Friday, December 31, 2010

Scenes From the Road: Rumford, Maine Edition

In Washington, we have the towering Cascades to captivate the photographer's lens. In Utah, the deserts, the mesas, and the views that stretch for miles in every direction are certainly picture-worthy. With its four distinct seasons, the small towns of New England have their unique charm. From turn-of-the-century farmhouses to scenic schoolyards like the Lukin School House I pass everyday from the MOD's stay at the Inn at the Rustay to the race trails at Black Mountain.

My favorite sights stray a bit from the postcard-worthy, though. Like this one taken a little before noon on a Thursday, complete with a full rack of Natural Ice, minus eight empties. Hey, at least its five o'clock somewhere. Maybe Stockholm, Sweden.. Living the dream, South Maine style.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Boys of MOD Back At It

With my training compatriot Sam's mono-i-mono battle, followed by a NorAm throwdown in British Columbia, combined with my recent transatlantic adventures, the boys of MOD finally came together again for a good old fashioned throwdown on the trails of Sun Mountain. What follows in the video below is a couple of the scenes from the day.

From the Evergreen State, its now off to US Nationals in sunny Rumford, Maine. Racing kicks off on January 2nd with the sprint, classic style.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Old Skool Skiing - A Christmas Time Gift

With school getting out for both Mrs. Beavon's class at Liberty Bell Junior High and Mr. Peck's 5th graders in Leavenworth, I thought the time couldn't be better for a little old school skiing from Billy Koch. I vividly remember watching this for the first time at my boyhood friend Scotty's house. He'd commandeered a copy and fired up the 16mm reel player, and seconds later I watched transfixed as the king of momentum did his thing on his skinny Silver 44s.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adjø Norge, Hello Home

After five weeks of practicing my rough Norwegian, eating brown cheese daily, along with a journey north of the Arctic Circle to Rovaniemi Finland, along with a trip for a little city sprint action in Dusseldorf, it's been nice to get back to the Northwest. Along with getting in a couple kilometers on the old familiar trails of Leavenworth, I dropped into Mr. Peck's class and caught up with Mr. Peck's class before heading a little farther North to the Methow Valley. Up here. I'm getting back in touch with the seventh and eighth graders in Mrs. Beavon's AVID class that looks to close the achievement gap of these talented and inspired, though sometimes sidetracked students. It's pretty cool to see how much progress the kids have made in class here. Also out the door here the snow is piled high, almost reaching the windowsills of my little cabin in the woods.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Norway: The First Days On Snow

For the past week I've been calling Sjusjoen, Norway home. The mountain town sits twenty kilometers outside Lillehammer. The place is pretty sweet, with incredible facilities, both from the long tradition of sport here, and the influx that came here for the 1994 Winter Olympics. The ex-pat Mike Meyers set me up with a nice little cabin by the lake beside the Rustad Hotell. If you're ever in this neighborhood, you should check this place out:

While in Norway I'll be racing with Team Sjusjoen. The team is a professional outfit, and is actually the oldest team of its kind in Norway. Former World Cup podium boy John Anders Gaustad took over the coaching duties this year for this team of ten. Here JA and I get in a couple hot laps around the tracks here. I also picked up a couple good pointers from the man himself. Good times, good stuff.

Here Team Sjusjoen gathers around the training table. This evening, though, was a bit more special. As the last night of the last training camp before the racing season kicks off in Beitostolen, Norway we had a julbordet, or Christmas Table. You know, eating all those delicious Scandinavian specialties like rotten fish, salted pork and lefsa. I know your jealous...

And a lil quick viv for you interested ski fans out there:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stripped down to bare steel...

... then building it back up again.

The old air-cooled bike might not yet quite be road-worthy, but the CB750 Tourer is no longer the oily, dirty rheumatoid tosser purchased earlier this fall. In the last days it's become an avenging angel of misery; only of the prettiest kind.

That's all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. ~Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Power Training, XC Ski StyLe

With snowy mountains in the horizon and the days down to the single digits before I'm waking up to stride-and-glide most every morning, my power training has been changing with the season. And while Mr. Hazle or Karl Erickson or Mustafa might call into question my defining this as "power," the time has come for me as a more endurance-oriented athlete to turn gains in the squat and clean into something I can use in the ski tracks. If you got a minute, check it out ...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Winter Approaches

With winter approaching, I thought it might not hurt to convince the junior high cross runners to help stack a cord of wood. I tried telling them this made for a great core strength. I think they were a bit more motivated by the ice cream that awaited after.

The last two weekends I've also pinned on the racing number, for a very low-key farmer's market 5 km in the heart of the Okanogan Valle, and this four mile hill climb last Sunday, on the eastern edge of the North Cascades National Park.

In just over a week, though comes the time to say goodbye to the Evergreen State. It's winter and skiing - and ski racing - that I'm after. The stoke is high. The form feels solid. I have a ticket saying I'm headed to Oslo next Saturday, and a cabin in the woods of Sjusjoen, Norway that awaits. The adventure continues... time, from one North Country to Another. This time the Norwegian Ski Scene - and the days of midnight darkness await. And I can hardly wait.

Friday, September 10, 2010

MOD Squad

"Poppa said 'Son you're going to drive me to drinking if you don't stop driving that hotrod Lincoln."'

I rolled into Sun Valley for a little mix in the training scene. I had to visit my friend Max, who has just begun to call the Wood River Valley home. Heading into the drive I ran into Max and this sweet '63 Lincoln. The old school Continentals have always had a certain appeal. I couldn't resist getting behind the wheel of this 4,500 pound beauty of Detroit chrome, steel, suicide-door style and big block muscle.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Racing & Grinding

It might still feel like summer, but I'm already starting to dial in the little parts of the ski racing equasion. Mark Waechter of Ultra-Tune has been showing me the ropes in getting a better handle on my racing boards. Between the morning and afternoon sessions my coach Scott Johnston and I were cranking on my fleet of skis; first scraping, followed by flex testing, then finishing with waxing. At the next Ultra-Tune session I'll take this information and plan out a lil grinding plan with Mark to have both my old and new Rossignol's running better than my competitors. Watch out...

The past weekend made for an altogether different kind of grind - the 11.5mile Cutthroat Classic. It's a classic trail run that crosses from Rainy Pass on the Western side of the North Cascades, that then drops down from the high alpine setting into the sunny side of the state. With three miles of climbing remaining, I decided to set off solo and put about four minutes on the closest pursuer by the time we reached the valley on the other side, who came all the way from Track Town USA (Eugene, OR) to defend his Northwest trail running title. It felt good to race and be so in control, especially in longest running race of my life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Trout Lake, Washington

Perhaps its not surprising some of the best skiing in America can be found beside a volcano stretching 12,276 into the sky. What might be surprising, though, is this underground mecca for ski training is used near exclusively in the summer months, and, even though one can see hundreds of acres of terrain on the upper reaches of Mt. Adams, all the skiing is done on paved logging roads put in years ago to haul out the resident Ponderosa, White Pine and Doug Firs. All it takes to put a smile on this skier's face in the summer months is smooth pavement that meanders through the Cascade foothill. To have all this in a sleepy town that sparingly shares the road with fossil fueled BMW R75's and mid-nineties Chevy Silverados makes it even better.

We saw the hottest days of the summer yet at this camp. Fortunately swimming holes abound around Trout Lake, making the plunge into the icy waters running off Mt. Adam's glaciers an easy detour before rolling back to camp and filling up on Taco Stand inspired food.

The kids were working hard all week. I don't think they were too used to putting in two tough workouts a day, but I never heard the young'ens complain. I was pretty impressed, especially when we finished the last two days of camp off with a time trial, a max strength session and a fast trek to the top of Mt. Adams. It was pretty sweet to see this long thin line of raucous skiers blowing by these slow moving, overburdened climbers, puffing away in their full GoreTex kits, headlamps and ice axes in tow.

$320,000 Kindergarten Teachers, worth the short read: here

Monday, July 19, 2010

Birthday Ski

Self-portrait from the top of Mount Bachey.

Waking up this morning, I thought I'd treat myself to a final morning on the slopes. So I - slowly - rolled out of bed, then loaded up my skis, a brand new pair of the beefy Sin 6's Rossignol sent me at season's end, skins, boots and headed twenty miles up to the base of Mt. Bachelor. A little over an hour of solid skinning and bootpacking later I was at the top looking down a chute for the final schussing of the season.

The climb to the sky's final steps.

The perspective from the top. Definitely worth it. And though this picture doesn't do it justice, the skiing just below in the cinder cone was top-notch, not too sun cupped at all and the new skis ripped.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

McKenzie Pass

I’m all about tradition. And if there’s a singular custom that holds true for the endurance athlete – whether they be skiers, cyclists, paddlers, whatever – it’s the Sunday long workout. This week was no different. Only today, instead of heading out for a semi-epic crust cruise that circumnavigated either Moon Mountain and Broken Top, or hitting all the neighborhood streets from West Bend to Tumalo, today it was time to get out on the road bike.

The past couple seasons I worked with a coach who didn’t really believe in cycling. With mountain biking, he thought the chance of injury too high. With road biking, that it wasn’t sport specific enough. To mention the desire to get out and spin on the S-Works would invariably be met with a variation of the theme, “Skiers ski.” Anyways, today brought back how much I missed getting out on the roads and watching the miles click by while being powered solely on muscles, powerbars and the desire of a gluttonous feast consisting of cheese and bacon and guacamole topped hamburgers and greasy onion rings, all washed down with a chocolate-banana malted shake.

With my Bend days now down to single digits, I knew I needed to get in a least one decent ride in Bike Town USA. Sunday morning a group of seven professional athletes of either cycling, triathlon or skiing descent rolled out on the roads to the cowboy town of Sisters, Oregon. From here we made our way up McKenzie Pass. As the pace picked up and the gradient steepened, I was a tidbit nervous with my serious lack of cycling miles and with both the eastern and western climbs of McKenzie Pass looming. McKenzie is a fabled road here in Oregon, the original pass through the Cascades that connects the high desert of the East with the wetter West. Being so oldschool the postman used to have to traverse it on skis at the turn of the century, the road snakes and weaves its way along the mountainside, a two-lane path matching nature. It stands so much in contrast to modern road straightened through dynamite and man’s might. Certainly better for quicker driving from point A to B, but it’s like a friend of mine says, “Take the interstate if you want to go from one place to the next and get there absolutely as fast as possible, and see absolutely nothing.” Both have their place. I just seem to overemphasize speed and miss out on taking in roads that roll along with lava fields and country estates.

Getting back into town, ravished, its time to slide into Sno-Cap for the aforementioned all-American culinary experience. But it’s a hot Sunday afternoon and the line stretches straight out the mom-and-pop burgershack to the street. We’re hungry, real hungry, so we head down the street to a café that specializes in all-natural vegan food. The wait was non-existent, but so was that malted milk shake.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de Northwest

It's July. And in the tradition of the 97th edition of the Tour de France, I've spent my last days out on the roads with no two days alike.

First, I left Bend for Portland; then the City of Roses gave way to the port town of Astoria, Oregon.

My gypsy in arms came all the way from across the Atlantic to take in America, experience the 4th of July and to touch the Pacific for the first time. Forget Swatch watches or Swiss chocolate, this is the finest of Schweiz's imports.

Just as this tour came to end, so soon shall my time in Bend. Next week I load up the truck for good, leave the House of Fun solely in the hands of Decker and Lieto, and trade it in for some quality time up in the north country. Before arriving in Mazama I have one more stopover, though. I've been invited to lend a hand coaching the young up-and-comers at the PNSA ski camp at Trout Lake, Washington next week.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bend Camp 2010: Fire & Ice

The Fire and Ice Ski Camp on the trails of Mt. Bachelor has come to an end. With it, so has the last day of groomed skiing here in Bend. Putting on the camp was a bit of work, but the skiers, from young to old, were super stoked so this made it all worth it.

Annika and a big crew from one of my old haunts, the big city streets of Salt Lake City, came out west for the camp. If you knew that some of the U.S.'s best up and coming nordic skiers might come from the downtown SLC West High School you too might be impressed.

The campers posing with the alpine slopes of Mt. Bachelor as a backdrop. Finally, the warm sunny days of summer seem to making more than just a cameo appearance out here in the west.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Schooling & Educating

Nothing quite like kids celebrating school getting out for summer. I'd like to send out a special shout out to Mr. Gottschalk and all the kids in class for the great year.

Now that's school's out, another education is in session. Summer Camp, skiing in Bend. Here I lead a train of highly motivated young rubes up the trails of Mt. Bachelor.

Lars Flora and I racing through the slalom course. We're trying to mix skills challenges within the technique and endurance sessions. The snow's still good, but now it's going fast.

Friday, May 21, 2010

El Nino

El Nino Winters might start late. But the winter days last long into the usual days of sun. Today I woke up, hoping to put on my skate skis and scramble up to the top of the Cinder Cone at Mount Bachelor, then point them straight down the hill to the faithful truck waiting below. I got a report from my training mate Lars saying we might be in for some powder and decided to throw the heavy metal gear into the back. Good choice.

The tools of the trade: Lightweight backpack with electrolyte-filled beverages, poles, skins and skis.

The Chairlifts might be overhead, but with the mountain closing down last weekend, it makes for quiet trails. While this certainly equates to fewer gravity assisted turns, it also means fresher stashes of pow and no worries about getting in the way of paying customers if you want to trek to the top.

Turn it around, and head back up one more time? Why not. It's the time to earn some hours and build that base for the next time.

Until next time.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Beyond the Abrasive Edge

The unmistakable percussion of David Groll opens Nirvana’s You Know You’re Right as I slide my Toyota onto the highway, headed south. Outside, an epic spring storm blankets the Northwest in snow. My eyes tire in minutes trying to decipher the contrast of white on white, negotiating the roads that have left big rigs jack-knifed, Dodge Caravans abandoned and so many other autos in various states of deserted disrepair.

Outside Mt. Shasta the snows give way to rain, a pelting Cain & Able kind of rain. I slow down to take a photograph. I’m not using and controlling all the tools necessary - the f-stop, the aperature, the film speed, and thus taking, not making the photo. I’d much rather do the latter, though circumstance does not allow for making, only taking. Sometimes all you can do is put the fancy camera with all its complex programmed settings on autopilot and steal a snapshot here or there.

I pass by Monterey and do not slow down. But I can’t help thinking of what John Steinbeck wrote about it. “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.” It makes me want to stop. I tell myself I will on the drive back north. I know way will lead onto way and I’ll feel the pull of the road to race on home in a week’s time. So long Monterey Bay. I missed that turn, I missed that chance. Now is not the time for regrets.

With the morning light, I stop off in Salinas, “Lettuce Capitol of the World.” I stop. At a roadside farm to buy a bundle of Swiss Chard. I also pick up some white orchids. Peeling out and onto the highway, I put on the White Stripes. The first song to play? Blue Orchid.
You’re given a flower / But I guess there’s no pleasing you / You took a white orchid, turned it blue

The miles click by until at last the Pacific comes into view. I stop, walk down to the water’s edge, jump in, feel its ebb and flow. I half notice a group of fisherman wading out. I begin to think of my grandfather and about character. I think of how he made his flies, not from following the directions in some book, but by personal experience, trial and error, the testing of his assumptions. I can see him casting his spey rod into the willows, softly telling me that it’s not fly fishing if you aren’t looking for answers to questions.

At the same time, I can see him telling me, “Look, you trained like a man possessed. You went up against the best. You laid it on the line, quite literally. And it wasn’t good enough. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. One day it will be more than just good and you will be all the better for all of this. Just as you can win and not succeed at all, you can lose without failing. And to all those naysayers, giving up on you now? They were never there to help you in the first place.

“I know this is a time of self-reflection and performance assessment. But you know that Teddy Roosevelt speech you love so much? You know the one about how it’s not the critics who count? Its the man in the arena, the one covered in dust and mud, the one who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up again and again, but who, in the end, knows the triumph of high achievement? That critic - the toughest, most ruthless one, the only critic who really matters in the end - is the internal one. You’ve ridden the ups-and-downs of three consecutive Games and I know the following act does not come easy: be gentle with yourself – at least for a little bit.”

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coming To A School Near You

Stop! The season's not done quite yet, as it's time to shake out yesterday's 50km race and begin the first ever North American Tour de Ski tomorrow.

Then, it's off, with a return to the Great Northwest to come.

And soon to a school near you.