Trail Stewardship

By: Cary Smith

Let’s be honest. As an issue, trail access is nothing compared to famine, poverty or violent crime. But, on a local level, at least in my town, it garners much more conversation. I have been fortunate to be included in some discussions with “the players” in this field over the last few weeks and it started me thinking about my actions, both good and bad, and how I can improve.

Horses are users too.

Horses are users too.

Put place before self. This idea was presented to me and it gave me pause. Instead of thinking about how wild spaces can work for me, I should think instead of what would happen if it was gone. If I’m honest with myself, this is a difficult concept. I want to be able to enjoy the land and don’t want to be denied access. Yet I’m fully OK with denying access to mining, logging, development and horses. In other words, give me free rein but lock out other user groups who don’t improve my experience. This is a selfish outlook that will obviously lead to confrontation. So, I hope to see the land through the eyes of other user groups so we can all enjoy it. On the other hand, I will try to educate the other groups about what they can do to help all of us have a good experience as well.

Get involved. The more I learn about how decisions are made, the more I realize how important individual voices are. If there’s a public comment period about a decision to be made, submit a comment. Don’t just talk about it at the trailhead. If a trend develops, good or bad, inform the proper entity. The people who make decisions can’t read minds and don’t know everything that happens. Help them out by relaying what is seen and heard.

User groups are many and varied.

User groups are many and varied.

The Forest Service is not the enemy. In my area, most of the land is controlled by the USFS. They love the land and are doing everything in their power to protect it. Unfortunately, they are woefully underfunded and understaffed. This may lead to the perception that they don’t care and would rather close the land to everything. I don’t think this is the case. They are in the unenviable position of trying to please everyone, which will often leave nobody feeling pleased. Again, tell them what is seen and heard so that they can base their decisions on what the public wants.

Be nice. This is easy to do when everyone else is being nice, but the true test is my reaction when I experience something inconsiderate, mean, dangerous or illegal. Nobody wants to hear that they’re doing something wrong. It is a goal of mine to be tactful and educational when I see a problem with someone’s actions. I need to be very cautious, however, to not overreach and ask them to change solely to improve my experience.

Remember the goal. There are more and more people enjoying the outdoors. Although it may feel crowded, look at the big picture and be happy that they’re out there experiencing wild spaces in their own way. 

Cross Country Nationals - Mammoth, CA

By: Cary Smith

When it was first announced by USA Cycling that Mammoth Mountain was going to host a consolidated National MTB Championship, I immediately knew I wanted to attend. I hadn’t been to Mammoth since the early 90s when they hosted the NORBA Nationals and I was curious as to how much it had changed. And, thanks to the magic of Red Bull TV, I have become an avid DH fan even though I have been an XC racer my whole MTB career. Now I would have the opportunity to see, in person, just how fast they go.

I figured if I was going to drive 850 miles for a race, I should make it worth it. To that end, I rented a condo for the whole week and entered three races: Single speed XC, age group XC and age group enduro. Getting there a couple days early was pure luxury. I could relax, get the lay of the land, figure out single speed gearing and tire choice and watch the Tour.

I have raced my single speed at several XC and Marathon Nationals over the last few years, experiencing a fair amount of success with 5 wins in 6 tries. Unfortunately, the last XC race I entered I didn’t finish so that weighed heavily on my mind. In other words, this is the race in which I wanted to do well.

Some people find it hard to believe, but even after entering all manner of races for most of my life, I still get incredibly nervous, even easily agitated, as race time draws near. I start to second guess my preparation, my equipment, my nutrition, even the lens color of my Smith glasses. I believe that this shows that it still means something to me and there is still a draw to toe the starting line.

This self-induced pressure, however, can sometimes backfire. My last few training rides before the single speed race went well, with my heart rate coming up easily, even at the 8000’ elevation of Mammoth. Outwardly, I expressed this as a good sign of being rested, but I knew that, for me, this can sometimes also mean that I’m too keyed up.

I haven’t raced in California for 20 years. Since most of the field was from California and Arizona I wasn’t familiar with my competitors. So, my race plan was to start fast to be with the leaders as we entered the first single track. Mission accomplished as I hit the single track in 2nd. Kyle Trudeau and I quickly opened a gap on the field and traded leads throughout the first half of the 22 mile race. I was pushing hard but couldn’t ride him off my wheel. I knew he was also trying to get away from me and wasn’t having any luck. It was good, hard racing but I didn’t feel overextended…until I lost my focus and he opened a slight cushion. I didn’t respond and he kept the pressure up. Now I was reeling. I started having some slight cramping issues and the floodgates of negative thoughts opened wide. My 3rd lap was significantly slower than the first two and I was passed by two competitors. I didn’t even try to ride with them. In a classic “too little, too late” situation I finally ate some Gu gel, which brought me somewhat back to life. Up ahead, I saw a single speeder who I thought was the 3rd place rider slowing down. I picked up the pace, got around him and drilled the final descent. Well, drilled it until I brushed a sharp rock with my front wheel and heard the sickening hiss of a flat tire. My sealant tried to plug it but every time my tire flexed, I would get sprayed and I was quickly riding on my rim. I made a game-time decision to ride it in for the last few minutes, trying to be light on my front end through the rocks and on the off-camber sections. I rolled across the finish line only to learn that the guy I thought I passed was actually a lap down. Oh well. At least it was a good test for an Enve rim. When I got home and cleaned my bike, I pored over the rim and there was not any evidence of damage. Chalk one up to Enve durability.

Looking back on the race, I made two conclusions. One is that I was too hyped up and let the pressure get to me. The other was that I was hungry. I was drinking Gu electrolyte tabs and only had about one gel packet. I needed more on that day and should’ve realized it sooner.

I spent the afternoon moping around, debating whether I even wanted to race the XC the next day. I knew I would, but the doubts were there. Luckily, enduro practice was in the evening so it was nice to go clear my head with some good old-fashioned fear!

Warming up for the age group XC the following day, I harbored no expectations. My plan had changed to one of riding a smart race and seeing how it pans out. I figured I would ride my race and see where that got me by the end. I didn’t want to be moving backward through the pack as the race progressed.

When the starting gun went off and we rounded the first corner I didn’t need to worry about moving backward, as I was in last place! I made some passes before the singletrack but just settled in, not worrying about making aggressive passes, but passing when I could. I was having a much better time today, riding smart and not burying myself. And I kept making passes, which made it easier to push a little harder. By the end of the 2nd lap, I thought I might be in the lead of my class but it’s hard to tell with all the other age groups out there. As I came through to start the last lap, I heard the announcer say I was in the lead. I felt some pressure at the top of the first climb of the last lap and decided it was time to make some space. I upped my pace slightly and rode in for the win. My lap times were markedly different from yesterday. Instead of decreasing each lap, my first lap was my slowest, 2nd was fastest and the last two were identical, which is a much more enjoyable way to race.

I had successfully learned from my mistakes the previous day. I ate more before the race, switched my drink to Gu Brew and ate a gel earlier in the race. I also hadn’t applied any pressure on myself to perform so I rode smoother and more calmly.

I was a little disappointed in my enduro performance as I rode worse than I did in practice. But, I didn’t crash, learned a few things and stoked my fire to learn some new skills so I can be more competitive and have fun riding unfamiliar terrain.

All in all, it was a fun week and so nice to have all the different disciplines at one venue. I hope that more races incorporate XC and gravity events into their schedule.

As with any good road trip, there needs to be a little drama. Instead of driving halfway home Sunday night, I had to be in Carson City, NV, Monday morning to get my new van checked as the computer was telling me it was going to shut down in 150 miles. This is not the first time this has happened-the first was driving home from the dealer with only 200 miles on it! They couldn’t fix it immediately, so I rented a U-Haul and drove the entire way home Monday, arriving in my driveway at 3am. I was excited to get in my own bed for three hours of sleep before work, only to find that the friend who was watching the house had taken the spare key with her. Not willing to break a window, we slept in the cab of the U-Haul in the driveway until I called her at six so I could get some clothes and go to work. 

Togwotee Winter Classic

While driving to Togwotee Mountain Lodge on Saturday morning for the 8th(?) Annual Togwotee Winter Classic our eyes were glued to the outside thermometer in Paul's truck. We were expecting to be seeing numbers like 16° or 18°, but it had settled at 2° when we parked. At least it was windy.

As racers scrambled to adjust their layering system and figure a way to keep their drink mix warm, Adam the race director was putting the finishing touches on the course. Oh wait, he didn't touch the course. This is a true backcountry race where everyone is encouraged to bring a map and pay attention to the trail markers. Luckily, there are only four turns so it's pretty easy to navigate. 

About 40 racers lined up for either the 25 or 35 mile race. It's pretty casual so if you're not feeling great at the course split you can decide right then and there to do the shorter race. In more than one instance, a racer was pinning it to stay with a competitor only to watch them stay straight and bypass the extra 10 miles. The lesson here is, know your rabbit.

The first 7ish miles follow the Continental Divide snowmobile trail east from the lodge. Remember that wind? Yea, straight in our faces for the better part of an hour. Even though the snow was firm, tactics played a huge role as sucking a wheel was way easier-and way warmer. Wheel sucking is a dangerous game on snow, though. The racer in front is constantly looking for the firmest snow and is likely to swerve at any given moment, so you'd better watch your wheel overlap.

Once we made the turn out of the wind, things got better in a hurry. One long climb to the course split then a ripping descent down into a cool canyon brought the racers to a series of wicked little climbs that wouldn't bother a snowmobile but caused great pain in the legs and lungs of anyone on a bike. Again, these hills were quickly forgotten as the course wound its way down a beautiful valley on firm snow aided by, you guessed it, a nuking wind, this time in our favor. 

Just as you're about out of gears, the trail slowly starts climbing back uphill and toward the finish line at the lodge. Several long switchbacks brought the 35 mile course back to rejoin the 25 then it was a fun, rolling climb to the finish. Well, almost.

With about a mile to go, with the smell of the barn overpowering even my sweat-soaked kit, the course took a hard left hand turn onto the nastiest set of whoop-de-dos I've ever seen. Soft, deep and pointy, these whoops sucked the life out of my legs and crushed my spirit. Luckily, they didn't last all the way to the finish and I was able to regain my smile as I saw the sign marking 1/4 mile to the lodge and the "Fat Tire Togwotee Burger" awaiting me.

WINTER WORKOUTS: COLD WEATHER NUTRITION AND PREPARATION

For many athletes, winter is the off season. This, of course, doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and losing all your hard-earned fitness from the summer. Rather, it means starting to rebuild so you can return faster and stronger next season. For many of us, this calls for bundling up and getting outside in the cold and dark. With this change in the weather comes a need for increased preparation of equipment, clothing and nutrition. Since I’m a skier and cyclist, I will  focus on what I do for these activities but my ideas can easily be adapted to other sports.

 

Equipment preparation can be summarized with a simple saying I like to remind myself of whenever I don’t feel like waxing my skis or cleaning my bike: Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. In other words, stay on top of regular maintenance so that equipment failure doesn’t leave you stranded. This is especially necessary in winter since any unplanned extension of your workout can have dire consequences. For winter cycling, there are a few things you can do to make it more enjoyable. First, put fenders on your bike to stay dry so you can ride longer without getting as chilled. Second, have a good light system. Daylight is scarce and cars are not expecting bikes on the road when it’s cold, raining or snowing. Third, ride slower. I don’t mean easier, I mean use a mountain bike, cyclocross bike or fat bike. The wind generated while riding on the roads with 23mm slick tires will cool your core much faster than if you’re working harder to turn larger, heavier tires while going slower. 

Everybody has their own ideas on clothing choices that work for them. So, whatever works, stick with it. My rule of thumb is that I should feel chilly as I start my workout knowing that I will soon be warmed up. Try to avoid sweaty clothes, as they are the best way to drop your core temperature; wear layers that you can strip. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a neck warmer. It takes very little space in your pocket or pack and almost acts as an extra layer. If you haven’t ridden with handcovers, or pogies, you’re missing out. You can stay warm with a much lighter glove, increasing dexterity and control. 


Your nutrition requirements are slightly changed in cold temperature, as they are at high altitude, which often goes hand in hand with cold and winter sports. As the mercury plummets, your need for glycogen increases. Your body doesn’t like to burn fat when it’s cold since glucose, both ingested and stored as glycogen, is easier and faster to use. What this means is that you should eat a warm meal 2-3 hours prior to your workout-think oatmeal or pasta-and then plan on Gu and Chomps to top off your tank while training. The trick here is to keep your food as warm as possible. Try to avoid storing it in your pack but rather next to your body-in a pocket, in your glove or even stuffed in your lycra. This aids both in ease of consumption and ease of digestion as your body doesn’t need to expend energy keeping your body warm while you’re trying to freeze it from the inside out. One study found that fingertips were 2 degrees colder five minutes after eating a bowl of ice cream and 5 degrees colder after 15 minutes.

Dehydration is prevalent in winter athletes for a variety of reasons. As our core temperature drops, the desire to drink is diminished. And the lack of sweat (if you’re dressed properly) leads people to believe they don’t need to drink. Unfortunately, your body is still losing water as both sweat and through exhalation. As you breathe in cold, dry air, your body needs to warm and moisten it. This extra moisture is then lost every time you exhale. Obviously, the harder you’re breathing the more pronounced this is. So, you need to drink and you need carbohydrates. What’s the solution? Gu Brew or Roctane, depending on the length of your workout. Electrolytes are not as important in the winter since, hopefully, you’re not sweating as much due to proper clothing choices.

Again, internal cold is the enemy, so the warmer the liquid, the better it works. Always fill your bottle or hydration system with warm/hot drink mix. The insulated bottles work OK in moderate temperatures but they’re still helped by keeping them on your body in a jersey pocket or in your pack instead of on your bike. I like to use a hydration bladder over my first layer but under other layers in the form of a low profile pack or a vest with a sleeve. Then I can keep the hose inside as well. Speaking of hoses, after drinking your fill, blow the liquid back into the bladder to keep it from freezing in the (insulated) tube. Drinking often will help your performance as well as keep your container from freezing, rendering it useless. 

Embrace the cold, just remember to prepare for it. It never hurts to bring a few more calories than you think you’ll need. It might be just enough to get you home when your phone is frozen and you can’t call for help!