Juice: beet, pineapple, carrot, apple: great per-hydration and good for boosting your glycogen before starting.
Proanox Biogenesis: THE best anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory product that I’ve found! I’ve found this stuff really pays dividends for day after day training or extended alpine climbs.
Fish Oil capsules: another great anti-oxidant/inflammatory. I take as many as I can get down.
Drink Mix: Skratch Labs; it’s easy on the stomach when you’re going all out & is great tasting.
Bumble Bars: a perfect REAL food snack bar. I much prefer these to other so called “energy bars.”
Waffle sandwich: Belgian waffle, jam, cream cheese & a piece of prosciutto. This is a good blend of easily digested carbs (from the waffle & jam) a bit of protein (cream cheese), salt & flavor (prosciutto). I LOVE these & they’re easy to make.
If its a bit longer day, to this I’ll add a few energy gels, though I try to stick to real foods as much as I can.
Juice: beet, pineapple, carrot, apple: great per-hydration and good for boosting your glycogen before starting.
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An Unexpected Gift!
This year’s Breck Epic, a six day mountain bike stage, proved to be a far different experience for me than last year’s: namely, that I placed 5th in the Single Speed Category instead of winning as I did last year. While I could read from the Bible of Excuses as to why placing 5th, I’ll try to own the fact that I came underprepared compared to several of the other guys riding just one gear.
I significantly underestimated the extent of how much breaking my arm in late May would affect my training. Had it not come after taking a month off of training to climb in Alaska, then the impact may not have been as severe. As it turned out, my performance in this year’s race was not much different than last year’s: if anything, I rode a bit faster. However, most of the other’s improved and the newcomers (including two talented pros) brought a whole new level of riding to this event that was not seen in the prior years’ races. Had I wanted to be in the running for even a podium finish of just a single stage, I needed to bring a whole new level of fitness and ability. I simply did not do that, though I came no worse prepared than before. That get’s you fifth.
In June and July I rode indoors on a trainer religiously. Let’s just say “It ain’t the same!” There simply is no replacement for hard single speeding than going hard on a single speed. Last year, I was able to do several races and good rides through the summer to get me ready for the rigors of the six day suffer fest in Breckenridge. This year, I watched my power meter while doing lactate threshold intervals in my family room. At least I was able to follow the Tour de France.
After my broken arm started to mend in July, I had a precious few weeks to do some serious mountain bike training to get ready. I got in a few good rides for about a week, then WHAM!! I got infected from a nasty lung infection thanks to my darling 8 month old son. He got pneumonia, so I guess he got it worse than I did. Still, this sucked as I thought I was back on track to getting super fit. At that point, just two weeks before race time, I decided to lick my wounds and simply rest up. I’d take it as best I could and hope for some sort of magical fitness found from being “well rested.”
Right away on day 1, I knew I was not there. As the others pulled away on the initial climbs, I felt powerless to accelerate and stay with. I was felt flat with no power. I did seem to have endurance (thanks, I guess, to genetics) and was able to plod along. Every day, however, I was unable to hit the gas hard out of the gates and it became a game of seeing how much ground I could make up during the day after being dropped early.
Day two was rainy and cold, with high temperatures in the 40′s. I was in denial about the weather and held out hope for sun. In that, I refused to stop and put on a jacket. I was only wearing my shorts and short sleeved jersey. I got cold and borderline hypothermic. My hands were numb and my glasses were covered in mud. I couldn’t feel my handlebars nor see the trail well. Though this was one of the best sections of single track riding of the entire race, I was not enjoying the fast, flowing descent. I crashed once on a tight switchback.
I was hurting and unhappy. I was totally annihilating myself and had little to show for it, or so it seemed. Unlike ever before, thoughts of quitting entered my mind. Fortunately, I had enough self-respect and pride to not do that. I kept on pushing as hard as my mind and body would allow. I lost a lot of time that day and any hopes of being among the top three short of some sort crash on their part. I sat in sixth place and almost an hour behind the first place position.
I accepted all this and relaxed some. I also seemed to recover well. I had been very good about my daily nutrition, taking enough GU Roctane gels and drink mix to not only fuel my daily effort, but keep my body ready for the next day. My recovery strategy was simple: refuel and hydrated immediately, liberal use of antioxidants, rest and massage. For the refueling, I like to power down a liter of GU Recovery Brew and eat as many Nutella covered saltine crackers as I can get down. I Use Proanox Genesis antioxidants and swear they keep my muscles from feeling as flat as they would without. I also put ice packs on my legs and rest for an hour and then get a light massage. I’m amazed at how well this simple strategy aids my recovery. My average heart rate (a good indicator at how hard my body is able to work) stayed the same from day 2-6 only dropping 10 bpm after day 1. So, after the initial hard-as-possible effort, I was able to maintain a steady state for the next five days. I think had the race been another five days, I might have actually had a shot at the podium, but that’s not the case. At any rate, I was able to recover well.
By day three, I just let everyone take off fast, and then played the game my way: steady and never too hard. After 30 minutes, I started catching and passing many. Eventually, I was even within sight of the 3rd and fourth place riders. I tried to catch them on the penultimate climb, but they were just out of reach. A wickedly technical descent let them put a little more distance on me, though I managed to maintain my 5th place position. Perhaps the highlight of this day for me was having Ross Schnell come ripping by me on the rocky descent at warp speed. The reason I was ahead of him was because earlier that day he had to stop to fix a seized up rear hub. He fixed it, but in the process, removed the rear brake. So, when he came ripping by me, he did so with just one brake! I thought I was going pretty fast until he came by. I was humbled by his ability to move so fast, yet controlled with a single brake!Hat’s off to him!
Hat’s off to Mike Melley, as well. He ended up in 4th, just off the podium, though never once let me beat him the whole race! Try as I might, whenever I would get him in my sights, he would just slowly, but surely pull away and that would be it: I’d only see him again at the finish line. Mike placed second to me last year and it was clear that he took good notes and improved enough to beat me handily this time around.
As the race passed the half way mark, I started to feel a little better. At least, I think at this point, everybody was fatigued and base endurance became a much bigger marker of race day performance. As such, I did better comparatively and was able to hold onto my 5th place position through the finish with a margin of 5 minutes over twenty hours of riding.
Whether or not I enter this race next year is yet to be determined. One thing for sure, though, I have returned a much stronger person and have an edge that I could not have ever gotten had I won again. If I do come back, I’ll be much better prepared and ready to battle, even if more pro’s decide to hop on the single speed short bus for a piece of glory.
Note to self: training is the easy part; get the easy part right. I’ll need to be more careful about avoiding injury and sickness, that’s the hard part.
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A lot of people have asked my opinion of the recent events on Cerro Torre. Here they are for any that are interested. Probably no surprises for those that know me.
Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, once considered a premier alpine climbing destination, has rapidly become one of the world’s premier cragging destinations. As the summits there become more and more accessible to more and more people, it has lost much of it’s fierce reputation. The recent actions of Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy, however, have helped to restore true alpinism to this beautiful mountain. By not only ascending the mountain’s Southeast Ridge by fair means but also, by removing many of the offensive and unnecessary bolts placed during the first attempt at climbing this route, and I stress the word attempt, they not only removed litter, but also made the summit of Cerro Torre much less accessible. They, and others have proven that Cerro Torre’s summit is not inaccessible, one only needs to serve the proper apprenticeship and develop a high level of competency and craftsmanship in alpinism prior to attempting an ascent. To stand on the summit of Cerro Torre is once again not just something one is entitled to, requiring only moderate climbing experience and good weather. You can no longer cheat to arrive on top of Cerro Torre; it must be earned!
No doubt, some have and will continue to cry foul of their actions, calling them elitists. And, elitists they are as should be anyone able to stand on top of Cerro Torre. It is a proud and distinguished peak; those capable of ascending it are truly among climbing’s elite. There is nothing wrong with that and the notion that, for some, it simply is beyond their abilities. This concept of inaccessibility seems to have been neglected and forgotten neglected recently. There are and truly should be some places on our planet that are inaccessible due to their remoteness and/or ruggedness. The means of ascent by which Jason and Hayden have altered was in no way an important climb in the world of alpinism. It was, however, quite controversial, and rightly so, since it was nothing more than cheating. Cheating is frowned upon in every other sport, why should it be any different in climbing, especially Alpinism? In that, and in light of the obvious nefarious original intent (to help cover up a lie), the actions of Jason and Hayden should be commended, not condemned as some have.
I, for one, commend and applaud them and encourage others in the climbing community to do the same. I also admit that I may not have the requisite skill to ascend the Southeast Ridge of Cerro Torre. I appreciate the tremendous effort and dedication to excellence that it would take to succeed at that endeavor.
Regardless of the country or region in which this beautiful and daunting mountain resides, it deserves better than what amounted to a glorified via ferratta by which to attain it’s magnificent summit. It deserves far better. I can only hope it inspires others to better themselves and better consider the means to the end which they seek.
Thank you Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy.
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
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I lifted the title to this post from a Pantera song. It’s kind of fitting, though (especially if you’re familiar with said tune). I climbed Bird Brain Boulevard a few weeks back and recently had some revelations about my experience on it. When climbing, I noticed most of the route to be equipped with rap anchors. From time to time I’ve seen them up there, but now it had anchors most of the way up, until just before the traverse. At first, I thought nothing of them, but as I got higher, I thought about cleaning them out. I didn’t though. Now I regret that. My mistake was not to clean them.
While I think it was fine that whomever was up there and had to bail for whatever reason they did (I’ve had to bail on plenty of routes) and leave those anchors, I think it is part of the responsibility of future secessionists to clean it up. This is pretty much the same as when you decide to back up an existing rap anchor with new material, you really should clean out the bulk of the old stuff, leaving just the best single old piece in addition to the new material that you leave. This keeps things clean. As for these anchors on the route of ascent on Bird Brain, some will argue, and rightly so, that having the anchors on the way up will make it much more convenient for some to simply rap the route or even quickly bail from any given point. Though it would be more “convenient”, I don’t think that convenience necessarily equals improvement. Besides, It is much better to do the standard rap or into the Ribbon than to rap the route. I know, I’ve done it before and can attest to the numerous stuck rope opportunities there are in rapping down the route. Having known rap anchors on BBB greatly reduces the seriousness and commitment involved in climbing that route. It is a special route for Colorado in that it is one of the few winter cragging routes that could get a grade IV or V level of commitment. I think it is worth maintaining that. As well, with a lower level of commitment, you get a lower level of competence needed to safely ascend the route. This will attract more climbers with less experience and (besides simply crowding the route a bit more) will increase the likelihood that people will go up there and get in over their head; perhaps having an accident. Believe, me, BBB is NOT a route to fall on. The fact that it is serious and revered by most, has helped ensure that most suitors have served an appropriate apprenticeship prior to leading such a climb. This is respect and there is something to be said about that.
I’m not trying to preach or rant here, but just wanted to point out that I made a mistake by not cleaning up the rap anchors on this route when I had a good opportunity (and to some extent, as a guide, the obligation) to do so. If I go up there again this season, I will certainly do this, however, I would hope that someone else will have felt similarly and already done so.
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I’m prepping for a weekend course on getting someone to climb faster on moderate terrain. It’s something that a lot of people can improve on. One thing that has helped me succeed on getting up (and down) big, technical routes at high altitude is the ability to move efficiently on the moderate terrain. As a guide, I often encounter other parties on the classic routes, especially in popular areas like the Canadian Rockies and the Alps. I’ve found that while most do just fine on the technical cruxes, its on the moderate terrain and at belay stations that people seem to spend more time than they need to. The M7 crux will (and should) take as long as it needs to; that’s why it’s called “the crux.” But, there is no need climbing the rest of the WI4-5 pitches at the same snail’s pace.
I think that so many people spend the bulk of their time working on climbing harder grades, that they neglect honing their speed and efficiency on the “easy” terrain. The good news is that the prescription is simple. It’s a mantra that is echoed by many of the ultra heavy metal bands I frequently listen to: MAXIMUM VOLUME YIELDS MAXIMUM RESULTS! It really does boil down to doing a lot of climbing at and below your maximum grade. Sure, pushing your grade and comfort zone has it’s place too, but the bulk of your time out should be on terrain you are completely comfortable with so you can forget about the climbing and focus on maximizing your efficiency. You shouldn’t be worried about falling off or getting pumped. Instead, you should think about things like: “Can I move my body higher before replacing the next tool? Can I move up without looking at my feet? Can I climb with one ax daggering? Can I go any further before placing the next screw? Is my pace right at or below my threshold for this length of pitch?” Or, simply “What can I be doing to move quicker here?” These and many other things are what can help you motor up the easier stuff, saving time (and energy) for the truly harder pitches and for successfully completing longer objectives.
One of the most common reasons for climbing slower on moderate terrain is due to swinging the axes more often and harder than need be. This is usually due to the desire for more security found by having an ax solidly placed and done frequently. However, you can often get by with fewer swings and less secure placements by having more secure feet, The best way to work on feet is on moderate and easy terrain. The more time you devote to getting better, more secure footwork, the more efficient and faster you will climb, especially on the moderate pitches!
Also, though a subject for a post in and of itself, the construction, management and transitions at the belay stations are other places where time can be gained or lost. Being as thoughtful and efficient as possible here will really impact the time. Saving 5 minutes per belay station on a 12 pitch route saves one hour! Also, remember that in the winter, it gets dark fast AND once it’s dark you’ll move at half speed if you’re lucky. Sometimes, moving faster means being safer. I can think of numerous times when I’ve had to climb under seracs or avalanche threat on moderate ice and wanted to spend as little as time as possible there. These are places where moving fast and efficiently is imperative to maintain some semblance of an acceptable level of risk.
So work on your efficiency on the moderate terrain and at the belay stations to get up and down(or at least to the bivy site!) those bigger routes before it get’s too dark.
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I had the good fortune to ride the newly improved Palisade Rim Trail this afternoon. The mild, late autumn weather has put skiing on hold, but has allowed for some great riding conditions here in the Grand Valley. This may all change this week, however, so I figured this may be my last chance to get on this trail before next spring. I’m glad I did as it is is quite a gem. It is short, but sweet; only about 4-5 miles of trail in total, but there are a lot of offshoots to explore and it is easy to spend and hour or more riding up there. It is also one of the more scenic trails I’ve ridden around here, which is saying a lot considering the other trails here in Grand Junction and Fruita. The riding is also technically challenging enough to keep you engaged while riding in either direction. It’s not a free ride trail, but it’s not some flowy, smooth green groomer type thing either. Think Phil’s World meets the Lunch Loop. There’s also some really cool petroglyphs to check out along the trail. The potential for more great trail looks incredible there and I can’t wait to see what else get’s developed in the Palisade area. Many thanks to COPMOBA and all the people that helped develop this excellent trail system!
Here’s a few shots from the ride.
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I just got word from Leigh Goldberg, the Access Director of the AMGA, about the comment period regarding the new proposed access restrictions to climbing in the Black Canyon. Following is a summary of how things are.
According to Leigh, the Park received over 400 letters, the majority of which were in opposition to the Black’s proposal to ban guided climbing. This one issue definitely received considerable attention and the bulk of the comments with respect to the Wilderness and Backcountry Management Plan. The bolt restrictions also received some comment. The Park expects to publish a summary of the comments after Jan. 1 (they are compiling and analyzing the data in-house so it will take some time) and then a decision will be reached sometime thereafter. The Regional Director would need to approve their proposed Plan and then it would go through the NPS Director’s office in DC. Given the amount of attention this issue received, the Park does not expect a very quick approval process. The Superintendent of the Black has already briefed the regional office in Denver letting them know that the public didn’t favor the Park’s proposal to ban guided climbing access.
So for now, things are unchanged for a while. After the New Year, we will find out more from the Park Service.
Once again, thanks to everyone who took the time to comment!
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A lot of people ask me what to bring for this route, so here’s a photo of what I brought along yesterday.
It’s interesting because it’s kind of a rock climb, kind of an ice climb and kind of a chimney grovel. There’s not many ice screws needed and the shorter ones work best. The bulk of the cams are mostly for building anchors. There’s a lot of run out climbing and marginal intermediate protection and the anchors are often hard to make bomber so you may end up belaying off of your harness more often than directly off the anchor. I end up with a lot of four piece anchors on this route. The big cam is helpful, if for nothing else, to protect an awkward offwidth section on the last pitch. It is also handy, but not necessary in several other places. The secret weapons here are the knee pads! Think of them as tape gloves for your knees. They let you smear and scum your knee with confidence in so many areas where chimneying is the only way to go; often with little or no protection!