Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I am such a thoughtful friend

I’m a people watcher. One of my favorite things to observe is how people spend their money. For instance, I get a big kick out of people who buy economy cars and then spend a bunch of money on accessories and upgrades. Hardly seems worth it to me.

On the other hand, I’m sure there are those who look at how I spend my money and time and think I’m nuts. In fact, my sisters are among them.

But hiking up hills and skiing down on fat skis makes me really, really happy. In a way I don’t know how a car or any other earthly possession possibly can.

So this morning when we had just gained the ridge and we were sidehilling a bit and Rob’s binding broke in the exact same way that Dug’s did a few weeks ago, I was heartbroken. This was Rob’s first outing in a couple weeks, there was over a foot of fresh snow, and just like that he was done.

If Rob weren’t a foot taller, but more importantly, three boot sizes bigger than me, I would have just given him my skis. Instead, I watched him limp back to the car with his binding held on by a Voile strap, realizing only after it was too late that I didn’t give him the keys, so he’d be stuck outside freezing his kibbles and bits off until I got back.

Apparently it was a bad morning for guys named Robert, because I also discovered when we got to the top that Bob was no longer with us. We thoughtfully dropped into Cardiff without him.

Deskinning at the top:

Tyler:

Jonathan:

Adam:

Can’t-wipe-the-smile-off-his-face Aaron:

Back up to Cardiff Pass and down towards car. Tyler took the camera and snapped this photo of me:

On the way out, we came across a nice little kicker. Which Aaron didn’t hesitate to hit. Unfortunately, my cold finger hesitated to hit the shutter button, so all we have is the landing.

Aaron’s lack of any hesitation whatsoever to hit this kicker while all of us cool skiers skied around it like girlie men has compelled me to take at least a one week hiatus from having righteous indignation towards knuckle-dragging snowboarders and their hip-hop arms.

Instead, I shall forthwith make fun of telemark skiers. Tele skiers have their own self-righteous attitude, with sayings such as “free your heel, free your mind” and “drop your knee or drop the sport.”

I say, “fix your heel and fix the problem.” And openly mock tele skiers leaning back and making bad alpine turns when the terrain gets challenging. (But truth be told, watching a good tele skier shred a technical line is something to behold. And I don’t tele simply because I find skiing challenging enough, and I don’t need to make it unnecessarily harder than it already is. That and skiing tele is stupid. Ha!)

Back at the car, I got a text from Rob indicating he had hitch-hiked down. Nevermind that his shoes were in my car and he would have to go to work barefoot. Bob hitch-hiked the other way and made it back up to the parking lot a few minutes after we got there. He had fallen in with another group and skied down Superior.

I guess the old saying “there are no friends on a powder day” is true after all. Not that there was ever any doubt.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Family dinner

One of the nice things about living on the Wasatch Front is getting together with family for dinner. And the nice thing about getting together with my family is that my sister reminds me of all the stuff I did as a kid but have since blocked out.

Most of last night’s conversation focused on the crap we did to my late grandmother. Like locking ourselves in the bathroom to avoid taking naps or the time when I was ten and dropped the F-bomb in the Chuck-a-Rama parking lot.

The best story from last night, though, came from my daughter. She’s really close to her cousin that’s a year younger. After my daughter was old enough to have “the talk,” she was playing with her cousin who hadn’t had “the talk” yet. The cousin suggested that they play a game wherein they pretended like they were going to get married (to imaginary suitors, not to each other).

“The talk” still fresh in her mind, my daughter was uneasy about this. “Do you know what you have to do when you get married?” She asked her cousin.

“No.”

“Well, I’m only going to tell you two things about it.

“First, it’s disgusting.

“And second, it’s hilarious.”

I guess that about sums it up.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Whipped cream on top

This morning Tyler and I met at LCC to take advantage of the goodness delivered by the biggest storm of the year. Original plan was to access Days Fork via Alta, but when we got there, Red (Alta’s coke bottle glasses-wearing night security guard and all-around good guy) turned us around because they were going to be dropping bombs on the ridge via helicopter (who knew?).

But not without first having a conversation about the other guys in the lot who questioned Red’s authority to actually turn them around. “I’ll have your car towed while your gone” sounds like authority enough to me.

So we headed down to White Pine for some Scotties action. We saw Bob, whom we skied with Tuesday, up at Alta, and his crew hadn’t shown up. He came to Scotties with us.

Intermittently throughout the climb I texted Dug trying to decide where he and Senior (John, Sr., his father-in-law) would be going and whether I’d try to meet up with them. I also called the avy report and found out that the snow had settled nicely, and we essentially had a green light to ski where we wanted.

And so we did. Tyler dropping in:

Bob right behind:

Arguing over who gets to drop the next section first. Bob won. He told us at the bottom today was the first time in his life he’d made first tracks on a mountain. He picked a good day.

He then took pictures as I skied down:

Followed by Tyler:

It’s as fun to watch Tyler and Bob ski as it is to actually ski. Tyler’s a former instructor, and Bob has been teaching at Snowbird for 29 years. They’re both so smooth and technically sound that they do the snow and terrain justice.

Just before we dropped, I got a text from Dug saying he and Senior were going to ski Argenta. I was on the verge of bailing on part 2, but Argenta is a line I’ve really wanted to ski and there would be no better opportunity. So I drove down Little Cottonwood, up Big, put my sweaty boots back on, and started climbing.

A few minutes into the climb, I sent Dug a text asking where they were. “Halfway up” came the reply. Crap. I was really going to have to move. I climbed the next 2500 feet for all I was worth.

Just as I was fearing I wouldn’t catch them and preparing myself to ski back to the bottom alone, I yelled “Dug!” just to see if he would respond.

He did. In a normal speaking voice. Cuz he was like 100 feet away in the trees.

We continued on to the summit ridge* and got ready to drop in.

*Dug thinks it’s material that he went 20 feet higher on the ridge than I did. Yay Dug.

First Senior, who’s a ripping skier, at least 60, and deserves some degree of credit for the fact that any of us are out here to begin with:

Dug right behind:

Me, out in the open:

Senior:

Dug:

At this point, Senior tells me about the first time he went to Snowbird with Dug. And Dug had a snowboard strapped to his feet because “skiing really didn’t do anything” for him.

Dug then tells us how he didn’t really know how to ski at the time, but since then he has learned. And to prove it, he’s going to jump off of this cornice. He got like three feet of air. Then he landed. And his skis stopped. But he didn’t. Until two cartwheels later.

It was the funniest thing I have ever seen happen on skis. Here I am, doubled over with laughter. Dug took this photo from where he stopped.

Dug’s skis, one more time, because it was that funny:

The best part, though, was that on nearly any other line, with as much as we had skied when Dug dropped the cornice, we’d have been about through for the day. But on Argenta, we still had another 1,000 vertical of whipped cream to draw lines in before we got back to the car.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nobody cares that you ski at Alta

This is old news for some, but it was new to me. Ostensibly due to the need to find a long-term avalanche control solution, Alta Ski Lifts is proposing building a ski lift up to Flagstaff Mountain, the mountain I climb whenever I access Days Fork from the Little Cottonwood side, which is often.

The mountain is currently avalanche controlled by firing a Howitzer at the ridge top. But since they're running out of ammunition for the Howitzer and there's no place to get more, they need an alternative. The lift would allow patrol access to the ridge top in order to drop hand charges; skier compaction would also supposedly reduce the likelihood of slides coming down onto the road and into the already avalanche-proof buildings in the town of Alta.

Along with the loss of backcountry terrain, the proposed lift has the added problem of delivering a whole lot of people who won't have the skills to safely travel in the backcountry right to the top of an avalanche-prone bowl. Sure, they can put signs up warning about safe backcountry travel, but that doesn't seem to make a difference to the idiots at Brighton. And just because they won't have snowboards strapped to their feet doesn't mean Alta doesn't still have idiots.

The thing that really stymies me about all of this, though, is that if the intention here really is avalanche control, there's no way that erecting a ski lift is the most cost-effective approach. To say nothing of the environmental impact. Obviously, expanding terrain has something to do with it. But even then, it makes little sense.

Sure, you could access the goods on the North side of the ridge, but you still have to hike back up. And with the exception of the actual day the storm hits, the skiing on the South face of Flagstaff generally sucks. It gets baked and nasty, and it's survival turns much of the time. I guess you can groom it, but why?

Anyway, enough of my rant. I'm not sure there's a whole lot that can be done, but REI Salt Lake is hosting a community meeting to which they've invited representatives from Alta Ski Lifts and UDOT on March 31 from 6:30 to 8:30. Please visit friendsofflagstaff.com for more information. Oh, and please come. Unless you support the lift, then please stay home and eat pork rinds.

Even if the odds are long, I think spending two hours at the meeting is a bet worth placing. Especially since pretty much any alternative is probably more practical.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fetish? No. Obsession? Maybe.

A couple weeks ago, Adam was out on a tour in new boots that didn’t fit quite right. He was suffering badly by the time we got to the car, and this is a guy who does things like riding White Rim on back-to-back days for fun. So you know it hurt.

Back at the car, he said “forget waterboarding. If we really want to torture prisoners at Guantanomo, we should just make them hike around in ill-fitting ski boots.”

Last week, I saw Elden at SLC Bicycle. Ostensibly he was there to get his new Superfly Single Speed built up, but he was also trying on new shoes. I remembered that a couple years ago, he’d had trouble with his shoes during the Kokopelli Trail Race. I asked if those were the shoes he was replacing. “No,” he said. “I could never bring myself to put those shoes on again, so I got rid of them.”

I’ve had my own share of challenges finding ski boots that fit, and at one point it almost drove me to take up snowboarding. Almost. I shudder to think about it.

My point is that when it comes to adventure sports, if you’re feet aren’t happy, you aren’t happy.

I recently posted about how happy my feet were when backcountry skiing in Ladies’ Smartwool Stripeuccino socks. Well apparently Zach over at Smartwool knew I could be happier still, because a couple days later, I got this email:

I just wanted to let you know that I did see your comments about ultra light ski socks. I’m glad you’re enjoying the Lifestyle socks in your boots but want to make sure you have a chance to give our PhD Ski Ultra Light a shot.

These socks feature the WOW Technology for comfort and durability and 4 Degree Fit System for the unparalleled fit you’ve experienced in our cycling socks. These are my go to sock on the mountain and I think you’ll enjoy them too. I’m sending 3 pair your way and you should see them soon, so keep an eye on your mailbox. Give me a shout if you have any questions.

Enjoy and think snow!

I wore the PhD Ski Ultra Light socks yesterday and the day before, and they’re wonderful. The fit is outstanding—they stay in place with no bunching or rubbing. They’re super thin, which I like (they also make thicker versions if thin’s not your thing), so the feel and responsiveness in my boots is uncompromised. And they’re warm. Even when they got a little sweaty (which happens if you’re trying to catch Ben on the climb), they didn’t feel cold, damp, or clammy.

Plus they’ve got the Smartwool feel, which I just find comfortable, and which is why I wear Smartwool socks nearly every day (I have about 17 pairs), whether on skis, bikes, hiking, or just at the office.

Adam was in a pair of these socks yesterday as well. And between the socks and some new footbeds, his dogs weren’t barking, and he was a happy skier.

As an added bonus, since I didn’t ski in my lifestyle socks, I had a clean, dry pair to put on when I was finished and got to enjoy wearing those—for their intended purpose—for the rest of the day. My wife asked me if she could have them since they are, after all, ladies’ socks. I told her no. But maybe I’ll go buy her some of her own. Because I love my wife, and I want her feet to be happy, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back from the dead

You can only tell your friends “no” so many times before they stop asking you to come out for dawn patrol or whatever else is going on. So this morning when Scott pulled into the LCC lot at 5:30, I was shocked, because he got dropped from the dawn patrol email list several weeks ago due to inactivity.

Turns out Scott wasn’t the only one back from the dead, as winter has reminded us it can still drop a storm in the Wasatch even if it’s been 70 degrees plus in the valley and the calendar claims it’s spring. Alta reported 22 inches.

Conditions were such that nobody wanted to be left out of the party. With UDOT bombing the North side of the canyon, that left Scottie’s Bowl as the target for the feeding frenzy.

Between our group and the guys from Black Diamond, we had a dozen headlamps making their way up the hill in the dark. A dozen more from various other parties arrived soon thereafter. The BD guys were the first on the trail by a few minutes and laid a nice skin track for the rest of us. I managed to bridge and followed them to the top.

Never content to drop anything less than the most aesthetic line, the BD guys hiked to the true summit, while I was content with a chute off the shoulder. A quick ski cut across the top to check stability, and then I dropped for first tracks. Delicious.

At the bottom of the bowl, I could see my crew still on the skin track. If I hurried, I could get a bonus lap.

Back at the top everyone de-skinned and Ian, Dug’s 14-year-old son, prepared to drop his first line in the BC. I wouldn’t be intimidated by this cornice, would you?

Ian sent it and looked like a pro.

Which left Dug and me standing at the top of the cornice.

“You gonna drop this?” I asked.

“Thinking about it. Wanna go first?”

“Be my guest.”

I felt like a penguin sending my brother into the water first to see if there were sharks.

Sure enough, a shark grabbed Dug’s ski as soon as he hit the deep snow. He tried to find it to no avail. I told him “I bet if I drop in, I’ll land right on top of it.”

Before you criticize us for our spazzy arms in the photos, bear in mind we’re starting from a standstill and had to push off with our poles. I promise we were able to get our hands in front and stick the landing. Seth Morrison would have been proud. We just don’t have any proof. There. Now I feel better.

With snow that deep, you don’t really land and ski out of it. You land and sink. I felt a clunk as I did so, looked down, and there was Dug’s ski, right between mine.

At the bottom of the bowl, Adam, Aaron, and Tyler were already putting their skins back on for another helping. Since I rode up the canyon with Tyler, what choice did I have?

One more time back down, and we had a car full of happy people on the way home.

Adam:

Aaron:

Tyler:

Me:

3,100 vertical and to work 45 minutes before my first meeting of the morning. I’ve skied so much powder this winter, it’s starting to get embarrassing.

A big thank you to Adam's camera (which was passed around) and Bob for the photos this morning. Bob stood there freezing his fingers off to get all those photos at the top of the cornice. And Adam’s so talented with photoshop, he could probably make me actually look good in the air. OK, maybe not.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Just another day at the office

This morning my computer was acting up a bit, so I asked our IT guy to come over and take a look at it. He noticed the wallpaper on my desktop:

He admired the photo, and, thinking it was the stock variety, asked me “have you ever done that?”

I said, “huh?”

He said, “that photo. It looks cool. Just wondering if you’ve ever tried that.”

“That’s me in the photo. My friend took that just a few weeks ago.”

“Oh, wow. That looks deep.”

“Yeah.”

What I didn’t mention is that I had skied the same place already this morning. Conditions weren’t quite the same, but knuckle dragger Aaron and I enjoyed some nice turns in about a foot of fresh. And it’s still snowing. So you know I’ll be back tomorrow for refills. Until then, enjoy the stoke.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Use as directed

After Friday's post indicating my intention to enter a criterium on Saturday, I got a comment with some solid advice from my friend Eric, a Cat 3 Racer and one of the best crit riders in the Boise area.* My race report includes Eric's advice followed by what I actually did. Oh, and I'll add the disclaimer that Eric posted his comment like 45 minutes before the race started, so I didn't see it until after the fact. Not that it would have made any difference.

*My criteria for determining "one of the best" is that one time when I was over at Eric's house he had a prize money check on his desk from the Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium. He's the only rider I personally know who has made money--in any amount--from racing his bike.

Eric's advice: Try to stay out of the back 1/2 of the pack... almost anything bad that happens will filter back to that bunch and be amplified.

What I did: Not realizing that positioning begins before the gate drops, I found myself right in the middle of the start bunch, which was to be split pretty much right behind me between C flight and D flight. I was one of the last C flight racers off the line and therefore found myself at the back of the pack.

Eric's advice: Watch everyone closely for the first 5-10mins and get a feel for who the goofballs are. You can tell pretty quick when people don't know what they're doing. Maybe somebody always cuts people off... maybe they're swerving, maybe they hit their pedal on every corner. Just log the race numbers in your head and STAY AWAY from then on. While you're at it, you'll likely notice somebody that's smooth and solid, lock onto their wheel and just hold it.

What I did: I'm pretty sure I was the goofball people were staying away from. Sam was the guy I should have been watching and locked wheels with. I neither helped nor put myself in a position to get help from him at any point during the race.

Eric's advice: Generally I think an inside line is safer as it's harder for somebody to take you out. Also it usually gives you the option of avoiding traffic by counter steering into a tighter line.

What I did: Starting as I did from the back and trying to move up in the pack, the only place I could find to do so was on the outside. So that's where I was on every turn. At least nearly every turn.

Eric's advice: Ideally... get close to the front, but out of the wind... 5-10 people back and just hold the position all race. The pack will be constantly flowing & rotating so you'll have to fight a bit to stay in the spot but it's worth it.

What I did: The wind was fierce on the back stretch but at our backs on the home stretch. So the ideal strategy would have been to be on the inside of the pack and protected from the wind on the back stretch. Instead, on lap 2, I made a move on the outside, going all the way around the pack and off the front. My brother was behind me, and Sam was on the front. I figured when we went around, Sam would come with us, and with three of us, we'd have a chance at holding off the field.

Unbeknownst to me (since I was way back in the pack) was that as we came around, Sam had just finished chasing down another break and was in no mood to come with us. So instead of three, we had two, one of whom had been sick all week and still had 40% of his lung capacity filled with phlegm.

We managed to open up a little gap, but as we rounded the corner onto the home stretch, my legs were done. Steve pulled to the front, and I fell in behind, but I knew we couldn't keep it up. The chasers knew they would catch us soon enough, so the gap closed slowly. My priorities changed from getting away to just being off the front as we passed the kids in the grandstand so they could see their dad and their uncle leading the race. However temporarily it was to be.

On the back stretch we were surrounded again, but instead of getting on someone's wheel, I felt myself sliding further and further back. I just couldn't catch my breath. And my legs just wouldn't quit burning.

By the time we got onto the home stretch, I was off the back. Within a lap of that, I knew I wasn't going to get back on. Within a lap of that, as I coughed incessantly and had a metallic taste in my mouth each time, I knew I was done. So I pulled off to the side and wheeled my bike over to the bleachers and sat down with my kids.

Steve finished the race but was out of the the lead group. Sam, on the other hand, held on for second place. That guy is a machine.

While I'm disappointed with the DNF, at least I get to count the start. Which in the end was worth the whopping $10 entry fee and all I really came for. Oh, and I discovered that for all my fear, crit racing is fun. And not all that scary, even on a sketchy course. Fun enough that I may keep going back even after I get enough starts to upgrade. As long as I can just learn to follow directions.

Friday, March 20, 2009

An enigma inside a conundrum, or something like that

I freely admit to being a bit odd. I prefer hiking up the mountain to taking a chairlift. I ride a mountain bike with just one gear most of the time. Some would say I make things more difficult than they need to be.

Inside those oddities are more oddities. For instance, as much as I like climbing and skiing mountains, I don’t like exposure. And as much as I enjoy being outdoors and in nature, I like road biking every bit as much as mountain biking. In fact, there are aspects of riding on the road I like better, like starting the ride from my driveway rather than a trailhead.

But as much as I like road biking, it scares me way more than mountain biking ever will. Sure, there’s the obvious fear of being hit by a car, which isn’t an issue on trails. But even if you factor that out, I’m still more at ease on the MTB. For some strange reason dropping off of something like this doesn’t bother me.

But the idea of crashing on the pavement really does. Go figure, because sandstone and pavement have about the same ability to inflict damage. Yet for fear of crashing, I am a complete and total pansy descending on the road bike. And since I have never watched a criterium where there wasn’t at least one crash, I have never entered a criterium for fear of being part of said crash.

That’s all about to change, however. You see, my brother and I decided that this year we wanted to race Lotoja as Cat 4s. Upgrading from Cat 5 to Cat 4 is a simple process: you need to do at least 10 mass start events. Since the quickest and cheapest way to get 10 mass starts is by doing crits, we’re heading to Rocky Mountain Raceway tomorrow to take part.

One tactic for avoiding a pileup is to go out early and ride alone. If you can hold off the field, you’re golden. If you can’t, you’ll probably get spit out the back and end up riding alone anyway. Given that I’ve been sick all week and my lungs are still full of junk, you tell me which is the more likely outcome.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mostly dead

"He's dead. He can't talk."

"Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do."

"What's that?"

"Go through his clothes and look for loose change"

When Rachel and I first got married, whenever I got sick, I would pretty much just go to bed and ask not to be bothered for a few days. I told her to tell everyone I was mostly dead. Unfortunately, with kids and jobs that have real deadlines, such luxuries are no longer affordable.

So as much as I'd like to be mostly dead and just lay in bed until Miracle Max's pill takes effect, I can't. I'm hereby revising my self assessment and changing the rating from "Mostly Dead" to "Decroded Piece of Crap."

At least it happened during what is perhaps the worst week for skiing all season.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bidding farewell

I’m guessing the number of powder days between now and the end of ski season can be counted on one hand. There’s enough daylight now that I can ride my bike after work, and it’s almost warm enough to ride with bare knees.

Rick, Jon, and Sam gave up on ski season for bikes a couple weeks ago. (Actually, Sam never even started ski season this year, but that’s beside the point.) Climbing 10,000 foot summits a few times a week means I’m starting cycling season with pretty good fitness. I don’t care. I don’t want to put my skis away.

I’ve actually been bummed enough by the changing season to wonder if I have some type of reverse seasonal affective disorder wherein I become depressed and gloomy when I can no longer hike up snowy mountains in darkness and zero degree temperatures.

Powder Magazine has sent its last issue until Fall. With no alternative, this morning I fished through the magazine stack to find the untouched issue of Bicycling that came several weeks ago. As if the end of winter weren’t bad enough, I discovered Style Man wrote his last column for Bicycling with the March issue.

I’m thinking of moving to a mountainous region in the Southern Hemisphere for the next six months. If that doesn’t work out, I’m at least going to cancel Bicycling and subscribe to VeloNews. Maybe VeloNews will fire Lennard Zinn and hire Style Man in his place.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Forget the Masters, It’s all about the Tour

We’ve all known this for some time, but cycling is displacing golf as the recreational activity of choice for nerdy, middle-aged men trying desperately to find an activity that will help them stave off the uglier manifestations of a midlife crisis.

While on the surface, the two sports are unrelated, in reality, they’re quite similar. First of all, both have origins in Europe but have recently been dominated by Americans whom the sponsors love, but none of the other competitors even come close to tolerating.

Second, both require a huge investment in highly technical equipment that allows the users to really get their geek on and read, talk, and lust endlessly without ever actually using or even owning said item. And no matter the size of the investment, participants are still always held back from performing to their true ability for lack of the latest component made out of some space-aged material none of us knew existed 20 years ago but that the Soviets had been making shovels out of for decades.

Both sports are also individual in nature, so one can measure one’s self against one’s own past performance and enjoy competition without ever actually competing against someone else.

Of course, even in the absence of governing bodies, actual rules, or even fellow competitors, there’s a code that everyone follows. In golf, if you don’t shoot from the back tees, everyone thinks your a tulip. In cycling, using your granny gear (or even having one if you’re on a road bike) is the equivalent of shooting from the ladies’ tees or calling it a gimme from four feet out. (Thank goodness for compact cranks, so I can have all the benefits of a granny gear without the embarrassment of actually having one.)

The real question, though, is how much momentum the cycling revolution actually has. I mean, it’s not like you can actually negotiate a business deal in a 25 mph paceline or on the way up technical singletrack. And I don’t see former NBA superstars buying road bikes after they retire, going to Moab in the offseason, or placing $50,000 bets on who will do better in the Clark’s TT. But you never know. The titans of industry could already be shaving their legs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The worst way to watch a shootout

I imagine that across the pond, Champions League football is kind of like Monday Night Football was here, in its heyday. It’s a midweek spectacle pitting the biggest clubs in the world against one another—clubs from other leagues that ONLY ever play each other in Champions League competition—in prime time.

It’s a big enough deal that ESPN broadcasts the games live here in the States. Unfortunately, they’re smack in the middle of the workday. Not to mention the Manchester United bandwagon is so effing full that they’re always going to get the air time ahead of my Gunners.

So yesterday I was stuck following the Roma v. Arsenal match online. In the knockout round, they play two matches, one at each venue, with the aggregate score used to decide the winner. In the event of a draw, away goals are the first tie-break, followed by extra time, and then penalties.

Arsenal went in with a 1-0 lead from their home leg but quickly went down 0-1 at Roma. Both teams squandered chances and finished deadlocked, each having scored a goal at home. Nobody scored in extra time, so it went to penalties.

Right as the penalty shootout got underway, UTRider walked over to my desk to ask if I wanted to go to the bakery next door. I declined. I couldn’t leave the game, even though there was no video, and reading a live match report of penalty shots is nothing more than unbearable suspense punctuated with matter-of-fact descriptions of the action: “Toure for Arsenal. Toure scores!” Followed by 30 excruciating seconds until the next update.

The worst part was that Rachel was at home doing the same thing and IMing me. But her gamecast was somehow ahead of mine, so she’d “cheer” before I knew what happened.

The shootout went on for ages. Arsenal missed their first, Roma missed their second, but then neither team missed for the next 11 tries. Halfway through, UTRider comes back and hands me a donut that I didn’t want but couldn’t resist (all part of his plan to keep me as plump as possible for cycling season). I nervously scarfed it down. I’m pretty sure it had cream in the dough. So now the nervous pit in my stomach had heavy, sugary, doughy goodness trying futilely to sooth it.

Finally Tonetto sent one over the bar and it was all over. I didn’t like Arsenal’s chances in penalties, but somehow they squeaked through.

The funny thing about European football is that for as big a bunch of pansies as the players are, what with guys getting hauled off on stretchers over a bump on the shin and tripping over mere blades of grass, the fans sure are rough. An Arsenal fan was allegedly stabbed by one of Roma’s Ultras on the way to the match, while Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho is in hot water after an altercation with a fan at Old Trafford.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Inconceivable

Vezzini: Inconceivable!

Inigo Montoya: I do not think that means what you think it means.

Dug had a crappy morning. Which reminded me that years and years ago, I took a road trip to Mexico with three of my friends. We planned to be there for Cinco de Mayo, thinking there would be cool parties and street festivals, and, since we were single, young ladies. We got there and pretty much nothing was happening. We asked around as to when the party was going to start.

“What party?”

Turns out, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday invented by the American beer companies. So we kept driving south through Baja California towards Cabo San Lucas.

As we drove, we noticed a rodeo being held more or less at the side of the road in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. We decided to stop and watch.

The rodeo was cool and all, but partway through, one of my friends needed to go back to the car for something. I reached in my pocket to give him the keys. Pocket was empty.

We all walked back to the car and discovered the keys were there, still in the ignition. Doors locked. There was no spare key. So we went back to the rodeo and started asking around as to whether there was a locksmith or a mechanic in “town.” Turns out there was one guy who didn’t really have a shop but kept a bunch of tools in his truck. Not really sure how it happened, because there were no cell phones or any phones that I noticed, but about 15 minutes later, he showed up. And he had a slim jim.

Unfortunately, none of us, including him, knew how to use one. So all I did was break the internal latch mechanism on my passenger door (which thereafter forced me to go around and open the door for my wife whenever she exited the car—kind of a good thing when we were dating—but unfortunately also forced me to do the same thing for my friends or anyone else who sat in the passenger seat).

Panic was now setting in and we were coming very close to smashing a window. While someone else was off looking for a hammer, I noticed the key was still in the on position. Which meant the power windows would work.

I asked the mechanic if he had anything fairly long, slender, and reasonably strong. He produced a machete. So I climbed on top of the car and wedged the machete into the sun roof far enough to push the button and raise the glass. Then I stuck a stick into the narrow gap and reached down to the lock button and pushed it with the stick. Click. Sweet relief.

The next day we found someplace that would make keys and had a spare made. Which came in handy because I only locked the keys in the car two more times that trip. Only once while the engine was still running, though.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Extra time

When I moved to Boise five years ago, I was ecstatic to once again live near skiable mountains. The fact that season passes were $200 meant I went a lot. I loved it. Even though ski seasons typically only lasted from the end of December through March, I got a lot of days in.

Sure, the lifts might keep running into April, and of course backcountry turns could be had, but conditions were rarely worthwhile in the spring. I got used to skiing for three months and then calling it a season with perfect contentment.

My first ski day this season was November 7. I wanted to ski at least 30 days this year. Today was number 32. 19 have been powder days. Nineteen. I probably had 19 powder days in five years living in Boise. And that includes trips to Utah.

It’s not like we’re just skiing the same old stuff, either. Sure Days Fork has seen a lot of attention, and with its consistently good snow, why wouldn’t it? But we’ve also been on top of Lone Peak, Superior, and Box Elder. We’ve skied some sweet chutes, and if the spring tours come together, the tally for the season will be a list that’s on par with Andrew McLean’s ten in ten. OK, not really. And never mind that it took us all year rather than ten days to do it or that we are a bunch of beaters who know better than to shoot video of ourselves on technical lines. But it’s still been fun.

This morning as Rob, Dug, Adam, and I skied down the Meadow Chutes in one continuous face shot wherein I had to stop making turns just so I could plane out high enough to see where I was going, it just felt like a bonus. I’ve had goods aplenty, and here I was still getting more. Utah rules.

P.S. If you’re a football fan and want to see a goal that embodies composure and beauty, check out this video. Perfectly-placed volley off the outside of the left foot. Unreal.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A bird in hand

Before I get into today’s post, I want to take a second and brag about my son again. We went night skiing on Friday with some friends. My friend’s son is three, just learning to ski, and still quite tentative. I would, from time to time, turn around and ski backwards (I don’t think it’s called “switch” the way I do it) so I could see how everyone else was doing.

After a couple of times seeing me do this, my four-year-old turned around and did the same thing. I guess his next skis are going to have to be twin tips.

On Saturday, he and I were home with his younger sister while Mom and our oldest daughter were skiing. I needed to do the dishes, so I told him I’d put on a movie downstairs. His choice: Warren Miller’s Higher Ground. Apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Now, on with today’s adventure.

There have been a few days this ski season when I skipped a chance to go out because I was holding out for the next day to be even better. A couple of times I’ve been burned, either because the avalanche danger spiked so we pulled the plug on the tour, or because the partners who were so committed to going for whatever reason couldn’t make it.

So when Dug mentioned that Mike L. had a friend in town for Monday only and wanted to go out, I was in. I know that Tuesday is supposed to be better, with a huge storm currently dumping piles of fresh snow in the mountains and no indication it’ll let up until tomorrow. That’s great. I’ll ski on Tuesday too. But I wasn’t going to skip today just in case Tuesday doesn’t happen.

We started up Flagstaff from Alta, and the skin track was slick and hard. There were boot prints in the track from others who had decided that booting was easier than slipping around on their skins.

About half way to the ridge, Mike calls for me to stop. Dug’s standing there with a ski in one hand saying he’s done. He slipped on the side hill and in the process torqued his binding to the point that it snapped off under the toe.

photo

Dug booted back to the car while Mike, Preston, and I continued on. Though Mike’s an outstanding skier, he’s pretty new to the backcountry scene, and with Preston being from out of town, that left me as the “guide” for the day—a situation I’ve not been in pretty much ever.

We continued up Flagstaff to the summit. The skin track was so slick and hard in spots that breaking a new trail was easier than using the old one. The wind, which left me glad I haven’t shaved my beard yet, pummeled us from the South, but we hoped we’d find some shelter and better visibility on the North side of the ridge.

At the top, massive cornices hung over most of the ridge. Other than that, snow conditions looked about the same as they were when Rob and I were up on Saturday. Except that instead of blue skies and calm, it was pounding snow and windy, so the tracks were all filled in. We did two very fun laps in Days that nearly made us forget about the wind we’d face on the South side.

Mike had broken his goggle, and it was fogging to the point of being unusable, so on the return we traversed West into Toledo Bowl to avoid skiing down right into the teeth of the wind. With visibility as low as it was, I also liked Toledo because it’s wide open with less potential for surprises.

Getting there was a bit of a challenge, but once in the bowl things were “fine,” with the “minor” exception that we now had about five inches of new snow on a breakable crust, the wind was still blowing 30-40 mph, and it was snowing hard enough that we couldn’t even see the snow surface at our feet.

The whiteout alternately induced vertigo, made me feel as if I were stopped when I was still moving, made me feel as if I were moving forward when I thought I was stopped but was in reality moving backward, and caused each of us to hit the deck at least once because we simply didn’t know which way was up. Other than that, the descent was a piece of cake.

Between the conditions and the broken equipment, you’d think today would have been a good day to sleep in. Yet even with the benefit of hindsight, I’d get up and do it again tomorrow. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random stuff

It’s Friday, so nobody’s reading to begin with, plus a big chunk of people who usually read this blog are on their way to St. George for the first I-cup race of the season (good luck!). So today’s post is a throwaway with just a few random things that could probably be worked into a complete post if I weren’t so lazy. At least one of them I’ll expound on later.

  • Random item #1 (because it’s most important): I’ll be raising money for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation as part of my Lotoja race again this year. My fundraising page is up and running. I realize times are tough right now for a lot of folks, which makes donating that much more important. This is a great cause, and they need your help. 100% of your donation will go to fighting cancer, as the overhead is paid by Mr. Huntsman directly and not out of foundation funds. Click here to donate, or click the pink lemonade jersey at the upper right corner of my blog anytime. I’m going to put together some incentives soon, but don’t wait because they’ll be retroactive—if you’ve already donated enough to reach a threshold, you’ll get the rewards anyway.
  • Random item #2: I don’t drink coffee, but I love to smell it. Unfortunately, only 1 or 2 people in my office are coffee drinkers, and they usually walk across the street rather than brewing a pot in the break room. Today, however, was different. We have a client visiting on-site, so someone made coffee. I was going to pour some and take it back to my desk so I could sit and smell it for a while. But when I walked into the break room, it was gone—every bit taken into the conference room. Not sure my olfactory pleasure is worth interrupting the meeting, but maybe.
  • Random item #3: I see you. Or rather, ICU. Not Intensive Care Unit, though. Rather, the rearrangement of UCI (Union Cycliste Inernationale) that ESPN insists on using to make their reporting on a European sport more American. Stop it. It’s a Euro sport, and the only Americans that follow it are gay, have little lap dogs, and shave their legs. We know what UCI is, but calling it ICU is confusing. Especially since you don’t even need to translate the organization’s name to figure out what it is in English. When the headline “Schumacher gets ban from ICU” came up on my news feed, my first thought was that they were talking about Michael Schumacher and figured ICU was some governing body for auto racing. Which is all the more confusing because Michael Schumacher is retired. And while we’re at it, ESPN, within context at least you can call it football, not soccer. Because everyone knows that Arsenal and Real Madrid and Juventus are not part of the NFL. It’s the Americans that don’t seem to know what football is.

Now I feel better and can get on with my weekend. Before I do, however, I’m going to borrow the exit question concept from Adam. Exit question: what sort of incentives would motivate you to donate to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation? I already shave my legs—how about my head? What about shaving my beard down to just a handlebar mustache and wearing that for a week? Or more? Would delicious comestibles made by my dear wife convince you to give? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Money well spent

Have you ever bought something when, at the time, you were unsure whether it was a wise use of money, only to find out over time that it was one of the most useful things you’ve ever purchased? Conversely, have you ever bought something that you were sure was worthwhile, only to question your wisdom in hindsight?

When I was a poor grad student living in Michigan, I needed something warm to wear running. Yeah, I used to run. A lot. It somehow took me years to notice that I was fat and not very fast and that running wasn’t that fun. Anyway, I made $8 an hour as a TA in the finance department, but some of the first-year students would get together and pay me like $25 an hour for private sessions. Felt like big money, so after a few of these, I dropped $80 on a windbreaker at the running store. I even paid full price. And promptly began wondering whether it was worth it.

I would have got my money’s worth at three times the price. I wore that windbreaker running in bad weather, I keep it in my camelback if I’m going to mountain bike in rain or wind, and it’s also a nice, light outerlayer to wear on the climb when backcountry skiing. Both pocket zips are now broken, there’s a tear on the chest from colliding with a gate post during a night ride (repaired somewhat crudely with tent repair tape), and it’s got an aroma that will never, ever completely wash out. But I still wear it and will until it’s in shreds.

On the other hand, a few years ago I decided I needed alpine ski boots that really fit. So I spent a good chunk of money and countless hours at a bootfitter trying to accomplish that. The Langes I bought are still not completely comfortable, but I’ve given up on doing anything else. Given the return in comfort and performance on my time and money, not the best use of resources.

Alternatively, my touring boots were purchased on steepandcheap for 67% off retail, and after getting the liners baked by someone who knows what he’s doing (Rob at SLC REI, if you’re wondering), they’re as comfortable as slippers. I don’t even think about my boots in the backcountry anymore.

Problem is that my steepandcheap boot experience was such a pleasant one that I’m now addicted to backcountry.com’s one-deal-at-a-time sites and have five desktop alerts going off all day, every day. In the last week or so, I’ve bought a pair of sandals, a shirt, and some sunglasses, none of which were planned or budgeted. I think I may have a problem. Then again, probably better the money's spent here than where some of my neighbors are spending it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ladies’ socks, revisited

Rick likes “sassy” gloves. Dug is the Imelda Marcos of Telluride-look apr├Ęs ski jackets. Kris has such fear that shaving his legs is a form of emasculation that I don’t even want to explore what’s going on in his head. Jared wears women's underwear. I like ladies’ socks.

In reality, I think it’s more that I like really thin socks than I actually prefer to wear socks targeted for female consumers, but I’m not sure. My wife bought a pair of Pearl Izumi socks in some rather feminine colors, and I was jealous. Not for the thinness of the socks, which was also appealing, but because the argyle pattern and colors looked good.

Recently, I decided that I needed another pair or two of ski socks. If Zach from Smartwool is reading this, I will confess that I’ve been using Ultimax ski socks for the simple reason that they’re really, really thin. Given that I have in the past skied in knee-high nylons, I’m obviously biased towards thin. But since Zach was so cool about hooking me up with Smartwool socks, I decided to give their PhD Ultra Light ski socks a try.

Only problem is that when I went to REI to buy some, they were out. They had some of the thicker varieties, but none of the ultra lights I wanted. As I wandered around the store, however, I stumbled upon what Smartwool calls “Lifestyle” socks in the women’s section. They were over the calf and really thin, just like the PhD ski socks, so I bought a pair.

I wore them skiing last Friday and was in love. So I went back and bought another pair. I wore them to my brother’s wedding on Saturday, ostensibly so I didn’t have to change before skiing with my son afterwards, but really because I just wanted to. I have to restrain myself to not wear them all the time, they’re that comfortable.

I’m sure the skiing-specific socks are great, but I may never find out. Maybe we should ask Dug—I hear he now keeps an extra pair in his glove box. As for me, I’ll be wearing lifestyle socks, perhaps every day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finding good help

With the warm weather we’ve been having, it’s time to get back out on the bike. I did a couple of lunch rides last week, but every day driving up the North side of Suncrest made me really want to test my legs on a real hill.

Those of you who live on the Wasatch Front know what I'm talking about when I describe Suncrest North as a real hill. I think a case can reasonably made for it as the 3rd hardest climb in the Salt Lake Valley, after Little Cottonwood Canyon and Butterfield Canyon.

Nominally, Suncrest North is steeper than Little Cottonwood. According to the highway signs, at least. Suncrest North is listed as a 10% grade, while Little Cottonwood is supposedly 9%. However, based on my ASWC (Average Speed While Climbing), Little Cottonwood feels steeper because I can’t go as fast. I don’t know if that’s because it’s truly steeper or because you just never get a break and fatigue sets in. Either way, LCC is hard.

My other measure of steepness, my LTWC (Likelihood of Throwing up While Climbing—what, did you think I was actually going to measure Lactate Threshold or something seriously scientific like that?), also suggests that Little Cottonwood is a much harder climb. Suncrest North may result in a little bitterness in the back of the throat, but Little Cottonwood requires a sustained effort to keep everything down.

Since my commute is 26 miles each way, finishing with the Suncrest climb, I decided to drive in yesterday with the bike, ride home, then ride back to work this morning.

All in all, yesterday’s ride wasn’t bad. The wind was pretty fierce and right in my teeth, especially the last half of the ride. Would have been nice to have some help with that. The climb, though, went as well as I could expect for the first attempt of the year, especially considering the extra 10 pounds I’m hauling up the hill. The relatively easy transition to cycling gives credence to my assertion that skiing is a better workout than cycling.

As hard as I worked yesterday fighting gravity and wind on the way home, I made up for it this morning. I had a tailwind all the way in. I thought I was making pretty good time, sustaining 26-27 mph on the flats. Then about the time I got to Revolution, I got passed by an absolute motor on a ‘cross bike (with road tires and no helmet).

I decided to latch on the back, and we held about 32 mph until the next stoplight. I pulled up and told him “I’d be happy to work together, but I don’t think I’d do you any good.”

“I’ll have you pull here in a minute,” he responded. The light turned green and off we went. We were cruising in the mid 30’s when he took over again. On his next pull, we got up to 40 mph. On the flats. For the record, I didn’t even go that fast coming down from Suncrest.

At that speed, we chewed up the miles quickly. Unfortunately, we also got to his turnoff quickly, so I was on my own again. And my legs were pretty blown—just enough left to keep it in the low-to-mid 20’s the rest of the way in.

Time from work to home on Monday: 1:59. Time from home to work on Tuesday: 1:09. Thank you helmetless-stinky-‘cross-bike-riding-motor-with-big-headphones-and-no-helmet!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Do I have to make turns?

Took the day off Friday to go to Snowbird with my brother, who was getting married on Saturday. Not much of a day to be out, with strong winds in the morning and dust on crust conditions. Still, any skiing is better than not skiing.

The real fun, though, was in the afternoon, when my son came up to ski with me. We spent all afternoon on Chickadee (the very easy beginner lift at Snowbird). For the last run of the day, I convinced him to go over to the Wilbere lift and take a run down Big Emma, still a "green" run, but more difficult than Chickadee. Difficult enough that he actually had to make turns instead of just doing figure 11's top to bottom.

We had so much fun that on Saturday after the wedding, we went up to Alta for free after three on Sunnyside. He asked me if he needed to make turns at Alta. When I told him that he did at least some of the time, he responded "I want to go to Snowbird instead."

He's asked me no fewer than five times today when we can go back. I think we'll both be sad when the snow finally all melts.