Wild Idaho SUC (Standhope Ultra Challenge) Stage Race – 12-15 Aug 2015

My friend Mindy ran the Standhope 60k last year and said it was a fantastic race and really recommended it. I looked it up this spring and found that Ben, the race director, was now doing a stage race that included the 60k as the final stage. I spent time in Idaho in 1999 for work and Chad and I did a week backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains during that time. We also did a backcountry ski hut trip there several years ago. I knew this is a beautiful location and we have not spent much time there so I was excited to check it out.

The stage race format has always intrigued me but the races are usually super expensive and I have not been able to justify the high cost. I also do not have a desire to be running overnight this year but still want to train for long distances and explore new territory. This seemed to be a great alternative to a 100 mile race this year. The Standhope stage race stated that it included over 88 miles and 26,000 vertical in 4 days. The stage race ends with the last race logging 60k and 11,000 vertical.

I trained for this race similar to a 100 mile race since my normal training for a 100 mile race includes many back to back long runs. Our weekend in the Winds were great trainign. I knew this race format would be very enjoyable to me since I really like running those distances and the challenge of back to back runs.

I drove to Ketchum on Tuesday and “set up camp” which just means park the truck. My camp views were spectacular.

1IMG_2609

Views from my bed in the back of the truck.

1IMG_2610

Home sweet Truck. There was a stream just behind those trees to soak and bath.

1IMG_2612

Location of some of the other stage racer’s tents and camper a short walk away.

There were only 18 people racing the entire stage race. There were 10 men and 8 women. Sue Lee was the only other UT person and others were from ID, WA, WI, MI, GA, and Alberta, Canada.

Day 1 – 18.87 miles, 5600 vert, 4h 27m:

We started out Day 1 of the stage race by getting delayed by the local wildlife on the drive up to the start. The sheep heard delayed our start by 15 minutes.

1IMG_2607

Sheep heard that delayed getting to the start of the first race.

It was a challenging but beautiful loop that topped out at an elevation 9500’. This was one of my best days of racing. I felt great! The only downfall is that the second climb was extremely hot and exposed and the majority of us ran out of water before we finished.

Day 1 Pioneer Cabin Loop

Day 1 map and elevation profile.

1IMG_2617

There was great scenery on Day 1. Photo taken by Sue Lee.

I spent the afternoon getting rehydrated, soaking my legs in the creek, resting, and preparing for the next day.

Day 2 – 17.92 miles, 4100 vert, 3 h 55m:

Day 2 was a point to point run. We all met near the finish location then we were shuttled to the start of the race. This day we stayed a little lower only topping out at an elevation of 8500’. This trail had a lot of hikers and must be a popular trail in the area. Starting around mile 6 I had issues with my ears clogging and felt like there was fluid in them. I have had this problem sporadically and more often lately. It is quite concerning since it makes me quite dizzy and sometimes nauseous. Due to this I wasn’t able to move as fast as I wanted to and really had to slow down near the end of the race.

Day 2 East Fork Baker Creek to Oregon Gulch Trailhead

Day 2 map and elevation profile.

1IMG_2618

Running down the trail with Thomas.   Photo taken by Sue Lee.

As soon as I was finished and had my recovery drink I headed straight into town and went to the pharmacy. The pharmacist recommended pseudoephedrine and drops for my ears. I immediately took the meds and put the drops in my ears and it was instantly better so I felt good about the next day’s race. I spoke with Chad, caught up on email, and had a great Mexican meal. I then headed back to camp and prepared for the next day’s race.

Day 3 – 13.72 miles, 4400 vert, 3h 13m:

The 3rd day of racing was one of the best days. This was the shortest day and we were all going easy since we had our really big day the following day. We drove to the starting point of the race and our race started by running on a dirt road for approximately 1 mile to warm up. Then we started the big climb. The majority of the climb was not steep but was very technical so not very runnable. Sue and I stuck together the whole time and had a great time chatting and getting to know each other better. At the top of the ~3500’ climb we had amazing views and a preview of what the next day would bring. My ears started plugging around mile 9, I put the ear drops in a number of times and thankfully had immediate relief after using them.

Day 3 Ketchum via High Ridge to Park Creek CG

Day 3 map and elevation profile.

 

1IMG_2619

I’m taking in the views before running across and down the mountain. Photo taken by Sue Lee.

This was a great day of racing. After getting back to the truck I again went into Ketchum to talk with Chad, catch up on work email, and refuel. I then drove up to the start of Saturday’s race. I got there, checked in, and we had the pre-race meeting. It was great to see friends that had come to race those races. Ben had a great turn out with over 160 racers. I ate another small dinner, had a beer, finished packing my drop bag and finish line bag and went to bed early.

Day 4 – Standhope 60k – 40.94 miles, 12,000 vert, 11h 01m:

I woke up at before 5a to ensure I had enough time to get ready and eat which was more than enough time. We had a 6a start time and it was still dark and really cold as we headed out of Park Creek.

Standhope 60K 2015

Elevation profile of the Standhope 60k.

The first climb and decent was great. The temperatures were very cool and I was just a little chilled with arm warmers and gloves on. I cruised into the first aid station, filled up, and headed across the bridge and into the cow pasture. That is where things started to go wrong. There was a junction that did not have any flagging but we saw one flag going through a stream in the far distance. We ran there to check it out, kept running on that trail then realized that this couldn’t be the way. We backtracked and headed up the other trail. We kept thinking that we had to be right but there were absolutely no flagging all the way up the climb. A few 7AM (the non-stage race 60K runners started at 7AM) starters were passing us then and those who had done the race said it was the right way. We got to the top of the 2nd climb and really had no idea where to go since there were still no course markings. We knew we had to go down but not sure how since those that I were around at that point had not done the race before. We traversed on a side hill and I kept another racer (and friend from Salt Lake City) in my view and missed the turn (unmarked) to go down. I backtracked and finally got on the right trail and ran all the way down to the next aid station still not knowing for sure if it was the right trail since it was not marked at all. In the end about 9 miles of the course were not marked at all and at the 20.4 mile aid station my watch read over 23 miles. Not great for the mental. I felt physically good and started the next huge climb. It was steep and unrelenting, technical, and amazingly beautiful.   It topped out at over 11,000’, had a short downhill, and went up to close to 11,000 feet once more before the next long downhill. I tried to get my leg turnover to keep speed up but knew I was slowing down due to all of the miles on my legs from the week. I hit the next 1000’ climb and felt like the brakes came on. I had not been able to eat much for a while at that point and my ears were plugging. I put drops in a few times during that climb and just put my head down and motored up that steep hill as fast as I could. At that point my watch read close to 40 miles and knowing the race was supposed to be less than 38 was a little demoralizing. I cruised down the other side and it wasn’t long before I could hear the finish line and ran as fast as I could to finish.

I was bummed that it took so long to do this race but going almost 4 miles extra and all the time trying to figure out where to go really increased my time on the course (off the unmarked course in this case).

My fellow stage racers were all such wonderful and fun people and I look forward to seeing them at other races and running with them in the future. I had just recently met Sue and we were happy that we are very similar paces and I look forward to running with her more in the future as well.

I ended up finishing 3rd place for the women and 6th place over all for the stage races. Results can be found at https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=29442.

Total miles: 91.43

Total vert: 26,100

1IMG_2622

Beautiful handmade belt buckle with flowers from the local trails.

Thanks to Ben for putting on a great race.

The stage race was really a great event with lots of fun people and beautiful and technical new trails. I can’t wait for my next one.

Running in the Wind River Range

We have wanted to visit the Wind River Range in Wyoming for years as friends always talk about how amazing it is. We planned a quick weekend with a short run Friday, then a 50+ mile loop fast-pack style for Saturday and Sunday. Our friend Eric Bunce decided to join us for the Saturday/Sunday loop. We were excited to see a new place and to try out some new fast packing gear (especially our new CAMP Raid packs).

Friday’s run was a beautiful cross country run from Half Moon Lake

Half Moon Lake Run
Half Moon Lake Run

After a great run on Friday, we setup camp (ie, parked the truck) at the Elkhart trailhead and got gear ready for an early Saturday start.  The forecast had been hit and miss all week with storms forecasted, then clearing.  We woke on Saturday to grey skies and left the trailhead in a light rain.

Leaving Elkhard Trailhead in the rain
Leaving Elkhard Trailhead in the rain

Based on the forecast, we assumed the weather would clear.

Photographers Point (too bad we can't see)
Photographers Point (too bad we can’t see)

Unfortunately, the weather only got worse and it eventually started raining very hard.  On our climb up to Lester Pass the rain turned to snow which turned to a full on blizzard.  We were now running in winter conditions and packed for summer conditions.  We were all saturated through and cold.  We dropped off Lester Pass and reached a trail junction 16 miles into our run.  Right would take us ~10 miles up to Titcomb Basin and eventually to Peak Lake where we planned to bivy for the night.  Left would take us ~12 miles back to the trailhead and try gear. None of us wanted to make the smart choice but we all knew that left was our only option as the weather appeared to have set in hard and going right could quickly be Type 2 or Type 3 fun. Of course by the time we dropped 1500′ to the trailhead the weather had cleared down low, but the high country still was socked in so we were glad we turned around.  We ended up with a great 28.5 mile run.

We started to re-plan Sunday.  Do we run in a few miles Saturday night or stay at the trailhead for a longer run on Sunday.  We ended up staying at the trailhead and had options for anything up to ~45 miles for Sunday.

Sunday we woke to great weather and headed up to Titcomb Basin.  We decided it would be great to see the basin and scope out that as a route to Gannett Peak (the highest peak in Wyoming). We ended up with a 36.5 mile out and back into the basin and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves along the way.  We took our time on the run up enjoying the sites and taking photos.  After turning around, we kept a decent pace trying to make time back to the trailhead knowing we had a 4 hour drive back home.

The Winds are as amazing as everyone says and we can’t wait to get back (hopefully with better weather).

Seneca Lake
Emily running past Seneca Lake

 

Looking into Titcomb Basin and the Wind River Range high country
Looking into Titcomb Basin and the Wind River Range high country

 

Eric with Island Lake
Eric with Island Lake

 

Emily and Eric in Titcomb Basin
Emily and Eric in Titcomb Basin

 

Emily at Titcomb Lakes
Emily at Titcomb Lakes

 

Emily and Eric running through the amazing wild flowers
Emily and Eric running through the amazing wild flowers

 

Emily and Eric
Emily and Eric

 

 

Getting Aced by The Deuce

Ever since running the first section of the Maah Daah Hey trail through the North Dakota Badlands, Emily and I have wanted to spend more time running there.  When the second section known as ‘The Duece’ was finished (I believe just last fall) I knew it was time to plan on finishing the rest of the trail and then putting together plans to run the entire ~145 miles in 1 push.

Emily and I decided we would do this during our trip home to visit family over July 4th.  July isn’t the best time of the year to head out on a 47-mile run through the treeless, shadeless Badlands, but how bad could it be? The only day we could do this ended up being the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures hitting 85F by 8:30 AM and topping out at 96F in the afternoon. We quickly learned that it could be REALLY bad. The weather put the decision to run The Duece into my ‘Top 5 Bad Decisions Ever’ list (running the Highline Trail alone in bad weather may top this list).

The start of Maah Daah Hey The Deuce
The start of Maah Daah Hey The Deuce

Our morning started out amazing with fog in the low draws and 57F temps.  We made great time on the first 13 miles before meeting Emily’s parents at our first ‘aid station’. The trail was amazing. Well marked, in great shape, and perfect for fast running.

Early morning light on The Duece
Early morning light on The Duece
One of the ~20 gates on The Duece
One of the ~20 gates on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
Our great crew at Plumely Draw
Our great crew at Plumely Draw

By 8AM, an hour into the next section, it was starting to get warm. We slowed our pace to account for the heat and increased our fluid intake (from drinking every 15 minutes to drinking every 10 minutes). The trail and views continued to be amazing. We were seeing cattle, pheasant, pronghorn, rabbits, and luckily only 1 rattlesnake. By mile 24.5 at Bear Creek, our 2nd ‘aid station’, we were really starting to get cooked.

The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views on The Duece

Emily had developed plugged ears from congestion and sweat and decided to sit out the next section of 7 miles to Tom’s Wash. My pace to Tom’s Wash dropped significantly as the temperatures approached 90F. Instead of the 1.25 hours I had planned on this section, it took me over 1.75 hours for this section and I was completely cooked when I got there. I sat down and drank about 2 L and dumped another couple over my head.

The only things we shared the trail with
The only things we shared the trail with
The amazing views on The Duece
The amazing views of the Badlands on The Duece

 

Even with 2 coats of sunscreen, I was starting to get burnt so I put on another thick coat and followed it with a healthy dose of DEET to help keep the nasty, persistent horse flies away and then I headed out on the next 8 mile section to Third Creek. This was an amazing section that was almost completely ‘cross country’ just running trail marker to trail marker. I made it about a mile into this section and started to completely melt down. I was suddenly no longer sweating, unable to run at all, and struggling to maintain any type decent of walking pace. After 1.5 hours I was out of water having drank 44 oz and I was still 3 miles from my crew. Emily was going to run out to meet me part way so I was counting on this. I was starting to have trouble following the trail markers and getting clumsy and dizzy from the heat and dehydration. I knew I was walking a fine line. I had to keep moving, but couldn”t push it. I came to Hanley Creek and it thankfully had a couple pools of rusty red and yellow water (or rather a mixture of cow piss and water based on the smell). I slid down the steep sandy bank and sat in the 8” of water soaking my legs up to my waist. I sat for 5 minutes getting my core temperature down and then climbed back out and headed on. I felt like a new person. I was still out of water, but at least felt good enough to maintain a good walking pace for a while. After another 15 or so minutes I met Emily and she had 2 bottles of water. I quickly drank 1 and nursed the other. We hiked the next mile to where the trail crossed a road and were met by Emily’s dad who had driven up looking for us. We bailed with 1 mile left to Third Creek and called it quits. The temps were now in the mid 90’s and there was not a cloud in the sky to offer any reprieve. I wasn’t happy to be quitting before Burning Coal Vein (the end of the trail), but there was not safe way to continue in those temperatures after already getting so dehydrated.

We enjoyed the shade of an old cottonwood tree along the creek (the largest tree I have ever seen in the badlands) while I recovered. I had 3 packets of Recoverite, another few liters of water, some food, and a beer. After about 30 minutes I was feeling good after having cooled down and rehydrated. It was tempting to head out for the next section, but we knew what the results would be so the last 9 miles will be saved for another time.

It was an amazing run and we couldn’t have done it without Emily’s parents being a great crew for us. One of the most amazing things of the run is that we ran for 9 hours and didn’t see another person the entire time. It is so great to be able to have long time of solitude in such a beautiful place. With a detailed GPS track for all but the last 9 miles of the ~145 miles of trail, I am excited to get back and link it all together. An early June attempt would be great as the temps would be cooler and the days long (less than 6 hours of darkness).

Jemez 50 – an amazing race

In mid March Emily and I decided to do Jemez 50 in Los Alamos New Mexico. It was still full on ski season and I had not even started to think about running yet. I had run ~30 miles so far in 2015 when we decided to do the race and only had 9 weeks to train. I put together an aggressive, but attainable training schedule and quickly got excited about doing a new race in a place we had never been. As the race got closer, we realized it was going to be a very fun weekend with a lot of Wasatch runners going down for the race.

The race is known to be hard, but I definitely underestimated how hard it really would be. With ~12,000′ of climbing and 3 climbs making up the majority of that vertical gain, it didn’t seem too bad. When we arrived in Los Alamos on Friday afternoon and did a quick shake out run on a portion of the course, the difficulty really set in. The course was going to be VERY technical and rocky with 90% trail and 10% cross country (no trail at all).

Jemez-elevation-profile-2014-50mile-mockup.jpg
I think the hardest part of ultra’s is the ridiculous time the alarm clock goes off on race day. On Saturday morning, our alarm rang at 3:20AM. We were out of the hotel by 4:15 on our way to the race start. The weather was looking to be perfect. Starting temps of around 40F with highs of around 60F with a slight chance of rain, but strong winds up high.
At 5AM we were off with a fast pace (~7min/mile) until we got onto the rocky single track where the pace quickly dropped in the dark. My body was feeling good and I was on a great 10:30 pace until the top of the ski hill climb (the first ~3000′ climb) where I got off trail and descended about 0.5 miles before realizing my error and having to turn around and climb back to the top of the ski hill. I lost a little over 15 minutes and had added 1 mile. The descent to the ski lodge aid station was steep. I took it easy not to trash my legs and was met by Brent to help refuel and get back on the trail. It was shortly after leaving the ski lodge that my chronic sciatica kicked in with full force. All of a sudden my right leg from my waist to my ankle ranged from mild tingling to extremely sharp pain (to the point of almost passing out on the second climb up the ski hill).

Here is a great photo of me from Jim Stein: http://www.jimsteinphotography.com/Sports-1/TrailRunning-1/Jemez-Mountain-Trail-Runs/Jemez-Mountain-Trail-Runs-2015/JMTR-2015-50M-50K/i-8L6gPS6/A

My pace slowed and I kept plugging along. Around mile 22, David Hayes caught up to me and I was happy to have someone to run with and take my mind off my back/leg for around 8 miles. We ran together through the most spectacular section of the race the Caldera (Valley Grande). We were treated to 2 beautiful bull elk running across the trail in front of us and watched them continue across the expansive valley. A very steep cross country climb out of the Caldera and we had a long descent to the Parjarito Canyon aid station. With my back issue I had not chance of keeping up with David on this long descent so I would be alone again for quite a while. The Pajarito aid station started the second climb to the top of the ski hill. My legs felt find (muscle wise), but the sciatica was becoming excruciating at times. I suffered up the climb and was able to find some relief on the steep descent. I took 5 minutes to get my head together at the aid station and was back on the trail. I covered the next 2.8 miles faster than the first time, and then was happy to know that most of the climbing was behind me.

Shortly after the Guaje Ridge aid station, I was caught by Cody from Silverton and together we pushed our pace much harder than either of us could have maintained alone. We rang the final ~7 miles together at a strong pace down some amazing single track. With about 1 mile to go, we caught David Hayes and the 3 of us ran into the finish line together.
My goal time was 10:30 and I ended up finishing in 11:46 for 33rd overall (30th male) out of . I wasn’t thrilled with this time, but considering how my back/sciatica felt and my 1 mile detour, and the fact that the race was close to 54 miles (no including my detour) I wasn’t that disappointed either. It was great to have Bethany, Brent, Emily, Leslie (David’s sister) and other familiar faces cheering at the finish line.
After recovering (a little) and getting some food, we waited for the rest of our Wasatch crowd to finish.

Jemez 50 - 23May15 The final climb to the finish. Photo by Brent Mitchell

Jemez 50 - 23May15 The Legendary Roch Horton finishing

Jemez 50 - 23May15 Emily Finishing
After getting cleaned up, we were treated to fantastic homemade lasagna at David’s moms house.
We were looking forward to Sunday and Monday in Santa Fe. Since neither of us had been to New Mexico, we decided that it would be fun to spend 2 days there. We got into Santa Fe around 11 on Sunday and walked around town looking at galleries for several hours. We then relaxed by the pool and had a much needed nap (I had only got 12 hours of sleep the previous 3 nights combined). We had an amazing dinner at Pink Adobe and after dinner drink and dessert at Coyote Cafe. Sunday morning was had a great hike/jog on the trails around Santa Fe, a little more relaxation, followed by some more galleries, dinner and tequila tasting at Maria’s and then we headed back to Albuquerque for our 6AM Tuesday morning flight.

Recovering from Jemez 50 in Santa Fe Recovering in Santa Fe

Food consumed during the race (~2800 calories)

  • 3 servings Herbalife Prolong (100 cal)
  • 3 Hammer Nutrition Fizz
  • 9 Hammer Nutrition Peanut Butter Gels (900 cal)
  • 3 Stinger Gels (300 cal)
  • 3 servings Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy (300 cal)
  • 8 Hammer Nutrition Endurance Aminos
  • 14 Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes
  • 3 handfuls potato chips (100 cal)
  • 1 mini snicker (50 cal)
  • 1 Stinger waffe (150 cal)
  • 1 Pizza portable (150 cal)
  • 3 watermelon slices (200 cal)
  • 4 orange slices (200 cal)
  • 2 peanut butter chocolate cookers (200 cal)
  • 1 can Red Bull (150 cal)
  • 8 oz Coke
  • 4 Advil

Spring – Ski or Run???

We had a crazy winter in the Wasatch.  We set a record for the least amount of snow – EVER.  As everyone complained about the skiing,  I had an amazing ski season with lots of great ski days, not as much skimo racing as I would have wanted, a great trip to the World Ski Mountaineering Championships in Verbier, a chance to ski in Chamonis, and too much work travel for my new job with PwC. Thanks to all the hard work that we (Emily, Nick, Eric, and myself) put into the Powder Keg, we had another very successful race.

I have had a hard rule for at least 10 years that I would not skip a Saturday or Sunday of skiing to run except for BoSho Marathon no matter how early I had a race.  With the low snow year, for the first time I broke my rule and transitioned to running earlier than normal to try to get back into running and do the Jemez 50 race on 23 May. In March, I kept my rule slowly increasing my miles during the week.  Starting in April, without much skiing motivation, I transitioned into running mode. Since the snow was marginal (at best) I wanted to take the extra time to ensure I was ready to run long after last year’s injury.
On 18 April, I ran BoSho Marathon.  As usual, the race was hard and it made me wonder if I could get into running shape.  I had my 2nd slowest time, but I was thrilled to be able to run with no pain in my back or leg.  It probably didn’t help that I only had 5 weeks of training going into the run and this run accounted for just over 12% of my entire annual mileage.  It was a great test of where the recovery from the pinched nerve in my back is at.  With a busy travel schedule and some family commitments, this weekend is my last chance for a long run so I will do 50K in the rain and snow on Saturday to really find out if i am ‘ready for a 50′.
My crazy travel schedule that I am trying to cram ultra training into has been/is
  • January:
    • 2 weeks in Chicago for work
  • February
    • 2 weeks in Europe for World Ski Mountaineering Championships
    • 2 weeks in Chicago
  • March
    • 1 week at Brighton for Powder Keg
    • 1 week in Chicago
    • 1/2 week in Denver
  • April
    • 2 weeks in Philadelphia
    • 1 week in Detroit
    • 1 weekend in Scottsdale to visit family
  • May (planned)
    • 3 weeks in Philadelphia
    • 1 weekend in Scottsdale to visit family
    • Long labor weekend in New Mexico for Jemez
  • June (planned)
    • Unknown work trips
    • 1 weekend at Pocatello helping out
    • 1 weekend visiting friends in Steamboat

If you overlap Emily’s work travel on top of this, our paths crossed only 4 days in February, we were only home together 8 days in March, and 2 days in April!

Here are a few photos from March and April.  Maybe I will start snapping a few running.
Powder Keg Week
Powder Keg week
Chipman Peak into Dry Fork with Tom and Blake
Thin snow on the ridgeline to Pfiefferhorn on our way to ski corn into Dry Fork with Blake and T-Dawg
Red Baldy to Tibble Fork with Andy
Skiing Icefall off Red Baldy with Andy – this might be the best corn run in the Wasatch.
Red Baldy to Tibble Fork with Andy
Cooking on our climb out of the Icefall – shirts off skinning at 11K in March!

Powder Keg

Skiing with Sarah and Blake after a 40″ April storm.  Best powder day since Christmas.

World Ski Mountaineering Championships and Chamonix – Part 2

My last posting covered my first week in Verbier (Sunday to Sunday). Races, meetings, and the team were much busier the second week as the ‘big’ races (Individual and Team) were scheduled Monday and Wednesday. There were a lot of logistics and racer shuffling to get taken care of in the final days as well as get team plans for water, spare gear, and other on-course logistics sorted out. As a 1 man show, this was a significant amount of work.

Monday was the individual and an early morning. The team was on the bus at 6:30 heading to the starting line. As with the previous races, the weather was perfect. I knew the Individual course very well so I was excited to see the team off at the start, catch them on course and then meet them at the finish. The course was amazing with long climbs, 3 booters, hundreds of switchbacks, summiting Six Blanc twice and a final hair-raising descent.

World Ski Mountaineering Championships - Individual Race

Start of the Men’s Individual Race

I had a few hours after the race for quick tour with Rory and Colin. We had hoped to summit Mt Rogneux, but due to a late start and a ridge line that was much longer than we anticipated, we ended up making a couple awesome powder laps just off the summit shoulder, then made an extremely long ski and traverse back to Le Chable in time for them to catch the train home and me to get to the race briefing.

World Ski Mountaineering Championships - Individual Race

Chad and Rory on the saddle below Mount Rogneux

I followed the race briefing and team meeting with a late but extremely fun dinner with some of the Italians I have met in the past few years – Oscar, Carlo, and Riccardo and new friends Andre, Enrico, and Markus. We had dinner at a small restaurant owned by the famous Swiss alpine racer Roland Collombin. We had a great meal and several beers.

Dinner with Carlo, Oscar, Riccardo, Andre and others at the restaurant of an ex-pro racer

“The Italian Job”

Tuesday was the junior Individual so another off day for the team, but only a partial off day for me as I had meetings with the ISMF starting at 4PM. Freddy Grossnicklaus who guided us through the Bernese Oberland several years ago had given me several touring recommendations in the Verbier area. I convinced Logan and Rory to do some one of these tours (or a variation of it). We took the lifts up to Mont Fort then skied and climbed Rosa Blanche and Le Perrain and finished with a 6000’+ descent to Fionnay where we hoped to either catch a bus or hitch hike back to Le Chable in time for all my meetings. We had an amazing tour through the valleys and across the glaciers followed by a someone interesting descent into Fionnay. I was thrilled to be able to do this tour with 2 strong partners. We had great snow for all but the final couple thousand feet into Fionnay. To make this even better, we skied down the road into Fionnay and a waiting bus. We couldn’t believe our timing!

World Ski Mountaineering Championships - Verbier

Huge terrain of the Swiss Alps

World Ski Mountaineering Championships - Verbier

Logan with Le Perrain

World Ski Mountaineering Championships - Verbier

Looking down at Fionnay from about ½ way down our descent

Of all the races I have been to, the Wednesday Teams Race course sparked jealously that I wasn’t racing. The course was long (2200M for the men and 2000M for the women) with very technical ascents and descents. The Team had another early morning with the 6:30 bus and eventually made our way to the start. After some confusion of a delayed start due to ice, then an on-time start, we scrambled to get the team to the start and watch the initial >550M climb. It was amazing the pace of the racers as they disappeared up the mountain. After the women’s start (15 minutes after the men), we took the lifts to Les Attelas and joined the other 500+ spectators crowding the course. It was so much fun to see so many spectators and watch all the teams at the top of their second climb. Due to limited time and need to be at the finish line for the racer check (I was carrying all of the passports and if the coach is not at the finish line with passports and the racer is checked, they are disqualified) I had to descend after our last team went through Les Attelas. Our teams had amazing finishes with a top 10 and 3 more top 20 finishes. This was the most people we had ever had in a top 20 and was very exciting. I decided Wed would be a pseudo rest day with only the skiing during the race. After 9 days in a row and very little sleep (on average 6 hours a night), I was exhausted.

Team Race

Meredith and McKenna excited about their finish

Team Race

Nice to see friends on the podium – Letitia (1st), Marta (3rd), Gemma (5th)

Thursday was the final day. Many racers don’t like the relay race, but it is actually one of the funnest races to watch. You can either watch the entire race from the base or skip back and forth to see every racer twice. We had strong men’s and women’s teams and in the end we ended up with our highest finish of the week with a 5th place finish by our women’s team. Two of the three women were first timers at World’s so it was exciting to see them do so well.

Verbier-Day11-007-blog.jpg

Women’s 5th place team – Sarah, Meredith, Jessie

The closing ceremonies is alway quite the party and this year was the same. Numerous speeches (again), a food meal, and lots of wine and beer lead to an entertaining evening with several us of realizing that most of our rides back to Martigny had left and scrambling at the last minute to get a ride.

World Championships Closing Ceremonies

Chad representing the US (far right) on our 10th place finish.

World Championships Closing Ceremonies

Gemma, Gerard, and Marta showing off their Catalan moves

After a late night (getting to bed after 1AM with too many beers consumed), we were up at 6AM to catch the 7:20 train to Chamonix. I was not sure of my plans for the last 2 days and really wanted to get out and spend the night in a hut. About half of the team wanted to go to Chamonix so I decided that was my best best and I did not regret it. We were on the early train and didn’t have set plans other than go up the Aiguillie du Midi lift which rises 9000 vertical feet from Chamonix and is probably the most famous ski lift in the world. We arrived in Chamonix with no losing and not knowing what to do with our bags. Jon Brown and I were quickly able to get a room for 1 night and dropped our bags then suited up (skis, poles, crampons, ropes, harnesses, ice axes, ice screws, prussics pulleys, and all the rest of our glacier kits). It is crazy in Chamonix to see people in fully ice gear walking down the street next to someone in a fully length fur coat. A surprise awaited us at the base of the Aiguille du Midi when we met Glen Plake (a friend of Max Taam’s) who Max had planned for us to ski with that day. This was amazing. I grew up watching Glen in dozens and movies and was now going to get to ski with him. I felt like I was in a dream. Skiing off the Aguille du Midi in Chamonix with Glen Plake, it couldn’t be true.

Skiing Chamonix

Tram lines to the top of the Aguille – this was from the mid point station!

Skiing Chamonix

Gearing up with crampons and axes in the ice tunnel

Skiing Chamonix

Glen leading Scott and Jon down the knife ridge

Chamonix skiing with Glen Plake

Chad, Scott, and Glen getting ready to drop in

Skiing Chamonix

Amazing ice arch in the glacier

For the first run, we were a large group (13 people) who all took their time down Vallee Blanche as Glen pointed out all the famous cols, couloirs, peaks, and climbs. The descent was around 20KM from the top to town as we dropped the 9,000’. It was amazing. I was lucky enough to be able to make another lap on some bigger terrain with Glen, Kimberly (his wife), Max, and Jessie. This was definitely one of the highlights of my ski life.

We were all tired Friday night after limited sleep Thursday so we had a mellow night. We got a good sleep Saturday, then due to bad weather and poor visibility had a late start Saturday. We spent some time at the Chamonix Farmers Market and various outdoor stores before Jon and I skinned up Le Brevant booted up to Col Cornu, skied down to Lac Cornu and then made a round about traverse, ski, and skin back to the Col and into Chamonix.

Chamonix - day 2 - Le Brevant - Col du Cornu - Lac Cornu

Chad on Col Cornu

We enjoyed a last beer in Chamonix (a wonderful Belgian Ale which was the best beer I had the whole trip), the caught a shuttle to Geneva for the night. We ended up with a late dinner and another early morning to catch our taxi to the airport. I am writing this mid flight from Amsterdam to Detroit (then connecting to SLC). I am excited to get home after 2 weeks, but only have 12 hours once I get home to unpack and re-pack for a work trip to Chicago. My preference would be for Emily to be coming to Chamonix and to have another 2 weeks to ski as we left in a storm and far too much terrain went un-explored.

I had a great 2 weeks and can’t thank our US Ski Mountaineering Team for their great racing and dedication to the sport. We are an unsupported team so these people took time off work and spent their own money to come to Verbier to represent the USA in our best finish at World’s yet. Thanks also to La Sportiva for providing team uniforms and making the USA look so professional and to Voile for a couple of great pairs of skis (custom poplar core WSP’s and Vectors) to enjoy 13 days of skiing on.

USSMA_Color    Print      LaSportiva_Logo-1.jpg

Verbier and the World Ski Mountaineering Championships – Part 1

This year I was once again lucky enough to travel with the US National Ski Mountaineering Team to the World Ski Mountaineering Championships in Verbier, Switzerland. I was in Verbier in 2014 just after my back went out and I was excited to go back in good health. The racers were scheduled for 05-12 February. With the weekends, I decided to leave 31 January and return 15 February. The job of coach can be challenging. Nick Francis and I split all of the duties of getting things ready (lodging, registration, travel, uniforms, etc) as much as possible before we left the US. One on Verbier, there are daily race briefings, numerous meetings with the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF), getting the racers to and from races, daily team meetings, social media updates, daily blogs, etc. The days get very busy and most days I hope for 2-3 hours of free time for some skiing between 6:00 AM when we get up and midnight when I finally get all the work done. Needless to say, it is exhausting

I will post a few photos in the blog, but will post a photo album in a few days.

The snow in Verbier had been very poor all winter, but the weekend I was leaving they were forecasted to get a huge storm. The storm ended up dumping close to 1M of snow on the ground in 3 days. I arrived in Le Chable (the village in the valley below Verbier) on Sunday night. I got off the train and was tired and ready for a bed. There was 30+ cm of snow on the ground as I drug my bags up and down a few streets until I finally found the place I was staying. I had found a room on booking.com that was just a bedroom in some people’s home. It was small and quaint, but made a great basecamp for a couple of days until the team arrived and I moved to Martigny down the valley

My small room in Le Chable

My tiny room in Le Chable

As normal with Europe travel, I went to bed early, but woke up around 2 and was wide awake until 5. I fell back asleep and was up at 8 ready to ski. Due to high avalanche danger I was not able to tour on Monday. I purchased a Verbier lift ticket and was treated to a huge day of >45,000 feet of amazing powder skiing. The resort is absolutely HUGE. I was able to ski fresh, untracked snow all day and had the best resort day of my lift.

Epic Verbier Powder Skiing on Day 1.

An amazing ski day in Verbier

I didn’t want to ski the resort 2 days in a row, but avalanche conditions were still very high so on Tuesday I decided to climb from Le Chable to Bruson and check out some of the Individual Race Course and tour on any safe terrain I could find. It was a 1750M climb to the top of Bryson and Six Blanc where the Individual Course would top out 2 times. There were massive avalanche crowns everywhere I looked. I was able to find a great ~25 degree slope off the back shoulder of Six Blanc that I skied 700M down the valley. When I got to the bottom, I realized that none of the other dozen or so tracks on the slope was an uptrack (I later realized on the map that people toured to Osiers and took the train back around). I slogged back up putting in a skin track and then skied back down Bruson to Le Chable. It ended up being a big day with over 2300M of climbing. I got to Le Chable with 20 minutes to run to get my bags and catch the train to Martigny to meet Sarah and McKenna (the first 2 team members to arrive).

Great Tour on Day 2 to Six Blanc

View from treeline skinning up Bruson

The 3 of us had a good dinner together and planned a tour for Wednesday. The avalanche rating was still Considerable so we planned a very mellow tour from the town of Loutier up towards Mount Rogneux. We took the train from Martigny to Le Chable, the quickly hitched a ride to Loutier. We found a trail tight from town and started climbing. After a couple hours and 1400M of climbing we reached Cabana Brunet, a hut/refuge on the shoulder of Mount Rogneux. We had lunch there then continued up. As we climbed, the clouds moved in ad our visibility got poor. We decided that this was a good sign to turn around. We had a great untracked powder run several hundred meters back down. We eventually hit a junction in the trail and decided to take a different route down. It turns out this leave to an upper trailhead leaving us well above Loutier and on the highway. We skied the shoulder, the rocks, and walked our way back to town. We missed the last bus to Le Chable by 10 minutes so we started to hitch. We were unsuccessful for about 30 minutes before a guide picked us up and even thought he was not going all the way to Le Chable, he went out of his way to drop us off there. We were elated for his help. We caught the next train to Martigny and met up with most of the rest of the team.

Day 3 tour with Sarah and McKenna to Mount Rogneuax

McKenna and Sarah at Cabana Brunet, our lunch stop

With the Team mostly having arrived on Wednesday night, Thursday was racer registration and getting people out on the course. Scott Simmons and I headed out to the Individual Course. At our first ascent, we were quickly caught by Killian Jornet. It was amazing to watch his ease and speed climbing up the skin track. We summited Six Blanc on the races second ascent, skied the steep descent, the climbed the third ascent for another trip to the top of Six Blanc. Instead of skiing down, I convinced Scott to traverse the ridge line a ways and ski down some untracked powder. We were treated to an amazing descent all the way back to Le Chable. We arrived in time for lunch with the team and then the opening ceremonies which included a parade of nations and far too many speeches in French while we stood in the freezing cold.

Verbier-Day04-005-blog.jpg

Scott showing me how to rip on skinny skis

Verbier-Day04-009-blog.jpg

Scott enjoying the amazing Verbier Pow

Verbier-Day04-020-blog.jpg

Opening Ceremonies – Parade of Nations

The first race was the sprint race held in Champsec on Friday. The team was excited about the sprint even though it is typically not a strong race for us. We ended up with all 4 women making it to the quarter finals (although due to a timing error, McKenna ended up being omitted). We also ended up with 2 of our men reaching the quarter finals. This was extremely exciting for us as we had never advanced any men and only 1 woman (Nina) before.

World Ski Mountaineering Championships - Sprint Race

Champsec Sprint Course

Saturday was the Vertical Race, but it didn’t start until 4PM so we had some time to ski in the morning. I didn’t have time for a long tour so I took the lifts up to Mont Fort and then planned to ski off the back side down to Lac de Cleuson and around to Tortin then take lifts back to Verbier. The mini-tour was fantastic.

The course for the Vertical was amazing as it wound through the streets of Verbier then finished part way up the mountain at Les Ruinettes. Thousands of people lined the streets for the race, then jumped on the lifts to get to the top for the finish. There were at least 1500 spectators lining the last 200M of the race. It was truly like watch a Tour de France race.

The highlight of my Friday was getting to catch up with Gemma. Gemma had been living in Park City teaching the last 3 years, but was unable to get a work visa this year so she is back home in Catalonia. She was excited to see her Wasatch friends.

Verbier-Day06-071-blog.jpg

Sunday was a rest day for the team as it was the Junior Individual. I was hoping for a day to tour, but due to some problems with ISMF, I had to be back to Le Chable by 2:00 for a long afternoon of meetings and straightening out registration and other problems. I was able to accompany Logan, Andy, Rory, and Brian on a start of their tour. They were going off the back of Mont Fort, then just touring around and coming out either back at Verbier or down valley and catching a ride. I was sad to leave them just as the terrain was getting amazing. I climbed back up to Col de Prefleuri as they descended to the Prefleuri hut. I was treated to an amazing untracked run back to Lac de Cleuson, then as I had done before took the lifts and skied to Verbier and down to Le Chable. After a tiring few meetings, I was able to get back to the hotel for dinner a little after 7:30.

Verbier-Day07-013-blog.jpg

Brian and Rory admiring the massive terrain

Part 2 coming soon.

Powder Skiing vs. Skimo Racing

That really is a silly blog title. There is no competition at all. Powder skiing will always reign champion in that battle.

We had a slow start to our snow pack this year so skimo training was able to take front and center for the first several weeks of winter when I was trying to avoid rocks and a faceted snow pack. This led to being able to create a decent base after far too long off of training (although not a good enough base for the early season races). We had several early season races (3 Wasatch Skimo Series races plus the Irwin race). The races were all fun, but I am definitely not up to the fitness level I would like to be at.

Irwin Skimo Race

Irwin skimo race. Photo by Joe Risi or Chris Thompson.

IMG_1466.jpeg

Emily at Irwin skimo race. Photo by Joe Risi or Chris Thompson.

Irwin Race Results

Wasatch-skimo.JPG

Wasatch Skimo Series. Photo stolen from Andy Dorais – http://slcsherpa.blogspot.com/

Regardless of the snowpack, it was time to get out into the backcountry after Irwin. We had several tours with less than optimal approaches.

IMG_4023.JPG

Very thin mid December snow pack in Silver Fork

And upon digging we would quickly find out that our concerns of low snowpack instability were valid.

IMG_4001.JPG

One of the reasons we have been playing things very conservatively

A pre Christmas rain storm up to ~9,000’ had us all concerned, but this rain quickly turned to snow and we were treated to a wonderful present from Santa with a week of the best powder skiing in the Wasatch in 2 years.

Mineral Fork Powder - 28Dec14

Our low elevation snow pack is still thin, Mineral Fork Road.

IMG_0866.jpg

Post Christmas blower Powder in Mineral Fork.

IMG_0933-1.jpg

Post Christmas blower Powder in Mineral Fork.

Epic Powder was replaced with high pressure and wind, sun, and rime crusts. Luckily that all came just before the Wyoming Roundup so it didn’t make traveling up to Jackson and Targhee for a weekend of suffering nearly as bad.

The Targhee race kicks off the 2 day, 3 race series. The weather at Targhee was great, about 40 degrees warmer than last year. An updated course this year gave us a hard booter and magnificent 2nd climb. The third climb was a long as always, but has great views of the Tetons. The skiing at the Targhee race was some of the worst imaginable. Ice and breakable crusts with frozen thunder thrown in was on the menu of every decent. I was able to finish in 1:43 which was 10 minutes faster than my previous best.

Chad-Targhee-Classic-2.jpg

First climb up Targhee. Photo by Joe Risi

With a longer than 1 hour drive back to Jackson, we had very little time to get ready for the Snow King Sprint at 5. I needed to be there at 3 to help Cary, Pete, and Nick get setup. The sprint is not my strong suit, but since I am good at transitions, I can usually do fairly well. I came in 11th in the qualifying round in 6:33. Since I was also doing the timing, I opted out of the finals.

A quick dinner, a couple too many beers, and a short night sleep and it was time to toe the line at Jackson. Jackson is the hardest individual race of the season. It is long (~8,200’) and has super steep and icy climbs. After 2 races in 1 day, Jackson is always daunting. I can usually do fairly well as my summer running (that is if I would have run much last summer) gets me in good shape for back to back hard days. The Jackson conditions were 60 degrees warmer than the -40F wind chills of 2014. After the long first climb (over 3,000’), we were treated to the first descent that had great snow on steep moguls. One of the fun parts of the Jackson race is that the skiing is full on steep shuts, moguls, and a long 4,000’+ descent.

Jackson-03.jpg

One of the massive Jackson climbs. Photo by Joe Risi

Jackson-05.jpg

Booting to the top of Rendevouz Mountain. Photo by Joe Risi

I finished Jackson in in 2:59 about 5 minutes faster than my previous best on the same length course (I was 10 minutes faster in 2013, but the course was slightly shorter due to no Corbets booter). I was disappointed with my finish in that I just couldn’t get into high gear (and thus the pain cave) on the last climb and lost well over 5 minutes on this climb.

Here are the full Wyoming Roundup Results

We returned from Jackson to a full on Utah storm that dropped 15” of snow at our house. I was able to get in a great Monday post work and Tuesday before work ski in Summit Park followed by Tuesday nights Wasatch Skimo Series race that had some of the best snow of any race we have had.

What’s next? It is just 2 weeks before I head to Verbier, Switzerland as coach of the US National Ski Mountaineering Team as we compete in the World Championships. Until that time, we have a Wasatch Skimo Series races, the Crowbar race, and hopefully lots more powder skiing.

Check back frequently to this blog and the USSMA.org blog as we will have daily blog posts from the World Championships.

Verbier Ski Mountaineering World Championships 2015 from Verbier Ski Mountaineering on Vimeo.

Reflections – Part 2

If you haven’t read, Part 1, please reach that first.

Taking a quick step back to May, we also started a large house remodel as soon as the snow melted. We extended our master bedroom above the 2nd garage (which had been a scab on at some point). The construction wasn’t without challenges. As with most remodels, there were a lot of unknowns as they began to tear into things and we encountered numerous setbacks in the first few weeks. Thanks to our great architect and friend Blake and Noah Bigwood our builder for doing such a great job. We now have an amazing master suite and my pride and joy of a gear room.

IMG_3239.JPG

IMG_4093.JPG

IMG_4094.JPG

IMG_4095.JPG

EMGT was Emily’s last long run before Wasatch 100. Unfortunately, this was her first DNF as a slip at mile 6 caused a glute muscle pull that by mile 60-ish was no longer bearable. Your first DNF is always hard and Emily struggled for several weeks accepting it. Luckily, her glute recovered fairly quickly and she was able to enjoy a fall of fun running.

Summer and fall were a mix of things going on. I was working on getting a new job going back to work with some old colleagues from Accenture. I was excited about an opportunity to work in healthcare technology consulting, but getting the job finalized became a long engagement. I finally started the new role on 01 December. Our friend Stephanie who had gone through breast cancer 3 years ago was re-diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing rigorous treatments. Christian’s health continued to yo-yo with a couple more hospital stays and some challenging times for him. My uncle was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and began a rigorous treatment regiment. All of this lead to a busy, stressful, and sometimes sad fall. It is amazing the impact that the health of close friends has on a person.

Fall also had fun times with Nick and Brita’s wedding in Tellurirde, Coyote running, and seeing family.

IMG_3791.JPG Mt biking with Eric and Jackie in Telluride

IMG_3817.JPG The happy couple

Starting in November, my back started to do much better and the last 2 months have been the best of the year for my health. This allowed us to once again enjoy our long weekend of Coyote running antics. This year we were in St George and Zion. Jared Campbell treated us to an amazing Zion run that required wetsuits, ropes, and harnesses. We also had some great runs around the St George area.
IMG_3892.JPG
Coyote Running
November became the month we really weren’t home with 2 trips to Arizona to help care for my uncle and grandma. It was great to spend so much quality time with them and to be able to help my uncle through this challenging time.
We scrambled to get moved back into our house by Thanksgiving when Emily’s parents, sister, and nieces came to spend the week. By the time Emily’s family arrived, we hadn’t both been home at the same time for 3 weeks and our stress was increasing. Adding to the stress, I would start a new job on 01Dec, but be flying out the Sunday of Thanksgiving. I would be getting home and we would turn around and go to Crested Butte for the first skimo race of the season, then I would leave again that Sunday for another work trip. When I finally got home on 11Dec, we were both excited to have no travel plans and be able to spend some time recuperating, skiing, and finishing up working on the house. It had been since 04Nov since we had both been home and had time together. Another level of stress for both of us.
IMG_3957.JPG Skimo training at PCMR under the snow guns
We spent a quiet Christmas with friends and we were treated to a 70”+ storm over the Christmas week leading to some of the best skiing in 2 seasons.
IMG_0876.jpg
Amazing powder skiing over Christmas
The key I had been learning all year was how to no let all the different types of stress affect my health. It has proved to be a constant journey that is never simple. The new year is going to probe to be very busy with work, skiing, racing, Powder Keg, USSMA, and all of the other hobbies that we have. With hopes, I will keep the lessons I learned in 2014 close to me and be able to manage all of the responsibilities and stresses without letting it affect my health.
Here’s to looking forward to sunny days, powder skiing, friends, and family in 2015!
Mineral Fork Powder - 29Dec14

Reflections – Part 1

It has been a quiet year of blogging as it has been a challenging year. Unfortunately, that means that this post got a little bit long so I broke it into 2 parts. It was a challenging year for me physically and mentally. I started the year off with great fitness ready for a good ski and skimo racing season. That worked out very well with great race finishes (PR’s) at the Targhee and Jackson races. The Targhee race had decent weather but the Jackson race had sub-zero starting line temperatures with 40 mph winds at the top. Most of us were treated to a nice case of frostnip (or worse).

Chad-on-Corbetts-Ladder

Climbing Corbett’s Couloir at the Jackson Skimo Race

What wasn’t readily apparent to me going into the new year was my stress level. Work had been crazy with over a dozen trips to Europe during the year including a last minute 48 hour round trip to Oslo. Add to this stress the natural holiday season stress and the training the skiing I was doing and I was setting myself up for a giant fall.

The week after Jackson, we were off to Heathen Challenge in Sunlight Colorado. The race was fun and post race I was driving to Denver to catch a Sunday afternoon flight back to London for work. A great run with Matt and Walter, a quick shower and off to the airport. This was supposed to be a great trip that would involve a hard week of work followed by a quick weekend in Verbier to race a skimo World Cup race. Little did I know that my giant fall would come that week. On Wednesday I was stretching in my hotel room before going to work and felt something in my back ‘pop’ and then felt sudden excruciating pain. I have dealt with back issues for 20+ years so I didn’t think much of this. The pain increased during the day and I was able to find both a masseur and physical therapist over the next 2 days. By the time Friday came and I was supposed to be heading to Verbier, I could hardly stand up straight and carrying my suitcase and ski bag was miserable. I made it to Verbier, met Meredith and Bill and we had an easy skin to see if my back would behave. It wouldn’t. There would be no racing for me. I went out the next day and Bill and I cheered Meredith on at various location of the course. Sunday morning I could not get out of bed and was in the worst pain of my life. By the time the vertical race ended, I had made it out of bed and packed my bags. We were headed to Chamonix and then I would fly out of Geneva Monday morning. Lots of pain and drugs later, I finally was back in the US hunched to the side and barely able to walk. This is what started the next 10 months of rehab for me. My much looked forward to ski season would end up being only easy climbing on groomed runs for 6 weeks.

In normal fashion, I did race the CROWBAR and Power of Four races off the couch. My fitness was poor, but I still enjoyed racing and not pushing myself so that I would get hurt worse. I was able to complete my Level 3 Avalanche class in light of my back issues. I was concerned I would not be able to complete the class, but was extremely happy to have been able to expand my avalanche knowledge to this level. This all brought an end to February.

Wasatch Citizen Series Race - 25Feb

Our nighttime skimo race series

IMG_2275.JPG

Sarah and Emily finishing Power of Four

March started crazy busy with the Powder Keg. We were the North American Championship Race and also was an ISMF Sanctioned Race so we had a huge turn out and our most successful race ever. It was in March that I finally started to put the puzzle pieces together and realize the root cause of my back issue – the combination of stresses (work, physical, personal). I had a good learning lesson and really appreciated the book Back Sense and the lessons it has to offer for anyone with chronic pain. After the Powder Keg, I was able to start skiing again, but being cautious while still trying to have fun. This allowed some fun objectives like Mt Nebo, the Sliver, and others.

Sliver-025.jpg

Skiing the top of the Sliver

I normally start training for running after the Powder Keg, but this was still out of the question with my back so I decided to continue skiing as long as I could. Emily and I planned a trip to Sayulita for April. This would be our first ever destination beach trip and we were both excited to do something completely different. I have done a little bit of surfing over the past few years so I was excited to be able to get in a full week of surfing. The day before leaving, we Paul D joined us for a ‘Whiskey Tour’ (Alta to High West Distillery in Park City).

IMG_2499.JPG

We left the next morning and had a great week of fully relaxation with lots of surfing, a day of scuba diving, great fish, and the chance to see our friends Chris and Ashley (and their kids Alex and Trace) who had moved to Sayulita a few years earlier. This was a great vacation for us. No racing. No plans. No stress. I felt better after this trip than I had felt all year. Things seemed like they were (hopefully) turning around for my back.

Sayulita-037.JPG

True R&R in Sayulita

I still wasn’t running in May so skiing continued. A couple of standout adventures on Bald Mt, Mt Wheeler and Twin Peaks. Not nearly as much skiing as walking, but fun none the less.

Bald Mountain Skiing Wheeler-Peak-020-1.jpg Skiing NW Couloir of Twin Peaks

Gemma climbing Bald Mt; Chad hiking off Wheeler Peak in the rain/snow/sleet; Mark wading down Deaf Smith Canyon off Twin Peaks

June was still limited climbing so Eric and I went to the NW for a couple of volcanoes. We skied Mt Adams and Mt Rainier in 2 days for a total of over 20,000’ climbing and pretty much horrible snow and weather conditions. I had the worst frostbite of my life in June on Mt Adams. Skiing quality aside, it was a great trip. Thankfully we had Goliath (Eric’s Sportsmobile) to shelter us from the weather and provide a great base camp.

Volcano-Ski-Tour-036.JPG

Rime storm on Mt Adams

Volcano-Ski-Tour-101.JPG

Freezing on Rainier

Ski season had ended and I really wasn’t doing much running. I enjoyed short runs and some great mt bike rides through July and August. My work had been going through lots of changes so starting in April, my work load was very small. This was fun, but also added some stress as I never really knew if I would be laid off as several other’s on our team had been laid off and then they had dismantled our team. More stress was added when Christian’s health started going up and down. Christian is our best friend who has been dealing with lymphoma and all the treatment side effects for over 3 years. I tried to keep the lessons learned from Back Sense in mind and deal with those stresses ‘healthfully’.

In July I was invited on a Canyoneering Trip by Paul and Tom. A little unsure of my abilities, I was hesitant, but was ensured that the pace would be slow so it would not hurt my back. This turned out to be an amazing trip doing Ice Box, Heaps, and Pine Creek Canyons in 3 days (video). I am definitely hooked on canyoneering. I did sustain a nasty hematoma on my shin that would end up taking over a month to heal.

IMG_3297.JPG

Bashed shins

Heaps Canyon Canyoneering Trip with Colter, Paul, Tom

Final 300’ Heaps rapel into Emerald Pools

I also did the Pie N Beer marathon. I definitely wasn’t ready for that distance and just wanted to go out and have fun doing an easy paced long run. Unfortunately, I learned a side effect of the leg weakness caused by my back issues – extensor tendonosis. I was hobbled for about 15 miles by foot pain. This was a huge mental setback for me. I was planning to do the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse Run on August 19 and I was not very unsure if I would be able to do that. I rested until EMGT and 8 miles into that 40 mile race, had the same tendonosis break out. To add to this, we were running from Crested Butte to Aspen and had no planned return. We had a hotel reservation and a planned running route for the following day. After a good night out with friends and a few too many margaritas, I was able to hobble back to CB the day after the race. It would have been a tough day had it not been such a beautiful trail full of wild flowers as we went over Triangle Pass.

Aspen to Crested Butte Run  

The adventures of Emily & Chad