Friday, March 29, 2013

Moderate training week

Last year, I was really excited when I was done teaching skiing for the year.  The ski season had been really poor due to warm temperatures and a lack of snow.  I was ready to get back into the gym and do more CrossFit workouts.  I had only been to CrossFit 29 times during January, February and March last year - just more than twice per week - and I was ready to get to the gym more often.  But, I was also exhausted at the end of ski season.  I ended up taking a complete rest week right after skiing.  Then, a few days of training, and I took off five more days.  Three more training days and then three more off.  And then I lost a week to an illness in April.  Then a trip in May for some fishing, and suddenly, I'd gotten to the end of May with only 50 CF workouts for the year.  And, I'd done very little on the weekends as well.

This year, I think, is going to be different.  Part of the struggles I had last spring led me to the testosterone therapy that I'm using now.  I truly was run down and beat last year.  We also have some snow in the mountains this year, so I'll continue to ski for the next few weeks.

Last Friday's CF Game's workout was tough on my legs.  Then, I skied two days.  Monday, we did front and back squats, more wall balls (the main component of the Friday workout), and a few other things.  Tuesday, my wife had a social engagement and my knees were screaming for a day off.

Wednesday, I went to the gym.  I was still a bit tired, but I got through the workout.  Last night, my wife and I simply skipped the gym and got home early for once.

Tonight is the next CF Game's workout, but it's short.  It's only 7 minutes long, a mix of clean and jerks and toes-to-bar.  I'm terrible at the latter move, so my score won't be very good.  But, it will be over in 7 minutes.

Then, I'll ski over the weekend.  But, I probably won't ski as hard as I have been skiing with students.  There is no pressure to go to extreme terrain when I'm skiing for fun.

So, instead of my recent weeks of four CF classes and two hard days of skiing, I'll have three CF workouts and two days of easier skiing this week.  The next weekend, I won't ski at all, so maybe I'll do a little more CrossFit next week.  It's also time to start doing some running again as well.

But, the best thing is that I'm healthier and in better shape than I was a year ago at this point in time.  I'm not completely run down from the ski season.  I'm motivated to do some more training and some more skiing.

And training now is good, because fly fishing will be interfering with my training in the next few weeks.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Last weekend of ski instruction for the season

After an amazing ski day last Wednesday, we were expecting more snow and great conditions for the weekend.  And, we got just what we expected.

Before I could ski on the weekend, I needed to perform the third workout of the CrossFit Open on Friday night.  The workout was as many reps as possible in 12 minutes of the following:

150 x 20# wall balls
90 double unders
30 muscle ups

A "wall ball" is done with a medicine ball.  You hold the medicine ball with two hands in front of your chest, squat until your femurs are parallel with the floor, and then launch yourself upward, essentially shot-putting the medicine ball to a ten-foot high line on the wall.  A very common CF workout is called Karen, and in that workout, you do 150 wall balls for time.  My best time was just under 9 minutes, but I'd done that with a 14# ball, not 20#.  I knew that just completing the wall balls would be a challenge for me, but I hoped to at least get a few reps with the jump rope.

And, to skip the boring details, that is exactly what I did.  I completed the wall balls in 11:36.  I'd actually done just under 160 of them, but a few had missed the ten foot target and didn't count as legal reps.  In the final 24 seconds, I managed to get three double unders for a score of 153.  This was good enough to move me from 138th place in my age group in the northeastern US to 108th place.  If things go well, I have a good chance of cracking the top 100 by the end of the Open, in two weeks.

On Saturday, we arrived at the mountain to find 6" of brand new snow.  We warmed up in a tree run before work.  And, as soon as the kids had arrived, everyone headed for the trees.  Most groups were going high on the mountain, so I opted to stay low and look for untracked snow in the lower angle glades.  We did this for most of the day and found a lot of great snow.  It was a fun, fun day.

On Sunday, I had arranged for a guide to take us to the Slide Brook area - sidecountry terrain that requires a guide trained in outdoor emergency care.  We did a few warm-up runs while our guide was busy with an earlier tour.  Then, it was our turn and the snow was fantastic.  Despite large numbers of people in this area, we managed to find plenty of untracked snow during our descent.  After the Slide Brook tour and some lunch, we headed to the natural snow of the Castlerock area.  We skied Rumble, which is probably the toughest trail at Sugarbush.  It's become a tradition in my group to ski Rumble on the last day of the teaching season, if it's still open.  The top was thin, but we hit lots of great snow as well.  Then, we skied a second run in Castlerock that was even better than Rumble.  And suddenly, we were running out of time.  We did one final run, where some of the kids raced and some skied a tree line.  I skied in between them, watching both groups the whole way down the hill.

And then it was over.  Early in the season, skiing with students every Saturday and Sunday for fifteen weeks seems very daunting.  But, after you've spent an entire winter with the kids and watched them progress as skiers, it's always kind of sad to see it end.

So, I'm done with teaching, but not done with skiing.  This coming weekend, I have a number of options - at Sugarbush or at Jay Peak.  After that, I'll miss a weekend of skiing, but there will still be snow to ski on in mid-April, so the season isn't over yet.

April 13th is the first day of trout season in Vermont, and I'm hoping to spend some time skiing and fly fishing on the same day - something I don't think I've ever done before.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Epic Snow Day

If I was as good at this blogging stuff as my college buddy, I would have all kinds of photos from my ski day yesterday.  I did have my iPhone with me, so I could have taken all kinds of photos.  But, I was too busy skiing and grinning all day long.

I borrowed some fat powder skis from a friend, and I then skied with that friend, his wife, and we were joined intermittently by a few other instructors from Sugarbush.  There was a lot of soft new snow and I instantly loved the big fat skis I was on.  The skis I bought for this season are simply not versatile and to be honest, they've taken a lot of the fun out of skiing for me this year.  I am not going to use that ski as my primary ski after this season.

We did a nice easy warm-up, and then headed for the summit.  It honestly didn't matter what trail we picked.  There was a lot of snow everywhere and even on the steep trails, I could really point the skis downhill and let the new slow help with speed control.  At times, my buddy Dave and I would hop into the trees for some turns, even though his wife isn't really comfortable in that terrain.

We had about half a dozen runs off the summit before heading in for an early lunch.  The mountain was crowded and we wanted to try to beat the crowds to the lodge for some food.  After a quick lunch, we hooked up with some other instructors for an out-of-bounds run that I'd never done before.  There were lots of untracked lines and I was actively seeking them out.  It was incredible and I was smiling non-stop.

After we did the tree line, we returned to the mountain and did a couple bump runs off the North Lynx chair. Then, we headed back to the Super Bravo chair for some bump runs and a final tree run.  The last tree run was amazing - the best that line has skied in a couple seasons.

A little after three o'clock, we were all exhausted and called it a day.

Last year, we had a really bad snow year.  This year has been close to average, but the coverage has been very spotty in the trees this year.  Finally, with my last weekend of teaching for the season coming up, we have great coverage in the trees.  Yesterday was easily my favorite skiing day in more than two years.

I'm really looking forward to this coming weekend.  The last weekend of teaching is always bittersweet, as it indicates that the season is winding down.  But, the conditions are amazing and it should be a really fun weekend - a last chance to explore some great terrain with my students.

I guess I could have written more about the conditions and the trails and the trees.  But, unless you experienced it yourself, the words couldn't possibly do justice to the conditions we had for the day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Too Soon?

Perhaps my fly fishing post last week was way too premature.

Sugarbush got about 15" of snow late last week and we had some excellent conditions over the weekend.  One trail - a steep double black that hadn't been groomed after last Tuesday's rain - was a bit treacherous due to ice, but we found lots of great snow.

I spent some time on Saturday on a snowboard with my students.  We do this once per year.  It is an opportunity to do something different, learn a new skill, and also to remember what it feels like to be a novice or near-novice on the mountain.  My students especially like the fact that I strap on a board myself and make a fool of myself, falling repeatedly.  I am getting better, bit by bit, on a board, but doing it once per year is not the way to become proficient.

On Sunday, we skied all day, and with a small group, we motored around the mountain.  The highlight of the day was probably a trip into the side-country - the Slide Brook zone at Sugarbush.  The top half of the descent had good coverage with soft, sweet snow, no ice, and access to unskied lines.  The lower half had thinner coverage, so it was important to control speeds and look at ski placements carefully.  At least half a dozen times, moving at a good speed, I had to fully pick up one of my skis to make room for a single ski to navigate through obstacles sticking up through the snow.

All in all, it was a fun weekend, but it's about to get better.  The numbers seem to be all over the chart, but for the first time this winter, a major storm seems to have VT as ground zero.  The skiers here are ecstatic.  The snow should start tonight, intensify in the morning, and we should see a second intensive phase tomorrow evening.  At my house, there is a winter storm warning with a forecast of 10"-18" of snow.

One local forecaster is estimating that many ski resorts could see three feet of snow by the time the storm ends on Wednesday.  Tomorrow is going to be somewhat windy during the peak of the storm, but I'm angling to miss a day of work tomorrow or Wednesday to make some turns in the new snow.

This coming weekend is my last weekend of teaching, and it looks like we will have spectacular conditions - something very different than last year, when a March heat wave devastated an already-low snow pack and cut our season short.

So, my thoughts are once again focused on skiing and a lot less on fishing.

Last Friday night, we did the second of five workouts for the CrossFit Open.  In the first workout, I finished in 168th place among 50-54 year old males in the northeastern US.  In week number two, the workout included barbell shoulder to overhead presses (5 reps per round), light weight deadlifts (10 per round), and box jumps (15 per round and step-ups were a legal substitute for jumps, although they were slower).  I completed 6 rounds plus four reps for a score of 184.

That was the 93rd best score in my division for the week, and I've now moved up to 137th place overall.  We will see the third workout this Wednesday.  I'm still waiting for the inevitable - a workout with a movement that I simply cannot do, and we'll see how that affects me in the standings.  I'm far from an elite athlete in this "sport", but I somehow seem to be as competitive as ever.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Prepping for the Seasonal Transition - Fly Fishing Edition

I have two weeks left in the teaching part of my skiing season.  After that, I hope to be skiing on the weekends for at least another month, but our ski season ended fairly early last year and our snowpack isn't much better this season.

Until 4 years ago, the end of ski season usually meant that April and May saw me greatly increasing my running mileage, and I'd usually run my first ultra of the year in mid-April in the Blue Hills south of Boston.  But, my post-skiing transition has really changed the past few years.

My wife and I look forward to the local Saturday morning farmers' markets, and we usually go out for a nice brunch afterward.  Then, I'll sneak in a short run or bike ride or hike in the afternoon.  Then, go fly fishing with my son in the evening.  On Sunday, I might sneak out for more fly fishing.

In high school, I pretty much lived to fish.  In April and May, I was dunking worms for stocked trout.  Even though I was in my school's Fly Tying Club (chess club too - what a geek!), I rarely fished with flies.  My first trout on a fly happened in Penn's Creek in the spring of 1983.  In the summers in high school, I fished a local lake for bass all summer.

In college, I continued to fish when I could get to the creek.  I didn't have a car, but a few guys on the football team fished, and I'd grab a ride with them.  My best friend also fished, although he and I spent more time at lakes, drinking beer and passively pursuing the fish.

When I got out of college and moved to Boston, I still fished a little bit.  Mostly, I would fish for trout in Vermont while my wife still lived there.  Once she moved to Boston with me, my fishing really tailed off.  I started running.  I started doing triathlons as well.  Fishing fell by the wayside.  My wife and I got married in 1986 and in 1987, we moved to CA.  I was still running a lot and doing some triathlons, but I tried to do some fly fishing in the mountains as well.  Typically, I'd fish one or two weekends a year, plus during a week-long backpacking trip.  I even bought a couple new fly rods and reels and started tying flies again.

And then I found ultramarathons and fly fishing came to a screaming halt.  When you are running 6 hours on most Saturdays, another 4 hours on most Sundays and you work and train all week, there isn't time for much else.  Especially if you have kids.

I still fished on occasion.  We spent two years in Alaska and I certainly fished there when I could.  We moved to Vermont 14 years ago.  I fished a bit at first, and then I suddenly seemed to stop.  I think I went 3 or 4 seasons without buying a fishing license.  I still had the gear, but I didn't have the time or desire, it seemed.

Then, three summers ago, one little thing changed and I've pretty much become obsessed with fly fishing again.  My little company was moving from essentially a research mode to becoming a commercial enterprise.  This required that most of our software be re-written quickly, in a much more flexible manner, to cater to a variety of incoming data formats and customer-requested reporting formats.  I spent an entire summer working a huge number of hours, doing most of this work by myself.  At the end of that summer, we had a company party, and our company's founder and his wife gave me a $200 Orvis gift certificate to thank me for the work I'd done that summer.

I bought some new waders.  And I started fly fishing again.

By two years ago, I'd roped my son into fly fishing with me.  Last year, we fished a lot and even took a week-long road trip to PA to chase big browns in famous rivers.  I think we caught more fish in PA in a week than we caught the rest of the year in VT.  But, we learned a lot about some new Vermont rivers last year, and by the end of the season, our outings were more and more successful.

Normally, I use my paychecks from skiing to buy more skiing equipment.  This winter, I've been buying fishing stuff.  I got new waders.  The old pair of hand-me-down waders that my son has been using are about the same age as him and they started to leak late last season.  I got new waders for me and handed-down a nice pair that is only a couple years old.  I bought a new net.  My son doesn't currently have a net, so I was able to give him my old net.  I ordered a custom set of flies from a local company here in VT - fishermen and tyers who know the VT rivers.  And then, I decided I wanted to start tying on my own again, but everything I use to tie flies seems to be gone - the tools, feathers, fur - everything.

I think my father-in-law borrowed it, but he and my mother-in-law insist they don't have it.  We have turned our house upside-down looking for the fly tying equipment with no luck.  I started to research what it would cost to start from scratch and the costs were intimidating.  I also discovered that there are people who are giving up tying for one reason or another, and they are selling complete tying set-ups on eBay on a regular basis.  Yesterday, I bought a somewhat small collection of very high quality tools and tying materials.  By this coming weekend, I'll be on the vise again, tying for the first time in many years.

I'm still hoping to buy a new rod for my son for this season.  And, I'm hoping to buy a new rod and reel for me as well.  Whether or not I do that will depend a bit on the kindness of my ski customers.

But somehow, about 35 years after I purchased my first fly rod (rod, reel and line cost me $20 then - today, I don't think you can buy a decent line for that price), and 30 years after catching my first trout on a fly, I have somehow become obsessed with chasing trout around rivers here in Vermont and elsewhere.

I'm not in a hurry for ski season to end, but I am certainly looking ahead, dreaming of the first time my son or I yell "fish on" to the other.

For readers of this blog (there aren't many of you), be prepared for pictures of trout and never-ending fishing ramblings starting next month and lasting the entire way until the next ski season.

Monday, March 11, 2013

CF Games Workout and Spring Skiing

Friday night, I did my CF games workout as planned.  Scroll down or see my previous post for a listing of the workout.  We had 17 minutes to get as many reps as possible, but I had decided I would stop after 40 burpees, 30 fairly light snatches, and 30 more burpees.  I was a little worried when another member of our gym failed to complete even those reps in 17 minutes, but I got through this fairly comfortably in 11:52.  I had expected a leisurely pace that would take me 14 minutes, but I worked harder than I'd planned and went faster than expected.

These workouts are judged and you and your judge have to sign off after the workout.  My judge managed to catch a small failure on my part on my 69th burpee - the 29th in my set of 30.  We had to jump at the end of each burpee and each hand had to touch an object six inches above your maximum static reach.  On the 69th total rep, my left hand just missed the bar I was using, so I got to hear my judge say "29.  Wait, 28."  I knew I'd missed it and I would have re-jumped even if the judge had missed it.  Luckily, we only needed to repeat the jump and not the entire burpee.

So, there I was - finished - with just over 5 minutes on the clock.  I knew I could probably crank out one or two or even three snatches at 135# and I'd have a much higher place in the standings.  I also knew I could re-injure my shoulder trying that.  So, I asked the judge to fill out the paper immediately, before I was tempted to try a higher weight.

With all scores submitted, I'm in 170th place in the northeast in the male, 50-54 division.  One more rep would have put me no lower than 100th place.  There were many people who did exactly 100 reps in my division, and a single rep would have leapfrogged at least 70 of them.  But, I still maintain that discretion is much more important when returning from an injury.

On Saturday and Sunday, we had amazing weather and spring skiing conditions.  Sugarbush had groomed Stein's Run and Ripcord on Friday night - prepping them to set up nice spring bump lines as the temperatures get warmer.  These are both steep double black diamond runs, but with the grooming, they were fairly easy, and I skied them quite a bit on Saturday.  I took my group to some easy tree runs, we did a number of steep runs, a few bump runs, some racing, and we ended the day on an intermediate trail that provides opportunities for the kids to do some jumps and tricks.

Sunday was more of the same, but with the snow in the trees starting to get thinner, I wanted one final big adventure for my ski group.  There are very few places left at Sugarbush that I've never skied.  I'm not talking about the trails.  I have skied all of the trails many, many times.  I'm not talking about the tree runs that show up on the trail map.  I'm not even talking about the well known tree runs that are not on the map.  I wanted to take my group to a steep run from the top of the Long Trail.  This is one of the toughest off-piste runs that exists at Sugarbush, and an extraction is very difficult if a skier gets injured.  I needed an Outback guide to go with me - someone trained in the terrain and Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) or an EMT.  A second coach with a small group also wanted to come along.  Our boss suggested a second outback guide.  Then, we talked a third coach into coming along.  And just to supervise and see some new terrain (this one isn't skied very often), our boss came along as well.  This meant we had 13 students, 3 coaches, 2 outback guides, and one boss - 19 total people.  The first 300 or so vertical feet of this run is super-tight - there is only one path down the line, so we really needed to space the skiers far apart to avoid collisions.

We got off the chair at Heaven's Gate and headed out the Long Trail.  We went past Bear Claw, an excellent off-piste run that drops from the Long Trail.  We went past "The Church" - a large rock outcropping that provides some real adventure for skiers willing to take some air.  And then we went downhill into a saddle on the ridge.  From there, we headed straight down.

The snow up top was thin, but the texture was good.  As we got further down, the warm temperatures had really messed with the snow.  There was still snow, but it was somewhat rotten, thin, and the turns were difficult.  Well, they were difficult for me.  Some of my students looked they were on trivial groomed trails.

While the conditions were far from ideal, it was an adventure - a long hike out of bounds, dropping into an amazingly narrow entrance and skiing where few people go.  That is what our program is all about and it was great to see the students so excited by what we'd done.  I wish I'd skied the line a bit more confidently and gracefully, given that my boss was on my tail the entire way down.  But, I always tell my students that every safe turn in extreme terrain is a good turn, and I got out safely.  All 19 of us got out safely and there were big smiles all around.

Unless we get another big storm (there is some potential for 3/20 - over a week from now), we might be done skiing in the trees for the year.  But, if that's the case, we went out with a bang.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The CrossFit Games

I'm not sure what I was thinking.  Part of CrossFit is supposed to be its inclusiveness.  There is something for  everyone.  Young and old, more fit and less fit, lean bodies and not-so-lean bodies.  Once a year, CrossFit has its annual "games" - a few days of competition in CA.  To get there, you need to qualify.  That qualification process begins with five consecutive weeks of  scored workouts.  At age 55, the workouts are scaled to make them easier.  Not so at age 51.  Not even if you have a wonky shoulder.

But, I did spend the $20 to sign up.  The first workout was announced last night, and my shoulder hurt just reading the workout:

MEN - includes Masters Men up to 54 years old
Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 17 minutes of:
40 Burpees
75 pound Snatch, 30 reps
30 Burpees
135 pound Snatch, 30 reps
20 Burpees
165 pound Snatch, 30 reps
10 burpees
210 pound Snatch, as many reps as possible

First of all, I've been trying to avoid overhead lifting.  There is no doubt that somewhere in the five workouts, I'll have to scale things.  We will have handstand push-ups, which I can't do, or toes-to-bar, which I can barely do, or double-unders - another skill where I struggle.  And, I'll have to scale my workout and record the fact that I modified the workout so I could complete it.  Once I do that, I will be officially eliminated from contention in the final results.  But, that's certainly not a big deal.  I am nowhere close to the top 20 CrossFitters in the world who are age 50 or older.  So, I'm not going to CA for the finals anyway.

From the reactions I saw on Facebook last night, this workout surprised a lot of people.  Last year, the first workout was as many burpees as possible in 7 minutes.  The second workout included snatches.  This workout looks like the evil spawn of those two workouts.

When I saw this workout last night, my first thought was that I'll simply scale right from the start.  I've been doing mostly power cleans instead of snatches, so I could do that.  But, after I thought about it for a while, another thought occurred to me.  My snatch PR is 130, so the second round of snatches is out of the question.  But, I think I can do 75 pound snatches without bothering my shoulder.  That really is a light weight for me.

So, even though I won't do this workout until tomorrow afternoon, I think I already know my score: 100.

I can do 40 burpees in five minutes or less.  I can do the 30 light snatches in 3-4 minutes.  And, I will have plenty of time remaining to do 30 more burpees.  And then, I'm done.  One hundred reps.  And still not in the scaled division.

Tomorrow will be my fourth consecutive day at CrossFit and I need to be rested enough to teach skiing over the weekend.  I am guessing that I will take it somewhat easy tonight so that I can get through 100 reps as comfortably as possible for this workout,

And then I'll wait for next Wednesday, to see if I can find a way to complete the second workout without any scaling.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Skiing Report: Sugarbush's Elite 8 in a Day

I have to admit that I dislike the use of the word "Elite" in the context of the "Elite 8" here.  Sugarbush has 8 ski trails designated as double-black diamonds.  Someone, somewhere, probably to sell some T-shirts, dubbed them "The Elite 8".  To be honest, two trails that don't make the list - Bravo at Mount Ellen and The Mall at Lincoln Peak are just as difficult as at least half of the trails that make up the Elite 8, but the trail designations were done way before my time.

Earlier this season, one of my students suggested that we ski all of the Elite 8 in a day.  At that point in time, one of the trails wasn't even open yet, so I had to say no, but I kept the idea in the back of my head.  Saturday, on the way to the mountain, I was trying to decide what to ski for the day.  We'd had some dense snow earlier in the week and a slight thaw/freeze.  That had me concerned about being in the trees, especially tree runs without lots of traffic, where snow might be set up very firmly.  So, my mind wandered to the Elite 8.  I knew that there would be some challenges, but every trail was open, and some of the normal impediments to this challenge were absent.

High winds can shut down lifts and make this impossible in a day.  Cold temperatures can be very daunting, especially on the three trails found at Mt. Ellen.  Long lift lines at the Castlerock lift, like those we'd find on a holiday weekend can be a problem.  And, lack of snow coverage can be tough on skis, but it's not a showstopper if the trails are open.

For Saturday, our high temperature was going to be close to freezing and little wind was expected.  Fog was expected to be a factor, with low cloud ceilings, but this can be overcome.  The lift line at Castlerock would be manageable.  I was guessing our worst issues would be thin cover on a few of the natural snow trails.

Oh yeah, we had to complete this in 5.5 hours.  And it had to be safe.

As my group assembled before 9:30, I started to float the idea.  There were unanimous agreements that it was a "must do".  It was nice to see the kids that happy.  One of the students immediately decided to do a day-long live "broadcast" on Instagram.  That meant that my four students who weren't there on Saturday were mad at me before we even got started.  I simply couldn't wait for a day where everyone was present.  We've had 24 ski school days so far this year, and only once have all ten students shown up.  I simply had to go for it when the opportunity was there.

Stein's Run
This is not a run that I'd normally choose for a warm-up.  It is steep and long, with an awkward double fall line.  However, due to grooming a week ago, the bumps weren't too big, the trail wasn't too icy, and logistically, this was almost necessary to make the day work.  I'd already skied a bit before 9:00, but this was the first run for each of my students.  Every single one of them beat me to the bottom.  Most of them complained it wasn't fun (too firm, too slick, etc.), but that didn't matter, because we wouldn't see it again that day.

From the bottom of Stein's, we skied to the base, rode the Gate House chair up and skated across to the Slide Brook Express.  This chair is an inter-connect, built when Sugarbush purchased the old Glen Ellen ski area and incorporated that area into Sugarbush.  The ride is just over 11,000 feet in length and takes almost 15 minutes to complete.  Yet, that is much faster than the shuttle buses that run between the two base areas.

When we arrived at Mt. Ellen, my immediate goal was to ride the North Ridge Express chair to the top of Exterminator.  But, the North Ridge Express is a notoriously fickle chair, and it wasn't running when we got there.  This necessitated a trip to the base area, a ride up the Green Mountain Express and another ride up the summit quad.

FIS is a snow-making trail, so I knew the coverage would be good.  It's often icy, but rarely dangerously so.  Entering the run on skier's right subjects the skier to Sugarbush's steepest on-trail pitch, but this entrance is often icy and daunting.  Everyone entered on skier's left and we found some ice with lots of soft bumps on the way down.  Most of us stayed far left, in an area that used to be trees, but is now moguls interspersed with snowmaking guns.  A couple students went to the middle of the trail and found ice and instantly got back to the right or left side.  The most difficult part of this run was fog.  I basically stared at my feet the entire way down, with limited depth perception, and constantly wondering if I was on ice, snow or a mogul.  But, we all made it down safely and fairly quickly.  This one is steep, but short, just like the next one.

Black Diamond
Please don't ask me why a run called Black Diamond is rated as a double-black.  I do know that I show my age every time I ski this one, because I find myself singing Kiss's "Black Diamond" to myself the whole way down.  This is technically a natural snow trail, but it does get some drifting snow from the guns on neighboring FIS.  While there were some rocks showing, this narrow trail was in much better condition than I expected.  Another short one, and we had three of the eight done.  The fog had lifted somewhat, and it was easier to see here than it had been on FIS.

At this point, we skied to the mid-mountain lodge for a short break.  The logistics of this day required a late lunch, so we took a short break for a snack, drink, bathroom break, whatever was needed.  We wouldn't be close to a lodge for quite a while after we headed back up.

I saved this one for the last run at Mt. Ellen because it is the longest of the three and the only run to end below the base of the summit quad.  This one is all natural snow and the headwall tends to be icy.  But, while the snow was thin, the headwall was fine, the bump lines were sweet, the snow was soft, and we got through the steep pitch quickly.  One student skied up to me partway down, worried about the icy headwall.  I explained that we were already well below that spot, so she didn't need to worry.  She took off like a shot and left me well behind.

From here, we skied some intermediate trails back to the Slide Brook Express and returned to Lincoln Peak.  It was just about noon and an obvious time to take a lunch break.  If we had 6 or more hours to complete these 8 runs, I would have agreed, but we didn't have that much time.  So, I had my students skate ski across a clearing and then herringbone uphill to the Castlerock Connector trail.  We followed this trail to the Castlerock chair.  In ski school, we are pretty lucky because we get to cut the lines at most chairs.  But, Castlerock is some of Sugarbush's prime "wild" skiing terrain - no snowmaking and no grooming, with limited lift access through a double chair.  We needed to wait in line with everyone else.

Lift Line
Lift Line is probably my son's favorite trail at Sugarbush.  Even when the coverage is good, you need to pick through some rocks at the top.  Then, partway down, you can dance down a mostly rocky face on the left or just huck yourself off a giant rock.  Oh yeah, there is a detour around this ski-destroying section of the trail.  But, below the headwall section, the skiing can be sublime.  Some sections have a straight-down-the-trail fall line and other sections have a double-fall line drawing you towards the trees on the left.  You have an audience - the people on the chair.  And the snow can be fantastic.  It truly is a great trail, even though it was a bit thin on Saturday.  And just like all the other trails, I was the last one in the group to get to the bottom.

At the bottom, we got right back in the line for the Castlerock chair.  Next up was Rumble, one of the most challenging trails in all of New England.  It's steep.  It's narrow.  It twists and turns a lot.  There are giant boulders for obstacles.  And the snow was thin.  But, when it's in great shape and it's not crowded, it can be wonderful.  This trail takes you far enough from other trails that you feel like you are all alone at times.  When I'm on this trail solo in good conditions, I'm as happy as I ever am while skiing.  This time, though, having a brand new tune on my skis, I wasn't as happy.  The kids took off like rockets, while I tried to pick my way through the rocks and trees, keeping damage to my skis to a minimum.  The lower part of the trail was really fun and I managed to finally catch up.  The group was relieved to hear me say is was lunch time.  I was almost 1:30.

Normally, we take a fairly leisurely lunch.  It's not that I want to waste any time, but we ski fairly hard most of the time.  Taking some time to socialize, re-hydrate and get some calories makes a lot of sense, especially for 12 and 13 year old students.  But this time, we needed to eat quickly and get back outside.  We had two trails left to do, and they were both off the summit at Lincoln Peak.  I wanted to be heading up the mountain before 2:00, if possible.  We ate quickly and headed to the Super Bravo Express chair.

Normally, to get from Super Bravo to Heaven's Gate - the summit chair - we would meander through one or more fun tree runs on the way.  This time, we had no choice but to simply zip down Downspout and get to the chair as quickly as possible.

Ripcord is a long trail with lots of snowmaking.  Due to some weirdness in our weather this winter, this trail that is normally a long mogul field is more mixed right now.  Visibility was terrible - a complete whiteout due to fog, just like we'd seen on FIS.  That made this run challenging, at least for the first half or so.  After that, visibility improved and we were able to get to the bottom very quickly.  It was now 2:20, and barring any real setbacks, we were going to finish the Elite 8.

When Paradise - a natural snow trail - is in great shape, it might be my favorite trail at Sugarbush.  You enter the trail through a somewhat narrow gap that tends to generate strange bump lines.  Then, the top of the main run, often called the Ballfield, isn't steep, but is often full of rocks that want to trip you if you get caught going too fast.  Next, due to some rocks and trees, you dive through one of three narrow but short chutes.  Then, you encounter an odd double fall line for a while, with smatterings of trees in the trail as well.  After you clear this section, you get to a really nice bump line that is the beginning of Lower Paradise.  Then, another bump line that tends to have thin cover.  And, finally a boulder on the right with an ice and rock field on the left is the final challenge before completing the trail.  Conditions were thin, and I was a bit careful to not trash my skis.  At about 2:40, we hit the end of Paradise, and exited onto Lower Ripcord.  We'd done it.  If I had been less cautious, we might have done the whole thing 20 minutes faster.

We still had to ski down the mountain, including a little bit of expert terrain on Lower Ripcord.  We took our time and arrived at the place where the kids and parents reunite each day about five minutes early.  Every single one of the kids was excited about what we'd done, and instantly started telling their parents.  Two of my students, who are very intense and never want to take a break, were actually tired.

All in all, it was an adventure, a non-trivial goal, and a success.

Now, how do I top that day?  I've got three weekends of teaching left and I need to find something even more adventurous before our snow season comes to an end.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Three CrossFit Workouts and a Shoulder Update

CrossFit this week has been kind of funny.  On Monday, our strength work was heavy squats.  After skiing all weekend, and skiing pretty hard, I had low expectations.  And then, I had a really good workout, and I hit 315# for my back squat in my fifth working set.

Last fall, I did 365#, but I haven't squatted over 300# since then, so the ease with which the 315 moved was surprising.  I followed that up with a good metabolic workout.

Tuesday night, I started out OK.  Instead of squat snatches, I opted for power cleans to take it easy on my shoulder.  Those were done at a light weight with no problems at all.  After that, though, during our metabolic work, which involved 4x10 reps of 245# deadlifts, I was beat and disappointed.

Great workout on Monday after skiing hard all weekend.  Poor workout on Tuesday after a great workout on Monday.  And then Wednesday, I was really happy with my workout - a ladder of power cleans and pull-ups 1 power clean, 3 pull-ups, 2 and 6, 3 and 9, 4 and 12, 5 and 15 plus one more power clean in my 8 minutes.

I'd preceded that workout with 6x8 dumbbell bench presses at a moderate weight.

I saw the sports orthopedist for my wonky shoulder again yesterday.  One of the first things we looked at was an older x-ray that showed the acromion bone in the shoulder.  This bone can take on a variety of shapes from flat (known as type 1, to curved (type 2) to hooked (type 3).  Of people who end up having rotator cuff surgery at all, only about 5% have a type 1 acromion.   And over half of those who have surgery have a type 3.  Essentially, a type 3 acromion means you should either have it fixed by surgery where the bone is filed down, or you should never lift overhead.  Mine is between type 1 and type 2, so I should expect to be able to lift overhead.

Next, the doc performed some functional tests.  He did find one direction in which my left shoulder was not as strong as the right.  This led to some further tests and finally the ultrasound machine.  He was very happy to see that the bursa that had received the cortisone injection a month ago was no longer swollen and seemed happy.  He said that explained why my shoulder pain has been different that what it was before.  He also said it was probably due to the fact that I've stopped doing overhead lifts in the past few weeks.

But, he then needed to find out what was really going on, if the bursa was fine.  He looked first at the supraspinatus and it looked solid.  But, the infraspinatus tendon didn't look as good.  So, he now suspects that I somehow partially tore or frayed that tendon, and that tendon in turn inflamed the bursa.  He said he also saw minor arthritic changes in two joints, including the AC joint, but he does not believe those are related to my current issues.

The doctor indicated that the infraspinatus is a good candidate for a Platelet Rich Plasma (POR) treatment, but it's something to consider down the road.

So, here is his plan for me:

Stop all overhead lifts for a while, although pull-ups are OK - just no pressing.  Do lots of DB bench presses and push-ups in various formats.  Continue the rest of what I do to stay in shape.  Add some specific rehab exercises for the next 6 weeks.  Continue to work with the chiropractor on Active Release and Graston techniques to work on overall back and shoulder health.  This includes lots of foam rolling, stretching, and weekly treatments by the chiro.  Return to the doc is six weeks for a check-up.  If things are much better, continue on my own.  If not, continue and come back in six more weeks.  At that point, we would consider a PRP treatment for the shoulder.

Hopefully, within less than 12 weeks, I will have my shoulder back to nearly 100%, and we won't even be considering the expensive PRP treatment.  But, it worked well for a torn hamstring tendon for me, so it remains an option.

Oh yeah, I had to take a rest day yesterday and today.  I did sleep much better last night, although the shoulder is a bit sore from the injection today.