February 21, 2020

Weekend Recap: Solo Talons and Spring Running

After last week’s mess of a time getting home from the mountains, and knowing this was President’s Day weekend, I wanted to get out to Minturn early this weekend. Fortunately, I had a lot of morning calls that were primarily listen-only, so I packed up my stuff late on Thursday night after my flight got in, then headed out Friday morning. I couldn’t leave till 9am because of some active calls from 7-9, and unfortunately, that ended up being my undoing. Believe it or not, traffic was already backed up when I finally hit the road at 9:30am, and it took me three hours to drive to Minturn! I had been counting on no traffic at all, and had planned to ski over lunch as my workout for the day, but that was a no-go. On the bright side, my drive was really productive, and I got a lot of things sorted out with my team.

When I got into Minturn, I threw together a quick lunch and finished my afternoon calls by 4pm. Then, I headed to the Avon Rec Center. I was pretty tired and not really feeling a run, since my legs were pretty sore from the lower body bootcamp I had done the day before. Instead, I did 45 minutes on the elliptical while watching Grey’s Anatomy. I haven’t watched TV while exercising in a long time, since I’ve been watching Peloton app workouts instead; this was a nice treat to zone out and not go too hard!) I finished up with a 20 minute arms and shoulders strength workout that a Peloton Reddit friend had recommended. It was a good one, and I knew my arms would be sore the next day!

On my home, I made a quick stop at the grocery and Home Depot. Thanks to a recommendation from Lifehacker, I installed this inexpensive bidet in my master bathroom at home, and now I wanted to install one in my bathroom in Minturn. However, when I went to remove the toilet seat, I discovered that one of the plastic screws holding it on was stripped. I Googled various ways to remove a stripped screw, but also figured I’d ask someone at Home Depot, since they’re always incredibly knowledgeable. Not so on Friday night!

The first associate I asked for help led me to the toilet parts aisle, and then stared blankly at the wall, clearly not knowing any more than I did. She then said we should ask her supervisor, which surprised me, as I’ve always found the staff at Home Depot seem to magically know everything about everything. No problem… but when we found the supervisor, she was clueless as well. “A stripped screw? Have you tried Googling it? I could Google it for you, I guess, but otherwise I’m not sure how I’m supposed to help you.” Really?! Very disappointing. I found yet another associate instead, and this one was much more helpful. He told me that he could certainly sell me a screw extractor (which was what my pre-store Googling had turned up), but since the screw was plastic and I was going to replace it anyway, I could just drive my drill through it until it broke.

I got home to find that worked like a charm, and I ended up getting my new bidet installed in about 10 minutes once the broken screw was out. The rest of the night was pretty uneventful… I cooked a simple pesto shrimp stir-fry for dinner, then cuddled up in bed with a book and went to sleep early. I definitely needed the catch up!

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling fairly refreshed, but unfortunately not early enough to get much work done before I headed out to the mountain. That was okay, though; I knew I’d have some free time in the afternoon. After a yummy protein pancake breakfast, I headed over to Beaver Creek, where I intended to practice some of the runs on Grouse for the Talons Challenge next week.

The top of Grouse always has some stunning views of the Vail Valley!

It was a stunningly beautiful day, with blue skies and hardly any clouds, but I figured the snow wouldn’t be all that good since it had been dry the day before. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was amazing! There was still some leftover powder from the storms on Thursday, and the sun warmed up the slopes so after about 10am, they were perfectly cushioned with no scraping at all. Perfection!

I headed up the Westin gondola to Bachelor Gulch, then took the express chairs from there to Larkspur. After a quick run to the base, I headed up Grouse Mountain to do Raven’s Ridge (a steep but normally unbumped black) into my warmup run. This run used to scare me with its steep pitch; I love that now it’s one I feel comfortable doing as my warmup! And while it can sometimes be windblown / scraped off, it was actually pretty nice on Saturday.

I was a little worried that the bumps would be hard, so I went for Screech Owl next. It’s a big bump run, but it has a lot of flat spots to rest rather than being one continuous steep field of moguls. I should add that the mountain was pretty quiet, and I mostly had the trails to myself, but on this run, I heard some people ahead of me whooping at how good the snow was. I agreed! A few runs later on Grouse, after getting into the double black steep moguls, I decided it was so wonderful that I would do the entire town’s challenge (14 black and double black runs totaling $26,000 ft) before I went home.

Love this mogul field!

I’m still not sure what my strategy will be next weekend for the real challenge, but on Saturday, I did all of Grouse Mountain first, then all the Birds of Prey (which I had done the week before), and finished with the three easy black runs on Larkspur. My legs were definitely getting tired by the end, but doing all of it together showed me how much better I’ve gotten since last year!

Golden Eagle, a steep double black, actually felt like a break from all the moguls on Grouse.

For all of the runs on Grouse, I cruised down them with no breaks at all, whereas the year before, I had stopped periodically throughout the runs to assess my line and where I was going next. Now, I could just go up and over the bumps without worrying what was on the other side, because I knew I could handle it. My ski headphones recently broke (another pair from Amazon is on the way), but I found myself singing to myself as I skied: “Ease On Down the Road” from The Wiz. It got me into a good rhythm, complimented by the cadence of the pole planting technique I had learned a week before. I felt like I was skiing really smoothly in spite of the big double black bumps on the steep terrain!

Goshawk was my very first double black run at all time, and I remember being terrified the first time I was on it. Now, it’s a breeze!

By the last few runs, though, the clouds started moving in. While I was bummed to not have sun, I was excited that this next storm would be dumping a lot of snow! This season started out a little bit slow, but now I feel like it’s really picking up and getting good.

I ended up finishing my own personal Talons Challenge by 1:30pm, about 3 hours after I started, with no rest breaks at all. I know next week will be slower because the lift lines will be crazy, but I’m going to try to match my ski time from my Garmin (2:15, including my ski back down to the base) and hope that I can be even a little faster next week!

Last run! These clouds didn’t bother me as it meant snow, snow, snow later that night 🙂

I headed home and threw together a quick late stir fry lunch, then spent the next few hours knocking out some work and emails. After a quick shower and clean up, I was ready for dinner, and headed to Blue Plate in Avon. I had never been to Blue Plate before, but it was right next to Vin48, where I’ve been several times with my friends Heather and Kirk for a glass of wine. Blue Plate’s service was extremely slow, in spite of the high end atmosphere, but the food was really delicious and worth it…  I loved the salmon with black rice, and the bread was crispy on the outside but soft and buttery on the inside… so good.

We skipped dessert and finished off the night with coffee and live music a few doors down at the coffee shop, and that was definitely a good choice… One I should probably make more often. I’ve definitely become a bit of a sugar monster lately, and I really need to work on it!

I stayed up too late reading a good novel (You Are Not Alone, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen), and I hoped to sleep late the next day, even if it meant giving up some ski time.

Love love love these Eddie Bauer ski sheets I bought in November! Not only adorable but super soft and warm.

Instead I woke up at 6:30am, which meant I had enough time to crank out some work, eat breakfast and get packed up, and head to Vail by 8:40am. It was supposed to start snowstorming by noon, and I wanted to be off the mountain and on my way home by 11:30am, in order to beat traffic.

On my way up the lift, though, I accidentally pulled too hard on my jacket zipper, and the pull tab fell off. This had already happened once before with this jacket (why the heck are your zipper pulls so weak, Nils??), so I knew it was going to be a huge pain to try to get the jacket open and closed until I could replace the tab. So, no phone access for me for the day, since it was in my inner jacket pocket! Between that and the snow already falling, I decided to hasten my departure from the mountain to 10:30am.

But I still had two glorious hours in the powder, and I had my new powder skis to cruise around!

Here they are, looking poppy and fun in the whiteout!

I don’t know that these were really the right conditions for my powder skis, since the fresh snow was some of the absolute lightest I’ve ever seen – so fluffy that my skis didn’t even seem slowed down by it. (Or maybe that was partially due to the fat skis?) But I was still psyched to get them out there. You all know how much imposter syndrome I have as a runner (am I really a runner?), and I have it for skiing as well. Despite the fact that I love steep double black diamond mogul runs, I think of myself as “not really a skier”… and having different pairs of skis for different conditions makes me feel like I’m a little bit more legitimate.

Speaking of gear – I am excited to announce that after trying literally dozens of options, I have finally found ski glove options that keep my hands warm! I use these Venture heated glove liners (recommended to me by my friend Blake’s dad!) combined with these Hestra army leather mittens, and finally, my hands stay warm all day! (And the liners can be used with the touchscreen on my phone, so I can leave them on when I take off the outer mittens and still text / take photos / etc.) Between those and the heated boots I bought last winter, I’m totally teched out, but I’m just so thrilled to not have cold hands and feet anymore, which has always been a limiting factor for me with skiing.

I headed up Born Free, then took the cat track over to Avanti… and totally wiped out on the little green-level slope that went down to the chairlift. Yikes! I worried that the new skis weren’t a good fit, but had no more incidents after that, so I think it was just a matter of me getting used to the width. I did a lovely run on Avanti that was pretty much all fresh pow, then headed up and over the ridge down Ouzo to Game Creek lift, which I rode up to access Sundown Bowl. I pretty much always take Morningside to get down to the base from here (so many bumps! So much fun!), but I had struggled a little bit on Ouzo – although there were a solid few inches of fresh powder, the bumps underneath were hard and kind of scrape-y, resulting in a dust-on-crust situation. I thought I’d be better off with runs that had been groomed semi-recently, so I took Ricky’s Ridge for something a little different. It was pretty nice, and I really liked the final pitch that led to the cat track to the lift.

Unfortunately, after a few runs down Forever and Wow, I had to call it quits – and reluctantly headed down to Lionshead via Riva Ridge. I made it down pretty quickly thanks to the “standing tuck” position that Scott had taught me two weeks ago – it’s a genius move to help get lots of speed on a long flat run out!

It was definitely a good thing I got down quickly – it was snowing hard by now, and I wanted to make sure I got over Vail Pass before any closures. Well, I did that perfectly – when I stopped at Dunkin Donuts in Silverthorne for tea, I got an alert on my phone that the Pass had closed! Traffic was terrible getting up to / through the Tunnel as well, but I made it through there as well only to get notified twenty minutes later that had shut down as well. Both were only temporary closures that didn’t last too long, but I was still thankful I didn’t have to stress about getting stuck in the mountains.

I made it home by 1pm, and since I had only skied for two hours, I still wanted to get a workout in for the day. Driving into Superior, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was sunny and in the 50s, so after catching up on some work emails and errands, I headed out at 4pm for an outdoor run!

This was my first time using the Peloton app for an outdoor run, and I chose a 30 minute run by Rebecca Kennedy (one of my favorite bootcamp / strength instructors). I picked a route I knew was just a little over four miles, figuring I could always run a little extra on my own after the audio track ended. I ended up having mixed feelings about the run – it was definitely motivating having an instructor in my ear telling me when to pick up the pace and when to slow down, but, since I live in a hilly area, those instructions weren’t necessarily in line with the terrain. There were a few points when I was on a downhill and she’d tell us to take it easy, but it would have made more sense to speed up. Such is the trade off of doing a coached run vs on my own!

But the scenery was beautiful, and I ended up running a PR on one particular hill segment where I usually ease off the pace. So I can see this being a good training tool for future!

After my run, I took a quick shower, then closed out my weekend sampling some stouts at Southern Sun, who celebrates “stout month” and has an entire roster of stouts for the month of February. Perfect end to the weekend!


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