Have A Very Bizzaro Christmas Part 1

Up here in the North Country we expect snow. Some people love the snow because you can grab some cross country skis, or snow shoes, or crampons or a fat bike and get outside. Some, have a season long hatred of the white stuff. But the one thing we all agree upon is that snow on Christmas is absolutely perfect. In the movies there is always the tension of will there be a “White Christmas”? Somehow it always manages to snow Christmas Eve or on Christmas day to deliver the perfect Christmas atmosphere.

Life is rarely like the movies however. We had a really nice snow storm 10 days ago that dumped about a foot of snow. People were out skiing and snow shoeing or complaining about the winter in full force. Then the forecast approached Christmas. Above freezing, then rain entered the picture, then it was going to get a lot above freezing with rain. But it was going to cool down on Christmas and snow.

We made it through the warm and the rain and got to Christmas Eve still with enough snow in the yard to call it “white”. It was a wounded white. You know the kind that looks like it has been melting. The brown dingy kind of white. But it was white.

We went to bed Christmas Eve and it started to get windy. Warm is hard on snow, but warm and windy is death for snow. The wind blows away the evaporated moisture and accelerates the melting process.

And so we woke up Christmas morning to a brown landscape. All the snow melted…………

Breaking News……..

I would like to thank you all for coming to another press conference about, well me!

The purpose of this press conference is to discuss my plans for racing in 2015. I would like to announce that I have officially signed once again to be a rider on the Team Fatty Racing Team. After months on negotiations my agent has finally come to terms with Elden “Fatty” Nelson. While the negotiations have been contentious and difficult at times we have reached terms. In addition to riding for Team Fatty, I have been named Team Leader and GC rider. I would like to open the floor for questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Um. Surely someone has a question?

Are you serious, he signed YOU again?

Yetti? Are you really the only one at the press conference again? Aren’t you just the name for the voice in my head that taunts me while I am riding?

Open your eyes Man! Yes I am the only one here again. Maybe you want to try holding a press conference when people are actually awake. By the way your should close the door to your office. It’s embarrassing to be be taunting you and having people just think you are talking to yourself.

What’s your question Yetti?

HE signed YOU again?

Yes.

Seriously?

Yes.

After your 2014?

Hey I won a race.

Yeah. Well lets go back over that one. As I recall, even your “friends” had problems with that race

I stand by the victory.

And after that. You crashed yourself out of contention BEFORE a race. Impressive.

Umm…..

You are very monosyllabolic today.

Umm…..is that a real word?

And while you finished your last race you needed help.

Don’t go there. I get a pass on that one.

Fair enough. What proof do you have of this?

Here. Let me bring a graphic up on the screen.

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That’s a picture of a book cover. What does it prove.

Oh sorry. Here.

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Umm. I am speechless.

Thank You. Yes Amazing I know.

You call that a contract?

What, it’s signed.

I am not sure that is a legal contract.

I do believe this would be held up in court. It has my name and his signature.

OMG.

Did you just text me orally?

Yes.

Do you have a question or not?

I am still digesting this.

Do you have a question or not?

It says you got a “big raise”. How much will you be paid for racing in 2015?

Well as you all know. Fatty paid me $5 for my services in 2014. This contract is for $29.95.

$29.95?

Yup.

Wait, wasn’t that the cost of the book plus the donation in order to get it signed?

So?

You PAID HIM to get this contract.

Umm……

So you paid him to get this contract.

Well. In a manner of speaking.

That means it cost you money to be racing on his team.

The money went to a good cause. World Bicycle Relief.

That’s not the way a professional contract is supposed to go. Do you realize that with this contract you will be loosing $34.95 when compared to last year.

Crap.

Great agent you have there bud.

Yeah.

You were your own agent weren’t you?

Yeah.

Don’t you have a PhD in rocket science?

Yeah.

Well did he provide you with a kit at least?

Yes!

How much did that cost you?

Umm…..

How much?

I would rather not say.

You do realize that on a professional team, they pay you. And even on locally sponsored racing teams, they provide the kits. It’s advertising for them.

Umm….

Wow.

OK. Any more questions? No. Thanks for coming. I am stoked for 2015.

A Sense of Panic: Part 1

Maybe you are like me. I tend to be more serious about my biking and training when I have a Sense of Panic.

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(Here I was clearly panicked a couple of months before Leadville. Actually I was because my knee was behaving poorly.)

Leadville is a good example. I watched “Race Across the Sky”. What I saw was skinny fit grown men crying and puking. When I got into the race those were very real images for me. I was a heavier than I wanted to be, and while I was “fit” I wasn’t Fit. Those images gave me a sense of Panic. Those images gave me Focus.

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(Game face ON.)

Luging gives me that sense of focus. There is nothing quite like sitting at the start handles on a track of ice (with walls), on a small sled with steel runners to really get me to think only of the moment. Only what is right in front of you is important. Two corners down the track is a lifetime away. But sliding doesn’t require serious training. (Well for me anyway, for the pro’s yeah they train a lot.) It’s hard to carry that into my regular daily training.

When I don’t have that Sense of Panic, well my Focus wanders. I would rather grab my iPad and read while I bike on my stationary bike than put on a Sufferfest and grind it out. The reading gives a more immediate reward than some unnamed “thing” I am freaked out about. Right now I don’t have a Sense of Panic and so I am not pushing myself on my training. I can tell.

So it’s time to change. No, I don’t have something stupid and dangerous to put on my biking calendar right now to give me that Sense of Panic. I think its time to concentrate on developing some Focus without Panic.

Picture of the Day

friday practice start

“One thing at a time”

You learn a lot about your neighbors when…..

…..You sit quietly in the woods next to their house. Let me explain.

One of the reasons why I love the fall is because I hunt. When I was in grad school in Michigan I started to hunt. Since I don’t like to do things the “easy” way, I started bow hunting. Bow hunting just seamed to fit me. It’s quieter. It’s somehow more “in tune” than hunting with a gun, which has always felt more like going to war than going out to take part in the natural world to me. And for some reason, I shoot a bow much much better than I shoot a gun. I’ve never minded it was harder. I have never minded when I didn’t get a deer with my bow that I could have gotten with a gun.

One of the expected unexpected consequences of being on sabbatical this fall was that I missed most of the hunting season in NY. Lot’s of my friends asked if I was taking my bow with me to Michigan. But living in on campus housing made that choice a clear no. (Also traveling through Canada to get to Michigan would have been much much more complicated.)

I got home at the very tail end of the hunting season in NY. It’s not usually a great time to be out in the woods. The human warriors have made the living things in the woods very nervous. Being immersed in natural tension is way more tense. So I was on the fence about going hunting this year. But there were two things that pushed me into going out. Bailey asked for a very specific birthday dinner that requires venison. Well you cannot disappoint your first born! Truthfully it is one of my favorite dishes too. The other thing was I really wanted to spend a little time alone in the woods. It’s not all bad to just sit in the woods and not see anything. So I figured it was a win either way.

OK. So what does this have to do with me neighbor? My favorite hunting spot is across the creek in my neighbors woods.  It’s a perfect little spot because it is on a travel way that necks down into a narrow area. Usually you see deer and because of the topography there is a good chance they will come close.

Yesterday afternoon I sat out in my spot. We had about 8 inches of snow. It was a perfect evening to be out sitting in the woods. About an hour after I got into place I heard my neighbor and his son. I learned that they are very loud. Very VERY loud. And when you are hoping that the local wild population, which has been chased by humans for about 6 weeks, will feel a little bit OK to be out and about this is not a good thing.

But here is the thing. All the noise they were making? Well they were playing. Enjoying the snow and each other. It made me smile. I didn’t mind.

Neither did the deer. I saw a bunch. They never passed by my area in the funnel. And really, I didn’t mind.

 

 

When is 0.7 seconds an eternity?

When this blog started one of my very first posts, actually it was the second, was about a fun little project we had started at work. The project was to help the US Luge Association develop newer faster sleds. That project started out because of my son who got into the sport. He then got me into the sport. Which then lead to the fun project at work. I have written about the luge athletes I know and who are incredibly dedicated. Authors note: This is still comical to me since I started this blog with the intent to talk about my participation in a 100 mile mtb bike race and actually started out talking about luge.

My friends and family often ask what is happening with the luge project. Well here take a gander at this first. Friday and Saturday the best luge athletes in the world came to Lake Placid for a World Cup race. It was a spectacular weekend.

Tucker West went to the Olympics last year. At 18 he was the youngest slider the US had ever entered into the Olympics. Let’s just say that was a “learning experience”. On Friday Tucker took first place in the World Cup luge race. He finished over 0.7 seconds ahead of the second place slider. Let me put that gap in perspective.

Luge is timed to the 1/1000th (that’s 0.001) of a second. Races are not typically that close (though I have been involved in races where the winners were tied on total time) but they can be pretty darn close. A 0.7 s margin is a good old fashioned whipping. It’s about as dominating a win as you can get in luge. Here a little more perspective. Tuckers margin to the 2nd place slider was bigger than the margin between 2nd place and 10th place (meaning the 10th place slider was closer to 2nd place than 2nd place was to first place). Hey World. Can. Whip Ass. Open. Enjoy.

Chris Mazdzer (who also went to the Olympics last year) finished 4th. I know he is dissapointed with that finish. He fought the track on both of his runs. But he was strong and held himself together for a very respectable finish. Chris was 0.02s out of 3rd place. That’s a pretty small margin. Small enough that Chris was thinking about the places where he “messed up” his runs and lost just little little chunks of time.

Aiden Kelly (the final American male slider in the Olympics last winter) finished with a personal best World Cup finish of 7th place.

So what’s the tie in to the lead in to this post? This fall is the first time that the USLA athletes were sliding on equipment that my team and I at Clarkson helped to develop. All three of those men were on equipment that my team at Clarkson had a hand in designing. Pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself.

Right now you are probably thinking “Wow you guys must have really done an awesome job!”

First, thanks. I cannot disagree with that. I am incredibly proud of the stuff we designed. My team spent a lot of time figuring out HOW to design what we designed. That was incredibly difficult, but has lead us to be able to make designing things easy from here on out. My team here has done a fantastic job.

And now you are probably wondering “How much of a difference did that super incredible equipment make?”

Truthfully that’s really hard to say and to me is in some ways not real important. I have always taken the approach that they athletes are the focus of our work. They are firstly responsible for their times and their abilities. If I was sliding on one of those sleds I would probably be a little faster. But well lets face it, THAT equipment would be so much better than THIS slider that it wouldn’t make all that much difference. I would be faster, but I doubt I would all of a sudden be the leader of the A division in my luge club. Certainly Tucker Chris and Aiden would have nothing to fear from me.

Our task has always been to give the athletes the best possible equipment we can so that we can enable them to compete at the top of the sport. They didn’t have that equipment before, but because of a real team effort that includes people at USLA, other industrial sponsors and Clarkson they are starting to. Hopefully the results will continue to show that.

Picture of the Day

golden sunrise

“Golden Sunrise”

November Thaw

Those of us who live in the northern regions experienced what we “affectionately” called the “Winter That Never Ended” last year. By early December we were already well below zero for lows and never got above freezing in Potsdam. By the time early March rolled around we were all looking at our wood piles, wondering if we would make it till it thawed. By the time the weather broke we had only a couple of dry pieces of wood left and were mixing in some wood that was green just to get through. But we are Northerners and up here “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

This year we approached winter with smiles on our faces (and bigger stockpiles of wood). But then it started earlier this year. It started in November.

I figured the comfortable riding had closed out well before I got home. Then the weekend of Thanksgiving we had a break in the weather. Forecast for Sunday a balmy 50F and dry. It was definitely time to get the mountain bike out and see what the trails held.

My first choice for location were some fun flowy trails one town over: “Lenny’s Loop” in Colton (built by my local mtb club). I picked those trails because they travel through more pines than hardwoods and would have fewer leaves on them. When I got to the parking lot it was clear that there were hunters in the woods. Those trails are on county land and it’s hunting season. Being a mtb’er and a hunter I appreciate that it’s not fun to have a quiet day in the woods disturbed. I also appreciate that I get to ride those trails most of the year. And so I pulled back out of the parking area and headed to my backup, the Clarkson Trails. My home single track.

The trails were in surprisingly good shape. We usually take a leaf blower to them in the fall after the leaves have come down so we can extend our season and so that when the snow finally melts we don’t have to contend with wet slippery leaves (just mud). They were really wet since the permafrost had started to melt on the top surface but the leaves had been blown off the first half of the track. The rest of the trail had leaves on it but people had been riding and so the trail was easy to follow.

I was a little bit under tired for the ride. I had my Maxxis Ikons, which as we all know do NOT shed mud. The ride was more a mental exercise than physical one. Keeping good lines, keeping the speed right, braking when the traction was good. My time was not close to a record. But the ride was fun.

It’s nice to be home.

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