As the kids return to school it signals the time of the year were I head up. Up in altitude for the final training camps of the year before yellow leaves give way to white snow. This year I will have back to back altitude camps, increasing the exposure I get. First up was a new location for me to train at; Mammoth Lakes, California. In the past it was a very popular and favored camp of the National Ski Team. Returning there sequentially for over a decade. There had to be something that kept drawing them back! I’m usually excited about going somewhere new. New experiences to gain, new cafes or restaurants to try. New roads to roller ski on. But for me, my favorite is to explore new trails to run or peaks to ascend. Along with this excitement though, there is some nerves. Going somewhere new means the first few days are about learning where everything is. Luckily Brian had been here before and was our guide to old favorites. But without that guidance the first few days can be a little hit or miss. Trying different roads or communities until you find areas that work. (And occasionally have to find new roads because the great roads we were on; we were asked to leave.) Mammoth had no shortages of great roller skiing roads. The ‘Cattle Guard’ road (properly known as Benton Crossing) was a team favorite. Yes, despite the four cattle guards that you had to step or roll over. Another fan favorite, besides it having no shoulder for a majority of the road, was the Tioga Pass. It was a fantastic ski up to the pass. A solid two hours of steady climbing, ending up over the 3’000m mark at the top. Which is also a gate into Yosemite National Park.
For a few days in the middle of the camp the team stayed at the much lower Bishop, California. On the drive down to Bishop we took the old road not the highway. We were seeing if the road would be any good to ski. We had reached a huge plateau, almost a plain like area. We were only a few miles from Bishop. We started skiing, the road had beautiful countryside feeling to it but was rough. The section I was on finally came to an intersection after about 30 minutes. To my right was a steady but gradual climb, the left was ever so slightly downhill, but was the dark black of fresh pavement. I figured that would lead back to the cars way too soon and I needed to go further, before going down that road back to the pickup spot. My only choice was straight thru. That was the best thing I could have ever done. That fresh pavement section (I went down later) was actually really wavy. Though it was new it wasn’t the best I skied that day. The road straight through the intersection, that was amazing! Smooth, very little traffic and it meandered through the countryside like it didn’t have a care in the World. I really enjoyed skiing on that road, it was hard to wipe the smile off my face as I skied along this stretch. It was that nice that we spent the next three days skiing this road. We started from right in Bishop and skied out to where we were the first day.

127 Hours

Setting up the scene from 127 Hours in a Fault Line in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

The first few days in Mammoth were tough ones. I love being at altitude but this was testing. The house where the team stayed was above 2500m. Which is high, even compared to the lowly 1400m of Canmore. Being somewhat desert there isn’t much moisture in the air either. I had to spent more time hydrating than I did training. Once I returned back to Mammoth after a few days down in Bishop, I was on a roll. I really adjusted well to the second exposure in Mammoth. I started feeling awesome up there. I once again had a much better second half of the camp than the first. I was just finding my stride so to speak.
It was not a long camp. I was only away for 12 days before I headed back to Canmore. A bit of a rest week before ramping things up into an intensity block. And then repeat it all at the next altitude camp which will be in the familiar stomping grounds of Flagstaff, Arizona. I arrived home around midnight so I saw very little of the mountains as I came in. The next morning was a bit of a surprise as Fall had really hit the Bow Valley with force while I was away. That first morning back home I went out to get some groceries, mostly for breakfast and I had to scrape the frost off my windshield. For the next week, early afternoons were beautiful; warm and the bright sun highlighting the brilliant yellows that now dotted the landscape. Fall is in the air and time is quickly ticking away towards the start of the 2015-2016 competition season.

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