Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Postcards from Helvetica

After almost a month across the Atlantic, I haven't sent any handwritten notes to Mr. Haberberger's 6th Grade Reading & Writing class. Fortunately, I'd been picking up postcards, and writing notes while traveling from Davos to  Andermatt, Switzerland, and the Italian mountain towns of Seiser Alm and Livigno. With an eleven-day on-snow training camp coming up tomorrow in Ramsau am Dachstein in Austria I had a rest day to catch up on trips to town and the post office. With Mr. Peck having moved from Peshastin, Washington to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I wanted a class closer to my hometown to connect with. Fortunately, Carl Haberberger and his wife Anastasia moved back to Leavenworth, with Carl teaching down at Orchard Middle School, a two-minute spin on the bike from my parent's house.

A nice benefit from getting to travel is seeing the different architecture that places in particularly harsh environments foster. In tight alpine valleys like the Engadin in Switzerland, not to mention the difficulty of reaching an Italian town like Livigno in the winter months - or a four month ag growing season - towns that now mesh luxury with high alpine have centuries-long history of regional poverty. This made building dwellings where form followed function more than a design ideal. When I see the architecture of places like these, I wonder what my friend-turned-architect Syndicate Smith would have to specifically say about each of these places. When I see a house of his making with his trademark clean simplicity, I can't help but think he's been inspired some by various alpine architecture. 

Last time, I wrote a little report from Nordic Weekend in Andermatt. The final race. the "berglauf" finished atop the Gotschener Pass, beside this lake. I stiched together several photos to try and capture the scene in more detail. At the top, I ran into some Americans from Boulder, Colorado cycling through the Alps for the fourth time. I could tell, though, they were more than a little uneasy about all the flooding and destruction going in their Colorado backyards.

Coming back from Nordic Weekend, I step my first steps in the Swiss National Park. If I was king for a day, I'd make sure there were than just the one national parks here in Switzerland that sits beside Zernez and the Ofenpass. I think Teddy Roosevelt, for whom this blog is named after, would agree as well.

The Breaking Bad finale awaits on Sunday. I know my mind wanders from time to time to try and glimpse the future of the destruction on Walter White. What about yours? 

Finally, a cool little story about Alan Webb and Shalane Flanagan getting all In The Arena with Portland State Cross Country.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Scenes from the Road: The Nordic Weekend in Andermatt, Switzerland

For the second consecutive year, I've had the opportunity to race the Nordic Weekend in Andermatt, Switzerland. It's always cool to travel to unique towns and locales. Andermatt is certainly not the exception. The tight, green valley sits below the three towering passes of the Gotthard, the Furka, and the Oberalp.  Andermatt is so geographically isolated, Switzerland built fortresses into the granite mountains to serve as its last stronghold against foreign invasion.  This kanton (county) of Switzerland identifies itself with the bull. This white steer head was definitely the coolest one I found in my short time in town.

The race series got underway with a 3.5km prologue on the military grounds of Realp. This track is the official training grounds of the Swiss biathlon team. The weatherman said it was supposed to be 50km winds with pelting rain. The breeze was in the air, though the rain thankfully didn't yet arrive with the opening stage. With these race photos, I have to give a big shout out to photographer Urs Steger for sending them my way.

The highlight of the three-races for me was the classic hillclimb on a crazy Euro country road that ran up the valley beside the Furka Pass road. Last year, I finished this race totally gassed, and satisfied with the performance. This year, I was again right on the limit, but 40 seconds closer to Dario than last year. I was stoked with my performance, and the way my body was responding to my first real sustained ski-like race of the preparation season.

The weekend finished with a punishing 8km mountain run. Heading to the early morning race start, I passed the most impressive goat devil carved in bas relief into the mountain side. My companions told me the legend of this figure comes from a Swiss herdsman making a deal with the devil to make a bridge across the brutal Reuss river. The Devil offered to build the bridge, though he insisted on the soul of the first to cross as repayment. The Herdsman fooled the devil by driving a goat from his herd across.  

This Devil's Bridge allowed people to traverse from the Milano region of Italy to the Rhine, and thus North Sea of Scandinavia. Spending more time here in Central Europe I'm slowly discovering just how important North to South routes through the Alps are, both in times of carriages and cars. 

Heading back to Davos, Bettina took me for the first time to Switzerland's one and only national park. There is snow in this neighborhood these days. Maybe winter isn't too far off. I will glide on the real thing again in just over a week, atop the Dachstein Glacier. I'm pretty sure there will be a story or two to tell then. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Death Valley Race Article: For the Hell of it

"You can't see anything from a car. You've got to crawl, on hand and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark you trail, you'll see something maybe," begins the latest article by my old roommate and college running teammate Colby Frazier.

Vintage photo from the cheap seats of Cal-Berkeley's football stadium, aka Tightwad Hill.

"How far to the main road?" The article continues.

"Careless worlds. A multitude of implications. A lot to contemplate out here in the middle of Death Valley. I spit, wipe the stinging sweat from my eyes and run on, upward toward the summit, into a naked blue sky that cares little for answers."

 Colby's latest article just made it from print to digital with Trail Runner Magazine. If you want to read a little more, you can check out the article here.

A photo from For the Hell of it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Scenes from the Road: Here, There, Pretty Much Everywhere

After a month away from writing here, I have a little catching up to do. But where to begin seems a suitable question. There's the annual two week training camp in Canmore with the Bridger S.F. And the breathtakingly quick two days of physiology testing back in Utah, to the ten days back home in the Northwest, which lead right into last week's training camp in the Italian Dolomites. And now, I woke up in the Swiss mountain town of Davos, my home away from home.

Post Sulfur Mountain training session with Bridger SF along the Bow River. I could hardly believe some of the younger one went swimming that day. It was so so cold I think I saw snowflakes in the mountains above. Even when running up the mountain, I was thinking how nice it was going to feel to put on a dry shirt at the end.

The view of Antelope Island from the Great Salt Lake's southern border. In addition to getting on the treadmill and chugging along until the machine spit me out the back, crumpled with a blessed mix of fatigue, lactic acid, relief, and satisfaction, I got in one last mountain run with Colby and Nephi. It's an interesting experience to say goodbye to some of the closest people in your life for six months of your life. 

You know the saying: "There's no place like home." It's because there's no place like home. Central Washington is a unique combination of mountain, sage, and pine. While home and back with (near) sea-level air, I pushed a high-intensity training block.  Kinetic movement just feels so good sometimes. It feels especially good while moving super-fast over the roads and trails that I have built up a close acquaintance during the "trials of miles, miles of trials" as Quentin Cassidy once said.

Parting shot from my time in the Northwest: Mt. Rainier emerges from the clouds. So long Mom, Dad, Kari, Sten, Max, and everyone else back home. Hello and Goodbye. Until the next time, that is.

The Seiser Alm scene from the car. The narrow roads that lead up to Seiser Alm lighten in grade, for a moment. Here I follow Simen Sveen up, with Lars Amund Toftegaard running support. In addition to these two Norwegian friends, the Norwegian national team (sprinters and distance) joined us in Seiser Alm. This didn't help my German speaking education much (in this part of Italy you rarely hear Italian, and only the biggest of road signs will include the Italian with the requisite German), but I got the chance for the first time in six months to speak some Norwegian again. Experiences like this make me want to be more diligent with foreign language learning. Only time will tell if this "September 1st Resolution" holds strong this fall and winter.

Another great photo, compliments of "Toftis." I have almost reached the top, and the end, of a controlled intensity session up the serpentine mountain road. Sveen, one of the best uphill skiers in the world (ex: first Norwegian at this year's rollerski Blink Festival) was just a little farther up the road here.

Here's a little poster I put together for the people who support my ski racing gig. When I sent this, two-time Olympian Dan Simoneau wrote back.

Seiser Alm is sacred ground. It's the site of the only World Cup 4x10 relay ever won by the US. It's the site where Kochie won the WOrld Cup and I clinched 7th overall. Throw some dirt over your shoulder. Breathe deep. Draw strength from history. Here you don't have to imagine greatness. It's real. Yes, great things can be done. They have been done. Your turn. Suck in the air. Believe. Know.

Until the next time, Viel Spass! -T.