One year later, I was back for MAX VERT OCTOBER, 2021. I knew what it would take to win and break the record of 342k. Mental tenacity. Right out of the gate I faced tough physical challenges. During the first week my knees were trashed, I re-sprained my bad ankle, and could hardly walk. Day six, I was so beat up that I went to my PT in Breckenridge, CO, to get some dry needling done. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. My PT said, “You’re the worst endurance athlete I’ve ever seen”.
Seeking a change of scenery, I packed up and drove to Salt Lake City to see how well the physical therapy worked. SLC had a large community of people participating in Max vert on Grandeur Peak. Starting strong I stacked up multiple 12-14k days to catch up to where I needed to be. My knee pain wasn’t gone but it was more tolerable. The weird thing about the pain was that after the first 8-10k of climbing, my knees would warm-up and I could move more smoothly without intense agony.
This pattern continued until the middle of the month when I was sitting on top of the mountain resting my unbearably painful knees once again. I spotted a zip-lock bag sticking out of the snow with a letter inside. I will never forget the first sentence of this note, “If you’re reading this, this message is meant for you.” The letter was written by a madly inspiring dude named Brandon who has MS. He shared his story hoping to inspire whoever read it to live their life to the absolute fullest. The letter also reminded me to love the special people in my life better. BAM! My knee pain didn’t matter anymore, and Brandon stayed with me for the rest of the month.
At one week left, it was time for a BIG day on my birthday. During Max Vert 2020, I climbed 25k for turning 25. This year the goal was an Everest day - 29k. 3am came and my body wasn’t cooperating. After the first lap I was in so much pain I crawled into my truck and went back to sleep. Everest wasn’t happening. Keith woke me up at 7am for a photo and film shoot. With only 280k feet of vert under my belt I let him know I wasn’t sure how much I had left.
My birthday started out as one of the lowest days of my journey, but I ended up stacking 18.5k feet of vert. My goal of 400k was more compelling than my pain. I will finish what I started. Brandon’s journey inspired me, and I didn’t want to experience the mental hell I felt upon quitting BUDS. No more feelings of being a failure.
De ja vu! With six days left for the 2021 Max Vert, I had 96k feet to reach my goal of 400k. In 2020, I needed 90k in six days to reach my 250k goal. That first year, I threw myself a pity party. But the pity party was over. Let's crush. I knew what I wanted, and nothing was going to stop me. 16k a day for six days. Let’s do this.