It seems like with just a blink of an eye, summer is over (which, as a professional ski mountaineer, I’m not too sad about). I strive to be balanced as an outdoorswoman, and pushing myself in the summertime makes me appreciate winter even more.
Looking back, here are my top ten highlights from summer 2016.
10: Road Biking a Century.
Riding my bike for 100 miles was one of my big goals this summer. And the way I completed the goal was unintentional – I was on a two week road trip across the Canadian Rockies, equipped with road bikes, climbing and camping gear. On Canada Day, we were staying in Canmore, and I suggested we ride our bikes to Lake Louise for lunch. I did a quick look on the map to determine the mileage. I didn’t look long because I was eager to get going, but I thought the ride was around 40 miles one way (so 80 miles total). We set out on one of the most beautiful stretches of mountainous road I’ve ever seen, starting with a bike path and then going on to a two way highway. In the forest, we saw a grizzly bear. It was my first grizzly bear sighting, and I was thrilled to see it while on this epic ride! After 50 miles, we still had a little ways to get to the Lake. It turned out to be a 109 mile road bike ride. And I enjoyed every moment of it. Road biking reminds me not to fear the past or present, but to focus on the present moment.
9: Getting back on the sharp end after breaking my foot
In fall 2015, I broke a small bone on the ball of my foot. I was sidelined from climbing for awhile, and it was hard to deal with the feelings of inadequacy. One of the highlights of my summer was getting back on the sharp end of the rope after the injury. Injuries can be so difficult to deal with, it’s important to celebrate the progress and healing instead of dwelling on the setbacks.
8: Climbing Mt. Athabasca
Climbing Mt. Athabasca in Canada A fantastic outing on rock, snow and ice through Canada’s amazing glaciated terrain. Athabasca delivered!
7: The Timpanogos Traverse Mt.
Timpanogos is a huge mountain that lies just south of my Salt Lake City, UT home along the Wasatch front. It’s more than just a summit, it’s a massif with several of the highest peaks in the Wasatch range along it’s summit ridge. In August, I ran from the North summit to the main summit and down the Timpooneke trail. I love moving fast along a mountain top, and the Timp traverse was one of my favorite objectives of the summer.
6: Backpacking in the Sierras
In late August, I met up with photographer Meg Haywood Sullivan to do a 4 –day 3-night backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park. Backpacking is hard work, and it reminded me how much I love the challenge of surviving in the alpine with just the contents of my backpack.
5: Attending the first Wild Women’s Project in the San Juans of Colorado
In July, I visited a high backcountry hut in Colorado with a group of 16 of the outdoor industry’s most influential ladies – pro mountain bikers, trail runners, backpackers and environmental activists. It was like summer camp for grown up women, complete with s’mores, arts and crafts and yoga. I loved visiting the Opus hut and was so inspired by all the new personalities and mountain terrain.
4: Speaking up for Bear’s Ears
In mid-July, I attended a public hearing hosted by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel in Bluff, UT about the Bear’s Ears area, and spoke up, urging for permanent protection of this beautiful area. I visited Mexican Hat, UT, Valley of the Gods, and Gooseneck State Park during the trip, and fell more deeply in love with this part of Southeastern Utah. Attending the public hearing was a way to learn more about all the diverse interests in the land, and it was an experience I will never forget.
3: Bugaboo Spire
This year’s summer solstice also happened to fall during a full moon, and we planned to be on Bugaboo Spire during that time. It was also the 100 year anniversary of the first ascent of the Kain Route, which is the route we attempted. The Bugaboos had had an abnormally warm spring, so climbing had been in good condition in the weeks leading up to our trip. Right before we got there, it snowed three feet and buried the route. Instead of cancelling the trip, we decided to go up anyway. It was slow going through the snow and rock, and we didn’t summit, but we had the whole park to ourselves, and spent the entire day experiencing the mountain in all its glory. Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back to the Bugaboos!
2: Taking my two year old nephew to the climbing gym
When my nephew, Peter, came to visit, he showed interest in climbing up and down a ladder in my mom and dad’s library. To encourage him further, I took him to the climbing gym. It was challenging teaching a two year old how to climb, but I’m delighted to pass my love of climbing on to the next generation.
1: Overcoming my fear of mountain biking and getting back into the sport
When I first moved to Utah fifteen years ago, I spent a lot of time trying to learn how to mountain bike. Maybe it was partly due to not having a properly fitting mountain bike, but I fell all the time, and eventually quit. This summer, I decided to pick it back up to round out my summer training repertoire. Being so much higher off the trail, combined with the speed and exposure, has always terrified me, but I went to confront my fear, and had a ball doing it. Sometimes it’s good to revisit those things that scare you.
That concludes my summer recap! I’m grateful to be able to participate in so many different mountain sports – I find that variety is the best thing to preventing a plateau in my training!
Lately, I’ve been discovering the joys of road biking around my home of Salt Lake City, UT. I’ve never been a serious road biker and it’s a whole new world to me that I didn’t fully understand until immersing myself in the sport. Now, I’m hooked and I want to encourage everyone to try it out! Before I got my own bike, I demoed one from a bike shop to get a sense of it. May was national bike month, but I think every month of the summer can be a good month to ride.
Here are my top ten reasons to get on a road bike:
- The access. There are roads everywhere. You don’t need to drive to the gym or to the trailhead to get your workout on. You can go right out your front door.
- Running, swimming and biking offer the most bang for your buck for cardio. If you’re short on time but need to get a workout in, road biking is a great option.
- Being able to eat dessert (or whatever you want). Because you can burn so many calories, you can enjoy that cookie or ice cream for dessert. Plus, food tastes better after a workout.
- Low Impact Burn. Compared to running, biking is super gentle to joints, muscles and bones. It’s a valuable training tool for anyone who has had injuries, especially knee, ankle or foot.
- When you’re riding a bike, you can’t type or check your email. The mind doesn’t wander far from the 30 yards ahead of you. This is especially true for the descent and for beginners. You have to focus on the road and all the hazards it presents. This type of forced mindfulness practice is good for the brain.
- Exercising outdoors adds challenges like wind and weather that help push you past mental and physical barriers. Getting outside of your comfort zone is the key to progression.
- Joy/Freedom. It’s hard not to smile when you’re cruising on a road bike. It evokes a childlike sense of wonder and freedom.
- Camraderie/community. Even when I’m riding solo, I feel like I’m part of an exclusive gang. Road bikers are so friendly to one another. It also opens you up to a huge community of people who chose to make fitness a priority and spend their time outdoors. If you want more of this community vibe, it’s really easy to sign up for a group ride, non-competitive or competitive event! In my home city, there are tons of races every weekend for every level of athlete.
- Cross-training. As a professional ski mountaineer, doing long amounts of cardio is the key to being successful on summit day. Most other athletes will find that biking is a great way to develop muscles and endurance when they can’t do the sport they are training for.
- Spandex doesn’t lie. It’s easy to ignore a few extra pounds in street wear, but spandex will call you out on any extra weight.
Have fun and be safe out there!
One of my coaches once told me, “There’s no such thing as overtraining, there’s only under-recovering.” If you’re training hard for an event or for an expedition, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between tired, heavy legs that will re-energize once warmed up and the deep aches of needing a day off. How do you know when to push it and when to pull back? I think every athlete strives to learn how to better recover to maximize training sessions. What I’m learning is that it takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to train and recover for maximum benefits. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
- Listen to your body. When you’re training, try to really focus on how your body feels. I sometimes log notes into my training logs, especially the small aches and pains.
- Take into account all the other demands in your life. If you have a stressful upcoming project at work, that additional stress is likely going to affect your training. If you are battling a minor cold or illness, hold back. If you have stress in your family life or relationship, you’ll feel that in your muscles. If you just got back from a big trip and a long plane ride, don’t go for your hardest workout. Stress, whether it’s from workouts, travel, work, family or relationships, has a way of causing tension in your muscles. Those are not the times to push your workouts into overdrive, no matter how enticing it sounds.
- If you’re really sore and need a day to recover, try to do a short (20-40 minute) bike ride, recovery run, mellow hike or swim to keep the muscles moving. During these recovery workouts, keep the intensity low. This is not the time to explore or go out with a new partner. Keep it chill, respect your body and you’ll likely find a good benefit from this.
- Stretch it out. I’ve recently got back into yoga for recovery. I do 20-40 minutes of gentle, restorative yoga to help unwind tense muscles. I’ve found it’s a really effective tool in my rest and recovery arsenal.
- Ice. Especially right after a hard workout. As a professional skier, I have so many aches and pains in my knees. If I’m able to ice them for 15-20 minutes within the first few hours after a hard run, ski tour or hike, I find they feel better the next day.
- Hot tub or cold plunge or both. This one is controversial, but I love the feeling of going from a hot tub, jumping into a snow bank, and going back in the hot tub. The sensation of hot and cold creates a delightful tingling and I find it helps my legs and body recover. If you don’t have a hot tub with a deep snow bank to jump into, find a pool with a hot tub and go back and forth between the hot and cold water a few times. It’s a nice treat for your muscles.
- Massage. If you don’t have a masseuse, ask other athletes or trainers for recommendations. When you get on the table, be specific and ask for what you want and need. Many masseuses just do a general “fluff and buff” for clients, but if you need work done on your legs, ask for it.
These are just a few tips I’ve learned and I hope they help you achieve your training goals!
Photo by Adam Clark
- Don’t listen to your parents when they tell you to go to graduate school and become a lawyer, doctor or businessperson. Don’t listen to anyone. They don’t understand your dream. Only you know what’s possible for you.
- Live within your means. Move to a place where you can do that and ski regularly. There aren’t too many ski towns like that left, but they are out there. Don’t acquire debt. Then ski a lot. Find other pros or aspiring pros to ski with. Contact local videographers and photographers to shoot.
- Figure out your personal brand and start building it. Keep your social media pages and websites updated with information that shows who you are. Research your ski idols and figure out how they built their careers. Contact potential sponsors that align with the personal brand you’ve developed.
- Plan to spend some time each week on the computer. Being in charge of a ski career is similar to running a small business. Prepare to learn how to do your own accounting, marketing, advertising, sales, negotiations and production.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Start working on them. Figure out what your sponsors goals are, and figure out how you can contribute to their goals. Being able to throw a double cork or skiing the gnarliest line doesn’t mean you should get sponsored. Figure out the value you can bring to the companies you want to work for.
- Keep a job with a flexible schedule that allows you to ski during the day until you can make enough skiing to quit your job. Live with your parents (even though you disagree about your career choices doesn’t mean you can’t be agreeable to live around) or couch surf with friends. If you travel, keep it cheap. Offer to make dinner for the hosts whose couches you will be crashing on. Do dishes, keep it tidy. Leave any “base camp” you visit cleaner and better than you found it.
- When you’re not skiing, and you’re trying to make ends meet, Hustle. Pick up odd jobs. Organize and run yard sales for your friends and families to make some extra skrilla. You’d be amazed at how much you can make for piles of stuff people want to get rid of. Get a food sponsor. You gotta eat.
- When you do get that call from the photographer, it’s time to get some shots in the bag. Be professional. Show up on time, with your gear organized. Don’t be hungover. Don’t talk too much, listen to the direction from the photographer. Now you are going to realize that being a pro skier isn’t exactly what you think it is. Powder days are spent moving at snail paces with film crews. Shooting is about finding quality snow and terrain, not how many laps you can get in.
- Develop a thick skin for rejection and public criticism. You will hear a lot of nos, from sponsors, from photographers, from other athletes. Keep doing what you love and persisting. Have fun and be safe. Make sure you have health insurance and consider disability insurance.