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).
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.
Our nighttime skimo race series
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Rime storm on Mt Adams
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.
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.