Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Grooming Report

Dave groomed this AM, and there are now classic tracks!

Grooming Report 12/31/08

Big Dave groomed and pulled out "Big Red," our biggest, heaviest, drift buster/crust buster/foot traffic posthole filler/dog poop cleaner-upper and trail leveling grooming implement that we have. We don't use it that often, as we usually end up getting stuck with it somewhere on the system, even when it hasn't just recently snowed. I guess Dave got stuck once today, so the pattern holds.

Anyway, the trails had been taking a beating with the massive amount of foot/snowshoer/dog traffic, so they needed some love. They also desperately needed the classic track set, which was also accomplished. Things should be good for tomorrow.

Everyone be careful tonight and have a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Seeing the Light! report 12/29/08

SWNSC is definitely short on grooming staff! A barrage of storms like that really shed light on that situation...

Anyway, the trees have been cleared and the trails (most of them anyway) have been packed and bladed. Some of the cutoffs and the outer meadow will have to wait for another day.

The Pajarito Mountain ski area is open all during the holidays, so the road is plowed. Bear in mind that the road still remains snow-packed and icy in places, especially the last mile, as is the parking lot. Front-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles seem to be doing OK.

Looks like a stretch of nice weather for a while. We'll try to get the classic track set soon this week.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Windy (and a little snowy) 12/26/08

The winds are a'howlin' out there. The beautiful blading that was done the night before looked nice except for all of the tree debris and abundance of blow-down trees. There are several of them, mostly on the early stages of the trail system (both upper trails and lower multi-use road).

It is also snowing on and off, sometimes really hard for a period, so the trail is still very soft. It's skatable, and with it being so soft, skiing in your own classic track works well too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Trail Report 12/25 (evening)

Merry Christmas!

The entire main big loop (inner meadow trail included) was packed and bladed this evening in anticipation for more snow arriving tonight/tomorrow. A bunch of new snow has fallen (including today) since last week's grooming, so it has taken a while to get packed out.

Trail is wide and level, but needs to be "finish-groomed." No classic track is set, but in general, skiing is just amazing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Grooming Report 12/24/08

Most of the tree trails were rolled last evening by Dave Wykoff. The lower Canada Bonita road trail was rolled from the grooming garage out to point P (see trail map), then up from point A, all the way up to the meadow turn-around at point L and back down on TJ's & Dave's loops (D-E-F; H-I), one pass each.

It was only roll-packed, not fully groomed, so it'll definitely be soft and there will not be a set classic track. All meadow trails are not packed yet and could use some snowshoe/ski traffic.

As of this writing, I'm not sure what the grooming plans are for Xmas day or beyond. Another winter storm warning has been posted, so here we go again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

MORE(!) new snow 12/23/08

The snow gods are smiling on (more like laughing at...) us so far this year. The only problem is, we're short on grooming staff and can't keep up with it.

It snowed another 14" - 18" overnight and during the day today, and we got a major bag of wind to further complicate things. As of now, it's back to snowshoeing and backcountry/touring to pack a track around the trails so that we might be able to get the machines through and then maybe start grooming again.

It's forecasted to snow again starting tomorrow night into Friday, so we'll just do what we can until all of this abates.

Get out there with your touring skis and enjoy the deep snow! (and help us make some tracks on the trails in the process)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trail Report 12/22/08

Hope everyone had a good winter solstice. I must admit, that day did seem short!

After all of my lamenting on the somewhat sad state of the skate lane, Dave W. got out there as early as he could, and dragged it smooth with the bladed groomer. He also rescued the 4' rollers and even welded the hitch back onto them!

The skate lane looked a lot better, but it's still off-camber and in need of a lot of dragging passes to get it back to anywhere near level. The classic track was well-established, but still extremely soft, especially for pole-plants.

Anyway, the season is now off and running at full speed. It is already snowing again today, so here goes another round!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Grooming report Saturday morning:

from Clay:
Well, it was a VERY long night of grooming, and I must say it isn't a pretty all. It is basically "groomed" all the way around, but there are a lot of messes everywhere and some places didn't get groomed out well due to some technical problems.

There is a classic track. It'll be soft, as I was often breaking trail while setting it. Skating will be good in some places and not so great in others. The wind was blowing, so the meadow will likely be a bit drifted in by morning.

Luckily, the snow is amazing and it's nice and cold. It will all need to be regroomed soon. At least it's groomable now. I was still sinking up to my eyeballs in some places.

Thanks to the Groomers I say! I was up there last night on my backcountry skiis and the snow was amazing. Amazingly thick, soft and cold. Based on last nights conditions and clays report I would get the touring/classics out again today and ski the hell out of the trail. It would probably be helpful to cut new lines and pack it in on the periphery as well. Here are some pics from Friday night (pre big grooming):
Typical conditions pre grooming on friday night, soft and thick:

Me (Tarik) at the top of Canada Bonita, the meadow was drifty and crusty and windy:

Dave W. helps dig out the big roller so Nick and dog can get their groom on (post sunset cell phone cam granularity):

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trail Report 12/19/08

The trail is not really "groomed" as of yet. We finally busted through the other night with the machines, but not with any grooming implements. Actually, the lower portion of the upper trails has been groomed around TJ's loop -- that's about 1.5 miles of grooming total. The rest of the trail has just been track-packed, so it's nice and skiable with a set of touring or backcountry skis.

One tree is down near the coat tree (point B on the trail system).

There are plans to get things in order over the weekend. We're short on grooming staff, so things are running a bit slow. Sorry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

RE: Grooming report...sort of...

Scott and I spent a couple of hours snowshoeing up there this evening. Looked like someone else had been up there on snowshoes as well. Still more to be done.

Thank you, groomers!

Lisa J. Smole

Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 01:39:31 +0000
Subject: [Members] Grooming report...sort of...

Got up there with Nick Piazza, a club member and new groomer, and found hip-deep snow (more than two feet). It took quite a while to dig the shed out, then dig and tack a path out to the Camp May road, saw a couple of trees that were down and now buried, etc. Everything just took a huge amount of time, so not a whole lot got packed.
We attempted to go pack the trails with the machines (nothing in tow), but just submarined, even with our "fastest" snowmobile. The snowmobile got stuck 7 times in one mile! So, after a long time spent digging out, we opted to head back and hope that some folks would go out on backcountry skis and snowshoes. It's that deep. We only made it around the TJ's loop once with a snowmobile and Kermit. Nothing else got a pass -- we were first tracks on everything around noon (no one had skied up beyond that).
With some ski and snowshoe traffic, and some settling, it'll be passable.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ski Report -- posted December 15, 2008

I got up to the Pajarito Nordic trails to ski for the first time yesterday (Sunday, Dec. 14). It was 17 degrees when I got there, and the polar jet stream must have passed overhead because it was 9 degrees when I left. My water bottle had pretty much frozen solid.

There was a good amount of new snow. It was hard to tell, because it had snowed the previous day, then gotten a little warm, then snowed again on top of that. All in all, it was over a foot for sure for the past two days.

So, the xc skiing was quite good. No one had groomed yet, but the packing job from a few nights ago (and all of the tree cutting and fence-putting up, etc.) has made things look ready to be groomed in earnest. With this new snow, it should be awesome by week's end. More snow is in the forecast, so it'll be a while before it's all truly a finished product.

There were some track-packed classic touring tracks (thanks to local club members). It was a nice day on the Pajarito Nordic trails!

I am a little bummed out that I didn't bring my camera up, not only to take pics for the blog, but to get a shot of the SWNSC shed "equipment garage." Tom and John U. got the sign and the skis mounted and it looks AWESOME!!! I love it. I'll try to get a shot of it tonight in the dark. The gleam from the cheap corrugated siding that we used should have a nice effect in a digital photograph taken in the dark.

Oh yeah, and I plan on going up with Nick Piazza to run some packing laps and get him all oriented on using the machines. We may only make it around a couple of times, as we're going to have to get a late start on things...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday snow conditions

6" new snow last night, 6" the night before, made for very nice ski touring, pretty much rock free.

No grooming yet, the guys have been too busy cutting and moving deadfall off the trails, of which there has been a lot!

Looks like grooming will begin this week.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Trail Work Day and Party

Nice turnout for big workday.... and we got lots done and followed up with perfect weather [warm, no wind] for the cookout party afterward.  Thanks to all who helped!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trail Work Day and Potluck BBQ! This Sat Nov 15th!

Lets get the season going with potluck BBQ, membership drive and trail work day this Saturday November 15th.
WHERE: meet at the end of the Pajarito ski area parking lot at the Canada Bonita trailhead.
TIME: This Saturday, Nov 15th. 8am-noon trail work and 12:30-2pm potluck BBQ
BRING: friends, work gloves, tools (like a leatherman and limb loppers) and something for the grill.
WHY: by donating your time and/or renewing your membership you support our work which includes
- maintaining Canada Bonita trail in cooperation with the Forest Service
- providing free groomed xc ski trails during the snow season
- hosting social events like moonlight ski and bonfire, free xc ski lesson for members (flyers will be handed out at the BBQ), group training, recreational trips and tours. Come help us out, make new friends and enjoy the outdoors!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring Cleanup "party" a success

Several intrepid SWNSC members showed up to clean up the fencing, the signs, the wands, the abandoned snowmobile, the grooming equipment, etc., etc. from the trails this past Saturday. A BIG thanks goes out to all of you who turned out to help. It went very smoothly and it was actually fun.

Chilly and windy weather greeted us, but it didn't deter spirits as we all had such good memories of the very active season. After the work was done, we gathered at the end of the parking lot for a tailgate party cookout.

One of our Albuquerque members, Rich Besser, showed up and was a big help. He also brought his camera, which is good because Dina's is broken and my batteries died. So, pending him processing those and sending them along somehow, we may have some pictures from the final club event of the season.

Again, thanks to everyone who helped out!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Master's World Cup part III

This is long...I'm sorry for all of the gory details.

Master’s World Cup, part III

OK, the last post was a long ramble about how bad the first 30km classic was. We just aren’t that wax savvy, but we learned a lot. The next race was the 10km classic for me, and the 10km skate races for Paul and Denny. That was a great improvement for all of us, as the weather was a lot colder and we didn’t have the wax problems, so we were all pretty psyched up about that. We got to watch Denny and Paul race, as their races were in the afternoon, and they were very exciting. The skate races, especially the shorter ones, were very fast…like watching a bike criterium, with all of the fighting for position and such.

Great shot of Denny in the scrum of the M-02 10km freestyle -------------- Paul sprinting in to hold off a Russian guy behind

With my 6th in the classic race, I was the 2nd American, so JD Downing, the head USA delegate gave me the nod to be on the USA relay team for the M-02 (35-39). It must have been a hard decision, as there were about 4 great classical skiers in the M-03s and that meant that two of them were left off of that team and could have been dropped down to be on our team instead of me. But, my 10km classical time was in the same ballpark, so he took a chance, and I’m grateful for that.

USA Team Director, JD Downing & Clay talking strategy

The relay was just fantastic. It was so much fun and the adrenaline was high for everyone. That was probably the most electric day of the whole race week. National pride was at stake, so everyone was going to put in a 110% effort, especially since the legs were only 5km each. That’s not much time to make any mistakes at all. For the top countries, margins of victory (or loss) were small.

The night before, all of the USA skiers picked to be on their respective age-group teams had to attend a mandatory meeting. I realized this was serious business, and these were just the top masters in the USA. I recognized everyone from their pictures in the magazines, their sponsored clothing, and their names at the top of the result lists from the biggest races, etc. I felt a little small, but figured I earned it and would give it 110% too. Dina and Paul were there with me, which helped a lot. They were really interested in the discussion and the instructions and the energy.

After the meeting, we were to meet with our teammates and discuss the strategy and whatever else we needed to prior to race morning. My teammates were Dan Streubel, one of the nation’s best 35-39 classic skiers; Michael Brothers, Colorado’s top masters skier (he won the last two editions of the 90km North Routte Coureur des Bois by over an hour); and Stephen White from Vail, last year’s Colorado Cup champ. This was a good team. And then, there was little ol’ me from New Mexico… where? I thought Mexico was supposed to field their own national team…;-)

M-02 (35-39) relay team l to r: Stephen White, Michael Brothers, Dan Streubel, Clay Moseley

At the meeting, our alternate, a great skier from Idaho, said he thought we, the classical skiers should maybe consider not using grip wax at all and just double-pole the whole race on skate skis! Yikes! There was a big climb on the classic course, and several short, steep ones too. I quickly saw myself out there on the torture rack trying to double-pole that whole course. I reared back and he must have seen that and then suggested that maybe we could use one classical ski with wax, and use a skate ski for the other. Dan Streubel thought that was a good idea and said me may try it. I could feel myself breaking out into a nervous sweat. I wasn’t prepared for that.

I gave it some thought and talked it over with Dina, Denny and Paul, and they all reckoned that I should stick with what I know, so I just did my best with the classic skis and put only a thin layer of the coldest grip wax, which also glides the best.

The next morning dawned cold and crisp, so the grip wasn’t going to be a big issue. I didn’t want very much grip at all, so that it didn’t interfere with the glide. I did a warm-up lap and decided I’d just “stick” with the very thin layer. It held just enough on the big hill while warming up that I figured it would be just fine in an all-out race.

I did two laps of the course for warm-up and some milling around. The races were off right on time and we watched the 30-34 guys go off. It looked fast and I knew we had the fastest classical skier in our age group. I was SO glad not to have to lead off.

When our race got underway, I went into the “on deck” pen and got my stuff ready. I needed to stay loose and calm, so I did some little jogging. I knew it wouldn’t be long, so I quickly got into my stuff and got escorted over to the hand-off zone. This felt official.

Sure enough, not much time passed and the M-01s were coming in. The American, Adam Swank, from Minneapolis (aka “Golden Boy” for his second overall at the American Birkebeiner this year), lead in and gave a perfect hand off to their second leg. The Canadians were second and the Italians not far back. To all of our surprise, the first of our group M-02, the giant Russian Schastlivvy, had already caught and passed most of the M-01 teams and was coming in for their second leg. It was not long, but seemed that way, before my guy, Streubel, came in to hand off for me. My heart raced and soon I was sliding forward getting the tag. I could hear Dina up around the bend cheering very loudly among a solemn group of foreigners. She said she could hear some Norwegians start to cheer for me, but realized I wasn’t their guy and they all said to stop cheering...

Heading out of the stadium on my leg of the relay. Italy just around the bend not far behind.

The first bit of the course was pretty flat and headed into the giant Ponderosa trees of the trail system. It was a twisty course, so double-poling was most efficient. It took a lot of strength to do it, but was the fastest way to go. It was short, so it took a big effort and I quickly felt completely loaded up and got a bit nervous about that. I just had to relax mentally and keep it strong and efficient as best as I could. When I hit some of the early little kicker hills, I opted to kick and glide to give my arms some relief. I knew it wasn’t the fastest way to go, but I needed to keep from blowing up. I started catching a couple of the M-01 teams myself and got a second wind. Around a bend, I could hear a lot of yelling and knew the biggest climb was approaching. Once the climb was in sight, the Italians were going nuts, as they knew we were ahead of their team and their guy was making time on me.

The lead-up to the hill was twisty and I had to be patient and not waste my effort. I could hear so much yelling among all of the different teams, in all different languages…this was what it was all about. I got a surge in my stomach and took in a deep breath to lay down an effort I had visualized and waited for.

The Italian was now breathing down my neck, so I started going really hard. My kicking was short and choppy at first, but once I “hit my stride,” I lengthened it out and used my leg strength for all it was worth. Soon, I could tell it was good and I was passing guys from other age groups quickly. The whole way up, various groups of USA coaches were spurring me on and giving me advice: “…this is it…dig deep…keep it steady until the halfway point and then bury yourself…kick it in NOW, NOW, NOW!”…and stuff like that. It was deafening.

At the top, there was a large multi-national crowd and I could hear people actually yelling my name. In that anaerobic state, I thought, “Who knows me?”

Anyway, it gave me that extra boost and I punched over the top for a couple of fast double-poles and then the little reprieve of the only real downhill before the last two short walls that lead into the final stretch to the stadium.

I was really hurting. I don’t remember much, but I do recall feeling numb and almost sick from the effort. I wondered how I was going to make it over the last hills, but it was like a dream and I never had a single slip or anything. I even powered the best step turns around the iciest corner of the whole trail system that I had ever done on my classical skis and boots. It was fantastic and I had actually pulled away from the Italian a little to come into the stadium still holding second place with a bit of a cushion. The last section of double-poling was in a completely anaerobic state, but I felt no pain and tagged Stephen White perfectly for his leg of freestyle.

It turns out that we would need that cushion, and them some. The Italians were fearsome skaters. Their two legs of skating were by far the fastest of the day and we lost our lead on Stephen’s first leg. It was not his fault…he skied a very fast leg, but the Italians were wickedly fast. Even our Ace-in-the-Hole, Michael Brothers (a former USA team biathlete) was not fast enough to match the Italians.

We held our own to place third. We also had one of the fastest relays of the day out of all of the teams…we would have won the M-01s handily too.

The two teams ahead of us, Russia and Italy, had the two fastest relay teams. We lost 1:30 to the Russians, and 40 seconds to the Italians. Although I skied probably the best I ever had, I was the weakest link. I looked at the splits and I was about 10 to 20 seconds off of what the other fast classic skiers were turning. That’s not bad, but I would have liked to have seen my time not stand out as the lame turkey. Oh well, that was still awesome.

One of the really exciting races of the day was the very strong USA M-03 team. They were awesome. They beat us by about 20 seconds, and had a stacked team of former USA team/Olympians. Read Toko guy Ian Harvey’s (much more brief and to the point) account of it here:

I want to really thank Dina, Paul, and Denny for really being there for me and giving me their advice and support. I helped out a lot and it would not have gone so well without them. They were really my friends and teammates that day for sure.


Afterward, we went into town and found the COOLEST bistro, actually called “Bistro 45.” It was a very neat place, with custom gourmet plates of food that were tailored around their vast wine selections and beers. We actually went there twice that same day, once right after the race for a beer and sandwiches, and then again later for wine and desserts. What a fun place. Ken, if you’re reading this, you would have loved it. It had YOU written all over it. We all talked about that, actually.

11:30am: all in a days work! ---------------------- Bistro 45 -- full of Italians...and Denny's head

Later that evening, we finally went to an awards ceremony. We all became very familiar with the Russian national anthem, which sounds a lot like (ok, exactly like) the former Soviet Union national anthem. Dina and I looked at each other and she flipped out. She had to go ask a Russian person why we were playing the USSR national anthem. She was told that the music is the same, but the words have been changed. They are constantly hearing the old one because foreigners don’t know the difference. Isn’t that interesting?

Look at the awards picture. That Russian guy who could double-pole faster than most people can ride a bike, is just freaky.

Double-pole freak machine from Russia!

I promise the final blog about the Master’s World Cup will be brief!
Lots of waxing geeks at MWC...these two were no exception. We call that guy "Solda Man!"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Last Grooming of the Season trail pictures 3/28/08

That's a wrap folks. Please come help out with the "clean up" trail work day. We'll pull the fencing down and clean things up. Six-months pregnant Dina and I snowshoed up to the upper meadow and pulled down all of the wands, so that part is done.

Here are some pics of the trail during the last grooming session last Friday evening (3.28/o8). If you didn't go ski, too bad. It was pretty nice.

Just past pt A ----- ---- Groomer's eye view

The coat tree at pt. B...pretty dirty snow here Good snow just a little further up

not's the rock on Dave's Dogleg Good track in the meadow

Kermit and 6' Tidd in the meadow --- -- Looking down the meadow at sunset

Setting track on the way down: with flash............ and without

These are interesting. We had a lot of tree blow-downs this season and had to go up at night and play lumberjack by headlamp. We were lucky to get a lot of new snow right after cutting all of these trees up, but now with the meltdown, you can see the evidence of those long nights of work. This wreaked havoc with my klister!

I like this spot on the trail system. It's where the "new" section rejoins the original trail right near where we have the moonlight parties.

Parting shot: one last look at the meadow. Good crust skiing's pretty much finished now.

Thanks to everyone who has volunteered, donated and supported the club. It works thanks to you!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Grooming/Trail Conditions Report 3/28/08

Get it while the gettin's good. That is the last grooming session of the year. I took some pictures to post, but left my camera bag in the trackster and can't download them. I'm bummed about that, as they're pretty cool.

I got up there just after 5pm and the snow was corn and pretty soft. Some short sections were frozen and not really good, but it mostly groomed out nicely. There's lots of debris in some stretches, so be careful. It's especially bad where the big trees fell and we had to cut them out and all kinds of sawdust and boughs got buried under the's all exposed now.

I just focused on the upper trails and the meadow from point M to the top. The lower trail didn't get any grooming...sorry. It likely has burn out spots anyway. As it was, the session took a long time because it hadn't been groomed in a couple of weeks...too bad, as it would have been nicer if we had stayed on top of it. The 4 people who groom regularly ran out of steam. We need more help...seriously.

You'll need to walk to just before the coat tree at point B. After that, it's continous, but I had to shovel three different spots, so be careful. The worst one is just over the little hill a hundred meters past the coat tree. Other than that, it's actually pretty good skiing in some long stretches.

The trail is groomed for both skating and classic from point B to the top of the meadow, and then down the meadow to the entrance at point M. Be careful on the meadow trail where it enters the little tree sections. It's very uneven and one spot that is exposed to the wind has a very narrow covering.

It was below freezing when I got done, so it was setting up nicely. Should hold up for the morning.


PS -- We will have a NO EXCUSES work day next Saturday, April 5, to pull down all of the fencing and wands, and put away the equipment. Please come up and help if you can. If we have interest, we can do a nice BBQ afterward and enjoy some burgers, brats, beer, etc. It should be fun, actually.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Master's World Cup Blog Report #2

I've been debating whether or not to write a report for this for several reasons, but I
figured those of you who are interested will enjoy, and everyone else can just ignore it.
I thought getting everything arranged so that we could get there and do the event was
difficult, but getting back on track "post-race" has been even more

It's been a tough season. With ski club activities/duties, promoting a race, getting sick
(twice! >=( and preparing for being a parent, well, it's been different. I kept
telling myself that it's worth it and it's about the process, not the end result, and now
that it's pretty much over, I can look back and say it was a lot of fun. Things just
won't be the same next year, nor ever.

The last time this roving championship was in North America was 1998, when it was held at the Olympic ski trails in Lake Placid. This year's event called McCall, Idaho home, specifically at the Ponderosa State Park on the largest of the Payette Lakes just north of McCall. The event has grown in world-wide popularity every year and this year was certainly no exception. Over 1200 athletes from something like 20 different countries, and of ages ranging from the minimum of 30 yrs old to the oldest competitor who was 93 yrs young.

Day 0 - very warm. Cool banners for all of the represented countries

Yep, some 93 yr old guy called Yves Girard from Quebec was there. I think he only skied one 5km event and had to walk with a cane, but he was there -- he made even Sven Wiik look young! The funniest memory I have of this guy was at the very festive closing banquet, where there was a long line for the men's restroom (a lot of old prostates there!), and he just went right to the front and got to be next in line for the urinal. I guess if you are 93 and still competing, no one makes you wait in line for the toilet!

The MWC events were spread out over a week, give or take. The format was that there was a "middle distance" race of 30km, then a "short distance" race of 10km, then a 4x5km (2 x classic; 2 x skate) relay if you were chosen by your country's MWC delegate, then a "long distance" race of 45km. You had to choose which style you wanted to ski each race, either classic or skate...but you couldn't do both. For example, you could ski the 30km as classic, then ski the 10 and 45 as skate, or whatever combination you wanted. The races were on separate days too, with the exception of the 10km, which had the classic races early in the morning, and the skate races in the afternoon.

SWNSC members that made the trip were myself (Clay), Denny Newell, Paul Graham, and Dina Pesenson (who is expecting and didn't race, but tirelessly supported us, cheered, and took photos).

Our first day there, we went for training and it was very warm. It was over 50 degrees and the snow was all wet and heavy. We went for a training classical ski that required serious klister and warm hard wax in a complicated series of applications. It worked well and we thought we had figured out what we needed to for the following day's 30km classical race (Paul, Denny and I had all elected to ski the 30km as classical). Well, the weather did not stay that way and I'll just point you to my post from that day and just say that that was THE most frustrating day of racing I've ever had. I was very strong and energetic, but it was just not to be. I perservered and finished for my own stubborn reasons, but I was not happy about that experience. Still, I ended up 8th place in my division (M-02 for 35-39 men). Many others had similar experiences. The new generation of waxless "Zero" skis or "hairies" were the call for the day.
Denny before the start of the 30km classic day: 34 degrees w/5" of new, goopy, wet snow...not our finest moment.

The agony of defeat. Afterward, Paul and Denny went back and burned their classic skies

That night, I went to pick up Dina in Boise and we drove back late again and got up the next morning to beautiful sunshine and perfect ski conditions. The McCall area has like 6 Nordic areas, so we chose one that looked nearby and with some easy terrain. It was called "Jug Mountain Ranch." We all went out there together and just skied easy and had a great time. Afterward, the golf course clubhouse that doubled as the winter Nordic center was serving a nice breakfast brunch, so we drank a cold beer and ate breakfast! It helped us all forget the bad race from the day before, that's for sure.
Typical trails at Jug Mountain Ranch...not too shabby. Trails at Ponderosa State Park on the lake were not like these. The lake humidity caused the snow to be a lot different than here, where it was drier and more like Rocky Mtn. snow.

With a great day of fun skiing behind us, I had a more positive attitude for Monday's 10km classical race. Denny and Paul had elected to do the rest of the races as skating, so I was alone on having to figure out the waxing in those tricky snow conditions. Denny and Paul had pretty much burned their classic skies in a disgusted drunken stupor as an offering to the Norse god of snow, Ullr.

I was also on a mission to find some honor in these events. I had the feeling that I had no business being there and wanted to disprove that notion. Things were different on race morning. Amazingly, I wasn't at all nervous, had a great warm-up and felt ready to lay down a much better race.

Clay lining up for the start of the 10km classic -- start positions were assignedThe big Russian guy (German Schastlivvy) who just crushed everyone in the classic races is on the far left

It was much colder too, which is great for classical skiing, but I missed the wax a bit as the weather report called for a low of about 10 - 12 degrees F, and it was more like 3 degrees F. Oh well. I didn't go nuts with the waxing and multiple pairs of skis like everyone else. I focused on the race and just having a good time, which I think helped a lot. I'm pretty happy and confident in the FastWax brand of wax. Being one range above or below has never seemed to be a disaster, so it's hard to really "miss" the wax.

The race started off at ballistic pace. The same Russians who destroyed everyone in the 30km were determined to "break" all of us again, but this time more of us stuck with them for a much longer time. It was very aggressive and I held my ground without breaking my poles (a common occurence in mass-start classical races). I am not a great double-poler, and these races really required you to be strong and good at it...even uphill! I would start striding when the guys I was with were still able to double-pole. I felt really out of place, but stuck by it. Eventually, things broke up and I found myself in the second group, which shattered into fragments, as did the first group. We were all onesies and twosies by the end. By the time were on the biggest hill of the course I was so loaded up from the incredible pace that my legs felt like rubber. We strided up so quickly, however, that I can hardly remember it. It was just too much and over the top, I got dropped from the two Italians I was hanging onto by a thread and had to ski alone until I heard three local hotshots from Idaho catching up to me. They all had huge cheering sections and I knew exactly who they were. I was sure they were going to blow past, but they were hurting when they pulled up to me, so I kept the pressure on over the short, steep hills (walls) near the finish. I got over those hills on wobbly legs and the adrenaline of the certain sprint was hitting me and I felt no pain in the last 500 meters. When we rounded the corner out of the woods into the stadium, I could hear Dina cheering for me louder than anyone and I really wanted to impress her. I entered the final sprint lanes behind a big guy who had a good double-pole and had a little ground to make up. I really went nuts in that sprint and the adrenaline got me to the line ahead of those three guys, good enough for 6th in the M-02s. I was so psyched up about that, but first had to keep myself from throwing up from that effort.
Coming into the stadium for the sprint

All amped up on adrenaline going for 6th overall and 2nd American

Clay and Wilhelm Northrop (Idaho) reliving the sprint

OK...this is gonna get long with the way I ramble on and write. I'll post the other bits in subsequent reports. Look for them over the next few weeks.

Last Grooming for this weekend 3/28-3/30

Well, the warm, windy weather has taken over winter (it came "hard and fast" as Ken Kisiel predicted...) and the xc skiing is going quickly. We'll plan on one last grooming session for some clean skiing up to the meadows and the glorious "crust" that sets up every night and is good until about noon or so.

If it looks doable, I'll probably even pull in a classic track for some variety. Bring waxless skis or some good spring corn/aqua klister for your waxable skis.

I'll report on Friday evening for Saturday morning's skiing. Check back...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

2008 Pajarito Pinhead Challenge Race Report

Best. Race. Ever.

Well maybe not ever, but man this thing was one silly fun race. Here is the concept. Start at the ski lodge. Ski all the way up, 1200 feet vertical, to the top of the mountain. Next ski down one of the runs back to the lodge.

Making things a bit more complicated, there are two routes up the hill. One is longer, but smoother and more gradual, one is a straight up the slopes.

The idea is that the skate skiers will take the long way up while the backcountry/at/tele skiers will skin/run up the slope. In theory the skaters would be at a huge advantage up the hill, mitigated by the skinners taking the shortcut and further mitigated by the backcountry/tele/at skiers blasting down the slopes while the skaters nearly die. And damned if it did not work out really well.

The mighty pajarito mountain. Race started behind the jump and went way off the photo to the left, over the top and back down way over off the photo on the right side


For you locals, the race started just above the lodge (~9200ft) at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in los alamos and then headed south eastish up the access road all the way up to wrap around the back side of the hill and up and over the tip top (10440ft) and then down Rim Run to I DOn't Care to the jeep road back to the lodge. The shorcut was up Dogpatch.

Lots of the terrain and views are similar to the mountainbike bachelors party I had in October. photos here. With, you know, more snow.

Before we get to the race report formally, I just want to make a few things clear. I have been on skis on at a downhill area exactly once in my life in 1993 in vermont. I used to snowboard alot in Tahoe, but have not done that since 1999-2000. I am competent on skate skis on any downhill I have seen in a Nordic area. Pajarito Mountain is a pretty steep ski area. I have never been above 9400 feet at the downhill area when there was snow. You perhaps may understand why the downhill part caused disquietude for many of the skate skiers, including me.

JohnB all happy on his way to victory. Dig that crazy skate!

click for big

There were something like 15-20 skiers on the start line. About 8 skate skiers and the rest on some sort of backcountry/AT/tele gear. Lets call those other people skinners, even if it was not clear that all of them were actually using skins, but they did go up the shortcut.

To temporally distrub the narritive at this point, I want to add that I was asleep at 7:39am in my bed. I got up shortly thereafter and made it, dressed in my ski gear to sign in at 8:40 at the ski lodge. The race was scheduled for 9am start. Well done me. The morning? cold but clear and blessedly free of the accursed spring NM winds.

Ken K stomps along to second place

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So there we are at the starting line and the race starts a bit late. Fellow SWnordic ski team members John and Ken get a great start and me and three other skaters start in the same area. The course starts with a bit of a downhill and then a sweeping right around some trees up to the climbing access road. Ken and John make it fine, but I follow (someLAwoman) on a bad line and we start skittering asunder on the off camber turn. Tom from Santa Fe makes it fine and I start the climb in fifth.

As we start to climb in earnest I feel pretty good and pass tom and (someLAwoman)and settle in just behind John and Ken who are setting the pace up front. The access road is well groomed but got seriously off camber at every crossing of the downhill runs. What started as a minor annoyance got to be very trying as the race progressed.

Skinner 1 (ericO) skins to third

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As we get a large part of the climb done and head toward the first big righthand switchback I find myself starting to blow up a bit. (someLAwoman) passes me right at the switchback and I see John and Ken up ahead starting to put some serious distance between me and them. As we cut back across the hill I can see that, to my surprise, there are two skinners up the mountain on dogpatch ahead of me and two just below me.
Well done fellers...

(someLAwoman)on her way to fifth overall. sorry I forgot her name...


As the climb continues the suffering sets in. No big story to tell here. I am a bit overcooked. I am pretty sure my weight is the sum of the weights of John, Ken and (someLAwoman) and I am feeling every pound of this. Also it is really hard to recover at 10,000 feet when you are cooked. But I soldier on up across various injustices like icy off camber slopes and steep hills. There are some beautiful vistas from this part of the course, but I can't really remember them. I do remember when I did this climb on my single speed in the fall that there were easy parts of the climb. They do not make themselves obvious on skis. I am alternating between a weak V1 a weak coaches skate and some sort of stumbling herringbone run on some parts. Ouch. But yet I continue.

As we wrap around the back of the mountain I can see (someLAwoman) and two of the skinners up ahead. We finally hit a nice fast section before climbing back up to the top of the mountain. As we hit the last flattish bit I blow by the two skinners and find myself firmly in fourth ahead of all the skinners.

JessicaK is taking photos and cheering us on at this point, and taking photos. thanks Jess. So all photographs from the race are from her...

Me with the smile of terror as I know the descent is near. This is the hypoxic-swing-kick-dog-pee skate technique. No I will not teach you.

click for big

I pick up speed and head down the rim run knowing there is the small matter of getting down the hill. We come to the precipice of dooom at the top of the "I Don'tCare" run. I pause and look down. Maybe I pause for a while trying to plot out my path. It is a green run, but pretty steep. Especially for someone like me. I can see (someLAwoman) snowplowing her way down the slope well below me. As I consider my options, skinner #1 blows by me, without pausing and cuts some huge turns. Welp, I guess it is my turn.

I drop in and find I can mostly control myself by doing quick snowplow turns. Until I get to a pretty steep stretch. I fall on my side as I can't quite control my speed well enough and I skid down the steep bit on my hip. A giant lightbulb turns on! It is much faster and safer for me to glissade down the steep bits on my hip than to try to make huge slow switchbacks. So I snow plow a bit, more straight down the slope now that I have a strategy. When I get out of control, I bail onto my side and head straight down the slope on my hip.

While this is a pretty good strategy for me, it is not fast compared to say, everyone else. Skinner number two blows by me while I am bouncing along the slope on my hip. I get up and try to do better, but am stymied by a last steep bit before making a turn onto the jeep road. I slide down on my ass the last few feet to the turn while skinner number three executes a gigantic tele-turn at high speed onto the jeep road. Whooooosh. And he is gone.

I get on the jeep road and go as fast as my frail nerves let me. As I am scrubbing way too much speed, skinner number 4 blows by me in a full tuck. Dammit. I need to point out that skinner 4 was wearing a big ski helmet. Which must have been brutal going up the hill. Well done!

I go faster, but the damage is done. I finish in eighth, behind 3 skaters and 4 skinners. As near as I can remember the finish order is something like:
1. John Bernardin -skate 33minute
2. Ken Kissiel - skate 37 minutes
3. EricO skinner 39minutes?
4. Toti L skinner 40minutes?
5. (someLAwoman) skate 41 minutes?
6. skinner 3
7. Rob C skinner
8. Me skate 45 minutes
9 skinner 5
10. Santa fe Tom, skate
11. Skinner6
12. Paul G, skate
??? Myriad Skinners
Tied lanternrouge: JoeB and JohnU skinners ~1:15

There were nice little pajarito mountain logo shirts, mugs, and stickers for prizes. I finished 8th overall, but 6th in the competitive mens 30-45 age group. They were nice enough to give me a sticker for my efforts. The race entry was a big zero dollars so that was nice. Note that JohnB won both this race and the Chama Chile Classic this year. I think that means he won the NM cup convincingly. Well done John.

So overall it was pretty cool. The top two skaters won by a clear margin, I think they were always ahead of skinners, but from 3-8, we traded places on the mountain a bit, which was pretty exciting for a race with 15 odd people in it. The course was well designed and the shortcuts were pretty fair for both the skinners and skaters.

Big thanks to the organizers whose names I never caught. I know there are a ton of skinners in santa fe and taos who should come out for this next year. There are a bunch of skaters in town who should dow it as well. Good race. Suprisingly fast, really hard, and very fun. I lost 6 minutes on the downhill to skinner1. I think I probably could cut this down a bit next year and maybe go a bit faster uphill if I practiced that every now and again. We shall see. If there were alot more skiers it would be that much more fun so come out next year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grooming/Conditions Report 3/11/08

All of the main trails, including the outer meadow trail, have been regroomed (skate lane only). Conditions looked pretty nice with very little ice or glaze...just a few spots. The classic tracks were fair on the lower road and pretty nice (good condition) from about point B up to the meadow. They were drifted a bit on the downhill meadow trail. They need to be reset sometime this week.

While the snowpack is good on all of the main trails, the front hill continues its slow death and is pretty narrow in a couple of spots. It won't be long before portions of it and the area right at point A are melted down to the ground. It may be necessary to walk up past those points very soon.

More snow is forecast later this weekend...that may keep things going nicely until the end of March. Enjoy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Grooming update redux 3/7/2008

Just to expand on the last post. I just got back from the trail, skiing until I bonked so hard that my teeth hurt.

DaveW. not only groomed the whole trail but it looks like he groomed every little shortcut that has been open at anypoint this year. The upper meadow is a bit drifty already, the mid meadow trail is still soft and really drifty, fun for going down, crappy for going up. The upper trails are in great shape, well groomed and a bit soft.

Remember though, we are in the part of the year where the trail gets slushy when the sun hits it and freezes solid when the sun goes down. The front hill went from soft to ice rink in the 2 hours I was out there. So be careful, some bits of the upper trail went from groomed to iced as well. I suspect it will still be great tomorrow morning and we will be on our way to ice city tomorrow night. i did not ski the lower road, some evidence of lots of dog traffic already, but it looked pretty good from point A....

Big huge thanks to Dave. Classic track is set as well.

Grooming update, March 7th, 2008

Dave has groomed the entire trail for skating and classic.  He's the man!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Trail conditions, Wednesday, March 5th

Dave W informs me that the trail was groomed on Monday the 3rd and that conditions are great!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Masters World Cup 2008, Race Report 1

From Clay:
...uh, what happened out there? I was just glad the guy with the cane didn't pull me off the race course. Denny said he was pretty sure he heard a gong telling him it was over...somehow they showed pity on us and let us finish.

Ugh, I've never had such a bad day with waxing. It was a literal nightmare. Forecasts had called for a mix of rain/snow at above freezing temps, but it was just a very wet, heavy snow at about 34 degrees. No one knew what to do...except the really elite skiers (most foreigners and some US elites). We started with ironed-in hard waxes going from VR-55 to VR-60, then tested it and it didn't work at all. We went to the VR-70...nothing -- like banana peels. OK, last one in the kit: the VR-75, which is the consistency of crystalized honey, and just as messy. I felt some kick, but if I stepped out of a track into the new soft snow, I was iced up and walking on stilts. What the heck?

Just before my start, I had such a ball of ice on the bottom of my skis and had to run over to the Toko tent for a scraper. The wax guy there (turns out to be THE main guy at Toko, and former US Olympian, Ian Harvey) looks at my skis and says, "'re in for a long hard day with that, man. How long 'til your start?"

I didn't know what he was getting at, but it turns out that they were abrading people's skis into what is called "hairies." Yeah, just get rid of all kick wax and sandpaper the crap out of your kick zone into "hair." It just looked to destructive and was too new and weird to go with 5 minutes before my start...BIG MISTAKE!!!

Well, I'll leave the rest of it for later, but Denny, Paul, and I had a really rough day. Others did too, it appears. I also got pointed off course and did an extra 2km about adding insult to injury. The last time I had to stop and scrape the ball of icy snow off my base, I just had to laugh. It was just to comical. I'm not really laughing so much at the moment, but it will make for some funny stories someday later.

It was warm yesterday...very warm. Today was snowing for the morning, but now the sun is out and it's warming up fast. What a mess, but they have a lot of snow. The place where we ski has the biggest Ponderosa trees in the world. They're huge!

That's all for now. Sorry we don't have better tales of conquest.

Trail report 3-01-08

Hopefully the new snow will make this report irrelevant.

I went up for a late evening snowshoe last night and saw that most of the trail is in pretty good condition.

We are losing the front hill in the middle parts. Lower road is heavily trafficked, but in good shape, lower meadow is torn up pretty good. Upper meadow is in good shape, what I could see of the upper trails looked good. Midmeadow road has been groomed a bit, it is really soft though. Some creative grooming has created some mid meadow loops.

Jess and Ken skating into the sunset last week

There were dog, snowshoer and ped postholes in the soft parts of the lower meadow. This is a good time to do early morning and late evening activities. When it is 60 degrees in town consider postponing your trail activities until the snow firms up.

Like I says I hope we get some snow today to help cover the dirt and the holes.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

2008 Leadville Loppet Race report

You know, I am not the only one that raced. Just sayin... As your punishment, I will not truncate my report at all. Hah!

Anyway, here is the (apparently) long awaited leadville loppet Race report.
On Friday morning Paul and I drove up to the thin air of Leadville for the Loppet.

After a smooth drive and delicious coffee and sammiches at Bongo Billys in Buena Vista, we arrived in Leadville. We first stopped at the course at the Colorado Mountain College. We skated for about an hour through the soft yet pliable trail system and then up the well groomed mineral belt trail. Conditions: great! The sun was out, it was just above freezing. The air, she was clear and the trade winds were blowing.

Me up there on the mineral belt trail

We skated up and down and took pics and enjoyed the crazy downhill on the mineral belt trail followed by the step turn happy woods, a harbinger of things yet to come.

Me and then that Paul guy up at the Leadville overlook

Afterwards we checked into the residually smoky super eight motel just across from the mountain college, got some grub at the Tennessee Pass cafe, and then headed back to the race site to pick up the numbers race numbers.

Also at the hotel were the sled dog teams.

We turned in early and then had what probably should have been a predictably crappy nights sleep at 10,152 feet altitude. Clay and Dina perfidiously stayed in Buena Vista at a more oxygenated 8000ish feet. Fiendishly clever they.

Got up at 7 ish and headed into town for some breakfast at the exquisitely signed Golden Burro cafe. Our lovely moppet of a waitress used her well honed urchin charm to steal Paul's heart. Not me though, she looked like she had done some hard time in juvie and I was wary of getting shanked with a rusty butterknife, but we got our breakfast without incident. I should have ordered the miner's platter. The pancake platter was lacking promised hashbrowns. After breakfast I supplemented the watery burro coffee with a cuppa from the newly opened and quite excellent Proving Ground Cafe. Well caffeinated at last, we departed for the race site.

Best neon sign in leadville, an ominous harbinger of breakfasts to come

Got to the race and strapped on the gear and did the warm up skate about. I was in the 22k skate, Paul, Dina, Clay and Denny all in the 22k classic, Ken and Jessica in the 45k classic and John in the 44k skate. I think that makes 8 club members total all bespeckled with official club gear. Go team!

Your humblest scribe in full on prerace dork mode!

The 44k skate/classic started off at 10am. I skated over to watch and noticed that the old mountain guy standing next to me was holding a big ass rifle. It took me a while to figure out that he was the official starter. I backed off a safe distance away and watched the field set off. John B got an excellent start.

I warmed up a bit and discarded excess layers as the morning was relatively warm and got on the starting line. The race is an out and back, so there is some overlap where we will be skiing back on the racers behind us. I am a bit nervous about this as the return skiers will be heading down hill and the outbound skiers will be going up. I sense trouble. After extensive instruction that Paul missed completely our race started. The race was a combined start for the classic and skate skiers. Deviously, I lined up way on the left behind a couple of women I knew to be very fast skate skiers. I figured that I could skate around all the classic skiers who were stuck in their multiple sets of classic tracks and get a good start ahead of the crowds in the sketchy beginning of the race.

Nope. Mountain man fires the thirty/thirty rifle into the air and in the nanosecond it takes me to get across the start line, I realize half the classic field is up the road and ahead of me. Hot damn. I skate like mad trying to make up some ground and make a bit of progress before the course necks down into a series of downhills of ascending severity. The first two are OK, but I am stuck in the bunch losing ground to the fast people pretty quickly. Then there is a steep downhill with a sharp left turn. As we are in the midst of the hill, I note there are two skiers way off the course neck deep in snow trying to dig out as they completely missed the turn. I start snowplowing hard and manage to make it around the turn without crashing or swinging wide and taking out everyone around me.

We hit the first uphill and I start passing people. The trail is not wide. Classickers on the right in the tracks, skaters on the left and the passing lane seems to be a double pole sprint betwixt. I try it and quickly get maxed out, but I get by a bunch of slower skaters and classickers. The trail goes through some undulations before we hit the lower portion of the mineral belt trail. The Mineral Belt Trail is a nice multiuse paved bike path laid over the grades of a number of old mining railroads. In the winter it is snow covered and well groomed. As it is a rail grade it offers a slow steady climb, but it is one of those sneaky old rail grades that is pretty steep in places.

As we get into the steady climb I feel I am among my racing peers. There are a number of classic and skate skiers ahead of me. I note that the classic skiers, including clay up in the distance are kick-poling up the grade. The skaters around me are V2'ing. I try this and quickly hit my limit. I go back to a managable V1 and get into a groove. Things seem to be going well, or so I tell myself, until I try to pole to the right and do that amusing plant-the-pole-on-the-inside-of-the-ski-and-faceplant-hard thing that the girls find so cute. As I dig myself out of the crater I have created (crated?), a train of four skaters zoom by me. I get back up and my heart rate is pegged. The front of the race is out of sight up the road and I get my rhythm back. I note that the pesky little skaters ahead of me are still V2ing up the grade. Damn them and their little 150 lb bodies. I plow onward keeping them in sight.

John B with an excellent 44k skate

At some point which I can't remember, we get into the woods and do an insanely fast downhill section through tight twisty little turns, all alike. I manage to use my superior gravitational attraction to the earth and catch back on to the train. Two fellows fall off the pace and I follow a woman in pink who can descend like a demon. This part of the course is really quick. There is barely a chance for V2 alternate mostly just skating and step turning and powering out of turns. Whee. Anyone still reading? Uh oh, maybe another picture.

Clay pacing Dina toward the end of her 22k classic race

At some point the fun ends and we go up. And up and up, and then rolling hills with sharp downhills and sharp up hills. I am losing my focus. My group of skaters have left me behind a bit. But then, salvation, a 10k sign, that means I have 12k to go and only 1k to the turn around. Or so I thought...

We hit the mineral belt trail again and climb a steady grade for a bit, and then awhile, and then longer. I sort of catch up to the woman in pink and off in the distance, but getting a bit closer I see Clay skiing along. I get some momentum from that. Maybe, just maybe I can catch Clay?

As we skate along up what seemed like an easy grade the day before I am getting really tired and slightly unnerved that we have not hit the turnaround point yet. How long is 1k? We ski over a peak into a little valley and then begin to climb more on an endless railroad grade. I am starting to fade again, I feel the bonk coming on slowly and I am regretting the fact that I did not eat during the race. I feel around wildly for the ClifShot I stashed sticking out of my water pack but I can't find it. Damn. Why am I still climbing. Why are none of the faster skiers doubling back yet. Woe woe is me....

At this woeful point we are skiing past neat historical mining stuff like these trailside hopper cars

At this point a synapse fires in my oxygenless brain and I realize that perhaps the out is longer than the back, and maybe since we are climbing so much, the back could be mostly downhill? As if in answer to my febrile ruminations a purple cow tight clad skier is streaking down the hill. Directly at me. Uh oh. I move out of the track as the race leader whizzes by me. A short time later we ski around a turn and ahead of me is a long gentle slope followed by a little groomed cul-de-sac with skiers heading every which way. I am renewed. I V2 madly to the turning point.

As i arrive at the not mipoint turning point, coming out of the turn around is Clay. I'm like, "sup". And he is all, "nothin" and then he's like,"I am only skiing this slow as I was a bit over my max for a while, now I intend to hammer down and catch that guy way way in front of me just before the finish line" And I am all, "whatever" and he is like, "Oh and this will be the last time you see me until the finish line" and I am like, "whatever! be that way loser!" and he is like, "Oh yeahs, I am classicking and I am still torquing your slow skating monkey buttocks" and I just make the W symbol with my skis and poles and make that cool "cha" sound and skate on through the roundabout.

And sure enough, I get through the turnaround and Clay has vanished. Sneaky fast people. But the lady in pink is still there just ahead of me. We ski up and down the trail a bit passing the people behind us coming the other way. I am pleased to note that there is no one really that close behind me who is skating. We get to the last high point on the course and start the fast descent. Just as we are picking up speed, pink lady does that cool faceplant thing and I ski on by her. Now the tables have turned and gravity is on my side.

I use my skating prowess to power through the downhills at speed with explosive poling and strides coming out of turns. Despite my near bonked state I am having fun. The only issue is all the people behind me in the race who are going the other way up the course. Some are in the tracks classicking, some are classicking not in the tracks, some are skating in the lane, some are skating on the tracks. I am going really fast and most people are nice and yielding the lane to me. Except a few minutes down the hill, one skater will not move. He has his head down and is taking the entire skating lane. I yell "heads up" and he sort of moves over and says, "you are on the wrong side". I did not realize the idiots who don't yield the trail to you even though you were lapping them in a mountain bike race also ski. It is simple people. If someone much faster than you is passing you, get the hell out of the way. I am 10 minutes up on this guy and he gets all semantic on me. I hope one of the 30 skiers between him and me demonstrated the result of failing to yield to downhill traffic.

Ken skis like a tired tired man at the end of his race.

Anyway, I zip down the Mineral Belt Trail in quick order and enter the woods with its tight twisty little turns, all alike. I am feeling pretty good at this point. Poling hard in V2 alternate, V2ing the flats and having a blast. Then we hit a couple of short hills and I realize I am getting sucked back into the bonk with every uphill effort. I come off the uphill and in short order I am feeling OK and powering along. My quads are starting to really feel the effort of the V2 and I am concerned about cramping, but I can do well and I keep the hammer down worrying that the pink lady will catch me in the technical sections.

Paul G all casual at the finish

Finally I emerged from the woods and past the start line with a short 1km loop to go. I can see one skater and one classiker just ahead so I try to chase them down. The last loop has one mean nasty hill and a demoralizing uphill finish stretch. On the big hill I can see the two guys ahead of me at the top and I try to sprint up it. As I do so, I can feel my vision starting to tunnel and my quads twitch. I back off a bit and then boom, I am on the last hill watching the two in front of me finish just ahead.

As I cross the finish line I see clay cheering me on and I am all like whatever dude, fast and a good teammate too, who do you think you are Clay? this is a ski team, not the girl guides. Sheesh. It turns out I finish in 1:35 for an 11 minute half marathon PR. Although it could have been an even faster average time as the last half I did was a "21k" and this one was a "22k". I suspect some sort of rounding error.

I finished 15th overall in the 22k, 8th among skaters and 2nd in my age group. Unlike previous races my skis were appropriately waxed and the trail was really well groomed so I eschewed controversial skating techniques like drunk monkey and duckbutt and somehow managed to skate pretty smoothly and appropriately all the time. Take that drunkmonkeyduckbutt.

It was a banner day for the SWnordicski team as well. Clay took a hard fought 4th in the 22k classic, sure as his words, pipping another skier at the last bit. He won his age group. Dina took second in her age group. Paul took second in his as well. Denny missed third in his loaded age group by a handful of seconds. In the 44km classic, Jessica and Ken both won their age groups and finished very well overall, with Jessica in 4th among classic skiers closing fast on a fading Ken in third. Finally, John B. had an excellent 44km skate finishing 7th overall and third in his age group. Go team!

Dina, way too spry at the finish

After the race ended, we headed to the loyal order of water buffalo lodge for an excellent stew and soup feed and awards ceremony. There may have been 30 different crockpots of sweet nourishing stews donated by kindly miner folk. Delicious. There were nice prizes for the top three in each age group. I got a nice Mineral Belt Trail shirt with a map of leadville and the trail on it. Pesky nice fast guy Clay got a cool bowl for winning his age group. Then there was a raffle with really nice prizes. Pretty much everyone who stuck around won something, ranging from ski hats and waxes to ski passes for the local alpine and nordic areas. Good job organizers!
All in all it was a fun day up there in the ionosphere. The course was well groomed, the race well organized. The prizes and feed was great. I recommend the event.

After the awards we head back to the still excellent Proving Grounds cafe and caffinate for the long drive home. The drive is pretty uneventful. We saw some mountain goats, lots of elk and just outside of salida we saw a woman blow by us in a minivan get pulled over almost immediately by a cop. Well done cop sweeper.

Arch nemesis San Antonio mountain. Why? Damn you! Why?

When we hit Antonito we stopped at the dirty Shamrock gas station for some water and snacks for the last stretch home. As we get out of the cars a couple of NM staties pull up behind us. One of them asks me if we are heading down to NM on 285. I say yes. He warns us to be careful as the road conditions are bad. I think his exact words were, "its bad... bad bad bad bad bad". Apparently its blowing around San Antonio mountain and the roads are whited out, and he was right. It was bad. Bad bad bad bad bad. We were crawling along at 10-25mph for 15 miles almost all the way from the mountain to tres piedras. Why does the mountian hate me so. Last trip we hit white out drifting on the way up and 12 inches of unplowed snow amidst a blizzard on the way back.

Despite San Antonio mountains best efforts we made it home safely. The end.

The rest of my pictures and the race results here.