Saturday, March 17, 2007

2007 Powderkeg

The following is an interview of SLC Samurai by JLI, a more balanced alter ego of SLC Samurai.

JLI: So, I heard you did the 2007 Powderkeg on Saturday.

SS: Hai!

JLI: You'll have to excuse me, but what does "Hai" mean?

SS: Yes.

JLI: Why do you grunt when you say it, is that some sort of samurai thing?

SS: Hai!

JLI: During this interview, would you mind simply saying "yes"?

SS: Yes, ok.

JLI: So, you're a samurai right? I didn't know that samurais skied?

SS: One of the hallmarks of samurai is adaptability. For centuries Samurai have taken what's good, then adapted, and made it better. In your parlance, Samurai go with the flow, but are good at figuring out how to even go faster.

JLI: Ok ok. So, if you're really a samurai, do you wear one of those dress things when you race?

SS: You mean a kimono?

JLI: Yes.

SS: Apparently, you didn't hear me when I said that samurai are adept at adapting. If you must know, I wore tights. That's what rando racers wear these days.

JLI: Right. So the Powderkeg is a rando race. Can you explain to me what a rando race is?

SS: Sure. A rando race is a backcountry ski race. The race consists of four climbs totalling 5,500 vertical feet. Skiers ski on lightweight alpine skis with lightweight AT boots. To go up, skiers use climbing skins, which are stuck to the bottom of their skis. To go down . . . well, I think you get that part.

JLI: So how do you "walk" while you're clipped into your skis?

SS: Good question. AT bindings, which is short for "alpine touring," release at the heal and pivot at the toe in uphill mode. When you go down, you lock your heel down, and ski just like you would with normal alpine skis. If you want a visual, click here and then click on "Pierra Menta." You can also go here.

JLI: Funny, I've never really heard much about this "rando racing" stuff.

SS: It's a growing sport. In Europe, it's very popular. It started in earnest in the US about 5 years ago. Some advocates compare randonee racing to mountain biking and say that randonee racing is like mountain biking was in the 1990s. As with cycling, I doubt the popularity of rando racing in the US will ever rise to the European level. No matter, it's fun and I hope it continues to grow. It certainly deserves to.

JLI: Is the Powderkeg a popular race?

SS: In the rando race world, it's probably the second most popular, with the first most popular being the national championship race in Jackson Hole, WY. The Jackson Hole race is being held next week, so most of the contenders showed up at the Powderkeg race. I think most of the top 10 were from out of state.

JLI: Did you contend?

SS: For the win?

JLI: Yes.

SS: No, I appreciate that you do not doubt my abilities, but I did not seriously contend for the win. Although, as you see in the picture above, I had a pretty good start.

JLI: Oh, so who won?

SS: Ethan Passant, an avid road racer, took first. Chris Kroger, a Jackson ski patroller took second. And Pete Swenson, a former pro mountain biker, took third. Kroger ate it a few meters in front of the finish line and Passant took the win.

JLI: Wow, must have been exciting. What were their times?

SS: The winning time was about 2 hours and 2 minutes.

JLI: Did they win anything cool?

SS: Probably the coolest thing was that by winning, the top 2 finishers earned a spot on the US National team and will get to compete at world cup venues in Europe.

JLI: Did the winners . . .

SS: Um, excuse me, but do you think we can focus more on the samurai please?

JLI: Ok, I get star stuck every once in awhile, I apologize. So what was your time?

SS: 2 hours and 22 minutes.

JLI: Wow, so those guys put 20 minutes into you huh?

SS: Yes, I gave up 20 minutes. And I nearly achived my goal of finishing in the top 10.

JLI: Oh, so what place did you take?

SS: I took 11th place.

JLI: Not bad. Not bad samurai. So where did you give up time?

SS: It's hard to say. Unlike last year, I didn't have any major mishaps. I think more than anything, I simply wasn't as fast as the frontrunners. They were faster up the mountain; they were faster in the transitions; and they were faster on the descents. Of course, they also had super light equipment. But like cycling, it's the engine that matters most.

JLI: Do you think you can get faster?

SS: I think I could definitely get faster if I specifically trained for rando races. My legs felt pretty decent on the uphill. I suffered real bad on the downhill. I wasted some time getting my skins on and off. Of course, I didn't flub up like the guy who forgot his skin in the transition zone or like the guy whose ski fell off his pack and went zooming 1000 vertical feet down the mountain. Incidentally, his ski ran right over my boots. I caught a glimpse of "MX:20," the name of the ski. Isn't that the name of a missile?

JLI: Pardon me, but I'm the interviewer.

SS: Sorry.

JLI: So it sounds like your race went pretty smoothly.

SS: It went pretty well. I feel like I did the best I could. I had a few mishaps that I'd like to avoid in the future.

JLI: Like what?

SS: Well, I crashed three times. Two were really bad. In the two bad crashes I lost my poles and sunglasses and after I slid to a halt had to side step up the mountain to collect my stuff. The other crash was going up hill. I got a cramp, couldn't move my leg, and then kind of did two somersaults down the mountain in slow motion. And then there were the ice moguls at the start of the race. It was hard skinning up those.

JLI: Why was it so hard to go downhill?

SS: Going downhill was tough mostly because of the snow conditions. I may as well have been skiing on solid rock, bumpy rock. On the decents, I simply tried to stay on my skis, survive, and go as fast as I could. Since the snow was so hard, it was easy to go fast. The control part was the hardest. It felt like someone was hitting my thighs with a baseball bat.

JLI: Ouch. That must have hurt. Did you feel like dropping the F bomb when you crashed?

SS: I'd be lying if I said no. It was frustrating not being able to keep up the speed and was especially frustrating when I hit the deck.

JLI: I notice you're having a bit of difficulty holding up a cup and lifting your right arm.

SS: Yes, I damaged it a bit when I crashed.

JLI: Well at least you're ok. It's getting late and we should retire soon. Let me ask though, do you think you might want to get more into rando racing?

SS: Possibly. I'm looking into getting some super light equipment. It would be kind of cool to contend on a national stage. It's nice because the national stage isn't that big. So I have a better chance of doing well.

JLI: Thanks for the interview samurai. In fairness, I should ask if you have any questions for me.

SS: Actually I do. I notice your hair is getting kind of long. Are you going for the Bruce Lee look?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Spring Ritual

It's spring. It's a time when life springs anew. Farmers plant their crops, little chicks hatch, high school students go to prom, car dealerships and furniture stores have "mega" sales, the race season begins, and me? I shave my legs. Yes, that's my Spring Ritual. Once a year I pull out the Wahl clippers, shear off the winter's growth, slather shaving cream on the legs, and go to work. The result? Legs born anew.

I don't think all cyclists perform this ritual. That's why the Spring Ritual isn't mainstream and doesn't have an official name or date, like Arbor Day. The reason for this that cyclists generally fall into three categories: hairies, year-rounders, and springers. Because there are these three species, it's hard for cyclists to agree on a set date for the Spring Ritual, kind of like Hannukah and Christmas.

For reasons set forth above, I am a springer (more on that later). Regarding the hairies, I give them props for riding two wheeled machines, although more often than not, they drive big diesel F-250s. Manliness is important to the hairies (hence the F-250), and shaving legs just doesn't comport with their image. I'd like to say that hairies really aren't the racer type, but I have to admit that I've been dusted by one or two hairies in my day. In fact, in my mountain bike days, I used to be a hairy and took pride in dropping year-rounders and springers. I also take great pride in converting hairies to the springer team (yes, cousin Chris, admit it, you like shaved legs).

Regarding the year-rounders, I don't fault them for keeping themselves smooth and silky year round. For me, however, it's just not worth the effort, and I generally do not have the "issues" that year-rounders have -- not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, it seems that most year-rounders describe the shaved legged sensation as "spectacular" and "fantastic," and that's with a lisp. (Ok, ok, I'm being overly-stereotypical. If you take offense, I give you license to stereotype my people, but you don't see me carrying a calculator in my jersey pocket do you?)

And then there's the Springers. Some like to think that Springers (not to be confused with Swingers) can't commit to being hairies, and can't commit to be year-rounders. Springers are often characterized as being in and out of the closet at the same time. It's hard for a year-rounder to take a Springer seriously since Springers are so noncommittal. To the year-rounders, I say, lighten up. As a Springer, I don't think staying smooth and silky year round is worth the effort. Plus, being a year-rounder would negate the magnitude of the Spring Ritual.

Plus, at work, I am openly a Springer, despite the persecution I receive. In one instance, I casually mentioned to a co-worker that I had performed my Spring Ritual. He obviously didn't have the reverence for my Spring Ritual that I have for his March Madness Ritual. Some reciprocation would have been nice. I at least demonstrate interest and excitement when he passionately blubbers about this or that comeback or Iowa Tech this and Nebraska State that (what's that? those schools don't exist? that's how much I really care about March Madness!). And I don't say snide things like, man you must put out lots of wattage being a spectator. But intead, he (who I shall hereinafter refer to as the "Pagan") mockingly said, "did you change teams too?" I diverge.

I shouldn't have to defend my Springer status. I shouldn't let the various categories of cyclists cloud the clarity that the Spring Ritual confers. It's Spring. Chicks are hatching and legs are shaved . . .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Got to Know When To Hold'em, Know When to Fold'em

I had grand plans for a grand ride on Saturday. I was on the bike by 6:30 am and headed up Emmigration. It was sprinkling a bit, but I thought that it was the tail end of the night's storm. However, mid-way up Emmigration, the sprinkle turned into a full on down pour. Again, I though, the down pour was the tail end of a storm and that it would soon clear. It hadn't yet occurred to me that I ought to "fold'em," so I kept going. My thought was that it would soon clear up and I'd dry out on the bike.

By the time I hit Little Mountain, my tires were leaving little trenches in the ice/slush on the road. Since I'd been climbing, I wasn't cold. The problem was I was at a highpoint and my only option was to go down. And I was starting to feel cold. Since I wasn't yet ready to fold'em, I opted to head east towards Mt. Dell, and up I-80. That descent was cold. My soaked clothes turned to stiff frozen clothes.

When I hit I-80, I was too cold to stop. Going down Parley's was a sure fire way to repeat LOTOJA '05 (see pic above). It's hard to ride when you have hypothermia. So, I went up. Yep, I climbed to survive -- and I secretly hoped that the weather would clear up. That hope lasted about 20 minutes. Because after 20 minutes I found myself at the top of Parley's Summit, with nowhere to go but down. That's when I folded, pulled into a cafe, pulled out the cell phone, and waited for my rescue crew to bail me out. I don't know that my fellow diners appreciated me stripping off most of my clothing and laying it out on the table, but at least I didn't get hypothermia

To recoup my losses, I did the Powder Keg course this morning. I'm going to have to start my mental preparation for that one ASAP. It's going to be a lung burner.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The SLC Paradox

(Click on the picture)

Some would say that a picture of backcountry tracks in the same picture as a large grocery store is a paradox. Not in SLC though.

Due to a lingering sinus infection/stomach flu, it's been tough to fulfill the "training" aspect of this blog. However, yesterday after work, I thought that I might as well contribute to the "adventure" aspect -- assuming that you can call backcountry skiing in full view of SLC an adventure.

We've had a lot of snow in the last two weeks. I think Alta reported that in the last two weeks it has received 104 inches of snow. The avalanche danger is extreme though. Despite the danger, there are places to ski, like Olympus Cove.

So, after work, I drove up to the neighborhood trailhead and started skinning up the hill. From my house and 215 it looks like the point of departure is simple to find. It wasn't. This is because of all the scrub oak at the base of the hill. So, after and hour of world class bushwhacking and wallowing through thigh-deep snow, I finally found a ridge to ascend.

Skinning up the ridge wasn't difficult. Midway up, I was amused by what looked like sled tracks running down the ridge. Maybe it was same guy who became famous after sledding 3000 vertical feet at mach 10 down Superior. What was cool about skinning up the ridge was that I had a full view of the SLC. The descent was ok too. Again, the coolest part was descending with SLC at my feet. I guess this is one more reason I like this valley so much.