Tuesday, January 27, 2015

More tree skiing

Last week was off to a great start.  I had a great lifting night on Monday, hitting some good numbers on front squats after skiing trees all weekend.  On Tuesday, though, I really struggled with my workout.  By the time I got home that night, it was clear that I was getting sick.  I had a cold back in the second week of November.  I remember thinking that I was glad to have it then, thinking I'd go through the ski season without any head colds.  In mid-December, though, I got another cold.

Again, I thought that would be it for the winter.  I'm now on my third head cold of the fall/winter.  This time, my wife got sick as well, and she's pretty miserable right now.

So, I rested last Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday, I had plans that precluded going to the gym, and I was still less than 100%.  That meant I got to the mountain on Saturday fairly well rested.  Saturday was a beautiful day, with temps that climbed just above freezing.  After some warm-up runs, I did a little teaching, and we then headed for some intermediate tree runs.  The kids asked about skiing Slide Brook, a side-country zone with intermediate trees that leads well beyond the resort boundaries.  This zone requires a guide with wilderness first aid certification, and the guides were all busy on Saturday.  When I told my group that we couldn't ski Slide Brook, one of them asked if we could ski Rumble instead.

Every mountain has its own version of Rumble.  At Stowe, it would be Goat.  At Mad River Glen, it would be Paradise.  Essentially, picture something with all natural snow, no grooming, steep, tight, and with features to dance around the entire way down.  Every 1 of my 5 students wanted to ski Rumble.  I asked who had skied it before, and only 2 of the boys had.  So, we headed to the Castlerock chairlift.

After a fairly long wait, we managed to get up to the top.  I was surprised by the coverage on Rumble.  It wasn't completely clean, but it was pretty good overall.  The boys didn't listen very well as I described the trickier sections of the trail, so we had a couple minor "incidents" on a right-turning corner defined by 2 big rocks.  After we cleared that section, it was a race to the bottom.  Everyone cruised through the bump lines to the bottom.  We skied a few more tree lines in the afternoon, but Rumble was clearly the highlight of the day.

Sunday turned out to be a fairly cold day, and I was worried about hypothermia if we tried Slide Brook that day.  But, I was able to find a guide for us, plus my boss decided to come along for her first ever trip through the basin.  I was able to lead most of the way down (normally, I'm the sweeper in the trees, and leading is a lot more fun), and we went really fast at places.  The coverage was good enough that nothing too big was sticking through the snow, so we motored along.

Regretfully, when we were done, the line for the bus back to the resort was very long, and I think we waited almost 45 minutes.  This cut into our skiing time for the day, but I still showed the boys some new and adventurous terrain.

It's looking like #Snowmageddon2015 (that's the trending hash tag on Twitter for the past 24-plus hours) is going to mostly miss the Sugarbush.  I'm sure we will get some snow there, but anything beyond 6" or so would be a miracle.  The forecast doesn't show any days above freezing, so the snow should stay fairly soft until the weekend.  Regretfully, after 4 of the previous 6 weekend days being fairly cold, this Saturday looks to be the coldest ski day of the season to date.  But, we will still be out there.

My head cold is mostly gone by now, but not 100%.  I got to CrossFit last night and had another good front squat night.  My goal right now is to go to CF today, tomorrow and Thursday, and then rest on Friday.

On this date last year, I was 3 weeks post-op for some significant surgery.  I was starting to play around in the gym a bit, and I wasn't skiing yet.  So, when I complain about having a head cold, I know it's really minor compared to a year ago.  I'll take this January over last year every time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Into the trees!

I had a decent workout week last week.  I got to CrossFit 3 times, and I felt strong on my front squats on Tuesday.  Thursday's workout was tough, and I was ready for a rest day by Friday, knowing that snowfall through the week had changed the skiing conditions dramatically.

We had the green light on Saturday to start exploring tree lines.  I had 6 of my 7 students, and one of them got a late start to the season, so he's a bit behind the others.  Because of that, I focused on intermediate tree runs in the mid-mountain.  It was a brutally cold day, and I didn't want to force a group of 7 year old students to the summit anyway.  We had a lot of fun in the intermediate tress - Eden, Pump House Woods (not on any map), the Gallery (also not on any map), and Lower Domino Woods (not an official tree run, but its location is fairly obvious).  My biggest issue was having the boys stick to our safety protocols.

I am noticing one big difference between the older students I had the last few years and the students I have this year.  The older students simply tune out adults at times.  The 7 year old students seem to listen, but 30 seconds later, they can't recall a word that I've said.

We have a handful of rules in the trees.  Goggles on.  Pole straps off.  Everyone has a buddy.  Never abandon your buddy.  Everyone stays in sight of everyone else.

I'm happy with how most of these rules are being followed, but the last one is an issue.  When presented with a large glade, the boys just want to go.  They spread out quickly.  In a fairly open glade like Eden, I can stand at the top and see just about everyone.  But, in the Gallery, 2 of the boys pushed far, far to the right and used a different exit than the rest of us.  For a couple minutes, I had no idea where they were.  This might not sound like a big issue, but if someone gets stuck in a tree well or gets hurt, and I don't know where they are, this can be a major safety issue.  On a day as cold as Saturday or on very difficult terrain, the risks are amplified.  I spent a lot of time reinforcing the rules this weekend, but once people start moving, the rules seem to be forgotten.

Sunday, I had all 7 of my students for the first time this season.  It was also much warmer than Saturday, and I took that opportunity to spend most of the morning teaching some skills.  Just before lunch, we skied a popular tree line that ends in a creek bed shaped like a natural half pipe.  I found the snow a bit thin, but the boys blasted through it at high speed.

Because a lot of people wanted to beat an oncoming storm, and people wanted to watch the Patriots play Sunday night, a few students left at lunchtime.  As we headed out from lunch, I realized I had some of my strongest skiers remaining.  The boys asked if we could ski Egan's Woods.  My first thought was no, because I'd heard it was somewhat icy under the snow.  But, the temperature was above freezing, so I agreed.  We did skip the tree line above Egan's and used the standard entrance.  Things were a bit firm and thin, but it was a fun line.  On the next chair ride, the boys asked to ski the steep tree line known as Christmas Tree Woods.  They had skied the previous line so well that I agreed.  As we entered this line from The Mall, I reminded them to stay within sight of each other.  This is a line that gets wider and wider as you descend, and it's easy to get separated.

And, before we got halfway down, we were indeed separated, with 2 boys skiing near The Mall (the line I'd recommended) and 2 others skiing by Stein's Run.  At one point, I was helping one boy who had popped a ski off.  As I got him going again, I could hear the other pair yelling to me, but I couldn't understand what they were saying.  I basically yelled for them to head down and towards The Mall, but I wasn't sure if they could hear me.

Not wanting to take a chance, I pushed towards Stein's and found one of the boys stuck in a small pine tree.  I got him back together and had them start pushing back towards The Mall, but we couldn't catch the other 2.  Then, the same boy, who was clearly getting tired, got stuck again.  I asked him and his partner to abandon the tree line and ski to The Mall, but it took them a long time to pull that off.  Once I knew they were on the trail, I headed down to find the other 2.  They had followed protocol and I found them quickly.  But, it still took 10 more minutes for the other pair to clear snow from boots, put skis back on, and ski down.

So, we ended up separated for 20 minutes or so.  With teenagers, this would not make me uncomfortable.  But, with the younger boys, I was concerned for a bit.

The mountain has received another 17" of snow since Sunday.  We will clearly be in the trees again next weekend.  And, I'm going to have to say it over and over and over, but we need to all stay in sight of each other.  Safety always comes first, and for me to keep them safe, I have to know where they are.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cold weekend at Sugarbush

I was surprised at the turnout with my ski group this weekend.  Six of the 7 boys showed up, ready to ski, despite cold temperatures and high winds.  It was so cold that I really couldn't do any teaching outside.  I had to keep the kids moving all the time to keep them warm.

We had a couple inches of fresh snow and early skiing was a lot of fun.  Stein's Run had gotten a lot of man-made snow during the week and it was groomed on Friday night.  It looked like a lot of fun.  But, of the students who showed up, it was the first day of the season for one of the boys.  I watched him on some easier black diamond terrain (Waterfall, Lower Organgrinder) and it was clear he wasn't ready to go to Stein's.  I was afraid he would get up there, feel some fear, and his form would regress so badly that it would take weeks to recover.  So, we passed on Stein's.  We spent a lot of time in the NASTAR course, where I witnessed a few students completely unlearn all I've worked on for the past few weeks.  I've been so focused on getting these boys to turn by standing tall and rotating the skis under the body, and then in the race course, half the group reverted to turning by rolling their shoulders to initiate the turn.  That gave me something to work on Sunday morning.

Sunday's weather was a repeat of Saturday, and this time, I taught a lesson, but I did it indoors.  We then went outside and I gave a quick demo of what I wanted them to do.  I was very happy that they all got it, did it reasonably well, and they all wanted confirmation that they had done it correctly.  From there, we returned to the NASTAR course and everyone stayed more upright, facing down the fall line, and turned their legs under their bodies a bit better.  There was still some shoulder rolling, but not nearly as much as the day before.

At lunchtime, the student who was there for his first weekend went home early.  Snow guns were blowing snow on Stein's and we headed there right after lunch.  The snow was variable and challenging, but it was mostly the steepness combined with poor visibility that made the run difficult.  My tendency is to be the "sweep" for my group.  That way, if anyone takes a fall, I can ski down to help out, rather than having to hike uphill to help.  But, the group is so fast that I can normally ski pretty fast as the sweep.  On this run, I could see a bit of apprehension in a couple skiers, and I had to slow down to make sure I stayed in back.  Even though a couple boys slowed down, they did manage to maintain a good stance and didn't regress at all.

Finally, about 1:00 or so, the winds seemed to be dying down.  We managed to get two runs in a row off Super Bravo with no breaks to warm up - the first time we did that all weekend.  At 2:00, we took a hot chocolate break, and when we got back outside at 2:30 or so, the wind had really picked up again.  We skied two runs off Gatehouse and the wind was whipping groomed granular snow into the air.  At times, it felt like my face was being sandblasted.

Monday would have been the day to ski of the last 3.  It snowed all day and the winds were greatly reduced.  But, I was back in my office, trying to catch up with work.  I've taken off a lot of time over the past 2 months to help my wife with some medical issues, and I seem to never catch up at work.  Right now, it's time to focus on that for a while.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 off to a slow start, but it's for good reasons

I rested on New Year's Day.  I was going to do CrossFit on 1/2, but it was my birthday, and my wife talked me into a date at our favorite local taproom.  I taught skiing on the 3rd and 4th, and we skied hard, especially on the 4th.

And then things got weird.  My wife has been fighting a gynecological issue since just before Thanksgiving.  This past Monday, we finally had a visit with the specialist we wanted to see.  After a somewhat invasive examination, the doctor wanted to do surgery as quickly as possible.  She tried to do it that afternoon, but couldn't get a team and an OR as quickly as she wanted.  But, due to the urgency of the situation, she got my wife scheduled for the next day.  We were happy to have this scheduled so quickly, but obviously worried that the doctor considered it that critical.

After the appointment, I went to CrossFit and my wife went back to work for a while.  When my wife picked me up after CrossFit, she was not smiling at all.  It seemed that the exam had re-triggered her bleeding, which had already taken us to the ED twice before.  We were an hour from home and only 10 minutes from the hospital.  We talked things over.  We went and got dog food and talked some more.  My wife made one more stop, and came back to car saying we should go to the hospital now.

If we went home, and the bleeding really accelerated overnight, her options for local treatment were probably going to be limited, and very invasive.  Or, she might have ended up in an ambulance or helicopter, at risk for bleeding to death before we could get her somewhere.

We got to the ED of the hospital where she was scheduled for surgery.  We explained the situation.  We jumped to the top of the triage line and got a room immediately.  And then we waited a lot for the next 6 hours.  We saw people off and on, they were doing IVs and monitoring her blood levels.  Her surgeon was called.  We eventually talked to the nighttime OB/GYN staff, and they were ready to operate immediately if needed.  Luckily it didn't come to that.  My wife was finally admitted and I went home for a few hours of sleep.

The next morning, due to blood loss, they moved my wife up earlier in the OR schedule.  The goal was to try a minimal intervention technique, and hope that stopped the bleeding and resolved the issue.  But, if it didn't, they would proceed to a hysterectomy.  Due to my wife's blood loss, they prepped 8 units of blood for surgery.

Before noon, she was off to the OR, and my daughter and I were left waiting.  We had been told it would take 2 hours.  At 2.5 hours, I was really worried that they had needed to do the hysterectomy.  Finally, the anesthesiologist came and talked to us.  Everything had gone great, but they were holding her in the OR for just a little bit.  Her red blood counts were low and they needed to be sure the bleeding was under control before they gave up the OR and the instant access to blood.

Finally, she was released to PACU.  I got to see the surgeon at that point, and she was concerned about blood loss (her hematocrit was 20.0 - right on the edge of needing a transfusion).  I'm willing to bet that all of the training that my wife does, which keeps her in great shape, helped her to pull through without needing blood.

The next day, she was released and she is at home, recovering.  It will take a while to rebuild her blood supply, so she will be tired for a while.  But, for the first time since Thanksgiving, her mood was light and happy last night.  This has been an unpleasant process for her, including 3 visits to an ED along the way.  It's been expensive, on top of a lot of medical costs last year.  But, the problem was solved without a major invasive surgery, and in a couple weeks, she will probably be back in the gym.

Today, I'm at work while my wife rests.  I will get to the gym tonight - only my second CF class of the year on the 8th of the month.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 - One last look back, and some goals for 2015

In 2013, I had a total of 206 training/exercise days, and 154 of them were CrossFit days.  In 2014, despite losing a lot of time to prostate cancer surgery early in the year, those two numbers remained exactly the same.

I count a day as an exercise/training day if I run, bike, do CrossFit, lift weights, or go on a focused hike, rather than a meandering walk.  Often, my warm summer weekend days will be a mix of walking and jogging with my 2 Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

I would like to see my total exercise days be a bit higher.  In the past 5 years, I have gradually dropped from about 250 days per year to just over 200.  I think the progression has been something like 248, 227, 212, 206 and 206.  Part of the drop-off is simply that I no longer compete in running events, so I run less on the weekends.  I also fly fish about 40-50 days per year, and I never count those days as exercise, although I occasionally have long days with tough wading that are as challenging as any other training day.  It just seems to me that fishing can't be counted as exercise.

The prostate cancer really messed with some other bio-markers as well.  When I got my diagnosis, my weight was decreasing.  This was partially due to the fact that I was taking testosterone replacement therapy, but I was also training hard.  I had hit a peak lifetime weight of 242 in 2012.  By the fall of 2013, I had gotten down to 218.  My eventual goal is to see 200 or so again.  Given the amount of lifting I do, that would be a good place for me.

When I was diagnoses with prostate cancer, I had to stop the testosterone replacement.  I also lost a lot of training time before and after my surgery.  I finally felt like I was 100% again around April of last year.  By then, my weight had gone from 218 to 235.  I felt weak and out of shape.

In July of this year, with my weight still near 235 pounds, I was able to resume using testosterone.  In the six months since then, my weight has dropped to 225 pounds.  So, I'm not back to where I was before surgery, but I'm getting close.  As long as the cancer does not recur, I still think that getting to 200 pounds is a reasonable goal, but something that may take 1-2 years.

This past year, I did manage to put up a few decent numbers in the gym.  I got my bench press over 200 pounds for the first time ever.  By December, I'd gotten that lift to 210.  My Olympic lifts had been fairly stagnant due to a shoulder injury that plagued me for a lot of 2013.  This past year, the shoulder was much better after having been treated with platelet rich plasma.

In 2014, I set new personal records for the snatch (I only power snatch due to shoulder mobility issues), power clean, squat clean, split jerk, push jerk, and clean and jerk.  These were mostly lifts that improved because I got better at them, rather than being stronger.  My best pure strength lift of the past year was probably a 285 pound front squat.  My back squat and deadlift were fairly strong going into my surgery a year ago, and I simply have not recovered enough to get back to that level yet.  Hopefully this year will see me putting up good numbers on those lifts again.

So, here are some goals for this coming year.

Lose some weight, but slowly and safely.  Getting to 210-215 by the end of the year would be enough to make me happy.

Go to CrossFit at least 160 times.  Do at least 225 workout/training days.  Ski at least 45 days.

Get to 450 in the deadlift, 380 in the back squat, 300 in the front squat, 225 for the bench press, 145 for the power snatch, and get over 200 for any variation on the clean and jerk.

Fly fish about 50 days.

Add more hiking and running to what I do, even if it's short runs a couple times per week and perhaps a weekend hike with my wife.

And lastly, have fun.  All of these things remain fun for me, and as soon as they aren't fun, I'll find something else to keep me busy.

Last year was a tough one for our immediate family, with too many illnesses.  My son had some health issues, my father-in-law had surgery for melanoma, my wife had 2 surgeries for melanoma (and is still facing 4 weeks of radiation), and my wife likely needs another significant surgery very soon.  Plus I was dealing with prostate cancer.  Cancer seems to have become a recurring theme in our lives, and I'm hoping that will change this year.  So, while this isn't a goal, my biggest wish for this year is good health for all the people in my life.  I'm really, really tired of doctors, hospitals, and never-ending medical bills right now.