FasterSkier is happy to welcome Duncan Callahan back as a contributing writer. For more about Duncan, click here.
We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. As ski racers we feel the pull of snow and the positive energy associated with gliding down a track not pounding up a trail. However, running has made it into our minds and bodies as a great off-season training tool and possible adventure-filled activity. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, many miles have been pounded out, races and wars have been raged, and many a blister has been popped. The body has hardened to the ravages of pounding out mile after mile and the mind is ready to glide, however there is one run left; one truly fantastic, possibly epic, and extremely memorable run left to hammer out and hopefully live to tell about it.
For many skiers across the country mid-November is a time to be finishing up dry land training; putting the finishing touches on a fantastic dry land season; and making final plans for your Thanksgiving ski camp. Fortunately, the Western State College Ski Team has been on snow several times already in the Crested Butte area of Colorado. Crested Butte is a short thirty minute drive for us from campus in Gunnison and of course the skiing is much anticipated every year. It is an exciting time. As we all know though, it is important to transition on to snow and phase out of dry land to being on skis full time. This week is just that week for us here at Western. We have four ski workouts scheduled and the rest is a mix of running and strength.
Where am I going with this? Our last great run of the dry land season has happened to coincide with this week. It turns out also that this run coincided with the first true winter storm in Gunnison. Monday the 17th of November and we sense that this may be it as we look out the window and see the howling wind and horizontal sheets of snow. It is warm in the mid 20’s, but the wind is whipping out of control. After finishing a long strength workout consisting of a tough roller board session and various other core exercises, we put on our hats and jackets and head into the chaos. Good thing some of us have brought glasses. The fast moving, hard blowing, corn snow is stinging to the skin. The wind is whipping in excess of 40 mph. We continue anyway and find ourselves running in a blizzard. There are white-out conditions as we climb to a small hill outside of town. Then, amazingly, the storm suddenly clears and we (being 20 year old college punks) deem it “safe” to venture to the high ridge line and continue our run. Little did we know it would turn into a run with a positively epic experience.
We reach the high ridgeline, and the wind is picking up again; blowing even harder. The snow starts once more and the visibility is well less then 5 feet. We continue running in the general direction of Campus. The wind is unbelievable. Our estimates in retrospect place the wind velocity in the neighborhood of 5,000mph! Our ill-prepared faces are quickly frozen, however we maintain our high spirit for being so “hard-core.” Our whoops and shouts of joy are quickly swallowed by the storm. Conversation is impossible due to our faces and mouths being frozen. The number of us has dwindled to a count of four and we continue on, leaning into the wind and seemingly not going anywhere. We finally make it to a little draw in the sage-brush hills and take a left running downhill and into the protection of the walls of sage.
As we near campus we are once again filled with testosterone about the perils we just survived and decide to make one more trip up to the ridge above us. We are greeted with the same winds and snow. Shouts derived from adrenaline and testosterone are once more buried in the wind and we are faced with the daunting dare to run the ridge all the way back to campus staying exposed to the explosive elements. One of our compatriots had the misfortune of wearing shorts on this mini-excursion and his legs look like strawberry Twizlers. Our faces are redder then any apples I have ever seen and our hands are numb even though we all have gloves on. We made our way back to campus as quick as we could.
We did make it back of course and lived to tell about it. Perhaps I will consider this the most epic and “intense” short run of my life. The watch time for the run only read 1hr. 30 min, but over the next 20 years, I am sure I will manage to exaggerate the time of this adventurous foot workout to a whopping 4 hours. Undoubtedly, this escapade was our team’s last great run of the season, and certainly prepared us for the potentially fantastic ski and race season in front of us. Nothing but excitement was felt after this run with the energy levels high and the team bonding (Well that does not even need to be mentioned. It goes without saying). I do hope all of you have a “Last Great Run” such as this. I also hope snow is around the corner for you all and your “Last Great Run” occurs sometime soon. (Let me hear about it: firstname.lastname@example.org ) Happy skiing.