prickers. Its lactate time!

CSU owns lactate testing equipment, but we've never used it. We finally decided that we should do something about this, and rounded up a group of the JO kids to make 'em bleed. Well, just a little bit. The protocol was a field test, rather than a lab test, there was a loop that the kids ran at their perceived correct levels. At the end of the loop, we'd record time, heart rate, and blood lactate level. They did one loop of level 1, one loop of threshold (Rob was telling them "a pace you could race at for an hour"), and one loop of race pace (but no kick at the end! Geez how do you tell highschool boys not to kick it in when they're going at race pace??). We sent them off in groups of 2, every three minutes, and it was taking 8-12 minutes to complete the loop. As far as I could tell, this worked pretty well.

I had been planning on taking part in the running part, I wouldn't be the only coach doing that; Frank Feist was running too. However, being unable to walk probably means I shouldn't try running, so I figured I'd just set up my bike on a trainer. Given how much riding I'll probably be stuck doing this summer, its not a bad idea to get the levels down. I sort of discounted the 2km walk to the start of the loop where they were testing, though... Thanks to my gimpy gait, I gave myself two blisters (well, I also forgot socks and I was limping around in bike shoes), and carrying a trainer while riding just sucks. I have bruises on my head and my collarbone from the damn thing bouncing around. Hobbling around the woods, lost and really late, I was cursing. This is a bad idea, a waste of time, why am I bothering? Top it off with being dinner for mosquitos, since, it feels like you're moving, I mean, you're working really hard, but you're not actually going anywhere on a trainer...

Glad I went, though. I ended up getting in 45 minutes of riding and zones were tested, which was more than I expected from this day of gimpiness. I'm still a cranky bitch moaning about my aches and pains, though. Some things don't change.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I feel like I've been battling some sort of injury or other all spring. Mostly, they've been small, easily-dealt-with annoyances, but I have yet to feel like I'm healthy and ready to kill it ski training. I thought I was there, the last couple weeks have been feeling better and better, but today I managed to knock myself back again.

I went to the track this morning, to do some speedwork, I was pretty psyched about the workout, which is saying a lot when its not yet 6am and we're talking about track intervals. As part of my warmup, I was doing some 100m strides across the infield, and on the second one, I stepped funny, doing something to my knee that was sending messages back to brain saying "stop now". I listen to those messages, I couldn't bear weight and it hurt to straighten my leg. I decided that HTFU was the wrong approach here, pushing through it would just make things worse. Barely able to limp home, I thought I'd just be sort of dejected that I couldn't complete my workout (and likely can't do any running workouts for the rest of the week), but instead I'm angry. Angry at my body for letting me down. Who gave it permission to break down on me? I'm not asking more of it than I should be, I'm not throwing new techniques or drastic increases in volume or intensity, I'm not even training through injuries, I take damn good care of myself so why the HELL am I breaking?

My future may be filled with television and video games. Screw this sporty stuff, it just wears me out. I'm gonna have to keep my soul in a cage to keep it from jumping ship to someone who plays outside from time to time, though.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hazen Union Adventure Race

A couple weeks ago, Adrian Owens, one of the fast guys on the US Ski-o team, emailed me with a possibility to do a small adventure race. It was a short one, so I figured, why not. This race was supposed to be a fundraiser for the Hazen Union school's outing club, but because of the rain in the preceding days, a couple teams bailed, and so it was a really small turnout. I didn't really know what to expect, and apparently, adventure race organizers like to keep things pretty secretive. I showed up to Hardwick, met up with Adrian, got our stuff ready to go, and then Marc, the organizer, went over the rules. The first three controls were to be gotten in any order, on foot. Then 4-9 would be gotten by bike, in order. Then we'd come into the transition area, and pick up controls 10-12 in any order by canoe. Then controls 13-15 and to the finish was on foot. Sounded simple enough...
Nice day for riding bikes

The first running bit was on the cross country trails at the Hazen Union school (where we started), and we jogged along nabbing controls at an easy pace. We came into the transition zone well in front, quickly changed to bike shoes (Adrian rides with toe straps when he does these races, so that he doesn't have to change shoes as often), and set off to get the next set of controls. The first couple flags were still in that trail system, and the sugaring lines were still up, which meant we almost got decapitated coming down one hill. Oops. After that, we were mostly on dirt roads and atv trails, which was certainly muddy. I didn't bring sunglasses, since I don't like running in them, and descending one of the fast atv mudpits I was screaming "MY EYES!!!" Hard to see, for sure. The nice thing about these races, is that apparently most of the people who do them are sort of weekend warriors, Adrian said there had never been a race where he couldn't just outrun the competition. We weren't going fast, I think on the bike section we averaged less than 10 mph (there were some big hills...), but we were putting massive amounts of time on the other people. Of course, some of the riding was actually walking with the bikes looking for the flags.
What exactly have I gotten myself into??

We came into the transition area and got in the canoe. Adrian thought it would be better for me to be in the back, but I haven't paddled a canoe in a couple years, and it showed. We went pretty straight, mostly, and made good time through the water. We were still the only team to have gone through the transition area as we took off on the last running bit. We set a compass bearing to just go straight to 13, as it was in a saddle and those can be tricky, and that worked out well. It was fun doing this with Adrian, I was expecting a lot more detail from the map, but he knew sort of where to look for these things and was really good at navigating on the USGS topo map. We straight-lined to 14, also, just hiking up the hills, keeping things really low intensity.
Searching for misplaced checkpoint 15

We thought 15 would be a real no-brainer, go down the trail and then follow the river to the flag. We did that, but there was no flag. We relocated (keep in mind you've got two world-champs-level orienteers, here), checked out some possible parallel errors, and concluded that the checkpoint really should have been where we were. We went back and looked around some more, still no flag. After wasting about an hour hunting and pecking for the flag, we called it a day and jogged down to the finish. The organizer described getting to the control, and we had followed that exactly until the fork in the trail, when he said you had to go up and over a hill to get to the beaver pond, and we had stayed low. Because, water isn't going to go up and over a hill. I think he put the flag in the wrong spot.
Hum. where are we now?

Luckily, being a small, fundraiser-type race, there weren't any prizes or anything we missed out on. We actually ended up leaving before the other people even finished... Maybe not the most sportsman-like behavior, but I had to get back down to Weston in time for Ed's cousin's birthday party...