Dixville Loppet Non-Race Report

A rare open weekend on the winter calendar (or any calendar of mine) led to some actual halfway legitimate training! Well... legitimate by my standards. No powermeters or heart rate monitors were checked; no intervals were timed; no max heart rates were achieved. So I guess it was actually "unstructured overdistance" and the best Joe Friel would let me call it is "transition." Damn. And this post started out so promising, too.

Anyway. 7 hours of low intensity sounds like something a coach might prescribe to someone, at some point, so I'm gonna say it was exactly what I needed, at this point, and move on with it.

Saturday was an amazing snow ride in the Fells with Linnea,Kate and Sara. I've espoused the joy of snow riding enough here that I'll skip the introduction and cut straight to the Goldilocks -- the snow wasn't too hard, it wasn't too soft, it was juuuuust right. And just like Goldilocks, we were trespassing* -- since the Fells is closed to bike traffic from Dec 15 to April 15 -- but the three bears never showed up.

*Clearly the spirit of the winter cycling ban in the Fells is to prevent erosion and trail destruction from mountain bike use when the trails are wet. Riding on top of a foot of snow doesn't violate the spirit of the law nor cause any lasting effects. My conscience is clean.

If that ride wasn't so fun I would considered it the beginning of the 2009 training season, but I can pretend it didn't count (much like the Gunstock Winter Triathlon) and stay true to my February 23 start date for becoming a serious biking professional**.

Snow Log of Doom from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Sunday was attempt #1 (out of 1, probably) to ski the entirely fictitious Dixville Notch Loppet at the Balsams. I sent my dad the course map last week and we were inexplicably stoked to ski 50k while climbing several thousand feet.

Everyone knows the most important thing to do before a long ski is to put on some fresh wax, and more flouros are always better, so we rocked some pricey HF7 so we could set a respectable course record for the Loppet. Since the forecasted high was 22, and we were starting at 9 am, this made perfect sense. If you were an idiot. Which apparently we are.

There was half an inch of fresh snow on the trails when we started out in 10 degree weather. The overnight low was around zero degrees and it was cloudy, so who knows what the snow temp was, but it was far below the 18 degree minimum my wax was rated for. Going up the first hill my skis sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. It took over 45 minutes to reach the 5k mark, because we started with 1000 feet of elevation gain. I'm not really a hill junkie so this was hardly euphoria.

It was a brevet-like stupid adventure, and we stayed true to the brevet spirit by venturing onward in spite of the fact that there was no good reason to be doing this.

As the day "warmed" up to 15 or maybe even 18 degrees my skis never became even remotely fast, but after a while you get used to it and start to think "my god, this place has a lot of really steep hills." Which it does. And they are much steeper when your glide sucks.

The good-bad news is that the lap only ended up being a tad over 40k. I think you could still do a single-loop 50k at the Balsams, but you'd have to be totally extreme about it (we skipped the insane climbs over Peregrine and Abenaki, for one) and you'd probably have to cross Rt 26 (which would never work in a race). The good part of that news is that there were 4100 feet of climbing on the loop -- that's 100 feet per k for you math fans, and plenty of k's are downhill -- so it's basically the hardest 40k you can ski anywhere. I'm confident that this would be the toughest marathon in the NENSA series, and that's not just my terrible wax talking.

The stats:
~41k (the Garmin made some questionable calls on our path, so I don't trust it exactly)
~4000 feet of climbing

Max climb: 800 feet in 4.3k at the beginning.
900 feet in 5k at the 17-22k marks.

Max descent: 1160 feet in 9.6k from 7-16k
800 feet from 31-36k.

Throw in the climbs we skipped (Abenaki and Peregrine) and you've basically got the gap ride of nordic skiing. Which does have a sick sort of appeal, doesn't it? I might have to go back and do that. On a warmer day. With Cera F.

Despite my glide and elevation-related whining, it really was an epic loop, and unlike a brevet, I don't need months of recovery before I'd agree to doing it again. If this thing ever really turns into a race, it would be wicked.

**Yeah, right.