Friday, January 17, 2014

Backcountry Ski Trippin'

I'm new to snow sports.

Until the past couple of winters, my experience in the snow amounted to some sledding as a child and chaining up my '98 Mustang in college to get access to a snow-covered peak for a hike.

But the boyfriend is a snowboarder and, over the course of the past couple winters, I've learned how to get down a mild blue-square run and acquired all kinds of snow gear: the appropriate layers, snowshoes, waterproof boots and a complete snowboarding setup. 

Last weekend we put it all to the test by hiking in to the Benson Hut, a Sierra Club shelter three miles south of Sugarbowl and about six miles from Donner Pass. Our friends had, smartly, left a day earlier and made the five-mile hike from the ski resort parking lot in during idyllic conditions. 

The boyfriend, a buddy and I weren't so lucky. 

The only precipitation the Sierra has seen since the first week of December rolled in Saturday morning as we got geared up for the adventure. We cut off two miles of hiking by riding chairlifts up to the top of Sugarbowl, a cheat method that almost immediately knocked me out of the game because I didn't know how to snowboard with a 25-pound pack on. 

Kindly, the boyfriend carried both our packs (what a stud!) and we made it to the top of Sugarbowl, AKA Mt. Lincoln, elevation 8,400 feet. 

It looked like this: 

Yikes. Visibility was basically nothing. Winds whipped us, threatening to blow away stray gloves as we got our  gear organized and used a bike lock to chain our snowboards together between some boulders (for protection against blowing away, not theft). 

Then we hiked.

Three miles, even backpacking at altitude, should be nothing. We were able to hug the ridgeline enough to avoid getting lost (normally, it's a simple ridge hike and the path is visible throughout). But no one was having fun. Our buddy, hiking in Sorels with Yaktrax post-holed through the soft new snow. Once the boyfriend and I strapped on our snowshoes, we kept them on -- even when that meant crossing the rocks of wind-blown, snow-free saddles in the snowshoes. 

We hiked for two hours to reach the hut, quite off of the 30-minutes-a-mile pace we had accepted as the slowest we would possibly go. The boyfriend and most of the crew already the hut had made this same trek five years prior (one of them loves doing this trip as a birthday celebration) which also helped us find the way.

The hut was a welcome sight, nestled just below the peak of Mt. Anderson (8,500 feet). 

We spent the afternoon and evening sipping whiskey, making fajitas and enjoying the company of friends while it stormed outside. A few brave skiers in the group took their skis and skins out to test the fresh snow. I can't imagine being good enough at snowboarding to get a split board and skins and ski in the backcountry, but props to those who do. Resort skiing feels adventurous enough for me.

In the morning, we awoke to more snow and panoramic views. 

The return hike, with the sun shining and epic views surrounding us, felt like a walk in the park compared to our adventure the day prior. To avoid the snowboarding-with-a-pack debacle, get a little more cardio and ensure the guys got to a sports bar in time for the Niners game, I handed off my snowboard to a friend who had hiked in without one and chose to snowshoe down the ski runs with the boyfriend's sister. This added a little over two miles to our hike and was possibly the most pleasurable part of the weekend. Happy skiers paused to ask us about our adventure before zipping down the mountain. We trotted on.

The Benson Hut is open to the public for day use and as an emergency shelter. You also can book the hut for overnight stays and volunteer to maintain it (one of our friends does this, which is how we got hooked up with the hut). It's part of a network of huts on the Sierra Ski Trail in the Lake Tahoe area. Each are about a day's ski apart. 

After visiting, I'd love to go back in the summer. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What I learned from #RWRunStreak

I set out in November to run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. My running streak lasted 25 days before illness, fatigue and scheduling torpedoed the effort.

The theory behind a running streak is getting out to run one mile will help you run farther. One mile becomes two or three, and pretty soon you're logging more miles that you ever thought possible.

That didn't work for me. One mile often was just one mile. Getting my daily "run" in became a chore often done as dusk fell and I darted around the neighborhood for 10 minutes. Even worse were the days I pounded out two miserable miles on a treadmill at the gym. My longest run during the streak was nine miles.

Other issues? Yes:

  • At first, the effort cranked my metabolism. I was hungry all the time. But as my body adjusted to doing short runs every day, that appetite was unwarranted. I gained a couple pounds during my run streak. 
  • Though I was able to keep up on yoga and weight workouts during the running streak, biking went bye-bye. 
With all of these negatives, I did learn a valuable lesson: I really love running, about four times a week. I thought this was true before I started streaking. Back in college, we trained 13 of 14 days and it destroyed me. Running was no longer fun. Cruising through four to 10 miles four times a week is just right for me. It also leaves room for those other things I love to do: cycling, beach walks with the dogs, hiking, yoga. 

I won't be streaking again any time soon, but I'm excited to return to my normal running regime. 

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."