Mountain Sports

I’m an ex-alpine climber, and now, a skimo racer.

Background

I’ve been running around the mountains since the late-90s. Like most, I started as a rock climber. I moved on to ice, ended up in the alpine, and then went full circle, focusing on sport climbing for the final five years.

Since 2013, I’ve been learning how to ski. I started with an adult racing course and learned how to properly use an edge. In February 2014, I tried my first skimo race. Since then, I’ve been studying endurance training under Scott Johnston.

Climbing

In 1999, I left a yellow-brick-road future in the prairies and moved into a Honda Civic in the mountains. That started a very important decade.

I spent the first few summers in my car and winters working for room-and-no-board at the Alpine Club of Canada and the Calgary Olympic Development Association. Like many of my friends, I reduced my expenses to almost nothing and set up a schedule with tons of flexibility. I climbed nearly full-time for three years.

After I moved out of my car, I kept my schedule flexible and climbing-focused. Rock climbing led to ice climbing led to alpine climbing. I learned a lot. Thanks to the skills, knowledge, and generosity of other climbers, my first ten years in Canmore were some of the best years of my life.

Skimo Racing

In 2014, I tried my first skimo race. It was the most intense thing I had ever done. It felt like a big alpine route compressed into two hours. It took me a week to recover.

It was painful but intriguing. I had only been active again for the previous year. Before that, I had been sitting in front of a computer for two years. My shoulders had become bony and my waist… thicker. But I had managed to finish the race despite horribly bonking over the last half hour. And skimo racing is a lot more family-friendly than climbing. So I wondered: “How much could I progress if I really focused on this?”

I reconnected with my friend Scott Johnston, a successful endurance coach in the US. I was worried about overstaying my welcome in his inbox, but he encouraged me to keep sending him questions as they came up.

Rather than spoon-feed me answers, Scott pointed me in the direction of Jan Olbrecht, Renato Canova, Stephen Seiler, Bob Bowman, and Steve Magness. That resulted in a thorough five-year education.

I made a lot of mistakes. And they were hugely frustrating. I would have progressed faster if I had hired a coach right at the beginning, but now my battle scars are a big advantage. If good judgment comes from bad experience, then I’m well-equipped.

Writing about what I’ve learned helps me understand the concepts. In addition to blogging, I’ve written a few articles for Uphill Athlete. Now and then, I try and pass on what I’ve learned in the Uphill Athlete forum.