Friday, December 30, 2011


Build should be completed tomorrow followed by an immediate shakedown ride.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Christmas Day Tradition

As a kid, I looked forward to Christmas day for lots of reasons. Of course opening presents was at the top of the list, but Christmas day also meant staying in my pajamas a little later, eating too many fresh cinnamon rolls, and driving my Lionel train around the Christmas tree.

As a married adult with no children, I still look forward to Christmas day but we have adopted our own traditions. A recently adopted tradition is to enjoy a Christmas Day snow bike ride with good friends and our loyal four-legged companions. This year our friends Brandon, Sarah, and their pup Siena joined us for a midday snow bike ride in Horseshoe Canyon. Santa was good to us this year and delivered fresh grooming followed by single-digit overnight temps that firmed up the trail nicely. As you would expect, we had the trails to ourselves and enjoyed the exercise, the company, and simply being outside on a crisp bluebird day.

Wishing you a FAT Holiday Season.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Training while sick - The "gray" area

Michelle came down with a cold last week but fought it off very quickly by getting quality rest right when she felt the cold coming on. I thought I had dodged the bullet but I woke up yesterday with a sore throat and felt "blah". I woke up today with more of the same but now I also have head congestion. I don't feel horrible but I am definitely not 100%. For me, this has always been a "gray" area in regards to training.

When you feel a cold coming on, do you:

A) Exercise anyway and if/when you feel horrible, then take a break
B) Do something mellow like riding the rollers for 30' or walking outside
C) Stop exercising altogether in an effort to shorten the duration of the illness

On one hand, I don't have an "A" race until May this year so I can probably afford a couple of days off. On the other hand, I hate the thought of losing fitness when I have put some quality work in during the month of December.

The Mayo Clinic website offers this typical recommendation for training while sick:

"Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a garden-variety cold and no fever. Exercise may even help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion.

As a general guide for exercise and illness, consider this:

  • Exercise is usually OK if your signs and symptoms are all "above the neck" — symptoms you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat. Consider reducing the intensity and length of your workout, though, or you may feel worse. Instead of going for a run, take a walk, for example.
  • Don't exercise if your signs and symptoms are "below the neck" — such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach.
  • Don't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches"
- Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

In contrast, reading Joe Friel's Blog make me cringe at missing even a single workout and fuels my paranoia:

"When there is a break in training for a few days fitness is lost and you have to step back in training and begin over again. Many athletes experience this once or twice each season and as a result never realize their full potential."

- Joe Friel

I am not known for my patience and even during the "off season" I struggle with missing workouts. Part of it is simply that I like to train. However, in the back of my mind is this lingering fear that a week off the bike will override every bit of training that I have ever done in my life.

I know, it is ridiculous.

Late Edit: The rest of the "Missed Workouts" article from Joe Friel's Blog can be found here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My First Nordic Race

December 10th Targhee Tune-Up Nordic Race Report

It all started with an email on Thursday from my friend and summertime mountain bike rival, Mark Llinares:

(Read out loud with your best British accent for effect)


Targhee Tune up Nordic race is on Saturday, its 10K of suffering. I have an idea. You do that and I will do the Togwotee Winter classic- on a bike.


I have been bugging Marco to rent a Fat Bike and do the TWC for two years. Now he was offering to try it if I skied a measly 10K. What choice did I have? Did it matter that I hadn’t been on skate skis yet this year? Or that my skate skis were hanging in the garage with a coat of storage wax from last winter and needed some proper attention? Or that the Targhee Nordic track starts at 8,500’ and is almost never flat, meaning that it punishes those with poor technique?

It’s only 10K. I can do anything for 10K…famous last words.

Melissa, Anna, and Katie pre-race

Friday morning I scraped the storage wax off and applied a fresh coat of Toko S3 Red. No fancy wax for me. Friday afternoon I headed out to Teton Canyon for a short skate to see if I still remembered how these things work. Teton Canyon is mostly flat and straight so it can give you the false impression that you actually know how to skate ski. I left Teton Canyon Friday afternoon with supreme confidence that I could survive 10K at Targhee.

Saturday was a gorgeous bluebird day and the temps were mild. A small crowd of hardcore Nordic racers were milling about the lower parking lot and working their way up to the start area above the resort. There are two very rude hills to climb just to get to the start area and I was questioning my sanity on the second hill only 12 minutes into my skate. Yikes! In hindsight, I should have ridden my Fat Bike to the start line with my skis on my back.

I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of my 54 minute suffer-fest...and I did suffer. What little technique I had deteriorated quickly as I blew myself up on each hill. Poor technique means wasted energy which leads to a higher heart rate which leads to even worst's a vicious cycle. Near the end of my second lap I was duck waddling up a steep off-camber pitch when I heard a voice yelling “Stop. Stop. Stop.” It was Mark Llinares. Mark had already finished and was skating his “cool down” when he saw me in my most pathetic state. Mark skied over and immediately jumped into instructor mode. His simple tip of committing to the outside ski made such a difference and we worked on this for the remainder of my lap. This simple lesson was well worth the entry fee.

Thankfully, I am at point in my life where I am not embarrassed to be at the tail end of a race. I was in fact dead last. Despite being last, I had a great time and learned something so it was a huge success. I have a month to practice before the Spud Chase at Teton Springs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

FAT Double Header

The highly anticipated “La Nina” winter has been a no-show as of December 18, 2011. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. We got just the right amount of snow in late November followed by cold temps and the snow biking is goooood. On a side note, the NWS recently published an interesting read titled “Where is La Nina”?

It was a bit chilly Sunday morning along the Teton River

Saturday at Grand Targhee
A flurry of emails circulated on Friday and the planets aligned for an informal snow bike gathering of epic proportions Saturday morning at Grand Targhee. There were 18 snow bikers enjoying the great conditions on the Targhee Nordic track. We had everything from casual riders to small groups of hammer-heads trying to drill each other into the snow as if it were the Tuesday Night World Championships. It was awesome to see so many snow bikes out on the trails Saturday and everyone was smiling.

Sunday Teton Valley Combo Ride
I wanted to ride for about five hours on Sunday but I also wanted to ride with Jordie, Lis, and M. No problem. I simply started my ride at 8 am and rode for almost three hours before meeting them at the end of Horseshoe Canyon where we began our “planned” ride of the Horseshoe snowmobile trails to Packsaddle and back. The trails have not been groomed yet this season but the snowmobile traffic has packed them down nicely and the riding was great. It was slow and techie in spots but 100% rideable. We are experiencing an inversion in Teton Valley right now so temps were 9F when I left my house, much colder along the Teton River, and then warmed up into the high teens as I climbed up to Horseshoe.

Michelle riding the Targhee Nordic trails

Brandon and Sarah climbing towards Rick's Basin

Sunday's Combo Ride Route

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Training For A Frozen Epic

Cross-Post from Blog

The season of Fat Bike racing is upon us and many folks are eagerly preparing for one of the winter ultra events such as the Arrowhead 135, the Susitna 100, or the “Big One”, The Iditarod Invitational. Training for a Frozen Epic is much different than training for the typical 100-mile endurance mountain bike race because there are far more variables involved. Your success will depend on your ability to deal with changing conditions while out on the trail. This article assumes that you have the necessary fitness to pedal your bike the required race distance and will focus on the less-obvious aspects of preparing to race your bike 100+ miles on the snow.

If you played high school football, you probably heard your coach say “practice like you play.” In other words, how do you expect to perform at 100% during the game if you lollygag your way through practice? Adopting the same philosophy while training for your frozen epic will prepare you for anything the race may throw at you. Let’s talk about three aspects of preparation unique to racing frozen epics; riding a loaded bike, pushing your bike in soft snow, and dealing with extreme cold.

Riding a Loaded Bike

In all three races mentioned above, racers will carry overnight gear, emergency clothing, possibly a stove, and extra calories for the duration of the race. A loaded fat bike will weigh 15 to 25 lbs more than that same bike in “everyday” mode. Obviously a 50+ lb. fat bike is going to handle much differently than a 30 lb. fat bike, and it’s important to get used to this before race day.

I personally prefer more weight on the front of my bike

The cockpit can get crowded quickly when loading a fat bike

In addition to simply getting used to the overall weight, training on your loaded fat bike will teach you how to distribute your load and whether you prefer more weight on the front or the rear of the bike. Here are a few things to consider when organizing your gear:

  • Does your seat bag or rear rack allow you to get on and off the bike easily in soft snow?
  • If you strap your sleeping system to your bars, do you still have room for your pogies, lights, and any other gadget you need?
  • Will your load stay in place during a high speed descent on a bumpy trail or a crash?
  • Can you access the most important items easily?

Ride your fat bike “fully loaded” as much as possible before your race, and tweak your packing system each time as you figure out your preferences.

Pushing Your Bike in Soft Snow

In a perfect world, snow bike races would take place on firm, groomed trails in 10F sunshine with no wind. The reality is conditions are different every time you head out on your fat bike, and often times they are not favorable for riding. Pushing your bike at some point during a frozen epic is almost a given. Being forced off the bike to push may be the result of wind, fresh snow, warming temps, a steep hill, or sugary snow that has been churned up by a herd of snowmobilers. Regardless, if you are mentally and physically prepared to push your bike, you will be at an advantage.

Head out immediately after a fresh snow to get some quality pushing practice

Here are a few suggestions for preparing to push, and for pushing your bike, during the race:

  • Dedicate some pre-race training time to pushing your loaded bike and think about a few things such as:
  1. How is your posture? Can you maintain that posture for a long time?
  2. How are your feet? Will pushing for a long time result in blisters?
  3. Does any part of your clothing or boots rub on your bike or gear?
  4. What modifications can you make to your bike that would make pushing more efficient?
  • Push with a purpose by taking long and efficient strides. The pushing is part of the race too so use it to your advantage. I am guilty of shuffling along with my head down and moving too slowly at times.
  • Use the time pushing to catch up on hydration and calories.
  • Never stop moving forward.

Dealing with Extreme Cold

Racers are likely to experience extreme cold at any of the winter ultra events. To keep things simple, let’s define extreme cold as 0 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temps, typical tasks become a little more challenging. Experienced winter ultra racers will watch the weather for an arctic cold snap the way skiers watch for snow in the forecast. Nothing can prepare you for the extreme cold like being out in it.

By cutting a hole for my mouth, I can easily eat and drink while the Fog eVader funnels my breath away from my glasses.

Here are some basic yet important things to consider when preparing to race in extreme cold:

  • Will you race with insulated water bottles or a hydration pack? If your hydration hose freezes, what will you do? Have you practiced thawing the hose out while on the bike? Consider using a combination of both systems so you have a backup option.
  • If your balaclava or facemask totally covers your face, how will you eat and drink?
  • Will your glasses fog up and then freeze? Can you race with goggles instead of glasses?
  • Do your clothing layers breathe? At -20F, trapped sweat can freeze on your base layers and form an icy layer against your skin.
  • Are you prepared to change a flat at -20F…at night? There is nothing fun about this task but flats do happen and often at the worst possible time. Consider carrying your pump on your body instead of in your frame bag so the pump seals are warm and work effectively. Add baby powder to your tires to reduce friction between the tire and tube. Lastly, check your valve stem’s lock ring and make sure it is snug but not overly tight.
  • Choose your food wisely. For example, Original Clif Bars are delicious at room temperature but when frozen they are like chewing at hockey puck. In contrast, dark chocolate covered almonds are delicious and edible regardless of temperature.
Fitness is only part of the equation when racing a frozen epic. Load up your fat bike, pray for a cold snap, and get out there and practice!