Monthly Archives: April 2013

Working Out with Baby

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Jonathan and M ascending.

After we had Baby M we were committed to keeping in shape. So committed, in fact, that we did our first race five weeks later, followed by a full cross country ski season with pretty decent results. After the race season we took a couple weeks off and started to think about next year. Unfortunately, even with the generous babysitting by our friend Jessica, we can’t count on the same schedule we have in past years, so we’ve been making do.

This week we’ve been working out with baby. While doing our hour-long weights and plyo sessions can happen during naps, babies don’t always nap as planned. Because the very nature of weightlifting in pairs involves one person waiting for the bench, we devised a perfectly acceptable alternative; one lifts, the other entertains. It’s much more exciting to rest between sets with a smiling baby. Less so with a fussy baby, but you get what you get.

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The resort is closed, so we (meaning Jonathan) had to break trail.

Since not all workouts can be weight workouts we were looking for a bit of cardio. Baby is too little at this point to hook to our bikes (and I’m not sure how I feel about that one right now anyway), so we took her for a ski. Alta is now closed during the week, so touring within the ski boundaries provides us with low-angle cat track to ascend and descend.  We needed to be able to manage avalanche danger, as in we wanted to eliminate it. The route we chose and all terrain that overhangs it is safe and we know it well, so it’s easy to pick a route to the top and back without having to worry. That said, once the resort is closed it isn’t maintained, so route finding is very important.

Proud papa at the turn around.

Proud papa at the turn around.

Jonathan took Chariot duties on the way up. I pushed a little on the steeper stuff, but he lugged M and the trailer most of the way to the summit. For the first time in the history of our ski touring I was the one to blister first, so we called it good about 500 or so feet from the top. There was a nice flat spot where we could switch gear, and it so happened that it was time for M to eat. After all, it’s good to keep a baby on her schedule! I engaged in a little extreme breastfeeding at 9500 ft. She was oblivious to the majesty of her surroundings; all she cared about was that she was warm and getting her afternoon tea.

The feed. Milli gets hers while I eat a Feedzone Portable snack.

The feed. Milli gets hers while I eat a Feedzone Portable snack.

After she pasted my ski pants with spit-up (par for the course) we packed her up and tightened her three-point harness for the rough ride down.

Even though we chose all greens for our up and down tracks, that sled can get going fast. Last time we skied I had her up on one ski, so I decided to be a little more ginger with her since she just ate.

Jonathan grabbed the back and we descended ski-patrol style. The sun-warmed snow was sticky; we had to pole out of a few places, but it was a beautiful day. Mom and Dad got in nearly two hours of outside time and Baby M got a wild ride.

A day for dark glasses.

A day for dark glasses.

 

 

 

 

Why We Made Up a Cycling Team

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When I quit racing in 2001 I had a drawer full of usable cycling clothes, a few nice bikes and no desire whatsoever to ride them.  After a few years of happy hours, hockey, and a small but visible spare tire (on each of us), Jonathan and I decided we should ride our bikes again.  We mapped out some rides on the roads near Columbia, MD and rolled out for some very difficult first rides.

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My first team, the Miami Flyers (Miami University). These guys taught me to ride in my small ring in the spring and rotate in a paceline. We didn’t have Strava, power meters or even after market shoe covers.

Along the way we encountered plenty of folks on bikes, some who even waved.  But even the friendly ones made it difficult to ride with them.  Half-wheeling, always going kind of hard, never rolling over the tops of hills, and worst of all, “showing us how it’s done”.  We went on a group ride one day and one guy commented on our supple little-ring spin, but most of them just took us for “racers” and tried to “show us how it’s done”.

It was about then we made two decisions: one good, one crazy.  Our nice crisp cycling kit had become tattered and dry-rotted.  The grip cuffs on the shorts lost their grip and the backsides became, well, kind of like a warranty pair of yoga pants.  The local clubs had already shown they were of the new school; wattage over form and flow.  We simply didn’t want to join a club to buy new clothes. Bike shop clothes are plain and cost a lot at full retail.

We decided to design and order our own clothing from Champion System.  After filling our minimum jersey order we got to have everything we ever wanted but were never issued by a team; thermal jackets, tights, vests etc.  And life was good.

The crazy decision was committing ourselves to the Wilderness 101 mountain bike race outside State College PA.  We planned it a year in advance, so we had a little carrot out there to force us on the bikes in otherwise bad riding conditions.  After you shell out an entry fee for one of those you train just to survive it.

Jonathan and I wearing our own clothing featuring Independent Fabrication. Picking and choosing good riding buddies in the hills of SLC.

Jonathan and I wearing our own clothing featuring Independent Fabrication. Picking and choosing good riding buddies in the hills of SLC.

Fast forward a few years and we found ourselves in Salt Lake City.  With the number of bikes around we thought we’d died and gone to Boulder 10 years ago. Sadly we soon found out that with its bike-friendly attitude, SLC was enabling a horrible bunch of the worst recreational road cycling has to offer.  And I am not exaggerating.  Floored by the politeness of the automobiles as we were, we were equally horrified by the other cyclists. It wasn’t just that they were too rude to wave; the majority of these ass hats run every stop sign and barely slow down for red lights.  They ride three and four abreast up popular canyon routes. They are always in the big ring pedaling huge squares going fast-ish. They are quickly adding to the ever-present public relations struggle of road cycling.

The most telling event was a single group ride that we were invited to attend with a friend.  This ride was a memorial for a fallen rider; one who became a victim of an automobile on the roads of Salt Lake.  We didn’t know the rider, but it was nice to see how many people showed up to honor him.  And that’s where the nice stopped short.  Upon leaving the parking lot this bunch of folks who knew the victim proceeded to run the first red light they hit.  Yup, did I mention this was a memorial ride for someone who succumbed to a vehicle vs. bike accident?

Time for new clothing - including a team jersey for Baby M.

Time for new clothing – including a team jersey for Baby M and maternity-sized shorts for me.

Worse yet, I was almost rear-ended as I stopped for the light by another cyclist in the group who was annoyed.  Really? Really. Annoyed that I stopped for a red light.

And the motorists in SLC are conditioned to give away their right of way to cyclists; a situation that is at best unpredictable and at worst, well, causes eventual backlash.

So that’s it.  We made up our own team again.  This time based on our ski team. Because it is bad enough that we get lumped in with other cyclists by people in cars.  I never want to be lumped in with the local teams and clubs here in Salt Lake. I realize not every member of every club is out making a bad name for cyclists.  I have, however, seen at least one cyclist in every jersey in town blatantly breaking traffic laws and otherwise acting like a dick in ways that do not reflect how a respectable cyclist should act.  I would venture a guess that most of the offenders are at best Cat 3’s in the local race series. They probably started riding a little in college or maybe after college. Many of them probably got into bikes during the great growth of mountain bikes in the 90’s

Finally fitting into the new clothes post baby. Still riding for our own team, joiners allowed by unanimous vote only.

Finally fitting into the new clothes post baby. Still riding for our own team, joiners allowed by unanimous vote only.

and then realized they needed something to do on weekdays and all the snow seasons (it sometimes isn’t possible to ride the high trails until July).  Some of them are triathletes.  No comment.

The problem is, when you wear a jersey with the name of a team or business on it, you are representing that team or business. Period. Even if they don’t give you a damned thing except a discount on a jersey. The court of public opinion is watching you run lights and act like you own the place.

So FYI local cyclists; that huge gap you just got on me on your training ride was probably because I stopped for the stop sign.  And don’t worry – the jersey that you don’t recognize won’t be giving you a problem at the local races. We’re done racing bikes. We’re just out for a respectable bike ride of some kind, be it intervals or a Zone 1 day. But I guess I can’t expect you to know what Zone 1 feels like because I’m pretty sure you hit that while you were filling up your bottles, resetting your power meter, booting Strava on your iPhone, filling your pockets with gels to throw on the ground at the base of Emigration Canyon, getting ready to ride pseudo-tempo downhill on Wasatch in your big ring in February.

Stuff I Like (And Paid For*)

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Once again I’m reviewing Stuff I Like (And Paid For*) *not always retail.  My Salomon Equipe 10 Soft Ground Skate Skis are my favorite in the quiver.  Full disclosure – I am a member of the “Salomon Athlete Force” and received a discount. But I did buy them. Here’s the scoop.

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The Salomon Equipe 10 Skate – Soft Ground. Designed for use where I live!

I’m relatively new to the sport of Nordic skiing, but coming from a place where I know good equipment when I see it. Or ski it.  These skis are specially designed for use on “soft ground”. Translation: newly fallen snow that has been groomed recently and not rained on.  The construction is different from its “compact ground” counterpart because it is built with softer sidewalls and a more flexible tip that resists “plowing in” to soft, new snow.  It is also one of the (if not the) lightest skis on the market, which may only be a few grams, but it makes a difference over 25 or 50km of skating.  The idea was to eliminate unnecessary stiffness in situations where it simply isn’t necessary and come up with a ski that excels in soft snow.

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Skis well on hard, soft, snowshoed, dog walked, just about any ground.

So how does it do?  The first time I skied them last year I loved them. (If you know me, you know that’s a HUGE deal).  I felt like they stayed in contact with the ground more, and in theory that is faster.  The tips float over and brush aside loose snow rather than diving into it, which is also faster.  An unintended bonus I discovered was their excellent performance on multi-use trails that have huge divots from feet and snowshoes.  The soft tip rides over the rough track and keeps them in contact with the ground rather than reacting harshly like a stiffer ski.  I equate it to lowering the tire pressure in a mountain bike or cyclocross tire on rough terrain for better traction; in this case it means better glide.

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The SG in action at the 2012 Boulder Mountain Tour.

Since the Intermountain West is almost always full of soft snow, I skied them often.  They became my “go to” ski in almost every condition, and if I was waxing a few days ahead of traveling and I didn’t want to spend a ton on wax, I would just assume I was skiing these.  After a year I was finally presented with an opportunity to test them against the stiffer ski when I headed to Soldier Hollow in extremely cold temps to race on hard, man-made snow that had been groomed multiple times and closely resembled an ice rink.  I tested the Soft and the Compact on a set distance with the same wax. In the end I chose the Soft because it was just as fast, and I love how it handles in anything that is imperfect. Let’s face it, most courses are not perfect.

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They even work well when powering along with a passenger.

Most people who skate ski recreationally only own one pair of skis. In most cases the Soft Ground ski would be seen as a “specialty” ski; you’d only own it if you had a large quiver.  I can’t speak for all areas of the country, but for the West, where snow tends to be more abundant and very soft, I would recommend this ski as a fantastic “only” ski.  It handles hard conditions very well, rides over defects in the trail most likely found outside the confines of a race setting, and is priced the same as the competing high-end ski from just about every manafacturer.  If I could only have one weapon in my quiver, this one would be it. I’ve been told by many a ski coach to always ski the softest ski you can handle in a given set of conditions.  I haven’t found conditions in the Intermountain West where I couldn’t handle this ski, and I keep going back to it every week.

If you live in the Salt Lake area you can get your Salomon Soft Ground ski AND expert fit advice here:  http://www.wildrosesports.com/

If not, visit Salomon’s site to find a great dealer near you: http://www.salomon.com/us/activity/nordic-skiing.html

Happy Trails!