Before I tell you about High Anxiety and Psychopath, I want to preface the story by telling you this off-season’s work has improved my cycling. More about that later.
(Click on the photo to elarge the view.)
Those of you familiar with Breckenridge ski resort know some of the classic trail names such as High Anxiety and Psychopath. It’s been years since I’ve skied at Breckenridge, but I couldn’t pass up the new snow and a $25 lift ticket. Three of us headed for the hills and took advantage of the opportunity yesterday.
I took the newly rebuilt Garmin 800 on the trip and I could actually see trail names on the map (above), which I wasn’t able to do with theold Garmin firmware. You can see the complete Garmin Connect file for the day here.
The snow was great, but (and?) some of the most challenging conditions I’ve skied in a long time. The top t-bar and upper lift runs were windblown thick snow on top of new snow that’s been preserved for a week. (The resort’s official closing was last weekend. They decided to reopen for Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend.) Snow on the upper mountain was really deep with a roughly four-inch layer of wind-packed snow on the top. The top runs off of the t-bar had moonscape snow waves that were wind-hardened. Moonscape was actually a bit easier to ski than the deep powder with the packed top layer. I took a digger in the powder with packed top and when I tried to retrieve a ski I would sink to my crotch. That’s a report on the tough stuff.
We did find some lighter new snow lower on the mountain, some good wind-blown light powder and some great snow on the groomers. None of the snow was classic Colorado champagne powder, but the five feet (yes, that is FEET) of snow we've received in April is much appreciated for the water situation.
I’m certainly not the first one to find that winters sports such as skiing, skating, working on strength and doing balance skill building in the off-season helps cycling. Olympian Eric Heiden was among the first notable athletes to use this kind of crosstraining. Dave Wiens is legendary for winning the prestigious Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race and using skiing and hockey as winter training. My interview with Dave can be found here.
Though I haven’t done much mountain biking this spring, what I have found so far is that my balance is better, I have good power output on some of the short climbs and my weaker right turn ability has seen significant improvement.
Not only has more skiing been great fun this winter, I believe it will contribute to a strong cycling season.
Have any of you changed your winter training and seen some positive indicators?
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and triathlon plans are found here.
I decided to sign up for the Breck 68 this year. I wasn’t originally planning on doing this one and had planned on doing the Front Range 40 in the Fort; but that one was postponed to the fall due to the fires we’ve had.
Since I’ve done the Leadville 100 multiple times, one of the first questions people ask is, “How does it (Breck 68) compare to Leadville?” If you want some measureable sort of stats, Breck 68 (really 70 miles) has an altitude gain of 8514 feet or 121.6 feet per mile of racing. Leadville 100 (really 103 miles) has an altitude gain of 11,142 feet or 103.2 feet per mile of racing. So, mile-for-mile, Breck has more climbing.
Know that elevation gains are based on barometric pressure readings, so others may have slightly different amounts of elevation gains for the events. The measures previously mentioned were for Leadville 2011 and Breck 68 in 2012.
Leadville has nearly zero singletrack and is mostly fire, forest service or jeep roads. Breck is loaded with singletrack. While Leadville does require a certain minimum of mountain bike skills to safely navigate the course and not hold other riders up, those with limited mountain bike skills would be very unhappy at Breck. Breck has tree-lined singletrack; rough, rocky climbs and descents; stream crossings, narrow trails that are open and have exposed mountain slopes to one side; steep, loose climbs; steep and rocky descents; smooth singletrack that winds through the forest; riding in an old mining flume drainage and on top of another one - plus more. Breck has the sort of stuff that makes mountain bike riders smile and giggle uncontrollably – that is when they aren’t suffering.
There are any number of websites that attempt to quantify difficulty of courses by heart rate, power, suffer scores, etc. What none of them can easily quantify is the beating a body takes from navigating rocky, technical courses. My triceps were screaming for mercy on the last technical downhill.
In the simplest of words, the Breckenridge 68 course is more difficult than the Leadville 100 course and most certainly the Breckenridge 100 course is more difficult than the Leadville 100 course.
As I told someone yesterday, mountain bike courses are a matter of taste and preference – not a matter of “good” and “bad.” It’s similar to differing tastes in food. I love hot Mexican food and my friend doesn’t like it at all. It doesn’t mean either of us are good or bad, heroic or wimpy – just different preferences.
I enjoy both races and would not hesitate to either of them again.
I rang the bell and rode extra fast past the fireing range...
Mine shaft turned toilet at the Como general store.
Historic roundhouse at Como. From the informational board, "Hard-working D, SP&P locomotives could be serviced in either Denver or Como. Built in 1881 by Italian stonemasons, the Como Roundhouse originally housed six engine bays where engines could be locall be rebuilt and an iron turntable where engines could be turned around."
A view of Breckenridge ski area from Boreas Pass Road
The first time I was introduced to this type of exercise, it was to rehabilitate a sprained ankle. One purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the tendons and ligaments in the ankle. That’s just the beginning.
You can also use these exercises to build strength in the ankles to help prevent serious ankle sprains. Sure, at one time or another you’ll rollan ankle, but having strong tendons and ligaments might keep an otherwise minor sprain from being a bigger problem. You can also build some strength in all of the stabilizing muscles in the lower leg.
In addition to strength, you need balance. As a runner you do land on each foot and that foot is expected to hold your body weight and keep you balanced until the other foot takes over. As a skier, particularly a Nordic skier, you must commit your body weight to a foot and glide on that foot (ski) for more than the brief moment. In fact in contrast to skiers, the fastest runners want to spend the least amount of time touching the ground. The fastest skiers get the most glide from each ski placement which requires a sort of strength and balance endurance. It doesn't matter whether you walk, run or ski, these exercises can help you.
(A view from Shock Hill at Breckenridge Nordic Center 12-30-11)
Boiled down, you stand on one foot. Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? I’ve never met anyone that could “easily” (never tapping the airborne foot down to secure balance) do these exercises the first time. Below are four variations of standing on one foot to build strength and balance. Start with the first one and progress as you gain skill.
Looking forward, stand on one foot and count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. Switch feet. Repeat five to 10 times. The non-weight-bearing foot can be anywhere – begin with it close to the ground. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
Looking forward, stand on one foot and count to five. Remain on that foot, look over your right shoulder and count to five. Remaining on that foot, look over your left shoulder and count to five. (The weight-bearing foot gets a count of 15 total before resting.) Switch feet. Repeat each foot five to 10 times.
Do progression number 2 with your eyes closed.Tougher than you thought, eh?
While standing on one foot, raise your knee until your femur is parallel to the ground. Count to five. Repeat five to 10 times. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
If you’re following one of my training plans, you can easily add one of the exercises below into your strength training session, starting as early as the Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase. If your plan doesn’t call for strength training, do the exercise before you do a cycling or running session.
Doing just one variation of these exercises one to three times per week can make a difference. If you do it, let me know how it goes and the changes you notice. (You can comment on my Facebook link, but not yet on Active due to hackers.)
PS…I’m guessing you will need to try this right now, just to prove I’m wrong and that you are special and can easily balance on one leg with your eyes closed and move your head and airborne leg anywhere you please. You won't prove me wrong.
Going though some boxes in the basement, I ran across a Breckenridge trail map from the 78-79 season. Find the rates scanned in the first image. (You may have to click on the image to make it more readable.) The mountain map is below the rate and skiier information. Notice there were only two mountains to ski some 30 years ago.
Compare the image above to what is available to skiiers now. Below is an image from the Breckenridge website.