Winter is supposed to be cold, I guess. -22 C is pretty cold, especially when two days before it was barely freezing.
Fortunately, nothing froze off.
The last time I was at Trapp’s was in 1994 for a national cup bike race. It was 50 degrees and raining. I had a cold, crashed on slick railroad tracks and finished 10 minutes behind George Hincapie.
I didn’t realize how beautiful it was until I drove up through the snow-covered hills on Saturday morning.
I had the weekend to myself. And I planned to ski.
On Saturday, I skied for 4 hours. A couple hours of classic. A couple of hours of skate. I skied slowly. I took breaks. I went up to the Cabin three times, climbing over 1500 meters on the day. That may explain why I covered less than 45km. I milked every last minute of daylight, skiing into the dusk and fatigue, feeling tired and out of my body by the end.
On Sunday, I skied some more. I got roped into doing classic sprint relay simulations with the CSU kids. 4 times 1.5km, with a stinger of a hill in the finale. I didn’t hold back much. I came pretty close to throwing up. It was a good workout and I was cooked by the end. I did much better than I thought I would, especially with my wax slipping the last two times.
Then I skate skied another hour or so.
Counting Friday’s 15-mile run, it was a big block of endurance training.
It felt necessary. Things have been a little rough lately. The short workouts, crammed into the crevices before and after work, weren’t doing the job.
I needed some distance.
And I got plenty of it.
I ran the Winter Classic 5k last week with my yoga running group.
It was supposed to be a fun race. With beer afterward.
This time of year, I’m better suited to being on the snow in 30 degree weather. But snow has been scarce so far.
But a race is a race. I stuck to my recent strategy of starting out easy and working my way into the race.
And that’s what I did.
My first split was 5:36. A little hot. But I felt smooth.
I didn’t look at my heart rate or my times the rest of the race.
I just ran. Ran fast.
I had enough left in the tank to kick into the finish.
And at the line, I had personal best. 17:07, 5:30 pace.
As fast as I’ve ever run in anything other than a 5k. Or longer.
After the race, I drank a couple of beers — Jack’s Abbey Brewer was one of the sponsors — and I had a good buzz going before noon.
In the autumn of 1999 I was on my third or fourth comeback as a bike racer.
I had bought an Ibis hardtail and I had been rolling the fire roads and steep hills of Marin and Mt. Tamalpais.
I had managed to hook up with a group of local pros – guys from Lombardi Sports, guys trying to make the grade, step up to the next level, or just hold their position as the years rolled on. I was chasing down the ghosts of the sport I had left just two and half years before. I was in a hurry to get fit before cyclocross nationals, just 10 weeks away, just down the road in the Presidio.
I lacked miles and was trying to make up for it. So I had gotten myself invited on the long mountain bike rides these guys would do on Saturdays. I would make the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, up to San Anselmo or Fairfax, and park on a side street, pull down my bike, meet the group and the coffee shop and roll out.
I learned the rhythm of the ride the hard way. The first times out were 4 or 5 hours long. I never brought enough food or drink and we never stopped for any. Not that there was any place to stop. We stayed tucked in the redwoods and grassy hills of the North Bay, without a sighting of pavement or structure, for much of the duration. I couldn’t allow myself to get dropped. I had no idea how to get back to the car, and I sure as hell couldn’t ask these guys to slow down. In cycling, there are rules of etiquette and I had already breached one of them by interloping into their elite group.
Some groups have a “no man left behind” policy, where if anybody flats or falls, everybody stops. In other cases, a rider or two will pace dropped riders back on. Or escort them home in a slower group.
But these guys were serious.
I was thankful to be on snow on Thanksgiving Day.
On snow for the first time this season, at the park down the street, barely enough to cover the ground. The rocks skis were slow. The poles still had the rollerski ferrules and sank into the soft turf with each plant.
But the feeling was unmistakable.
And it was like I have never been off the skis.