The training had been getting pretty borderline back in Anchorage. The six inches of snow we got in late October got washed away by a chinook wind and a wet rain in mid-November, leaving a thick blanket of ice over most of the A-Town trails. The first day we ran on it I was so frustrated that I took off from the group and hammered 6-minute miles for an hour and found myself at the top of Stuckagain Heights already near my recommended training time. I tried to cut through the Near Point trail to Prospect thinking it would be a 15 or 20 minute route, but instead found myself trapped above a two hundred foot-bluff overlooking Cambell Creek and had to backtrack. I didn’t make it back to the car until 2 hours after I had started, which normally isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it being the first run over an hour in a while, I thought I could have planned it better.
Luckily I didn’t get any injuries from that workout, but during the next few days Coach decided we should start rollerskiing again. This lasted another few days until one of our workouts from Potter Valley to Bear Valley turned into a “don’t step on a crack” game. There had been some rain the night before, and although most of it had evaporated, the tarred cracks were frozen solid with a thin covering of ice. We had a speed workout planned for that day, but needless to say it wasn’t very speedy as we were doing everything we could to keep from falling down. The next day it rained in ernest and our scheduled rollerski time trial was cancelled. Instead we did bounding intervals at the Turnagain Arm Trail, the only truly south-facing trail that had avoided all of the ice.
So it was a relief to be off to our annual race-season opener in West Yellowstone, Montana. We left town on Saturday after a nice sendoff dinner from our favorite insurance magnate and future Anchorage President Crystal Pitney. She made us caribou steaks and bought Gelato especially for Tyler, who unexpectedly left without any explanation in the middle of our dinner, but it was a nice evening.
The next morning a group of us met at 9 to fly to Bozeman via Seattle. We were surprised to see not only our venerable trainer Erik Flora, but also his whole family (his wife Gretchen, daughters Ingrid and Marit and son Oscar) whom Erik had surprised a few days prior with the news that they would come with him to the races and celebrate Thanksgiving together for the first time in ten years. The kids were wild with energy through the whole flight, but Erik was nothing but smiles at having his crew along with him.
We stayed our first night in Bozeman rather than press on to West as we usually do. We stopped at Montana Ale Works for burgers and beer and then got home and I crashed right away at 10pm.
In the morning we made the drive to West. It is a beautiful drive in the right weather, which we had that day, as the road follows the Gallatin River through mountains and canyons, gradually rising some 3,000 feet over eighty miles.
We had lunch at the local pub, and then drove the 200 meters from the middle of “downtown” to the ski trails. The Rendezvous Trails were already bustling with people who had come mostly for junior camps and masters clinics, but even though it was crowded–oh what a joy it was to be on snow! No more rude snaps of the steel ferrules on pavement that wake up the neighborhood and no more double poling on the shoulder to avoid getting nailed by semi trucks, this training was pure as the pines, baby!