Cross Training - Winter Edition

Cold Creek Trail, Snoqualmie Pass, WAThis past weekend I took "cross training" to the next level:  cross-country skiing!  The kids were at a birthday party all morning so I had some time to myself. With all the cold temps and rain/snow falling in the area a trip to the mountains seemed a better alternative to biking/riding.

I used to enjoy nordic skiing several years ago. As I drove up to the pass I kept having to go back further and further in my memory to find the last time I actually strapped on a pair of skis and hit the trails. Turns out it was 1996, a little further back than I anticipated, and it showed (more on that in a minute).

The drive up was uneventful except that the sun I was expecting turned out to be overcast skies. That turned to light snow flurries near the pass and moderate snowfall within a few hours.

The Nordic Center at Snoqualmie Pass is a great place to try out cross-country skiing. Within 10 minutes of arriving I was strapping on my rented skis and off on the beginner/training loops next the lodge. What a great place to "get my legs under me" and remember my technique. It took me close to an hour to be comfortable enough to venture out on the trails. As it turns out I should have spent that hour on the trail. The Cold Creek Trail (AKA USFS Road 9070), which starts just west of the Summit East lodge, is very much a "green" beginners trail or, as I'm sure the more experience skiers call it, a warm up trail. I could have easily gone straight to the trail and started there instead of the green loops.

Once I did make my way up there on the Cold Creek trail Self-portrait on the Cold Creek TrailI was greeted by wonderful views of Snoqualmie Pass and Keechelus Lake. The snow conditions were perfect for skate-style skiing and the temps were tolerable (20-25F). I was in seventh-heaven. The groomed trail made it so easy to move along even with my sloppy strides. The other people on the trail greeted me at every turn with smiles and a cheerful hello, expecially the long line of young kids out for a XC class.

...except for the fact that my lack of off-season training really started to show after the first 90 minutes. Looking at my GPS profile for the day the data doesn't lie: within just a few minutes on the flat course my heart rate was up above 170 BPM and stayed between 150-165 for most of the day. After only 2 miles on the trail it was obvious that I needed to turn around. The entire loop around Mt. Catherine is 15.5K/9.6 miles. I did need to be home by early afternoon so I turned around for an early return. Wow, am I glad I did. The last mile back to the lodge turned out to be the hardest/slowest time of the day. After only about 3 hours of actual skiing I was DONE. I was at the point where no amount of resting would allow me to continue for the day.

Recovery: Amazingly I was only moderately sore during day 1 and 2 of recovery. Here I am on day 3 and I'm ready to go back.

This was an incredible experience for me, reminding me of days long past when I would camp at Lake of the Woods in southern Oregon with my Boy Scout troop. The memories came flooding back time and time again: how we used to have races down the snow-covered trails, sword fights with our ski poles, and my all-time favorite, tree tackling! Tree tackling, you say? That's where you run up to a snow-laden tree, hopefully no more than 24" in diameter, and try to tackle it so that the snow falls off the tree all around you. Trust me, it's a hoot!

Anyway, now I'm trying to figure out a way to get back up to the mountain again this Friday/Saturday for a repeat performance. If I can only fit it in to my frenetic schedule... }B^)