Monday, March 28, 2011

Bretton Woods Nordic Open for Another Week, Thankfully!

Did I say that a cross-country ski with the kids to the yurt at Bretton Woods for a picnic on Saturday would be a wonderful family adventure? Well, I should be reminded that sometimes the kids have something else in mind. After some ridiculously early wake-ups, the kids were cranky. Matt and I thought that getting outside would change their attitudes, but sometimes things just don't happen like you want them to.

Bridget had fallen asleep on the way to the the Nordic Center, but we thought we could get her into the Chariot and that she'd fall asleep again. No such luck. Timothy started wailing when we put him in the Chariot, which made Bridget join in as well. Matt tried to ski with them for a few minutes to settle them down, but we could see it wasn't going to be the idyllic spring skiing experience we had hoped for.

Matt took the kids home and graciously let me stay for a ski on my own. Although it was windy, once across the golf course it was sheltered and the snow was amazing -several inches of powder made for a floating on the clouds feel. Without kids in tow, I decided to ski some of my favorite trails: Abenaki Crossing, Coronary Hills and Nancy Barton. Abenaki had a most wonderful view of Mount Washington. Coronary Hills isn't as bad as the name might suggest if you follow it from east to west, with a long, winding downhill to reward you for a little bit of work to get up there. You have to cross Route 302 to get over to Nancy Barton, so I wouldn't normally take the Chariot over there, but today would be a perfect opportunity to ski the winding trail that meanders along the River.

My disapointment at not being able to ski with my husband and kids was lessened when I saw a sign outside of the Nordic Center that read: "Due to the amazing snow conditions, Bretton Woods Nordic will remain open for another week!" Hopefully we'll be able to make our picnic sojourn happen next weekend.

I got out for a Nordic ski again on my own on Sunday before Bridget and I attended a pool party at the Rosebrook Recreation Center. Although it was still cold for the end of April, the sun was absolutely brilliant and the snow was perfect. It was great to see so many other parents out there pulling kids in the pulks that the Nordic Center rents as well as other Chariots. Afterwards, Bridget thorougly enjoyed herself at the pool party, splashing with friends and relishing a piece of birthday cake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Timothy’s First Day on the Slopes

Although our calendars say that spring has arrived, we’ve barely started mud season here in northern New Hampshire. We had some warm days that melted the snow on the driveway last week, but we still have four-foot snow banks and daily flurries.

This coming weekend is the last days the Bretton Woods Nordic Center plans to be open for the season, so the kids and I have an end of season Ski to to the Yurt Picnic planned for Saturday. Join us if you can! I'll have a report soon, but I'm guessing this will be a wonderful family adventure. We'll also try to swing by the Beach Party/Slush Pool Event and Winter Mt. Bike Race at the Bretton Woods alpine area.

Timothy, who turns 18 months next week, has been scooting around on his little plastic strap-on skis lately, and I figured yesterday would be a good time to see how he'd do with the slippery stuff underneath him. I debated whether I should take him by himself so I could give him my undivided atttention, or to go with three-year old Bridget as well, knowing that he is usually quite determined to mimic his older sister's every move. Deciding that Bridget wouldn't want to miss out on the fun, I took both of them, but without the aid of a second parent, I took a minimalist approach. I knew that I couldn't take both of them on the chairlift just yet and Timothy would probably tire quickly, so as long as we were just playing in the level area of the learning area, I only brought their strap on skis and left my skis, helmets and goggles at home.

With Timothy's skis and some rubber duckies in my tote bag, Bridget proudly carried her skis up to the learning area, and Timothy trudged along too. I strapped their skis on, and Bridget headed for the magic carpet with a rubber ducky in hand. Timothy was eager to pet the life-size red and blue giraffe and touch the flowers posted around the learning area; meanwhile, Bridget just started doing laps on the magic carpet all on her own. The magic carpet is a two-foot wide conveyor belt, like the moving sidewalks you see at an airport, built to be flush with the snow, so the beginner can just slide on and ride up a very mild incline, with nowhere to fall like on a chairlift.

I tried to throw a few duckies on the ground for Timothy to retrieve, but he seemed a bit intimidated by his slippery footing and shrugged the ducks off. I brought him over to the magic carpet to see how he'd do following his sister up the ramp. He stood dutifully on the conveyor belt with little comment, until he got to the end where he began to giggle as he slid off into the snow. Then he would point back at the magic carpet, indicating his desire to ride it again.

I held him up under his armpits from behind as we scooted back down to the bottom of the magic carpet. He shuffled his feet like we was trying to walk, which I guess isn't surprising given all the time he has ridden around in the Chariot this year watching us propel oursleves on Nordic skis. Bridget requested that this ride up was "kids only!" so I walked alongside with the video camera.

Both kids seemed content to do laps on the magic carpet. I was gladto see Bridget happily going on ahead when I had to stop to pick up Timothy, and that when she fell she was getting herself up, which was great progress after weeks of waiting for me to come help her when she crashed. On the carpet, she waved to me like the homecoming queen in a parade, then hopped off and went around again. It's amazing how the dynamic changes when there are two kids. I had asked Bridget to show Timothy what to do, and now suddenly instead of being the new one on the slopes, she was the old pro with confidence in her stride. I'm often ambivalent in my feelings towards seeing my kids grow up and away from me, but this was a wonderful show of independence.

Timothy seemed to just tolerate the skiing part, anticipating that moment when he could slide off the end of the conveyor belt. After several more "one more times," I could see Timothy was going to need a nap, so we headed in for a brownie break while the smiles were still on their faces.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Outdoor Mom's Mount Washington Cup

After four years of pregnancy, nursing, and care of two babies, I had hoped that this would be the year to finally get back into shape enough that I might get back to some kind of competitive sporting event. Although my fitness for racing was a bit questionable for the Mount Washington Cup, the great thing about Citizen's races is that it really is just a chance to get out there and test yourself, but you don't need to have a bunch of experience to just have fun.

After a winter of pristine snow conditions at Bretton Woods, everyone was a bit disappointed to see rain in the forecast the week before the Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon and Mount Washington Cup. Luckily, a winter of nearly daily snowfall had built up a substantial base, and we could survive a few warm days. Not so fortunately, though, a couple days of big melting and rain created an ice jam on the Ammonoosuc River just outside of the Nordic Center that created quite a mess. Bretton Woods staff had to scramble to clear the flooded areas in preparation for their biggest event of the year. And they pulled it off .

Because of some wet areas, both the Marathon and the Mount Washington Cup had to be rerouted and shortened somewhat, but the courses still proved quite challenging. My husband participated in the Marathon while I stayed home with Bridget and napping Timothy. Sunday was my turn to race.

Despite best laid plans, between sick kids and vacations, my cross-country ski training had dwindled in the last month, but I had made a decision to do the Mount Washington Cup, and with only some ego at stake, I really had nothing to lose in giving it a shot.

My cousin Becky, her husband, Mark, and daughter Casey joined us for the weekend of racing as well. All three are experienced triathletes, but new to cross-country skiing. It was great to have some friends on the course, and seeing them race together as a family was great inspiration to me. They are a perfect example of the family that makes it a priority to get outside and be active and have so much fun doing it.

I had taken a skate ski lesson and I had tried to ski as much as I could before the race. I knew from my bike racing days that I needed plenty of food and drink to fuel up before the race. I knew I need a good warm-up to get my heart rate up and my muscles warm before the race. But on the start line, I realized that I really didn’t know what it was going to be like. I knew that it was going to be a bit chaotic as over 100 skiers barreled into a trail that narrows to a width that just barely accommodate two skate skiers. But I didn’t know where exactly I’d stack up in all that.

As we started, I quickly found out. Everyone was double-poling in the elbow-to-elbow positioning. I rarely double-pole, and I wasn’t making a lot of headway. As soon as I could, I began to skate, but people were just streaming past me. The bike racer in me didn’t want to give any ground, so I just skied to the side enough to let them pass. My heart was racing, but I just tried to keep focused on the trail.

By the time we got to the hill by the Eisenhower Wayside Park, the crowd of experienced racers had passed and I flip-flopped back and forth with a few people. I quickly realized that my downhill skiing experience was going to be to my advantage… although my momentum slowed down on the uphills, I could pass some tentative skiers on the downhills. But it was a long slog up hill before I got there. Rolling Dark Forest, up Peter’s Path, and then up and up and up Beech Hill and Clinton. It seemed to take forever to get to the top of Sebosis.

And what a relief it was to cruise down Sebosis. The right onto Stumpwalk took me into a bit of unknown territory. I don’t ski it often because it is usually left ungroomed. But it was a rolling downhill that brought me out onto the bottom of Cornonary Hills, then I knew it was just a cruise back to the Nordic Center. Out on the golf course, the snow got heavy and wet, and I was glad that the snow had held up so well so far.

What a treat it was to see little Bridget scooting around on her cross-country skis as I crossed the finish line. Still running on the adrenaline of the race, I was happy to watch her as she demonstrated to me how fast she could go.

The 12.5 kilometers took me just over an hour, and I ended up 30th out of the 36 women who raced. Cousin Becky’s daughter Casey was second in her age group, followed by my friend Amy’s niece Rachel, who was third. It was great to see the smiles on their faces as these teenage girls adorned their medals, and even more wonderful to know that a taste of success would be just what they needed to keep racing on their radar. And yes, not only did Casey beat me, but she beat both of her parents as well! It’s amazing to think that one day I’ll just be trying to keep up with my kids on the trails and slopes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Trials and Tribulations on the Trails

Yesterday was a typical day with the kids – moments of independence and success, followed by screaming and hysterics, followed by some content over hot chocolate.

Bridget has the week off from preschool, so after Timothy’s morning nap we headed out to Bretton Woods, first to meet some friends of ours who are new parents at Fabyan’s for a little lunch.

Bridget, inspired by the news that one of her five-year old friends had skied all the way to the yurt, was eager to Nordic ski. She cruised ahead of me as I towed Timothy and I was happily surprised to see how much more agile she was getting with her skis on – she could turn direction and when we had to go up the incline over the Ammonusuc River bridge near the Nordic Center, she instinctively turned her toes out to form her skis into a “V” to keep herself from slipping backwards. She still needs help getting up when she falls, but the falls were a bit fewer this time. When other skiers passed by and cheered her on, she would shuffle her feet faster, almost in a run. Now, if I could only convince her that she doesn’t really need poles quite yet! I wasn’t going fast enough to get any kind of a workout, but it was so great to just be outside in the bright sunshine, watching Bridget scoot along happily.

We made it down Perimeter behind the Omni Mount Washington Hotel a ways before Bridget decided that she would like to get in the Chariot and ride for a while. She told me that she intended to take a nap in the Chariot, so I knew she was tired – at three and a half, she only naps begrudgingly. In the Chariot with Timothy, there was the usual jostling for position and complaints of he/she is on my side, but they soon settled down and Bridget was asleep in about ten minutes. Timothy quieted down as well, and I figured now was my chance to get that workout in. With 75 pounds of kids and Chariot behind me, I stayed on the flat trails: Perimeter, Turnpike, Rye Field, and the start of Dark Forest.

But just before I was going to turn around on Dark Forest, before the Eisenhower Wayside Park hill, my fortune changed. Timothy started crying that horrible cry when they’ve been woken up way too early. Bridget’s head had slumped sideways on to his, and I’m afraid he had her hat and all those crazy blonde curls in his face. I tried to make the necessary adjustments, but he couldn’t be placated. So I just headed back as quickly as I could, Timothy screaming. By the time I was back to the intersection of Crawford’s Pass, he had woken Bridget up, and now coming from her: that desperate cry of a little one whose nap has been cut way too short. I stopped and tried to calm them down with a reassurance that we’d head straight back to the Nordic Center, but reasoning with toddlers doesn’t always fly, and so I sprinted back with screaming babies in tow. It was a long ten minutes.

Back at the Nordic Center, a round of hot chocolates seemed to cure all woes. They were both headed for an early bedtime that evening, but for the time being, the kids were back on the happy side of the roller coaster. At home, Bridget bragged to Daddy that the other skiers were saying how fast she was going. Although I wasn’t excited that the kids missed a nap that they both needed, I was so happy to see Bridget beam with pride at her accomplishment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Dog Trails To You

Long before the kids came along, another member of our family loved to Nordic ski with my husband and me: our dog Daisy. Our 12-year old black Labrador Retriever loves winter probably more than any of us. She adores running, but heat really slows her down in the summer. She recognizes when we’re getting our outdoor gear ready and whimpers at the door, ready to go.

Last week I decided to take Daisy with me to the dog-friendly trails at Bretton Woods while I towed Timothy in the Chariot. This was my first try at simultaneously towing a kid and keeping an eye on Daisy. Luckily, Daisy is usually very well behaved on the trail. She has always been a people-dog, more interested in staying close to us than in ranging too far. Still, with Timothy in tow I didn’t want this to be the day she decides to go exploring without me.

It was a blue-bird day, and I was excited to get outside after some home-bound days with another round of sick kids the past week. Daisy’s exuberance manifests in a funny little habit when we are setting off on skis or mountain bikes: she nibbles ever-so gently, but incessantly, at my gloves. Luckily that only lasts a minute and then she’s galloping along next to me.

When we first took Daisy cross-country skiing, it took a while for her to figure out how to manage getting around those long sticks attached to our feet, and we’d get all tangled up, dog fur and poles and skis and me, and I would come crashing to the ground. Fortunately, Daisy soon figured out that she didn’t need to run so close to her people – a little distance made it easier for everyone.

The dog trails at Bretton Woods are in the Deception Trail System, which are the trails northeast of the Nordic Center, mostly on the other side of the Cog Road. To get there, you can either go behind the Omni Mount Washington Hotel on Lower Honeymoon, which is partly a snow-covered dirt road, or go over the Ammonoosuc River Bridge, take a left on Perimeter, then go over the river crossing where the river is frozen. This takes you behind one of the old villas that used to house workers for the Resort, and then back onto Lower Honeymoon. Lower Honeymoon follows along the river until it meets with the Cog Road, where you need to watch for snowmobiles and cars as you cross.

I took the loop up Upper Honeymoon and back down Split Rock. Daisy occasionally stopped to sniff rabbit tracks in the snow, but mostly just bounded along next to me. This trail seems to be a favorite of the local moose, but I didn’t get to see them today. The view from the top of Upper Honeymoon is wonderful on a day like today, and Daisy and I take a breath at the top enjoy that feeling that although we’re only 25 minutes from the Nordic Center, we’re taking in some sights that not everyone gets to see; only those of us who take the effort to get out here can hear the winds whispering through these trees.

Daisy runs so fast back down hill that her hind legs get ahead of her, but she still has that tongue-hanging-out doggy grin on her face. I take her back to the car, knowing that she is getting older and I don’t want her to overdo it. Timothy is still singing along in the Chariot, so we head out for another short loop over the golf course, Crawford’s Path, and back on Perimeter. Daisy slept soundly at home for the rest of the afternoon, but I know when I see her running in her sleep, she’s probably dreaming of cruising the cross-country trails with me.

Another good thing to know: if you're visiting Bretton Woods overnight, you can bring your favorite doggy friend with you. The Omni Bretton Arms Inn will host you and your pooch, and you can ski right out your door. Dogs deserve a little winter vacation getaway, too, don't they?