Thursday, January 31, 2008

Getting Involved

I don't really like New Year's Resolutions in general. Most people make unrealistic commitments that they never intend to keep, usually to exercise more, eat less, lose weight. This has made me shy away from such resolutions, even though a brand new year does afford a good starting point for something new (or renewed).

Lately, I've been thinking about involvement in trail and open space advocacy. I see lots of other people giving of themselves and their personal time to help make our natural areas better and more accessible. I've done my little part; member dues to mountain bike organizations and volunteering for trail work days. But I felt I should be doing more, partially because I want to and partially because I can, due to a flexible job and no kids to take care of. So, I decided that in 2008, I would do more. There, I made a NY Resolution.

I've also always been interested in politics and policy matters. It's one of the things I miss about not working for the Ohio EPA anymore, where I was deeply involved in legislation and policymaking. I'm good at it too!

Last Thursday my musings to become more involved in open space issues and my longing to chew on important policy issues collided at Sherpas Restaurant. I went there to participate in a discussion with members of the Boulder Trail Runners (BTR) group about an upcoming City of Boulder trail access planning process that is getting underway this year. I also enjoyed a yummy bowl of Thupka, Nepalese soup, and a beer. I showed up to help BTR work with the local government on this plan to help ensure that access to important trails would be retained. Next thing I know it, the group has me considering applying for a vacancy on a Boulder County open space advisory board. Apparently, three positions on this committee were coming open and applications were due in a few days. Not much time.

At first I thought the idea was crazy. I don't know anyone at the County level. I wouldn't have a chance of getting on the board. But then I started filling out my application and I realized, hey, I'm pretty darn qualified for this position! So, I applied today. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dirt and Snow

I had a wonderful typical Boulder winter weekend. Jesper was out of town on a BOYZ skiing trip, so I was on my own to get out and have some fun. Before the weekend, I rode the trainer and ran to ensure that I wasn't going into the weekend fresh. Who wants to be fresh?

Saturday was slated to be pretty warm down in the Front Range, so I set up a mountain bike ride with my friend Cynthia at Devil's Backbone up near Loveland. She invited her friend Mark, who invited his buddy Rob. Then we met up with some of Rob's buddies on the trail, so it turned into a nice group ride. Cynthia and I decided to ride our Single Speeds and two of the guys we met up with (Jesse and Joe) were also on SS bikes. We rode over 18 miles, me trying to keep up with Jesse and Joe. I felt pretty good about my riding considering that I'm in tele ski shape, not SS shape. The ride really worked me over in a good way. After the bitter cold we've had most of this month, it was awful nice to be out in shorts riding on dirt.

Here's a sweet pic Mark took of me getting a little stylie air. See, there's air under both my tires!

I followed the day of shorts and dirt with a day of snow. My friend Seneca and I headed up to A-Basin for a GURLZ day on the slopes. Seneca usually skis back country, so she enjoyed being able to do run after run after run that you can do at a resort with lifts. It was the warmest day skiing since probably early December.
We started out in the new Zuma Bowl and particularly enjoyed the steep lines on far skier's right like Jump and End-Zone. Then, after the wind got to be too much on that side, we migrated over to the front-side of the mountain and skied under the Palavicini chair. Here's Seneca coming down a double black to skier's left of the chair. The picture makes the slope look tame, but it was pretty steep!

We had a great day followed with a nice cold beer, followed by a horrendous drive home in massive traffic. It was worth it though.

Dirt and Snow - I love that I can go for a mountain bike ride in shorts one day and then go skiing the next! Gotta love Colorado!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Boulder Trail Runners (BTR)

I have sporadically run with the Boulder Trail Runners (BTR), a group that holds various runs all week long at various times. It's a great way to meet other runners, learn new places to run and improve your running since there are always faster runners to chase. The group includes regular Boulder people like me (i.e., pretty darn fit) and many world class runners (i.e, super fast). This is typical of Boulder; you run into the top athletes in the world out on a run or a bike ride. I hadn't run with BTR for awhile but I have become interested in stepping my running up a notch so I can complete an Ultra-marathon this year(a trail run longer than a marathon). When BTR announced that they were holding an Ultra-marathon seminar after the Thursday Night Happy Hour run this week, I decided this would be my jumping point to get back into running with the group.

I hadn't been on the Happy Hour Run in many months. I've been running mostly by myself or
with Jesper on the rolling hills of Gunbarrel. In contrast, the Happy Hour run is usually pretty fast, up pretty steep stuff and long (60 to 90 minutes). It provides an opportunity for me to push myself in pace, hills and distance beyond what I normally would do out by myself. So last night, I showed up in my winter running clothes. There were about 6 or 7 skinny runner looking dudes standing there, and another more normal looking guy. No other chicks. The skinny runner looking dudes looked FAST.

At 5:30 pm, with our head lights on, we took off from Eben G. Fine park up to Sanitas Valley Trail and then up onto Dakota Ridge Trail. The skinny runner looking dudes took off fast and kept that pace. Me and the other guy, Charles, struggled to try to keep up. The trail ascended and it was icy. I was killing myself. We finally regrouped at a trailhead before the trail turned up to Mount Sanitas. The skinny runner looking dudes were patiently waiting for me and Charles. No complaints. But Charles and I had decided on the way up that we were slowing the faster runners down too much and it was not good for them to be standing around in the cold waiting for us. So, Charles and I split off and did an alternate run that ended up being 1:08, with a few stops along the way. Here's roughly the run we did, mapped through MapMyRun:

Later at Sherpas for the seminar, all the skinny runner looking dudes came in together and sat at one table. Then the speakers were introduced and, what do you know, the skinny runner looking dudes WERE the speakers! Dave Mackey (Ultra Runner of the year twice), Charles Corfield (3rd in last year's Leadville 100), Anton Krupicka (1st in last year's Leadville 100), Ryan Hafer (winner of last year's Pike's Peak Ascent) and Peter Bakwin (ultra-runner extrordinairre, along with his super fast wife Stephanie Ehret, with many wins). Those were the guys I was trying to keep up with! Sheez...

The seminar was informal but very informative. The skinny looking runner dudes, and a super fast dudette named Darcy Africa (one of the, if not the, fastest female trail runners in the world), gave the earnest group of about 30 attendees lots of great tips about ultra running. Now I just need to select a couple of races and plunk my hard earned cash down so I am committed. Oh that and run more with BTR!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Scaring Myself and LOVING IT!

I'm a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. I like to go down steep, rocky stuff on my mountain bike. I like to go down twisty mountain roads FAST on my road bike. I like to climb way up high with only a rope and some cams to keep me from falling (not crazy enough to be into free climbing). I really get off on the feeling of "Oh Shit, have I pushed it too far?"

I had yet to really capture that feeling on tele skis. Sure, I've pushed myself and gone down terrain that got me out of my comfort zone. But nothing that has scared me in that exciting and satisfying way you feel in your belly. Nothing that made me think, "Oh Shit, now that I've committed to this, can I do this without hurting myself?" The last time I scared myself that way, things didn't go so well
when I executed this section not so well. Notice the man walking behind me; it was steep and technical!

More ghastly pictures here:

Here's a pic of me scaring myself with significantly more success (see I can ride my bike!). This is Horsethief Bench in Fruita and it's pretty scary! Full disclosure - I didn't make it all the way down, but I successfully bailed with no injuries.

So, I went to A-Basin this Saturday. I had been there in the late 80s or early 90s when I was a mediocre Blue Run Alpine skier. Now I am an orders-of-magnitude better tele skier, so I was able to try runs I didn't even consider way back then (actually, I can barely remember anything from that long ago day). Jesper has a nice write up here on the whole day at A-Basin

But I just want to focus on one run we did in the afternoon. We went to the frontside via the Pallavicini Chair. If you look at the trail map of this area, you will see that it's pretty much all black diamond and double black EX terrain in this area of the resort. Pallavicini is over on the far right side of the mountain.

For those not familiar with the skiing trail designations, black diamond runs are the Most Difficult (Green are the easiest and Blues are in the middle). I guess the ski industry decided that they needed to be able to designate even more difficult runs when they came up with the double black diamond. Then they came up with the EX designation, which stands for EXTREME!

I have so far avoided EX terrain, as it typically entails exposed rocks and cliffs, not to mention super steep slopes. However, our friend Tim, who has skied all the runs at A-Basin and has seen us ski, thought we could ski the double black EX runs at A-Basin. Jesper and Tim had hit a couple Double Black EX runs in the Pallavicini area while I was resting before lunch. They skied some stuff in the trees Jesper considered really steep, 2nd Alley I think. So, after lunch he led our group over to the Pallavicini area to try out 3rd Alley and West Alley. These Alley runs are narrow cuts in the trees on some of the steepest terrain in any Summit County resort. Apparently, 3rd Alley and West Alley are steeper than 2nd Alley.

Holy Shit! Once we tucked into the trees, the slope got even steeper and the opening for the run got even tighter, maybe 8 to 10 feet wide. There were exposed rocks. Tim went first and executed some nice parallel turns (he's an alpine skier, but otherwise we love him). Then Jesper made a go of linking some tele turns, promptly fell and kept going downslope very fast until he was able to self arrest his slide. It looked rather frightening from above! I started down and the same thing happened to me. After I arrested my slide, I stood up and looked down the slope. It was by far the steepest slope I'd ever been on. Jesper estimates it to be a 50 degree slope, but it looked steeper to me! As an added bonus, it was tight and treed pretty thickly once out of the narrow gully of the run. Jesper ventured over into the trees hoping to find less steep terrain, to no avail. So he skied back into the gully and successfully executed some nice tele turns on the steep slope. Way to go Jesper! Tim went next and hooked some nice turns together, although it didn't look easy.

I just stood there looking down. It entered my head that I had to ski to get out of this situation, as it would be incredibly embarrassing to have to take off my skis and scootch out on my butt. Plus, that would be pretty scary in itself. But I was quite frankly scared to try a turn, even a parallel one. So I just stood there. I was having an OH SHIT moment. I wasn't sure I could do this without hurting myself. Then I realized that Jesper had made some tele turns, so I could do it too. I took a deep breath and launched into a series of tight tele turns on the steep slope. I did it! I skied my way down. I was pumped up with adrenaline. I knew I'd be able to ski other steep stuff I normally had trouble with, 'cause it wasn't steep at all in comparison!

Whoo Hoo - I yelled, let's do it again!

(sorry no pics, we were too busy trying not to pee our pants to take any!)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dream of the Evil Castle

I remember my dreams almost every night. They are vivid, in color and permeated with a palpable emotion. In my day life, I am a happy, well-adjusted person, or so I tend to think. I have never had anything really bad happen to me. No whacko's have chased me and tried to kill me. I don't feel a sense of evil in the world during my waking hours.

Not so in my dream life! My dreams could star Laura Croft. They are action-packed and usually involve me, along with various people in my life, trying to escape some evil force. I'm not afraid of the evil force in my dreams, I'm just trying to get away from it.

Last night's dream starred me, my BF Jesper and some other guy, a friend of Jesper's, who's identity I can not be cure of now that I'm awake. Jesper's parents turned up at the end, their first starring role in one of my dreams. We were in Europe, Germany I think, but the place gave the vibe like old Transylvania from a Dracula movie. The three of us were touring this old castle that had been the scene many years ago of massacre and torture. Jesper and his buddy thought it was benign, but I knew the evil thing still lurked there. I could see the evil, but whenever I showed something evil to my companions, the thing I saw would stop. At one point I saw a stone snake at the base of a large metal door move and hiss at me. I knew it was hissing an evil message that conveyed "I'm going to kill you", but when I showed it to Jesper, it was just an immobile stone snake again. Later in the dream, we were crossing an old culvert in the castle that was painted in blood with names of people killed. I knew it was blood and I knew what the names meant, but Jesper thought it was red paint and just graffiti. I wanted to get away from the culvert, because I knew it would kill us (and I suppose add our names to the graffiti).

We finally left the evil castle, which made me very happy (a happiness I can almost feel when I think about it), and we hiked over to a place Jesper's parents were staying. The place felt safe. It was sunny and warm. We took our clothes off and sunbathed in the nude, and the dream ended. I was left with an intense feeling of the dread at the castle contrasted with the complete security of the nude sunbathing place.

Now that I have written this down, I can guarantee I will not forget this dream. If I make an effort to recall a dream, it will stick with me. I still remember some dreams from when I was a little girl. Sometimes, the "memory" of a dream is so vivid, I will confuse it for a moment with a real memory; just long enough until I realize that I was never in Dracula's castle while in Europe. Despite any confusion I might have with reality vs. dreams, I think I'm lucky to remember them and I feel kinda sad for people who don't remember their dreams.

Sorry, no pictures, but maybe I need to make a drawing or a painting one of these days of a scene from my dreams. Stay tuned for more action from inside my head!