Great video recap of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the Teva Mountain Games.
Great video recap of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the Teva Mountain Games.
Last year at the US National Ski Mountaineering Championships in Jackson Hole, I had a disappointing race because of equipment issues – I didn’t manage my skins properly. I’ve been looking forward to coming back to Jackson ever since. I’ve been training hard despite the lack of snow in Colorado and felt ready going into the weekend. My parents graciously volunteered to watch the kids so Ian, Jari Kirkland and I could drive up to Wyoming on Friday.
Despite my preparation, I felt nervous on Saturday morning and began to doubt my fitness. As the gun went off, we all started fast as usual. I took the lead for about three minutes until Gemma Arro Ribot passed me with Stevie Kremer and Janelle Smiley on her tail. I tried to fall in behind them, but I couldn’t hold the pace and I fell off the group by a few minutes. Feeling a bit frustrated, I decided to race my own race, knowing I was going as hard as I could and there were three more hours to go.
Towards the top of the first climb, about an hour into the race, I was beginning to gain on the lead girls. I passed last year’s national champ, Janelle Smiley, in the first transition as she struggled with a broken boot (impressively she was able to get a strap and finish the race) and gained more time on both Gemma and Stevie.
At the bottom of the second descent, I passed Stevie Kremer in transition and started to feel like my training was paying off. I was feeling strong – eating and drinking well.
I passed Gemma on the second-to-last descent and never looked back. With one more fast transition, I was in and out before Gemma arrived. I concentrated on form and managed to pass about three or four more men on the final climb. I skied the final descent fast, but with a bit of caution to ensure I didn’t get sloppy and crash. As I tucked into the finish I was finally able to breath a sigh of relief. I finished in 3:04, about four minutes faster than last year. My training paid off, and my decision to stick to my own race plan proved to be the right call.
Stevie Kremer finished in second with Gemma Arro Ribot in third. My La Sportiva teammate Luke Nelson took the win for the men with Scott Simmons and Jason Dorias finshing second and third respectively. Full results can be found on the race site here. Photos from Kevin Krill here. A bunch of photos that Ian took are below. Thanks for reading!
Yesterday started a busy month of racing with the COSMIC Five Peaks Race in Breckenridge. Jan Koles and I teamed up in hopes of winning the coed division and placing well in the overall standings. Mission accomplished. And the best part – we had fun.
With a short skin and ski to the start as a warm-up I said good morning to Jan as the race started right at 6am. After an hour and 20 minutes of climbing we reached Peak 9 for the first time in 4th place overall. Despite being warm for 7am in ‘Breckenfridge’, the wind was howling and we were pelted with granular snow on the descent. Jan and I quickly mastered the teamwork of the transition with him arriving a few seconds in front of me and helping with my skins. We climbed a steep boot pack and then hiked a wind scoured grassy and rocky ridge back to Peak 9. With the bare ground it felt as if we were racing in Europe.
Jan and I battled with the team of Chris Kroger/Scott Simmons for 3rd place overall as the teams of Max Taam/Pete Gaston and Bryan Wickenhauser/Mike Kloser had opened up a gap on us. As we topped out on another boot pack we skinned towards the top of Peak 8 with a tailwind blowing us right up the ridge. The wind was blowing us over as we tried to pull our skins so we dropped into Whale’s Tale in an attempt for some reprieve.
Scott and Chris passed us on the descent and left for the final climb a few seconds in front of us. I fell off of Chris, Scott and Jan by about a minute which gave Chris and Scott 3rd place overall. My legs were fried so we took our time on the last descent and finished in a time of 3 hours 55 minutes 7 seconds. Good enough for 1st place in the coed division and 4th overall. Despite being a fairly short race, I don’t think I took in enough liquid or food which was probably why my legs were so tired by the end. Throughout the race I only ate 1-1/2 packets of Honey Stinger Chews and 1 Honey Stinger Gel as well as about 16 oz. of water with Nuun.
My Honey Stinger teammate Max Taam and my Grand Traverse partner Pete Gaston took the overall win from Bryan Wickenhauser and Mike Kloser. Wick broke his ski behind his binding on the first descent and toughed it out for second place. Very impressive.
Race organizer Pete Swenson changed the course up a bit from the inaugural race last year and was thinking the winners would come in at around 5 hours. I’m not sure why we were so much faster but it probably had something to do with the great conditions, snow and volunteers. With no wrong turns made and volunteers giving beta on what to expect next, the race was superbly organized. Thanks to all the volunteers especially the ones I know personally – Pete Swenson, Monique Merrill, Sebastien Sxay and his girlfriend Anne and Jason McGowin.
Five Peaks results are here.
My Garmin info here. I’m not sure why it shows we had 20 minutes of stopped time. Our total transition time equaled about 5 – 8 minutes.
Great photos from Kevin Krill at Crested Butte Photography here.
Finally, a clean race. The third race in the COSMIC series was the Camp Ski Mountaineering Race at Crested Butte yesterday. Under perfect blue skies, we started the race at 8am with a Le Mans start. Jan Koles got the hole shot and set the fast pace for the lower part of the first climb. Janelle Smiley came past me early on and pushed me at a pace I wasn’t sure I could hold much longer. Once into the technical ascent, I was able to move in front of Janelle and open up a small lead.
Brian Edmiston, Michael Schilling, Mark Smiley and I continued down the Head Wall, up a short climb, down the North Face and up through Teocalli Bowl where we picked up Brian Riepe. The final climb finished with a boot pack up the Peel and then a long descent down to the finish. I finished without having any skin issues and descending very well thanks to my La Sportiva Stratos boots.
Thanks to Lindsay Hyman at Carmichael Training Systems, I felt fresh afterward and enjoyed some great skiing on the resort. Lindsay has coached me since May and I’ve learned a lot about training and refueling. Making sure I intake enough water and Honey Stinger gels has not only allowed me to finish strong but more importantly to feel great after the races.
Check out photos from Kevin Krill of Crested Butte Photography.
The third and final qualifier for the ski mountaineering worlds was this weekend at Sunlight. I have raced this COSMIC race three or four times and it keeps getting better. This year the course was changed up a bit to add some more kick turns and a final short ascent before the finish.
As has been the case for the last few years, the Heathen Challenge brought gorgeous weather. During the race, I once again had issues with my skins and got to ‘practice’ a few extra skin changes. Thankfully, I felt pretty strong and still managed to pull off a victory.
Unfortunately the photographer taking photos on the second ascent just missed me fumbling through a kick turn. Despite not always having perfect form, I got the job done. Most importantly, I’m really getting comfortable in my La Sportiva Stratos boots and Sportiva skis and my descending skills and speed have improved dramatically.
Monique Merrill, Jari Kirkland and Jessica Philips raced very well for the women. Unfortunately both Lyndsay Meyer and Molly Zurn were sick and couldn’t complete the course. I’m looking forward to the next race in Crested Butte as all of us learn more each race.
Pete Swenson, COSMIC founder, won the men’s race with Scott Simmons, Jan Koles, Max Taam and Travis Scheefer rounding out the top five.
With the three qualifiers complete, the US ski mountaineering worlds team is: Men: Brandon French, Travis Scheefer, Pete Swenson, Scott Simmons, Luke Nelson, Bryan Wickenhauser, Max Taam and Greg Ruckman; Women: Sari Anderson, Monique Merrill, Janelle Smiley, Nina Silitch, Jari Kirkland, Amy Fulwyler, Jessica Philips and Jaime Falcon.
Finally, if you are going to be at the OR show this week in Salt Lake City, please stop by the La Sportiva booth on Thursday to have a beer and fund-raise for USSMA. Enter to win a pair of Sportiva skis!