“You will feel better than this, maybe not yet, but you will. You just keep living until you are alive again.”
24 hours of Vert for Aspen Strong
In March I’ll be attempting to complete a 24 hour effort on skis to raise funds for The Aspen Strong Foundation, a non-profit that promotes access to mental health in the Roaring Fork Valley. I’ll be honest, I’m not going to beat the Catalonian wunder kid Killian Jornet, who climbed over 78,0000 feet in a 24 hour period last month to set the world record. For one, this attempt will be 8,0000 feet higher, an altitude that produces aerobic perfomances that are about 12-15% slower, even for acclimatized athletes. Secondly, I’m pretty sure that Killian is an alien, with one of the highest VO2 max ever recorded and a seemingly un-human ability to recover, he excels at any endurance event he attempts, especially those of the Ultra variety.
So for the ‘competitive’ side of this event I’m shooting for Mike Foote’s more attainable, and decidedly less sexy, North American record of 61,2000 ft. Mike set his record In Whitefish, Montana, with a solid crew assisting him during his transitions. Mike Is an incredibly accomplished ultra athlete, with a resume that any runner or skier would kill for. I view his record as a pretty stout one, and am honestly unsure of my ability to match his effort as I have far less experience in events of this nature.
I suffered a back injury in my teens that ultimately resulted in two back surgeries and lingering nerve damage. As such my ability to push myself in extreme running and cycling and triathlon events has been rather limited. Skinning is perhaps the easiest thing on my back so this effort should allow me to push myself in a way that I find difficult to do in any other fashion.
To be completely honest, this event is not really about reaching a certain number, ultimately this is a personal challenge to test my limits and help inspire a change in the dialogue surrounding mental illness.
I’ve battled with mental illness my entire life. Addiction, depression, and disordered eating have simply gotten the best of me at times; leaving me helpless, broken and even suicidal. If it weren’t for me stumbling into the world of endurance sports I am honestly not sure I would have come out the other side of my afflictions alive. This is why I believe that it is important to use this personal challenge as a platform to fund-raise for mental health . While exercise and mountain landscapes can certainly be an antidote to a variety of mental illnesses, they often don’t resolve the underlying issues that are at the root of an individual’s problem. This is why organizations such as Aspen Strong are so vital, as they offer a lifeline to those in need. Mental illness is significantly under-addressed by society and Aspen Strong helps to fills this gap locally.
Colorado has a relatively long history of 24 hour vertical records on skis. In 2006 Jimmy Faust and Greg Hill climbed 50,100 feet at the 24 Hours Of Sunlight to set the record. Two years later Eric Sullivan skied 51,068, again at the Sunlight event, breaking their record by a slim margin. Polly Mclean was also there that day and managed to raise the women’s 24 Hour Record to 33,000 feet and change. Those efforts have since been broken but the history of these events runs deep, especially in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Long events like this are undoubtedly more mental than physical. The highs and lows that one experiences throughout the course of a day are sure to test the will and desire of any athlete. A unique physical challenge that this event presents is the abuse that the feet must endure. Anyone that has spent a full day skinning in ski boots knows how torturous they can be. I’ll have a couple boots on standby but am rather nervous about how they will hold up after 12 hours. Pushing yourself your legs to keep moving uphill is a matter of exertion, while dealing with discomfort in an bodily area tests an athlete’s pain tolerance.
Nutrition is always a major aspect of these events, luckily I’ll have my wife Kylee, a registered dietitian, helping me to nail my plan. I’ll be taking in a healthy amount of Skratch to keep me hydrated and a ton of Skratch portables, made by lovely wife, to keep me stocked up on calories. For the light side of things, Light and Motion hooked me up with a fantastic headlamp to keep the groomers nice and bright.
I hope that my effort can play some small part in reducing the stigma around mental illness. The same characteristics that make me prone to mental maladies have also allowed me to excel in other areas of my life. Acknowledging and addressing our defects does not makes us weak, rather, it is in fighting these demons that we truly become strong.
Want to join me in making a difference?
Give a little bit to Aspen Strong, any donation will help make an impact by promoting better access to mental health treatment in the Roaring Fork Valley.