Friday, February 01, 2008

Leaving a trail of flames...

A big storm brought a thick mat of clouds hours ahead of its snow, sleet and freezing rain. Knowing that the warm, moist storm would turn everything slow and sticky, we resolved to go out early, skating on the fast, granular snow left from the last cycle of thawing and refreezing.

Thursday night the skating was fast and raspy. Friday morning it was just fast.

Succumbing further to addiction, I put on a layer of Swix HF 7 BD before heading out the Ellis.

When I have limited time to ski, I prefer to take a trail that has few steep climbs and descents. A steep trail demands high output going up, but only tests the reflexes coming down. A flatter, rolling trail promotes more continuous output. Since part of the objective is to burn off dietary excesses, sustained moderate output does the job better than clawing my way up something and screaming down it again.

Problem is, on trails as fast as Friday's I couldn't keep anything moderate and low key. The first three strides before I even put my hands in the pole straps told me conditions were rocket fast. How could I resist?

The Ellis River Trail climbs gradually along the river for which it is named, going over a few minor hills on the way, ending up with a bit more undulation as it approaches its northern end at the Rocky Branch Trail parking area on Route 16. For my typical getaway, I don't get nearly that far along it. I just need something to keep me going in case I ever get to do more.

The trail feels basically flat going upstream, but cumulatively gains perhaps a couple of hundred feet from low end to high end. The climbing is easy. The return trip is easier. If you feel like putting something into it, you can really fly. And today was a day for it.

I made it to the river crossing near the Dana Place Inn in the time it usually take me to go two-thirds as far. On the return leg I felt like I must be leaving flaming tracks behind. At moderate speeds it would have been effortless. Putting out the excited energy I was, it was ripping.

I actually enjoy the skiing more when I feel the speed as a direct result of my effort, not just the pull of gravity. Push! Whoosh! Push! Whoosh! Rip! Rip! Rip! On the wooded Ellis trail, the scenery goes by on either side, sometimes quite close. This is better than in an open field, where the sense of speed can be lost to the distance to the nearest marker.

To put it in perspective, however, my zippy rippy trip took about 20 minutes LONGER than the racers took to double-pole it on classical skis in the race the week before. And for them it was just the second half of their race. They already had about 12 kilometers on them before they started the Ellis. Good thing I have no delusions of racing speed and prowess. It's all just for fun.

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