I will always remember Mandi’s first day at the ATC. It was just after the flood. The gym was still in a state of disaster and I had dished up what I consider one of our top ten challenging workouts. It certainly was not the most inviting atmosphere for a new athlete but that day Mandi got to work and hasn’t stopped since. Fast forward to early this winter, Mandi and Kara Larsen are teamed up for the Grand Traverse and after a few days on skiis and skins the reality of the race was beginning to sink in. I am pretty sure Mandi was worried from day 1 until she crossed the finish line about pacing and cutoff times and not finishing. I was not. I’ve seen what she can do when challenged and she hasn’t failed yet. The Grand Traverse would not be the exception but rather further proof of her work ethic. Ever since that first day, Mandi has proven time and again that she is willing to do the work and fight for what she wants. No matter how hard or long or seemingly impossible the task, she will get it done. It is difficult to see this quality in yourself because fighting day after day you never feel the results or the gains, only the struggle. But then one day, crossing one finish line, you know. The fight was worth it. And yes, you can do it.
It was a simple request, “ I want to be able to jump again.” That one email over 3 years ago got Paul back in the gym and back on his skiis. I met Paul in the fall at the start of ski training. He was a former downhill ski racer and Nordic racer along with a long list of other accomplishments. But all that fun had forced Paul to take some time off and heal. The healing took him away from the ski hill far longer than he hoped and he wanted to get back. So he contacted me. First he listed all his previous injuries and surgeries and setbacks. Then he listed what he wanted to do that winter; jump and ski. From the outset I wasn’t all that confident but very quickly I figured out what Paul had not told me and I knew given enough time we could reach his goal. If you’ve ever trained with Paul you know exactly what he failed to mention…his heart. He is a quiet, kind older gentleman that will floor you with his work attitude. Every day is his day to make himself better. Some days it’s to be a little better than yesterday. Some days it’s recovering from another setback. Either way he does not and will not give up. He gives 100% of his effort and energies to every workout. At the end of September Paul had his second knee replacement. He trained all summer for the surgery. He was stronger going into this surgery than I have ever seen him. And it worked. Eight weeks later he is back in the gym, once again fully committed to training and getting ready for another ski season. You won’t be to tell because he comes in with the same smile, the same work attitude and same commitment. This was just a bump in the road that didn’t even slow him down.
Sometimes the goal is a few years in the making and sometimes more. In 2008 Corey started his quest in the Mt. Marathon Hill Climb held the 4th of July in Seward, Alaska. In short, it is a 3.4 mile round-trip ascent and descent with 3022 feet of elevation. It’s short but it’s very steep. The first year he finished in just over an hour and then set his sights on finishing under 50 minutes, which would put him in a class with only a few other runners. The past few years he has consistently been improving and 2014 was to be the year. During the off-season Corey reviewed his plan for the upcoming year and decided that including strength training in his program might give him the edge he needed. Shortly after the New Year he started at the ATC. And very shortly after, January 19th, he broke his femur in a skiing accident. You can only imagine the disappointment and heart break. But a man with a goal is hard to keep down. In April I heard from Corey again, he was ready. The 4th of July race was still on the calendar and he had to be ready and while he accepted that he might not reach his goal, he would still go and give 100%. The first few weeks were visibly tough for Corey. The leg hurt. The movements were hard. Every small step of improvement came at a huge price. Then it comes. That one special day. The day when the tides turn. The day when the injured athlete is no longer rehabbing. It’s the day when each step makes the athlete stronger and faster and they are reminded of who they once were and who they will be again. It’s a great day, for the athlete and the coach. Corey will take off in a couple weeks knowing that he has done his best to prepare and will give his best on race day and will be happy with the outcome.
Skiing Magazine editor. Husband. Father. Lacrosse Coach. Finisher of the Grand Traverse (Reverse). I think both Sam and I remember his first day at the ATC pretty well. I often think back to that day and remind him of just how far he has come. Those first few workouts we modified just a bit but he quickly transitioned to full workouts then quickly moved past some of the veteran athletes. His performance and improvement throughout the ski training program was astounding. It was pretty obvious to him once he hit the slopes how much good the training was doing him. Goal 1 complete. Not long after finishing that the first ski cycle he approached me about the Grand Traverse. If you don’t know its a 40 mile, 8,000 vertical feet ski mountaineering race or, as some refer to it, a really long slog through snow and mountains. He had a partner but needed a training plan. He is what really prompted me to write a skimo training plan. And as it turns out there were several other guys from the gym competing and a few women that would use the plan for multi-day ski mountaineering trips. It has been a huge success. I have pushed Sam and all the other athletes as hard as I think they can go with amazing results. All the skiers that completed the program are significantly stronger and faster than when they began. But the proof is in the pudding. Race day brought a weeks worth of snow that caused an adjustment in the course. The racers would actually do an out and back course that was longer, had more vertical and finished with uncharacteristic steep climbs. No match for Sam and his partner, Eric Henderson. The training paid off for Sam and they finished in a very respectable 11 hours and 23 minutes. Goal 2 complete. The story isn’t just that Sam did the training and finished the race. The story is about a father who works full-time, takes his family on great adventures, coaches his son’s lacrosse team and then finds time to train and race. I’m sure he wished he had spent more time in his rando boots and on his backcountry skiis, but sometimes life’s responsibilities get in the way of what we want. What he did do was 3 days per week of in the gym training for 3 full months, mixed it up with lots of downhill skiing and some backcountry skiing. And then on Saturday March 29th Team DadFit finished the Grand Traverse. A life goal complete.
Rebuilding. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. And there isn’t much good to be had. Or is there? Lindsay had knee surgery on Halloween, was it a trick or a treat? It ended up being a more complex surgery than expected with a longer recovery time. Trick. But as soon as she was able she was back in the gym. Our options were limited but we made the best of it. Lots of upper body and core work. Lots of rowing with a skateboard. And lots of airdyne. Gym Jones has a great little “FY” (fuck you) standard on the airdyne. Men must do 300 calories in 10 minutes to pass and women must do 200 calories in 10 minutes. If you have never done this, stop reading, get on an airdyne, set it for 10 minutes and see what you can do. When you are conscious again, continue reading. Lindsay has been working on the standard with only 2 arms and 1 leg. Thought using all fours were impossible, take away one of your big drivers and think what that must feel like. Hell. She is at 193 right now. More tricks. Going to the gym right now is a mixed blessing for Lindsay. She needs and craves the adrenaline and the escape from being injured, if only for an hour, but she knows she has to ride the airdyne. If she hits the number or not, that is not as important as the hard work, dedication and heart she has and continues to pour into every training session. That treat is selfishly for me. To train Lindsay and be a part of her recovery has been an amazing journey for both of us and in the end, when it is truly all done, she will be stronger than ever before – physically and mentally – and then she will have her treat.
The week before the Leadville 100TR one of my athletes asked me what I thought the outcome of the race would be, it was hard to admit but I was a little worried that Ethan might not finish. While he trained hard all spring and summer, he had a few setbacks along the way and on big days where he needed a finish. But his last long run of 50+ miles went well, so I wasn’t going to count him out. Ethan hasn’t been with the ATC all that long, however even in a short period time a coach can learn a lot about an athlete and how he will perform under pressure. I had forgotten about Ethan’s innate ability to pull out all the stops when absolutely necessary. He works hard day in, day out but he shines when things get ugly. And when that ugliness hits, Ethan goes harder, faster and to the end. I know you’ve seen it – at least some of you have. Just when everyone wants to give in, Ethan starts cranking. It’s kind of annoying really because you want to give up, but he won’t, so you can’t. This has not been a single occurrence at the gym or on the road or on a trail – this is Ethan. I received a text from Jason early Sunday morning saying that Ethan was racing the cutoff. I was worried – four hours of worry to be exact. I would have loved to be there to watch those last miles and seen him cross the line. Because after 70-80+ miles of running to still have to give everything and more for another 20 just to make a cutoff…inspiring.
In January 2013 Kevin suffered a severe concussion while playing hockey for the Princeton Tigers. It left him unable to play or train for 6 months. The concussion came just 9 months after shoulder surgery. It was, to say the least, a tough year. Kevin came to the ATC in June ready to work and after two months of training, I’ll send him back to Princeton stronger, faster and more durable. I have never worked with an athlete who has suffered such a severe concussion and was a little apprehensive but together we worked through the healing process and then the building process and now he close to full recovery. The Princeton Tigers have specific strength and speed standards that each athlete must achieve each fall in order to play. Both Kevin and I knew it would take a lot of work in a very short period of time to even get close to those standards and accepted early on that not all of them might be met before he left. What I didn’t know was how hard he was willing work. Every day was 100% effort and commitment. There was no questioning. There were no complaints. There was only work. We didn’t hit all the standards but we did hit some and we exceeded others so in the end it a success. But the true measure of success will come this fall when he returns to the ice. My prediction is a great year for Kevin.
Rain, sleet, snow and deep snow…never stop training. This past spring brought some very unsettled weather to the Boulder area and surrounding mountains. While it was much needed it did make for some challenging conditions for training outside. But with a Denali summit date set, there were no options. The trip planning started late fall, base training began in January and goal-specific training started in earnest in March. It was a long grueling schedule of training but King had the determination, motivation and will to carry through with everything I asked of him and often more. And in the end, it paid off. King has been training at the ATC for several years now and to every training session and every goal he brings his best effort, day in and day out. But there was no one thing in his training program that made the difference for King on Denali. It was the culmination of years of consistent training and working and pushing that got him to the top and that will allow him to reach any goal he sets for himself.
Shireen brings to the gym a quiet strength that I have yet to see in another athlete. Day after day she pours her heart into every training session. She might not be the first to finish but in the end she has executed every rep, every circuit and every session to perfection. No cheated reps. No racing to beat someone else. She reads the workout and sets her mind to the task at hand. Some days are easier than others, which is the same for every athlete, but she takes every day and makes it her best training day. She doesn’t appear to be competitive and she isn’t with the other athletes, however she is quite competitive with herself. Continually asking more and better of herself – in the gym and out. It’s her quick smile, not her words, that lets me know she sees her progress and that her training is making a difference. Like many Boulderites, Shireen is a multi-sport athlete who likes to ski, bike and climb with probably a few other hobby sports throw into the mix. However, her goal in her training is to shorten the distance between her and her husband, Fred Marmsater, a professional athlete and photographer. That smile on her face will tell you, she is making progress!
© 2022 Alpine Training Center