Saturday, February 6, 2016

February powder daze

Ski conditions have been top notch, so I made a little ski push prior to a two week Minnesota trip. If this is what El Nino looks like, I will take it. A quick summary.

Snowbowl dawn patrol powder  
I took a spin out to Point 6 on a dark and snowy Wednesday morning, and was shocked to find something like 16” of champagne powder.  I modified my work plans, staying out for a few more laps, working late, then returning for more the next day.  I was fun to get first tracks down the prime cuts of the Taint, Totality, (technically no the prime cut since I opted for the safe/non wind loaded entrance), and Jenny bowl.  The pre-dawn approach might have included a little 3 min x 6 V02 max interval workout, but it was forgettable compared to the absolutely flawless snow quality. 
Powder skiing is fun. It took about two turns with snow in my face
to at least temporarily recant my philosophical "powder is over rated" stance.
I returned a day later with Alan, Jeff, and Foote, who joined us at the top after an independent interval workout on skinny sticks.  With work commitments, we kept it to a single Jenny Bowl lap, but I think everyone was quite impressed with the quality of the skiing, and wished they could stay for more.  I sure was.  Also, the sun poked through the clouds right as we dropped off the top, casting a pink sunrise glow on the mountains.  Magic.
Sunrise on the last push to Point 6.
Thanks for the morning spin, guys!
Bridger Bowl Skin to Win Randonee race 
This year’s iteration of Skin to Win included 6” of powder, a notable absence of Ben Parsons and the Curry/Hoffman local posse, and Mike Foote skiing off course when there was no-one to direct him down the second run.  I used a slightly more aggressive strategy, scrapping the HR monitor, pushing the first climb a bit deeper past lactate threshold than in past races, and really sticking to the "if you don't feel like you are going to die, go harder" mantra for the remaining climbs.  I topped out on the first climb in 5th, and moved up to 3rd by the second climb, then took the lead after Mike got lost and 20-year Jackson skier Sawyer blew a skin.  

Notable other occurences included a heroic push by the resort to keep the race on schedule, even with all the new snow, very strong performances by the top two women, Janelle Smiley and local crusher-and-all-around-great-person Michela Adrian, and a strong fourth place finish by Andrew Mayer.
Skating to the finish. video: Mark Story - thanks Dad!

With all of the snow and ridiculously steep skin tracks, keeping skins intact was a nightmare, and I benefited mightily from freshly glued wall to wall nylon skins.  It was a good battle for the duration of the race. Sawyer and I were less than a minute apart for the duration of the race, and Mike caught us at the top of the last descent.  I skied very hard down the last run, and was able to hold them off for a bittersweet win (it should have been Mike’s day) at one of my favorite races anywhere. 

A note on training:  I spent about 8 weeks this fall strictly following a training plan developed my Mike Wolfe.  While all of the major pieces were similar to my normal approach, there were a few key differences.  Most importantly, I got in the gym for a very hard "hour of power" strength workout every week, which was focused on powerful full leg strengthening (heavy deadlifts/squats and plyos with weight) with a healty dose of core and upper body work as well.  These bruiser sessions would leave me wiped out for two days.  The plan also had two focused speed sessions (typically one lactate threshold, and one Vo2 max interval) per week, and one core/injury prevention/stabilization strength workout, both of which I was already doing. And, of course, a lot of time cruising around at a moderate/aerobic pace.  

In terms of translation to performance, the most important factor was injury reduction, as aside from some ongoing low calf issues, I did not have a muscle tweak all fall.  I have noticed a dramatic uptick in core strength and small but noticeable upticks on leg strength (no quad burning on any ski descent yet this year) and time to fatigue at high effort levels (small increase in lactate threshold pace, I think).  Although I am not able to throw down and duke it out with the lead racers, my race performances are a few minutes stronger than in past years.

Bridger range powder  
Andrew and I took an easy post-race spin in the playground near Ross Pass the day after the Bridger race. We skied three runs, enjoying the high quality settled powder skiing.  Although our pit and other skier's behavior suggested we might have been able to push it a little harder terrain-wise, it didn’t seem worth it, and we stuck to the standard sub-35 degree Playground terrain.  Good day.
Good old fashioned fun powder busting in the Bridgers.  Photo: Andrew Mayer.
Rando Radness  
Alan Adams has been spearheading a 6-week community race.  The format is simple, run laps of some kind on Sunrise bowl at Snowbowl for an hour.  The event is also focused on including non-racers, I am excited to see a range of skiers, from aerobic mutants on heavy gear, to every day skiers pushing it and perhaps picking up an idea or two about how to move more efficiently in the mountains.  If you ski uphill in Missoula, you should come out at least one night check it out.  Choose you poison since a good time can be had racing, just grinding a good workout in, or drinking beer and spectating/heckling!
Coach Wolfe and dark horse heavy metal crusher Andrew Mayer at the start of the week two rally.  photo: Jed Zilla
I took it easy the first night in anticipation of the Bridger race.  The second night, I gave it an honest race effort, battling it out with Mike Wolfe (I think he was going at a smarter lactate threshold pace, while I was pinning it to the max), but never reaching out to catch Alan.  I also took a fall on the first run and sprained my ankle.  In a stroke of questionable intelligence, I kept at it for three more laps, exacerbating the sprain.  The first day post-sprain was pretty brutal, but a trip to the hospital did not find any broken bones or torn ligaments, and I am already at the tail end of the 48-hour icing phase, psyching up to be smart about letting the tendons and ligaments (digitorum longus and extensors over the top of foot, and posterior tibial tendon in back inside of ankle) heal before returning to activity. It has been about 24 months since my last formal "injury".  Here's to an even longer injury free streak after turning this one around.
Icy cankle on the mend.  Sorry about the exceptionally ugly toenails.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Brian,
    Sorry about the ankle. I just went through this myself, catching some breakable and tomahawking sideways with a locked out toe piece. The real injury you need to look out for is a syndesmosis tear, a diagnosis that will evade most non-ortho clinicians. Although it's a ligament tear, full blown ruptures will lead to a deltoid ligament tear and the need for surgery to aid the complete healing of the syndesmosis. If your cranky ankle doesn't start behaving in a few days you might want to get the opinion of a foot and ankle ortho doc if you haven't already. Missing this injury can lead you to long term heartache. Just some friendly ortho advice, brother. Heal up.