Wednesday, December 26, 2012

View from the... Home: Wenatchee Valley Edition



The view from the lake up to Glacier View after the epic December dump. Lake Wenatchee, Washington. For two days, I was trapped up here with no electricity or water with impassible roads. This little experience made me think of when Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard.

The Cascade Mountains trapped within the horizon of the passing clouds.  One 48 hour storm brought 6 feet of snow to the base of Stevens Pass. This made for some epic alpine powder days, but wreaked havoc to the surrounding communities. Power has been out for 10 days and counting to Lake Wenatchee, Plain, and Chumstick Canyon. When outside, you can hear trees snapping under the weight of the snows. The sound is not unlike a muzzle-loader hunter hitting his target. A short, sharp explosion of tree fibers snapping, followed by the rush of timber falling down through the forest that reminds me of a deer dashing through the woods with it's last few breaths of life. 
                                   

Being home means reconnecting with the old hometown ski club. These days, I race for the Bridger Ski Foundation out of Bozeman, Montana, but I got my start - and still talk to my Leavenworth coaches frequently - from the old neighborhood. Here I got to do a little stride, glide, and double pole with the high school age crew. At the end, Shane Wilder from IcicleTV came out and caught a little bit of the action. You can see Mr. Wilder's work from the little impromptu session here. 



With so many trees falling, and 3,800 people directly affected,  the County and the Public Utility District have been working overtime, bigtime. Here,  a helicopter tries to "shake" out the snow from the overburdened pine tree. You know when public agencies are resorting to practices like these, they are doing all they can to alleviate the situation. A neighbor two houses away was not fortunate. Two giant Douglas Firs came crashing down onto their roof, crushing the structure. 
                                   

In just a couple day's time, it's off to Salt Lake City Airport I go for the US National Cross-Country Championships. I imagine you can check back here for a personal update when the show comes to an end. Races are scheduled for the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th of January.
                                   

Friday, December 7, 2012

Belly of the Whale

Snowy scene at Lake Wenatchee
Indian "Summer" days in the city of Wenatchee.


After the racing season got off to a slow start due to some upper respiratory infection, I made it back to Central Washington. It's must be something about sleeping back in familiar territory, but the health is coming back strong. After a couple days of running in the foothills of Wenatchee and rollerskis along the mighty Columbia, I headed up to the parent's cabin in the Cascades to get on the real stuff. 


Fortunately, winter has recently arrived in the Northwest's mountains. Nearly two feet of the dense "Cascade Cement" fell from the heavens yesterday, with another foot or so on it's way tomorrow. It is so cool to see such big, monster-sized flakes falling from the sky, and feel a part of such a monster storm.   With the nordic center up at Stevens Pass up and running right now, I have a great venue to get back on snow and seek the good tidings -  and technique and timing of cross-country skiing.



The 5th Graders back in Mr. Peck's class were psyched on their early Christmas present - Toblerone chocolate straight from it's source from across the Atlantic. At twelve pounds of solid triangular Swiss chocolate, honey, and almond nougat, I knew this would be a winner with the young lads and ladies.  It's definitely an added bonus to get to spend a little extra time in the classroom.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Skiing Loops, Chasing Down the Antelope


The man-made loop of snow in Davos last almost exactly one mile in length. If yesterday is any guide, this equates to three minutes and thirteen seconds of full-gasping effort, or roughly five and one-half minutes at today’s more moderate, consis- tently repeatable pace.

It’s times like these I remember some characters. Today is a professor from my University of Utah days. He was a vertabrea morphologist, meaning he had a treadmill in the basement of the biology building where he could research both how effi- ciently and effectively various animals moved.


Since probably my junior high school days, I’ve been told the prevailing wisdom is that the bi-ped- alism of man is a bad design – that it is slow and causes us pain in our knees and back and feet. Bi-pedalism, I was told, came about due to the tool-use theory. We finally decided to stand up on our hind legs so we could free our hands and gaze across the savan- nah.


Professor Carrier had two difficulties with this theory of bi-pedalism. One, there seems to be two million missing years of archaelogical record between when man first stood on just two feet and when he started incoporating spears and such into his quiver of survival.

The other question he posed to us – and this is the one that drove his research and stuck firmly many a student’s mind – was: If bi-pedalism is such a poor design, why can we run farther than just about any other animal? 


In addition to man’s ability to run on and on and on, Mr. Carrier was intriqued by the antilocapra americana, or the North American Pronghorn. He called it a “really cool animal” which, for the last million years, has roamed the plains and deserts of North America.
One unique characteristic of Pronghorns are their eyes. They have 10x vision, which means on a clear night they can count the rings around Saturn. My professor also called the pronghorn “the best endurance athlete in the world.” In biological terms, they have twice the blood, and their heart and lungs are three times the size of other mammals of comparative weight. 


In performance terms, a North American Pronghorn can run a marathon in forty minutes.

Instead of bi-pedalism, Dr. Carrier believed the evolu- tion of a species moved toward greater stamina and endurance. He believed that if man was fit enough, and a group hunted together, and the day was hot enough, that the pronghorn you’d sometimes see out in the distance on the Salt Lake Salt Flats could be one tribe’s dinner.

He’d heard of the Tarahumara, and a couple other select indeginious people who had a tradition of run- ning down animals, stalking them until they lied down to die under extreme exhaustion. He and a couple friends were after the same. They wanted to run the Pronghorn down.

There was a little madness in his idea. There was also something beyond the poetry of my prose to his proposal: that the evolution of a species moves toward greater stamina and endurance and man has a need to run down – not through speed or guile, but just basic efficiency and endurance – the best endurance athlete in the world.



Skiing loop after loop on this pile of snow that was saved from the summer’s sun for six months, just so the Cologna’s and Tambornino’s of the world could build more stamina before the real winter come, it at least comforts the mind by making you think you’re contributing something to society. I guess you could say each of us are running down our own antelope. 




Sunday, November 4, 2012

That Essence Rare


Something happens when you get dialed in. The field of vision funnels into the immediate. The repitition of deep inhales and exhale drown out all other sound. Instead of heading down a path you now are  in it. No, that’s not quite right.  It’s more than that. You become part of it, connected. Passersby, the scenery, that smell you loved that morning after the night’s rain, it might as well not be there. Because now it’s nothing more than cardboard cutouts tipping over as you roll by.


Motorcyclists tell me they reach this state on the the long runs when the sun’s since set and the cops have all gone to bed.  It’s here where they open up the throttle north of ninety miles an hour and the engine’s headers drown out all the sound. The engine’s vibration matches the heart’s rate. It’s here – this rush of the calm that comes with the absorption of action that fuels the journey.

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is why I’m still at it - why we’re all still at it. Maybe what we’re all searching for is this feeling of the long run, or of clicking into the skis at the startgate and just feeling so dialed in.





To hold onto these moments, maybe that is the day’s lesson. To find those days when you’re not just traveling along a road, but in it. It’s like those kodachrome conversations you share with your best friends, where words reflect from one to another into shared expression. Seek moments like these out; there’s not so many of them. So appreciate them. Run to them. And don’t look back.


There’s a saying – that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t believe that. Anger or envy  or anything else like this cannot sustain you. I think the things that try to hold you back harden you with anger and sadness.


No, strength comes from the good things. It’s those perfect moments with your family and with your friends, and those times where you find the satisfaction of hard work and a job well done.  These are the things to hold onto. It’s for these moments we incur the tenderest of debts and deepen the well of our strength. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Scenes from the Road: Ramsau am Dachstein Edition

Ramsau am Dachstein in Pictures



For the second year in a row, I'm spending the last weeks of October with Team Sjusjoen in the Austrian mountain town of Ramsau. It's a tiny town about a half-hour outside Salzburg, Austria (think Mozart's hometown), but awell-traveled location in the cross-country ski world. This is for several reasons. The rolling valley offers great trails for both relaxed skiing and tough efforts on their World Cup courses. Full-pension hotels are everywhere here, and the price is reasonable (40-50 euros a night), especially so for European. And perhaps the most important reason - there's plentiful snow come wintertime. And, thanks to the Dachstein Glacier that sits up among the clouds in this picture, there's skiing year round.



The boys of Team Sjusjoen take a quick break near the end of an afternoon skate session on the glacier. After a pretty epic snowstorm - for October standards, anyways - the sun's back out, and the track is in incredible shape. We share the trails with perhaps 400 other skiers on the busy days. Riding the gondola up the thousand meters to the glacier is to hear more languages in a confined space than I've ever heard. It's almost like a UN conference of cross-country skiers. 




Yeah, it's worth the visit to Ramsau if you've ever thought of skiing Europe. The alpine skiing isn't too bad either. Schladming, which sits ten kilometers in the valley floor below, will be home to the 2013 World Championships in Alpine skiing. I'm sure the town will be absolutely off the hook. Much more than anything, Austrians love alpine skiing. 


This picture comes from a small hiking trail near our hotel, the Turlwandhutte, that sits right next to the gondola base. This makes getting the first ride to the glacier that leaves promptly at 7:50 a little easier.


Well, I guess that's all I have for you this time. I'm sure with a place like this, though, you'll hear (and see) a little bit more from me in the near future. Until then, Viel SpaƟ!




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"The Nordic Weekend"

Every fall, Swiss Ski holds The Nordic Weekend in the mountain town of Andermatt. It's a three day, three race event that brings together 150+ skiers putting on the race bib, a coaches symposium, along with all the industry players to show off the latest equipment. Comparing it to America, I guess its like West Yellowstone on rollerskis.



The day before the races, Bettina fell ill. Fortunately Guri Hetland, the head coach of the Swiss Team, was heading over to the races the morning of the first race. I hopped a ride. We came over the Oberalp, a twisting, narrow uber-Euro style road you might have seen in the Giro d'Italia or Tour de Suisse and thought, "Roads like that really exist?"

We were not making good time to Andermatt in the region (Kanton) Uri. A tour bus was puttering up ahead. Guri gunned the VW Transporter, passed two Porsches, then went for the lumbering bus. Unfortunately, the road wasn't wide enough for us both. Fortunately, the bus and the Transporter lost little more than paint.

Way back in the 13th Century, the Uri Kanton was the first to break away and form the republic now known as Switzerland.





I was satisfied with the three days of racing. Perhaps more importantly, I really enjoyed competing. It was interesting to find yourself battling it out with similar faces day after day, and feeling a little comradery amongst your competitors. The stoke is pretty high to burn up the steep hills of Davos with Cologna, Kindschi, Livers and Company.  

                                                  

Afterwards, Bettina was feeling a little better and we met up in the Ticino region of Switzerland.  It's an amazing place, to be on the south side of the Alps beside lakes that trade in names like Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como.

Early morning we hiked in the seriously steep mountains, then headed down to the waterfront for lunch. While checking out the boats, we got invited out for a day sailing on the Celeste. Kind of the perfect ending to a long weekend I won't soon forget.


The end.  Until the next time.





Monday, September 10, 2012

New Beginnings with ITA

Just as my summer schooling and Canada training camp came to an end, the first days of hopping in Mr. Peck's classroom and a little running with the Kodiaks of Cascade commenced.



Probably few things are better for a high schooler than overnighting with your teammates. I joined the Kodiaks for their first annual team training camp along the shores of Lake Wenatchee. A family opened up their turn-of-the-century homestead for the team to call home. It was a sweet location, with fireroads and dirt trails around to run on, the lake nearby to cool off and relax besides. The team even had its own guest yogi, Tonja Renee Hall, who works with both the MLS Seattle Sounders and Seahawks of the National Football League.



Inside the classroom, my ITA mentor (and former 5th grade teacher, and running coach) Greg Peck is in his final year of teaching in the Cascade School District. I've bounced around a bit with where I've done all my In The Arena work - from Bend to the Methow Valley to running with Park City High last fall - but I've always put in several weeks a year with Mr. Peck, both in his 5th grade classroom, along with the teams he's coaching as the seasons change.

Already this year, the class has started on a couple sweet side projects. Every year I bring in a big duffel bag full of ski team and Olympic jackets for the kids to put on for an afternoon, and pose with their friends in class. Pictures are taken and developed, and the kids get a small momento. Every year, the class is totally into it.

Last year, a Seattle Seahawk gave the class a signed game jersey. Every Friday, a kid from class earns the right to wear the jersey. I can't believe I never thought of this myself. For this year, I gave the class my opening ceremonies wear from the Vancouver Olympics. Every Friday, the "Inspired Performance of the Week" puts the Ralph Lauren clothing that was gathering dust in the attic to use.


Mr. Peck's class this year has already wanted to know quite a bit about goal setting. From many years ago Mr. Peck remembers how I would write in my training log every day, logging how many laps around ski hill I'd put on the cross-country skis, or times I ran around the neighborhood on a Tuesday. Today, the notebook has been replaced by an Excel spreadsheet, but the process is the same.

The kids are doing their own outcome and goal setting, then hanging them from a young pear tree in class. I look forward to getting back there and seeing how this - and the year - are progressing.

For now, though, I just hopped a plane for Switzerland. This weekend, I headed up the Sertig Valley in Davos, then traded in the rollerskis for running shoes and ran to the top of Jakobshorn. It was a sweet little tour of the terrain outside the little city in the Alps. And if you were wondering, scenes like the one below exist beyond the marketing literature on Switzerland. If I could only get some of the orchard fruits in harvest I left behind...




Until the next time.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Scenes from the Road: Banff National Park Edition


After the better part of two weeks in Alberta, the Bridger Ski Foundation rounded up their super fleet of Sprinter Vans with forty junior skiers and headed back down south to Bozeman, Montana for the Sweetpea Celebrations back home. My partner in crime Bettina Gruber and I are still pretty stoked on the scene here in the Bow Valley, and had planned a three week training camp in and around the Banff National Park.


Hopefully some of my pictures do this place justice. As an athlete, I've had the opportunity to trot to more than a few outposts around the globe. And from the first time I came to Canmore as a freshman Ute with the college ski team, the place has been high on my list of ideal towns. It's little wonder the place is a little Canadian mecca for skiing. It's got mountains for running, soft pine needle-laden trails for more flatland jogs, amazing roads for rollerskiing, a rollerski track, Olympic history (from Calgary '88) and a culture for the sport.



You also run into more than your fair share of wildlife. Fortunately, none of the encounters have been even close to the existential variety. Though from what I hear from the locals, I might have to put a Yet into that sentence.



Except for the occasional black fly, or swarm of misquito. After a 70km double pole rollerski to the shores of Lake Louise, it seems the bugs found me mighty tasty pretty quickly.


Maybe here you can get a sense of what I mean by picture-worthy shot of a little-traveled ashphalt road. Or maybe its just a cross-country skier coming from the city kind of thing.



Until the next time, goodbye.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On the Road Again with Bridger SF


With the summer's heat coming to the city, the last couple weeks I started spending a bit of time paddleboarding the Great Salt Lake. It's been interesting to get to know one of the world's most extreme ecosystems a bit better, and a very underused one at that. It's really true, you can just bob along in the salty, briny water left from the ancient Lake Bonneville.





On my last night in Salt Lake there was a little electricity in the air. It might have had something to do with Albert, an old college teammate, calling my living room home for a night before the DesNews Marathon. He put down a 2:40, though I think he was hoping for more. Mr. Wint wants to toe the line at the next U.S. Olympic Trials. I sure hope he makes it.



After the marathon, I packed up the apartment as quickly as I could.  The time has come to say goodbye to Utah, until U.S. Nationals in January, and perhaps just as importantly, in May when I start back up on the graduate studies. Could I have just one semester before sporting the degree? That would be nice...

Anyways, back to the present day. After packing up, it was time to hit the road and join the Bridger Ski  Team in the Canadian Rockies. For over a decade the club comes up to Canmore for a late summer training camp. After putting in 935 solo miles, I rolled into the Alberta town a little groggy and out of it, only to find out the Banff hill climb awaited next morning. Good times. And loving it. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anchor's Down: A Book

With it being finals week here at Westminster College, perhaps a little book reading is in order for us all.




Until the next time, -T*

Monday, July 2, 2012

Canyon Country, Utah


With the weekend came my chance of escape. If not from the summer's triple-digit heat, from the city, from the daily routine, for the rock and sand and serpentine labyrinth of Utah's canyon country.


My two compatriots for the trip were Tony & Louie Ronzoni. Here we trade in stories as we make our way down, down, down, the White Canyon in Utah's Emery County.


At the depths of the White Canyon, the walls reach ever-higher as the slot canyon walls narrow to little more than my body's width. Wind rushes through. Pools of water eleven feet deep stand from another day's flash flood. It's a mandatory splash and swim endeavor through sections like these.


After two nights, two days, and three canyons it's time to head back up north. We wind our way up through Highway 6, by the watermelon farms of Green River, beside the train tracks of Helper, Utah (named for the extra locomotive engines needed to lead the freight headed up Price Canyon to the peak at Soldier Summit). Here, the sky turned dark, mean, and red. It was the kind of sky where you could stare straight into the sun. We drove down the old-main drag of Helper. It's a mostly forgotten place, though with much of the charm left in tact. Filling up with gas across from the boarded up Piggly Wiggly and liqour store I catch the conversation of two Carbon County locals.

   "Wonder when dis forest fire's gonna clean up?"

   "Sheet, maybe it'll burn it all down and den it'll all be built up better den before."

    Half a minute passes. The second one continues, after pulling a fresh pack of Marlboros from a   carton, and lighting up.

  "I don't mind it none. The way we smoke and the way we'd a worked, dis don't do nothing to me." 

  "Yeah, I reckon yer right."

   Coal miners, they are a hardy breed.


 ###

 Finally, I have to give my props to the ITA Athletes putting it all on the line for the opportunity to make it to London and represent themselves and the USA at the Olympics. Your stories and your grit are something to be much admired. Bonne Chapeau.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Salt City to Central Oregon Cinder Cones

These last days I've spending in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, with one of my new favorite discoveries has been Antelope Island out in the Great Salt Lake. Wide open roads shared with as many buffalo and antelope as vehicles makes for a great long-distance skate workout. If you wake up before the sun starts shining too brightly... This picture was taken out of the window of my recent direct flight to Central Oregon. Most weeknights in the city are filled on the Westminster College campus where I'm working on all forms of business communication. One of the skills I've having to learn is getting some proficiency with the Adobe Software Suite. I recently finished up an intensive class working with Photoshop and Illustrator. To finish off the class we had to brand a new business, then present it Mad Men style. Here's a sketch of the website homepage from my efforts with Delerium Brewing Company. Once upon a time, I called Bend my hometown. In the two year's hence, I hadn't been back. Looking up at another bluebird day atop Mount Bachelor, you can understand a little why it was quite nice to make a return. I got to ski on the trails of Mount Bachelor with Leif Zimmermann and Company for nine days. The junior camp also even asked for a couple cameo coaching appearances on the ski trails. I wish I could have been there longer, but I still have some university learning to do. Until the next time, goodbye.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Inspiration. Drive. Motivation.

Writing a three-part article for Skierpost.com, I came across this from a notebook of Greg Lemond's. Talk about setting some no-hold's barred goals. The man definitely had something going on! It's pretty amazing to get a glimpse like this into America's first Tour de France champ.
Last Memorial Day I rolled out of Salt Lake and headed back to Washington State for a 4,000 person multisport race by the name of Ski2Sea. The race starts on the slopes of Mt. Baker. 93 miles later, it finishes on Bellingham's waterfront. My job was to run up Mt. Baker in my alpine gear, then ski down. My team had two other Olympians, both gold medalists. We won.
This weekend, I also ran in a little 5km. Last year I couldn't run until August. This year, I haven't been running much. So to jog away from the field and comfortably run 16:13 so early in the training year makes me think I'm going in a good way. Next week, it's off to Central Oregon. I stole this picture from my former roommate in Bend, the triathlete Matt Lieto. Yeah, I think they'll have enough snow for me there in the Cascades...