There are times in anyone’s life where we question what we are doing. Why do we put ourselves through things like suffering or frustration? Take for example me, sitting in the middle seat of a small plane on the final leg of my journey to Alaska.
Like a giraffe crammed into a shoebox I’m just an ungainly, gangly mess. To top it off I’ve decided to drink “coffee”, or at least America’s unique attempt at making something so delicious taste like vinegar and tar. It’s just rubbing salt into the wound!
Why do I do it?
To ski; to get onto that amazing white stuff once again for another 6 months! I can’t wait to get back to winter. At home it’s 37C so I’m glad to be escaping that, I can barely handle 29C. And as for the coffee, there’s a part of my brain that each time I get a cup tells me “It’ll be fine, it’ll be better this time. They can’t stuff it up again” the other more logical side just shakes it’s head in disgust and reminds me I’m only drinking it for the caffeine and the chance of keeping my eyes open for just another few hours.
Seeing as I’m quietly poisoning myself I should let you known what I’ve been up to in Australia the last few months. As usual I had written a blog for Australia and the winter but never posted it.
Coming home so late in the year compared to normal was quite weird but a lot of fun. When I arrived in Australia I headed straight for the beach with the whole family. It was the first time in a number of years we’ve all managed to get together for a family holiday and it was wonderful!
The ski season in Australia was decent and the training really good but towards the end I suffered from overuse injuries in my elbows, basically stress fractures so I was forced to put aside all arm training (huge shout out to Phebe Corey for seeing me 3 times a week to put me back together!). In many ways this proved a blessing in disguise and the 5 weeks of no arms became “leg month”; I simply just worked as hard as I could on building my legs.
I was really motivated for it because at the very start of November was the 4 Peaks. Possibly the single most exciting event I look forward to doing each year! It’s a very simple event, just run up 4 mountains in four days. Fastest combined time wins. The event has four very different mountains; the first is extremely steep but the shortest to the summit, the catch being that you also have to race back down to the start, the only day that’s up and back. I have traditionally struggled on this stage and so I put a lot of focus into this stage to make sure I didn’t lose too much time. I had a really decent race and managed to run a PB on the course and finish 8th for the day, a result I was really pleased with.
The plan was just to make up time on the second and fourth days, which are my favourite courses of Feathertop and Buffalo and hang in for the first up Mystic and the third up Hotham. For whatever reason, be it I was so focused on the first day or simply a little tired but I suffered on the second day, just as I was expecting to find my rhythm and flow I just felt like an American coffee: weak and terrible. Valerio and BD, who I always race with, just put the hurt on me and dropped me.
Once we had summited and were returning off the hill, a thunderstorm developed all around us and things got dodgy! Flash, bang, lighting was cracking around us and I scuttled down the trail. It’s 11km up and once you make it to the top, it’s 11km back down. No car pickups. Because of the storm the organisers started stopping racers 1km from the top (fair enough too) but didn’t take times so later that day we discovered the organisers had decided to scrap the stage. It didn’t bother me terribly, yeah it was annoying but I’d raced a min slower than my PB so I wasn’t too upset. On the other hand BD had put in an amazing race and crushed the stage, I really felt for him.
The third stage was meant to be up Hotham but we didn’t race it because they said a bridge was washed out. Instead we ran up the Tom Keen trail up to Feathertop again. If I thought stage one was steep it’s got nothing on this trail. There are huge sections where the gradient is over 45 degrees! It’s brutal! Somehow I managed to pull an amazing race out of the bag and set a really fast time for the day finishing in the top couple.
So coming into the last day I was sitting in 5th, just 15 seconds in front of Valerio the Swiss machine. Buffalo is my home course and so I love running there. I managed to run a new PB on the day having a really solid race but Valerio beat me by about the staircase to the Chalet (the race finished by sprinting up 20 meters of stairs to the base of the iconic Buffalo Chalet, not what you feel like after 11km of climbing!).
Who won between us? Who was 5th and who was 6th? We still don’t know (I think Valerio got me by 20 seconds). The race organisation was a little chaotic this year. They are a new company running a lot of races in the area and sadly most of their events are a little messy. The races are great but the organisation and behind-the-scene work is lacking. It’s now over 2 weeks since the last race and they haven’t posted results.
The races were a lot of fun and give me confidence going into winter that I’ve got some form I just need to keep refining it. I’m heading up to Alaska to do a 6-week training block with a few races before heading to US Nationals. I had a bit of a rough time with visas again so I made a call with the team manager to not fly over and rush straight into racing but instead build towards more important races.
So for now it’s back to another cup of America’s finest and dreams of stepping onto snow in a few hours.
Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.