New Year’s resolutions often involve a fitness goal, but for a few Central Oregon athletes those goals for 2019 are larger-than-life.
Rarely do people pledge to ski jump off a mountain in the French Alps, win a 100-kilometer ultra marathon or travel the globe in pursuit of gravel routes for bike riding.
These examples may seem completely fictional, but no, they are the New Year’s resolutions of Bend athletes: Matthias Giraud, Max King and Kevin and Linda English.
Giraud, 35, has a bone to pick with an 8,000-foot mountain that rises near his hometown, Megève, in the French Alps.
The Bend resident and professional skier known as “Super Frenchie” nearly died in his quest to ski BASE jump Pointe d’Areu in March 2013.
Ski BASE jumping is a combination of skiing and BASE (building, antenna, span and earth) jumping, whose acronym lists ideal launching points. Ski BASE jumpers can make turns on slopes that would otherwise be impossible.
A parachute lets the skier glide safely to earth when the skiable slope reaches the edge of a cliff. When airborne, Giraud throws his poles so his hands are free to control his chute, but he keeps his skis on.
He was the first person to ski BASE jump about two dozen mountains, including Mount Hood in February 2008.
His most recent attempt to ski jump off Pointe d’Areu nearly killed him.
When he launched himself off a 700-foot cliff, a strong cross-wind caught his parachute and smashed him against the side of the cliff face.
The impact fractured his left leg in two places and caused cranial hemorrhaging. He was in a coma for three days.
“That definitely left a mark,” Giraud recently said with a laugh. “When I woke up from the coma in the hospital, I was like, ‘Yeah! I’m going to go back and do it.’”
Giraud is planning on a two- to three-week window of opportunity between mid-March and April when the snow is ideal, the avalanche risk isn’t too high, and the wind is stable enough, he said.
“It’s a very consequential jump. It has a lot of technical variables to it,” Giraud said. “But it’s really the wind that messed me up on my jump. If I nail it right with the weather, everything should go according to plan. … It’s not like skateboarding, where you can say you’re going to go kick flip off a box at the skatepark today. Nobody conquers a mountain. The mountain has to allow you a safe passage, and it doesn’t allow you a safe passage every time. You have to be there when the time is right.”
Footage, which will be titled “A Dying Breed Part 2,” will be available online this summer. Check Giraud’s Instagram page @superfrenchieofficial for updates.
Win ultra marathons
Professional runner Max King, after learning about Giraud’s New Year’s resolution, doesn’t think his own measures up.
“That’s nutty!” King, 38, said with a laugh.
Still, King’s goal for 2019 is its own kind of mountainous achievement — return to ultra marathon running and win a 100-mile race.
King spent recent years running “shorter mountain distance stuff” that included half and full marathon distances of 13.1 and 26.2 miles, respectively.
To qualify for the elite Western States Endurance Run 100-mile race held in Squaw Valley, California, in June 2020, he’ll need to finish in the top two spots in the Black Canyon Ultra 100-kilometer (about 62 miles) race in Mayer, Arizona, next month.
King will also tackle the half-century Lake Sonoma 50 race in California in April and a 50-mile race in the Canary Islands in May.
Last year, King packed in 80- to 100-mile training weeks until an injury curtailed his mileage.
“My goal is just to get my body in good shape for this race and hope it goes well,” King said.
He’s been conditioning himself for the longer miles by logging some 20- and 25-mile runs.
“As you’re building up like this, it’s important to not overdue it,” King said.
King has been steering his training runs along the hilly trails at Smith Rock State Park, which he said is a great way to prepare for a variety of race terrain.
In the spring, King will return to Black Butte Trail, which twists up the extinct volcano. He likes to run up and down it two or three times, he said.
A win — more so than a second-place finish — at the Black Canyon 100-kilometer race is what King is after, he said with a laugh. Then he can begin plotting what will no doubt be his New Year’s resolution for 2020.
“Western States is one of those really competitive races, but I’d love to have a win there,” King said. “That would be amazing.”
King doesn’t have an immediate reason for his return to ultras, which he dominated at the 100-kilometer distance, winning the world championships in Qatar in 2014.
“While I’ve had some good performances in ultras, I have definitely not yet nailed that 100-mile distance,” King said. “It’s a challenge that has eluded me.”
Gravel grind the world
Gravel grinders Kevin and Linda English have different goals for 2019, the couple said when reached in Tasmania. Kevin wants to get back in shape, and Linda wants to rest more.
But Linda does not appear to be slowing down.
The Bend couple is finishing up a two-month trip to Australia’s island state that focused on gravel grinding (riding road-bike-like bikes outfitted with knobby tires on gravel roads).
The retired couple documented and uploaded two dozen gravel routes to their website, Dirty Freehub, that they charted through spectacular Tasmanian scenery.
The pair are sticklers for great views, road conditions and food and water sources. The English’s website details off-the-radar cycling routes in Central Oregon and beyond.
The routes being far away from the rest of the world is “what makes (these Tasmania routes) so awesome,” Linda, 54, said with a laugh.
While foreign gravel routes can be found on their website, the site is a trove of gravel options in Central Oregon.
Last year, the couple uploaded 14 new Oregon routes, bringing the total to 42. Routes range in distance from about 20 miles to nearly 100 miles.
The Englishes added some “training routes” near Bend that aren’t quite “five-star” material, they said, but are still good training options.
The couple will spend July scouting routes in the Hood River and Maupin areas. In August, they’ll do the same near Bilbao, Spain.
They’ll also host a 55-mile gravel grinder, which is organized like a race but can be ridden casually, on June 8. It will begin and end in Madras and borrow from some of the Ghost of Ashwood course that loops through ranch land.
“We want to showcase some of the great riding that people don’t really think about,” Linda said. “We’re finally getting some traction with Bend people riding out in Madras. You get year-round riding.”
The Englishes will also offer free seminars dedicated to tubeless tire installation and bicycle navigation using Garmin and Wahoo GPS bike computers between February and June.
Check Dirty Freehub for updates or to inquire if Linda, who’s known as “Gravel Girl,” has yet to spend a day off the bike.
— Reporter: 541-617-7816, firstname.lastname@example.org