Thinking about Snow

Day 1 course in CDA - It felt like that much of a mess
Cyclocross officially ended for me last weekend when I traveled to Couer d'Alene for a couple races. I had declared my season over after Rolling Thunder, but opted (peer pressured) to race again to put me in a better position for the start of next year. I hoped to race well enough over the two days to be able to bump up to Cat 3 for the start of next season, and I am optimistic I earned enough.

The week leading up to the race was extremely cold here in Missoula. I think the high for the week was 19 or so. Stepping out of the car into the 26 degree CDA air definitely felt warm, but it still made for chilly racing.

I warmed up a few laps with Cory (who was also hoping to earn enough points for an upgrade) and I immediately loved the course. The front half consisted of a lot of straightaways, a run up, and a steep up/down combo. The "barriers" were four inch poles laid on the ground that I was able to bunny hop, which made me really excited since I mostly turtle hop things. That's the hop that's way less graceful than the bunny and usually involves landing on your back.

The back half of the course wound through a wooded area, and I mean wound. The idea here would be to be as smooth as possible and stand up out of every turn. I decided my strategy would be to not fall to far behind in the trees and catch up in the front half.

When the race got underway I settled into fifth or so as we entered the trees. A guy hit the first turn wrong and backed up everyone, but a quick run around a couple turns kept me in position. The two leaders escaped the pile up and gapped us through the back half of the course. I caught up just in time to see the new leader throw in a massive surge and leave us in his dust.

Day 2 in CDA - Yes, it's different
From then on I rode pretty much alone. I traded places with a younger rider a couple times, but otherwise I just hammered the straights, and tried to survive the trees. The curvy forested area surprisingly ended up being a strength for me since I was able to attack the mini-straights and still recover in the twists. It also happened to be a blast riding through that section. I almost felt like I was on a speeder on Endor, just slowed down to 1/4 speed and without Ewoks throwing things at me.

I finished in second, with frozen feet, so I managed to snag a good deal of points for an upgrade. Objective 1 of 2: complete.

We stayed in a hotel close to the course so we could focus on recovery and Super Troopers. I wished I had brought more Fluid with me since that seems to work the best to help me recover, but the hot tub mostly made up for it. After an early morning shakeout jog along the Spokane River we were back at the course Sunday for another round. This time the course was reversed, a couple barriers were thrown in, and two hairpin downhill turns were added for the sole purpose of freaking me out. Neither Cory or I were able to get a good feel for the course since the Juniors rode before us that day. At this point I was starting to regret signing up for a second day and was ready to be back in the warm car.

Beautiful trail up Lolo
I still managed to get on the front line at the start, but then lost that spot when we rolled to the "actual" start line. The first three minutes of that race were rough. I kept dropping back, didn't want to be there, and was hoping I could quit and still get money back. But I was able to carry more momentum down the second hill than the guys around me, which pushed me up to 10th or so and served as a kick in the race-brain. From here I went on a 4 1/2 lap attack (although the last lap felt less like an attack, and more like a sustained siege, or seize if you talk to my quads).

After another lap or two I caught up with Cory's group riding in the 3-4-5 positions. First place was out of sight and second was a distant spec so it seemed like that group had given up and relaxed a little. I did not want to sit and sprint for a chance at third when I could keep attacking and hope second came back to me, so I kept pressing. Fortunately Cory grabbed on my wheel and we pulled away from the other two.

The two of us were able to work together for a lap or so before Cory went over his handle bars. From then on each of us rode alone. We ended up in third and fourth, which meant we each nabbed a few more valuable points. Objective 2 of 2: complete.

This was my first time racing cx on back-to-back days and it left me exhausted. I can't comprehend racing big stage races with how tired a mere two days of 45 minute races depleted my reserves.

This last week Missoula warmed up to just above freezing temperatures. I was motivated enough to get out for a couple runs during the week, but snuck in two grand snow adventures this weekend. With cyclocross over it is officially time to focus on snowshoe nationals and getting my running legs back.

Saturday I took Zeno and Sequoia up to the Lolo Peak trail, which involved an eight mile drive on a very icy dirt road. I assume it was dirt although I couldn't every see the surface due to the inch of ice. We made it to the trail head and set out on a swift hike up.

Our "trail" up to Stuart Peak
The couple inches of snow at the car quickly multiplied to the point where Zeno was bounding through the drifts. Despite not having snow for a few days the colder temps at that altitude ensured the snow still clung to the branches, and the wind had kept snow pellets blasted into the bark. I felt like we entered a winter wonderland.

I turned back after a couple miles to make sure Sequoia had energy to return to the car and opted to not use the trail for much of the return trip. I had my Garmin Fenix 2 with me and was able to use the map function for the first time so I could cut straight down without fear of getting lost.

The descent was hilarious. I kept Zeno on the leash where he bounded behind me. Behind him Sequoia was in a constant state of plowing/falling/sliding through the drifts. Although covering both ends of the graceful spectrum, they both looked incredibly happy.

Sunday I was able to get out again. This time Sara and I went with Cory and Carly up the Stuart Peak trail. We started with no snow and hiked up into the white stuff. I had guessed there would be about a foot near the top so we were prepared for some snow, but didn't expect to be slowed down too much until the last mile or two. Wrong! About two miles below the wilderness boundary (3-4 miles from the top) we were already in a foot-and-a-half of snow. Our pace turned from steady to slogging and we started getting cold. We were prepared to be moving quick, not trying to stay warm at slow speeds.

We opted to turn about a 1/2 mile before the wilderness boundary and began an amazing descent. One of my favorite things is bombing downhill without consequences from missteps. With that deep of snow the rocks were covered so the only obstacles were logs and trees. I couldn't stop laughing the first three miles down.

A very cushioned descent
Even without having a recent snow storm it was wonderful to be able to get out and put the microspikes to work for the weekend. We're supposed to a couple more storms this week so I am looking forward to getting out on the snowshoes this next weekend. Training potential is looking good!

Owen and Anya invited us to share Thanksgiving with them, which is not just the traditional turkey dinner. We get to hike cross-country over a mountain to get there! I'm greatly looking forward to having four solid days of training and adventure at the end of this week. With fresh powder, what could be better?

Happy Thanksgiving!