Category Archives: Travel

Time in Catalonia

The second part of our trip was planned around relaxing.  After another late night, we caught an early morning bus to Girona, rented a car and headed to the beach. The coast was HOT and it didn’t take us long to remember how much we hate heat and humidity.  We relaxed on the beach Tuesday afternoon, then got to our hotel in Tossa de Mar to learned it had no AC or wifi.  We were planning to use some of this time to catch up on work and emails and now this would not be possible.  Our hotel room was over 32C, so sleep didn’t look like it would happen. .

Cala del Sr. Ramón
Cala del Sr. Ramón
Ruins in the fortified city of Tossa de Mar
Ruins in the fortified city of Tossa de Mar

We had booked 2 scuba dives on Wednesday with a friend of Gerard and Marta’s then had an amazing sea side dinner on a private terrace (thanks to Gemma’s roommate’s parents who are friends with the owner and made reservations for us) followed by a very warm night. It was so hot, I soaked a pillow case on water and laid it over my body to attempt to cool myself.

Dinner on a private terrace at Bahia in Tossa de Mar
Dinner on a private terrace at Bahia in Tossa de Mar

We were excited to dive on Wednesday as we don’t get an opportunity to do it very often and always nice to see under water in different areas.

Scuba Diving with L'amfora in Tossa de Mar
Scuba Diving with L’amfora in Tossa de Mar
Scuba Diving with L'amfora in Tossa de Mar
Scuba Diving with L’amfora in Tossa de Mar

Afer diving, we  drove to Villafranca in the Penedes area to tour and taste cava.  We had planned to spend 1 night in this area and we were very happy we extended this to 2 nights.  Cava is the traditional sparkling wine from the Penedes area.  Any Spanish sparkling wine can be called cava, but the only certified cava (each bottle has a certification sticker) comes from Penedes. We were staying right on a vineyard in a 12-room boutique hotel shaped like stacked wine bottles.  The base of the bottle was the windows and our windows overlooked the vineyard.

Our fantastic boutique hotel at Mas Tinell in Villafranca, Penedes

Our fantastic boutique hotel at Mas Tinell in Villafranca, Penedes

Our fantastic boutique hotel at Mas Tinell in Villafranca, Penedes
Our fantastic boutique hotel at Mas Tinell in Villafranca, Penedes

On Thursday morning, after a run through the vineyards and hillside, we had a cava breakfast and hit the road for some tours and tastings. We had an amazing time learning about cava and tasting the differences.  I think we both may have become cava converts.

Cava tours in tastings in the Penedes region - bottles ranging from 350ml to over 26L
Cava tours in tastings in the Penedes region – bottles ranging from 350ml to over 26L
Cava Tasting
Cava Tasting
Freixenet winery
Freixenet winery
The traditional method for getting cava settlement into the bottle neck
The traditional method for getting cava settlement into the bottle neck
Mastinell tasting
Mastinell tasting

After several hours of tastings (probably a few too many), we needed a walk and some groceries. In town, we found a nice meat and cheese shop. Everything in the shop was Euro/Kg (so we thought).  We found the Iberico Jamon we wanted, ordered 300g and when the bill came to $43 Euro’s, we realized that the 4 Jamon’s on 1 of the tables were Euro/100g.  We quickly changed plans from meat and cheese as a snack and quick lunch to focusing a good meal on this amazing meat.  The quality was not wasted and we thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this delicacy. We had a truly amazing meal accompanied by cava and wine tasting at our hotel that night and had a plan to get on the road to Calafell on Friday morning with a stop for a trail run along the way.

Run in El Montmell-Marmellar on the way from Villafranca to Calafell
Run in El Montmell-Marmellar on the way from Villafranca to Calafell

Calafell was a little too touristy for us, but there was a Starwood hotel there so we could stay for free on points (one of the few perks of business travel is that we used frequent flyer miles for our airfare and could stay on this beach on hotel points). We checked into a beautiful Le Meridian hotel and quickly went down to the beach. I was once again reminded of my distaste for heat and humidity and didn’t last long on the beach.  We decided we needed a relaxing night so we planned our dinner to be tapas in our room.  We already had top shelf meat, we just needed a few other items and we were quickly able to put together an amazing meal of Iberico Jamon, tapenade, salmon pate, white anchovies, gazpacho, bread, and wine. It was nice to sit on our patio and have a long, relaxing dinner.

Tapa dinner on our patio
Tapa dinner on our patio
Calafell beach time
Calafell beach time
Roman ruins in Tarragona dating back to 200 BC
Roman ruins in Tarragona dating back to 200 BC

Our last day would be spent driving back to Barcelona.  We had spent time in Barcelona a few years ago so we didn’t want to spend much time there.  What we hadn’t planned for is that most everything would be closed on Sunday. We were disappointed to miss out on a few shops we wanted to check out (mostly the huge Mercado). We were able to take in a Jamon tour and tasting which while a little touristy, was very informative.

Jamon tasting in Barcelona

Jamon tasting in Barcelona

Jamon tasting in Barcelona
Jamon tasting in Barcelona

We capped the night off with dinner at 7 Portes which is known for their paella (although Gemma’s mom’s was much, much better) and an early night back at the hotel as we had to leave for the airport at 4AM.

 

 

Running the GR11

Since spending a week training for Hardrock 100 in the Pyrenees 2013 during a break between work trips to London I have wanted to get back to the Pyrenees to run the GR11 trail (this is part of the Grande Randonnee long distance trail system in Europe). Emily and I started to plan a run across the GR11 over 10 months ago. Or original plan was to run the entire trail (when we thought it was ~500km during initial research). After more detailed research, and learning that it was an 800km trail, we planned to run the best 500km from Candanchu in the west to the Mediterranean Sea. With help of local Catalan friends Gemma and Jordi, we put together a great route utilizing a combination of huts and villages for an 11-day running adventure. As winter and plans progressed, Emily was sidetracked from training with a pulled hamstring from skiing. Plans were once again modified and reduced to a 300 km and 8 day run that would start further west, but be equally beautiful. Since we were no longer covering as much of the GR11, we also modified plans to visit some key locations off of the GR11 (like visiting friends Marta and Gerard who run the Refugio de Colomina a 1-day run south of the GR11). Spring work schedules were busy, Chad’s work travel schedule was unrelenting, training was not what it should have been, Emily’s hamstring was not healing, and the day before leaving my back went out once again leaving our trip and all of our running plans in question. Some good drugs for Chad, a change of plans for Emily to do fewer running days and do some biking with Gemma and we decided that we would see what happened on the GR11 and best case I would do 250-300km and worst case we would have to bag those plans and just have a good Spanish holiday.

I had visited Gemma’s home village of Guils de Cerdanya in 2013 and could not wait to return to the village. It is a small place of ~100 homes on a hillside overlooking the town or Puigcerda and the beautiful mountain valley.

View from Gemma's house
View from Gemma’s house
Shake out hike with Gemma and her nieces
Shake out hike with Gemma and her nieces
Hiking the lakes above Guils de Cerdanya
Hiking the lakes above Guils de Cerdanya

A couple days were planned in Guils to recover from travel. Gemma treated us to amazing hospitality, a rapid adjustment to Spanish time (dinner at 10PM), and a reminder that we are not as young as we used to be and just can’t party till 5AM any longer.

Partying all night at the Puigcerda festival
Partying all night at the Puigcerda festival

After a short night sleep after the Puigcerda festival, we were on our way to Gavernie, France where we would spend the first day running to the GR11, but also get to take in some great Tour de France history as Gavernie is at the base on Col du Tourmelade one of the famous TdF climbs.

We started out climbing past the highest waterfall in Europe (Le Grande Cascade) to Refugio des Seraradets, Passamos de la Brecha, Collado del Descargador and finally to our resting spot of Refugio de Goriz.

Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Les Grande Cascade - highest waterfall in Europe
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Les Grande Cascade – highest waterfall in Europe
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Les Grande Cascade - highest waterfall in Europe
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Les Grande Cascade – highest waterfall in Europe
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; climbing to Refugio des Seraradets
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; climbing to Refugio des Seraradets
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Passamos de la Brecha
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Passamos de la Brecha

I continued from Goriz to the summit of Mt Perdido while Emily and Gemma went on a shorter run.

Day 1: Goriz to Mt Perdido back to Goriz - Summit of Mt Perdido
Day 1: Goriz to Mt Perdido back to Goriz – Summit of Mt Perdido (3365M)

We were all tired after a lot of climbing on day 1

Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Emily tired out and cathing a quick nap on a comfortable rock at the refugio
Day 1: Gavernie to Goriz; Emily tired out and cathing a quick nap on a comfortable rock at the refugio

Day 1 Recap:

  • Route: Gavernie – Refugio des Seraradets – Passamos de la Brecha – Collado del Descargador – Refugio de Goriz – Mt Perdido – Goriz
  • 24km, 2720M ascent, 1790M descent, 2 passes, 1 summit

Gemma returned to Gavernie and Emily and I continued to Parzan. Gemma was going to pick up Emily in Parzan for a couple days of road biking in the Pyrenees with her friend Enrique. It was day 2 where I realized how slow going the ‘running’ was going to be. The ascents and descents were all very steep and there would not be much running on these. I also quickly realized that I did not want to move fast as I wanted to stop and enjoy the amazing mountain scenery and take photos.

Day 2: Goriz to Parzan - Route from Collado de Goriz o de Arrablo to Collado de las Olsd o de los Maquis
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan – Route from Collado de Goriz o de Arrablo to Collado de las Olsd o de los Maquis
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan - Route from Collado de Goriz o de Arrablo to Collado de las Olsd o de los Maquis
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan – Route from Collado de Goriz o de Arrablo to Collado de las Olsd o de los Maquis
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan - Collada de Anisclo
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan – Collada de Anisclo
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan - descending to Refugio de Pineta
Day 2: Goriz to Parzan – descending to Refugio de Pineta

Day 2 Recap:

  • Route: Goriz – Collado de Goriz o de Arrablo – Collado de las Olsd o de los Maquis – Collada de Anisclo – Refugio de Pineta – Collodeta Plana Fonda – Collata las Coronetas – Parzan
  • 33km, 1560m ascent, 2600m descent, 5 Passes

I would spend the next 2 days covering long distances alone. I was looking forward to some mountain solitude. My back was doing ok. I was able to go a little further each day before the pain and sciatica started. By day 3, I was up to 4 hours pain free (which meant 5-6 hours in pain). My legs were tired and I didn’t have the ‘pep’ in my step that I had hoped for. It was also very hot and the heat was taking a toll on me and preventing me from sleep. I was going into day 3 with about 10 hours of sleep in 3 nights.

Day 3: Parzan to Puen de San Chaime - Collado de Urdiceto
Day 3: Parzan to Puen de San Chaime – Collado de Urdiceto

Day 3 Recap:

  • Route: Parzan – Collado de Urdiceto – Refugio de Biados – Puerto de Chistau o de Estos- Puen de San Chaime
  • 42.5km, 2460m ascent, 2140m descent, 2 Passes

Emily spent the day biking and had an amazing time riding TdF cols.

Emily's day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily’s day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily's day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily’s day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily's day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily’s day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily's day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique
Emily’s day 3 bike ride with Gemma and Enrique

Day 4 would be my hardest day. I caught a 5AM bus to get 4km of road out of the way. I was exhausted with another night of 4 hours of sleep and since it was still dark when I got off the bus, I curled up on the side of the road and slept for another hour. Waking up at sunrise freezing cold, I started the ~1800M and 10km climb. I just could not get moving and for the first couple hours had a hard time staying awake on the trail. I continued to slog upwards trying to gain motivation from the mountain beauty. I never really got moving this day and what I thought would be an 8 hour day took over 10 hours to get to Refugio dera Restanca where Emily was meeting me. I slogged in and started the normal ritual of stretching, eating, drinking, and attempting to recover. I realized that this time that I had 2 huge days of over 50km and 3300M ascent planned and that there was no way I would be able to complete these days. We did some re-routing and I decided that after day 7 I needed a rest day and since Gemma had left her car for us by Espot, Emily would drive me to Andorra and I would cut out about 75km of difficult terrain.

Day 4: Puen de San Chaime to Refugio dera Restanca - Ibon Alto de Ballibierna
Day 4: Puen de San Chaime to Refugio dera Restanca – Ibon Alto de Ballibierna
Day 4: Puen de San Chaime to Refugio dera Restanca - Collada de Vallibierna
Day 4: Puen de San Chaime to Refugio dera Restanca – Collada de Vallibierna
Day 4: Puen de San Chaime to Refugio dera Restanca - struggling on the final climb up to Refugio dera Restanca
Day 4: Puen de San Chaime to Refugio dera Restanca – struggling on the final climb up to Refugio dera Restanca

Day 4 Recap:

  • Route: Puen San Chame – Collado de Vallibierna – Refugio de Cap de Llauset – Collado de lid Ibones – Refugio de Conangles – Port de Rius – Refugio dera Restanca
  • 40km, 2702 m ascent, 2053 m descent, 3 Passes

I awoke on day 5 feeling good and felt like I had probably gotten over the ‘hump’ of big days and I was starting to get into the rhythm of my days. We left Restanca for an amazing day to Colomina. The terrain was challenging with lots of scrambling, and steep descents, but I was happy to have company again and we would spend the night in the presence of friends. It was great to see Gerard (Marta was doing an adventure race and was not there) and spend some time catching up with him.

Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina - Leaving Restanca
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina – Leaving Restanca
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina - Coret d'Oelhacrestada
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina – Coret d’Oelhacrestada
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina - Hiking up to Coll de Contraix
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina – Hiking up to Coll de Contraix
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina - Coll de Contraix
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina – Coll de Contraix
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina - Coll de Contraix
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina – Coll de Contraix
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina - Collada de Delluir
Day 5: Refugio dera Restanca to Refugi de Colomina – Collada de Delluir

Day 5 Recap:

  • Route: Restanca – Coret d’Oelhacrestada – Refugi Ventosa i Calvall – Coll de Contraix – Refugi d’ Estany Llong – Collada de Delluir – Refugi de Colomina
  • 27.5 km, 2150 M ascent, 1750M descent, 3 passes

With the re-route, day 6 would be my shortest day and Emily and I would drive to Andorra to enjoy a relaxing afternoon and a much needed good night sleep in a hotel. The weather forecast was for afternoon storms so we got an early start and decided to summit Pic de Peguera on our run to Espot. This turned out to be a pretty bad decision as the storm moved in 3 hours early and we hit the summit as the clouds blanketed us. We had a difficult time down climbing off the summit in minimal visibility and hit Collado de Monestero just as the lightening and hail started. We started down the steep col as quickly as possible and finally found a large rock to escape the now marble sized hail and put on rain pants. We spend the next 10km running through a torrential downpour. We were able to easily hitch a ride with a couple other runners from Espot to la Guingueta d’Aneu where Gemma had left the car and after a short lunch stop we were on our way to Andorra.

Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot - Coll de Peguera
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot – Coll de Peguera
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot - scramble to Pic de Peguera (2982M)
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot – scramble to Pic de Peguera (2982M)
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot - Pic de Peguera (2982M)
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot – Pic de Peguera (2982M)
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot - Collado de Monestero
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot – Collado de Monestero
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot - Descending from Collado de Monestero in the storm
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot – Descending from Collado de Monestero in the storm
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot - Lunch in Llavorsi after a wet run
Day 6: Refugi de Refugi to Espot – Lunch in Llavorsi after a wet run

Day 6 Recap:

  • Route: Refugi de Colomina – Coll de Peguera – Pic de Peguera (2982M) – Collado de Monestero – Estany de Saint Maurici – Espot
  • 18.6 km, 670 M ascent, 1750M descent, 2 pass

We had an early start in Andorra La Vella where Emily planned to run the first 2 hours (all uphill) with me, then return to the car and drive to Guils. The climb out of the town was over 20% and was slow going. I would spend this day running almost the entire way across Andorra and ending at Gemma’s house. It was amazing terrain and scenery, but on and off rain, strong wind, and cold temperatures until the afternoon. I enjoyed the run through the cattle pastures and was excited to see Emily and Gemma as I approached Guils.

Day 7: Andorra La Vella to Guils de Cerdanya - Coll de I'llla
Day 7: Andorra La Vella to Guils de Cerdanya – Coll de I’llla
Day 7: Andorra La Vella to Guils de Cerdanya - Emily and Gemma meeting me for the final descent to Guils
Day 7: Andorra La Vella to Guils de Cerdanya – Emily and Gemma meeting me for the final descent to Guils

Day 7 Recap:

  • Route: Andorra La Vella – Refugi de Fontverd – Refugi de Riu dels Orris- Refugi de I’llla – Coll de I’llla – Cabana dels Esparvers – Portella d’Engorgs – Refugi de Malniu – Guils de Cerdanya
  • 38.5 km, 2450M ascent, 2075M descent. 2 Passes

Gemma had invited us to her friend Chavi’s birthday party on Saturday night and while being tired, we couldn’t pass up the invitation and this turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We arrived at normal Spanish dinner party time (show up at 9PM for 10PM dinner) to a long table set for 28 people. There was traditional Catalan foods (salad, meets, bread, olives, chips, wine, beer) and a group of amazing people that treated us like old friends and loved the chance to practice some English. The night was capped off with Zac playing accordion for the entire group. This was like something out of Bon Appetite for both of us. We capped this night off with another festival in a small village of just a couple dozen houses that had drawn about 400 people. Another 4:30 AM night and we had mixed emotions of if we could really make good Catalans or if we were too old for this.

Chavi's birthday party
Chavi’s birthday party
another late night festival in Travessares
another late night festival in Travessares

Sunday was a rest day with a long hike through the hills around Guils followed by late Catalan lunch with Gemma’s parents and grandma (none of whom speak English). Gemma’s mom taught us how to make Paella (which was amazing) and we had a traditional salted code salad (also amazing). It is too bad the Norwegians cured their cod in lye and not salt as if lutefisk tasted like this salted and reconstituted cod, I would be much more eager to eat it at Christmas.

The last day of running became a short day on the GR11 with a focus of running 4 of the peaks and ridge line visible from Gemma’s house. This also took us into the ski town of Nuria named after the virgin Nuria that so many Catalan’s are named after.

Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils - Puigmal de Llo
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils – Puigmal de Llo
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils - Pic de Segre (2843M)
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils – Pic de Segre (2843M)
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils - Pic de Segre to Coma de Finestrelles
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils – Pic de Segre to Coma de Finestrelles
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils - Puig de Coll de Finestrelles (2827M)
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils – Puig de Coll de Finestrelles (2827M)
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils - Puigmal d’Err (2909M)
Day 8: Peaks and Ridge visible from Guils – Puigmal d’Err (2909M)

Day 8 Recap:

  • Route: Puigmal de Llo (2801M) – Pic de Segre (2843M) – Coma de Finestrelles – Puig de Coll de Finestrelles (2827M) – Nuria – Puigmal d’Err (2909M) – Tossa del Pas dels Lladres
  • 21 KM, 2050 Ascent, 3 passes,4 summits

We did our last laundry, packed up, had an amazing last meal with Gemma and on Tuesday morning we were on our way to Tossa de Mar for the next stage of our trip. Looking back, we had such a wonderful experience being taken in by friends and friends of friends. We met so many people and truly go the experience we strive for when traveling (to be able to live like a local). This is something that will always be a highlight of this trip for us.

Final dinner with Gemma
Final dinner with Gemma

I have done a few 2-3 day fast pack trips, but never a long trip with refugios and villages so it took some planning to figure out what to take. We wanted to pack as light as possible while still being able to be semi-self-sufficient if things went bad. In the end, we decided that we would pack a space set of running cloths and a mylar bivy so that if the shit really hit the fan, we could survive a night out although it would most likely be type 3 fun. My total pack weight was around 6Kg.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Scott showing me how to rip on skinny skis

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Scott enjoying the amazing Verbier Pow

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Brian and Rory admiring the massive terrain

Part 2 coming soon.

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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).

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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.

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Our nighttime skimo race series

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Rime storm on Mt Adams

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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.

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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  

Sayulita

After being together for almost 22 years and married for almost 15, we decided it was time for our first beach vacation.  We had spent a day here and a day there at beaches before, but never done a true beach trip.  We decided on Sayulita, Mexico as it would give us a chance to see Chris and Ashley (our Aspen Lane neighbors who moved there a few years ago), it came highly recommended from several friends, and it wasn’t touristy like most well-known beach areas.

We decided against racing at Steamboat on 05 April an instead had an amazing Whiskey Ski Tour (Alta to High West; 16.3 mile; 7550′ ascent; 9,200′ descent)

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      Whiskey at High West after touring there from Alta

24 hours later, our backpacks were loaded on the local Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita bus and we were enjoying a Pacifico in route to the beach.

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We had a  relaxing first evening walking around town and having our first of many  meals of fish tacos from the numerous street vendors and enjoying a few beverages and the amazing view from our balcony.

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     View from our balcony

Monday Emily took her first surf lesson and I spent most of the day reminding myself how to surf.  We enjoyed the first of several evening with Chris, Ashley, Alex, and Trace.

My back had given me issues the week before vacation and I was on a dose of Prednisone.  As has happened other times I am on this, my immune system was weakened and just like other times, I ended up getting sick on Monday night so I spent Tuesday resting.  Emily enjoyed the ocean for another day.

This area is not well known for scuba diving, but since it had been several years since we had the opportunity to dive, we took a 1 day dive trip to the Marietas Islands.  It was a lot of fun to dive again.  The area was all volcanic rock so there were lots of caverns and tunnels to dive through. This was a new experience for us and a lot of fun.

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     Heading out to dive 

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Dive #1

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     Underwater selfy with a GoPro

We figured we needed to have at least 1 dinner that was not street tacos and enjoyed an amazing meal at Don Juan’s.  We made a great evening of it walking around the area and then as usual, retreated to the balcony to watch the ocean and have a few beers.

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     Enjoying another great night

Thursday we enjoyed another night with Chris, Ashley, Alex, and Trace and an amazing meal of fresh caught tuna.

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The sunsets from Chris and Ashley’s are truly amazing.  I can see why they love Sayulita so much.

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Each day was filled with surfing, relaxing, reading, more surfing, street tacos at least once, and numerous beers and margaritas in the sun.

It was great to get up on Saturday morning and get 2 hours of surfing in before heading to the airport.  Just 24 hours after surfing, I was back on skis in the Wasatch feeling refreshed from the week.

 

Running in Costa Brava Spain

We are blogging in random order from the 3 weeks we just spend in Europe.  Our next posting will cover the fantastic skiing in the Bernese Oberland (Switzerland) and La Grave (France) as well as time on the Mediterranean cost of France and Spain.  During the last week of our trip we were contemplating how we would put together a 20-30 mile training run.  We only had a single hand bottle for water so we assumed we would end up doing a 6-9 mile loop several times.  We also did not have a real ‘plan’ of where we were going other than we needed to be in Barcelona by the end of the week.  We were not having much luck with Google searches about trail running on the Mediterranean cost of France.  When we change our search to Spain, we had a great hit on Bryon Powell’s ‘irunfar’ website.  He had some great information about running in Spain, but even better, one of the responses was asking about a company called Running Costa Brava  located in Girona, Spain.  This was exactly the area we were headed to, now we were on to something.  Reading their website, it sounded perfect, they plan the route, either guide you or provide you a GPS, meet you with water and food every 8-12Km, organize the lodging, and transport your luggage. The problem, it was Sunday night and we were hoping to do a run on Tuesday.  Taking a chance, we sent them an email and within a couple of hours, Cristina had emailed us back.  She said they would see what they would do about putting something together on short notice and that it would be one of the longest runs they had put together with such little notice. By Monday mid-morning, we had another email with details of lodging in Girona, a 40km route (it later turned into 50km), lodging in Cadeques where we would finish, and a very reasonable price.  At this time, we were in Cap d’Agde, France and had a 2 hour drive to Narbonne, then a 3-4 hour train ride to Girona, we quickly confirmed we could get to Girona Monday night and booked everything with Cristina.  We had several bumps getting to Girona with a 50 minute train delay which we assumed meant we would miss our connecting train in Figueres.  We were scrambling to come up with backup plans for lodging in Figueres and leaving from there instead of Girona, but luckily, the connecting train waited and we made it to Girona.  After an ~3km walk in the dark from the train station (with all of our luggage including skis) we finally found our hotel for the night and finally settled in just before midnight.  Not exactly the hectic late night you want before a 50 km run.

Pablo (Cristina’s husband) picked us up on Tuesday morning and we drove about 1 hour to where we would start near Portbou.  Pablo showed us the route on the mapping program on his laptop, provided us with a Garmin Oregon 450 GPS with the route loaded, and we were off.  The route they had planned was a fantastic mix of beaches, mountains, ancient ruins, and coastal towns.  From Portbou, we followed the coast to Llanca where Pablo met us with water. 

 

From Llanca we had a great climb up to Monestir St Pere the Rhodes.  We followed the ancient trails up to this monastery that was built in the 9th century.  Pablo again met us a couple of times on this leg.  We quickly toured the monastery and then were off again. 

 

From Monestir St Pere the Rhodes we descended to the village of Veredera Costel, then on to Port de la Selva.  It was in Port de la Selva that we decided to add a few kilometers to our run.  We had missed Pablo and therefore our water stop so after we climb up out of Port de la Selva, we ran back down to town to fill up water and buy a croissant.  We were pretty sure we knew where the next meeting spot was, but if we missed Pablo there, we were definitely a little concerned about heading out for 15 miles with 40 oz of water and 1 Gu between the 2 of us.  If things didn’t go well, this could get challenging to do 15 miles on 50 calories.  Luckily, we were able to get in contact with Pablo and he ran in and met us with water as we ran from Port del le Selva through Natural Parc of Cap de Creus.  We filled with water, then ran with Pablo to his car parked !10 km on the other side of the park.  We took a break here for a while and refueled (we had run 22 miles in just under 5 hours and had only eaten 450 calories each).  From the edge of the park, we followed the road back down to the coast, past a fantastic light house, then down ancient trails to Port Lligat and finally to Cadeques.  By the time we reach Cadeques, my Forerunner was reading 29.5 miles (and I had accidentally shut the watch off for around 10 minutes).  Cadeques was a beautiful coastal village that was a perfect way to end the run and relax for the rest of the day and the following morning before catching a bus back to Girona.

This was the first time we had done a ‘catered’ run like this and it was fantastic.  Neither of us could imagine a better way to see the area.  It was great to not have to worry about planning a route, navigating it, figuring out where to restock water and food, and how to get our bags to the finish.  Cristina and Pablo took care of all of this.  We will definitely be planning more catered runs on future trips.

Here is a video with some fantastic photos from the run.

 

Here is a link to our course plotted from my Garmin Forerunner.  You can check out the elevation, terrain, and it also has a player that will play the route on the map while following along on the pace and elevation charts (it’s pretty cool).