Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dryland Training Drill: Triceps

Here is another great training drill you can do on the Bosu ball, this is one of my favorites. It's a triceps press with a medicine ball.

The weight of the medicine ball is continually trying to bring you out of balance, and because it is right over your head and then directly behind it, to me it seems to closely simulate the feeling of getting thrown into the back seat at the bottom half of a turn, and having to fight out of it.

Do this exercise with your free leg in a variety of positions: the one ski skiing position, leg out in front, leg to the side, leg behind. Make sure your shoulders stay square, and fight to stay stable and in balance so you can have good form for your triceps!

Dryland Training Drill: Shoulders

Here are a couple of still pics of the way we train shoulders. We stand on one foot on the bosu ball, forcing our core to stabilize while a weight is pulling it around. The weights, of course, are dumbbells, 10lbs or so, and as you do your shoulder exercises (in good form), the weight changes your balance point.

Basically, it is like recovering from a fall all the time. As the weight moves, you are constantly adjusting for it, trying to come back into balance.

Start these standing on the ball on 2 feet, and as you get comfortable, do a set with your leg in front, one with your leg out to the side, and one with your leg behind. You can also do them with your leg pulled up under you in a "flexion" posture.

Make sure your standing leg has a slight bend in it, and that you are using good form for the shoulder exercises, and good skiing form on your standing leg (ie, not in the back seat or other 'off' position.)

Shoulder exercises with dumbbells:

Front Raises
Lateral Raises
Cable Pulls for Rear Delt Raises

There are LOTS of others, but these are some easy ones to do o the Bosu ball. Some tips for better success: keep your shoulders level, and your wrists stacked. Keep your free foot out and steady using your abs for added stability, for the entire set.

Just like any normal shoulder exercise, do 3 sets of 12, alternating feet and foot position with each set. (For mass building, higher weight, fewer reps, go to failure and then go down 2 lbs, continue this until you have no weight and go to failure. For sleek, long muscles, do higher reps on lighter weight.)

Dryland Training Drill: Recover into Balance!

***UPDATE: Megan brought up a good point that I want to make sure and share with you regarding this type of training... Once you have gone past the point of recovery, you should NOT fight to save yourself, but take the fall. Let go, and fall. Otherwise, you can really hurt yourself over stressing your tendons in your knees while you try to overcome the force of the fall.***

These drills are meant to train the core and stability muscles to recognize "uh, oh!" the second you get out of balance, and recover back into balance, before the bobble becomes a full-blown fall.

Knowing when to recover, and when to let go... well, that's beyond my expertise at this point. My suggestion is to listen to your body, and utilize those well trained core and stability muscles to hold and get back in balance quickly. If it doesn't happen, let go, and take the tumble!

So I have been working a lot on one footed balance, and I was thinking about what we need to do to stay or get back in balance. Michael Hickey, my amazing coach, told me a story about watching Stenmark come around a gate, and one of his skis came up off the snow. He was able to complete the turn, without loosing speed, and force that free foot back down, just where it belongs, and make the next gate.

How oh HOW do we train for that sort of compensorial core strength? So I came up with an idea, a series of exercises on the Bosu ball (which simulates the ever changing snow surface) and a 12lb medicine ball, which simulates the force of your direction of fall.

In this video clip, we are saying that Liat (who should be just a TAD more in the front seat) got too far forward, and in an effort not to go over the handlebars, lifted a ski. Then we froze her. She holds the ball in front of her so there is continual force in the direction of the fall, and her leg to the side, as this was her immediate reaction to compensate.

Now, she holds this position for one minute, the theory being that all of her recovery muscles are engaged and actively firing as the standing foot wobbles on the ball. This way, the next time she is in this position, her recovery muscles are strong, and used to stopping the motion JUST after it happens, allowing her a moment to pull it all back into balance.

This is the first in a series of 12 or so "fall freeze" exercises that I have been training with, I'll post more as I get the videos compressed!

Thoughts? Input? More ideas? Discuss!

Dryland Training Drill: Recover Into Balance! (Backseat)

***UPDATE*** Megan brought up a good point that I want to make sure and share with you regarding this type of training... Once you have gone past the point of recovery, you should NOT fight to save yourself, but take the fall. Let go, and fall. Otherwise, you can really hurt yourself over stressing your tendons in your knees while you try to overcome the force of the fall.***

These drills are meant to train the core and stability muscles to recognize "uh, oh!" the second you get out of balance, and recover back into balance, before the bobble becomes a full-blown fall.

Knowing when to recover, and when to let go... well, that's beyond my expertise at this point. My suggestion is to listen to your body, and utilize those well trained core and stability muscles to hold and get back in balance quickly. If it doesn't happen, let go, and take the tumble!

Here is Liat doing the backseat version of this exercise. The medicine ball is behind her to represent the force pulling her back in the fall, and her leg has come up in front of her to compensate. Now we freeze.

She stands holding the position as quietly as she can, strengthening the recovery muscles that she will need to engage should she get into this situation on her skis.

This is video #2 of many exercises like this on the Bosu ball that simulate falling recovery. Try it out! Discuss! Tell me what you think! Tell me if you want more!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Balance Drills: Kate's Figure Skating Drills

I took a bunch of video tonight at the Ridge Athletic Club here in Bozeman where I train (Thanks, guys for letting me shoot here!). It takes forever to upload, so as I get them online, I'll post them here! Let me know what you think! I have about 25 exercises that I've come up with for balance and recovery on one foot wile skiing. I'd like to have more!

If we get enough, lets burn a DVD! Send your tips and ideas in, or post them here, and we'll put it together over the summer.

Okay, enough yackin'. Here is the first drill, this is what I make all my figure skating clients do in order to maintain balance as they are radically shifting position in spins.

I did this one a bit fast to make the video as short as possible, but try to hold each pose for a slow count of 25, and try to make the transitions as smooth as possible. In your layback spin, you want your standing hip to be pressed forward as much as you can, and your standing leg to be strong strong stron. Your head should be directly over your free foot.

In your Camel spin, you want your free leg to be at least level with your head, if not a good foot higher. Press your standing leg straight, and move your center of balance back, like you are trying to press your standing foot about 6 inches in front of you.

In your sit spin, try to get down to at least 90 degrees on your standing leg, but keep your heel on the ground (you can't spin on your toepick!) Your sweet spot on a skate blade is just at the back of the ball of your foot. Find that spot, and press it into the ground. If you can get all the way down so you are sitting on your heel, good for you! But when you stand back up, don't press on your knee! Points off!

Do this on both legs as slowly as you can, and do three sets (take breaks in between!) There are tons of variations on spin positions that you can add to this, and I will post some more if you are interested.

This applies really well to skiing, because when we get out of balance, we have to move, change something, to pull back into balance. Think of these spin positions as falls in progress, and your core is fighting to come back into balance, rather than giving in and falling.

Here is another one of me trying to do this on the Bosu ball, which is very VERY hard, but GREAT training. I've only made it through this drill twice without falling off the ball so far. Just keep working at it until you can do the whole sequence on both feet on the Bosu ball without falling. And then send me video of you doing it!

Training Log: May 30

Ya, I work out at the gym, ya. So I am not so much a girly-man. Right. Sorry. Chest day! Seated chest press, seated chest flies, dumbbell flies, bench press, abs on the ball with a medicine ball, abs on incline bench with medicine ball thrown at my face (that's one of my favorites) triceps over the head on a bosu ball with a medicine ball (I actually took video of this since I bet its hard to imagine), tricep pull downs, dips on the bench with my legs out straight! Finally!

No cardio today, I spent the day at my computer working on the Women's Adventure Club for the Ridge Athletic, where I got a job! Yay! Go Kate! Now, I get paid to go hiking, and I get to take a bunch of women with me and get them active and outdoors. I am psyched.

Nike answers!

Well, I heard back from them! After 3 unanswered emails and one totally rude and unhelpful phone call, I got this back after sending a nasty email. We'll see what happens from here. I hope they redeem themselves, I love the rest of their gear!

Response (Greg) - 05/30/2007 07:51 AM
Hello Kate,

Thank you for contacting us regarding your Nike Triax Elite HRM.

First off, I am sorry to hear of your experience regarding both the Elite HRM and the level of service you have received.

After some searching, I was unable to locate any recent contacts from you via our e-mail service, however, I did see that you contacted us back in July of last year regarding the Triax Elite.

However, it sounds like you are a very active individual and that a HRM plays an important part in your daily routine.

If you could kindly address the issue(s) that are occurring with your Elite HRM, I would be more than happy to assist you with the situation.

Thank you for the time you have taken to e-mail us.

Have a great day!


Nike Timing

PS: Have you checked out NIKE iD yet? You can make your own custom Nike gear and buy it online at

Customer (Kate Howe) - 05/27/2007 07:53 PM
Hi. I have emailed you guys three times and been totally ignored. Your Nike Timing contact us doesn't work. when I called the 800 number, the guy was an amazing asshole to me. he was totally unhelpful and unsympathetic. i spent $300 on my heart rate monitor and it doesn't work. I have been a devoted Nike customer for more than 15 years in training. I am done.

I am a figureskating coach, I coach skiing, i am a personal trainer, and I run a women's adventure club. that's a lot of clients I am going to tell to buy anything other than your gear. And you know what? i don't think you care. From the level of response my other communications have gotten, I would bet money I won't hear back from you on this one, either.

To see the review I just posted on my blog about the Nike Triax, for which I can get NO customer support or response whatsoever, please visit

Kate Howe

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bodhi Wight, Ninja Master

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Bodhi rocks the Balance 360 board! Check it out to see amazing video, and tell them Kate Howe from PSIA sent you for an *additional* 10% off! I'm on mine twice a day for 15 minutes, its a great core workout!

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Skiing Machine

Okay, stay with me here. I have been thinking a lot about skiing. In fact, I was skiing in the shower last night, and marveling again at how LITTLE forward motion it takes to get TOO far forward, and how MUCH you can flex into a big, hard turn. (I have a tiny little shower, so I can close my eyes and visualize the turns, make different turn shapes and so on, without feeling like I am going to wipe out in my shower.)

Not that it hasn't happened "Thump." "Ow." "Honey? What was that?" silence. "Babe? Are you okay?" Husband walks into bathroom. embarrassed silence from the shower. The shower door opens. I am rubbing my knee. He looks at me. "Were you skiing in the shower?" I nod. "Did you wipe out?" I turn red. Wait for it, wait for it... "Do you want me to get your helmet?" Smirk. Turn and leave bathroom. From the other room, voice floats back into the shower... "Or your poles? Do you want those?"


So anyway, I think a lot about skiing and what it feels like and what feeling I am reaching for. In tennis, someone can stand behind you and manipulate your arm, so you can feel what you are reaching for. But to do that in skiing, someone would have to be ON your skis with you, bending and moving you while you are going, I don't know, 20 miles per hour?

So I have been thinking about different skiing styles, I think a lot about how Josh Foster looks when he skis, he looks solid and powerful, yet light, nimble, soft, fluid, flowing, like flexible power. Then I think about what Nick Herrin looks like when he skis, athletic, light, exuberant, goofy, happy, leaping, nimble, airborne. And I wonder, if you could EXPERIENCE what different turns feel like for different people, and you laid those experiences over each other, like transparencies, what the differences would be, and more importantly, what the similarities would be?

What does it feel like for Deb Armstrong to be in a slalom course? Wouldn't you DIE to know?

So, in my insanity, I thought... what if I came up with a simple piece of gear that would allow a coach to SHOW a student what it should feel like to ski?
So I came up with this first version of the "Skiing Machine", and as you can see it is just a platform on a big spring (since snow operates in three dimensions). You click into the bindings, you are stabilized by a harness, you have super long poles with rubber tips that reach the ground, and you can "ski" on the board. Your coach can watch what you are doing, and assist your turn shape or understanding of it by pulling on the platform handles.

Okay, so then, I thought, well... wouldn't it be even cooler if you could click into the platform and the coach could, using a computer, analyze the way you are moving the board, see where your misunderstanding of the process is, and then tell the board to move a certain way. Then YOU ski the board, and then the board skis you-instant kinesthetic response.

Okay. Stay with me here. In the next split second, I thought to myself, BUT WAIT! (This is where Tom always groans... because this is how all my sculptural projects happen, and he usually bears the brunt of them... visit Adventures in Sculpture Building and scroll down to the Best Peel for the last epic in that department...)

So now, I am thinking about Motion Capture technology, you know, where the actors wear a blue suit with little points all over it where a computer reads their movements, and can translate that information into a 3D model.

So I am thinking, what if you got Josh Foster, Nick Herrin, and Deb Armstrong to all wear this suit, going down a certain run? And their physical sensations were recorded in a mobile recording device. And then it was brought back inside to a virtual training room. You climb up on a platform and get inside this suit.

The suit would open and close, for lack of a better mental image, like an Iron Maiden (only, you know, not deadly and painful). The black teardrop shaped arms are "actuators", rubberized Kevlar or something, and it is essentially a robotic suit that you stand in. The platform is split and hinged, and computerized to move using the sensors from the skis and boots. The rest of the suit moves based on the data from the skier who wore the "blue suit".

Okay, so step inside the suit. The operator closes the suit. You relax, and go for an intimate ride virtually inside the body of your favorite skier. Hmmm.

Okay, lets take it a step further. Now YOU wear the blue suit down a certain run, trying to make the kinds of turns your coach wants you to make. The data is taken to the virtual training room, and your COACH goes for an intimate ride inside your skiing body. Now, he can FEEL where you are camping, where you are hesitating, how far back you are and why, instantly.

Sudden, perfect feedback for instant change and understanding of your skiing. Here is the next insane step: Rather than a robotic suit, make those actuators electro stim modules. Rather than going for a ride and having to be relaxed, the stims shock your muscles, just like in the Chiropractor's office (only more so), causing your body to perform the action exactly as it was performed by the recording skier. Scary, huh? But kinda cool...

Regardless of how totally insane and expensive this would be to make for real, MAN, I would love to build a sculptural mock-up of it, and make it look just super technically savvy and futuristic. Sigh.


Training Log: May 29: I like to bike with Mike.

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I got to bike with Michael Hickey today! It was an amazing day, starting to rain... it looked like Scotland and smelled like New England. We biked from my house in the Hyalite foothills, up Cottonwood Canyon to the trail head. Unfortunately, the trail was still a bit muddy to ride, but apparently you can take it all the way over to Blackmore!

I am in abysmal shape for biking, even with all the hiking and skiing, I am sloooow slooow slooow, but didn't feel like I was dying... need to definitely cycle more! On the way back, Michael pulled over and said, "Its gonna rain in just a second" and put on his jacket, and sure enough, here it comes. We came around the corner and the wind picked up, and we started to pedal for real, which was a lot of fun!

Once we got just before my street, though, I had gassed it out. He asked me to draft him, and I just didn't have it cardio-wise. Moderate speed all day, yes. Pedal fast all day, not so much.

Okay, now I have a new goal for cycling!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gear: Nike Triax Elite

Crap. Crap and double crap. I have had this $275 heart rate monitor for a year. The SDM (speed and distance monitor) only works accurately on a 100m track. So, not so much with the hiking.

The watch has a little guy on a bike on it, but there is no way to use the watch on your bike. I called Nike, they said, Yeah, we wanted it to work on a bike, but we couldn't make it happen. The newer watches don't have that little bike icon. Fabulous. So much for the TRIAX (triathlon?) training tool.

It works in the pool but I have to strap my watch to my bathing suit on the shoulder or it won't read.

The data is amazing and interesting, but only when it works, isn't corrupted or lost.

I have emailed and called Nike numerous times, and have never heard back from them.

Long story short. Don't buy a Nike heart rate monitor. It breaks my heart to say it, I want the new Nike Ipod+, but with the customer service (or total dearth thereov), I wouldn't dare spend a dime, because I know if something goes wrong, Nike's response is gonna be... Tough sh*t.

So, I'm in the market! Anyone have a HR monitor that does SDM, Pool, Vertical Feet, Total Calories, Tracks HR in and out of zone, and downloads info to your computer so you can analyze your data? Post a comment here and let me know!!

What the Heck is Goin' On??

Lots of new things are going on in the blog! If you get this content delivered to you by a reader, make sure you visit the site itself at to see what's up!

First of all, I want to say thank you to those of you who have so generously donated to the training fund. I am on my way to buying an avalanche beacon and some other (gently) used equipment that is much needed. If you are interested in donating to the training fund, visit the sidebar and scroll down to the Paypal Donate button. No, its not tax deductible (yet), but thanks for helping out!

Also in the sidebar, you will see a new feature called "Quotes that Help", a section featuring new quotes every week or so, and why they have helped me. If you have any you like and have a reason why, post a comment here and I may use them! Please make sure you give your name and hometown, and I will credit the quote to you.

You will also find pics of my incredibly supportive team, links to folks that have helped me out, a section on Gear and Gear reviews, as well as a wishlist for gear (that goes to my Baggle Bag) The gear section is one that I hope to flesh out quite a bit in the next few weeks, all about dryland training gear, exercises, new ways to use balance equipment, as well as skiing gear and technical clothing. Please check back on the gear pages in a week or so, and I will post here when they are updated. Thanks for being patient!

Also in the sidebar are tips from the Nutritionist, as well as books she uses and links to Amazon to purchase them. By the way, anything that links to Amazon pays me a commission RIGHT into my training fund, so thanks for checking that stuff out from here!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your emails of encouragement. Please feel free to share your own stories, or to talk about your experiences in the Comments portion on this blog. I'd love to hear some more dialog!

Tips from the Nutritionist

We put up a new nutrition tip this week, so I will archive the old tips so you can find them if you like. Here is last week's tip. Scroll down the sidebar to find the new one.

Put your fork down! No stirring, scooping or prepping your next bite until you have chewed and swallowed what is in your mouth. Enjoy your food, don't gulp it!!

In which we get our Sh*t together...

Alright. It happens. So I got a bit out of the training swing of things, and heres how it goes: Day 1, well, I was swimming in an ice cold river, spent a lot of calories, and brought good food with me. Day 2, same thing, also brought good food. Day 3, no work out because it was a classroom day, and probably ate too much.

Stop: here is lesson #1 (by the way, if you haven't read Mindless Eating yet, you should. One of the things Liat tells me all the time is that you have to make rules for your food, and you have to pay attention to what rules work and which ones don't so you can make small adjustments over time.)

As the illustrious Megan Harvey says... Practice makes PERMANENT, not PERFECT. And suddenly I am practicing breaking my training and eating rules... oh no...

Right, so lesson #1: I need my Calorie King! (If you don't know what this is, scroll down on the sidebar and click on the Calorie King link.) This was the first of my daily habits to go, and its because we spilled water on my keyboard. So it was out of commission. When I don't log my food and exercise, I don't know where my calorie deficit stands, and consequently, I spend the day feeling bad for anything I eat, feeling sure it will put me into "suddenly and surprisingly fat" mode.

Okay, we solved that one, I have an external keyboard now, so no excuses. Back on Calorie King. Good.

Day #4, on the Yellowstone, did not pack well with the food, running out of food, no time to shop.

Stop! Lesson #2... know how many days in a row you are going to be busy for, and pack ahead. In fact, a NEW FOOD RULE for me is: Never EVER run out of Luna bars. Because I can eat one of those every 2 hours and NOT gain weight and not feel deprived, even if I am not exercising that day.

Okay, going to the store tonight to solve that problem. Check.

By the way, this is how Liat and I solve my food issues. She really is like a food therapist for me, and we talk or email all the time about what is happening, and how to solve it. She is highly organized, and likes to tackle and solve problems, with an incredibly positive, "Okay, how can we fix that" attitude, which makes life a lot easier.

She also keeps me from making too many rules or habits at once. Which is good, because I like to REDO and I get myself in trouble that way.

Okay, onward. Day #5. Well, its been a few days now... and it was nice to be home with the kids... and today I weighed 155 lbs (my lowest so far), so obviously the pancakes I had this morning aren't affecting me, so I can have a cookie at the recital this afternoon (are any of you screaming NO NO DON'T DO IT!! just like in a horror movie? Don't split up! Don't go into the basement by yourself! Ahhhh!! yeah, me too, actually, inside, but I turned the volume down on that little voice...)

And Liat tells me to treat myself occasionally, so I don't feel deprived, so I thought.. you know, okay...

Day 6, I did fine during the day, and then I had, uh, like 3 cups of nuts at night... Oh god... here we go...

Day 7. Chocolate. I stopped taking my vitamins. (Always a bad sign). I stopped doing my balance board workout. I ate like crap.

I called Liat in a panic. "I NEED TO HIKE! NOW!"

Okay. This morning, we did the Kirk Hill to Leverich Canyon loop and added the Hodgeman Canyon spur in so I could show her the deer skeleton (which was all gnarly now after snow and rain, and had all kinds of beasties crawling on it, too cool...)

We had some amazing talks about food and falling out of habit and why it happens. I had gone to my bad place where I like to say "Big, Fat, Ugly, Girl" in cadence with my footfalls (Hey, I never said I had a healthy relationship with food! But you can watch me struggle through it if it helps... that's the goal...)

And that was because I have gained 3 lbs in the last 7 days. Grrrrrr.

Okay. Here are the things that help: Every day is a chance to do something healthy. Talk to someone who understands and can help you turn it around NOW. Get off your ass and get SOMETHING back on track.

My next post will be about why dieting and money management are the same thing. This is the brilliant theory that my amazing Ms. Liat came up with on the hike today.

SO. I did my hike. I am still mad at myself. But I am doing something positive about it. I made a good lunch, I am going to enter it into Calorie King right now. Tom found my old white board, and I put up my daily routine on it.

Liat came over and looked at it and asked me how realistic I thought it was (she's so wise...) and then suggested that I use the calender next to it to track how many things I check off every day, and go for getting the most checks I can, rather than not completing something and feeling like I've failed. See? She's a smarty.

So that's the pic up top. And as I climb back on the horse, I'll let you know how it goes. It took 3 days to begin the train wreck, which has lasted for 7 days. Lets see how long it takes to get it back on track.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You Vote!

Alright, well its not THAT bad...

But I've had a couple of days off, and I feel... uh... anyway.

So here is the scoop. I missed the last two days at Montana White Water, due to some personal stuff (chill out, nosey. it's handled), and I have been at home playing with a storm trooper and naked peter pan for the last two days.

The amazing Bill Zell, owner of MWW, is going to let me continue to train up, which is awesome, so if I can get the babysitting thing squared away, I'll be up on the river a bunch this summer.

The Ridge Athletic called me yesterday, and we are ON for the Women's Adventure Club, which is a program I came up with, basically so I could get paid to go hiking so I don't end up looking like the above...

The program is for women 30 and up who are frustrated and think they are fat, who have had thier kids (or not!) and think their life is over. They think they can't go outside, can't learn a new sport, and my job is to change that!

We are going to go on wildflower walks, birding, hardcore hiking, paddling, mountain biking, etc. There will be a graduation camp out or mtn. bike ride at Jackson Hole, and I think the whole thing is just gonna ROCK. If you want to be a part of it, post a comment here, and I will get a mailing list up for you to join in a minute.

Put your fork down! Go hiking! Grab a paddle!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ethan's First Recital

Yes, its true, Ethan had his first Piano recital today. I was so excited, I missed his amazing introduction "Hi, I am Ethan Thomas Charles Wight, and I am going to preform Ode to Joy by BEEto Ben." Click below to see the nearly flawless performance!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dude, let's float the Nar!

Yes, indeed it has been snowing for the last two or three days. This is Kendra, the stray we inherited who had been sleeping in a leaky tent behind the office without a down jacket.

And yes, indeed, we went swimming. This is the start of guideschool, the first really snowing portion is on the Gallatin (house rock in a blizzard! yeah!), and the sunny pics are of the morning on the Yellowstone. I guided first in my group, which meant I got to run Man Eater, a smallish rapid with lots of fun big waves in it.

Lucky for my, my intrepid leader, Mike, runner of very cold rivers and holder of very strange ideas about spinning boats on rocks and stuff like that, whispered sweet nothings in my ear all the way down about what the river was doing and why. He pretty much talked me through the whole thing, which was great.
It's still pretty hard to see what I need to do to anticipate what the river wants to do with me and countermand it. Hopefully, that will improve with time, or its flippsville for me.

I really want to guide this summer, but Tom and I have figured out that the only way for me to do it is to be up on the Gallatin, and I think that will take about 20 or more trips before I can guide on it. I am not sure how we are going to handle this babysitting wise, as it costs about a hundred bucks a day for me to train, just in paying our awesome Manny, Clay.

Anyhow, we are trying to figure it out, because the river is incredible, its a dream job, the people are AMAZING, and its a great environment for the kids to grow up around. I really hope to end up in a Safety boat for them on the Gallatin, and to do advanced swift water rescue, and certify as WEMT. There, that's more than you ever wanted to know about that, huh?

Stay tuned and I'll let you know what ends up happening...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Story

I was just asked this question again, and I thought I would post my answer here, because first of all, you guys should know how much you mean to me, and second of all, "So, what's your story?" gets asked of me a lot, and I don't have it posted anywhere on my blog! So here it is, here's my story.

What does it mean to be a member of the (Professional Ski Instructors of America or American Association of Snowboard Instructors)?

PSIA has absolutely changed my life forever. Last year, I was a 35 year old mother of two. I was sixty pounds over weight, and I had actually completely given up that I would ever be an athlete again. (I had been a competitive figure skater until 1993, and then owned a rock climbing gym where I coached world cup climbers before getting pregnant).

Our family situation was challenging, and although I tried every day to get back outside (I had been training for an ironman distance triathlon when I got pregnant) and start getting healthy, the obstacles I faced in getting more than ten minutes of sustained exercise were immense. After six years of being thwarted daily, I gave up on a goal for the first time in my life.

The next winter, I was standing at the base of the Powder Park lift at Bridger Bowl waiting for my five year old to come down so I could put a snack in his pocket. I was looking at all the happy, fit skiers, and I was, quite frankly, a bit angry that I had completely resigned my place in the legions of the fit. There was neither time nor money to get back outside, and my kids would not sit in a stroller, or any other device that strapped them down.

Dave Evans, the snowsports supervisor, walked over to me, and we started chatting. We talked about Ethan's hockey team, which I was helping coach due to my experience as a figure skater and figure skating coach. Dave asked if I'd ever taught skiing, and I said yes, but very briefly a long time ago. He said, "That's fine, we need Alpine instructors!"

I was alarmed! No, no, no, apparently you didn't realize that I am an overweight stay at home mom with two insane kids and no money for babysitters? And I don't ski very well?

Dave was undeterred by this. "That's fine, we can teach you how to ski, just come on in, I am sure you can do one day a week." What I don't think that Dave understood was that I had about 40 days of skiing total from the time I was four years old, and that the teaching I did was NOT PSIA, but that I was hired by a private family who had a house in Northstar to teach their Indian business associates how to ski on the weekends. I had NO business teaching like this, but I also had no idea I was in over my head. Because I was comfortable on my ice skates, I learned to ski backwards with relative ease, and got their friends turning and stopping.

So I asked my husband, Tom, what he thought, and he thought it was a great idea for me to teach at Bridger one day a week. So I started. I was coaching figure skating from 4:30am to 8, and skiing from 9-4, and then coaching Ethan's hockey team from 5-7 on Fridays. Long day!

By the next week, I was working three days a week, and by the beginning of March, I was working full time, and by the end of March, I had decided that I wanted to tryout for the Alpine Demo Team in 2012, without really knowing what it was, other than a group of fantastic teachers who could ski anywhere any time. That's really all I needed to know.

HERE is the amazing thing about PSIA: No one ever said, "Are you crazy, you can't do that!"

This organization is full of the most giving, loving, mentoring, inclusive professionals I have ever seen. Having come from the Figure Skating and Rock Climbing worlds, I was expecting a certain amount of "dues paying" and a bit of isolation, and certainly never a feeling that all my peers would immediately rally to help me be a part of the organization.

My first PSIA event was the NW Symposium that was at Big Sky last spring. I had only been skiing, really, since that February. Before that, my idea of "good skiing" was keeping your feet as close together as possible, and going relatively straight, feeling almost completely out of control, and finishing with a great hockey stop.

I met Nato from Jackson Hole at they symposium, and he asked me what I wanted to do with skiing. I told him I wanted to be on the demo team, so he introduced me to Rob Sogard, the head coach.

Of course, I didn't know who Rob Sogard was, so I asked him if he was going to try out for the team. It wasn't until I'd been skiing with him almost all day that I figured out that he was the coach. I felt so silly. "Hi, I'm Kate, I'm new..." but he didn't care. I had been going on and on all day about what I hoped to do in skiing, and how much I loved skiing, and my home mountain... and at the end of the day, Rob looked at me and said, "Good luck with your quest, Kate, and please let me know how I can help you get there."

And he meant it. I've been out to ski with Rob five times this season at Snowbird, and he always takes time out of his day to ski with me for a few hours and work with me on whatever I need to fix in my skiing.

Megan Harvey is another great example, a three term D Team member and author of the Alpine Technical Manual, I met her at the National Academy last year, and she noticed that I was skiing on AT gear, which I had bought at the begining of the season for a special trip. My family had pitched in to help me get gear, so I could only get one set, and I decided on AT gear so I could ski through the summer as well.

Megan was my coach for the week at Academy, and she and Rob conspired to get me on real Alpine gear. By the end of the week, she had given me a pair of skis, and invited me to come and stay with her and ski in Aspen. She offered to take some days off to train me. I was aghast.

This has been the case with almost everyone I have met in PSIA. It truly feels like an open, friendly family, who are all there to coach each other to success. Yes, there are politics and red tape like any organization, but that is not what is at the heart of PSIA. At the heart, as represented by the members of the Demo team, is this ego-less idea that there is enough room at the top for everyone who wants to work hard enough to get there. And we'll help you do it.

I am beholden to PSIA for renewing my belief in myself, for giving me back my sense of myself outside me as a wife and a mother, for being my support system, and also being the thing that challenges me the most. PSIA gave me my life back, and my entire family is grateful for it. I am a better mom because I feel fulfilled in my own goals, and my kids are watching me chase a dream that is tough but important to me. Its awesome.

Here's the rest of the story:

I just received this comment on my blog:

"So, this might seem a little out of the blue, and possibly totally inappropriate, but what happened to the Kate of all your other old blogs? You are without doubt driven and successful and amazing at remaking yourself and at inspiring others, but I miss the Kate that posted about books and art and recipes for pie, plus those little stories about you and your family. So entertaining and well written. You almost seem like a completely different person these days."

And it was interesting to read, because I have been thinking about writing a post on just this topic.

The short answer is, I'm glad you liked my old blogs, about my family and my life at home. If other readers are curious, you can check here, these are the blogs I was writing before I began skiing:

A Good Book and a Piece of Pie
Unsuspected Depth
Bodice Buster
Adventures in Sculpture Building

And the long answer, what happened to the old Kate? Well, I'm right here. But over time, I've grown. I've been searching for a long time for the thing that makes me happy in my life, for "my path".

I have, in the past, put my head down and pushed through a couple of things I thought were interesting and might lead to some form of success. The problem was my definition of success. I was a competitive figure skater, a relatively successful actress, an artist, a writer, I was interested in being a caterer and writing cookbooks, I love being a mom, I enjoyed making and keeping house. I owned a rock climbing gym, and a cloth diaper making business. To all of these endeavors, I applied myself as wholly as I could, believing that to "make it" one must fully commit and push through whatever obstacle stands in your way.

Interestingly enough, in the pursuit of "success", even as a mom, I lost myself. The truth is, I do miss making art, its in me, its a huge part of what I love. But I couldn't support myself doing it, the creation and installation of my pieces was hugely taxing on my family's finances, and on my marriage. I know that Art will still be there in six, or ten, or twenty years, and I'm glad to be able to make the occasional painting or sculpture along my current journey.

Almost six years ago, I began a long journey which has landed me here, where I am today. Today, I feel that I am on "my path", finally. I feel at home, comfortable, confident, and valued. I see my path unfolding before me, and I'm grateful to have found it.

The thing that sparked the change was my pregnancy with Bodhi. I came to realize during my pregnancy that I needed to keep my children safe from a person who had been in my life for 26 years, and who was very, very poisonous. This person was abusive to me and other people that I love, daily. Emotionally, physically, sexually. And I came to a place where I could not let that happen to my kids.

The day I was brave enough, I cut that person, my step father, out of my life forever. The process of removing him completely and beginning down the path of healing took four years. During that time, Tom and I were struggling to be successfully with our climbing company, I was in school, and we had two kids. I was trying to stick with a life long love of art, and force my path through on that front, no matter the difficulties or consequences.

Also during this time, we had four or five people at a time living with us, all of whom were going through similar issues. I was happy to have people around me, I was beginning to feel like I could create a family that felt right to me. But I was still suffering from a lot of emotional trauma from my past experiences, including being diagnosed with PTSD from the abuse I had suffered since I was 6. I was still a victim, and had yet to turn the corner to survivor.

Also during that time, I was fortunate enough to read a book called The Courage to Heal 4e: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse 20th Anniversary Edition
, an incredible book that took me through the first steps toward freedom for myself and safety for my kids, which was paramount.

When we lost our business to our landlord, and my studio burnt to the ground in the same year, just weeks before my first solo show at the Metro Gallery in Los Angeles, I left school. Tom and I were shell shocked at what had happened, and our terrific friends Jen and Steve were living in Montana. We fled to their home and found solace and family with them. From terrible adversity, we found some peace, and moved here, to what seemed like paradise.

For the first year, we lived a bit like emotional refugees from the traumatic experiences we'd been through, and I was grateful for the time to bond together as an insular family. I was in therapy, learning how to draw boundaries, how to protect myself, how to be a good role model for my kids, and trying to figure out what it meant to suddenly be a stay at home mom in Montana with no career, having shot my art career in the foot when Tom and I made the choice that moving to a beautiful, small, rural place like Bozeman was more important for our family than me making it as an artist in LA.

But over time, I felt lost. I wrote about what I was doing, which was reading a lot of books and cooking and keeping house and raising my kids, all of which I enjoy doing, but I didn't feel like I was on my path. I felt lonely a lot of the time, and I was constantly asking myself if this was the rest of my life, could I live like this?

The period of time in which I was writing about books and recipes, and trying to make contemporary public art in Bozeman (which is a very artistic and supportive community), I felt lost. I have always been a competitive athlete, and I missed the things that had been important to me in my life before kids: hiking, trekking, adventuring, climbing, being outside and moving around in the mountains.

I felt that I had given up on an essential part of me. I was fortunate enough to meet Dave Evans at Bridger Bowl when I was taking Ethan up for ski lessons when he was five. I was given an opportunity to ski, and to teach.

Over the course of the next very confusing year, I came to see that I had been denying myself something that is fundamentally important to me. While I was spending a lot of time at home, and doing the best job I could keeping house and making food, I was sad. And lonely. And very lost. I had given up on living a life that felt like it had purpose, and had resigned myself to a life as "mom" only.

Don't get me wrong, I think that being a mother is a huge and important job. And it is certainly a job that leaves an impact. But I was not honoring myself by having that be my defining role. Wife and Mother to the exclusion of all else was not fulfilling me. And I felt guilt about that. I felt like it aught to be enough.

But when I started skiing, I found Kate again. I found the fun side of me, the side I had been denying for years while protecting myself from my abuser, while caring for others who were abused, while trying to make a home that fit the standard I had set.

What I didn't realize was that in trying to meet some fictional ideal of house and home, I had lost who I was.

Turning the corner was hard. I went back to therapy and worked hard on learning how to know what a boundary was, how to care for myself, how to let go of old ideas about myself and "success" that were installed by my past family history.

During that time, I took myself back. I found joy, I became stronger, I began to honor what and who I really am, rather than trying to fit into a mold that makes sense to other people. I struggled to stop worrying about what other people would think, and just be who I naturally was.

During this process, I lost some friends, and that was very difficult. But I also knew that I was a happier, healthier person, and a better wife and mom for making the decision to stay with me, to honor my voice, to be who I am, and not who a committee thinks I aught to be.

An interesting thing happened when I started to honor my inner voice. All the experiences from my past coalesced into a path that easily unfolded in front of me. I have been a coach in one form or another for the last 18 years or so, in skating, tennis, boxing, rock climbing, and now skiing.

I had lived with a variety of people for whom I was friend and counselor, and had educated myself on their conditions, as well as my own, and helped them move in the direction of health and therapy. I worked closely with a therapist who advised me on their conditions and directed me to appropriate reading material.

Pulling from my own experience with performance anxiety in life and on the ice, from my experience in acting, writing, and coaching, HardHead Coaching coalesced in front of me. People were interested in a focused way to achieve their dreams, and all the past experiences I had suddenly gelled into a coaching system that seems flexible enough to meet the individual needs of each client, and to be broadly applied to a ski school or a group.

Because I am coaching skiing, now, and you can't coach skiing from a lawn chair (unless you are Cal Cantrell, I've heard), I had the opportunity to become, once again, at 36, an athlete in training.

With all of these things gelling, my healing and commitment to the safety and security of my family, my own commitment to training my body and mind, and opportunities to coach others, my path suddenly appeared before me.

And mentors, coaches and teachers were everywhere. The resistance here is minimal, the support is enormous. I am hugely indebted to Bridger Bowl, Dave Evans, Mike Hickey and Josh Spuhler. If it wasn't for them, I would not have found this enormously satisfying culmination of past experiences, focused down into a specific goal.

I know a lot of people who are searching for their path, for the thing that makes them feel like there is meaning in their lives, and I have to say that I think it begins with honoring who you are and learning to love and care for yourself, so that you can then love and care for others.

And then comes the scary part, doing what you know is right for you, regardless of what other people wish you would do. Some people in my life wanted me to get an MBA, some had strong feelings about me acting, some about me making sculpture, some about me NOT painting... there always seemed to be a battery of people with very strong opinions about where I should spend my time and energy. But when I began to honor me, I began for the first time to hear these ideas as ideas that belonged to other people, rather than edicts on how not to let other people down. And I began to be able to stick solidly with something that is important to me, and tell people who think otherwise, thank you for your opinion, which I am happy to listen to, but I'll not set aside my dreams or goals for another person's convenience ever again.

I know that to some people, who met me when I was pregnant, and didn't know the person who was a stage manager, actress, figure skater, etc, that this shift from staying at home and cooking to traveling all over the country and coaching may seem abrupt and strange.

But the truth is, in those years, while I was happily caring for my kids, I came to a place when they became a certain age that begged me to pull some focus back to me. I know that not all moms agree with the choices I have made, and that's okay. I think we all have our path, and I know that the path I am on is the right one for me. I feel balance there, that I am bonded to my kids, a good and close parent, and also honoring the things in my life that make me feel alive.

My quest for the Demo Team started out as just that: a physiological experiment: could it be done? Could I train my body, at 36 to become a good enough skier that I could do what I love most, coach at a high level in a new sport?

Now, the Demo Team seems to me like a logical step on a career path that I love. I can't wait to continue developing my coaching system, and watching it change and mutate as I meet more people and learn more. I draw from all my past experiences to do the job I love, and therefore, I am grateful for each of them. I know that I went through the things I went through to prepare me to be here, where I am today, on my path, heading in a direction that feels positive, with purpose. Teaching on the team would be a great job and an honor, and if it seems like the right step in four years when my tryout is, I will be as prepared as I can be to meet that challenge.

So, Anonymous, to answer your question: I'm sorry that you miss the "old" Kate, but she's right here. The only difference is, now I honor my inner voice and follow my intuition, which has led me to friendships, adventures and closeness with my kids that I could only have imagined before.

Thank you for your comment, and for being brave to post it, it is just that kind of honesty that honors you, and its hard to tell a friend that you wish they were different. Thank you for reading, and for commenting!

Sorry, off busy learning not to drown...

Sorry! I've been swimming! We finished our Swift Water Rescue course and our First Aid and CPR, today is the start of guideschool. The water is about 38 degrees, and its snowing today! YEAH! Lets go SWIMMING!! More photos later...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Training Log: May 16

Hiked from Kirk Hill to Leverich Canyon again today with my little sister. What a spectacular hike that is. The wildflowers are all coming out, and there wasn't any snow on the road today! We did it in 2 hours and 15 minutes, which is a new record for me (this is just hiking fast, not trying to run it yet.)

Then, headed over to the gym for the first workout since SATURDAY! Ahhhh!! Leg day, we did leg press, seated hamstring curl, dead lifts, squats, standing calf raises and abs on the ball.

Time to work out to failure and add weight, next week we will be adding exercises. SO excited, I start guide school on Saturday for guiding for Montana Whitewater on the Gallitan! The river is GOIN'... and it's gonna be COLD!

On another note, I have been working over at Spire this week, training up their instructing staff, and it has been just awesome to be coaching climbing again. If you are local and you haven't been there, these are really great people with a terrific gym. Looking forward to pulling hard this summer!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mother's Day Bonanza

I gotta say, this year it ROCKED being a mom. My awesome hubby of doom is getting me an ipod so I won't be lonely driving to and from training camps, and I can listen to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" from NPR, which I am totally addicted to.

My own incredible mother sent me some magnificent earrings, and a beautiful card, telling me not to worry, I DO know what I am doing... (as a mom, anyway) which is nice to hear, because sometimes you can't be so sure...

We started out by camping up at Hyalite, and visiting with some friends. Bodhi decided it would be fun to ride his burly little off roading trycicle INTO the freakin' creek. Thank GOD he had the presence of mind to bail off the bike a second before he hit the water. A true mommy moment... don't freak out, don't freak out, don't freak out...

Anyhow, several beers later (for me, not for Bodhi) all was right with the world again, and we had a great dinner and hung out in front of the fire.

Next day, NO TRAINING! Kids and dad made me pancakes, then we headed off to do some mini bouldering just outside of Gardener. These little dudes are really climbing! So cool to see them accidentally using good technique and getting comfortable climbing some pretty technical stuff!

Then we headed into Yellowstone and checked out the Cyanobacteria as it entombed some trees that had died due to the highly acidic environment. Yes, this is RIGHT up Ethan's alley, and we took a bunch of pictures of it.

Next stop, picnicking, then Chico Hot Springs for a quick soak and dinner. Kiddos crashed out on the way home...

On the way home, Tom told me he's glad I'm the kind of girl that will climb in a dress and stop to look at the river... I'm glad he's that kind of girl too, it makes it easy for us to get along...

Now if only we can put some alone time in the equation, we'll all be a happy family!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Training Log: May 12: Saddle Peak Again!!

Okay. The Quote Of The Day officially goes to my partner in crime on Saturday, Mr. Dan Hall. It went something like this:

Kate: How’s it look?
Dan: Oh, good.
Kate: All right! (Skis down to him, he’s looking over a little knoll…)
Dan: (In all seriousness) I’m just wondering how I’m gonna ski downhill on dirt. I’ve never done that before.
Kate: (Realizing that he means it, he’s actually figuring out the edging, rotary, and pressure skills needed to turn in dirt…) Uh, Dan, this might be more of a slow side step kind of event…
Dan: (looking up) Right…

And down he goes… in dirt… to the next patch of snow big enough to make three turns on…

Needless to say, it was a great day, blistering hot by 8:45. We didn’t ski the ridge, because I forgot to pick up Shannon’s transceiver on my way there (shovel, check, skis, check, skins, check… transceiver… duh…) but we were glad of it, because by 8:30 or so the snow started acting like a butter pat sliding on a mountain of oily potatoes. We got up there by 7, so we probably would have been up on the ridge while it was solid, and buried under a wet slide as it softened when the clouds burned off an hour later. YEAH!

So. We didn’t do that. We hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked in the dirt through the glacier lilies and lupine just coming up (Wow! Pretty!), and then skinned up into a little bowl, all the while applying sunscreen and continually re-evaluating the snow. The snow went through a radical change within about 10 feet, we hiked up into an inversion (because it just wasn’t hot enough… ) and suddenly we were punching through about 3-4 inches on our skis.

That’s it, were done, lets ski.

So, I don’t know, 20 turns? Then Dan made a ski cut and I watched my first wet slough/slide. The snow moved like an oily slow motion river, it was so so strange. Luckily, it was on one little roll over, where the rest of the stuff we were on or near was 30 degrees in pitch or less, so we felt okay.

Then, we started pond hopping! You know you have it bad for skiing when you are willing to hike across the dirt to make three turns, then hike across 10 more feet of dirt and ski through old tree debris from an avalanche earlier in the year… which was actually a LOT of fun, because the snow was soft, but not sticky, and the debris were in a little mini gully, so it was like an obstacle course! And I actually got a tiny little wall hit at the end, which was fun.

All in all, it was a spectacular day of skiing, back at the car by 10:45, and just super psyched to get home, grab the kids and head up into Hyalite canyon for the start of our mother’s day festivities!!

OH, and PS! NO BACK COUNTRY MORON! Not even the first turn sucked. Go Kate!! Dan even remarked on it, he said “It looks like your skiing has changed!” Of course, that was almost immediately countermanded by Ben Bevens around the campfire later that night when he said “I thought I saw you in Big Sky, but you were sucking way too much, and I thought, No, that CANT be Kate, she doesn’t suck THAT much!!” Thanks, Ben! Always a pleasure!!

(What’s funny is I know what day he was talking about, and I DID suck that much all day… sigh…)