Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January Jaunt, The Real Story

All, right, the NewsMinus, tried. I really do appreciate that they print the results and do a write up for almost any race here, but their typical boilerplate can be pretty weak.

Meanwhile, the ski club has been doing a nice job this year, but it looks like they might be too busy to write something more than the few sentences that they have.

Here's the Newsminer's print-up:

Pitney, Coleman outdistance ski foes
Staff Report
Published January 21, 2008

West Valley High School senior Crystal Pitney and University of Alaska Fairbanks student William Coleman led the way in Sunday’s Chest Medicine Fairbanks Distance Series Nordic ski race Sunday at the Birch Hill Recreation Area.

Coleman topped a field of 39 men in the 20-kilometer classic technique January Jaunt, finishing almost 2 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. He posted a winning time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 36 seconds.

Mike Kramer and David Arvey waged a battle for second place with Kramer earning the runner-up spot in 1:11:34.8, while Arvey finished in 1:11:51.0. On Saturday, Arvey edged Kramer by .1 seconds in a 10K interval start race that was part of the Flint Hills Town Race Series at Birch Hill.

Rounding out the top five finishers in the men’s class on Sunday were Roger Sayre in 1:12:09.9 and Kent Slaughter in 1:17:24.9.

Pitney ran away from the field in the women’s 20K event, posting a winning time of 1:22:57.3 that would have placed her 12th overall.

Christine Matson took second in 1:29:19.9, Erica Blake (1:32:21.6), Brandy Berkbigler (1:35:06.4) and Tina Devine (1:38:57.1).

Bruce Miller won the men’s 10K race in 37:14.2 and Karin Gillis was the women’s winner in 39:06.1.

And here is what the ski club had, followed by the results list:

Will Coleman and Crystal Pitney asserted their youth in winning the men's and women's 20Km distance respectively in the 10th Annual Chest Medicine Fairbanks Distance Race Series Race #2, the January Jaunt, presented by Raven Cross Country.
Story posted later - I hope.

Here's my byline

Temperatures crept into the uncharacteristic above-freezing zone on Sunday, allowing 59 skiers to bask in the warmth and perfect snow for the annual January Jaunt 10 and 20k classic technique races on Sunday at Birch Hill. The tracks were firm, in spite of the 10 inches of fresh snow that fell earlier in the week.

Will Coleman, a sophomore at UAF, had a breakthrough race to easily win the 20k in 1:09:36. Coleman and local endurance athlete Mike Kramer established an early lead on the challenging course that winds through world class Birch Hill trails system. The two completed the first 10k loop in just under 35 minutes, about 30 seconds ahead of yesterday's Town Series winner Dave Arvey.

Coleman, who has trained in the shadows of his international caliber teammates at UAF, and a before that top junior-level skiers Lathrop High School, broke away from Kramer and never looked back to win by 2 minutes with nearly even 10k splits. Arvey, who beat Kramer by 0.1 seconds on Saturday, mounted a serious challenge at 17k, pulling to within 10 seconds of second place. However, Kramer managed to fend off Arvey through the rolling hills of Moilanen's Meadow to and finished in 1:11:35, with Arvey holding onto third in 1:11:51. Master's skier Roger Sayre skied the 2nd fastest second loop of the day (36:00) and completed the course in 1:12:10. Kent Slaughter, another master's skier, skied a to a steady and strong 5th place in 1:17:24.

The women's race was dominated by high school running phenom, Crystal Pitney, who won in 1:22:57, which was 12 overall comfortably ahead of the next woman, masters skier Christine Madsen who raced to a 1:29:19. Junior (under 20) racer Erika Blake took third in 1:32:21, and she was followed by former UAF racer Brandy Berkbigler in 1:35:07 and masters skier Tina Devine in 1:38:57.

Former UAF All Americans and Olympic Trials Qualifiers Bruce Miller (37:14) and Karin Gillis, both masters skiers, easily won their respective divisions in the 10k.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Moose Mountain Madness: Anaerobic Mahem at -19

So what if I'm obviously crazy, an 8k snowshoe race at -18...eeefuck, that was hard!

They cancelled the ski race because it was -24 at the ski trials so I had no choice, other than to sit at home eating bon bons.

About 20 people showed near the summit of Moose Mountain, adjacent to a local ski area of the same name. On the summit area it was clear and windless, and did I say cold?

The course was about 40% snowmobile trail (lots of climbing in the first half) and 60% rolling single track through birch forest. Local snowshoe stalwart Chad Carroll quickly established the pace and dominance over the first mile and pulled away steadily after that. So I had a good fight for 2nd/3rd with an up and coming high school runner. He probably could have beaten me, but old age and treachery prevailed. I just kept going thinking that he'd blow by but he dropped back after about 5-6 k. It was a tough course and nearly impossible to push hard because of all the layers of clothing and gear (snowshoes, wool socks, running shoes, chemical footwarmers, neoprene boot covers, windbriefs, polypro long underwear, arctic tights, lycra short tights over those; on top it was polypro t-neck, wind vest, another polypro, lycra ski top, and a vest; and over me head I had uber thin earmuffs, polypro balaclava, wool cap, and lots of dermatone on my face; and I wore new fangled mitts with more chemical handwarmers). The layers helped because the only thing that felt cold was my nose over the first mile. No frostbite no foul.

A friend from the desert asked what it's like to run in snowshoes. At times it's like running in a dream--the bad way--where you're going through all the motions but not getting anywhere very fast. Not unlike running on sand dunes at the beach. The shoes themselves weigh about 1 or 1.1 kg together. The biggest challenge was running in all that other gear. The layers of tights were very constricting and I could have gone with one less layer on my legs.

The snowmobile part was hard packed well enough to run on with normal shoes, and it was about 1.5 to 2 meters wide. The woods trail was barely more than a half-meter (2 feet at most), and was rough and uneven the entire way. Much of it was canted with the slope, which made maneuvering very difficult. And it zig zagged up and down the contours and around trees and over stumps. Fun stuff!

We had about 15" (40 cm) of snow on the ground. So this sport does involve a need for you to place your feet precisely. Downhills are the most fun and you can really open up if you're not too gassed from the other parts.

The single track section was exceptionally tricky as well. It was a series of relentless ups an downs winding along at a bit of a southward lilt. You couldn't get any momentum because you'd stumble in soft snow as soon as you got going. Moreover, any attempt at picking it up a brought swift foray into oxygen debt.

Three more races in the series and maybe I'll get a free pair of snowshoes.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

15 to 50

15 to 50, no easy task to sum up 35 years in 600 words.

As a 15 year old in 1973, my life was spinning along in an eerily parallel path to the then and now very famous Cameron Crowe, who at my age wrote for Rolling Stone and later penned the hit movie Almost Famous. But even if I was so gifted a writer as Crowe, my story would be more like Almost Stupid. It probably still is.

I muddled through junior high with barely passing grades, more interested in rock & roll than math theorems or classic Greek mythology. Thing is, although I aspired to be a rock musician, I couldn’t play a lick. After two years of playing the bass, and recently a proud owner of a Fender Precision, I hadn’t advanced much beyond what you’d expect for a couple months of effort. Music and the stage would not be my path. So on a dime almost I reinvented my life and transformed from Freak (freaks used be cool) to geek.

I endured high school at Iowa City West, hating most of it (although West was actually a decent school), catching up from those impulsive years of early adolescence. Nevertheless, graduating and getting accepted into Grinnell College, one of the top schools in the Midwest, during the same week was sweet. At college I opened up and lightened up a bit, and took on the challenge of being a student athlete. I had run track in 7th and 10th grades, and played basketball in 8th, all without distinction but decided to give small college track a try. Found out the hard way that I got better (or perhaps did less worse) the longer the distance.

By college graduation in 1980, it became apparent that I would need a career in something besides running or skiing. I liked biology and working outdoors the most, so opted for wildlife biology. Although that career took me a lot further than my failed stint as a bassist, I never joined quite joined the band, in spite of 20 years of hard work. I did internships in Minnesota, where I assisted on wolf research, and Colorado, got my master’s at Colorado State—working with elk, while spending as much time as possible skiing in the mountains. Meanwhile I got married and took professional positions in Nevada and upstate New York.

In 1992 I went for a Ph.D. in North Dakota, where my research was to sit up on a hill, with a spotting scope and fancy radio-telemetry equipment, to observe how bighorns react to oil trucks and oil field activity. Although uplifting and empowering, that endeavor broke our bank account. By late 1996 we had one son out of the crib, another on the way, and a huge student loan to pay. That was all good because I did finish the degree. The downside was finding jobs, which this time around were at much higher stakes than before. I skipped around with post-doc positions in Minnesota (five months), Massachusetts (one year) and Colorado (three years) before taking a job as a natural resources planner. No more first hand science and field work, but no more grant writing, publishing, and soft money either. I haven’t looked back much.

So here I am, turning 50 next month, finally in a stable, decent position where my rank has caught up with those years of over-education. Frightened of being almost stupid I guess.

I love Fairbanks, in spite of the long dark winters, summers oft blighted by forest fires or insect plagues. Now, after 31 years of training, I’ve logged in about lifetime 55,000 miles, and if you add in another 15-16,000 miles of cross country skiing, that’d be almost enough to circle this shrinking globe three times.

The three best things that have happened in my life are getting married and keeping it going for 20 years; having kids; and moving to Alaska. I still can’t play any musical instrument worth a damn and remain barely above stupid much of the time, but I enjoy my career and this lifestyle, especially the running and skiing where I remain competitive with the very best athletes (in my age group) in the US. This time and the years ahead are and will be the best of my life.