The COVID-19 has kept the SCUM close to home this summer. To keep us from going stark crazy, we’ve been hill training in preparation for crushing whatever mountain is put in our path.
Masked and social distanced in the Birch Hill parking lot, we discussed the workout objective: ski walking three times up the Fort Wainwright alpine hill (on the trail under the chair lift). For extra challenge (and bragging rights), a SCUM could carry a 30 pound rock down and back up the ski hill (a trick we learned from Allen Doyle last summer).
We accessed the Fort Wainwright alpine hill from the Tower Direct trail so we had a 1 mile warm-up before we descended 0.84 km to our first hill climb start. Bill Husby carried the rock down from the bench at the top (where it has been stashed since last summer), and then demonstrated on the proper carrying technique up.
On hill repeat #2, Robert decided to carry the rock. He tried to use gravity to roll the rock down the hill. However, having been a philosophy not physics major, Robert and the rock disappeared into the nearby woods.
Robert did eventually retrieve the rock and carried it on hill repeat #2 being paced by Carl and Dan.
and finished hill realizing that gravity still ruled.
Carl was supposed to carry the rock on hill repeat #3 (Dan was exempt because he recently had shoulder surgery), but forgot his pack frame. So all the guys did hill repeat #3 with just their poles:
This 8.0 km workout had 625 m of ascent (and descent) under beautiful blue skies and a light breeze. During those hill repeats, we were temporarily relieved from the stress of grim national and state news, and concentrated on just putting one foot in front of the other without tripping. Even the mosquitoes seemed to ignore us on the FWW alpine hill.
We’ll do it again next Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. if you want to join us. The groans and sighs at the end will be the best of the entire day.
What is bad a** honey badger, who has finished up the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot grand slam (20 km, 40 km, and 50 km events–each done in a single day as a single workout), supposed to do when he must shelter in place and social distance from fellow SCUMs?
Merely skate skiing icy trails at Birch Hill wasn’t enough from Bill on Wednesday, no way! If you’re Poles Husby, whose orthopedic surgeon told him “no moguls” with his bionic knees, you decide to be one tough a**,–hot dog–honey badger.
Thanks to Joanna Fox for this video clip.
Well, the Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot may be virtual this year, but skier/artist Mark Ross has made some real Sonot Kkaazoot posters! They are available in the Warming Hut at Birch Hill Recreation Area. They are 17″ x 24″ and come in orange or black. The cost is a donation to the Birch Hill Trail Fund of any amount. Honor system.
Click on the link below to go to the club’s Birch Hill Trail Fund page. Recommended donation amounts are listed there. If that link doesn’t work then go to the NSCF website (www.nscfairbanks.org) and click on Support NSCF > Birch Hill Trail Fund
You can also put money or a check in the Iron Ranger at the bottom of the stairs to the Stadium at Birch Hill.
Thank you, Mark!
Starting at 10 a.m. ADT this morning, several SCUM practiced both social distancing and skating the 20 km Sonot course. It was mostly sunny and 15 deg F when we started and 28 deg when we finished.
Besides social distancing, SCUM practice foot and mouth sanitizing. We were able to use resources found under the Cushman Street pedestrian bridge at the Sonot start. There are many secrets to skiing the Sonot Kkaazoot–and taking advantage of found feeds can be important in non-pandemic years.
Dual purpose foot and mouth sanitizer
Although we are 50 km Sonot skiers, we skied the 20 km turnaround today in case we suddenly feel our age during the virtual Sonot.
Practicing social distancing on the Sonot Kkaazoot 20 km turnaround. Photo by Bill Husby.
We all agreed that Bad Bob had done an awesome job of grooming. We only saw one other skier (a young FXC skier who had come down to the river from Birch Hill) but the sunshine and trails were wonderful.
Here’s a view of the Chena River trail from the Cushman Street bridge with a fat biker heading upstream.
Enjoy the skiing before break-up starts on the Chena River. Remember that Mother Nature holds all the cards. Ski with care and with a buddy.
Bad Bob Baker spent the better part of today grooming the Sonot Kkaazoot trail from the start and finish area near the Cushman Street bridge to the Fort Wainwright alpine hill. He also groomed the 20 km turnaround loop and the ditch between the Chena River and Fort Wainwright.
It is springtime so stay alert on the river and ski with a buddy who is 6 feet away from you. Conditions can and will change swiftly. Make sure you have your government identification if you are skiing these trails.
Groomed ramp to the virtual Sonot Kkaazoot start and finish area
Bad Bob grooming the Chena River wide enough for social distancing
Bad Bob plans to groom again on Wednesday morning when he will set a classical track. Enjoy the spring skiing. It is good for your physical and mental well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.
Today the temperature was -4 deg F when we left the hut with a major temperature inversion. However, all the classical only trails had been groomed on Wednesday so we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to ski on firm new tracks even if it meant dropping down 10 or 20 deg F.
The trails didn’t disappoint. If you are training for the Sonot Kkaazoot, or even more, if you are training for the Oosik or the Skiathon, you REALLY should check out the classical only trails at Birch Hill.
The North Classical trails are groomed 5 feet wide making downhill corners easier for skiers with less flexible joints. The really steep downhill on the North Star was just fun today–no fall anxiety at all.
The South Classical trails are more technical but with the current snowfall and grooming, this 70 year old, bionic skier managed to easily stay on her skis on the Blackhawk loop.
Trails groomed by Ken Coe and Bill Husby. All photos by Bill Husby.
Enjoy the longer days on the ski trails. If you enjoy skiing, please make sure that you donate to the Birch Hill Trail Fund:
With the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot just 8 weeks out, it is time to be putting the kilometers into the bank. Today with temperatures in the Birch Hill stadium hovering around -16 deg F and snowing, it was an ideal time to do the North Classical trails especially for balance challenged SCUM. On a cold day like today, the only skiers who showed up for our Sunday workout were those old enough to remember skiing at much colder temperatures.
After warming up our 6 decade and older bodies on one circuit of yesterday’s Town Race #3 course, we headed off for the recently groomed North Classical loops. With Frank Soos leading the first part of the Classical Bear, he managed to dump a widow’s maker’s worth of snow onto our youngest SCUM, Sam Bishop. Sam decided that following the tallest skier among us wasn’t a good idea so he took the lead. At the Aurora Run intersection, we headed out the North Star trail and eventually came to the RSDH Bypass sign. As a faithful reader of the Sonot Kkaazoot blog, you will now know that this acronym stands for “Really Steep Down Hill” on this single track trail. Dermot Cole, photographer of the photo below, has another “S” word that he uses, but we’ve used the official acronym definition.
“Really Steep Down Hill” bypass sign
With the newly fallen -20 below snow, the RSDH was no challenge navigating, which is fortunate because with my down skirt fully zipped on the sides, I couldn’t snowplow. Dermot also took videos of our downhill ski technique so we could improve before temperatures warm up. Today, no one crashed even though we totally encased with frost from skiing on trails that varied from -15 to -25 deg F.
What does it take to ski at -20 deg F? Two chemical handwarmers in each of your mittens and a set for either side of your phone. And friends to ski with JUST in case something unexpected happens.
It was absolutely beautiful out on the trails today and while we weren’t skiing very quickly, we were getting quite a workout just to keep moving on both the uphills and downhills.
Although Shalene Frost won the women’s 20 km Distance Race #2 last Saturday by skate skiing, the majority of participants were classical skiing as the cold weather has lingered for over a month.
The long range forecasts show a 50 to 70% likelihood that the 8 to 14 day temperature outlooks will be below normal. Thus, most mortals training for the Sonot Kkaazoot should embrace classical skiing and plan to enter some classical races to test your fitness.
The Distance Race #3 will be held on Sunday, 16 February at 11:00 a.m. This event will be held in classical technique over 10 and 30 km courses. You can register for that race here: https://www.nscfairbanks.org/programs/races/distance-series/distance-series-3/
On Sunday, 8 March, the UAF Trails Club will host the 20 km classical Skiathon race and tour on the UAF trails at 11:00 a.m. Information and entry forms can be found here: https://uaftrailsclub.weebly.com/skiathon.html
Entry fees from this race support UAF trails so your $15 entry fee before March 7 ($40 on the day of the race) is a great investment in ski trails on the west end of the borough.
The trails at Birch Hill and UAF have ample snow pack and have been getting regular grooming so conditions are great if somewhat slow. Plan to enter some classical races and you’ll increase your fitness as the Sonot Kkaazoot draws closer.
There is now a flicker of daylight at 5:00 p.m. and although the temperatures are still rather chilly, Spring is quickly approaching. Preparation for the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot is well underway. With the frigid temperatures that arrived around Winter Solstice and have hung around most of January 2020, ice conditions on the Chena River look more favorable for the Sonot Kkaazoot than they have in many years. Thus, Bad Bob Baker will be looking for a full complement of volunteers to staff the Fort Wainwright road crossings and timing hut on the Chena River on race day. If you don’t plan on skiing the Sonot Kkaazoot, please consider volunteering for this annual spring event. Just drop an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with your preference in terms of time and task, and we’ll put you on volunteers list.
Just because the temperatures are frigid, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be training if you dress appropriately. There’s even time for selfies and fist pumps as the sun rises earlier every day.
If you need a little guidance, consider signing up for Kristen Rozell’s Sonot Training Course: https://nordicskicluboffairbanks.wildapricot.org/event-3605979 . She’ll provide weekly workouts on Tuesday evenings that will familiarize you with the trails that you’ll ski during the Sonot Kkaazoot as well as provide you with specific training and pacing techniques that will make the Sonot Kkaazoot more enjoyable.
Cold weather is tough on groomers and grooming equipment so donations to the grooming fund are desperately needed to insure that trails are maintained throughout the long ski season. Here’s the URL to donate today:
Supporting ski trails is definitely less expensive than hypertension and pre-diabetes medications. Exercise is a lot easier outdoors and with friends.
So why not sign up for the 33rd Sonot Kkaazoot now so that you’ve made the commitment to get out and train regardless of the weather? Just click on the “Register” tab at the top of this website.
The 200 grit snow that has fallen at Birch Hill at -20 deg F or colder doesn’t support a high glide factor. However, think about the great strength training you’re getting by having to work both uphill and downhill. Also, having the tracks so slow, reduces the windchill factor and the chances of getting your face frostbitten.
The cold start to 2020 has done wonders for the Chena River ice thickness. After having open water in December, the NWS has posted recent ice depths:
This gets the Chena River up to 79% of the normal ice thickness for this time of year, and increases the likelihood that the 33rd annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot will take place on the traditional course starting and ending on the Chena River downtown.
What’s holding you back from registering for the Sonot Kkaazoot? The entry fees will only increase as we get closer to race day.