The start of the home gym. Fighting through the endurance “pain cave” through training.

What is the Pain Cave? For many of us this may sound like some terrible scene from a movie. But any endurance athlete will tell you that it is instead a dark place that we all inevitable end up in at some point in our races, climbs, paddles or training. For me the pain cave is a place where we want to give up, its when we start bonking, feeling sick, feeling sore, cold, hot, scared, completely mental…. The list can go on forever. Listen to any of the great Ultra runners and they all have different strategies for dealing with the pain cave. Many of these strategies are focused on the mental side and are centered around focusing on coaching yourself to overcome whatever pain you are going through (and of coarse fixing any physical issues like nutrition or hydration) For me I know that at some point I am going to be in a low spot and need to be prepared. The way I have been able to fight through the low spot in many races or climbs is by reflecting back on my training. It means reflecting back on what I have done leading up to the race/climb, thinking about the years of pounding miles or suffering through pull ups, or the hard days on the dreadmill. This is the reason that I have decided to build/set up my own training area at the past three homes that I have lived at. Having an area at home to work out is key for me in feeling prepared. This can be as simple as a door hung pull up bar and TRX kit, a weighted pack for hiking up the steps, or just two old saw horses for dips. It can also be more elaborate like your own rock wall, treadmill incline trainers, and a set of kettlebells/clubs. This give me the freedom to train when I want and removes any excuses that I could make to not workout. Mainly this removes the “I dont have time” excuse. All I have to do is walk up to my loft and swings some kettlebells or walk out to the barn and hammer out some pull ups on the hang board.

As soon as we moved to the Eastern shore I knew that getting in the training to allow me to feel good in the mountains was going to be a challenge. As far as I know there are no rock gyms on the Eastern shore and virtually zero hills. I knew that my long term goal was to build a large rockwall but since the home we purchased does not have a basement or garage I knew this meant building a pole barn. knowing that this would take a long time, and would not be cheap to build I invested in a cheap over the door pull up bar to get me started while I worked on the barn plan. Below are some progress shots. Follow along as the home gym project comes together.

A variety of equipment I have acquired over the years. In reality you can get by with less than half of these.
A cheap and effective way to build climb specific strength.
I am privileged to have access to one of these, thanks Maggie Guterl.
This shed was on our property when we bought it. It was in bad shape and needed to go to make room for the barn.
This was fun.
The guys at Shirk Pole Buildings starting the barn.
These guys are fast.

Update

Hi everyone. It has been a very long time since I last posted. And while I don’t want to make excuses, since my last post things have been pretty hectic but awesome. I have taken on a new job and have been lucky enough to move to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. While I often thought about moving, I never considered that it would be south. I always thought that I would end up closer to the mountains. However I could not pass on this opportunity. And while I am a bit farther from the mountains I am now in walking distance of an amazing training facility called the Chesapeake Bay. As I write this post from the loft in my house I am watching a thunderstorm dump rain and wind across the Bay. We now live on the Eastern Shore near the famous Kent Island. I feel so lucky to be able to walk out my front door and launch my SUP only a few hundred feet down the road. While its not the mountains it is an amazing area to train. The back roads are quiet, the Wye River & Bay are amazing areas to paddle, and the there are plentiful trails. However just like our last house its dreadfully flat. In fact its even flatter than the rolling fields of Oxford Pa, my watch currently says that we are just 6 feet above Sea level. While this is by no means ideal for preparing for the big mountains it certainly is a challenge that I am ready for. Stay tuned.

“Base” Training Period for Great Range Traverse

I will start off with a disclaimer that I have used in the past: I am not a fitness professional, professional trainer, or doctor. I do however live in a totally flat area surrounded by corn fields and do decently ok in the mountains. Which is actually the reason that I started this blog, I want to inspire, motivate, and help other flatlanders enjoy the mountains. Now on to the training! This post is focused on what many fitness pros would call the “base” period. There are many interpretations of this but I think in general they mean a period of time in which you are getting into decent enough shape to set you up for a period of goal specific training. For example, when I ran XC for Philadelphia University my base period was during the summer break and focused on mid-grade mileage and general fitness. Once we got back to school, we then would transition into more specific training focused on our 8k races. Many books such as Steve House’s book Training for New Alpinism put a heavy emphasis on carefully planning this training period. I totally agree with this but find that its not always feasible for everyday people in everyday life. We get busy, life events happen, work gets crazy and goals change.

For my upcoming shot at the Great Range Traverse I would love to say that I carefully planned out a base training period and scheduled my transition into a specific training period. However, the reality is that it did not work this way for me but I still feel like I am in a good place to perform. This is based on my strict focus on staying generally fit. This past winter I focused heavily on both backcountry snowboarding (see my past post on splitboarding). My ideal plan was to come off of the winter season (Early April) and then have at least 6 weeks of easy to moderate running and then 5 weeks of hard uphill running before the traverse. However, work and life got in the way and I settled on early June for the traverse. My theory is that my months of uphill splitboarding, hard lifting, snowboarding, and daily fitness routine (yoga, climbing, kettlebell, etc..) provided enough of a general fitness for me to transition right to hard training for hard mountain running. Is it ideal? No, but I think it will work. I love the idea of staying generally fit at all times, this concept is something that Sean Sewell talks about in my recent interview with him:  “The way I train is to be ready for action any day and any moment.  So I don’t really have “off season” or peaking”. Check it out under the training section of my blog.

Ok on to my “base” period. While the majority of the focus was on snowboarding, I believe that the portion focused on uphill travel served as a decent base for my current training. When I am focused on mountain sports I care most about time on my feet and vertical gain. For me mileage has mostly been a secondary metric unless I am training for a marathon. Loosely my base period started in early winter. Below is my overall time spent on each training activity:

Looking back at this I find it promising that 28% of time was spent running combined with many hours hiking and backpacking. Additionally, many miles focused on uphill travel. However, on the negative side over the course of those 13 weeks I was only on my feet for 124 hours which comes out to roughly 1:22 hours a day, I think this has the potential of being troublesome. Especially because there where at least 5 or 6 full days of lift access downhill snowboarding (19% of time on feet). While downhill riding certainly works muscles I don’t think it will help me with the Great Range. However, on the more positive side I am pleased with the elevation gain profile:

While there are certainly some low weeks, I averaged 5175 feet of vertical gain a week. A lot of this was done through inclined treadmill and box step works outs but there was also a good amount of outside uphill travel as well. I should also note that sometime around week 11 I realized that winter was coming to a abrupt end near me and I started upping my miles. I even got in a 31-mile running day for my 31st birthday. While that completely sucked it was for sure a confidence booster for me.

Overall, I can draw both a number of negative and positive conclusions from counting this as my “base” period. In reality only time will tell, but so far so good on the “specific” training period. In the coming weeks I will touch on progress and specific workouts focused on the Great Range, however in the meantime feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts. By no means am I saying this is a brilliant plan and I would love to get everyone’s overall thoughts. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Great Range Traverse June 2019

I distinctly remember the first time I saw the high peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. As we drove NW on route 73 I remember being in complete awe with the sheer amount of exposed, steep, and seemingly endless peaks. A few months later I got the chance to climb one and I was instantly hooked. I soon wanted to complete as many of the 46 peaks as possible. Over the next few years I started doing the long drive up the thruway many times a year to give them a shot. One year I even convinced my family to take their summer “beach” vacation there.  I have since made decent progress but got side tracked by an experience I had on the famous Great Range. In an attempt to make the most of my trips I often would try to slam in as many peaks as possible in a short amount of time. This led to eventually trying the Great Range Traverse in a day. While there are many variations of the Great Range Traverse, it generally means doing 25+ miles, 10k in elevation gain, and 8 high peaks. While my first time doing the GRT was slow, wet, and very painful my friends and I had a blast and it got me hooked on this concept of endurance peak bagging. Since then I have done a host of different endurance peak bagging days including the Presidential Traverse, the notorious Devils Path, and a climbing ascent up Mt Whitney.

On the Range with Tyler Dye June 2015

It has been several years since I have been up on the Great Range but each year, I find myself itching to get after it again. I am happy to say that I finally have it on the books for this coming June. The general plan is to start at the Rooster Comb Trail head and finish up at the Garden Trailhead.  (more to come on the route in a later post) After getting this on the books I called up my good buddy Shawn D’Andrea. Shawn is an all-around running badass and has been kicking my ass in races since college. He recently finished the Boston Marathon in 2:32:58, which if you’re not familiar is freakin fast!!!  While mostly a road runner his ability to suffer and unrelenting grit makes him a perfect partner. This past fall Shawn agreed to “run” the Devils Path with me and ended up getting more elevation gain in one day than the rest of the year combined. His ability to adapt to the Catskills rough terrain and push me to a sub 10-hour Devils path is both inspiring and motivating. Stay tuned to the blog and Instagram over the next few weeks as I will be posting what I have done so far to prepare, each weeks training recap, and some short stories on past ADK experiences. My next post will focus on my base training period and my training log set up. Thanks for reading.

Functional Training- Q&A with Sean Sewell from Colorado Personal Fitness.

As I progress down this blog journey an important goal of mine is to feature a series of Q&A’s on how others prepare for adventures in the mountains. I am so excited to kick this off with the below Q&A with Sean Sewell from Colorado Personal Fitness. Sean Sewell is a Certified Personal Trainer (and also has a whole host of other badass certifications check them out here BIO ). Sean currently resides in Colorado where he can often be found splitboarding, hiking, camping, or just exploring the beautiful wilderness of Colorado. Sean specializes in Functional Training, which he defines as “creating training programs to enhance your day to day life and activities.” What I love about Sean is that he works with a variety of different everyday people, not just high performance pro athletes. He helps real world people achieve their fitness goals, this includes seniors, couples, and busy professionals. I think Sean says it best below:

“Previous to becoming a trainer, I worked in the corporate world – for 12 years – so I know what it is like to be at a desk all day and feel out of shape.  I can empathize with the workloads, the trouble to find time as well as motivation to exercise.  If I can do it, so can you!  Actually, this is my core group of clients – busy professionals who need expert help, accountability and some “me” time to take care of themselves and then get back to taking care of business (and family!).”

Ok lets jump right in with questions. But first be sure to check out the links to Sean’s programs, social feeds, and a link to a free digital download of his Splitboarding book at the bottom of the post.

1 – Can you give us a background on where you live, work, and what mountain sports you pursue?

A) I live in Denver CO and operate my fitness business here and in the mountains of the Front Range.  Winter is splitboarding, snow shoeing, camping and hiking. Summer is for hiking, biking, camping, rafting and anything outside.

2 – Did you grow up in a mountain town? If not where?

A) I was actually born and raised in Omaha NE, believe it or not! 🙂 I loved being outside and enjoyed the rivers and forests of Nebraska and Iowa.  It was always a dream to visit CO, but we never did.  Then my mother was transferred to Denver for work. I fell in love and awe of the mountains since day one of living here.  Still am!

3 – What are some of your goals for the upcoming spring off season from Snowboarding?

A) Great question.  The way I train is to be ready for action any day and any moment.  So I don’t really have “off season” or “peaking”. I suppose I do hit it a bit harder in the non winter months as I am not pushing myself as much with backcountry mountain activities in deep snow. That being said, here are my 2019 goals for fitness, health and growth:

  • Mobility – maintain and/or improve mobility
  • Recover – allow for maximum recovery after training.  I think we can all be better at this.
  • Strength – Spend some time getting comfortable with heavier kettlebells, weighted tactical pull-ups, weighted pistols and explosive push ups.
  • Redo the StrongFirst SFG in the fall.  Never can learn enough!
  • Update the Splitboarding book I wrote to reflect recent AIARE education updates and new gear. 
  • Start formally teaching the Mountain Fitness School in the mountains of Colorado.  Get as many people prepped for the following winter!

4 – How did you get into (whatever your favorite mountain sports are)?

A) I always loved snowboarding.  Been doing it for 25 years of so.  I also love hiking and exploring.  When I learned that there were some people who took a snowboard and split in half to make a mountain accession tool.  At first, it was a major challenge to figure out how things work, best practices and all that.  So, after learning from some mentors, I figured it would be a good opportunity to help others get into this sport. It is such a rewarding outdoor experience – trekking up a mountain, the views and magic of the area, the fitness component of the tour and then you get to snowboard back to the trail head.  Its perfect! I also love the gear that goes along with splitboarding and outdoor adventures.  I created a site that goes over the latest gear for splitboarding and other outdoor activities, check it out – Engeament

5 – How do you train yourself and others for these sports?

A) I use as few fitness tools as possible in the most simple and effective way that I can think of.  The tools are bodyweight, kettlebells and TRX.  First, I make sure that the student (or myself) is moving correctly.  Using FMS and other screens to see if I can spot imbalances.  Chances are high that we all have opportunity in this area, I know I do! Once moment is addressed, we go over the basic movement patterns – pull, push, hinge, squat, lunge, rotation, anti-rotation.  It is really simple, but I think the body should be trained as a unit of components all working together. A training program I create will make sure to cover all those patterns.  Some of my go-to exercises are kettlebell swings, push ups, goblet squats, rows or pull ups, Turkish get ups, hollow holds and cossacks. After training professional for over 10 years, I have seen several training methods come and go, but these tried and true tools never let the you down. I make sure each rep is a good rep, that we rest adequately between sets to get the most out of each session.  I combine ballistics with presses, pulls, anti-rotation and mobility in every session.  All about the KISS idea.  Keep it simple and safe ( I don’t like calling things stupid :P) I created the Mountain Fitness School to help others get in shape for mountain sports.  It goes over all this in much greater detail and shows the user how to perform exercises correctly and use the program to improve endurance and strength in the mountains. 

6 – Can you give us some background on Colorado Personal Fitness?

A) Colorado Personal Fitness is my training business that I created to help others improve their health and fitness to better enjoy their life and outdoor activities.  Using the fitness tools above (bodyweight, kettlebells and TRX) we work on improving their quality of life so they can enjoy more time with loved ones doing what they love. From playing with their kids and grandkids, to climbing mountains.  To me, it is all about treating each person with respect and kindness, finding their sticking points and teaching them how to move better.  Progressing them towards their individual goals and rewarding them with encouragement and genuine stoke.  Many of them graduate onto doing new activities.  Some even join me for backcountry hikes, snow shoeing and even splitboarding! 

B) Its a dream job and I am fortunate to be able to do it.  I spent 15 years working in an office setting, so I know that that is like.  I left the corporate world do what I truly love doing – helping others improve their health and get outside!

7 – What advice do you have for flatlanders who often travel to the mountains to Ski or snowboard and want to be prepared?

A) Great question!  1) Hydrate 2) ease into the elevation 3) Hydrate! 4) eat some good food 5) rest and recover! 6) leave a run on the mountain.  This last one is very important.  I am a firm believer in doing an activity with as much safe effort as possible.  Meaning, stop when form degrades.  On the mountain, if you are getting fatigued and your body starts to give out, this could easily lead to an injury.  In the training room, we always stop at the first signs of degraded form.  No need to train to fatigue in the gym or in the mountains.  Save that run for the next day! Save that rep for the next session.  7) hydrate! 🙂

8 – Same question but focused on uphill winter travel like splitboarding?

A) Hydrate for sure.  If your urine is dark color, you are dehydrated and behind the 8 ball.  Get some salts in you.  EAT!  You are going to burn more calories skiing uphill than just about anything else you can do in the gym.  Plus, it is probably cold and your body needs extra calories to stay warm and functioning.  So, no diets in the backcountry!  I don’t care if you diet at home, don’t do it on the mountain and jeopardize yourself and others.  Stretch after tour.  Chances are good that you will be driving for a while after the adventure and it is no bueno to be tight and bound up.  Just get some simple stretches in and eat some good food before you head back to civilization.  One trick I do is to do a 5-10 minute mobility / stretching session when I get home.  This really aids in the recovery process.

9 – When do you start training for the snowboard season?

A) I train for snowboarding year round.  I find that this keeps me primed for most any activity that pops up.  Snowboard season can go from October – June for me, so there really is not much time off between beginning and end.  And that “time off” is “time on” for other fun outdoor activities 🙂

10 – What are some of the biggest mistakes you see clients make when training specifically for mountain sports like climbing, snowboarding, or running?

A) Easy – overtraining.  I think people believe that they need to crush themselves in the gym.  I was one of those people, so I can relate.  I can also relate to all the injuries and frustration that went along with this kind of training.  Training in the gym is meant to improve life outside of it.  Not take away from it. By listening to your body (or using HRV and heart rate monitors to track data) you can find out when to hit it hard, and when to back off.  In fact, I wrote a paper on this topic for StrongFirst and how it relates to mountain fitness.  Link here – https://www.strongfirst.com/how-strongfirst-endurance-protocols-improve-ski-season/

11 – What off season activities do you recommend to stay in shape for ski season?

A) I am all for whatever activities you love doing, that makes you break a sweat.  Some of my personal favorites are hiking and biking.  Backpacking is really good as you have a weight on your back that is at least as heavy as a well equipped backcountry winter backpack.  Plus you get to study the terrain that you may latter be skiing down.  Swimming is great for fitness and recovery. Rafting is a heck of a lot of fun too.  Plus, there is a sense of awe as you are enjoying the river, that is made of the snow that you enjoyed skiing on a few months before.  SUP is great too.  Talk about a fun challenge to proprioception and balance! I have not done SUP as much as I would like, but look forward to doing that more. Basically, just get outside, have fun, break a sweat and share a smile with loved ones.  As long as you are consistent with training and outdoor activities, ski season will not be such a shock to the system.

Colorado Personal Fitness website – https://www.coloradopersonalfitness.com

Mountain Fitness School website – https://mountainfitnessschool.com

Engearment website – https://engearment.com

How to Splitboard – https://issuu.com/coloradopersonalfitness/docs/splitbaording_-_the_first_steps