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Becoming an Athlete

2 min read · tagged training, coaching, uphill athlete


More than a few of my posts contain complaints about work. The gaps in my posts here are silent testimony to the same pattern - I let work consume me and failed to let climbing feed me.

So I quit.

It took me a long time to get truly comfortable with that decision and realize what I needed to do to avoid repeating the same mistakes. I decided to build my life around my passion, then fit the other priorities in. The jury is out on the sustainability of such a life, but I've become a much happier person by spending my time more authentically.


In early February, I reached out to Uphill Athlete, brainchild of Scott Johnston and Steve House, authors of Training for the New Alpinism (TFTNA). Scott got back to me and we discussed my situation - I could car-to-car the Grand Teton in under six hours but had an aerobic threshold almost 50 bpm below my anaerobic (133 vs 179). According to the book, your aerobic threshold should be within 10% of your anaerobic threshold before training at higher intensities.

Scott was cautious in diagnosing aerobic deficiency syndrome and we tested my aerobic threshold first. The lab test proved right; no training above 130 bpm for me. However, contrary to how I tried to train following TFTNA, Scott planned most work at my aerobic threshold instead of below in Zone 1. The amount of Zone 2 work that you can do with aerobic deficiency has been the biggest revelation for me so far.

Read about Adrian Ballinger's experience to see what I'm trying to do.


I live for training now. Three days a week I skin uphill for hours. One day I do ARC training. Two days I lift and do core work. One day I recover. Every day I love what I'm doing.

skinning Training selfie!

I will admit that it's hard not to climb while doing this base work. I'll miss out on a lot of good ice this season. I've also been called "grandpa" for my measured pace skinning uphill with a friend. But is building an aerobic base that will serve me for the rest of my life worth it though? Yes. Yes it is.

The Prize

This is also pretty cool...

begguya Begguya's North Buttress

My partner and I will be attempting the Bibler/Klewin on Begguya (Mt. Hunter) this year, assuming conditions come together. It follows the center of the buttress through climbing so classic that sections have their own names - The Prow, The Shaft, The Vision.

Every ounce of strength and conditioning I can squeeze out between now and May/June makes the physical challenge less likely to be the cause of failure. Let's see how strong I can get!

Avatar of Sean McLaneSean McLane is an amateur climber and coder based in Salt Lake City.