Saturday, December 29, 2012

MitoCanada PLPP Challenge - Okanagan

I was excited to see Jeff Krar's Facebook post saying he was going to x-c ski 100-km at Telemark trails in spirit as the rest of the MitoCanada gang were skiing at Peter Lougheed Prov. Park (PLPP).
Mito-Canada Skiers at PLPP - photo Bryon Howard
Being out in the O.K. already, I was inspired to join Jeff! We started at 7:30 a.m. just as it turned light in the morning.

Fresh snow was coming down and expected to fall most of the day. The early morning freshly groomed tracks already had snow in them. It was going to be a longer day and harder ski than the previous day's fast crisp trails Jeff mentioned he skied on.

Started with Fern Creek to Crystal Rim loop. Finished with Rabbit, Telemark and Panorama Ridge. 30k done.

At our first break, I grabbed my new Atomic Skintecs. My effort was now twice as it should be! I decided to turn back for my waxable skis.

The magnetic skin strip was dragging at the front a few mm. Too snowy to adjust the strip. My goof!

Next loop of classic got us to 68-km. Another break, and switch to skate gear.

Had warm turkey stock from my thermos, cacao coconut drink, bananas, egg salad... a few dates, Vega gel, and raw energy bars. Good fuel!

Jeff and I were happy with the new motion of skate-skiing. Soon, I was unhappy with the gritty slow glide on Fern Creek trail. Much happier as skis glided faster on Telemark loop.

We skied in the dark the last 19-km. It was surreal and beautiful with a red sunset glow on the horizon. Did a couple 5-km out & backs on Telemark with a last few km to top up the mileage.

My headlamp fizzled towards the end. I had faith following Jeff closely, dimly lit by the teeniest Petzl beam, to ski two loops on easier trails. One last look at the GPS, I exclaimed "100-km"!

Happy skiers Jeff & Marg - 100 km completed! photo Nancy Krar

Jeff was an awesome ski-mate and I appreciated his support to the end. It was cool to be part of the MitoCanada x-c group ski even though we were a couple mountain ranges apart.

Final stats: 100 km, 8 hr 44 min, 8134' elevation gain!

Gotta mention, in the 7-day period ending with this 100 km day, I put in 240 km of skiing! Awesome

Kool Raw Snowman under the Okanagan Christmas Tree

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Vert180 - skin learnings

Vert-180 - defn: number of times to skin up and ski down in a 3-hour period. Event held in the evening at local ski hill C.O.P in Calgary (Canada Olympic Park). 125 metre elevation gain each loop.

my long rookie play-by-play until I get my act dialed in

  • The climbing part of the Vert-180 course, relatively easy as it's my forte and I like climbing. 
  • Descending, better once the snow-making machines were redirected and visibility was more than 10 feet! Eventually, had a straight run down on the bumpy terrain. Needed to be wary of skiers swooshing down.
  • Transitions - got more efficient each loop even with quirks. Always cool to hear the music at the lower transition and see the crowd.
  • Boot pack section was unfortunately removed. It would have given a different dynamic with transition times - disruptive like barriers at a cyclocross race.
Biggest Challenge:
Dealing with a skin flopping off the ski and landing in a heap early into the event... was a test of perseverance to not give up on the equipment and figure out how to continue with non-adhering skins.

Over a week prior, I was anxious to test out my new setup after getting the bindings mounted at Gears Up in Canmore. I did a run up Sunshine ski-out and was amazed at the minimal effort to move with the gear. Certainly a change from the heavy rentals I used the prior weekend.

The skins I received were too long for my short ski. These already had tails which I wanted to keep as I doubted I would make another pair with tails. It was nerve-wracking to take a knife to the expensive skin material to shorten the skin and figure out how best to make the tip. I googled for others' input and brands with pre-made tips. Finally, I sliced and diced and re-created a new tip. 

I practiced ripping the skins off in the house, and putting them back on. Probably, better to do outside in the snow, as I might have gotten debris on them. The skins seemed sticky enough though definitely not grip-proof like the rentals.

Race evening temp was -10C with a weird warming trend over the next few hours, which was welcome as I got weary.

It was cool to see the National team members in their red/green skinsuits. I lined up behind them at the start. They took off fast. I managed a good pace knowing my heartrate would settle down soon enough. 
misty climb up - photo from
Transition to ski:
I chanted the mantra boots-binding-skins and thought about the next steps.

Boots - close the top buckle
Binding - flip the heel-lift back to allow my heel to lock in
Skins - shift forward, grab tab on tip, lift ski, rrrrip skin off

Well, the rip turned into a double-rip motion with a step-down in the middle to maintain balance. Not so good as I got moist snow-machine blown snow on the bottom. Folded the skins and tucked them into my jacket. Fumbled with the top strap from the pack in the way of my jacket zipper.

First descent with minimal visibility and not knowing exactly where to go, I followed two women swooshing across the whole course. I couldn't see past them to pass by. Though probably only seconds, funny to swoosh knowing it was a straight down descent.
Eventually, visibility was clearer to bomb straight down, with a hard right hand turn to stop at transition. Love those edges! so unlike x-c gear.
transition area - photo from
Chanting the mantra on the speedy bumpy descent:
   Boots - open the top buckle of the boot
   Binding - press front binding down to release boot;
              - flip heel-lift forward
   Skins - apply skins

Happy it was easy to step into the binding with the guide holes on the toe of the boot.

Eye-widening Experience:
Only an hour into the race (5th loop) after putting the skins on, I shuffled a few steps, slipped and noticed a skin was left behind me. At first, "DNF" flashed in my mind. "No, not so early in the event!" 

I picked up the lifeless skin and hastened to reapply. I made it part of the way up the hill and the skin went flying in front of me. Ahhh! I stepped to the side, chilled out, took lots of time and applied friction on the skin. I forgot about the technique Jeff Hughes (adventure race bud from 1998) mentioned about using the edge of the ski to brush the ice off the skin.

For the next 10 loops at transition, I spent extra minutes to insure the skins were going to stick by using friction to warm them up. Only bonus was I was super well rested before each climb. 

I kept catching up and passing a woman in a skinsuit. Each lap, I had to catch up and pass her again and again as her transition was flawless.

On climbs, I naturally push up and over a rise in a hill. I could sense there was someone close behind a few times and had National team members pass me. As they passed, I wasn't too far off their climbing pace (except for Reiner Thoni who blazed by!). It was ultra cool to see Melanie Bernier and Peter Knight climb by smoothly together one time. And, got to witness them pass by me quite a few times!

Steve Sellars (2nd place male, and 50+) thought I was purposely working not to let him pass on the climb. Nope, just my technique to push on! He eventually passed by stealthly. One night, I bumped into Steve practicing transitions when I was skate-skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Practice helps! He was speedy.

Food Access
Crazy, I didn't eat during the whole event. Managed a few gulps of water, here and there from my Camelbak. The yummy dates in a ziploc bag hung out in the lower access to my pack the whole event. 

I could have gotten to them in seconds though with the extra minutes warming up the skin, I was stubborn to not take the few seconds. Fortunately, with an evening event, I was plenty fueled before-hand.

Gotta work on attaching external pockets on the front pack straps for easy access to food.

Super happy I persevered. Better for me to learn about the skins now. Lots to work on with gear: using skins with no tails, having a backup pair in the pack, most definitely to rip the skins off without hitting the snow, and maybe reglueing this pair.

At the race, I laughed when I saw two women each take an end of a skin stuck onto itself, and rip it apart. I looked over and said I was envious of the grip!

I was thankful that the extra time spent warming up the skin worked and I was able to finish. Guesstimate with the lost time - for sure would have squeezed out 1 more lap. 2, not sure though would have tried!

GPS stats: 1904m elevation gain, 20.3 km distance, 
2 1/2 hours moving time!  which meant 30+ min transition
max 70 kph at some point! Mostly max at 50-60 kph

Thanks to the organizers for keeping this event going. Race numbers doubled and hopefully that trend will continue.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ski-mo AT gear Building

Ski-Mo SKIS!
The minimum race ski length for women is 150 cm. Most companies only make a race ski in 160 cm, the minimum race ski length for men (which usually come up to their shoulder height!)

Since I'm teeny, and squeamish on descending, the shorter the ski the better in my eyes at this time.

I was kindly set up with the Hagan X-Race 150 cm (skis and skins) from US distributor Mike Hagen at a nice deal. With the shorter ski, the weight was crazy at 635g per ski.

I wanted to go as light as possible, with a binding that has a manual locking toepiece, to leave unlocked descending for an easier release (need be!). For this reason, I chose the Dynafit TLT Superlite at 185g (actual 200+g). Beautiful looking binding, too!

Mike set me up with some beauty mohair Hagan skins. Still deciding to keep the tails on these ones, and set up a shorter pair without tails.

BOOTS - checked off my list last Dec with cute Dynafit Dy.n.a's. Not the lightest out there but pretty darn reasonable. Very sharp!

I'll be using my Swix Star CT1 carbon fibre x-c classic poles. A little long though adaptable. Nice & light.

Back to the comment "I'm teeny", so weight matters. I went with the lightest that I could find within race regulation.

CAMP Carbon Fibre Avalance Probe
CAMP Crest Shovel
Pieps Freeride transceiver

Picked up the CAMP Rapid 260 pack as it had all the bells and whistles on it for AT racing and is so crazy light. Comfy and negligible when I tested it on a Ha Ling hike/run in the snow.

Took the basic avalanche rescue course offered by U of C Outdoor Centre this past weekend Dec 8.
Simulated an avalanche situation. Full force action to dig

Checking our snow pit
During the practice situations at the avalanche course, I could see how the Crest shovel would not be sufficient for rescue in a "real" avalanche. The CF probe seemed do-able. Would also use the suggested standard of a 3-antenna transceiver.

Discussing snow build-up and how best to travel
(though every guy was eyeing that snowy pitch at the top!)
When we practiced searching with the transceivers, I used the Ortovox D3 given to me to use in the course, as well as tested my Freeride. I found that the Freeride started tracking 10 metres after the Ortovox. So, it functioned well, just not as strong with the one antenna vs three for the Ortovox.

Checking out the snow layers. A practice not utilized much anymore

Back to the gear, and usage:

My worst fear of going into my first Eco-Challenge (--- photos)  
back in 1999 (--- story) with many of the disciplines of events new to me (mountaineering, whitewater paddling, horseback riding, rappelling - no biking!), was I didn't want to be profiled like the racers on TV that didn't know what the heck they were doing. So, I took the time to learn.

So for AT, uphill, no problem. Transitions, definitely need practice. Now, to get out and learn how to descend proficiently!!

For the avi course, I rented the Manaslus skis, women's version in 160cm.
Pretty awesome ski and binding setup for when I go into the real backcountry
Thanks to lots of feedback and heckling of rookie gear questions to National Ski-Mo racer Peter Knight, and the input from Mr Al Black, or was it Bo(!).

Saturday, November 03, 2012

X-C season starts!

We had ski-able snow in the city before Halloween this year.

Tim, Marg & Marcus make the excursion out to the Hinton Nordic Centre. Early season Nov 3!
Bruce in Hinton saddling up while I await on my pony. Took opportunity to ride after helping feed the horsies that night on a local ranch Bruce helps out at.
Drove to Hinton via Jasper-Banff highway.
Most Outstanding Scenery, way better than summertime
Road was challenging to drive in spots after the prior days snowfall

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Deer Creek Death Ride - the Personal Gran Fondo

photo from Deer Creek Death Ride website
On one of my first rides in the Thousand Oaks area a couple weeks ago, I was lucky to bump into local racer/coach Mr Bill (William Ralph). Bill informed me about the Deer Creek Death ride.

I had planned to make the long drive north to home already, though this ride was very luring.

A local rider and a few friends did a 100 mile ride annually at the end of the season. The ride now includes anyone that wants to take on all or part of the century ride. This guy kindly supplies water/food support driven by his friends in a convertible.

Entry fee - FREE! Though, donations willingly accepted for the feed with excess going to charity.

Not just any 100 miles... this one included alot of the cream of crop canyon climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains! Elevation gain would be 12,000 feet.

Cyclists gathering at a brisk 7 a.m. at Wins Wheel's Bike Shop in Agoura Hills
Despite the long ride ahead of us, the pace still went out hard up the first climb up Decker Road. Soon enough, we had the wicked long descent to the ocean on Encinal.

First catch up stop at the bottom of Encinal Canyon on Hwy 101 by the ocean
Actual Deer Creek Canyon climb is at a wicked 15% grade for many km - views outstanding!
The feed-zone convertible with a Halloween black spider on back
After a couple stops to regroup, a few of us decided to stick together and ride continuously. I ended up with Bill and his buddy Dusty Armstrong (ex-BMX pro). It was a blast to ride with them especially descending as I had confidence in their lines around the twisty canyon roads.

Dusty & Marg following Bill's lines down the famous Rock Store road. A photographer takes pics of the motorcyclists and squeeze a few in of the cyclists 
I've purchased a photograph from Rock Store Pics in the past when I was in the leathers.

Dusty, Bill and I heading up Mulholland with 40 miles left
Losing Dusty to a broken chain with 20 miles to go, Bill & I continue on passing by another roadside photographer.

Les started the ride as well. Missing out the last short loop, he made it to the finish just ahead of me. Perfect timing for our carpooling.

162 km, 6 hr 40 min, 12100 feet elevation gain
Wicked last ride of the season!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gibralter Climb in Santa Barbara

My second attempt at the Gibralter Climb, an epic road ride out of Santa Barbara. First attempt in 2009 crushed on-route with a mechanical.

bike path along the coast

Took a look at the map and decided to ride coastal east for some mileage, then head inland to make my way up E Mountain Dr to get to the epic climb up Gibralter Rd.

Heading inland towards E Mountain Dr, I was wowed by the height of the Eucalyptus trees... at least twice as high as the power lines

E Mountain Dr is an epic ride itself

Statue in front of a house on-route
The climb up Gibralter goes on and on
Upon reaching the peak of the mountain, the road followed a ridge-line and could see to the south down to Santa Barbara, and to the north the Los Padres mountains.

Los Padres mountains to the north
Santa Barbara & ocean views to the south. Cool bird!
Took the Euro type road called Painted Caves down to the coast. Pretty epic road and on the must-do list to climb back up
It was calm while I was up on the mountain.
Once I was close to shore, I was surprised to see huge whitecaps on the water and palm trees blowing.
Yay, it was a strong tailwind back to the start
My footprints to the water with the view
of the mountain ridge I was just on

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cali Hikes & Runs

Spent alot of my California time in the Thousand Oaks area, west of L.A. and with the Santa Monica mountains within reach.

Les & I squeezing in a run before nightfall up trailhead for Mt Boney
Barely made it back to the car before complete darkness. Fall-time darkness sneaks up quick and it's pitch black in these canyons. 
Always carry a headlamp! 

Views of the Santa Monica mountains from the peak of a run I went on with Les from his workplace in Newbury Park. 
An escape from suburbia just like that!
At the same peak, the views to the southwest shows the flatlands to the ocean waters


First time hike up Bernardo Summit in San Diego County when I was staying in Escondido. Easy access to park to get to the trailhead, then a quick couple km and 500' elevation gain.

I discovered the Bernardo Summit Trail on my MTB ride around Lake Hodges. Saw the sign and had to find out where it lead to... an awesome ride-able rocky technical trail to the peak!

Enjoying the sunset views from the peak of Bernardo Summit, after an earlier road ride through those same hills

The views to the west where the ocean lingers only 30 km away

Looking to bump into my hiking partner on my way down. 
I thought it was Paul hoo-ing at me!

Cali MTB ventures

Malibu Canyon with great tour guides... Shaun from the Wed Calabasas group ride, transplanted Calgarian Allan St. Pierre, and Pat Dodge who was visiting from Calgary
The most exciting part of the trail was reaching Castrol Peak where there was a short steep climb with sticky rock Moab-like, with an equal rocky descent on the other side... fun though short
Met up with local Mario Correa from my Transalp racing days... He took me on some great elevation single track climbing in Trabuco Canyon in Orange County
Hoping to catch Mario blazing fast out of the Holy Jim Trail and caught him with a second flat. I lent him my 26" tube which fit well for the rest of the ride in his 29" wheel!
Didn't know you could.
Tough to capture the amazing views when I was chasing Mario at his high speeds
The valley in Trabuco Canyon 5000' below where we started from
One of my favourite MTB rides in Elfin Forest is the technical Way-Up climb up Mt Israel. At the top is a fun super rocky loop that takes about 20 minutes. I ride it both directions then come bombing down the Way-Up trail.

I finally found a way to link this ride to the trails around Lake Hodges on the new paved road Via Ambiente!
down 15% past the lower reservoir
Darn water reservoir always had me trapped from getting to the trail head. Now Via Ambiente goes past a new ritzy Mexican style villa and connects Del Dios Hwy to the Elfin Forest road

the lovely 15% screaming fast grade to Del Dios