I went to see The Armstrong Lie at the theater in Denver with Geoff, Tony and Tim. I have to say that I have never been much of an Armstrong fan. Growing up in France during the height of his Tour domination, the arrogant, brash, defiant Texan wasn’t appreciated by many. There is so much national pride wrapped up in the Tour that it never went down too well seeing an American steal the race year after year. Strangely and for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ve began to like Armstrong more after his cheating confession. Of course the lies, bullying and ruthless methods he employed to cover up his scam are nothing short of despicable. Yet, professional cycling has been endemically corrupt for decades now and Armstrong simply played the game better and harder than anyone ever had. Again, this doesn’t justify his behavior in any way, but in a game rampant with deceit and hypocrisy, the status-quo becomes so flawed, that it’s hard to define what cheating even means. At the end of the day, maybe all we want to do is hold on to the dream, turn a blind eye to all the bullshit and be fed the inspiration of a cancer survivor racing bicycles like a legend.
During last year’s ITI 350, I used trekking poles for nearly the entire race. I was reminded today, slogging through heavy drifts of sugary snow in my snowshoes of the marvelous utility poles have in the snow. With good technique, I can match my running or hiking stride perfectly with my arms, aiding forward propulsion dramatically. Much like with scrambling, when all four limbs are working simultaneously, I get immense satisfaction from the primal feeling of full body engagement. I love dropping to my knees at the top of a climb, breathing heavily, feeling every part of my body pulsating with the effort. They say that drinking IPAs will ruin your beer palette. Who they are I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve found myself recently straying from the darker ales in favor of hoppy bitterness. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, much like black coffee and once converted there’s no going back. I mean, why wouldn’t you drink your coffee black? Unless, it’s 4 p.m. and time for a cappuccino, wouldn’t you want to taste and savor all that the the bean has to offer without the softness of milk, the sweetness of sugar or the spice of peppermint?
Some days you flow in the mountains, other days you fight. Today was more of a fight. I started at Beaver Reservoir, heading west to Coney flats with the intention to climb Sawtooth mountain. At the start, my stomach feels a little queasy, my energy flat. I work my way around skiers sinking each time into the trail side powder. I don’t really get backcountry nordic skiing. Unless you can skate or really glide, tight, rolling trails just seem to make the whole process highly frustrating and inefficient. Past Coney flats, the hardpack trail ends, giving place to a mix of deep, drifted snow and frozen swamps. The swamp sections are actually quite fun and easy to run on with good purchase on the ice from the snowshoe crampons. At treeline, the mile long east ridge of Sawtooth mountain comes into sight. The terrain is challenging as the scree is laced with ice and riddled with deep snow pockets. I go back and forth using my snowshoes, but neither with or without them feels very efficient. A large, packed snow slab leads up the last 500 feet to the summit. Kicking steps proves difficult as the surface underfoot is extremely hard. I notice a metal clinking sound coming from my snowshoes and realize I have lost a screw attaching the binding to the cleat. I sit there in the shade and wind a few hundred feet below the summit, fixing the unit with a small piece of cordelette from my coat zipper. Not ideal, but it’s enough to hold it in place to reach the summit, where I linger for about 3 seconds. I’m cold and feel slightly sketched coming back down the slab on a wonky snowshoe. Once I reach the valley, I run hard all the way back to my truck in the waning evening light. I’m done with my Dion snowshoes and going back to the Northernlites, which are virtually indestructible. The Dion’s run really well, but the durability is too unreliable for extended mountain use. I rarely run groomers which is what I think they are best suited for. Luckily, my wife really likes them and given that she’s lighter and gentler than I am on equipment, they will still get some good use.
I did a short, glorious run with dog before heading to Eldora for some downhill ski practice. Deanne got some cheap day passes that included a meal voucher through CU so it’s a great opportunity to practice some turns without breaking the bank. Deanne is renting a snowboard for the day, but I have a hard time waiting in the crowded line at the ski lodge. In recent years, I’ve started to get anxious and claustrophobic in crowded areas, perhaps due to the contrast of living in a fairly secluded mountain town. Waiting isn’t really the issue, but with all the people it gets a bit overwhelming for me. Airports and big cities tend to have the same effect although when I’m travelling a lot, I seem to be able to relax more and not let it bother me as much. We spend a couple of hours on the beginner hill, before heading to lunch after which I move on to the more advanced terrain. Much like when I started snowboarding 10 years ago, I remember a distinct moment when things started to click. Today, I had such a moment. I felt more at ease and controlled with the 4 edges and two separate planks under my feet. It seems strange to me that a resort like Eldora doesn’t allow uphill ski access. There’s plenty of terrain that could easily be marked off for uphill use with little to no disturbance to other users. Much like OSMP’s trail management style, there appears to be a large divide between those in charge and actual trail users. You’d think that in a place like Boulder, close uphill ski access or allowing racing (even minimal) on the trails would be a given, but it’s quite the opposite.
Woke up with a headache and a stuffy nose. I’m not sick, but it’s always difficult to maintain optimum health when building up a good running base. Balancing enough rest and recovery based on training output can be challenging. The fitter I get, the more excited I am to get out in the mountains as the prospect for a good experience is high. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of having boundless energy and that no matter how hard you push, it never really appears difficult. It’s an addictive feeling though and good, balanced training soon gives place to excess. This winter, I’ve been cognizant to really switch things up and stress the mind and body with different activities to stave off injury or burnout. Snowshoeing and skiing have been my prefered options, with some cycling (when weather permits) and climbing thrown in there too. Beyond the cross-training aspect, I genuinely enjoy these activities and continue to acquire a more diverse skill set to be efficient in moving in the mountains. I hope this will translate into some good racing this spring and summer, but regardless the diversity of activities has been a welcome change.
Went out to Rollinsville to check out the Moffat Tunnel, East Portal trailhead for skinning. I’ve never been up this way, but have seen photos of a lot of top marathoners running Tolland road to the trailhead. With 8 miles on gradual uphill dirt from Rollinsville, I could see this being a quality place to get some faster road miles in, in preparation for UTMF. The skinning from the trailhead is good with approximately 1,500 feet of climbing to Crater Lake in a little under 3 miles and an extra 500 feet of vert. up to Roger Pass. The uphill isn’t continuous with some flat and rolling sections, nor is it very steep, but it’s a satisfying ascent coupled with rewarding views above treeline. The downhill is reasonably engaging through the trees for my limited ability and icy spots or quick, tight bridge crossings add a little spice to the outing. I find that when I’m confident in my ability to wheeled the planks, the descent goes a lot smoother. When I start to hesitate or doubt, I tend to lose coordination, tense my quads and make mistakes. Faster downhilling through the trees requires a lot of focus and presence, which is something I also enjoy tapping into when I’m running.
Brad, a friend and coaching client of mine, proposed a project idea to me a few months ago. He’s a life coach and thought it would be interesting to put together a small group of people who would be interested in using the transformative power of running as a way to overcome life challenges. He would focus on the life coaching aspect, me on the running. Our group met up for the first time tonight for a run up Bear Peak followed by food and beer. Everyone is eager to train for an ultra this summer. I do believe that the process in preparing for such an endeavor will truly be transformative. I like to make connections in my regular coaching sessions between how running impacts our lives and vis-versa. I see this as a great opportunity to more thoroughly investigate this aspect of the sport, rather than solely focusing on the fitness benefits of training.