Field Frenzy

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The slog up Takkakaw Falls road feels longer than it actually is.  Straight away Peter put the hammer down and the cold quickly became a thing of the past. We worked on our strides and fast cadence in preparation for the Vert 180 race next weekend.

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The place was pretty quiet, just us and one other group, enjoying the sun up on the col.  The turns we difficult through the wind slab and I looked like a total looser survival skiing down to the trees.

Yet again, another great day with great vert and amazing company.

The Crew Is Back In Town

Yellow Man!

Yellow Man!

Reunited and it feels so good!

After a long spring, summer, and autumn, the crew is slowly trickling back together.  Now that the snow has fallen, I finally get so see my friends again.  Skin tracks, turns, powder, transitions, sore legs, and laughter- How lovely it is that winter has returned.

Kylee & Travis

Kylee & Travis

 

Hello Hello

Hello Hello

My teammates and training partners bring me such joy.  I am so thankful to be surrounded by such wonderful people.  Through skin tracks we push each other and at each kick turn we critique technique.  In search of powder we can pencil in the turns as training for upcoming competitions.  During the thigh burn or the plodding we attack the vertical and thrust ourselves back down the slopes (sometimes with style and sometimes with flail!).

Go Mark Go!

Go Mark Go!

 

So thank you my friends- for watching me in my worst when I fail, encouraging me to strive for excellence, for contemplating life both on the drive and on the slopes, and for continuing to seek out those adventures together in the back country and at the start line.

Onward to another great season!

Spray Michelle with Snow!

Spray Michelle with Snow!

When Life Gives You Lemons……

Anyone who breathes knows that life is full of twists and turns and big obstacles.  Many rewarding paths require hard work, challenge, and heaps of frustration.

This summer has been a hard summer of non-stop work, exhaustion, and set-backs.  This last weekend I was supposed to compete in the Trailstoke 60KM race, but life and responsibilities got in the way- frustrating things!  In the end I know these frustrations will bring forth big rewards, but in the midst of it all, it can feel quite stressful.

Appropriately I responded by heading outside and onto the rock.  The wilderness, mother nature, and the majestic mountains put life into perspective.  The mountains and the trees remind you of how minuscule you are in the vast and expansive universe.  Then all those tiny, little obstacles in one’s own life do not evaporate, however; they certainly are put into context.

Ha Ling's Mountain shadow

Ha Ling’s Mountain shadow

Glorious views

Glorious views

A man named John Muir started the outdoors Sierra Club and passionately believed in the powerful therapy of mother nature.   To leave you with his wise words  “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”2

Playing on the summit

Playing on the summit

Round The Mountain Race

Talk about a super fun start to the summer!  A 20km run around the mountain on mainly single track trails put together with a great after party of live music swag, and food trucks.

I started out with confidence (even though inside I still felt that I haven’t been running much).  I walked up to the start line outwardly showing fearlessness and assurance.  Nobody was taking the bold approach as I was.  The guys around me were asking my projected finish time.  I honestly wasn’t entirely sure how it would go.

The Starting Shot

The Starting Shot

The countdown happened and I was off- out of the start line with fire under my heels.  I stayed in front for quite some time, roughly the first .4km, and then a few guys popped out in front.  I maintained a high pace for several km as we meandered up the hill, gaining elevation.  Little by little the top few gentlemen grew smaller and smaller.

Pretty much throughout the race I tried to keep quick and steady feet.  I managed to run all the hills except for a small section near the end.  From km 11-15 I was on my own for a bit with no other athletes in sight.  Soon after I could hear someone breathing, and thinking it was a girl, I picked up the pace.  My strategy was to save a bit of energy for the last hill, but in reality I believe I could’ve pushed much harder much sooner.

Suddenly I could hear the announcer and see the tents within sight.  I was shocked to be so close.  The trail weaved a bit, but the end came quickly.

Coming into the finish line

Coming into the finish line

I was stoked to secure 1st female and 5th overall.  I was ahead of 2nd by 14min50- that feels good:)

Podium Prize

Podium Prize

The rest of the afternoon was filled with salty pretzel medals, good music and amazing prizes!

 

Yummy!

Yummy!

If you say running is boring- you’re doing it wrong!

Folks who state that running is boring are clearly running in a different manner than I. It was quite the contrary on my outing today.

Don't look down

Don’t look down

Try running up skinny ledges in the fog.  Or descent down wet slab covered in pebbles and bits of snow.

slabby slopes

slabby slopes

 

Today I ran through heavy rain, snow, mud, sleet, mystical fog, and then a couple pockets of sun with the most amazing clouds rolling around the sky.  I had a plethora of entertainment and I was far from bored attempting to be agile running down loose rock.

Finally some visibility and good footing!

Finally some visibility and good footing!

 

I heart mountain running- my heart is overflowing with joy!

Summit photo :)

Summit photo :)

Radiant Rhondda

With blue skies & spring sunshine comes early morning starts.  After multiple 4am wake-ups, Peter and I were feeling a little sluggish this morning.  We settled on summitting Rhondda (located on the Wapta Icefields) for an easier day.  It totalled 28km and 1200 vertical meters (plus a few sections of jumping on rocks across the creek).

selfie on the wapta

selfie on the wapta

Peter on Rhondda Ridge

Peter on Rhondda Ridge

Rhondda ended up being the perfect recipe for a completely satisfying day.  We had the whole entire area to ourselves.  We did not see one soul on the approach, at the Bow Hut, or on the glacier.  The skies were clear sending down glorious rays of sun to warm our faces.  The air was calm.  The place was completely still and magical.  Peter so perfectly coined it as “a sidewalk in the sky.”

Nothing but endless mountains and skies

Nothing but endless mountains and skies

 

 

Les Diablerets Race Course

2480 vm / 29.2 km / starting line @ at 1160 meters elevation

7 ascents, 7 descents, 2 bootpacks, 16 transitions

Last weekend I raced in a small Swiss town called Les Diablerets. The race took a teams format- meaning 2 athletes start, complete, and finish the course together; the two team members must go through all transitions at the same time. It is a fun and different concept to racing, as you change race strategy and look out for your partner. You work together and your actions reflect in the best interest of the team.

Le mans start

Le mans start

The course started right in the village at the congress hall, in the adjacent park. It was a Le Mans start, meaning on foot with skis in hand or pack. In this case we all had our skis on our packs. We ran across the snow covered field, across and bridge and then ascending a very steep and narrow European road. It wound its way up and up and up. The pavement lasted for quite some time- approx. 200 meters uphill. Finally we put our skins on and commenced a long icy climb. I had issues gripping the icy groomed snow with my skins, which made for a difficult start.  The first ascent was 640m. Each descent near the beginning was short and often followed by around 400 meters of climbing. The last little bit emphasized quick transitions as ascent 7 totalled 35 m, with a finish descending 125 m.

The route led the racers through some stunning scenery, up over various peaks and down wide alpine bowls. The majority of the race took place in the alpine. I personally enjoyed the via ferrata section- running across the ridge with a fixed rope. The views were indescribable.

section of the via ferrata

section of the via ferrata

Also of note- during one descent, bombing down the hill, we had a road crossing where traffic was stopped momentarily as racers took their skis off and ran across the road to the other side.

 

The finish was a fun 2km (ish) skate ski through the village back to the starting line. By that time of day the sun was blaring hot. My partner, Andrew, and I kept the stoke high and pushed hard right to the finish!

 

Andrew was a great team partner, a man from the UK currently living in Verbier, Switzerland. We had never raced together before, let alone skied together. He was in high spirits and with patience and flexibility we quickly learnt how to work together as a team. This was one more aspect added to our race, trying to pace off each other and move together as one having just met the previous day.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone. It was filled with challenge, excitement, amazing terrain, and majestic mountains.

new diablo course

 

Racing Monsters

Races can follow a variety of paths. There are some races in which the entire race goes smoothly: you perform well, fueling goes great, you meet your goals, and there are no gear failures. Success. There are other scenarios in which a water bottle might freeze, a skin might not stick, etc. It is inevitable to run into problems every so often when racing and it is accepted as a part of the challenge.

 

When a racing season is going well, a small little obstacle with the right coping strategies won’t materialize into anything beyond a mishap. Especially if the competition is completed in the desired time frame and goals are met. It’s no big deal.

 

However- if the season has been a rough go it’s easy to loose sight. The small obstacle grows into a large monster during a rough racing season. At the finish line, if the results are not satisfactory- the little gear issue cultivate into a pressure of not performing well enough. “I’m more experienced than that. I should’ve foreseen this issue or been able to solve it quicker.” The same incidents can produce such contrasting mental results depending on one’s mindset.

 

Do not overlook the other reasons you race- the challenge, the community, the beautiful places, creating goals, pushing your limits, improving your abilities and learning about yourself.

Marmotta Trophy World Cup

marmotta race logo

Marmotta Trophy: 1317 vm 4 ascents/ 3 descents / 2 portages / 10.5 km

Nestled in a mountainous region of Italy, in a beautiful town called Martello, is where the Marmotta Trophy World Cup Races took place.

I came to this race with a very interesting mindset. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with my results at the previous races in Verbier. But blended in with the negative emotions were also a elated memory of the teams race with my partner Kylee. Thus I arrived with a mixed bag of emotions alongside a tremendous amount of pressure (from myself) to perform well.

Friday my team-mates (Travis, Nick, Mel & Eric) and I set out on a little course recon. A little bit of homework on getting to know the course gave me a confidence boost. That afternoon my boot broke- specifically the bolt that engages the downhill mode fell out. This was a minor set-back. And thanks to Melanie’s connections and help I was able to get it fixed by the Scarpa rep. Phew!

Saturday morning I awoke early ready to race. I had overcome a small little obstacle the evening before and was up to the challenge of the Marmotta course- a new country and a fresh start.

My contact ripped.

For those of you who know me, you understand the magnitude of this phrase. I’m practically blind. I cannot see much detail more than 5 feet in front of me. To pack lightly into our tiny rental car, I didn’t bring a back up pair.

Rather than get worked up, I just quietly went about warming up and preparing for the race. Sure half of my vision was gone- a complete blur on the left side-but I wasn’t interested in sitting around all day.

In a quick nutshell- I lost a lot of athletes on the first downhill. It turns out that its quite hard to ski quickly without depth perception and sight. I lost a good chunk of the pack quite rapidly. If I had to sum up the race in one word it would be unique. By the time I came through transitions most of the volunteers didn’t cheer for me. They focused on staying warm. At times by –standers chasing their friends would yell out names of my fellow competitors. I couldn’t see very far, and it was often quiet. I simply focused on the few steps ahead of me, of doing my personal best. I redirected my negativity into building character.

It was a positive moment when I passed 2 competitors and then flew up the bootpack, dropping them like flies. The last descent was so hard to see- but I finished with my best effort.

As my wise friend Kylee stated, “You are building character Michelle and that is of much more eternal value than any placing in races.”

marmotta-trophy-skimo-cnd crew

 

World Champs Race Recaps: P1

VERTICAL RACE: 847 meters

I am one to speak with high optimism, and I’m usually stoked about most things. However, in the case of the vertical race, I finished with heavy disappointment.

The race followed a “king of the hill” format- first one to the top wins; one big climb of 847 meters. The course setters threw snow into the streets and sent us racing up through the middle of Verbier town center. This was neat, both for spectators and athletes. The streets were packed with people. Another fun element was the helicopter camera following along and filming. I took a few moments to look up and smile as it flew overhead.

Vert Race- photo by Ohler

Vert Race- photo by Ohler

 

“Don’t go out too strong!” advised many people over and over. A frequent mistake is to start to fast and then blow up partly through the race. In hindsight- I didn’t start fast enough. And then combined with the low angled course that traversed and traversed and traversed, I actually found it difficult to get enough speed to get my heart rate going. As a climber, I felt as though I was on a Nordic course. I kept hoping for some steep hills.

Crossing the finish line I sprinted as Katarina cheered me on. I pushed my hardest in the last 5 min, but that wasn’t enough. Within moments of crossing the finish I quickly recovered from my meagre sprint finish and was ready to climb another 847 meters. I fancied more vertical. I wanted my body to sense the tolls of a race, but I was fresh as a daisy.

With reflection, I have to remind myself that not everyone can become a world cup racer instantly. It takes time to figure out strategy, personal limits, and knowing how to race. I quickly assigned myself the homework of gliding technique and spending a bit more time training on flatter terrain.

All in all, I grew as an athlete, as more of my limiters were highlighted. It was an  experience abreast with sadness and joy.

 

INDIVIDUAL:

After feeling a little down from the relay and vertical race, I had my race face on and was ready to tackle the individual race. I had a few goals which included going hard, slobbering, and dropping of exhaustion at the finish line. I was hungry for an intense and hard race.

The start went pretty well. I managed to find myself stuck in the throng of ski poles, skis, elbows, butts, etc. Oddly enough, a fellow competitors pole managed to catch my skin and flick it off my tip right within the first 60 meters or so- this was a tiny setback, but with mental fortitude I made no big deal and managed to push myself to remain with the pack. With a refined focus, high cadence, and a strong will, I could stayed within sight of the many top females throughout a good duration of the first climb.

A few race highlights to note: I crashed hard on a descent. I passed 4 athletes on the 2nd ascent. I continued to keep several key athletes within sight.

Boot packing down from Peak Six Blanc

Boot packing down from Peak Six Blanc

With the last ascent only gaining 200 meters I coached myself to attack the climb and redline it. Unfortunately my binding collected ice and would not engage. My boot would not properly clip into my binding- thus over and over and over again I walked out of my ski. As you can imagine this was both frustrating and also time consuming. I stopped at one point to try and remove ice and sort out the problem, but efforts proved nil. The ready to attack Michelle was unable to attack.

Competitor after competitor passed me through my gear failure struggle as I snailed my way up the last climb, attempting to remain positive.

As I crossed the finish line- I lacked in slobber, high heart rate, and the desire to collapse. Again I felt discouraged.

Martha and I posing in front of our names

Martha and I posing in front of our names

 

Stayed Tuned for the amazing “Teams Race” Report!!!