The in-between seasons: I never know what to do with them.
Roller skiing is not an option as soon as the roads are graveled. I’ve had my share of near-death experiences going down Two Mile Hill and South Access without the road being littered with rock and ice. Skiing is also pretty herky-jerky.
The sound of rock scraping plastic is a familiar one as the trails cheese-grater my skis. Running is a good alternative but I still usually end up on the ground once or twice during a workout.
My plan was to miss all of this. I spent almost all of October in Arizona, a hot spot for endurance athletes from all over the world. It offers a unique training opportunity because you can drive from Flagstaff, one of the highest cities in the United States, to Phoenix, at relatively low elevation, in only a couple of hours.
Because of the lack of oxygen at altitude, our bodies work hard to produce more oxygen-carrying red blood cells. When we suddenly return to low elevation where there’s plenty of oxygen, we still carry these red blood cells, giving us dramatic short-term benefits. We can train faster and harder than we normally would.
That’s altitude training for you, a legal form of doping.
We’d spend three days in Flagstaff, four days in Phoenix, and repeat. I roller skied by forests of huge saguaro cactuses and dodged the odd tarantula while enduring the 30°C Phoenix heat. It was pretty wild for someone like myself who hasn’t traveled much further south than Ontario.
I can’t even imagine that place in July.
Flagstaff was much more pleasant — similar to a summer day in the Yukon.
The Internet kept me in tune with the weather back home. By the looks of it, I wasn’t going to miss the in-between season after all.
I decided to stop in Canmore, Alberta on the way home to get some skiing in on Frozen Thunder, a two-kilometre loop made from last year’s man-made snow, stockpiled under an enormous mound of sawdust. It sounds crazy, but the skiing was actually really good. It took about a week before I got tired of doing the same loop 20 times per day. It was time to go home.
I’m back now and although skiing is still marginal, I’ve been able to enjoy other activities. I played hockey with what seemed like all of Whitehorse on Paddy’s Pond in Hillcrest and I’ve gone on some nice hikes with the shotgun, bringing back a couple grouse to eat for dinner. I’ve also been driving my truck down the back roads, trying to stockpile enough wood for the winter.