2020 in Review!

Yikes – only two posts ago was my summer 2019 summary! I guess this page needs a little more attention but it can be a little difficult with all the various places to tell stories. I’ve kept a moderately accurate training log since college so it’s always interesting to review the years’ statistics and try to infer the effects on performance. With my PhD defence at the end of 2019, 2020 was intended to be a big year. I had decided to put all my focus into coaching at Ridgeline Athletics and my own training for ski mountaineering. With academics on the back burner, this would mean a lot of time for training and racing!

2020 started strong, albeit not quite as big of training volume as some of my previous competitive seasons. As a non-World Championships year, it was a perfect time to put more focus into technical climbing skills and try to maintain fitness at a reasonable level.

I still travelled to Europe to compete in a handful of races with Brendan Armstrong – the Belle Etoile teams race and the Jennersteier World Cup in Germany. Both were exceedingly difficult and not particularly ego boosting. The Canadian circuit was on as well, with highlights being a narrow win at the Kicking Horse teams race with Matt Ruta and taking both the Individual and Vertical National Championships at Marmot Basin. Mixed in with all this racing however was a decent amount of steep skiing and ice climbing – something that definitely took away a bit of the race edge.

In early March, Paul Greenwood and I met Matt Paul in Chamonix, intending on two weeks of ski mountaineering (my first trip to Europe without a race planned) but found ourselves scrambling to return to Canada as Europe shut down around us. We still recovered a few decent ski days in BC as March went on but soon parks closed and skiing finished for the season.

The upside of the abbreviated ski season was an early start to running. I put in more volume on foot on flatter terrain earlier than I ever have before. This translated to really good running fitness by the time June/July rolled around. Ironically, I was in the fittest running shape I’ve ever been but all the races were cancelled!

I had a handful of mountain goals for the summer on my list however – all in Western Canada as planned trips to Europe were off the table. I had an excellent time climbing four routes around Canmore in a day with Adam Campbell (the “Technical Canmore Quad”), I teamed up with Leif Godberson to do a loop of Lake Lovely Water, I headed out solo on the Spearhead to do a summer lap of the classic ski traverse, and I finished the meat of the summer doing a big traverse in Rogers Pass, again with Leif.


These were all 10+ hour efforts and took a considerable amount of recovery between each. The window to get good conditions for each was also short – essentially the month of July and a bit of August which meant that with a week or two of recovery after each mission, I wasn’t doing much running between! Luckily a new addition to my training in 2020 was a stand up paddle board. Having previously mocked their inefficiency, I was shocked to first realize how useful they could be for crossing the Squamish River to access the Tantalus Range (by far the best option), and second, how good of a recovery activity paddling is to complement running. I don’t know the split but I spent a considerable amount of time this summer exploring the various rivers around Squamish, the estuary, and Howe Sound on the paddle board. A morning paddle with friends, followed by a donut in town is a very civilized feeling way to start the day!

As the summer started to wrap up, Paul and I ramped up our strength training at Squamish Barbell. Last year, we started a bit too late into ski season but this summer we decided strength had to be a priority. We started two sessions a week in September and have been keeping that up (with a blip at the holidays). It’s shocking to see how quickly strength is developed when returning to a program and even more so how well it translates to skiing. In fact, several hundred leg presses does make it easier to ski without stopping! Strength accounted for about 8 hours of additional training time per month – something that impacted my overall training as it’s hard to go do intervals when you’re super sore!

Another act of vandalism disabled the Sea to Sky Gondola for a second time this fall, taking away my primary late-summer/fall training zone. The ability to hike uphill and ride down is key for putting in bigger volume, so without that, I was limited to doing up and down laps of things like the Chief. This meant a lot less vertical gain this fall than normal and a little less overall volume.

November brought flurries and the chance to get up into the alpine for some mixed climbing. As my climbing developed, I thought this might translate to a good ice season but December arrived with pretty serious snow so the tools have gone untouched since then. We did find a variety of good conditions in Nov however, primarily in the Wedgemount Zone but elsewhere in steep, high, north facing terrain as well!

December has been pretty great for skiing. It’s certainly not our best ever but between having extra time, having motivated partners, and decent conditions, I managed to get in some amazing skiing – all while thinking “it’s still just December!”. Total vertical is again not my biggest but still high and hours are high as well. We’ve managed some fantastic powder skiing but also skied off Wedge, completed a little traverse in the Duffey, and skied a handful of other minor steep lines, not to mention a bunch of fun days touring and skiing the lifts with Andrea!

While it is technically a World Championships year, something the ISMF pushes ahead despite many countries being limited and Covid running rampant…everywhere, it’s not an option for me to travel outside of Canada so racing is on the back burner. I’d like to think that I’ll be able to maintain race fitness for future cycles but I’ll admit that the allure of using skimo race techniques on big mountain adventures is what’s truly attractive to me.

For 2021, my primary ski goals are to explore some of the lesser visited areas around the South Coast and chip away at my (long) wish-list of steep ski objectives. In March or April, I’m hoping to sneak in a trip to the Waddington Range to put some of these skills to use. I’d also like to do some pure speed missions on both classic traverses like the Spearhead and some new to me traverses like the Misty Icefield.

When summer rolls around, I’m not terribly optimistic that we’ll be travelling abroad for racing but I’m hoping to get some local events in like Meet the Minotaur. I’ve also got some mountain goals that piggyback on the ones I did this summer on the Coast and in the Rockies but we’ll see what the world brings!

Random Stats:
10 Skimo Race Starts
2 World Cups
2 National Championship Golds
3 Summer Speed Records
863 Training Hours (run, cycle, ski tour, alpine climb, paddle, strength)
249,404 Meters Vertical Ascent (the second lowest in the last 8 years)

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