Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Comparing Male and Female Runners - InfoGraph

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Backcountry Skiing - The Safety Blog

Our Approach to Backcountry Safety
Our Approach to Backcountry Safety    by Chad Brackelsberg

With the dangerous start to the Wasatch winter, our touring group has spent a lot of time talking about what has happened and what we think will happen over the next several weeks.   As we discussed this, I thought it would be good to document some of our processes around decision making.

With the first snow each winter, our touring group starts to get excited for winter.  We get out during the early snow so that we can get a feeling for what that snow is doing.  At this point of the season, we are interested in things like how much there is, where it is, any faceting that may have started, slides that are already occurring existing snow structure, any week layers that are present of are forming, and other factors.  This information becomes very useful as some of the basis for our snowpack evaluations later in the season.  We also use these early season days to do a lot of beacon drills since it is harder to spend time doing drills once there is great powder.  By the time winter is really here, we feel comfortable with our gear and understand what the snow against the ground is doing. 

Our group considers ourselves fairly risk adverse.  We all enjoy skiing big, steep lines, but we are also happy meadow skipping.  We will ski tour on most all days, but make conservative choices of locations based on a variety of information including
·         UAC avalancheforecast rating
·         Other conditions posted from people who skied the previous day(s) (TGR and Tele Tipsforums, Bob Athey and others)
·         A significant amount of discussion within our group

Within our group, several of us are very interested in the snow science factor.  Because of this, we spend a significant amount of time digging pits and talking about the snow and snow structure, what has been happening, what we think will happen, and dozens of other topics that have tendencies of driving people less ‘snow geeky’ crazy.  We feel that it is because of these continual discussions that we are able to make good decisions, stay out of trouble, and maintain good group dynamics (we are usually all on the same page since we spend so much time discussing these item).

For the past 3 years, the Utah Avalanche Center has put on the Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop (USAW).  As part of the UAC Observer Program, we are able to attend the morning professional session as well as the afternoon public session.  The UAC does a great job of putting together a full day of workshops bringing together professional experience, new research, and presentations from accident survivors.  This workshop is a great early season refresher for our group and is a chance for us to learn about some of the latest snow/avalanche research that is taking place. 

Each year, Ian McCammon presents information from his research (which is based on his analysis of existing data).  Ian typically focuses his research on looking at creating processes that the ‘average’ backcountry user can incorporate into their backcountry decision making.  Ian has presented to key concepts

1)      Analysis of 5 structural parameters in the snowpack to determine a relationship between these parameters and human triggered avalanches.
2)      Introduction of ALPTRUTh and FACETS to analyze Situational Awareness and Psychological Distractions. 

Our group uses both of these methods as part of our backcountry decision making.  In this discussion, we will focus on how we use ALPTRUTh and FACETS methods as part of our decision making.

ALPTRUTh - Situational Awareness
Avalanches in last 48 hours
Loading from new snow, wind, etc
Known avalanche Path
Terrain Traps
Overall avalanche Rating
Unstable snow signs (cracking, whoomphing, etc)
Thawing (warm snow on top)

Our touring group has always informally used the ALPTRUTh scale.  This winter, we have decided to start formalizing our use of the scale.  We each have a laminated copy of the ALPTRUTh scale below in our cars and we use it as part of our discussion as we drive to the trailhead each morning and on our ski approach.  To use the ALPTRUTh scale in your evaluation (either before you start skiing or during your approach), you assign 1 point to each of the factors that exist in the area you will be skiing.  Ian’s research has found that ~98% of accidents had a rating of 3 or higher and ~92% of accidents had a 4 or higher.  There was also a surprisingly high percentage of accidents that had a rating of 5 of higher.  Our group considers any rating of 3 or higher to be a reason for careful analysis of the decisions we will be making.  The use of ALPTRUTh is just 1 of your decision criteria you should use to make your decisions. 

·         The ALPTRUTh scale incorporates what are considered the standard avalanche red flags: recent avalanches, heavy snowfall, wind loading, cracking, collapsing, and rapid warming.
·         Ian’s data used for his study was from 622 recreational avalanche accidents (fatalities and not) involving 1,180 individuals in the US between 1972 and 2001.

Printable table we use for ALPTRUTh analysis

FACETS - Psychological Distractions
Familiarity (with terrain, location, etc.)
Acceptance (not wanting to stand out in group, etc.)
Commitment (we came here to ski this so we have to)
Expert Halo (not speaking up when feeling other people know more)
Tracks (fresh line syndrome)
Scarcity (we may never be able to ski this spot again)

To incorporate Psychological Distractions into your decision making, use the FACETS acronym.  The psychological distractions are more subjective, but should be used as you are making your decisions to help ensure your decisions are not being adversely impacted by these distractions.  Most people have been in a situation where they are talking themselves into skiing a particular line.  This is a perfect example of a psychological distraction.  There is something telling you that you should not ski the line and you are telling yourself why it is ok.  You should pay attention to make sure that you are not getting impacted by these psychological distractions while you make decisions.

Self (or group) Analysis of Decision Making
You can use the ALPTRUTh and FACETS Scale together to help determine patterns that you (or your group) may have in their decision making.  To perform this analysis, look at 5 or more days (the more the better) that you skied and felt things were not perfect (bad decisions, close calls, group dynamic issues, etc.).  For each day, add up your ALPTRUTh score and plot that with a dot next to each of the FACETS components that existed.  Do this for each of your days and you will create a scatter plot.  Most people (groups) will start to see a pattern over time.  This pattern makes you aware of which psychological distractions that you are most influenced by.

                     Printable table we use for ALPTRUTh/FACETS graph

The Role of Training in Recreational Avalanche Accidents in the United States
Ian McCammon
Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop,
October 2–6, 2000, Big Sky, Montana, pp. 37 – 45.

Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents
Ian McCammon
Presented at the International Snow Science Workshop,
Penticton, British Columbia, Sept. 30 – Oct 4, 2002.

Heuristic Traps in Recreational Avalanche Accidents: Evidence and Implications
Ian McCammon
Avalanche News, No. 68, Spring 2004

A Field Method For Identifying Structural Weaknesses in the Snowpack
Ian McCammon and Jurg Schweizer
Presented at the International Snow Science Workshop,
Penticton, British Columbia, Sept. 30 – Oct 4, 2002.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011 - 2012 Tahoe Backcountry Vertical Challenege


Last winter via the interwebs I became aware of a backcountry vertical gain contest called Tahoe Vertical.  I enquired about competing even though my daily skin tracks were decidedly deseret, not blue lake, and Brendan allowed me to join in on the fun.  The competition is put on by what I can only imagine is the best ski shop in Tahoe - AlpenGlow Sports.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wick’s Picks for 2011-2012 Ski Mountaineer Racing

I am once again attempting to accumulate some ski mountaineering race gear.  US Ski Mountaineering Association team members Luke Nelson and Bryan Wickenhauser have personally given me a lot of great advice on what gear to go with and what to avoid.  I was privy to an email Wick sent to some friends about this years rando race gear.... and he was nice enough to let me publish it for all of our benefit.  Lot's of great info for the aspiring SkiMo racers below.

Wick’s Picks for 2011-2012

Three Time USA Ski Mountaineering Team and Team Crested Butte Member Bryan Wickenhauser

Disclaimer:  Rando racing is about getting out, skiing hard and having fun.  NO SPECIALIZED GEAR IS REQUIRED!!!!  That’s right, you can race on your normal backcountry setup – both Tele and AT gear will get you by.  That said, Rando specific gear is HIGHLY specialized AND offer’s an enormous benefit.  So if you really want to compete, specific rando race gear is CRITICAL!  Let me repeat that – the rando specific gear is SO GOOD, that it offers an insurmountable advantage over traditional backcountry gear.  Here are some specific suggestions:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ben Franklin Quotes

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

"He that falls in love with himself, will have no Rivals."

"Observe all men; thy self most."

"Fish and Visitors stink after three days."

"Eat to live, and not live to eat."

"Necessity never made a good bargain."
"He that leith down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas."
"The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise."

"To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals."
"Force shites on Reason's Back."

"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grindstone 100 Miler Race Report

Grindstone 100 Mile Endurance Run
is actually 101.85 miles of an out and back course in the beautiful George Washington National Forest.  The race features 23,200 feet of uphill on rugged rocky terrain.  From what I hear, not quite as gnarly/rocky as the Massanutten 100, but you've got a lot of attention to pay.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

High Sierra High

Dawn Glanc and I joined photographer Ben Ditto and Jason "Coach" Lakey for a bit of High Sierra traversing in the name of aesthetics.  I am a lucky man indeed.

I also wrote a lil blog on this for the Mountain Hardwear website.. check it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Headlamps for Trail Runners

I often get asked about what headlamp I prefer for trail running at night.  Last week alone I was asked twice via twitter what headlamps I use.  I've answered this in detail in TrailRunner Magazine as well (which I'll post at some later date).

My Favorite Headlamp For Everyday Use:

Black Diamond Sprinter.
  Lightweight, simple and provides a good light to run by.  Most importantly for weekly pre-dawn group runs and/or daily use.. it's rechargeable!
Light Type :  DoublePower LED
Lumens :  68
Max Distances :  50 m
Max Burn Time :  64 H
Weight Without Batteries :  100g / 3.5 oz

My Favorite Headlamp For Racing

Petzl Myo XP.  I won't trust a rechargeable battery during a race. This light also lasts 108hrs, has 3 levels of brightness and is super reliable.

Light Type :  Super Bright LED
Lumens :  150
Max Distances :   97 m (boost mode)
Max Burn Time :  108 H
Weight With Batteries :  176g / 6.2 oz

My Favorite Headlamp For Pacing

Petzl Ultra. This light is expensive, but it's amazingly powerful.  I won't race with this light because it's simply too heavy.  However for pacing it's only equivalent would be driving a car with the high beams on behind your runner.

Light Type :  New Generation Power LED
Lumens :  350
Max Distances :   59 m
Max Burn Time :  High 2hrs, Low 25hr
Weight With Batteries :  350g / 12.34oz

My Favorite Headlamp For Emergencies

Petzl e+LITE Emergency Headlamp. I have on many ocassions found myself out much later than I planned with no torch.  This can be dangerous, but mostly it's frustrating to move so slowly through the bush or down the trail when you know with even a little bit of light you could be cruising home to that hot shower, hot food, or hot girlfriend.  I've more than once said to myself "the e+LITE is one ounce, just f'ing take it every time you head out." 

Light Type :  LED
Lumens : 16
Max Distances :   19 m
Max Burn Time :  45hrs
Weight With Batteries :  28g / .987oz

Thursday, October 6, 2011

UltrAspire Isomeric Race Hand Bottle Holder Review

Reviewed By:  Chad Brackelsberg

I was happy to be able to test out the new UltrApire Isomeric Race hand bottle strap.  After seeing a lot of UltrAspire products are races this fall and hearing great feedback of them online, I have been anxious to try several of the products including the Isomeric Race, Kinetic Pack, and Impulse waste pack.  I used the Isomeric Race on a Nathan water bottle as I like these bottles better than the Specialized bottles as they are a little bit smaller in diameter and fit my hand better.  The hand strap installed easily no the bottle with the bottom being very snug and therefore not able to slide up.  To get the strap adjusted to my hand, I had to work the bottom up a little bit to make room.  The strap provided a tight fit over my hand which is something I look for in hand bottle holders.  I do not like to "grip" the bottle and instead let it hang on my hand.  This is only possible with a strap that offers a tight fit on my hand.  During the run, the holder performed perfectly. It was tight on my hand so I was able to let the bottle hang without gripping it, the bottom strap did not shift or move, and the top adjustable strap did not loosen.  This bottle holder will be a perfect holder when a person wants to go minimalist.  My only concern is that over time, will the bottom of the holder stretch out and become loose on a bottle.  My only recommendation is to have a small elastic loop to hold the extra length of the adjustable top strap.  I was able to tuck the strap under itself, but this took a little bit of effort and does not easily allow a person to adjust the strap on the go.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recipe: Baked Yam Fries

Yams should be in every endurance athletes shopping cart.  They are my preferred starchy carbohydrate source and they are soo very tasty.  Apparently there is more of the good (nutrients like: coratinoids, magnesium, zinc) and less of the bad (toxins and antinutrients, saponins) in a yams when compared to white potatoes.  Since we're always shooting for the most nutrient dense foods, yams win.  I'll often come home from training and eat these with homemade guacamole (recipe coming) as a recovery meal.

I like to leave them in a bit longer than prescribed to get that 'crispy' effect.  A word of caution, it's easy to end up with compost like this.

How long does it take:  20 minutes
What you need:  A baking tray and an oven

  • Two large, 8 – 10 oz yams 
  • 2 Tablespoons cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to broil
-Wash, then slice the yams into ½” thick, by ½” wide by 3-4 “ long strips (depending on the size of the yam).  Most importantly, keep the size of all the slices the same to ensure even cooking.

-Toss well with the oil to ensure the yam pieces are evenly coated.

-Place on rimmed baking sheet, lined with a piece of parchment paper (makes for an easy clean-up).

-Broil for 10’ on one side, then turn over and broil 10’.  Yams are done when easily pierced with a fork.  Remove from oven, then sprinkle salt and pepper on top.

Yam fans might also like this one: Cinnamon Apple Yam Bake Recipe

Friday, September 30, 2011

Recipe: Cinnamon Apple Yam Bake

A new one to me, but it was an instant favorite.  Tastes like apple pie, but has the starchy carbs I need for training.

How long does it take:  20 minutes
What you need:  8x8 Baking Pan
  • 2 Yams
  • 2 Apples
  • 1 Tbsp Cinnamon (more can and should be added later)
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
-Cut yams and apples into bite size pieces. Mix them together with Cinnamon, Cocnunt Oil

 -Add them to an 8x8 baking pan.  Pour in just a bit of water to cover the bottom. 

-Bake them on 450 degrees for 20 mins covered by tin foil to keep the moisture in.  Seriously, mmm mmmm. 
** Yam fans might also like the Baked Yam Fries Recipe.

Recipe: Nutty Hot Cereal

In an effort to keep my blog generally about endurance related topics I've been hesitant to post any recipes.  But recently a number of coaching clients have asked, and of course nutrition is a major factor on athletic performance... so here goes.


It seems like children of our generation were really duped on the whole cereal for breakfast nonsense.  So I'm often asked "What do you eat for breakfast?".  Normally I eat eggs with left over veggies from the night before.  But in an effort to switch it up a bit, I have recently been eating Robb Wolf's Nutty Hot Cereal.  Super simple and fast.

How long does it take:  10 minutes
What you need:  Blender or Food Processor, Medium Saucepan
  • 1 C almonds or pecans
  • 1 medium sized apple, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (This will help increase insulin sensitivity)
  • 1 C water
  • ** As with any oatmeal type breakfast you should add your favorite berries

Makes 2 cups:  Place all ingredients in blender and puree. Pour into medium sized saucepan. You may need to rinse the blender with an additional 1⁄4 cup of water to get all the cereal. Bring to a boil. Reduce temperature immediately and allow to simmer for 5 minutes covered. If thicker consistency is desired, allow to simmer longer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nutrition in 60 Seconds

My thoughts on nutrition, said better than I could have...
"I eat real food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit.  I choose foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition.  And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat, seafood and eggs come from, and buy organic local produce as often as possible.

This is not a “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight.  I aim for well-balanced nutrition, so I eat both animals and a significant amounts of plants.  I’m not lacking carbohydrates – I just get them from vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal or pasta.  And my meals are probably higher in fat than you’d imagine, but fat is a healthy source of energy when it comes from high-quality foods like avocado, coconut and grass-fed beef.

Eating like this is ideal for maintaining a healthy metabolism and reducing inflammation within the body.  It’s good for body composition, energy levels, sleep quality, mental attitude and quality of life.  It helps eliminate sugar cravings and reestablishes a healthy relationship with food.  It also works to minimize your risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack, stroke and autoimmune."
Thanks Whole9Life for putting it so succinctly.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Disapointment on the East Side

Well I spent 9 hours running hiking with a 20lbs pack through New Hampshire on the Appalachian Trail. I knew it wasn't going to be a great run on the drive to the start in Hanover, NH and the Vermont border. Why?  First we were rerouted about an extra hour because of a major road washout.  Second, well the car would periodically hydroplane. Turns out the flood watch warnings were real. I won't bother with all the details, but this video is a pretty good example of what I was dealing with. The basics: I ran out of time to wait for a weather window.  I went for it in the middle of some serious nasty weather.  By noon I had to put all my cloths on to deal with the storm and the low temps.  I knew then that traversing the Franconia Ridge or Mount Washington, just wouldn't be very smart.  So I bailed on Route 25 after about 48 miles. This trip East was an absolute disaster caused by horrible weather.  I did however get to hang out with some very dear friends who I haven't seen in a long long time.  Silver lining. 

On to the next one.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Making Lemonade out of Lemons - No Long Trail

Most things in life don't work out as you planned them.  I never imagined that a hurricane would trash the Long Trail so bad it would be un-runnable.  However that is the reality.   There are towns in Vermont still cut off from the rest of the world because their roads were removed by water.  The fact of the matter is that the Long Trail has been destroyed too.  This is not the year to run it fast.  I need to accept that.

So, I'm moving on.  I trained to run/hike a long unsupported effort.  Since my acceptance soaked in, I've been trying to figure out an alternative run.  A few things came to mind.  The 500 miles of PCT through Washington state came to the top of the list.  Because of it's distance it's not runnable unsupported, so getting a crew together squashed that idea.  Running around Mt Rainier unsupported was the next thought, but at 93 miles it's too short.  It would also involve flying to Seattle, but I'm here in New Hampshire.

In 2008 I helped my man Karl Metlzer run the Appalachian Trail (he managed the 5th fastest time - we had horrendous monsoon weather).  I took him through Maine, which is the toughest section of the 2,181 mile trail.  It was an amazing experience.  We covered the 281 miles through Maine faster than anyone had.  It took us 7 days and some change.  Karl thinks Jenn Pharr-Davis has since broken that time with her recent and amazing record run of the AT.

Karl I on day 1 after Mount Kahtahdin

Anyway it appeals to me to continue the AT where I left off and run my entire home state. I plan to some day run the whole thing in one go. The New Hampshire section is 161 miles, which isn't as long as i want.  It's just part of the AT, which isn't as aesthetic as I'd like.  But considering the options I feel like I'm making lemonade out of lemons.  I'll still get the ass kickin' adventure I'm looking for, with a few extra downed trees to climb over.

David (mom's husband): "How fast do you think you can go?"
Me:  "I managed an average of 53 miles a day on the Colorado Trail."
David:  "Yeah, but there will be more shit in the way."

Of course even this new plan isn't without issue. There is a flood watch in Gorham, NH through Tuesday, the day I had hoped to start.  Mount Washington weather looks apocalyptic, "tornadoes, hail, mud slides, erosion, insanely high winds".  If you know anything about the rugged rocky trails of New England then you know this will make the already tough terrain impossible to run fast... and possibly life threatening (people die on Mt Washington in any season).  I've got a few more days of a buffer to wait the weather out. Stay tuned.

Colorado Runner Magazine Cover

I somehow made the cover of Colorado Runner Magazine this month.

Thanks to Fred Marmsater for the making us all look good.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some modifications for the Long Trail

i'm no fan of irene.  the same day i flew back east to attempt the long trail unsupported was the same day hurricane irene decided to decimate the lovely state of vermont.  the green mountain national forest is still closed.  i had planned on starting on thursday sept 1st.  i just spoke with the green trails club.  she said that there are big suspension bridges out and that the southern section was most likely impassible.  they are having a big assessment meeting on friday, so i'm pushing my attempt back to probably sunday sept 4th.  this obviously isn't enough time for them to repair washouts or fix bridges along the trail, but at least i'll have more of an idea of what exactly i'm getting into.  this certainly makes a record run less likely, if not impossible.  but i'm here, i'm physically and logistically prepared, so i'm going to push off into the great unknown with 6 days of food.  consider the already high chance of blow out exponentially higher now.  i've had to change my entire mental focus for this, but with risk comes reward.

along the same note of having to modify my expectations on the long trail, i stayed up late modifying the backpack i'm taking with me.  seeing as though ultraspire doesn't make packs this large, i went with a mountain hardwear fluid 32 backpack. it's a great start, but with ice axe hooks, compression straps, a hood with a heavy metal clip, etc.. it had to be cut up a bit.  this is part of the fun.

some of the surgery shots:

the 360 coming soon...