Taking stock: day trips are bullshit

I’ve had a few ideas washing around my head for a while, and wanted to share some on my new favorite music, and result of both is the following video.  Going through the material I realized that I’ve had quite a good 2011 thus far, and it also struck me that the numerous multiday trips are almost without exception the most memorable.  Day trips, however nice, always seem to come up short

The beginning of the year was marked with many, many days of excellent powder skiing.  A few stand out, but I didn’t go camping enough.  Part of it was laziness and lassitude and inertia, part a lack of confidence in my avy skills (and that many of the best routes are avy prone, also that big traverses take longer in winter).  I did improve my skiing a lot, and resolution number one for next winter is to jump fully into winter ski traverses.

Spring, meaning warmer temps and consolidating snowpack, came very late and inconsistently this year.  My training for the GrizPerson suffered a major hiccup when I ran into a tree skiing Brown Mountain and was out of action for several weeks.  Bill and I still had a good showing, and have a big list of things to do better (and thus be faster) next year.  I got sick right after that race, and took a while to recover, but the last five weeks have been outstanding, both from a training and from a quality-of-adventure standpoint.

Those two juxtaposed and held up to decide plans for this weekend were further illuminated by Jill’s timely post.  Adventure can often be good training, and training can be made adventurous, but sometimes you have to choose one over the other.  I skipped some good ski days in March to train on the bike, a choice made easier by my still-sore leg.  That, and with the Wilderness Classic starting in little more than a month, am obliged to choose my weekend endeavors carefully.  Fortunately the necessity of time on the feet matches well with adventuring, so I’ll be off in the wilds of Glacier for 50 miles this weekend.

All of which is to say that while my season has not been without imperfections, I’m feeling in a good place, and have had an exceedingly enriching time (big hard traverses and the word fun seem an awkward match).  Nights in the woods are the key.

Whitewater GP

This rather unique event, worth following in spite of the sophmoric, is taking place right now.  The creek TT certainly looks spectacular:

I’m inclined to follow Will Gadd and say that real sports are timed, not judged, but the freestyle kayaking is cool, too.

Not sure when paddlers became riders, though.

Grizzlyman Adventure Race report

Would you change that woman’s flat tire?

To begin, as Bill did, at the end: going as a team is harder, and going as a team is easier.  Harder because there is communication, differences in ability, and at least twice the internal doubt to coordinate.  Faster because if all of those are done fairly well synergy happens, one pulls the other at alternate times, two brains are better than one, stress is relieved, and you go harder because you don’t want to bag on your partner.

A team is harder and easier, especially in adventure racing.

Team Sugar and Spice partying on Friday night.

Josh continued to raise the bar this year, asking his volunteers and himself to plan, set out and run a 24 hour races worth of checkpoints (60 were planned, 59 set due to snow).  He then asked we racers to plot all those points late Friday night, formulate a coherent strategy, and then be at the line by 5 am to execute it.  As Bill said, it was almost a 24 hour race already.

The profusion of checkpoints served to only briefly obscure the fact that, even moreso than last year, there was no obvious best choice.  An even further twist was that, unlike last year where the order of run-boat-bike was obligatory, here nothing was, save crossing the finish line with your bike.  Even the boat itself was optional, though with the after-boat checkpoint counting for 10 every team decided it was in their interest to paddle, and all did within the 10-2 time slot.  Bill and I decided to maximize travel in the ~80 minutes of functional darkness, and maximize our strength on the bike, by running the two miles from the start to the bikes immediately, then pedaling along the river on a decent dirt road out almost to the far NW corner of the course.  There we’d execute a big cross country loop on foot up and over minor mountains before returning to our bikes and reassessing based on time remaining.

This strategy worked well.  We made a few minor errors, and occasionally suffered at the hands on less than ideal plotting and some very sneaky checkpoint placement (as well, coughGcough, some checkpoints that upon computer mapping really didn’t seem to be where the GPS said they ought to have been).  Some more running-specific training could have sped things up a bit, but our route finding and slogging/bushwacking was consistently excellent.

Big maps.

We returned to our bikes with over half the time elapsed, and concluded that we needed to return to the bike transition, leave the bikes, and run over to the boat transition post-haste (before boating back to the bikes).  [Apparently one team did what I thought was too risky to do with our ducky, and loaded their bikes on their boats to expedite matters, good on ’em!]  I pinched my back tube halfway back, and made a mess of the switch, but we shambled over to the boats, snagging two checkpoints on the way, and proceeded downriver quickly.  Bill and utter novice in moving water did very well following my instructions to either paddle or paddle like hell, and I tried to not run us into too many holes.  Our tandem duckie was as fun to pilot as a dump truck, but did blast down the middle of the wave trains well enough, and reminded me that self-bailing floors are pretty cool.  I believe Bill was impressed with how warm a drysuit is.

We won the race in the last three hours, by keeping most of our focus and apportioning our resources to bike to within striking distance of several more checkpoints, one which we found about 4 minutes before our designated run for home time.  (Miss the time cut, and you DNF.)  We made it back with 13 minutes to spare, and that last checkpoint made the difference.  It added immensely to the satisfaction to’ve worked so well as a team, and to have raced a good race and had that consistency make the difference.

Looks like next year is set to be a full 24, and I think we plan on defending.

Adventuring racing is a curious creature, at least on this course.  Relatively intense efforts biking, hiking or running fairly short distances between points is interspersed with necessarily calmer, slower moments looking for little white and orange flags in country with plenty of small curves and nooks for hiding them.  For next year I’m going to train better overall, definitely with more foot work, and more importantly, do some real classical orienteering training.  Some teams (like Ed and Laurie) were out the following strict bearings and pacing distances to find points.  Bill and I, both with altimeter watches, relied much more on navigating bearings to a certain point before walking a contour with a sharp eye.  A greater level of precision would augment and speed up our approach quite a bit.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Mooiste Winnaar

Bill and I won the men’s GrizzPerson yesterday.  I believe the first truly competitive athletic thing I’ve ever won, which is cool.  Race report tomorrow.

Plotting 59 checkpoints takes a long time.

Why Roubaix is the greatest

I imagine that the overwhelming majority of ya’ll, out there, know that the road race Paris-Roubaix was run yesterday.  If for no other reason than I already mentioned the winner, Johan Vansummeren.  I’ve been drawn into following pro road racing over the last year, and in it’s good moments has become a far, far more rewarding and time consuming pursuit than other things I’m loath to admit I read (occasionally!  very occasionally!) on the ‘net.  Once you pass a certain threshold of knowledge and familarity, it really does become quite enthralling.

One feature of Paris-Roubiax is the fanatic, creepy romanticism given over to the race, its mystique, and its history.  Other races get comparable treatment, however.  A perhaps unique feature of the Roubaix build-up is the obsession with “new” technology, which when combined with more of the aforementioned almost erotic obsession with roundish rocks makes the whole thing a particular event for the fan.

But why all the bother?  Why all the obsession with gnarly stretches of the route and equipment?  Sounds a lot like mountain biking to me.

And Paris-Roubiax is as close to mountain biking as pro road racing gets: therein lies the appeal, the aura, and the obsession.  As numerous pundits, professional and amateur point out, P-R is so hard that more than 50% of the field finishing is considered a good or easy year.  It all points to the greatest interest in sport being struggles against obstacles super human.  Having a course that punishes lazy equipment choices is good, too.

And one final piece of fetishization (the first scene of Hushovd is a nice instruction in how to ride rough terrain):

Amazing rides

You can do what you can to prepare and invite them in, but ultimately they    just    happen.

Yesterday was the magic two-week mark before the GrizPerson, and given that cycling strength is our path to success (along with generally racing smart; Bill and I have both been ignoring the running aspect) a solid final push was in order.  Not to say I won’t ride in the next two weeks, but past precedent has indicated that form built takes about two weeks to manifest itself.

If that holds true, we should do well, because I had an extraordinary ride.  The idea was to do two ninety minute blocks on rolling pavement and dirt at max level, with a 60 minute bikerafting break in between.  And that is what I did.  Quite pedestrian in the moment, just feed regularly, have good tunes on the iPod, pick a gear, and keep the legs turning through the rollers.  Only in retrospect did I realize how well it all went, how I was as strong in the last 15 minutes as I was in the first fifteen.  That, and the fact that my legs and whole general system has been totally knackered, boggled, and fucked since.  Getting up from the chair to go pee yesterday evening I made it 5 steps before lactic acid burning down my legs arrested me involuntarily.  So yeah, it should be a good race.

Johan had an amazing ride, too.  The universe provided a good weekend all around.

Local bullshit

BS item #1: Me being easy to spot last Saturday.

BS item #2: Spurious “breakthrough agreement” on Bison management in Yellowstone

As I’ve written before, the argument that brucellosis is carried by bison to cattle with detrimental results is a red herring. Ranchers dislike bison because they stomp their fences and generally disrupt the illusion that we as humans hold hegemony over the land. I haven’t been able to find a map of the so-called Gardiner Basin, but I’m pretty sure it’s something close to this area.  Problem is, as a two-minute perusal of the existing hunting regs will tell you, bison already hang out in that area during winter.  If this agreement amounts to anything, it would seem that Montana wants to allow more bison to be shot by hunters in an area where hunting has been legal for several years.  Problem is, in 2009 only one bison (out of over 100 tags) was actually shot in that area.

I have no problem with wild bison being hunted.  I do have a problem with management decisions being made on the basis of misinformation.  Unfortunately, the places bison actually want to go during harsh winters are the flat plains along the Yellowstone River between Gardiner and Livingston, land “owned” (and thus, fenced) by ranchers  and rich people.  The conflict is thus directly between our modern, arrogant conceptualization of property rights and a one ton critter that wants to find grass uncovered by snow.  Hunting and management are tertiary concerns.

Whitefish P3athlon race report

(I’m inventing the above appellation because Pole-Pedal-Paddle Triathlon is both ungainly and in the wrong order for this event.)

The weather this morning and early afternoon was good for doing a race on a fairly innocuous course, which is to say it was 85% crap.  The other 15% were left out because it wasn’t raining especially hard, and it could have gotten a fair bit colder without crossing the line into snowing.  So, when I woke up in the dark this morning I wasn’t very excited about my plan of riding to the start.  But what else was I going to do?  The only other reasonable thing to do in such weather was stay home and drink coffee.  So I split the difference, and had two cups of coffee and rode the fastest way to the start, on the shoulder of the highway.  Which really wasn’t bad at all.  It was raining and I got wet, but looked all gnarly at sign-in with my face already covered in mud.

The gawking at my rolling circus setup started immediately, and I tried to share the gospel of packrafting as much as possible.  Watching the inflation process usually does that for people.  I placed my inflated boat in the line up of sea kayaks, racing kayaks, a hand made (and dead gorgeous) rowboat, and a solo outrigger racing canoe.  I went and got a coffee to stay warm and confirmed what I had previously suspected: I would be waay DFL right from the start.

There was one other guy in a creekboat who came off the paddle a few minutes ahead of me.  Everyone else was 20+ minutes in the lead.  It’s pretty pointless to try and make a packraft go fast.  They come up to 2.5ish mph pretty easy, can be pushed to 3, but much beyond requires a 50% increase in effort for a 5% increase in speed.  I thus saw no reason to hurry as I deflated and rolled up the boat, lashed my shit back together, and pedaled off as the start gate and props were packed away.  The guy in the creekboat, who had earlier announced his intention to complete with me for DFL, was I thought already up the road, but I didn’t pass anyone as I ground my way very slowly up to the ski hill.  Hauling 30 extra pounds of crap makes going up a lot slower, and I never found a rhythm of anything close to it and just suffered and fought up the whole fucking climb.  A good reminder: the reason we train is to not do that.

I once again confused the checkpoint staff by refusing the bike handoff and rolling over to the bike corral, yard saleing gear all over the place, and leisurely transitioning into the tele boots I pulled out of my pack.  I stuffed the boat and my soaked bike shoes, seal skinz, and shoe covers into the pack, and left my PFD with my bike as it wouldn’t easily fit.  Off I went.

There were quite a few really fast guys out today, all of whom had road bikes and orchestrated and supported transitions, and some of whom were done with the race before I started skinning up the mountain.  I’ve never been fast, it seems to be in neither my physical or psychological makeup, but I have had moments where I’ve been pretty damn strong.  This attribute displays itself best when a course is long and hard, and the P3athlon was neither.  Moreover, I was having a high-gravity day, and had nothing to do about it but stare at the snow and shuffle upwards, slow, steady, with lots of effort expended.

The snow was refreshingly soft, in spite of having climbed from rain into snow squalls on the bike.  I had my super light boots along because they skin well and take up less space in the pack, and was contemplating just how extensively my ass would be kicked if I had to ski ice and crappy snow on boots with almost no forward or rearward support.  As it turns out I, after another casual transition, had a few hundred feet of heavy cutup snow to flail through before the lower 3/4 of the course, which was uniformly and predictably soft and all-around a total blast to ski.  My legs got pretty shot doing it, but I rolled in next-to-last place.  Collected high-fives, and went inside to dry out.

Ben encouraged me to not ride home, as doing so seemed a good way to invite in a cold.  I had already made my mind 90% up on that question, and called in the M rescue force.  It wasn’t an inspiring day, nor was it a good day as far as my performance went.  (It was actually quite bad.)  But it was a good use of shitty weather, a fun challenge, and as excellent workout (legs hurt, lots).  I even collected a prize for my creativity/stubbornness, as winner/inventor/sole entrant in the self-contained category.  All in all, not a bad way to spend the day.

The Junk Show

Tomorrow is the Pole-Pedal-Paddle triathlon up in Whitefish, and I’ve resolved to get full value by riding there and back and hauling all my gear.  Speaking of full value, the forecast calls for 40s and 100% chance of precip.

It took some thinkering and futzing, but past experience hauling skis and fly rods in the masthead position and my new Tubus Cargo made it all possible.  If you look closely you can see the ski tails tucked into the rack, and the foam taped to either side of the headtube.  Once I cinch down the strap around the headtube there is just enough tension in the skis to keep them sturdy and rattle free.  My packraft, ski poles, and the middle sections of the paddle are strapped to the rear rack.  Boots, skins, PFD, and paddle blades are in the pack.

Curb testing seems to indicate that it will work no problem.  Will report back tomorrow.