I spent much of the fall and early winter trying to recover from that obnoxious hamstring pull from Wasatch back in September.  It was a long, tedious process, and no doubt my impatience led to some  setbacks.  I unconsciously adjusted my gate to take the load off of my hamstring which led to some knee pain and calf tightness that I’m only recently getting a handle on.  Fortunately, I was able to keep it together in the fall for one glorious long run to Cathedral Peak on the Bears Ears Trail, but that seems so long ago now.

October peak-bagging on the Bears Ears Trail in another lifetime

For the past few months, my running reality has looked more like this:

2016 Twin Mountain Trudge
Dare I say it was colder than it looks?

The winter has been full of cold and dark pre-dawn road runs and weekend post-hole running, and if the snow hasn’t been knee deep on the Saturdays, its been icy and slick.  To be honest, I kind of enjoyed the change in scenery for awhile, but now its definitely getting old.  I’m looking forward to the spring sunshine and maybe even a little bit of warmth.  Besides snowy running, I think I’ve spent more time skate skiing this winter than anything else.

Skate skiing is fast, fun, and guaranteed to get your heart pumping.  We’re fortunate here in Wyoming to have hundreds of miles of Forest Service roads that during the winter are groomed for snowmobiles, but happen to work quite well for the skinny skis.  After my disappointment at Wasatch I was really motivated to run an early 100 miler, but my lovely wife helped me realize how dumb that was, and reminded me that its important to take a break.

I wanted a challenging winter project, something that genuinely scares me, something that I’m not sure if I’m really capable of.  After staring at a lot of maps I eventually came up with the idea of a skate ski loop through Yellowstone National Park.  I’ve always wanted to spend some time in the park during winter; it looks magical, isolated, wild, and ice cold.  I dreamt up a route that will go through many of the parks highlights, including the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Hayden Valley, and many other geyser basins.  I added up the mileage and it turns out the route is 150-miles.  I decided to commit, and with a little persuasion, I was able to get two other endurance junkies to join me, my friends Evan and Kevin.  We are going to attempt to ski from Pahaska Teepee to Old Faithful, mostly by moonlight, sleep for the afternoon, and ski the next night around the Grand Loop Road back to Pahaska Teepee.  I wanted a winter project that got me out the door during the dark cold hours of winter and this has done the trick.

Maybe some sunny Saturday training as well

I’m intimidated by a few aspects of this trip, but particularly the potentially dangerous cold and the challenge of adequate calorie consumption.  Yellowstone is often the nations ice box, and temperatures regularly dip well below zero at night.  -30 degrees fahrenheit is not that uncommon.  I don’t stay as warm as I used to, so managing layers and sweat will be critical.  Staying warm and energized in those conditions requires an incredible amount of calories. Normally while summer mountain running, I consume roughly 300ish calories per hour, so I was doing some googling to figure out how much food to pack for a ski trip and I learned that skate skiing is the most energy consumptive sport on the planet.  Turns out a nordic skier burns 700-1200 calories an hour, which means over the course of, say, 30 hours I might burn 30,000 calories.  How does one pack that kind of fuel for skiing?!  I won’t pack that many calories, of course (although it would be fun to try), and I’ll have to dig deep while being a little bit calorie deprived.  I suspect I will mostly subsist off of homemade waffles and Justin’s Chocolate butter, but I’m still working on that. I’ll do a little write-up on that adventure when its all its done.

After the Yellowstone “Grand Loop 150” ski trip it will be a quick turn around to the racing season.  I don’t usually get gut feelings about things, but I am feeling really positive about the 2016 season.

Here is what I have in store:

March 28 – Behind the Rocks Ultra 50 – Moab, Utah
June 4 –Scout Mountain Ultra 100K – Pocatello, Idaho
July 23 – Never Summer 100K – Gould, Colorado
September 3 – The Rut 50K – Big Sky, Montana
September 16 – Run Rabbit Run 100 (Hare)- Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I feel like these races are all nicely spread apart so that I should be able to give a fully committed race effort at each event.  I love the 100-mile distance, so Run Rabbit Run is the big goal for the year, and I’m super excited for hopefully outrageously yellow aspen leaves, crisp fall air, and beautiful blue Colorado skies.  All of the other races are exciting as well; I carefully picked them all and didn’t sign up for anything that didn’t get me antsy to get out the door and train.  They are all in beautiful places and its another good opportunity to push myself hard and let my competitive spirit out.  Am I going to see you at any of these 2016 events?

Scene from 2014 The Rut 50K