Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breaking trail

The other day, while I was musing about starting to train for the Susitna 100 and/or the White Mountains 100 (i.e., my winter bike race season), a friend asked me if I planned to start doing intervals. I avoided the question, unwilling to admit that I was still planning on training for real races that involved bikes by doing whatever I felt like doing, which recently hasn't involved nearly as much cycling as my previous winter bike race seasons, and even less in the way of something resembling an interval. "There must be a way," I thought, "to incorporate strenuous, lung-busting workouts, like the kind you get when you sit on a bike trainer and pedal really hard for three minutes and more slowly for one, into an winter outdoor activity that is actually fun."

I think I found it.

Snowshoeing. Now stay with me here. You take a layer of bottomless fluff and spread it over a slope that varies from 30 to 60 degrees. Then you try to climb it, for two and a half hours. The result has all of the upper-body thrusting of swimming, the lactic-acid-generating leg work of speed-interval cycling, and the raw power of running. My heart still hurts.

I tried for the top of Mount Jumbo today, stupidly thinking that if I gave myself an extra hour than what it usually takes me during the summer months, maybe I'd make it to the top. I didn't even come close. Trekking poles may have helped, but not much. I worked close to my maximum capacity for much of those two and a half hours, weaving up the steep slopes and swimming straight up hill when the trees closed in, stopping frequently to catch breaths, then hitting the max again. I made it about two-thirds of the way up to mountain, to about 2,500 feet, before I absolutely had to turn around to make my work meeting. It ended up taking me about 55 minutes to descend what had taken me two and a half hours to climb (and would have been less had it not been for the icy exposed roots below 800 feet.) My summer split between climbing and descending this mountain is almost exactly 50-50, and the hike rarely takes me more than three hours total.

Weather permitting, I am strongly considering going back to this same mountain tomorrow to take advantage of that nice trail I broke, and aim for the top.