Episode 46- Reavis Sutphin-Gray and increasing your toolkit

 

Reavis performs a perfect launch in Southern California. Photo Gavin Fridlund

Last year on big potential day but with definite OD probability in Sun Valley early in the flight out towards the Big Lost Range some big cumulus were getting a little too big for my comfort level. When it started to rain lightly I decided to land. Reavis was just ahead of me and decided he could safely outrun the cell using a combination of in-flight weather tools that I didn’t even know existed, and from the thorough analysis of the day that he’d done before we flew. A couple weeks later we were both involved in a successful rescue of a good friend of ours who crashed in very remote terrain and again I learned some invaluable lessons from what Reavis carries with him every time he flies (see the podcast with Matt Wilkes for a lot more on safety and rescue protocols). Reavis learned to fly a decade ago and to this day has a pretty unusual experience with being in the air- he doesn’t experience fear. But he had a very firm understanding of the risks and wanted to be a safe pilot and took his progression and learning seriously and conservatively. This approach has given Reavis, who is now one of the pilots who regularly sends huge lines in North America a unique flying toolbox to help decipher the weather and more. Reavis is a software engineer and lives on the road chasing flying hours year-round (and BTW he answers the most common question I get from our listeners- how do you change your life so you can fly more?). His analytical mind and passion for flight will help you develop a totally different set of skills that will increase your potential as an XC pilot.

 

Enjoy!

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Show Notes:Reavis has given us some awesome resources. Here they are in no particular order:

 

 

Episode 45- Chrigel Maurer and becoming an Eagle

Chrigel launches during the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps

Chrigel Maurer is the undisputed king of paragliding and after his 5th straight X-Alps win I get the feeling that he’s just getting started. Chrigel was the World Cup champion 3 times, is an acro champion, test pilot for Advance, two times winner of the X-Pyr, regularly dominates the Swiss League and just simply wins- over, and over and over again. Everyone has heard of Chrigel’s famous training (ground handling in VERY strong wind, flying in the lee of cornices…) but most don’t know the extent of how hard and specifically he trains. How much is talent versus persistence? How does Chrigel justify the risk? How does he approach safety? How is getting older affecting his decisions? How important is physical fitness to good flying? Is the X-Alps even risky for Chrigel? His sons, aged 6 and 9 are beginning to fly- does this make him nervous? Where does he get his motivation from? In this episode we dive into what makes Chrigel…an Eagle. How does he fly so straight? What mistakes do other pilots make? What separates him from the rest of the pilots in the race? How does he make his decisions? How does planning and calculated decision making happen in the air and how much is intuition? Does he have weaknesses and if so how does he resolve them? How Chrigel reduces risk and how other pilots can be much safer. The power of optimism and the need for gambling (safely).

For me this was an opportunity of a lifetime, to sit down with someone who consistently shows us what is possible with a glider and makes us dream of the possibilities.

Stay tuned for bonus material we recorded for our Patreon supporters!

Enjoy!

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Show Notes:

  • Chrigel talks about his training, what goes into the lead-up to the X-Alps and other adventure races?
  • Mental vs physical training and what sets him apart from the others
  • Is there more pressure on Chrigel now?
  • How does Chrigel make his amazing route decisions in the race?
  • How he trains mentally and visualizes winning.
  • Finding magic lines
  • Using the lee
  • Analyzing mistakes
  • How he eliminates or reduces risk and how pilots can be much safer
  • Balancing the risk and reward and how you need to gamble…but smartly
  • The power of optimism
  • How to fly more efficiently and how to gauge the day- planning in flight
  • How to fly straight instead of thermalling and gliding
  • How hard to push?
  • What would Chrigel do differently if he could rewind the clock?
  • What is the most important thing to improve? How to optimize what you do to achieve your personal goals?
  • Mentioned in this episode: Ben French, Pal Takats, Skywalk, Advance, Gaspard Petiot, Sebastien Huber, Benoit Outters, Michael Maurer,

The dominator

 

 

2017 Red Bull X-Alps: A Race of Extremes

2017Xalps- A race of Extremes from Offshore Odysseys on Vimeo.

The 2017 Red Bull X-Alps was the hardest yet- a very difficult course and extremely poor flying weather. 5 athletes were eliminated and 7 withdrew due to exhaustion or injury and only two made it to Monaco. The race ended after 11 days and 23 hours. Here are some clips from Day 8, 9, and 10 that highlight how amazing the journey can be, and some of the crazy situations you find yourself dealing with (like landing in a tree!). On Day 8 I launched early near Merano heading towards the Brenta Dolomites and Turnpoint 5 at Lake Garda. A lot of low cloud and high cirrus made for tricky flying but I pieced together 5 or 6 short flights, top landing repeatedly to wait for more sun, finishing the day with a long climb up to Madonna Campiglio, waiting out a strong storm and then gliding down to Pinzolo. Day 9 began with a 1700 meter, 17 km climb to launch above Tione Di Trento, then a short and very technical flight to a slope land above Malcesine near Garda lake. Then a 1300 meter climb to the turnpoint on Mount Baldo, then a glide across the lake in strong wind, landing in the trees; then a 20 km walk and further 1600 meter (nearly 17,000 feet of climbing this day!) climb to a final launch and glide. Day 10 was the 2nd day of the race that had good flying conditions and I tried to make the most of it by flying from a lake below Adamello peak across to Bellinzona, Switzerland in three magnificent flights (130 km), ending just in front of Rick Brezina (Team Canada 1) to secure 14th place, but only after running 3.5 hours that night, and a full marathon the next day to stay in front! While we didn’t finish as well as we’d hoped, it was an incredible journey filled with laughter and smiles and an experience to be relished. If I decide to do it again, please someone put me in touch with a psychotherapist!

Red Bull X-Alps 2017

Here we go! Less than 24 hours until the race starts. I don’t have time for a proper blog post but just wanted to share the stoke from TEAM USA 1. When all the training is going down for months on end you never think the day will arrive. But now it finally has. The weather for day 1 looks pretty terrible but then things look to greatly improve. It’s the longest and by far the hardest course yet and I think this one is going to break some of the athletes and we’re going to see a lot of different and interesting routes and a lot of lead changes. SUPER, SUPER exciting! Follow along on my Facebook page and Instagram as we’ve got my good friend Olga handling all our media and she’ll be posting some super fun content.

Let’s do this!

Red Bull X-Alps Route

Episode 44- Caroline Paul and Overcoming Fear

Caroline Paul presenting at TED- listen to her talk here

“Gutsy girls skateboard, climb trees, clamber around, fall down, scrape their knees, get right back up — and grow up to be brave women. Learn how to spark a little productive risk-taking and raise confident girls with stories and advice from firefighter, luger, author, paraglider and all-around adventurer Caroline Paul.”- TED

 

I first found out about Caroline (@carowriter) after listening to her TedTalk as well as her podcast on the Tim Ferriss show. Caroline is the author of four books, including the NY Times Bestseller The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for your life of Epic Adventure. When I learned among many of her big adventure exploits Caroline was also a paraglider we had to get her on the show. In this episode we explore fear and developing bravery, specifically in women. Once a young scaredy-cat, Caroline decided that fear got in the way of the life she wanted–of excitement, confidence, and self-reliance. She has since flown planes, rafted big rivers, luged Olympic courses, climbed tall mountains, and fought fires as one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco. Like Helen Keller said “life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” and Caroline has developed the tools to help us all lead more adventurous lives.

Enjoy!

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Show Notes:

 

  • Mentioned in this episode: Anneka Herndon, Chris Ballmer, Thomas Fey, Bill Belcourt, Caroline Paul

 

 

Episode 43- Matt Wilkes and Emergency Medicine, Hypoxia, and Extreme Physiology for Pilots

Tom De Dorlodot tests some of the FreeFlightPhysiology high altitude equipment in the Karakoram, Pakistan

This is probably the most critical podcast episode we’ve made available to date. As human flight junkies we participate in activities that let’s face it- are dangerous. In this episode we sit down with Matt Wilkes, an anaesthesia and intensive care doctor based in Edinburgh, Scotland who specializes in extreme physiology and remote medicine to walk us through best practices when things go wrong. Matt has practiced in Nepal, Bolivia and New Zealand and honed his remote trauma skills as a Flight Physician for the East African Flying Doctors, picking up casualties from countries including Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Matt takes us through what we need to be carrying in our first aid kit; how to operate in a wilderness environment; how to assess a casualty and make a scene safe; how to care for a victim including the use of narcotics and pain killers; how having a lack of equipment and difficult access to medicine can be overcome; the affects of cold and altitude on pilots (hypoxia); how an accident scene should be managed; best practices for trauma management (including splinting, binding the pelvis, opening an airway, the lethal triad and keeping people warm, pain relief, head injuries, tourniquets, removing a helmet…); controversies about spinal immobilization and a lot more. This podcast is CRITICAL. Make notes and PLEASE- share this with your fellow pilots! There are links to everything we discuss in the show notes below.

Matt has been a Lead Doctor or Medical Advisor for multiple expeditions, including leading a team on the largest group ever to camp on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Matt is the Director of Adventure Medic magazine, holds a Master’s Degree in Mountain Medicine, is a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine and is currently undertaking a PhD studying the interaction of altitude, cold and cognition on paraglider pilots.

PLEASE support Matt’s critical work on extreme physiology and high altitude affects through the http://www.freeflightphysiology.org/

Read a teaser of Matt’s article on high altitude physiology in Cross Country Magazine.

 

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Show Notes:

Matt’s contact details: matt@theadventuremedic.com, and The Adventure Medic 

More thoughts on Tourniquets from Matt after the show:

Thank you so much for all the fantastic feedback on the podcast. Given the limited time available to Gavin and I, we couldn’t dwell on every topic in detail, so we have had some brilliant follow up discussions with individual listeners. A particularly interesting exchange has been with Dr Bill Beninati, a paraglider pilot and very experienced trauma doc, currently heading up one of Utah’s helicopter rescue services. We got stuck into the nitty gritty of tourniquets and the evidence behind their use. Bill was concerned that I had been too negative about tourniquets, which we both agree can be lifesaving in the right circumstances. To some extent, that was because I didn’t want to recommend anything on the podcast that didn’t have a solid evidence base, without a chance for a proper discussion about the pros and cons. However, neither Bill nor I would want people to be inhibited from using tourniquets following a paragliding crash. The following is a summary of our thoughts for those interested in delving into the topic in more detail:
 
1) Prompt tourniquet application is lifesaving.
 
2) Tourniquets have particular value use in penetrating trauma. This may be particularly important in areas like Utah where broken pine boughs can harden into a blade, injuring blood vessels on contact, less so in areas like Scotland where people tend to suffer more ‘blunt’ trauma.
 
3) Improvised tourniquets are probably less good than purpose-built ones such as the Combat Action Tourniquet (CAT) but do work.
 
4) Tourniquets must be correctly applied: too tight increases the risk of tissue/nerve damage, too loose and only the veins will be occluded leading to congestion, swelling and paradoxical bleeding. Apply a tourniquet so you can no longer feel the pulse below the wound, this means that the arterial as well as venous blood flow has been stopped. Better too tight than too loose.
 
5) Don’t release the tourniquet until medics are present and there is a plan for controlling any subsequent bleeding.
 
6) The most important thing is to aggressively stop bleeding. Do so in the following sequence until you have control 1) Direct pressure; 2) Haemostatic gauze; 3) Splinting; 4) Tourniquets. It may be that this sequence has to be followed in quick succession. Do not apply tourniquets unnecessarily, but equally don’t be inhibited in doing so by worries about future harm. Tom de Dorlodot’s maxim ‘if there is doubt, there is no doubt’ applies here.
 
7) Keep the casualty warm and remember that ‘the first clot is the best clot’.
 
 
What is the evidence behind our thoughts?
 
The best evidence from tourniquet use comes from penetrating trauma and blast injuries on the battlefield, where tourniquets have been applied typically for up to two hours (and sometimes up to six hours) and have definitely saved lives. Different studies have shown varying levels of potential harm from tourniquet application (typically nerve injuries) but generally complications have been low and those who have suffered complications have, by definition, survived. How much battlefield lessons can be applied to the civilian wilderness medicine world, and ‘blunt’ rather than ‘penetrating’ trauma is hard to say. There is almost no evidence for tourniquet use in the civilian wilderness medicine setting at the moment, but just because nobody has proven tourniquets help, doesn’t mean that they don’t help. Equally, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the potential to cause harm if misapplied. Until more evidence emerges, we still have to make a judgement based on the situation in front of us.
 
The follow is a summary of the evidence for tourniquets from the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine’s article ‘Bleeding Control With Limb Tourniquet Use in the Wilderness Setting: Review of Science’ (Wilderness Environ Med. 2017 Jun;28(2S):S25-S32.), which shows what we are up against when trying to make these judgments!
 

 

Countdown to the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps

My basic X-Alps kit- Niviuk Klimber, Sup’Air Strike harness, Salewa Mtn Trainers, XC Tracer Vario, Garmin InReach, Lightweight Patagonia clothing, Some Vespa Energy gels, External Battery, Garmin Virb camera, buff and sunglasses

Today is the day. With less than 40 days to go until the gun goes off in Salzburg it’s time to pack the bags and head to Europe, where I’ll have a full month to keep up the physical training and fly as much of the course as possible with Bruce Marks, my air-support guru in the race. I’ve got a quick stop at the Mountain Film Fest in Telluride this weekend with a couple screenings of North of Known, then Monday I’m on a plane. The flying in Europe all spring has been epic which has frankly been tortuous to watch. Sun Valley has been kind to us after a massive winter with a lot of flyable days, but we haven’t had a big day or an easy day yet. Ratty thermals, lots of wind, low base- ie perfect training!

 

North Of Known Teaser from Reel Water Productions on Vimeo.

A lot of people have been asking if it feels any different this time around. Am I more or less nervous? Are we doing anything different? Am I more or less confident? The truth is for some questions I don’t have a firm answer. Ben Abruzzo, my trainer and my ground expert during the race kicked my ass again this year. We started October 1st, like we did for the 2015 campaign which gives us just a little over 9 months of physical preparation. I felt so strong and good for the last race that I didn’t see much reason to change anything, but the training this time around has felt easier. Ben insists that it’s because I came into this year in much stronger condition and I’ve been through it once, so of course it feels easier.  When I look at the workouts in 2015 (we track every workout in Google Docs and I track all heart rate data and metrics with my trusty Garmin Fenix 5S) and compare them to this year, the load certainly seems no less, and when it comes to training Ben is simply a wizard, so in Ben I trust. No doubt it’s all pretty ridiculous and man am I fired up to go hard!

 

People think it’s all walking and vertical, but strength and mobility are massively important

A year ago we met with Dr. Willey (https://www.getwell3.com/), a hormone and sports-nutrition expert to find out if we could decrease the swelling that takes place during the race from the constant trauma through nutrition instead of pain relievers, as well as pick up speed on the ground (and hopefully fix my feet as they looked like someone had beaten on them with a hammer in the last race). The doctor ran a huge swath of labs on both Ben and I and as a result my diet and supplements have changed radically this time around. Without going into all the details, the short of is that I’ve never felt better. The basic concept is to make me more fat adaptive through a diet rich in fat and protein. Carbs still have their place, but by utilizing organ meats and other meat protein, not skimping on good fat (avocados, grass-fed butter, nuts, etc.) and limiting the sugar gels and replacing them with products like Vespa Energy, Crik Protein Powder, Skratch labs electrolytes and hydration elixirs, and collagen (gelatin) for the joints we’ve radically reduced gut GI during really hard sessions when the heart is maxed out and I recover WAY faster.

Mushrooms!!

By also utilizing regular heat (sauna) and cold therapy (ice showers and ice baths- if you want to learn more of the crazy benefits of heat therapy listen to this Tim Ferriss podcast with Rhonda Patrick) at my awesome gym (Zenergy Health Club and Spa) and all the mobility tricks found in Kelly Starrett’s “Supple Leopard” after every workout (which I also do every night of the race before bed) I wake up ready to roll. The final big change we’ve made this year was to radically improve my sleep hygiene. 13 years of living on a sail boat made me a light sleeper at best, but with the help of Ian Dunican and Nik Hawks who have taught me all kinds of tricks about sleeping well (no screens at night, meditation, banking sleep, etc.), and a whole host of things like Rishi Turmeric tea, Superfoods and mushrooms from Four Sigmatic, Onnit’s Total Primate Care supplements, and things like fish oil, magnesium and turmeric supplements have me at peace at night like I haven’t felt in decades. When you train for something like the X-Alps it’s all about recovery and sleep is the key.

 

Drink up!!

Winning the race of course goes to the best pilot. He who clicks off the most kilometers in the air and makes the least number of mistakes goes home with the trophy, so why all the emphasis on physical training, nutrition and sleep? Fans of the race probably already know the answer. A lot of the athletes who go out strong for the first few days crumple. Their bodies break or their brain breaks or usually both. That’s why the X-Alps is so uniquely difficult. The physical requirements even on years where the flying weather is good is bordering preposterous- most athletes will climb the height of Everest (30,000 feet) four or more times in ten days. Now add in the stress of flying in dicey conditions, very little rest, no time to recover, and the million decisions that are required both by the athlete and their support teams (who often get even less sleep than the athletes do) and you start to see why you’ve got to play the long game. In the last race I went from 4th at the end of the 1st day all the way back to 21st at the end of day 6. But I felt strong right to the end and more importantly we were having a blast and that combination started paying dividends going into day 8 when I flew a much more direct line than the rest of the field on a tough day and moved all the way back up to 7th position.

 

 

A couple weeks ago I started laying everything out that needs to go to Europe with me. Can you believe that during the race I’ll have about 24 pounds of gear on my back, but I’m bringing nearly 200 pounds of gear to Europe!

 

Here’s an abbreviated list:

In the old days of the X-Alps athletes would carry stoves and camping gear and it was an adventure across the Alps. No longer. These days the fastest teams are as modern and prepared and as well trained as a winning team on the Tour de France. 32 athletes and their teams set out July 2nd and in all likelihood a small handful or less will make it to Monaco. Injuries, eliminations, and exhaustion will take their toll. The tiny little things add up and make a difference but in the end there’s a reason the X-Alps is the greatest game on Earth. There’s nothing else in the world like it and I’m honored and chomping at the bit to have another opportunity to play. Let’s do this!

 

Gavin McClurg (USA2) performs during the Red Bull X-Alps in St.Moritz, Switzerland on July 11th 2015

Episode 42- Benjamin Jordan and taking the Leap

 

Benjamin Jordan made history in 2016 flying a 1,000 km bivvy line solo from Vancouver to Calgary across the Coast Range and Rocky Mountains of  BC and Alberta, an expedition that took 39 days to complete. To some bold pilots maybe an obvious and tempting line, but there were plenty of reasons it had never been flown, which are in part the subject of Benjamin’s new documentary “Strong the Wind Blows“. We sit down with Benjamin to discuss the harrowing journey but also delve into his dark past; losing the love of his life; his work (and set backs) in Malawi; and dealing with depression and how human flight and dreaming of embarking on hard missions has literally saved his life. Benjamin admits he is not an expert pilot and in fact only recently felt like he had the skills to take on such a monumental challenge- how did he find the courage and stamina to forge ahead? How has Ben approached risk? How to tackle personal demons and chase the huge? If life isn’t worth dying for- is it worth living? This is a fun talk with a fantastically interesting and entertaining human. Enjoy!

 

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Strong The Wind Blows – Trailer from Benjamin Jordan on Vimeo.

Show Notes:

  • Benjamin recounts his skateboarding journey across Canada (8,000 KMS!) and raising over a million dollars for Breast Cancer
  • Ben talks about his transition from being a fashion photographer to taking on big missions.
  • Benjamin talks about flying across Canada using a powered paraglider…while not knowing how to power paraglide!
  • Benjamin talks about learning how to fly in New Zealand and how the sport transformed his life.
  • The joy of being a “knob” paraglider
  • Becoming an alcoholic after the skateboarding expedition and dealing with recovery and finding himself again through flying, and discovering humility
  • Ben recounts how sometimes things go pretty poorly on a film project gone bad and the lessons learned, and how the experience led to setting the world record for distance with powered paragliding
  • Benjamin recounts flying over the Georgia Straits. A fantastically dangerous and (stupid?) attempt.
  • Benjamin recounts some terrifically harrowing moments flying across Canada by powered paraglider, and attempting the cross to Newfoundland
  • How to justify such phenomenal risk…and how did depression and lack of love play a factor
  • How to find resolution and finding peace by risking it all
  • Failing, and finding a way forward and understanding mortality
  • Why the destination is necessary but why it sucks- getting to the end is meaningless if you aren’t enjoying the process
  • Benjamin honestly shares a very dark past and being a compulsive thief, and how giving back has been his way to in a sense- pay for his sins and inspire people to be generous
  • Benjamin talks about his adventures in Malawi, the School of Dreams, the Boy Who Flies film and some of the incredible difficulties of those projects
  • Benjamin talks about the XBC project, making the film and the journey- the good, the bad and the wild
  • Mentioned in this episode: Garmin Outdoor, BlueFly Vario, Nick Greece, Matt Beechinor, Erica Dobie, Jeff Shapiro, Will Gadd, Godfrey Masouli, Kevin Lee, the Cloudbase Foundation