Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Backcountry Day

End result = Ouch!

Saturday morning we headed up to Whistler for my first backcountry day. After a not so quick stop for coffee at Galileo Coffee in Britannia Beach (apparently they have gotten a little too popular. My breakfast was almost cold by the time I got my coffee!) and then waiting in one of the slowest lines ever to buy a lift ticket, we were finally in the gondola and on our way by 10am.

The day was gray with some soft falling snow. Visibilty wasn't great and there was some wind on the high ridges. This was my first time on skins, using free rides and in my new boots. It was a weird sensation to walk uphill with skis on. At first I felt like I would just slide backwards, but unless it was a very steep pitch, the skins did their job. There was a LOT of skinning. And it was not easy. But what was even harder was trying to go downhill. An experienced powder skier I am not. I have been having back issues for the previous week, and after a while, my back was saying enough.

I was looking at it this way. In order to have those perfect, euphoria inducing runs, you have to have bad ones too, whether its your body or the weather or some combination. I often think on the difficult runs how they are necessary to truly enjoy the good ones. I think yesterday's experience was the same. It wasn't all bad, but it was all hard. I think being out there on a bluebird day will be worth the few not so great days that are needed to become proficient - both and going uphill, and moreso for me, downhill.

We made our way back in bounds and made it back to the chair just in time to make it to the gondola to download. On the way home we stopped at Howe Sound Brew Pub in Squamish for some dinner and a beer. They have a lot of great beers, and we took 3 large bottles home with us. By the time we got home I was in full pass-out mode, but managed to stay up for the hockey game.


Exhausted from skinning

Whistler backcountry

This morning when I woke up, my entire body was feeling it. The worst part is the top of my calves. I couldn't bend my legs! I have had trouble walking all day and have spent most of the day on the sofa. Good thing we went on the Saturday and not Sunday so I had a day to recover!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Mountain Adventures (Race Report)

Today was the Mountain Madness Phantom Run. There is a choice of 12k, 19k, or 24k, and I went with the 12k and was glad I did. It was by far the longest 12k I have ever run. I'm not sure how they measure it. Perhaps from a map which doesn't take into account all the hills? And there were hills. Nothing straight up or really long, just lots of up and down and back and forth.

The race took place in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. It was a cold morning and there were actually some snowflakes and sleet while we were standing around before the start. There were about 95 or so people doing the 12K race.

The start is a relatively easy, flat-ish trail, but throughout the race there are steep switchbacks, up and down stairs, up and down everywhere, bridges, and wooden platforms, all of which were very slippery with the combination of being wet, cold and leafy.

I probably should have looked at last years results before I raced, as I had figured I would be out there for about 70 mins. Not so much. 1:33 later I was at the finish line. Good for 7th women (in the 12k). I don't know that pacing would have made any difference had I known it was going to be longer, but the last 30 mins really hurt! I definitely have some room to improve in my fitness and in my downhill running abilities. Something to work on isn't bad though!

This 12k was way way harder than the 10k trail race I did a few weeks ago. It just shows how much of an impact the terrain has.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Mountain Adventures

If you have taken a look at Graeme's blog at all, you can probably tell he likes to ski. More like is obsessed with it.

I started skiing when I was in Gr. 5, and skied through until the end of high school. After not having been on a ski hill in years I took up snowboarding. While it was fun, I never was as good of a snowboarder as I had been a skier, and was not able to keep up with, or even keep Graeme in my sights. So at the end of the 07/08 season, I decided to try skiing again. Graeme got a good deal on some powder skis and I discovered I was still able to ski.

Last season was a few more times on the hill, but with Ironman training, Graeme didn't ski as much last year as he normally would, and well I didn't go on my own. So, this season is going to be my introduction to backcountry skiing. I love to be outdoors. I like hiking and skiing and I love new adventures. Plus if I want to see Graeme at all this winter, I need to be skiing.

Of course when you are heading into the backcountry you have to be prepared, and let me tell you, the gear is not cheap! Once again Graeme was able to get a good deal on free ride bindings, and the rest of the gear was bought at the Alpine Club of Canada's MEC night, where members get a 10% discount.

Fancy new boots

Of course all of the safety gear has to be purchased too. I am now the owner of a beacon, shovel and probe (and skins to let me ski up hill). Last Saturday was spent at an avalanche workshop on terrain, and there are more backcountry courses booked for the next few weeks.

So today, which is a holiday for Remembrance Day, we decided to head up to Cypress so Graeme could show me how to properly use the beacon. The bindings for my skis have yet to arrive, so I snowshoed up, while Graeme went up on skins. About 90 mins of straight up hill. At the top Graeme buried his pack and beacon while I used mine to find where his was.

Graeme had the easier way down, getting some very early season turns, while I ran down, trying not to completely trash my quads!