On evening training runs I occasionally find things. Sometimes it's a hat, water bottle or sport glasses that someone lost. A couple times I've found lost car keys or wallets. Occasionally I've found a semi-lost hiker or a lost dog. And once I found a radio-controlled airplane someone lost control of.
But recently I topped all of my after-work, evening run finds. I found a lost ski area on a deserted island!
Before I explain this cool find, let me segue to the training point of this article: variety of training locations. It seems that some skiers can get locked into rigid training routines. Roller skiing is always done at location A. Runs are on trails at location B. Cycling is done around loop C. Bounding is always done on hill D. These routine locations become habit and convenience. And often one week becomes a clone of the previous week and a clone of the week before that, and a clone of the week before that, etc.
You’ve been hitting dryland training for a few months now. If you find yourself in this cloned training location routine syndrome you might think about exploring other training locations. Why? Well here are a number of reasons:
To give yourself a mental break. If training gets too routine, you will likely loose enthusiasm and not get the full benefit out of your training hours.
To learn to adapt to different venues. I’ve seen skiers that get what I call the â€œfuddy-dud syndromeâ€. They get so used to training and skiing in one location, that when they travel to somewhere new and different, they don’t adapt well and have a bad race. If you change your training locations significantly and frequently during summer months, you will find it easier to â€œroll with the punchesâ€ when you ski race at unfamiliar venues.
To learn more about your neighborhood. If you train in lots of areas around your region, county or state, you will have a better knowledge and sense of place for where you live. You will find new â€œfavoriteâ€ training spots. And you will probably like where you live even more.
A better quality of life. If you want to be able to say: â€œFor the last 20 years I have trained in the exact same spot and raced the exact same races!â€ Then you need to stop reading this article and go on to another one. However, if you want to have endless stories of adventure, discovery and humor then strive to train in different locations frequently.
OK, now I’ll seque back to finding the lost ski area!
I probably go overboard. I make a pact with myself that no two workouts will be exactly the same. Ever. Yes, I may do time trials on a course to judge my fitness level, but the training before or after the time trial will always differ. I’m always on the hunt for new places to train. Places that I’ve never been to.
In my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska a great place to train is Kincaid Park. From this park, where many folks regularly train, you can see an island off the coast 5 miles to the west. Fire Island. But this deserted, 15 square mile island might as well be invisible to most skiers in Anchorage.
By â€œinvisibleâ€ I mean, nobody really ever thinks about the island because of its inaccessibility. There are no roads, bridges or ferries to the island. The island is surrounded by Cook Inlet, a local basin of ocean notorious for its treacherous waters. Strong currents from 30-foot tides that scour the quicksand-like mud shoals of the area with cold, brown, glacial silt laden water. Boaters often avoid these waters. Also, the island is mostly private land owned by an Alaskan Native corporation that doesn’t encourage people to go there.
After looking at this island for 20 plus years, and thinking it would be a cool place to visit and train, I said
â€œNo more wondering
time to go!â€ My wife went to the owners of the island and we got a permit to go there. We loaded our dogs (3 Malamutes) and selves into our skiff, timed the tides and headed to Fire Island for a camp-out, training and exploration trip.
Finding a tow rope tower of the lost ski area of Fire Island
Back in town I called up friends and said: â€œHey — I don’t know of anyone that has gone for a mountain bike or run on Fire Island after work, you guys game?â€ Soon I had Benji Uffenbeck, Craig Medred, Trond Jensen, and of course my wife Tammy and our dogs, loaded into the skiff and we were heading out to Fire Island.
We mountain biked roads and trails that had rarely, if ever, been mountain biked. And ran beautiful beaches that likely hadn’t been trod in 25 years by athletes on a training run. We finished our run around this beautiful island by following trails to the base of the ski area.
From the bottom rope tow towers we followed subsequent towers up through a dense alder and spruce jungle. Some towers still had remnants of the tow rope on them. At the top of the old ski area we were amazed to find the rope tow’s diesel motor (in great shape) in a metal house. We were even more amazed to find an abandoned ski lodge! Actually — it was a well preserved, log warm-up cabin that was now hidden in this dense brush. Apparently, because this ski area was overgrown and lost in the brush, it had escaped and survived the government cleanup operations of the 1990s.