Sunday, January 30, 2011

This weekend:


Cody and I went back to Stanton Lake. It snowed. This photo is even less descript than the last one. It was okay. We need new hikes. Any suggestions?


I hiked up Big Mountain again (sixth time). It was the first time visibility's been better than 100 feet. It was also the first time the temperature's been 0 and the wind's gusted 30+ miles per hour down the face of the mountain.

2,300 feet up, 80 minutes.

2,300 feet down, no more than 15.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This winter ...

A Great Northern teammate told me he's been on the trainer at least an hour a night for the last two weeks. He then follows it up with a long Nordic ski at the golf course. He says he's got to get ready for the June and July mountain biking push now -- in January.

Last winter all I was psyched about was that spring was coming -- spring meant bike racing and bike racing was it. I spent countless hours on the trainer, sweating, watching movies I'd already watched a hundred times before. I was doing 50-mile tempo rides the first week of February. I counted calories and tried to only drink MGD 64. The Clinton training race was only 50 days away ... 49 ... 48 ...

I hoped that by doing these things all winter they'd lead to positive results in April, and May, and June ...

They didn't.

Looking back, I wasted last winter freezing my fingers tips riding out-and-back roads in February and watching The Graduate while pedaling, pedaling, pedaling ... but never moving. I skied a couple hundred miles, but I never hiked and I avoided the mountain like every tourist up there had the plague.

If I suck at the Tour of Walla Walla (a three-day, four stage event) in April, it'll suck, but I won't blame it on the long, relatively lazy loops I skied around Round Meadow, the weekend snow-shoe hikes in the Bob, or peaking Big Mountain and boarding down.

Last year, if it wasn't cycling-related, it wasn't worthwhile. I'm never doing that again.

"Less bike, more discovery."

I've spent less than two hours on the trainer this winter. I reset my odometer for 2011 on January 15 -- two weeks later, 51 miles.

I'm not quitting racing -- I see it on the calendar: Rocky Mountain Roubaix, April 10; Walla Walla begins April 15; Clinton is only 42 days away. And I'm psyched. I'm just not going to act like it really matters this year.

I plan to hike all weekend, no matter how nice it might be. There will be time for bikes later. It's never going to be "Miller Time" ever again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marion Lake

Cody and I hiked to Marion Lake, near Essex. It was a good, good day.

That's Glacier. Those jerks say no dogs allowed. I glare at them, Cody glares at me. But we like the Bob Marshall, we're really not that mad.

"Look, Cody, we made it!"

See, like I said, we made it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Everyday weather

I hiked about a third of the way up Big Mountain before the drizzle turned to rain. Even at around 4,500 feet, not freezing rain, just rain. Before I got more wet than I already was, I retracted my trekking poles, packed them, strapped my pack on, strapped my feet in, and rode down. The snow was a few inches of heavy slush on top of a layer of ice; the snow in the trees was more like really-deep mud with a base of quicksand. But I was happy to get the workout and even happier to get a few turns -- I used to thrash Campgaw, I'm no snow snob.

Of course, as soon as I got back into town, it stopped raining and warmed to 42. I decided to go for it: I put my Spandex on, taped my mountain shoes (I broke the ratchet strap on one of my Mavic mountain shoes -- a year and a half later, I'm still using electrical tape), pumped my tires, and rode. It was my first ride of the year, a whole 12 miles, four in the break-down lane on Rt. 40 and eight back to town on sketchy, mostly-ice-covered Edgewood. I got muddy and soaked (after two seasons of racing 'cross, it was more muddy and soaked than I've ever gotten in a race -- I've never even raced in drizzle. But have you ever raced a 'cross race when it was 5 degrees? I have. It sucked.). A majority of the ride was spent with my knees bracing the top tube, trying to stay upright no matter what. And it mostly worked -- I didn't crash until the 12th mile ... riding into my driveway.

The ice rink at West 8th.

Hike the mountain, snowboard down, then bike: My version of the winter duathalon.

It's a mid-January thaw, the fourth straight day of low-40s and rain. Just like last winter, back east -- Pittsburgh, where I'm "from," and New Jersey, where I "grew up" -- is more like Montana than Montana is like Montana. All winter it's been either low -5/high 5 clear, blue skies or 34-36 and raining. While La Nina has dumped about five feet of snow at around 5,000 feet, like last year, it hasn't snowed more than four inches in a 24-hour period here in town at 3,000.

I know, I have no control of the weather, I just wish it was one or the other ... board or bike.

And, really, anything's better than this. "Despite all of my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage on a trainer watching 'Breaking Away' for the hundreth time."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fucking Steel ...

I watched the Steelers-Ravens game at The Northern Sunday with the likely Black and Gold suspects, the town Pittsburgh ex-patriots: Erica, who once dated a guy from Irwin, Brian, a Duquesne law graduate from Bethel Park, and his wife. The four of us have watched every game together this season, always at The Northern, typically at the same table.

Brian and I talk about Gooski's, the rising home prices in Friendship, whether to root for the Dukes or the Panthers. We both continue to hold 412 area codes ... half-pride, half-cut-throat Verizon contracts.

"What was that bar, the Irish bar on Forbes?" Brian asks me. "It wasn't really Irish, but it sort of was."

"I should know this. I should really know this. Fuck, I mean, not only did I drink there with The Duke newspaper people every Thursday night and I got trashed there before a Springsteen concert at Mellon Arena, I met ..."

Twenty minutes later I texted her: "me and a Duq law grad are watching the game-after 20 minutes of head slapping we finally remembered the name: its shale's"

She responded, "haha, im ashamed, how could you not remember?"

We haven't really spoken in six months.

"ha-I am ashamed-no cute girls bought me an iron city since"

That was six years ago this week.

When Deuschbagburger hit Antonio Brown down the sideline for 58 on 3-11 with just over two minutes left, we flipped. Three plays later, we were in the end zone and up by seven with less than a minute left. Game over. The bar turned on us, booing. We've turned into the "We told you so!" fans. Down by 14 at the half? "There was never any doubt!"

I was wearing my Pirates hat, waving a Towel I bought in the Strip some Saturday morning a few Octobers ago when I was with Cody ... and Keriann.

The four of us made plans to sit at the same table next week for the AFC championship game. Everyone sits in the same seat -- there's no need to jinx this.

I want this in a back patch.

(See the rest of Black and Gold Flag at

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ski up the Spencer Mountain fire road, ski down the trails. Without wiping out? Sort of ...

Hey, it's Code-man!

Hey, it's my tracks on the trail!

Hey, it's me and Code-man!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowboarding then and ... now?

The last time I tried to hike a "mountain" and then snowboard back down it was 1999 with Jeff Stebbins. The mountain was Campgaw, "The Mighty Gaw" of Mahwah, New Jersey.

Jeff and I used to shred the man-made-snow hills of New Jersey and southern New York with the best of them. We were sixteen. We thought skiiers were the lamest of the lame.

One weeknight when conditions at The Gaw were even more icy than usual, we decided to hike to the "park" (which at the time was one hit that had maybe a thirty-foot runway ... into grass ... in January) in lieu of lift passes. If it sucked, we go home or to the diner, more money for CDs or whatever we wanted that our parents wouldn't spring for. We walked about halfway "up" the hill before we were stopped by a snow patroller on a snow mobile. Jeff flashed his "pass" -- a 1998 season pass he had altered using whiteout, changing the "8" to a "9." (Sidebar: 1999 was the first year Campgaw used computers to print lift tickets. The previous years they had just written the date in marker on the pass. We'd buy a ticket on 1/7 ... then change it to 1/17 then 1/18 then 2/18. We'd pay maybe three times a year. We'd been doing this since we were 13. Campgaw was getting ripped off by a bunch of clever 13-year-olds.) Jeff was off the hook; I had nothing. I told the patroller we were only going to the park and didn't plan to ride the lift. He accused me of theft of services. What? He radioed the manager of the "slope," the manager answered, "I'll call the cops. Bring him down." The patroller escorted me "down" the hill, riding alongside me on the snowmobile, and then took me into the lodge. Jeff waited outside with the boards. The manager told me the cops were on the way and that I would be charged and fined for theft of services. (I can't remember if he mentioned anything about my permanent record ... I think he did lecture me about "How things work" in terms of paying for something versus stealing -- and walking up this hill without paying to do so was "stealing.") Then the phone in his office rang. He told me not to move and went into his office, closing the door behind him. I looked around, the patroller was gone. I bolted. I ran out, grabbed my board from Jeff, and we dashed into the woods behind the lodge. We hid out for a bit and eventually snaked our way back to the parking lot and to his car.

For a week, every time my parent's phone rang I got scared thinking it might be the Mahwah police ... even though Campgaw never ID'd me ... and I think the only ID I had at the time anyway was a novelty "driver's license" from a long-gone go-cart track ...

We never returned to The Mighty Gaw again ...

I don't think I've ridden more than 10 times since.

I snow-shoed up, and snowboarded down, Big Mountain on Saturday for the first time. (It's legal, so I didn't get hassled.) The 2,352 feet to the summit was hard, way harder than I had anticipated. (Topographical note: Vertical feet to be shredded at Campgaw? 270.) Between the board lashed to my pack and about four feet of fresh powder, the especially-steep ascents felt even steeper. Toward the top I could only take about twenty laborious steps before I'd have to stop for thirty seconds to catch my breath. It took about an hour and a half from base to summit.

Growing up in New Jersey, I think I snowboarded powder once. And it was maybe six inches worth. And, the more I think about it, it might not have actually been powder, it just wasn't man-made. Coming down Big Mountain in four feet of legitimate Mother Natured powder snow was awkward. And it was only the second time I've snowboarded in almost ten years. But it was fun. It was really, really fun.

There's a mountain eight miles from my front stoop; I need to accept the fact that I live in a "ski town" and take advantage of it. This winter isn't getting any shorter, this snow isn't man-made, and, most importantly, I'm not getting any younger.

(As usual, no photos.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When I woke up at eight, the thermometer read -3. Damn. It's okay, go back to bed, wait for the sun to rise. No rush, let the day warm itself up. By the time I had the car packed and a thermos of coffee ready at twelve, my patience had paid off: It had warmed to a reasonable 4 ...

We planned to climb Ousel Peak in the Bob Marshall, a five-mile hike that climbs a little over three thousand feet. We didn't get to the trailhead until almost two. By two, the sun had already crested the nearest western mountain -- the entire hike would be in the shade. And the trailhead is about a thousand feet higher than my front stoop -- the temperature had dropped back to -3. And there's three feet of powder I need to snow shoe through. And it gets dark in about three hours. Oh, and Cody's threshold for cold is about fifteen degrees before his brain freezes and he acts/reacts like he's half-drunk.

This adventure was doomed when I hit snooze on my cell phone alarm six hours earlier.

We got maybe a mile up the trail before we turned back. Cody looked confused and scared. It felt darker. When I opened my water bottle to get a sip of water I found it was already three-quarters frozen.

No, the neck warmer didn't really help.

By the time we got back to Highway 2, Cody couldn't walk straight. I gave him most of my turkey sandwich to nurse him back to warmth. I stayed hungry; I'm a noble friend.

No one got frost bite, so I'll consider this a lesson learned, not a failure. We'll try again when it gets warmer ... and there’s more daylight ... and there's less snow ... and when Cody can take it.

We headed home to a growler of Fred's from the Great Northern Brewery. My porch thermometer read 0.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gettysburg address-ee, former next door neighbor, ex-Polish Hill Strangler, and owner of Cody's best buddy Gus-man, Ben C. has finally decided to make the move from Pennsylvania to totally awesome northwest Montana. I'm happy to have the company.

Also, I finally skied the West Glacier trails ($8 plus $2 for the dog) on New Year's Eve. Though it was fun and I was happy to support a local business and try some new trails, I concluded that the nearer-to-my-home, totally-free, always-groomed, zero-dog restrictions Round Meadow trails are the best, most fun trails in the Valley. This is good to know.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year ...

I finally came up with my New Year's resolution: "Less bike, more discovery." (This is not to be confused with "Bike less, discover more." That's different ...)

Like all resolutions, we'll see ...