100,000 feet of Vert – Day 2

on our second lap. we had a beautiful day! photo by andy

Day 2 – 17,135 feet of vertical gain

Backcountry Vert 12,408 feet
InBounds Vert 4,727 feet
Total Vert Climbed in two days:  33,469 feet

part of me keeps thinking this will become easier as i go.  it’s not.  it hasn’t.  it won’t. 16, 17, or 18,000 feet of uphill in the mountains at altitude just isn’t easy.  today however was close to perfect.  i managed my nutrition much better, didn’t dive quite so deeply into dehydration as i normally do (one bottle for 7 hours!) and just took my time a bit more.  it really helped having a friend there for the first 6,000 or so feet.  it was just like any other backcountry ski day.  i might have been a few minutes slower, but the time and vert just flew by.

i also finally got up on time!  i felt surprisingly fresh this morning after yesterday’s 16,334 feet.  i didn’t have that dreadful feeling of having to wake up, and zero soreness.  i must be doing something right with my recovery.  i did sleep in my skins recovery tights (thanks stamstad!).

we started skinning at 7:15am just as planned, 15mins before sunrise.  i’d heard the argenta slide path off of kessler peak was the place to get lots o’ vert fast.  it literally shoots 3,000 feet up from the big cottonwood road… and it did not disappoint.

best part of the day:  andy and i ripping argenta’s lovely light powder – see video

worst part of my day:  my ankle is killing me from the rub of my ski boots.  both pairs hurt.  bought callus cushions on the way home. i also very much dislike having to ski any vert at brighton. i don’t know how the rando racers do it day after day. the whole scene is not for me (well at least not after this project). even with the avy danger in the backcountry, skinning up and down brighton is far and away the most dangerous part of my day. with that said… i’m thankful they turn on the lights and let me skin up and ski down.

i’m thinking, “what have i gotten myself into?” photo by andy

100,000 feet of Vert – Day 1

i’m making another attempt at skiing 100,000ft of vertical in a week, seven days.  i can think of no better way to celebrate the fact that i somehow got into both the wasatch 100 and the hardrock 100 mile ultramarathons. these are arguable two of the hardest 100 mile courses on earth.  this was my 4th time applying to hardrock, so i’m pretty excited.

so, what does 100,000ft look like?  it looks like an average of 14,286 feet of uphill per day for seven days.  i’m actually going to shooting for 15,000 ft so the last day can be just a 10,000 foot day (or if i’m feeling saucey i can push as much vert out as possible until midnight).  i’m using my suunto t6c to record the vertical gain.  i’ll also post to suunto’s website moves count.com and try to wear my hr monitor.  could be interesting data.

the weather says wind chill values for tuesday will be -8.  wednesday -15… gotta start at some point right?

Day 1 : 16,334 feet of vertical gain

Backcountry Vert 11,761 ft, InBounds Vert 4,573 ft = Days Vert Total 16,334 feet
the movescount for the backcountry vert, movescount for brighton vert

i had intended to start at 7am, but wasn’t skinning until 7:50am.  big cottonwood received 10-12 inches of 8% snow.  it. was. amazing.  i skied the first 10,000ft in 5hours 9minutes, not bad.  i felt great up through 10,000 feet.  in my excitement however i must not have eaten enough because once 11,000 feet ticked off i all of a sudden felt like crap.  i wanted to be done, and started wondering what i was getting myself into.

the rule is at least the first 10,000 feet have to be in the backcountry.  so i’ve started this project off strong with day 1.  i managed to get 11,761 feet in the backcountry before hitting the car for my meal drive to brighton.

* of note i uploaded my suunto logs to suunto’s website movescount.com so you can see a bit more detail.  this software also fixes any data issues in the log.  this causes it to report either slightly higher or slightly lower vert totals than what i see on the watch.  the movescount corrected data for my first session says i climbed 11,761 ft while my watch said 11,742 ft.  for my brighton vert it calculated lower, at 4,573ft when the watch says 4,587ft… anyway – for my grand totals i’ll be using what movescount decides is correct.

after eating a ton on my drive to brighton i just didn’t feel good. kind of gross actually.  but i just played some tunes and got ‘er done.  as the sun went down the temps quickly went negative and i had to cover my face to avoid frostbite.  i’ve had it before.  never again.

once i got home i made a venison stir fry.  i purchased a deer with two buddies lastd week.  it’s probably the best meat i’ve ever had.  cleaning up, showering, getting ready for tomorrow and eating always sucks up any downtime.  by the time i’m done it’s bed time so i can get up at 5:30am and start all over again.  well after i watch an episode of season 4 dexter, which just arrived from netflix.

Training for Ski Mountaineering Races by Luke Nelson

I’ve employed my buddy (and amazing LaSportiva mountain runner) Luke Nelson to blog about the training for Ski Mountaineering races, formerly known as Randonee Racing. He was nice enough to oblige. It should also be pointed out that Luke just made the US Ski Mountaineering Team by taking 3rd overall and being the 2nd American at the National Championship in Jackson Hole.

Training for Ski Mountaineering Races by Luke Nelson

Many of you may be wondering a couple things as you begin to read this article. First, what the heck is ski mountaineering racing? Ski Mountaineering Racing (skimo) is a very demanding sport that requires its competitors to start at the base of some mountain with skis on their feet, who then race up the mountain (with the help of climbing skins attached to the ski) to some designated point. Competitors then remove the skins, lock down their bindings and ski down, just to repeat the whole process over and over again. Additionally, to spice it up there is always a mandatory boot pack mixed in, where the competitors have to remove their skis, attach them to a backpack and boot up, and once again, ski back down. Fun, right? Another question you may be asking is how does this relate to running (since it is being published on an primarily ultrarunning related blog)? Well, I think that it is a perfect compliment to trail racing. Skimo generally occurs when the trails we all love to run on are buried under snow, also the movements of skimo are very similar to running, at least the uphill portion is. As a matter of fact in Europe it is commonly referred to as ski running. Finally skimo is an incredible way to get in hard workouts in the winter, it adds variation to the day in day out training for running, and gives the body relative rest from running. The final question that you may be asking after reading what skimo is, is how would I train to be a skimo race which in turn would make me a faster runner? Well that’s what I plan on explaining in the rest of this article.

I think there are several steps to training for Skimo. First and foremost is to have a solid base fitness, this may come from any multitude of sports including, but clearly not limited to: running, trail running, road biking, mountain biking, nordic skiing, BC skiing, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing or whatever else gets you moving. You may not have any base fitness to start with, and training for skimo may be were you start (though it will take longer to be competitive).

Equally as important as base fitness is being proficient at skiing downhill in all types of conditions. You do not have to be the best skier out there, but you need to have confidence to drop into just about anything the mountain can dish up. The majority of the time spent during skimo races is spent on the uphill, but almost any advantage gained on the up can be squandered with poor descending abilities. To build your ability to ski better the best training is to ski. One thing to consider when skiing for training is the terrain you tend to ski. If you are like me, you tend to ski the conditions and areas of the mountain that favor you current abilities. So for training ski the parts of the mountains that push your abilities, that make you uncomfortable. Also to mimic skimo racing, ski top to bottom without stopping. You want to maintain constant forward (downward) motion during a race no matter how wrecked you legs feel, and non-stop top to bottom will quickly build your endurance.

Now to the meat and potatoes of training for skimo, the uphill. Technique plays an important role in getting ready to race uphill during a skimo race. Before you can move quickly while skinning uphill you need to learn how to move efficiently on skins. One of the biggest pitfalls of people fall into is relying very heavily on some type of televates while skinning. The problem with televates is that they shorten your stride when hiking uphill, they also lead to putting too much pressure on your toes as you tend to lean forward more. To get very good purchase with your skins there needs to be pressure on the heel piece of your binding. Standing upright will increase the power transferred to the skin from your boot. To improve this technique do as they old adage says, practice makes perfect! Once you are moving uphill efficiently it is time to work on moving faster. There are surely lots of theories on how to train to move faster, ranging from sport to sport. Given that I am a runner I chose some of the workouts that I feel most useful while training for mountain running. Intervals, tempo and long skimo training sessions. I do one of each of those workouts a week. Intervals vary from week to week depending on what races I have coming up sooner, but some of my favorites on 30 seconds max effort, 30 seconds recovery at times doing up to 40 sets. Other intervals that I dread to do but I think are very effective are 3:00-4:00 max efforts with a full recovery in between. They key to intervals is a good and complete recovery in between sets. The tempo workout also varies in time and intensity depending on upcoming events but typically done at 80-90% of max HR for 1-2 hour efforts. During the long sessions I try to be out for double the vertical of the next race at 70-75% of race pace, which is comfortable but not quite conversational pace. My typical training week will have a day of recovery workouts between the intervals, tempo, and long workouts. I also take a day completely off once a week to let the system “reset”. The recovery workout days have to be EASY, they workout is kind of an anti-workout, it helps your body adjust to working under fatigue but without taking yourself too deep into an overtrained hole. One word of caution to the program I outline above, is that I have worked through this for quite some time and have found that it is what works for me, it may not be ideal for you, but it may be a place to start.

The next piece of the puzzle for skimo racing is putting the above together with quick transitions in between. There are lots of videos on the internet that show racing transitions, the best of which found on the USSMA site under technique ( http://www.ussma.org/cosmic/learn ). Again practice is the key to a quick and smooth transition, which may be the make or break point during a race. I use a mantra to assure the same transition every time “boots, bindings, skins”. I transition in that order every time to make sure that I don’t miss or skip a step. It works for both the up and down transitions. Lock/unlock your boots, lock/unlock bindings, remove/place skins. I always start with the same foot as well to assure consistency.

After you have tried a few races I am fairly certain that you will get the bug. It is incredibly invigorating to know that after some specific training you can become very efficient and fast while moving through the mountains. That speed and efficiency then starts to translate to BC skiing and interestingly as I have found also to mountain running. One additional aspect of skimo racing that can really help speed things up, after technique, is equipment. Very light skimo racing skis and boots can make a tremendous difference, even over relatively “light” BC ski equipment. I am lucky enough to be able to race in the La Sportiva Stratos boot ( http://www.lasportiva.com/microsites/English/stratos/presentazione.html ), which is truly a work of art. It is feather light and skis like a DH race boot. For a several years I was quite skeptical of the truely light race gear, but after now spending the better part of a season skiing and racing on it I can say that it makes a much larger difference than I could have anticipated. Of course that type of gear comes at a cost, but I use new gear as a payment for time spent training. If you are going to put a substantial amount of work into preparing your body for an event, you might as well outfit it properly for the endeavor.

The author leading the 2011 National Championships.
Climbing Corbets Couloir, Jackson Hole, WY (how freakin’ cool is that!?)

At this point if you are intereseted in learning more about skimo racing, to find a race near you, or to support the US Ski Mountaineering Team as we prepare to represent the USA at the World Championships in a few weeks, please visit www.ussma.org

100,000 feet

100,000 feet of uphill climb. it’s an arbitrary but intriguing number. my buddy jared campbell once tried to run 100,000 feet in 5 days. his failed adventure ended with an achilles injury that plagues him to this day. i’ve been kicking around the idea of backcountry skiing 100,000 ft for a while. last week i had a chance to ask greg hill about it. he said he’s done 10 in 10. meaning 10,000ft a day for 10 days. no one i talked to had heard of anyone doing it any faster than that (please comment below if you know different).  when i started out i figured i’d do 10 in 10 myself, leaving a faster challenge for down the road.

i wanted this to be a backcountry adventure, since i’m a backcountry skier afterall.  the problem comes when trying to ski 15,000ft of vertical gain in a day.  there just isn’t enough sunlight.  so i came up with a rule.  my first 10,000ft of gain must be done in the backcountry.  this leaves the rest of the vertical, as much as i could handle to be done under the lights at a ski resort.  sorry green boot brigade, but charging up and down the ski resort for all your vert just isn’t cool enough.  there must be variable conditions, challenging terrain, and breaking trail! (oh yeah and views like this one)

Day 1: Tuesday January 25
with my plan to ski 10,000ft getting up at 8am seemed reasonable.  i was skinning by 10am after my morning email and tea.  i think my late start on day 1 shows my lack of serious thought and or planning.  i just figured i’d get up and ski a 10,000ft day.  i’d push it for 15,000ft if i felt good.

i frequently backcountry ski alone.  i have some safe spots i feel comfy and for this project i’d be skiing the shit out of these treed, mostly low angle terrain.  so i skied mill d north, mostly short swing.  the dusting we got the night before made the downhill skiing awesome.  i did however have to break a bit of trail on the way up, but it was worth it.  after my suunto t6c ticked off 10,000ft i was completely out of food, had long been out of water and was starting to feel a bit spacey and out of it.  my ankle had hurt all day, but on the ski out i realized my ski boot was flapping.  upon further investigation the riveted inner bolt had blown out.  the boot barely holding together.

on the drive up to brighton i realized i just hadn’t brought enough food.  my poor planning would be a running theme.  i finished my day with 15,130 feet of uphill by skinning up and down under brighton ski resort’s night skiing lights.

Days Vertical Gain:  15,130ft    (backcountry: 10,130ft, inbounds: 5,000ft)
Total Vertical Gain:  15,130ft

1st thing i did when i got home was order new boots from backcountry.com.

Day 2:  Wednesday January 26

i got a late start again today.  i still really wasn’t convinced that i was going for 100,000 feet in a week yet.  skiinning out to george’s bowl at 10am had an uneasy feeling of stupidity for getting a late start… and choosing an approach that was so dam long.  i hadn’t slept well and was tired.  the skiing was once again much better than expected.  loads of fun.  with the powder birds lapping the same ridge i was kind of itching to leave, but knew that the waste of time, and subsequent vertical would set me back.  all day i was putting my boot back together.  skiing downhill with it broken meant it was in touring mode all day.  not the safest way to make downhill turns.

after skiing …  that night i shaved my head into a mohawk mullet and immediately felt the euro power.

Days Vertical Gain:  10,114ft
Total Vertical Gain:  25,244ft

Day 3:  high on euro power i pushed out the first 10,000 feet in 5h 20min.  had lunch and finished with a push up reynolds peak to get 11,434 feet of uphill in the backcountry.

eating as i drove to brighton in my ski boots i was in high spirits, but my ankle was throbbing.  after having a snowboarder actually hit my ski pole and graze my skis on his way down… my faith in ski resort patrons was then restored when a jibber gave me a low five at high speeds (i think he was diggin the mohawk).

i started timing my transitions.  i was around 2min 50secs. 2-4 mins overall for either up or down hill transition.  pretty slow compared to a racer, but interesting none the less.

Days Vertical Gain:  15,565ft (backcountry: 11,130ft, inbounds: 4,131ft)
Total Vertical Gain:  40,809ft

i had sort of told myself that i couldn’t take another day in the broken boots. so if my new boots weren’t sitting on the door step when i got home i was going to abort the mission to ski 100,000ft in one week. the boots weren’t there.

although this was a failed attempt i now think skiing 100,000 feet of vertical in a week is possible. very hard and all consuming.. but possible.

actually preparing for a week of non stop vert is the key. there is simply no extra time to do anything but ski, get ready to ski, eat and sleep.  i will be trying this again as soon as i can.


inspiration is everywhere if you stop and look around a bit.

i’m inspired by athletes. like your first time on psychedelics you realize that your mind is a powerful thing, and there is another side if you’re willing to look over that edge. what is possible is so much a construct of our minds that when someone does something we think is impossible it expands our own perceived achievable limits.  i had the pleasure of backcountry skiing with some athletes from my backcountry.com team this past weekend.  athletes who were in town for the outdoor retailer show.  one who climbs and skis first descents in the far away lands.  one who hucks cliffs and skies lines most look at and don’t consider skiable terrain. and one who just totally blew the ski mountaineering world’s collective mind by climbing under his own power and skiing back down 2 million vertical feet in one calendar year.

i’m inspired by photographers.

i’m inspired by videographers.

i’m inspired by passion.  by people who know the odds are against them, but give’er anyway.  boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

as a kid i wore out the larry bird movie. i can still recite almost every line.
The wonderful arrogance of a man who needs two to tie or three to win. Has the time to do either one, and says, let’s roll the dice.

you got one life. roll that fucking dice.

Recent Skiing in the Wasatch

photo dump from my last few days of skiing in the magical place called the wasatch…

chad & emily getting ready

just wanted to point out chip is skiing in scrubs

on dec 14th chad and i skied the pfeifferhorn. amazing experience.

reed and benson ridge is rugged… skied the hallway couloir (after we intentionality set off an avalanche to clean it out)

A Meniscus Story and Hope

once upon a time i was invincible. i was 29 years old, had a great career in the software world but was looking for more out of each second than compiling code can provide. i had been adventure racing for a few years and was lucky enough to be on a great team, DART-nuun.  although back then it was just D.A.R.T for Dirtworld.com Adventure Race Team. essentially i was doing enough at my job to not get fired, no more, no less.  i was a professional adventure racer in my mind. at least that is the way i approached each day, training was my primary concern, test cases a distance second. i was training for the 2004 primal quest expedition adventure race… with eco challenge gone primal quest had become the premier race.  i’d often use the bus system to get training in as i commuted to redmond from seattle, riding or running in combination with the bus. i’d sometimes run the entire 32 miles over lake washington in the morning darkness to be to work on time. not that it matter too much that i was on time, since i’d sit at my desk a total calorie deprived zombie. but all of that is besides the point.

in training for the 2004 primal quest expedition adventure race i ended up with a persistent knee pain. mri’s and such showed that i had somehow torn my r meniscus. meniscus for an ultra distance athlete is a commodity. it’s the padding between big body weight supporting bones.

i cried in the dr’s office the day he told me i was essentially done running and likely any long distance anything for the rest of my life. he said “i wouldn’t run more than 15 miles a week, and never all at once”. i’ve thought about sending dr zorn my crimson cheetah belt buckle from the wasatch 100. i had my surgery in 2005.  they removed 20% of my meniscus.  with zero guidance from the dr (he was too famous to provide any additional time that didn’t involve cutting) i rehabbed. i switched sports to 24hr endurance mtn biking to avoid the obvious impact of ultrarunning. eventually though i was peppering in trail running. before long i was back at it with only mild knee pain. pretty confident i could make a go at it, i quit my career to race full time.  after about a year the knee felt exactly the same as the other knee, great. at times ultrarunning simply hurts.  400 miles into the colorado trail both my knees hurt.  as did my hips and ankles and… etc. about a year ago, after all this running i wasn’t supposed to do i had an mri.  there were zero signs of degeneration from running.  turns out drs don’t know everything.

as i mentioned in this blog post i fell skiing.  i’ve once again done something wrong to my right knee.  i believe i tore my mcl (grade II).  this healed and stabilized after about 4-5 weeks.  i also think i have done additional meniscus damage.  after 6 weeks i still have a lingering pain between the bones that has really not improved at all.  so yesterday i got an mri on my right knee.

my first injury seemed so traumatic because it was supposed to be a career ender. the simple fact that that didn’t come to fruition has me extremely hopeful that i’ll pull out of this one too… no matter what the dr’s say.

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