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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rando Training at Loveland and Ski-O at Frisco Nordic Center, 1/23/2010

After a good morning of rando ski training at Loveland Basin, where we found the staff to be very accepting of uphill skiing, James Kovacs and I headed to the Frisco Nordic Center for the focus event of the day: the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club's Ski-O Race.

Orienteering is an excellent, of-the-beaten-path sport that involves using a small-scale topo map and a compass to find controls located out in the woods. As it turns out, this can also be done in the winter time on skis or snowshoes. For more information on accessing this fun sport in Colorado, visit

I am planning on competing in a winter triathlon next weekend that includes skate skiing, so I figured some time on the trails would be helpful. Plus, navigation practice anytime is a good thing.

Race organizers scattered 20 checkpoints across the trails at the Frisco Nordic Center. Grabbing any eight qualifies one for the short course, any 12 is good for the medium course, and 16 gets you the long course distinction. Those who hit all 20 checkpoints, in any order, are placed in the "Extra Credit" category. I'm a high school teacher, so you can guess which category I set my sights on!

Because checkpoints could be accessed in any order, strategy and navigation were paramount. Racers had to constantly monitor their progress on nameless tracks while deciding whether or not to leave the trail and bushwhack through shortcuts every so often. There was not much snow in the woods, and I quickly discovered that taking off my skis and running through the woods often paid off.

After 69 minutes of hammering broken up by quick pauses to punch the checkpoint and look at the map, I found myself back at the Nordic Center. My first experience with ski orienteering was excellent! I had a great experience and put in the best time on the day.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Mountain Resort, 1/16/2010

The 2010 randonee skiing season began with a bang--well, actually, more of a snap--this weekend. The snap was the sound made when a crucial piece on my boot broke apart just moments minutes before the start, resulting in a significant rush of adrenaline and drastic shift in race strategy.

Randonee skiing, or ski mountaineering, involves "skinning" up the ski hill using climbing skins for traction, pulling the skins off at the summit, and then skiing down, alpine-style. Races usually involve a few laps of this nonsense, which each climb covering 1500' to 2500' vertical. The descents, I am figuring out, usually cover the steepest, most technical terrain offered at the resort. For more information on this fun and growing sport, see

Back to this weekend's race... When ascending, randonee boots are open, allowing for flexibility and movement. For the descent, latches on the boot are locked down, resulting in a stiff boot that can be used for downhill skiing. When the rear cable on my boot snapped, I could ski uphill as usual but was left to navigate the downhills--a double diamond appropriately known as "The Heathen," in this case--in a left boot with stability akin to that of a penny loafer.

After inquiring over a mega-phone at the starting line as to whether anyone happened to have an extra boot cable on their person (yeah, sure!), I lined up unsure about my sanity in starting the race with gear in such a condition. Although I lost a few seconds in some of the technical skinning (think trees, switchbacks, powder, and some super-steep pitches), I summitted just shy of the leaders. At the summit, I asked my friend, Joe, who was not racing, if I might be able to use his boots, but decided throwing my size 9 foot into his 13's would only make matters worse.

My downhill skills are mediocre at best, and I struggled down The Heathen last year in slow-motion, death-avoidance form. Doing it again this year with a boot that could easily generate serious injury seemed like a bad idea, so I decided to remove myself from the Race Division, enter the Macy Division, and proceed. Heading down a smooth but icy groomer, my judgement was confirmed as my ski shook from side to side with instability.

Luckily, I was able to complete the course. Sort of. I did not ski downhill on course, but I skinned up each ascent via the marked route. I climbed hard, as if I was in the race, and got in a great workout. With three laps, 5800' vertical, and no injuries under my belt, it was good money in the bank for upcoming events.

Pete Swenson puts on an excellent ski race, and I highly recommend randonee skiing to anyone looking for a great aerobic workout with a healthy dose of fun!

Up next for me is the Tennessee Pass Winter Triathlon in two weeks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge Photo by Wouter Kingma

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2009

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2009
By Travis Macy

The Scene
In 1994, when I was 11 years old, I watched from the support car as my dad, Mark, ran 146 miles from Death Valley, California to the summit of Mt. Whitney, more than 14,000 feet above. The Badwater Ultramarathon is one of the hardest races on earth, and during those two days in the support car a lifelong reverence for the desert grew within me. While I always relished brief forays into the empty, dry spaces of North America, nothing I had done previously compared to what I would experience in Abu Dhabi in December of 2009.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


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