Friday, November 28, 2014

consistency plus

On Thanksgiving morning, I did my fifth running of the City Creek Canyon Cold Turkey 6K.  H's parents had come into town on Tuesday to join us for the holiday, so I had a larger than usual cheering section.  It had warmed up a bit since that lovely snowstorm: 50F at the finish, so the onlookers didn't freeze but not too warm for running.  The road was dry too so we had the standard course: start at the capitol to City Creek Canyon, up the canyon about a mile, turn around and run down with the finish in Memory Grove.  The start was a little disorganized and my legs felt very tired for the first half mile or so; I was just coming off a three week cold and was also worried that I might have overdone it at the gym Wednesday night.  Once we started climbing up the canyon, however, my legs loosened up a bit.  I'd been practicing hills so the up-canyon portion wasn't too bad.  Once we hit the turnaround though, a lot of people started passing me - I have short legs and just don't cover much ground with my strides.

Totally beat the girl in pink

I kept up with a guy in a green shirt for the all of the uphill and half of the downhill, then passed him as we entered Memory Grove.  After that, I kept a girl in a pink shirt in my sights, trying to close the gap.  She picked up the pace when the finish line was in sight - so I had to pick up my pace to stay with her - but she went out too soon and I ended up passing her, plus two other people right at the finish.  We hung around for just a bit so I could get a snack and some water and coffee, then headed home.

I didn't really have a feeling for how I ran this year.  I had hoped to beat last year's time (that's usually my only goal) but my legs had felt so heavy at the beginning that I wasn't sure I'd done it.  We had to wait a while for the results to be posted ... but when they were, I was pleasantly surprised:

Race results (and history)
2014:  34:14.58 (crushed last year's time!!!), 10 out of 26 in age group, 174/656 overall
2013:  35:44.40, 7 out of 24 in age group, 243/682 overall
2012:  n/a (Thanksgiving in California)
2011:  35:41.33, 249th out of 656 overall
2010:  37:22.76 (course changed due to ice/uphill finish), top half of finishers
2009:  35:53.32, top half of finishers

As you can see, I'm pretty consistent with three finishes within twelve seconds of each other.  Beating last year's time by nearly 30 seconds is a big jump tho' - I'm really going to have to train next year!  Here's somewhere else that I'm also consistent -  the pre-race photos.

This is this year, 2014:

And this is last year, 2013:

Same hat, same purple fleece, same goofy pose.  If nothing much changes, expect to see this again in 2015.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

it's a start

The first big snowstorm of the season has rolled in and wreaked havoc; we're still way behind normal for snowpack this time of year but at least it's not a historical low anymore.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Each year, as my first day back on the hill approaches, I realize how much I've forgotten over the sum - mer.  Things like: where did I put my stash of hand-warmers?  And: how long does it take me to get ready in the morning?  And: which socks do I wear?  And: what do I wear in general for the conditions?  And (afterwards): Do my boots always hurt this much on the first day?  Each year, without fail.  This year, this past Saturday was my first day skiing for the 2014/2015 season and I grilled H unmercifully about the weather forecast and current conditions, determined to get my layering right the first time.  We knew the storm was coming - everyone had been getting very excited about it for several days now - but it wasn't due to arrive in the mountains until the afternoon.  Based on H's experience on Opening Day, we didn't think we were likely to be skiing into the afternoon so I dressed accordingly: lightly insulated jacket, no neck gaiter.

Not dressed for a snowstorm

When we got up to Alta, the lot was less than a quarter full.  We waited in the corral for the lift to open at 9:15 a.m., watching the overcast skies and chatting with the skier services folks.  When we got on the lift, the first snowflakes were falling.  And they kept falling the whole time we were there: the storm had arrived early!  It wasn't cold (mid- to low 30s F) but it was a little windy and I had to go back to the truck to get my neck gaiter to keep the swirling snow from going down my jacket. At first the conditions were as H had experienced them the day before: firm corduroy, getting skied off in high traffic areas (and since there were really only one or two trails open off of the Collins lift, everything was a high traffic area even though there weren't all that many people there).  But the snow kept falling - big fluffy flakes, tiny particles, graupel - and laid down a nice surface on top of the groomed runs.

We skied mostly on the front side of Collins - Mambo to the newly-resdesigned Corkscrew - but did take a couple of runs down through the Sugarloaf side - Waldron's Way to Devil's Elbow and down through Sunnyside to the rope tow.  Hardly anyone was going over there so the snow stacked up nicely and it was skiing pretty well.  We even scared up a partridge in among the trees along Waldron's Way.  By 1 p.m. it was evident that my legs were giving out (running is not good pre-ski training and I need to start doing lunges and squats post-haste) and we skied out.  It was still snowing.  The canyon road was messy until we got to Snowbird and then it was wet but not slippery all the way home.

When we got up Sunday morning, it was still snowing in the mountains and was even snowing in the valley.  The canyon roads were restricted to four-wheel drive or chains and - horror of horrors! - Alta had announced that all the new snow required a lot of preparation and avalanche control, so they were not opening for the morning and might open at 1 p.m.  They had received eleven inches overnight, on top of the four they got during the day Saturday, and the early season conditions meant unstable snowpack, even in-bounds.  We were disappointed but spent the morning doing chores and cleaning the house in anticipation of Thanksgiving, checking our FB and Twitter feeds obsessively for updates.  Around noon Alta announced that they had been unable to finish the control work - because it was still snowing and snowing - and they would not open at all until Monday.  Again, we were disappointed, but the tweets H got from the Utah Avalanche Center throughout the about the numerous slides in the Cottonwood Canyons convinced us that Alta had made the right call.  As of 4:45 p.m., the storm had dropped 25 inches at Alta with more to come.  Like I said, it's a start.

Friday, November 21, 2014

opening day 2014

Today was Opening Day of the 2014-2015 season at Alta.  H, obsessive diehard that he is, took the day up and hustled on up there.  Here are a sampling of the texts I received today while I was grumpily at work:

"Looks ........ thin."

"Front of the singles line"

Front of singles line

"Not really [crowded].  But cars are starting to pour in."

"Just spoke with Martha [the tough little skier services woman who recognizes and, now after several years, likes us].  She asked about you."

"Naomi [the 93 year old H rode first chair with last year] just arrived with her 90+ sticker on her helmet."

"4th chair."

In response to my question about the conditions:  "It was very eastern and got pretty scraped off."

"Still awesome."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

buttoned up

The little storm that came through (also known as the biggest storm of the season thus far) snowed for Friday night through most of Saturday, leaving a storm total of sixteen inches up at Alta.  It's a start.  We're already behind historical total-wise for the date, but it's a start.  Because the storm went through most of Saturday, we weren't inclined to get out and tromp around in it; because of the new snow the storm left behind, we didn't go out and tromp around Sunday either, despite the clear skies - we struggle on our snowshoes because there's so much side-hill hiking out here.  The lower trails would be super wet if they weren't snowy ... so we decided to hang out at the house.  I could only do laundry for so long so I needed a project.

Note the instruction manual at the ready 

Our dog Becky is getting pretty old.  We adopted her as a young adult stray and we don't know exactly how old she is, but we think she's probably about fourteen.  She had to have some dental surgery this summer - two teeth pulled and the rest cleaned - and that seemed to take a lot out of her.  She still eats, although she won't eat anything but tuna or grilled chicken; she still jumps up on the couches and bed; she still takes short walks but she's a little wobbly; she sleeps a lot.  And her fur is not quite as thick as it used to be.  I'd looked around at some stores and hated all of them (pink or froufrou or just plain hideous) - so I decided to make her a coat.

I definitely don't got cutting skillz

On Saturday, I picked up a flannel shirt and a chamois shirt at Goodwill.  Following the instructions I found here and here, I cut out a pattern on craft paper and then cut out the pieces.  Let me be clear: this took me a really long time.  I don't have good fabric shears and the edges were ragged; when I laid the lining (orange chamois) on the outside piece (blue plaid flannel), they only just barely lined up.  I am NOT a seamstress.

That looks like it could hold together

On Sunday, I pinned the coat body and the belly strap pieces together and prepared to sew.  I have a Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machine that my mom gave me.  I think it's a 1954 - I know it's an antique at this point.  It is amazingly good shape and, despite the fact that I don't know at all what I'm doing, works really well.  (Also amazingly, the sewing machine still has its instruction manual, without which I would be lost.)  After some false starts (i.e., it helps if you put the feeder foot down on the material before attempting to sew - who knew?), I stitched the coat body and the belly straps together.  I turned the pieces rights side out, topstitched the body and attached the belly straps, then put on button/rudimentary buttonholes.

Good sniffs

Incredibly, it (sort of) fit the dog, especially after I put in a couple of pleats on the sides to snug it in.  She wasn't psyched about wearing it but I think she forgot about it after we got into our little walk.  The temperature was 27 F in the sun and that silly coat must have felt good.  Martha Stewart doesn't have to worry about any competition from me over here, but I still felt a tiny little bit of pride that I actually accomplished what I set out to do.  And I have a HUGE amount of respect for those of you out there who are good with fabric - kudos to you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

bookend to the season

It is sleeting in the valley right now, as I type this, a couple of storm systems finally moving through and hanging up over the mountains where it's snowing and snowing.  It's cold enough to make snow too and the ski areas are all counting down until Opening Day - next Friday, for many places.  What that says to me is that we were right last Sunday, when we thought we might be taking our last hike for the year.  With that in mind, we headed over to Round Valley once again to try to walk a big chunk of what we regularly ride.

We parked at the Quinn's trail head, cutting out the paved rail trail portion from town.  It was a beautiful day, sunny and very pleasant, not too warm.  We started off at a pretty quick pace and maintained it pretty much throughout the hike.  Although we didn't see very many people at the beginning, by the time we'd clawed our way up Hammerhead [Pladsen] Hill, we started to see lots; we would end up counting 100 MTBers - there were definitely lots of folks out there, enjoying one of the last, warm great days.

When we got to the end of Rambler's downhill sagebrush switchbacks, we decided to change it up a bit and try a new section of trail to see if we might want to incorporate it into our rides next year: we took Ramble On around the backside of the hill instead of taking the jeep road to the paved path.  Ramble On is well-named - or maybe should be Ramble On and On and On.  We finally joined up with the "new" section of trail, not too far from the Staircase, and headed for the truck.

As we finished up, we tried to guess how far we'd walked.  We were hoping for around fourteen miles, to match up with the City Creek half marathon we did to start the hiking season.  We were a little dismayed to learn that we'd only gotten 12.4 miles from our traipsing around Round Valley, but afterwards, sitting on the tailgate with our PBRs, our legs stiffening up, we decided that 12+ was pretty good for the day and a nice way to finish up (hopefully) the 2014 hiking season.  Let it snow!

Hike stats:  12.41 miles, 3 hours 39 minutes, 3.4 m.p.h., 100 MTBers, nine dogs.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

lemons lemonade

 We're already behind on snowfall this year - Alta is supposed to open in two weeks! - but the weather really is supposed to be changing in the next day or two.  So we had one more weekend of glorious weather to deal with and decided to make the most of it.  The short track speed skating World Cup tour was in town at the Olympic Oval in Kearns and we were tempted to go check it out.  But the sun was shining and it just seemed criminal to be indoors.

November hiking outfit

We did yard work first, mowing and raking and cleaning up the flower beds for the winter.  It never seems to look good after we've worked in the yard, but it always looks better so I guess that counts for something.  After getting cleaned up, we got our hiking gear together to go up to Solitude/Brighton, first stopping at the Wasatch Powder House to pick up our Alta season passes.  We were in and out quickly and headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon, finding a parking spot in the busy Silver Lake parking lot.  The plan was to head up to Lake Solitude, follow the access road up towards the summit and then take the Sol-Bright trail back around to Silver Lake.  We'd done this hike last in October 2012, right after an impressive early snowstorm; there was a little snow on the ground this time but not nearly so much as two years ago.

Rock skis recommended for now

We didn't see anyone else on our way up, following the well-packed trail through the shady woods and across sunny clearings.  The temperature was in the 50s: pleasant in the sun but cool in the shade.  There were deer tracks everywhere (but no actual deer sightings) and we also saw porcupine tracks, trundling off into the trees (but no actual porcupine sighting).  We lost the Sol-Bright trail for a little bit as we started to descend, but it was easy to pick our way down the hillside to pick it up again.  The packed snow was slippery in places and we were glad to have our hiking poles for extra assistance.

Evergreen Peak cliffs

When we got back to Silver Lake, we looped around the lake on the path and boardwalk, which was also pretty slick in the shade.  We had our post-hike beers and homemade jerky in the waning sun, watching other people come and go.  Yes, we would have rathered it have been nuking snow - but still, what a nice day.

Silver Lake still just barely in the sunshine

Hike stats:  4.05 miles, 1 hour 53 minutes (10 minutes of stoppage time), 2.4 m.p.h. moving average.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

shoulder season

Shoulder season is tough for outside folks: we want to go skiing, but it's not ready yet; we can't (or don't want to) go MTBing or hiking because of the conditions of the trails.  On Sunday we finally got some stormy weather - it's been a dry fall and this was a much needed storm, snow-wise; unfortunately it didn't drop as much as we hoped and we're in another dry patch now - enough to keep us inside as about a foot of snow hit the mountains and rain hit the valley.

When that happens, we're rather at a loss for what to do and thus at a loss for something to post here.  What we did do was make a batch of homemade beef jerky using our new food dehydrator and start a new batch of homemade wine.  For the jerky, we used ground beef and a spice packet that came with the dehydrator; it turned out tasting like Slim Jims, so that can't be all bad.  We'll try sliced beef and a homemade spice rub/marinade next time (we've been collecting recipes).  For the wine, we started another Chilean Carmenere because the first bottles turned out so well ... after three years of aging.  If the same holds true, we should be enjoying this newest wine in about 2017.  (We may have to make some quicker-drinking white in the meantime.)  Even though it's a little chilly in the house, the yeast is still bubbling away happily in the primary fermenter as I type, a very good sign.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

timing is everything

Although mountain-biking may be over for the year, we thought we could sneak in a hike on Saturday morning: the weather report called for a storm moving in early afternoon but when we got up, the sky was clear and bright.  Because of the inclement weather potential, we wanted something down a little lower, something protected in case things changed quickly.  We decided to go up to Millcreek Canyon and do the Terraces-Elbow Fork trail (like we'd done by accident last October) but this time in reverse.

Clear skies as we started

We parked at Church Fork, out along the canyon road since the picnic area/trail head gates are closed for the season, and, along with oodles of dogs and their people, walked up to the trail head.  We walked up-canyon along the Pipeline Trail to the Burch Hollow trail head, sharing the broad, gradually climbing trail with many other hikers, trailrunners, MTBers and dogs.  Lots of dogs - we were nearly the only people out there without a dog.

Foliage is definitely past peak now

At the Burch Hollow access point we came off the Pipeline Trail and walked up the road a little bit to the road into the Terraces picnic area (also gated for the season).  We walked up the steep paved driveway and then hopped on the trail that would climb up to the ridge and then descend to Elbow Fork.  The trail here was soft underfoot - packed dirt and pine needles - but was much steeper than we remembered.  We were working pretty hard as we climbed and climbed and climbed to the top of the ridge.  The weather was just starting to turn at this point - clouds building up and swirling overhead as the winds increased - so we didn't linger much.

Here comes the weather

The trail descended pretty sharply to Elbow Fork, where we crossed the canyon road and got back on the Pipeline Trail for the descent.  The wind was definitely stronger, the sun peeking in and out as the clouds raced by.  The walk down canyon went quickly since the Pipeline Trail is such an easy grade - except for the sharp switchbacks going down to the Burch Hollow access point.  (Point of interest: this time we actually found the missing Burch Hollow Trail - much further out than our book had led us to believe.  Now that we know it's really there, we'll have to go back and do it in the spring.)

Protected side-hill walking

By the time we got back to the car, the sun was definitely gone, so we'd timed it just right.  We had one quick beer (earning us an "All right!" from a solo woman hiker headed back to her own car) and then headed home as the first raindrops hit the windshield.  Shoulder season is always tough for us - we love to be outdoors but are not keen on tromping around in the rain - so it was nice to have been able to get out before the weather moved in.  Plus, a rainy, post-hike afternoon is the perfect excuse to make chocolate chip cookies - which we did.

Little waterfall in Church Fork

Hike stats:  (These are slightly different from the first time we did this hike.  Not sure why.)  9.95 miles; 3 hours 16 minutes moving (only eight minutes of stoppage); moving average speed 3.0 m.p.h.; 2,075 feet elevation .