Coupe du Monde de Ski Alpinisme – Verbier

I had what I thought would be the perfect plan. I had to be in London for client meetings 13-17 January. Looking at the skimo race schedule, the first World Cup race of the season was scheduled for 17-19 January in Verbier. A couple of quick calls and I found out that my round trip ticket would be $400 cheaper flying out of Geneva on Monday and I could fly from London to Geneva on Friday for $120. To complicate the schedule a little bit, Emily and I would be racing Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort, Colorado on 11 January. With a little bit of complicated packing/planning I think I had it figured out how to pack for 2 race weekends on different continents plus a week of client meetings.

Heathen Challenge was a great race. Long, but not a lot of vertical so it was a great chance to work on my gliding. Emily and I both had good races (Heathen Challenge Results ).

Heathen Challenge

Emily at the finish of Heathen Challenge

I was flying out of Denver on Sunday so after the race, I rented a car and drove to Boulder for the night to visit Matt and Walter. I was excited to catch up with them and have a trail run on Sunday.


Matt and Walter

After a trail run on Sunday, I was off to the airport. It wasn’t a good start with a security flag of some type being put on my ticket and it taking me over 90 minutes to get checked in. I missed the first leg of my flight, but was able to get a later flight out and still get into London on time.

It was a busy week in London with client meetings, but I was really looking forward to the weekend and getting to race my first Euro Skimo race and then getting to free ski in Verbier for a day. Wednesday morning is when things went bad. I was stretching in the hotel in the morning and something in my back ‘snapped’. When this happened, I was hardly able to get off the floor. The only time I had experienced something like this during Leadman in 2012, but this was worse. I struggled through the next 2 days of work in constant pain and just hoped for the best. I was barely able to make it through the airport at Gatwick to my flight to Geneva on Friday. Every few steps I would have to stop breathing hard and sweating from pain. This was not good. I arrived in Geneva, picked up a rental car and headed to Chamonix to pick up Meredith and Wild Bill. It would be Meredith’s first World Cup race.

We arrived in Verbier and quickly starting catching up with race friends. I was excited for the World Cup race weekend .

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Chad, Meredith, Martha, and Wild Bill

I knew the only way I would be able to determine if I could race would be to get out and skin a little. Meredith and I did a short 1100’ climb from Verbier. The climbing felt good, but when it was time to transition, I could reach my boots and bindings. When it was time to ski, I was not able to engage any of the lower back and leg muscles on my right side and therefore could hardly turn left. That pretty much made my race decision and I was extremely disappointed and bummed out. I had done all this traveling and had built up a lot of excitement about my first Euro skimo race and I was going to be sidelined.

At least there was still work to do. There was an interesting coaches meeting on Friday afternoon to review all of the new and updated ISMF rules. It was great to get clarification of them. Verbier is also the host of the 2015 World Championships so I was able to get a ‘lay of the land’ for next year’s races. Meredith was also really nervous so being able to support her in a ‘coaches’ role would be very beneficial to her and at least make me useful.

The pre-race briefing had lots of ‘show’. There was the parade of nations and presentation of numbers for the top 5 men and women racers.

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

The best of the best in the world

 The blistering fast start pace of a World Cup race

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Melanie Bernier of Team Canada at the first transition

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Somewhat obscured view of the top of climb 2 (up the ridge on the right) and climb 3 (straight up the front)

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Martha on the final climb

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Meredith on the last climb

The race was great to watch. My back got much worse when walking near the starting line and my foot sunk through a hole and my entire body seized up trying to hold the fall. This was not good and it only got worse throughout the day. By night I was not able to even stand up out of a chair. I was not in some of the most severe pain I had ever been in my life. After a tough night of sleep, I wasn’t able to get out of bed on Sunday. Unfortunately I missed the race on Sunday as I knew I couldn’t get up and down the mountain. I was not a lot worried about my back and my ability to get home the next day. After the race, we drove back to Chamonix for the race. What should have a dream for me, was more about pain management and I didn’t really get to enjoy my time in Cham.

I am now on the flight home and trying to feed the pain with Vitamin I and Valium and not sure of what to do next.

I had a busy week planned with the OR Show Race and OR Show meetings for the Powder Keg. I can’t imagine at this point being able to be on my feet for any amount of time for OR and am having doubts on being able to ski for a few weeks. I have dealt with back pain for many years, but this is like nothing else.


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