Time passes and skiers come and go, but terrain (usually) doesn’t change – especially in remote parts of Oregon. In this week’s workout, Dan Simoneau, nordic program director at the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MBSEF) and 1984 Olympian, shares a place from the past, which he still drives his athletes from Bend, Ore., to today.
Late summer can be tough training. Though MBSEF may have the shortest dryland season in the world, (we ski ’til late June), it’s hot, we’re tired of roller skiing, summer camps are over, winter seems so far away.
Late fall is also tough training. It’s now been months without a good yardstick to measure our fitness. Our roller ski wheels are worn. Our roller skiing patience is over. Snow seems near, but it also teases us, disturbing our training.
This year we broke up these two blocks with a trip to a pretty special place. A place that’s special to me and a place I wanted to pass on to the next generation.
I call it Kochie’s Hill. It’s a one-lane, paved logging road in the middle of dense, lush, nearly rain forest of Western Oregon. I don’t know the history of it, but I suspect it was built in the ’70s when lumber was the king of Oregon’s economy.
“From the bottom to the top it’s 14.6 miles with an elevation difference of about 3,700 feet. It’s all up. Striding up. There are a couple flats, and even a couple pretty substantial downs, but when you’re done you’ll only remember the up.”
For a couple years in the mid ’80s, Bill Koch lived in Eugene where I went to school and later graduated as an Oregon Duck. When the World Cup season would come to an end, we would both fly to Eugene where he would get back to family and I would get back to school.
Though I studied there from April to August and he lived just across town, we only trained together a couple times. That might have been a good thing because every time we trained together he left me wrecked – a shell of myself.
When he arrived in Eugene, I was anxious to show Bill my roller ski hills.
I say hills because my workouts were defined by the hills. Having been in Eugene for a few years I had the West Hills scouted. I knew the best hills, the long hills, the great intervals. I wanted to show him Gimple Hill, Baily Hill, Dillard Road, Briggs Hill, and a host of other roads that made me the skier I was.
But when we finally found a way to get together for a roller ski, Kochie had his hill in mind. He found it with a plane. I could have scoured the hills and roads of Oregon for years and there was no chance I would have ever found this road. To make a long story short, we went, he conquered, I crawled home.
Today, Kochie’s Hill lives on. From all evidence it sees little logging or traffic of any kind. It’s single lane road that at times is more of a bike path as moss, grass and trees are absorbing it back into the forest.
According to Map My Run, from the bottom to the top it’s 14.6 miles with an elevation difference of about 3,700 feet. It’s all up. Striding up. There are a couple flats, and even a couple pretty substantial downs, but when you’re done you’ll only remember the up. Total climb is 4,645 ft. You read that right. 4,645 ft of vertical in 14.6 miles.
The road has switchbacks, some chip seal for the first few k’s, plus plenty of places where nature is taking back its turf. But mostly it’s a great classic striding workout where you don’t need high visibility clothes, where you’ll stride for hours, and where the snow on top is a symbolic end to the dryland season.
Kochie’s hill is 90 minutes from MBSEF and it’s become a special place. A place we go when we need a change, when we need to escape the dog days of August, when we want to confirm that we’re fit enough for winter, and when we want to absorb some of the greatness of the best skier of the prior generation. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where the old coach starts telling old stories.