Frank Soos Distance Race #2

Skiers and volunteers still in the finish area when the last skiers finished–photo by David Hayden.

Kent Karns, far left, kneeling, put on a bib and skied 10 km today for his second time on skis this season. Gern, in orange cap, helped Bill Husby set up the course, and then skied with his backcountry skis (the only reason that Dermot and I finished ahead of him–Gern was faster on the uphills, we had far more glide on the downhills and graduals). Tom Helmers, standing in back, far right, groomed fantastic tracks and trails. What a day!

From Frank’s essay “Why Is It That I Do This?”

I cannot stop myself from getting out and living through my body. There is always the recognition, cutting through the satisfaction of doing well or the disappointment of doing poorly, having pushed myself to my limit or beyond it, that after a little rest I will come to see I’ll do it again.

Why is it, then, that I do this? I still can’t say–pleasure comes in many forms, many of them irrational–but I am sure I can do nothing other than hope to continue, getting slower and slower until finally I blink out.

Winter solstice skiing

Dermotized SCUM faces on Friday at -8 degrees F–photo by Mike Mathers

The skies have finally cleared after 15.2 inches of snow at the airport this December (and considerably more at Birch Hill). With a 20 deg temperature inversion between the hills and valleys, the SCUM are prepared for a full range of temperature conditions as shown here on Friday when it was actually cold enough for our fleece SCUM hats. However, with two Pistenbullys grooming the trails, the skate platform and the tracks were relatively fast.

Saturday morning, the SCUM headed out to ski in Bad Bob Baker’s Moose Mountain tour. Here’s a glimpse of the skyline as Bad Bob finished grooming:

View from Bad Bob’s house–photo by Bob Baker

Starting from the home of Bad Bob and Sharon Baker at 10:10 a.m. (the SCUM van got lost and were late arriving), the goal was to ski to the top of Moose Mountain ridge to watch the sunrise over the mountains (Mt Hayes, we think). All of us managed to do that.

Here are the speedy SCUM:

Speedy SCUM await sunrise–photo by Joanna Fox

and the entire gang:

The SCUM plus Bad Bob Baker, Sonot Kkaazoot and Moose Mountain tour organizer–photo by Joanna Fox

and the main attraction:

Why we climbed 330 m before dawn–photo by Joanna Fox

Today it was -26 deg F in the valley, but a balmy -5 deg at Birch Hill as the SCUM finished their winter solstice weekend of training.

Here we are at the top of the Tower loop:

SCUM and Christmas tree on Tower Loop–photo by Joanna Fox

and at the Denali viewpoint on the Sunnyside:

SCUM with moon and comet in the skies over Denali

Happy Winter Solstice!

Update from the actual shortest day in Fairbanks:

SCUM on Wednesday, 21 December at biathlon range where it was -18 deg F–photos by Joanna Fox
Proof that it was-38 deg F at airport
Scary faces

“Sophomoric humor” on the day after Frank Soos Distance Race #1

SCUM await the Arctic Force on Cliffside–photos by Joanna Fox

On the day after the Frank Soos Distance Race #1, we decided to ski the military transect starting on the White Bear, going down the Sonot Connector and returning up the Cliffside and Sunnyside trails to the Outhouse and Relay Return. When we got to the bottom of Cliffside, we found we had company, a group of the Arctic Force at Fort Wainwright.

Who’s the skier without white pants? Why it’s Dermot Cole, who wrote a touching tribute to Frank Soos after yesterday’s event: (https://www.dermotcole.com/reportingfromalaska/2022/12/10/mssfuxkl7l8p01ig7rmfpjs3q8obfr)

Today while participating in our sophomoric humor, we came up with a new SCUM acronym to more accurately reflect our current composition. Susan’s Class of Uncoachable Misfits was the new definition. Here’s the SCUM in action on the Cliffside once we got ahead of the Army:

Snow angels by the 70 to 79 age class from yesterday’s Frank Soos Distance Race (and one 69-year-old)–video by Joanna Fox
Snow angel by the wannabe 70-year-old SCUM

We did eventually ski back to the Birch Hill stadium, regrouping when Santa executed a dramatic fall:

We’re looking for some younger recruits to join us. The Sonot Kkaazoot is a little more than 3 months away. Woodels will be awarded this year and the post-race banquet will be held like before the pandemic. Plan to join us. You’ll have to prove that you’re a misfit, though.

Joanna proving she’s a misfit–photo by Dan Johnson

By the way, we have located 4 of the LOL Christmas ornaments. We’ll do a blogpost when we get all 12.

Santa and ornament 4–photo by Dan Johnson

SCUM ski Distance Race #1 course on perfectly groomed trails

With temperatures at Birch Hill in the high 20s and nearly a half foot of new snow this weekend, wayward SCUM like Carl Hemming and Steve Clautice rejoined us today for our ski around the Frank Soos Distance Race #1 course. The entire course had been groomed and tracked last night so tracks were firm and fast. I wish I could say that my body was fast, but such wasn’t the case. However, I got around the 15 km course (plus Moilanen Meadows for some extra credit) in just over 2 hours.

Here are some views from the trails:

Bill Husby leads two SCUM in the tracks on WB —photo by Joanna Fox
Steve Clautice also using the tracks although skating–photo by Joanna Fox
Although Bill was using his skin skis–he claimed a leaf caused him to fall--photo by Dan Johnson
Dan Johnson skating with the fitness acquired chasing his son-in-law–photo by Joanna Fox

After we finished our 15 km ski, we retired to the warm-up hut for coffee and ginger snaps (Frank Soos’ favorite cookie). Carl had been AWOL for so long that he found what he thought was a rat turd in his coffee cup:

Carl and his cup with extra “protein” –photo by Bill Husby

Meanwhile, the ageless Dan Johnson posed next to his framed retirement photo:

Dan Johnson reenacting the photo taken at his retirement–photo by Joanna Fox

We hope that you will join the SCUM in skiing the Frank Soos Distance Race #1 next Saturday starting at 11 a.m. It’s great training for the Sonot Kkaazoot. The grooming crew will make the trails fast, and you’ll have fun with the SCUM.

SCUM skate first LOD over 15 km

While drinking coffee and eating our post-workout scones in the warm-up hut today, we learned that Bad Bob Baker will be in Fairbanks for the 36th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot. Thus, our first skate LOD of the season meant that a SCUM redemption for our failure to finish the 50 km course at the 35th Sonot Kkaazoot would be witnessed by Bad Bob, who dreamed up the new 50 km course with 1,689 m of total climb.

Today’s SCUM workout was 30% of the Sonot Kkaazoot distance but only involved 21% of the climb. We skied Flat Black to get our bodies warmed up. We finished with the Competition Loop and Tommy Knocker Extension so that we could climb that evil hill at the end of the Comp loop twice. Bill’s smile shows how we felt conquering that hill:

Bill smiling and Dermot groaning up the Comp hill
Bernardo leading the happy crew--photo by Bill Husby
Norma smiling as she crests the hill–photo by Bill Husby

Skiing the White Bear had time for heroics as Norma and Bill decided to doublepole from the Sonot Junction to the top of Hilltop, while the rest of us skated that 1.3 km section of gradual uphill. Then Norma and Bill got serious, and we skied without rest breaks until we reached the top of Heart Rate Hill, where we rang the bell that Chris Broda (of LOL) has hung on the White Bear map sign:

Dermot was much happier after conquering Heart Rate Hill–photo by Bill Husby
Bernardo strolls to the top of Heart Rate Hill like he did Ester Dome all summer–photo by Bill Husby

Skiing is great in spite of our meager snowfall so far this winter. Thanks to our NSCF groomers, and all the volunteer brushing work done this fall, we have a better skate ski base this year than we did last year. Maybe with three more months of training, the 60+- and 70+- year-old SCUM can finish the 36th Sonot Kkaazoot 50 km course. That’s our goal.

Flowing in the tracks on N40

SCUM testing the flow of the N40 tracks

Today there was a special treat in store for the Wednesday SCUM: fresh classical tracks for the first time on Moilanen Meadows and the black loops. After skiing without tracks for a month at Birch Hill (and elsewhere), it was a sheer delight to ski with firm classical tracks. We thank our Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks groomers, who we steadfastly support through the NSCF trail fund and hope that you will, too:

https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/Donate/

With temperatures at 19 deg F in the stadium and probably about 10 deg in the lower reaches of the black loops, even this 73-year-old cautious bionic skier reached speeds in excess of 32 km/hr (and I jumped out of the tracks unlike some of my more intact ski buddies). Only Dan and Joanna managed to step turn around Suicide Cutoff, made more difficult today because an Army soldier was standing in the intersection, while most of us overshot the turn or ploughed around it. In Moilanen Meadows, Bill’s urging to stay in the tracks resulted in dual tumbles around Dermot’s Demise. However, after finishing MM, Big Surprise (in the tracks), and the rest of WB access, we were ready to tackle the N40.

Half of today’s SCUM skiers are also FXC Masters skiers. On Monday, Christina Turman told us that the N40 was the best flowing trail at Birch Hill. With 3 to 4 inches of new powder then, we didn’t find it to be very flowing on our skate skis when our Monday Power Lunch group was doing pick-ups on the first km of the N40. So, with newly set tracks, we set out to redo Christina’s workout on our classical skis. We discovered that on warm snow and firm set tracks, the N40 is indeed a nicely flowing trail, where we glided up most of the shorter uphills. What a treat!

FXC Masters skiers take their recovery during SCUM ski on N40–photo by Joanna Fox

So Coach Christina, we practiced a few fast cadence double poles where the cones had been Monday, and we did get a free ride almost to the tops of the rises. It was much easier than V2ing through the deep powder. The best part was that we could really recover in between pick-ups. Friday, we’ll practice transitions on our skate skis. We older FXC Master skiers can’t skate ski every day without risking overuse injuries.

Today we tried three types of traction strategies: skins, grip tape, and kick wax. As it was our first ski in set tracks this season, I think the skin skiers were best able to utilize the tracks on the uphills. However, with his new pacemaker, Tim powered up the long hills best in the tracks with old fashioned kick wax and rode the downhill on the blue loop in the tracks.

In summary, today was definitely the fastest I’ve gone on my classical skis this season–both uphill and downhill. Enjoy the wonderful tracks while temperatures are still warm.

SCUM rises to the top again

Although some of the SCUM who gathered in the Birch Hill stadium at 10 a.m. today had not been on their skate skis this season, all six of the older SCUM and the young upstarts (Greg and Joanna) successfully skied the White Club, White Bear, and Moilanen Meadows.

One of Norma’s skis says, “Ski Fast, Normi” and she was taking this to heart as she had spent way too much time on her UAF sign language course. Norma loves the section of White Bear between the Sonot Connector and Hilltop so she towed all of us up this hill. I figured that Hilltop might be the last chance to get a photo of all of us together as some of us were definitely lagging behind.

Norma (in pink hat) climbing on a snow mound so she could appear taller than the rest of us at Hilltop Cutoff--photo by Dermot Cole (black hat in lower left corner)

Still smiling after sailing around White Bear and Moilanen Meadows, Norma strolled up the trail to Owen’s hill:

Norma smiling as she leads Dermot and Joanna up to the trail to Owen’s hill

Starting next Sunday, the SCUM coffee pot will be resurrected in the log warm-up hut for post-workout caffeine and warmth. (Thank you, Jerome Jackson). I’ll bring some goodies to buffer the coffee. Wash out your mugs so you can refuel before your drive home.

Early Sunday SCUM after skiing >11 km chasing Norma, Byron, and Greg–photo by Chris Broda

Only one original SCUM left in Fairbanks

SCUM before the 35th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot–photo by Eric Engman

When the SCUM gathered for the start of the 35th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot several weeks ago, no one was out warming up for the 50 km version. Only two had signed up for the 50 course, and neither finished it.

For comparison, just 22 years earlier, a dozen SCUM finished the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot including Carl Hemming, the only remaining primordial SCUM in Fairbanks. Thumper, as Carl is better known, has been training with the SCUM for all 25 ski seasons:

Poles and Thumper after Sonot Kkaazoot--photo by Joanna Fox

Carl skied the 30 km event this year. Early in his SCUM career, Thumper finished the 50 km Sonot Kkaazoot by skating the Chena River portion and classical skiing up the Fort Wainwright alpine hill and all the Birch Hill trails. Carl strategically changed ski gear at FWW, figuring that even considering the time it took to change ski boots, he would end up ahead.

Here’s a photo taken of the Y2K SCUM during a Sunday workout. How many can you recognize?

Y2K SCUM–photo taken with Susan’s 35mm film camera by mystery photographer

Only Poles, Thumper, and Susan are part of both photographs taken 22 years apart. However, both Poles and Mom no longer are skiing on the original equipment knees.

Some of the SCUM reappear only for Springtime skiing as yesterday Kent and Mike joined us for Sunnyside adventures:

Springtime SCUM–photo by Kent Karns

Springtime skiing is the best for skiing and socializing. Make sure you’ve donated to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks grooming fund so that we can continue skiing on our record snowpack:

https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/Donate/

Troyer displaces me as Sonot Kkaazoot caboose

Eric Troyer displaced me as Sonot Kkaazoot caboose this year, and now I think he’d be a perfect replacement for me as the Sonot Kkaazoot blogger. He’s a far superior storyteller and makes me seriously question why I am working on an MFA in creative writing.

Here’s the URL to Eric’s 35th Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot, alternative 50 km:

https://notquiteoverthehillcorrineanderic.blogspot.com/2022/03/when-is-30k-race-not-30k-race-when-you.html

Owen Hanley named to U.S. Masters Team

Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks skier, ski instructor, supporter, and volunteer, Owen Hanley has been named to the U.S. Masters team based on his performances at the 2022 Masters World Cup Races in Canmore.

https://xcskiworld.com/us-masters-team

See our previous post on his efforts in Canmore:

Congratulations, Owen!