Avalanche Peak

On Saturday I will return to the start line of the Avalanche Peak Challenge in Arthur’s Pass Village for the first time since winning this race in 2010. Well, OK, no, that is a lie. I did in fact return to the start line of the APC in 2011. On that day I had a little time to kill in the morning, before getting married to my lovely wife Jane, and so headed out for a look. In 2012 I was racing the HK100, so again wasn’t really worried about missing the APC.

Le Tour du Grand Veymont, France- the fixed line wasn't for show!

Le Tour du Grand Veymont, France- the fixed line wasn’t for show!

Avalanche Peak holds a pretty special place in running for me. After returning to NZ after an amazing winter in France, racing Ski Mountaineering Races- the greatest sport known to man and competing in the World Championships and Pierra Menta, as well as small races every weekend getting my ass kicked, Jane and I moved to Arthur’s Pass for a few months before starting winter work at Cheeseman Ski Area. Jane made exceptional coffee in the Arthur’s Pass store, while I drank it, as well as washing dishes, cleaning toilets and eating off-cuts of cake… I was inspired after my winter in France and I had big plans (and still do) with what I wanted to achieve on skinny skis and a lycra one piece. There were many stand outs who inspired me, I worked for Pierre Gignoux, who together with Stephan Brosse have the Chamonix-Mt Blanc-Chamonix speed record on skis, and the one and only Jordi Canals (whom I had met 1 year earlier when I won the Asian Ski Mountaineering Champs in Japan) introduced me to a member of his “young ski mountaineering team”. THIS GUY was a freak back then and I looked into his summer “training” for inspiration during the snowless months in Arthur’s Pass and my attention quickly turned to Avalanche Peak (remember, this post is about the APC, not me reliving past ski mountaineering glory….). Winter came and went and I found myself again attached to a brush of some sorts at the Arthur’s Pass store and again paying the Avalanche Peak and Scott tracks a lot of attention. I was thinking I was pretty bad ass, I mean I could get up Avalanche Peak in like 1hr20- I owned that thing…… Then when I finally removed my head from my ass I discovered that there was a race up Avalanche Peak!? And people got to the top of Avalanche Peak in 50mins!! WTF I was shocked, horrified even, but most of all inspired even more.

2009 I turned up to a pretty typical day on the Main Divide the first time I was to race APC- it was raining hard and the course was re routed and I finished 6th and a good 2omins down on Jacob Roberts. I was pretty disappointed, I had been injured and was so far off the pace.

In  heap and hurting, at least I wasn't puking this time

at the finish line APC 2010- expect a similar sight this Saturday

But the next year I got serious. The ski mountaineering lark was behind me and I had decided I wanted to be a mountain runner (for the record, I am still trying to make up my mind about being a good one or not) and trained hard all summer. I was so focused. I was running up Avalanche Peak by head lamp and then serving coffee’s at 9am (yeah I had worked my way up a little). Come race day I was so so ready- 50mins to the summit right on Jacobs heals, before I took the lead along the ridge, just holding on for the win by 11 seconds by the time we got to the Bealey Hotel.

It was a huge turning point for me as a runner and amazingly satisfying to achieve a goal that I set for myself the day I found out about the APC.

So, what of APC 2013 for me…….. I am really excited to be back at the race that made me want to run, race and move fast in the mountains (when they didn’t have snow on them). I know a few things- I am way way fitter that I was in 2010, I have loads more endurance and am certain that I am a quicker. What I am not sure about, and this is pretty important, is if all that will make me faster that I was in 2010. It sounds simple- if I am claiming all these great things then I should clearly be much faster at APC than I was in 2010, but no. The APC course is so full on; so steep in its climb; so steep and loose under foot in its descent; fast, but technical down the Crow and then just hard work finishing along the Waimakariri to the finish. To be truly fast on this course you need to have really put in the time on this kind of terrain and I haven’t. We will see – I can’t wait!

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Broken River King of the Mountain

“You guys are so underground, you’re what bouldering wishes it was”  I had to agree with StevieE, the sport of ski mountaineering racing is extremely underground in NZ. After a short existence between 2006- 2009 when I was organising a series of races the only event has been a super low key race in QT, part of the Winter Festival, that is a short skin up Coronet Peak. For some reason this race is more or less not at all promoted and I have even been told it is “really just a race for locals”?? So yes, the sport is underground, but to my delight a day or 2 before I took off to Canada I got an e-mail from Barrett at Broken River Ski Area telling me there was going to be a race and could I spread the word- could I ever! Well I tried to anyways.

Barrett explains the course- the boot pack up Margo’s is directly above his head

Race day dawned sunny and calm which helped make up for the less than desirable snow conditions. I was thinking and with no disrespect to anyone, that I would have a fun little skin around and win the “race” (I was looking at it as more of a social occasion) pretty easy- then right before the brief a guy in a one piece suit turns up- great, I was going to have to try now. Barrett counted down and we all took off- well Chillis and the guy in the one piece lycra did. I chased and took over the lead as we started the climb up the main basin and with no skin track- it was way too firm for that- we tacked like a yacht race up to the bottom of Margo’s to the boot pack. I arrived just in front and lead up and chatted with the lycra clad man. “I have heard of you”– that is never good, “Chris, Chris Forne”. I replied saying we are even cause I had heard of Chris, he is after all a pretty big deal in adventure racing and orienteering circles, like a really big deal. This had me worried as we booted up cause I knew I was not gonna drop Chris, he is way too strong and I was already feeling like I needed to puke. Into the transition and out in less than a minute, Chris however, could not say the same, fumbling with boots, bindings and skins. Even with having to stop on the ski down due to a lack of flagging I built a good 90sec+ buffer. I held this on the short next climb and skied back to Palmer Lodge. A packed deck of people waiting for the snow to soften, aided by a lack of any finish line timer, had no idea I was winning the race as I crossed the line. Knowing this I decided it would be funny (at least to me) to pump my fists in the air and yell. This was of course was greeted with many a strange look until a lady asked if I had just won the race and then people clapped- Yes, we are underground.

the usual suspects post race

 

Chris was about 2mins back and Tim Ensor had a blinder rounding out the podium. Huge thanks to Barrett and the Broken River crew for hosting this great little race. I really hope this event is back next winter and we can get a few more folks turning out.

Here is my “Move”from the race- it was just a wee fella

Commiting

So I am thinking about removing the “Ski” from this blog’s title, so little have I skied this year it is boarding on embarrassing. I hate to admit it, but without a doubt the way shit went down in regards to ski related gear a few months ago has sadly dampened my enthusiasm for skiing. That and trail running, for now at least, is just so darn fun! It is an interesting place I find myself in with regards to running at present. With all of life’s little changes coming at once I feel like there has been a big change, but with the lifestyle chosen, consistence has never really been, well consisant. I committed to racing the CDR for the 2nd time about 7-8 months ago. I knew way back then it was going to mean less skiing and more running during this time of year. I have been very tempted a few times to blow off “training” and go “play” (the 2 blur into one more often than not) many a time since the hills around home have been covered in snow. But staying on track, following the training program, keeping the focus on the CDR and remembering the commitment I made to turn up to that race knowing I have done everything possible to prepare has in itself been very satisfying.

Craigieburn’s looking all snowy and tempting

I was feeling pretty tired last week after being dragged around by Vajin on the Sunday and doing a solid back to back weekend, lucky last week was an easy week! This week and next are lots of good high intensity training (might even have a blat at the Canterbury XC Champs). I found it odd to drive away from the mountains here and into snow free Port Hills for training last month, but I managed to top that oddity by driving out Oxford way to do a tempo session on the flat farm roads in the area this week. Coming up I have some fun training- it is not based on time, distance or heart rate- it’s all about the vertical gained! Hopefully I can complete that around here on foot on some snow free trails.

Other news- I have been very luck to receive support from Mother Nature’s, the New Zealand importer/distributor of Udo’s Oli, as well as some of the other great products in the Flora range. Mother Natures is a family business operating for over 30 years mainly supplying healthy Snack Foods and recently have started bringing in the oily Udo’s goodness! You might recognise Udo’s 369 Blend as it is pretty popular among the US ultra running community- it’s what the cool kids use, not wanting to be on the out I tried Udo’s last year when I was in Canada for the CDR. It tastes good and is good for you. I have been loading up on it this past week, so hopefully just the ticket to help with recovery coming into CDR. If you are keen on getting some, or just want to learn more about Udo’s 369 check out Ollie Pacific Heath. They have some good videos on the 369 and recipes also.

Snow

The Castle Hill Basin, like most of the South Island, last week got slammed with snow! We awoke to about 15cm on Wednesday morning and by that afternoon there was about 80cm! It was as deep and fluffy as any pow pow I have seen in NZ before. I managed to get out for a few skins/skis. but running has been a real pain in the ass and impossible on the trails around here which are now covered in about a foot of nasty snow. I have been in the Port Hills running a little and yesterday finally got out for a decent ski tour. The week of training was pretty good, just 5 days training, an easy short run, a repeat session and then 12hrs over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 14hrs, 6000mD+ and a whopping 85km all up. Nice mix of running, skiing/skinning and plodding/hiking/slogging. As well as some quality family time and a little sledding.

blast from the past- Low Peak Speed Ascent

Mt Rolleston Low Peak Speed Ascent/Descent

NOTE -I posted this on Monday, October 20, 2008 on my old blogspot blog

It has been a goal of mine for a while now to do a speed climb up the Otira Slide to Mt Rolleston’s Low Peak and yesterday things finaly fell into place. During the week, after Martin returned to Switzerland, Lukas and I had been at Cheeseman, getting some good skiing in, with a nice 2000m vert day and some great spring snow, skiing down to 1300m elevation a few times. The weather was looking good for Sunday and Lukas got pretty pumped when I told him about the trip. The whole “speed climb” thing its pretty European and I got pretty inspired for this trip after talking with Pierre Gignoux, who withStéphane Brosse climbed from Chamonix to Mt Blanc and skied back down in 5hrs15mins! Now, climbing Low Peak isn’t quite on that same level (not even close really!), but I’m working with what I’ve got (and I aren’t talking about the mountains- my fitness level). Preparation went well, as we carbo loaded while Lukas watched his first game of rugby in the Pub in Arthur’s Pass. We arrived at the car park on Hwy73 just before 7am and we were away running just after. Good progress was made over the rough track and after 35 mins we took skis off our packs and slipped into our ski boots. The low angled apron leading towards the Slide was firm and made for fast skinning until the pitch steepened and we donned crampons. At this point I was thinking we would be lucky to summit within 2hrs (Graeme Kate’s fastest time) as we had been going for around 1hr and still had over 500m vert of the steeper terrain left to go.

2 tiny dots racing up to Low Peak
Lukas, as always, set a fast pace booting up and I scurried to stay close and was surprised how fast we ate up the vert. As we reached the summit my watch read 8:46am- 1hr40min! Stoked!
We were in full race mode, skis, boots, even the silly race suits (like I said this is very Euro, so the suit is a must), so we spent just a minute or 2 on the summit, I don’t even think I looked at the view, and we we off.
On skinny race skis, and with tired legs the pitch felt steeper than I remembered. It was firm and littered with golf ball sized chunks of hard snow. The power slide was in full effect in the upper sections, before finding smoother snow and opening it up a little.
The start of the run back down the Otira Valley
We were back at our running shoes in less than 10 mins where I had stashed some watered down coke. We changed back to running shoes, chugged the coke and were away running again. The down hill run felt good and we made good time, arriving back at the Cheapa Campa at 9:23am.
2hr17min round trip, so pretty happy.
Myself and Lukas back at the parking lot
By Popular Demand-
One of the home viewers has asked to get a run down on the gear used (sorry no photo this time Tim).
Dynafit SR8.0 skis w/ TLT Low Tech, Coltex mohair skins, XP carbon boots, helmet (w/goggles), Buffx2, fleece gloves, Salomon XT Wings running shoes, 20l race pack carrying- light weight shell jacket and pants, Simond Caiman alloy crampons, Simond Ocelot Hyperlight axe, light weight soft shell jacket, first aid kit, steel shove, probe, 700ml water, 1 Peak Fuel, shell mitts. And yes, that ridicules race suit!

2011

2011 was a pretty amazing year for me. Some very cool races (thanks Salomon!), some fun skiing and of course the 2 biggest highlights were marrying Jane in February and then welcoming Isabella into the world just a few days ago. Below are a few photos from 2011, it was hard to pick just a few out of the hundreds taken over the last 12 months.  I figure my silly little blog is a good way for me to have a little snap shot of the last year to look back on.

A great day shared with friends and family

Tarawera Ultra 100km- 3rd place

Routeburn Classic- 3rd place and some huge blisters on my feet

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WTF Has Been Going On….

What’s been happening since the CDR and my last post- all kinds of shit!

A bit of skiing- not enough-with a trip south to MCNP and Southern Lakes, then some running and crewing for matt and marty at Naseby. Gary and I really just drunk and got in the way, but it was a good weekend. Even further south for some family time in Riverton, were Jane meet George and I. The 4 of us then heading to Haast for my nephews 10th birthday and then we went into Barn Bay for a few nights! Back home and back into some running. A few roadie fag races and even some speed work over the last month, teamed up with some super fun ski tours made for about 40hrs and 12,000m vert for September- a good way to get back into things. My body is still all hurting- hip issues came back and my Achilles pain (a result of twisting my ankle on top of Mt Cloudesly way back in Easter) have been bothering me a good bit. I also started training the same week I started back building for the summer, so I’v been pretty beat, but loving it. The summers running goals are a little different to this time last year. Little to no expectations and the only real big goal is to stand on the start line of a race with out some bullshit injury/niggle that effects the way I feel/run.

Jane is steadily growing bigger and bigger! On that note I have no races plans after the Kepler, as there will be a big shift in focus- can’t wait!

Below are a few photos from the last few weeks-