Saturday, July 16, 2011


On the morning of June 23rd when we entered the hospital we were ready to meet our new little Jem. We did not have a name yet but had been kicking around a few ideas. After she was wrapped in the signature new born burrito roll we went back to the 3rd floor room which had a large West facing window. It was 10:30am and sitting in the corner chair I had a never ending view of the cloudless summer sky. The depth of it's color really caught my eye and that was it we had a name. Skye Suzanne Gillespie. Skye, with an e is a Scottish spelling and goes well with the Scottish Gillespie. Suzanne is my wonderful mother-in-law and if Skye can grow up to be half as kind as Rosie's mom we will have done a good job. It also just so happens we know many other wonderful Susie's!

It's been a hectic 3 weeks and in all honesty a fairly challenging year. But our family is doing very well and we could not be happier about our new addition. With the Bells Palsy and weird health stuff going on, a new business venture, and a big change for our family I have put my return to training and bike racing on hold for a while.

There is a time for everything and my time for the bike will come again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Bell's Palsy Update

Coming up on 4 months now with Bells Palsy and I can finally see the end. It's amazing how much energy it takes for nerves to regenerate. My left eye is starting blink without massive conscious brain function, although I continue to have overactive tears in both eyes at times and they get tired easy. Face is getting back to normal except during massive smile or rowdy laughing. I can deal with that. Still have a little pain at my forehead, cheek bone, and chin but it is not bad and really only when I press on it. Hope no one else has to deal with this, or at least I hope they are tougher than I am.

I started riding again starting in June and now have a few solid weeks of riding. We did a Southern Utah mini vacation in early June before the baby comes and I treated it like a little training camp. Sleep, eat, ride, play in the pool, read, play in the pool, eat, and sleep a hike hear and there and more pool time with the girls. I built a little base of desert singletrack and seemed to respond fairly well. Still need a little more recovery than normal. I have since been commuting to work and doing a couple hours of riding on the weekend. Introduced a little intensity as well and seem to be feeling better all the time. Just need stay up on lots of sleep and not push the hours much. Slow road but I'll be back.

If you like technical climbing and descending I have a new favorite trail for you. Grandeur Peak. Now that all the rocks are being removed from the trails around here including Shoreline and Rattlesnake gulch I have to get my fix somewhere. Saturday I rode the Jekyll up Grandeur from Millcreek. Around 3600' climb from my house most of it on super technical singletrack. The top has a couple short cliff/rock sections on the ridge you have to hike but otherwise it was 99% rideable. I wanted to descend back the same way but with so many hikers I decided to take the West Face trail down, that one is pretty steep on a bike but still fun and a good test for controlled descending. I wish we had races over terrain like this. maybe I will start a Grandeur Peak uphill TT? I will have to go on and on about the Jekyll another time, but in short that bike rules. Weighs 23.9 lbs, has 6" travel front and rear, and pedals and climbs like a small travel bike. Game changer!

New baby coming this week so hopefully I can keep the recovery rolling and the fitness rising. May even line up for a race here soon to really see where I am at???

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

8 weeks- documenting progress

So considering I only have half a face and have had to abstain from most of the outdoor recreation I enjoy the past 8 weeks have gone by fast. I am pumped about the progress I have seen with the Bell's Palsy and now have hope for a full recovery in the future. I still have trouble with my eye as I am unable to spontaneously blink but I can now close it. My smile is coming around, although when I laugh I can feel my face contorting. Energy is coming around a little and seems parralel with my facial improvement. I am still struggling with sound sleep but it is getting better. Still dealing with some swollen lymph nodes as well, so I know something is still up.

All the extra time I've had has been spent playing with the girls, giving Rosie massages, tinkering around the house, fiddling with the gripitz (hope to have production models ready by May??), working on new bikes (pics soon), and generally trying to send good vibes through my facial nerve. I have also been to acupuncture which was pretty cool and have been tinkering with my diet which is hard to do when your training and racing. Hopefuly these little tweaks will help me reach my full potential, isn't that what it's all about? It's good for me to learn to live without training, racing, and recreation. Not really fun, but good for me.

I have riden to work a couple times and did some mellow dirt riding over the weekend but am just physicaly not ready for any real training yet. I am super motivated right now but have to really be careful and reign myself in, hopefuly by mid May I can be training again. On a positive note, at least weather wise it's been a good spring to be on the sidelines.

Oh yea, I have a 2010 medium team scalpel and a 2009 52cm cannondale cross bike I need to move. Hit me up if your looking...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Update: bell's palsy, gripitz...

So two and half weeks with Bells Palsy now. Some good and some bad so far. I am getting more and more left side facial movement but it is very subtle and does not really warrant a picture. The skull pain has been the real stick in the eye, sleeping has been rough to say the least. Although, in the last couple days it seems the pain is calming down a little. The weirdest part is the burning on the top of my ear. I have heard from a number of people who have been through the same thing which is kind of nice, some of it encouraging and some of it not. A common theme seems to be general fatigue, eye irritation, pain, and difficulty eating. Everyone has stressed how important it is to rest and I have noticed the pain and the improvement are worse when I get tired. I have tried a couple mellow rides including commuting to work but it does not seem to be helping my cause right now. So, any kind of physical activity above and beyond walking has been put on hold. At the rate I am improving it seems another couple weeks and I should be able to start some easy exercise, that's encouraging for sure. The Doc does not seem to think it is related to the EBV from last Summer but I am not so sure, patience is needed on my part.

At the moment my plan is to start some base type training beginning in April. Normally I rely on a fairly solid supply of fitness to get me going into the cycling season. This year with nearly 2 months off from any real exercise and no real cycling, I am going to try a more structured approach much like I did in my build up to last years cross season. I also plan to record it all here as I really struggle with any kind of training log. My hope is by starting from scratch I can continue to build right on into the summer. Writing this out here is helping me stay positive, which is half the battle!

After two of my working prototypes were stolen I got working on a some new ones with a couple small changes. I really like how the new design is coming together. It is more comfortable and ergonomic and will be easier to build. For now I am not going to use a CNC in an attempt to keep cost down and make it easy to make changes, most importantly the inside diameter of the tubing so it can be used on all different poles. Once I have the final design down some templates will be made to help in the production process. Excited to get these out into the field...

If I have not heard from you and you want the Gripitz, let me know.

I am finding the Bell's Palsy and grinding aluminum don't mix but full ski goggles make it possible.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hells Bells

To avoid all awkwardness if we run into each other, I did not have a stroke. I have facial nerve paralysis otherwise known as Bells Palsy. It seems like a pretty classic case with the symptoms coming on suddenly after having a bad cold. No solid evidence exists for treatment other than time and facial exercise but fortunately most cases resolve on there own in 1-3 months. I am going on 10 days now and just started to see a flicker of movement today which is super encouraging. It is mega painful and I can feel every nerve in the left side of my face pulsing if I am not drug up. Sleeping is the biggest hassle, the pain comes on the worst and I have to tape my eye shut.

Rest is key as the body requires a ton of energy to rebuild the damaged nerves and allow full recovery. It has put a damper on the late ski and early bike season but if I am patient it looks like it won't foul things up completely. After getting back into shape last fall for cyclocross I have a whole new respect for the bodies ability to recover and resume high level activity, this gives me confidence that rest now will only pay off later in the year.

If you see me snarling, drooling, pirate patched, or leaking food out the side of my mouth don't worry, I am aware of it and it is likely not a permanent.

Oh yea, my prototype Gripitz were stolen out of the Brighton parking lot on Saturday after I finished watching the PowderKeg rando race. So, if you see someone out on the skin track with some one of a kind self arrest ski poles, "arrest" them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gripitz- refining

Here's a new pre-production wing design I am playing with.

After additional self arrest testing and feedback from Brian, who is an experienced mountain traveler. I have moved to a little smaller wing design. I think this is a better compromise between enough wing to bite into hard snow and so much wing that the forces rip the pole out of your hands. This is still quite rough and classic garage work. The CNC machine should really clean this up.

It also provides a nice little finger notch that was inspired by various ice tools and gives a much better grip for dry tooling. I have a large rock wall on my home that is great bouldering practice and I have no problem making all the moves with 2 inspector gadget Gripitz hands.

The wing also fits nicely in your palm now if skining with hands on the top of poles like I know some people like to do. Less material equals less weight is only a bonus. Don't worry about my finger that bandaide is doing a good job at holding it together...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Gripitz- self arresting ski pole grips

So it all started last year in preparation for the WURLOS. Putting together a backcountry ski kit that minimizes total weight in order to maximize efficiency is a key part of any ski traverse where speed and time are a focus. It also is becoming more and more apparent to a lot of ski tourers that minimizing weight and maximizing efficiency also can aid in increasing the enjoyment of an everyday outing. Flat out, you can cover more terrain and make more turns at the same energy cost.

Clothing, packs, skis, bindings, boots, crampons, helmets, safety gear, food, hydration, stoves, etc have all been addressed by various manufactures for the "light is right" crowd. Plenty of options in multiple price ranges exist in the current marketplace and one could go on for days about gear selection.

The one category we found lacking in options was the self arrest ski pole. The only real player is the Black Diamond Whippet. Everyone know's the Whippet. It works great and makes you feel tough when using. My only complaints are that it is heavy and pinned to a heavy flip lock pole. Does anyone ever change pole length?

(I have seen pictures of the Grivel Condor but never one for purchase or in person. It also looks even heavier than the Whippet. I have also seen some other home made options including a full ice axe attached to the top of a ski pole.)

A ski traverse such as the WURLOS requires navigating some technical terrain up and down in less than ideal snow conditions. I did not like the idea of carrying an extra 1/2lb in each hand for 21 hrs but I wanted the security of a self arrest pole for booting, skinning, and skiing. They are also quite handy for aided skinning, dry tooling, scrapping, and any number of uses which have been discussed at length here and here. Many times I have found myself wanting my Whippets after leaving them in the car because I did not want the extra weight. If you don't have them with you they don't do any good. I think for the WURLOS Jared decided on one nordic pole and one Whippet as a compromise while Andy and I settled on 2 heavy Whippets. In the end I am glad I had them as I ended up self arresting while rallying some ice on skinny skis off Dromedary, but the weight was surely noticed.

A Whippet weighs 410 grams which is just shy of 1 lb per pole. A normal ski pole weighs anywhere from 100-300 grams depending on the material, design, handle, length, and basket. So by carrying a Whippet you are looking at somewhere around 200 grams or about a 1/2 lb extra per hand. 1/2 lb extra per foot surely has already been addressed...

So I decided to see if I could come up with some kind of alternative.

Here some early models made of aluminum and designed to fit on a regular aluminum nordic pole. Around 75 grams per head but found to be a little small when arresting in anything but the hardest snow. Also very crude materials, welding, and finish but worked well for a prototype.

The Whippet, being made out of steel has some advantages in hard ice. But I have found that the wider wing of the Gripitz is much better in softer snow and it only takes one heft to notice the significant weight difference.

Here is a couple of other options currently in testing. These have a longer blade and wider wing and weigh under 100 grams each.

This is my current favorite, although it needs a little longer blade tip. Under 100 grams and easily glued to any pole. This one is attached using hot glue to an aluminum nordic pole I bought for $5/pair at a demo sale. It weighs 250 grams total. I have dry tooled vertical rock, knocked out 20 pull ups while hanging on it, swung from trees, and self arrested in ice and snow without even a wiggle. Epoxy could also be used for attachment. The cool thing is it can be made to fit any size pole so a split-boarder who wants self arresting poles can place them on his 4 piece fold ups that can go in his pack for powder runs.

I have been using road bike bar tape for my grip so I can customize not only the diameter but also the length as well as the color. I have been experimenting with different straps but have found that 5mm accessory cord is my favorite. It is comfortable, stiff enough to get into easily, does not stretch, and could be removed and used for something else in a pinch.

Testing an early model while booting up the lower section of the Triangle Couloir. I have also dry tooled in the rock on top of Olympus, sunk into some ice on the Great White Icicle, and skied plenty of powder with them in hand.

Fabrication wise I think I am starting to dial in the right techniques and materials. Including CNC machined blade, wing, and handle which can be made to custom inside diameters. As well as a top secret aircraft epoxy in place of welding. I am also looking at anodizing. Pink might be cool? As for price it all depends on demand. I am hoping to be able to get them to others for around $100 each which is similar in cost to the Whippet. Will see what kind of demand I can drum up and hopefully get costs down with volume.

Kind of a fun project. And If no one else sees the value of lighter weight removable self arresting ski pole grips, I at least will have no excuse for leaving mine in the car.