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Training Log: Swampfox

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Wednesday Apr 17 #

Note

I skied in the afternoon, for ski #129 on the season. I think that’s going to do it for me, given the conditions today and the weather forecast for the next few days. Conditions were actually quite good–well drained snow at the end of the day, that had a fast, icy feel without being in any way re-frozen. Gaps had opened up in the trail net in several places. Friday is supposed to be warm and sunny, which will open up all sorts of other gaps, and once gaps appear in the Campground Loop, I hang it up. It’s been a really good season, with good snow the whole way through once we got good coverage in late November.

Laramie could be a really serviceable base for serious skiers to operate out of. All it lacks is size (critical mass in terms of number of skiers.) For some exceptionally driven people, that might not matter. But for most folks in most sports, having a group to train with offers very significant advantages, and that’s definitely true for orienteering.

Tuesday Apr 16 #

Note

Overcast skies all day long with some wind, and neither mild nor sub-cool. The forecast was for rain/snow with possible thunder, and there was some light rain spitting down intermittently while I was out biking. I had hoped to get out for an O' pass in the afternoon. By the time I was ready to go, there was nothing to actually stop me, and my usual figuring is that if I can get started, then I can carry on and finish.

Since I've been looking forward to getting out on a mild day, I purposely overdressed, with a medium light jacket over a t-shirt, plus a knit cap. I told myself that if I got too warm, then good--it would be like simulating race conditions in Houston. (Nobody is fooling anyone here: as a practical matter, it is totally impossible to simulate race conditions in Houston when you're in Laramie.)

There was still a lot of snow in the terrain, but mostly in bands and drifts that were easy enough to run around or else get through without too much flailing. Someone was shooting rifles, and I thought at first they were near several of my early controls, but there must have been something deceptive about the way sound was being carried because they were actually further away than I had thought, and far enough away that they were no concern of mine, other than the fact that shooting restrictions are now in effect so they shouldn't have been shooting in the first place.

I felt good running, and better than I would have expected for so early in the season.

The gray skies and dulled out end of season snow and brown grasses made the scene an almost entirely drab one. But only "almost", because I did come across a small group of pasque flowers brightening up the landscape with their purple waze.

While I was cooling down I thought about other springs. It used to be that there were regular "A" events organized by SLOC to look forward to. If you were orienteering in the 1980s, it would be all but unimaginable that SLOC would have almost disappeared by today--certainly in any sense of the national O' scene. I always liked the limestone ridge and valley terrains and forests that characterized most of those SLOC areas back then. And it seemed almost uncanny how many of those spring races would take place on one of the first mild weekends of the year. When you were headed up a south facing slope with the sun bearing down and not a leaf yet in sight anywhere, it felt like you could feel every foot of the hill.

Of all the old SLOC areas, Hawn State Park is my favorite. The terrain there offers really good orienteering, and altogether apart from the orienteering, the area has a neat feel, or at least it does to me. I believe Tim Gutersloh (sp?) made the original map, which was a really high quality effort for the time. Actually it would compare very well with many of today's over-mapped efforts. It was first used for a US Championship, back in the days when "classic" was the only way to go. Over the years when traveling across the country, I've often detoured and stopped by Hawn to go for a run--sometimes with a map, and sometimes just on the trails there.

Saturday Apr 13 #

Note

It snowed again today, for the fourth day in a row. That’s a lot of snowing for what is ostensibly spring, but in fact this is what spring is at 7300', on the high altitude tundra prairie of Laramie–alternating periods of mildness with returns of winter that can be almost as tough as anything that comes in January or February. There’s not much snow in town, but up in the hills it looks as completely like mid-winter as can be imagined.

I skied for the 126th time this season, which now has stretched for over a third of the year. Serious skiers could do worse than base themselves here. For instance, skiing is not nearly so available in places such as Miami, New Orleans, or even Houston, no matter what the natives in those places maintain. It just doesn’t snow all that much in Houston.

And what if you get tired of winter weather? You just have to try to find the positives. If nothing else, snow means water, and water means life. If there was no snow around here, it would all be desert and dry mountains.

Skiing in April certainly has its advantages compared to skiing in late November. In November, the snow depths and coverage are usually more marginal. It is colder. There is much less light. And much, much less light at the end of the day. But you can tell that many people do not see those advantages. Almost anyone who skis is trying to get out in late November, no matter the weather and no matter how poor the trail coverage is. In April? There is almost no one.

The far end of the groomed ski trails skirt the edge of Brown’s Landing, and pass through a part of the Brown’s Landing map we used during the 2014 Laramie Daze. I often think of that race when I ski through there now, and I thought of it today.

The map itself is small, skinny, and not easy to access since the main part of the map is high above the only feasible parking. I’m not sure where I got the idea to have a race day there, but probably I thought of it during one of the countless trail runs I have done through there. It’s beautiful, it’s more remote (with no motorized travel allowed) and more wild, and it has a real feel of being in the mountains, with some commensurate big views.

It’s also a tougher area with some big slopes and many hills and knobs, and bits of forest littered with fallen beetle kill pine trees. I knew going into it some people might not find it to be their cup of tea, and yet I was still drawn to the idea because of the special nature of the venue and thought that some people might really like it a lot.

Right from the very beginning I planned to have the start most of the way up the very big slope that dominates the area, to lessen the toughness of the area. One area that I wanted to use for a control didn’t have any suitable features to use, so I built a small stick teepee for a manmade black “x”. It didn’t take long to come up with a course design I was happy with, but that was on paper. I test ran the course, along with a friend for an independent set of eyes, and was even happier with how it felt and ran. Sure, there were some tougher spots and a fair amount of climb, but it was fun, beautiful, and special–definitely not a run-of-the-mill type course or area.

The race itself went well.

Those are the sorts of things I think about when I ski through there, and I thought of them today. It was beautiful, with several inches of fresh snow on the ground, and late afternoon sun with a few remnant clouds still passing by overhead.

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