10 week countdown until Denali! Harness the Stoke!

Holy shit, 10 weeks until we leave for Denali!? How exciting and terrifying at the same time! The good news is that things are starting to really fall into place. People are being supportive and helping out in ways we never imagined, the “need to get” gear list is dwindling, and our training is going well. All in all, we’re on the right track!

Not that I need help getting stoked on Denali or need one more thing to distract me from doing non-Denali related things (at this point there are two categories in my life, Denali related and non-Denali related), I made one slight adjustment to keep the stoke up. A few days ago I changed my desktop photo from my amazing, super-awesome dog, Beatrix, to a great 3D route diagram of Denali that I snagged from SummitPost.org.


Beatrix relaxing in the back of my truck


Beatrix thoroughly enjoying the snow on the McClellan Butte trail in December









I’m a visual person so being able to view the route several times throughout the day over multiple days is going to help ingrain the topography in my head. Pretty smart, huh?


3D route diagram courtesy of SummitPost user PellucidWombat.

In addition to hating having things strapped to the outside of my pack other than an ice axe, picket, or an avalanche probe, I hate a messy desktop. It may be a little obsessive, but I like to keep the outside of my pack tidy, I hate shit swinging around while I’m climbing steep terrain or getting caught on things when I’m bushwacking. A general rule of mine is that if it can’t fit in my pack, it’s not coming with me. Same principle applies to my computer desktop. I keep it tidy with the exception of important things that need my attention.

The diagram above is actually a screen shot of my computer, not the actual image from SummitPost. As you can see, there’s not a whole lot there. In fact, there’s only one thing on my desktop and it happens to be my profile photo for this blog! When I realized this the other day, I found it kind of amusing and decided to make a game out of it. I decided that I would move my icon along the route as we get closer to our climbing date. How NERDY! I was way too amused by this and still am. Since we’re about 10 weeks out from our departure, I decided to move to Ski Hill Camp at 7,800ft.


Closeup of my profile picture on route at Ski Hill Camp


Now that you know my picture is on the 3D diagram, go back to that image and find my profile photo. Yes, I’m easily entertained and I hope you find this as amusing as I do! Doing things like this is a really easy way for me to keep that stoke up, which got me thinking about what the other Girls are doing to keep their stoke. What do you do to get and keep yourself motivated?

Sweating Like a Pig, Feeling Like a Fox

In case you need a little stoke for your workout tonight, tomorrow, this weekend or pretty much ever – here’s a little bit of booyah from the ladies at This Girl Can, a UK-based campaign to get and keep women and girls moving!

Get Ur Freak On has never felt so subversive. 😀


Double Days, Not to be Confused with Double Downs

Double DownFor expedition training we need to schedule the occasional double day. Yes, that’s two workouts in one day. It’s usually comprised of one longer strength session and one conditioning session. This is not a foreign concept for me, I generally have two a week, but it is pretty uncommon for most. Some people can’t fathom working out once a day consistently let alone TWICE a day. Some may say that working out twice a day is a bit extreme. Well, yes and no. It all depends on your goal and whether it’s necessary. For us, it’s necessary. A huge factor in successfully training twice a day is making recovery a priority, but that’s a whole other blog post (stay tuned!).

Training twice a day takes some adjusting. One, it’s simply a lot of time to be training. If you’ve ever trained for an endurance sport you know there is just a certain amount of time you have to spend doing that sport or closely mimicking that sport in order to be successful on summit/game/race day. In the end, you can’t escape the fact that you need to train your body to handle your sport over a long period of time.

 Two, training multiple times a day is physically and mentally demanding. It’s really easy to get your morning workout done, go to work, get tired and not want to hit the gym or trail for your second workout. The fatigue that sets in after you’ve cooled down, refueled, and been at work for a few hours is hard to shake. This is where mental toughness comes in (and maybe another cup of coffee).

Physically, you have to ease into training multiple times a day, being careful not to overtax your system too soon. Mentally, you have fight the urge to go home and relax or go to happy hour with your friends. If it’s on your training schedule (which you should have!), then you should be doing it (sans poor recovery or being too sick to workout).

 On top of the endurance training (conditioning), we need to build and maintain strength. Since mountaineering is a very lower body demanding sport, it’s easy to ignore upper body strength training. Ladies, this is even more important for us since we tend to lack this type of strength in the first place. No matter female or male, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you leave it out of your training program. Think of all the things we do in mountaineering that require upper body strength – hoisting of heavy packs, climbing steep snow/ice, scrambling/rock climbing, crevasse rescue, self-arrest, etc. Adequate upper body strength will not only make climbing more pleasurable, but it will literally save your life, so you need to make time for it.

 Below are a few pictures from one of my morning upper body training sessions. It takes about 45-55 min to complete and consists of three series of exercises. One series is comprised of two opposing movements that are complementary, such as a push-pull combination. Your training goals will determine how many series you have in a workout, which will then determine how much time you will spend training. My upper body training consists of three series, A1 and A2, B1 and B2, and then C1, all with specific tempo and rest intervals. Right now I’m in a structural balance phase (trying to close the gaps between strength differences on either side of the body), which means a lot of unilateral work and a LOT of reps at a grueling tempo. I know that was nerdy, but stay with me!

A1) Seated dumbbell press with back support

 Without a back support, this movement is a little more challenging for the core muscles. Since I have a relatively strong core and need to focus more on shoulder health and strength, I use an upright back support.

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A2) Landmine row with supinated grip (chin up grip)

These pictures are for your entertainment value. I do NOT normally take selfies at the gym, so appreciate the fact that I am willing to look silly by taking photos of myself for the sake of your entertainment!

As mentioned in previous posts, The Denali Girls meet at least once a week at a dark trailhead for an evening training hike. This serves two purposes. One, it gets us out on the trail during the week and two, it serves as a team building exercise that we practice every week. Not all The Girls can make every weekday hike, but we all try to. Team dynamics is a huge part of success or failure on long climbs. Just think about it, we’ll be with the same three people for four weeks, sharing just about everything. I mean EVERYTHING. So, we better learn how to communicate and work well together and a good way to do that is to train together. However, in the end, you have to train and this is one of the few things well within your control.

On to the second workout of the day… My afternoon or evening workout may be a long gym session (low intensity), shorter gym session (medium or high intensity) or weighted hike (low intensity). For example, yesterday was a double day for me, but I couldn’t make it to the trail so my conditioning consisted of the shorter conditioning session in the gym (short from an endurance standpoint):

30 minute around the world circuit of:

  • 3x sled drag back and forth across the gym with 35kg, back and forth = 1x, fast but not running
    • Using a belt around your waist instead of pulling with your arms forces core engagement and mimics a sled being attached to your harness
    • Walking forward and backward is ideal for training more muscle groups
  • 1 mile on an Assault Bike @ 80-85% effort
  • 4x 16kg farmer carry (1 KB in each hand) across the gym, down and back = 1x

No rest other than quickly moving from one station to the next. Sounds fun, huh!

After a double day, a Double Down might actually sound pretty good! Just kidding, I don’t eat that shit and neither should you. However, on double days you do need to consume more calories. Don’t turn big training days into weight loss attempts, you’ll just set yourself up for disaster! This is a part of your recovery, so treat your body well by feeding it well. Injury prevention is especially important in our case since we have a very specific goal the requires a lot of smart training. None of us can afford to have a major injury setback leading up to the expedition. One way to help prevent injury is to ensure you’re fueling it well!