Interview With Max Romey: Filmmaker and Runner Behind Alaskan Mountain Run Film, 3022ft.

The opening shots show an iconic Alaska mountain – a perfect pyramid rising from the ocean and shading the town below. It’s majestic, but not particularly intimidating…you think. Then the camera zooms in to see a line of people ascending. It’s clear these people are high-level athletes – lean and strong – and they are suffering. The treeless scree is so steep that the people are struggling to lift one foot above the next, let alone run.

3022ft. Indiegogo Trailer from Max Romey on Vimeo.

Welcome to Mount Marathon in Seward, Alaska, and the annual race up and down its 3,022-foot summit. The race has been held for over 100 years (not consecutively). It is a rite of passage for many locals and a major point on the checklist of Olympians and any punishment-loving runner.

Max Romey is a filmmaker from Anchorage, who is currently running competitively for his college in Washington State. The drama of the Mount Marathon race captured his imagination. For all intents, the race could seem like any other event – up and down a mountain followed by a cold beer. But in this small Alaskan town, the stories of challenge, heartbreak and redemption are as powerful as the mountain itself.

Here at Ibex, we love a good story, almost as much as we love a hard run. So we’re supporting Max and his writer/co-producer, Natalie Fedak, in telling their story. Their film is call 3022ft. Below is a short chat with Max.

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Ibex: The opening shots of Mount Marathon are gorgeous. Tell us a little about the mountain and the area.

Max Romey: Mount Marathon is a 3,022-foot mountain that looms above the town of Seward. It ranges from steep to cliff and from wooded to open shale.

Ibex: What is it about the Mount Marathon race that captured your imagination?

Max : The race itself captured my imagination and the stories of the runners kept me going. This mountain is deadly and it seems insane to even think of running up it, until you are there and that’s when everything changes. We are all looking for a challenge to prove to ourselves what we are made of and this mountain is as good as it gets. The competition, danger and terrain bring out your inner mountain goat and [will] take everything you’ve got.

Ibex: The competitors all give a sense of deep, emotional connection to this event – akin to the Olympics or the Boston Marathon. What is it about this race, which most people have never heard of, that is so engaging?           

Max: Mount Marathon is just a 3,022-foot pile of rocks, but every athlete that runs it brings their own story to the mix. It is like a stone soup of endurance, passion and motivation and whether you are struggling with confidence, kids, expectations or drugs, you are part of this community. 

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Ibex: You’ve done several films on running, which tends to be a more quiet, solitary endeavor – even in a race situation. How do you approach an outdoor story that isn’t as effortlessly dramatic as say – kayaking huge falls or ski mountaineering?       

Max: I grew up watching ski films and know the thrill and excitement of watching a skier huck a huge cliff - the way your heartbeat gets going and the temptation to run out of the theater and try the same thing. That is what I want to bring to people with this film and my movies. Mountain running might not be as fast, dangerous or dramatic as skiing, but it is a hard, messy, dirty business, and I am excited to show the beauty, excitement and fulfillment in that.

Ibex: Speaking of hard and messy business - unless you had a helicopter budget – you were carrying the film gear up the mountain yourself. What type of cameras and equipment did you shoot with?       

Max: Luckily for me, camera technology has gotten lighter and more powerful over the past few years. Otherwise I could not do what I do. In addition to hard work and creativity, we used everything from a GoPro to DSLRs to capture these stories. We could not be everywhere during the race and put together a great crew of friends to cover the mountain from every angle so we did not miss a thing.  

Ibex: You’re crowd funding support for 3022ft. How do you think crowd funding has changed the film world?           

Max: You can hardly talk to a filmmaker with out bringing up the words crowd funding, and there is a good reason for that. These new platforms are becoming the connection between you and the stories you want to see, and have offered filmmakers the chance to make a movie for the people who want to see it, instead of having to rely on a third party and their motives. Although these campaigns can be pushy at times they are doing a great job in helping a community support the passion and hard work that would otherwise go unseen.

[Ed. Note: If you’d like to support 3022ft. in post-production and in its distribution and film festival efforts, Max is running a crowd funding campaign through October 31, 2014, via Indiegogo.com. Click here for more information and/or to contribute.]

Ibex: What is your next project? 

Max: There is always one or five on the back burner, but 3022ft. is taking center stage in my life right now. As for the others I can’t say too much aside from one involves Kodiak Island, one involves a fox, and the last involves some unique drone footage.           

We’ll stay tuned. In the meantime, check out the trailer for 3022ft. and hit the trails. The 2015 Mount Marathon race is calling…

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Ibex in the Land of Ibex

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It is Swiss Quality, yes?

The question comes more like an assertion, and I rush to answer. “Actually, American. Ibex.” Who knew my usually low-key sense of patriotism would well up and surprise me? And over a t-shirt, no less.  “It’s wool,” I point out as the questioner invades my space and fingers the fabric. “I love it.”

I’m in Switzerland for the summer for my company, Run the Alps, guiding trips, running races, and exploring every corner of the Alps I can reach. The questioner is the race director of one of the Europe’s most famous trail races, part of the renowned international skyrunning series.  In fact, I’m getting a little sick of hearing about Swiss Quality. The phrase is everywhere. My friends and I have started to mock it. “Your haircut: is that Swiss quality?” I’m all for pride in your work, but in this country where the trains are (truly) never late, it’s getting a bit out of control. The son of American friends living in Neuchatel didn’t want to bring his glue stick to school, because it wasn’t made in Switzerland. Seriously.

The race director wasn’t the first to notice, though—in fact, he was late to the game. Three months earlier, as I was busy getting ready to depart my home in northernmost New Hampshire for the summer, Run the Alp’s first order of Ibex shirts arrived. Within two weeks, I had to reorder. Friends and family loved them so much, I gave up and simply left a box of shirts in my car. Every time I stopped at my local café, I would sell another shirt. Or two. Or three.

To explain my choice of shirts, I have to make two admissions. First, I’ve run trail races for nearly twenty years now. And, in my basement, there’s an overflowing box of unworn race shirts. A few years ago, my guilt overtook my desire for commemoration, and I simply stopped accepting any more. Who needs another cheap, plastic shirt? Who needs even one, for that matter? 

Now, the more embarrassing admission. The shelf above my washing machine at home is filled with so-called “sports detergents.” Each makes a bold claim to finally, definitively, eliminate that nose-wrinkling stink from those polyester shirts. In fact, they do work—for about a day. (I finally got the scientific answer as to what’s going on, courtesy of a story on NPR.)

I knew the solution. And so, one day last spring I emailed Ibex.

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Added to the shirt was a simple, beautiful logo designed by my longtime friend and colleague, Josh Rubinstein. Josh brings a clean, graceful aesthetic to everything he touches. He’s thoughtful, and understands how our brains are wired when it comes to reading artwork. And, as a former winter backcountry caretaker for the Appalachian Mountain Club, he also appreciates the value of a well-crafted wool product. My contribution to the design process? Knowing enough to get out of the way as much as I could allow myself, and let Josh do his thing. Original Design Company in North Haverill, New Hampshire, wrapped up the project with careful silk screening.

As the summer progressed, our simple little shirt became a cult hit. Family members lobbied to get their own, before supplies ran out for the year. Swiss friends tried to fit into what sizes had made it into my bags for the summer. High in the Alps, strangers would come up to me and ask (in French, or German, or even Italian), “How can I get one of those?” Innkeepers asked if they could buy and credit my bill.  Emails on the topic started showing up in my inbox:

Hi - I was just walking in Zermatt last Saturday after the Matterhorn Ultraks Skyrunning Race, and saw suddenly a guy with a fantastic t-shirt that said, “Run the Alps.” I am now on your website. Very good website. A nice team! Do you sell your t-shirt? I love it! Keep Running, Frank 

I think associations say a lot about who you are—as a person, and as a company. They speak directly to your choices and your values. So, I owe you thanks, Ibex, for making Run the Alps look good. 

Swiss quality? Not this time.

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Doug Mayer is a producer for the NPR show, Car Talk, and is the founder of Run the Alps. He lives in Randolph, New Hampshire, with his dog and a constantly-dwindling supply of Ibex shirts.

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How to Live Like a Vermonter in Fall (Wherever You Are)

For about 10 months out of every year, most Americans are content to be who they are. Come fall, there’s a switch. From the first crisp of the air to the jeweled-toned fall colors that fuel the brochures of every inn and Ivy League school, people suddenly want to be Vermonters – if not in location, at least in spirit.

Ibex was born and raised in wilds of Vermont, and we’re still headquartered in the lovely hamlet of White River Junction. Whether longtime locals or transplants, we’re all vested in our community. Since we can’t catch the essence of Vermont, bottle it, and hire some obscure celebutant to sell it in drugstores around the country, we’re doing the next best thing. We’re bringing fall-style Vermont to you in five easy steps.

Step One: Dress with texture. If your fall wardrobe doesn’t make you purr with pleasure when you rub your cheek on an upraised shoulder or you give yourself a little hug from the cold, you’re not in a Vermont state of mind…yet. Dressing in textured, natural fabrics is a “fashion do” any time of the year. In the fall, it becomes a “fashion must.” Much of it is practical, of course, in that many warmer fabrics tend to have a textured hand. The rest of it is pure indulgence. Throwing on a sweatshirt doesn’t have the same meditative contentment of pulling on an all-natural, dense, warm, loden wool jacket. (Check out the Europa and the Nicki.) 

Step Two: Throw a harvest dinner. Vermont is known for our farm-to-table dining, locally grown produce, artisan cheeses, craft beers and simple food crafted to haute cuisine levels. These come to a magical denouement at our community-wide harvest dinners in the fall. If your town doesn’t do the same, hit your local farmer’s market and invite your pals over for a long Sunday of slow-cooking, games and good music. 

Step Three: Take a hike. Just because we tease our beloved leaf peeping tourists this time of year doesn’t mean we’re immune to the beauty they’ve come to experience. We don’t know a single Vermonter who doesn’t Zen out with at least one long hike (or drive or mountain bike ride) to find the best Technicolor display of fall colors. 

Step Four: Tailor your own red flannel hash. Haven’t heard of red flannel hash? That’s okay. You’re in the fine company of residents of the 49 states not named Vermont. Red flannel hash is a Vermont traditional meal. It’s a simple potato hash with the brilliant addition of beets. It’s cooked in one skillet and the beets give it a red hue that could be disarming to the unfamiliar. The basic recipe is delicious, hearty and Vermont to-the-core, though any true Vermonter will develop their own variation.

Step Five: Stake out your health and happiness. Year after year, Vermont hovers among the top five rankings of the healthiest and happiest states in the nation. The rankings are usually based on official statistics like obesity, smoking, daily intake of fruits and veggies, etc. Unofficially, Vermont is still a place where people take the time and make the effort to appreciate each day.

Here’s to a happy, wool-covered fall wherever you are!

Love,

Ibex

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Don’t be a Creeper When You’re a Peeper

This is the time of year when Vermont and our New England brethren are thrust in the national spotlight for little more than our natural beauty. It’s time for fall colors and that means leaf peepers. Honestly, it’s so objectifying. Can somebody please get John Oliver on it? We could use a little bit of his pageant indignation.

Of course, we appreciate the tourist dollars. And, yeah, we’re just as floored by the annual color explosion as anyone. We welcome 99% of the peepers who are out for some country air, artisan cheese and harvest season goodness. It’s the other 1% we’re talking to today: the smidgeon of the population that manages to trivialize an entire region and its rich and varied culture as “quaint.” 

We’re not pieces in a diorama, people. We don’t go to New York City and adopt some backcountry dialect. Nor do we point and coo in mock sweetness over your primarily black wardrobe. So members of this particular 1%, please listen when we say: 

  1. Please pay attention to your road “choice.” It’s true that a good percentage of our land is rural, and that means long driveways can confuse the distracted driver into ignoring all those private property signs.
  2. All large houses are not B&Bs. Please don’t let yourself in, ask about vacancy, or wonder if our morning muffins are gluten-free. If you didn’t see a “bed and breakfast” sign, leering through the windows to check out the quality of our bedding is straight up creepy.
  3. Get over the plaid. Along with high quality knits like a fine Ibex Merino, it’s on-trend this fall. Just ask Harper’s Bazaar.
  4. We encourage you to bring a camera and capture the glory of the scene. It just gets a little weird when you’re aiming in our front yard or shooting me leaving the grocery store for…you know…“local color.”
  5. We’re not all hippies, so we’re not swimming in those well-worn hippie clichés. (Though, you may try Colorado for next fall.) We love our craft beer, our local produce and our landscape, but that doesn’t equate to a free-love commune. Our Woodstock isn’t the one of 1969 infamy, but is home to great food, killer mountain biking, and the original Ibex HQ.
  6. Bonus Tip: Please save “wicked” as a modifier for when you crossover the New Hampshire border.

Enjoy your Vermont leaf peeping vacation.

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Gravel: The New “It” Road for Cycling

Move over, dirt. Hit the road, pavement. Gravel is all the rage for cycling now. 

Yes, you thought gravel was just the bouncy part of the road you tolerated en route to some greater majesty, or just the annoyance responsible for the scar in your knee from a childhood biking crash. No longer. Gravel is enjoying its moment in the sun. And it’s pretty, darn fun.

Think of it like a poor man’s cobble — the American Paris-Roubaix.

The gravel riding scene is a rad cultural mélange between the ultimate clichés of all cycling disciplines. It’s the seriousness of road racing, with the dirt, snot and tears of mountain biking, and the irreverence (hello beer!) of cyclocross. It’s fun, challenging, exhilarating and mentally and physically demanding – just as you’d hope it would be.

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Credit: Sorbamidtn.org

Gravel grinding is a national craze right now. Though a few marquee events are already in the rearview mirror for 2014, there’s still time to test your wheels (with the right tires, naturally) and your fitness on gravel before the snow flies. Now is the time to start training for some of the gravel “classics,” too. Here’s a sampling:

Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder 2014 (Massachusetts): 53 miles of leaf-peeping is 53 miles of pretty. Oct. 5, 2014. More info.

Piggy’s Revenge 2015 Offroad Challenge (Florida): In case you like the added excitement of getting chased by wild boar and alligators while you’re sweating your butt off in the Gulf Coast sun. Jan. 11, 2015. More info

As for the “classics,” start training now for: 

Rasputitsa, aka ‘The Coldest Race in the North (Vermont): Unsanctioned, no prizes, 45 miles of barren Vermont back roads and assurances of cold, miserable weather. Sign. Us. Up. This is bike riding at it’s most down and dirty, base, fun level. There is a big after-party, plus bragging rights for finishing. April 11, 2015. More info

Dirty Kanza 200 (Kansas): While this event can’t take full credit for “starting it all,” the Kansas endurance classic definitely has earned a plaque on the founders’ wall. It was one of the first (if not the first sanctioned event) to mix gravel and endurance racing, and it’s timed to kick-off your racing season. 200 miles of good-spirited pain. May 30, 2015. More info.

For more info on events or gravelistas nearer to you, check out:

Of course, if you need to update your cycling kit to the best performing, most comfortable, most thermo-regulating cycling gear on the planet, check out the Ibex Ride collections for men and women

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Joe Mills Transrockies Run Recap, Climbing a 5.13D, and running another 100 miler (under 30hrs)

It’s been roughly 1 month since the end of the TransRockies Run and it’s about time for a recap of the race, how it affected me during my 100 miler, and how all this running non-sense works into my climbing life.

Let’s start with a brief recap of the TransRockies Race…

For those unfamiliar with the TransRockies Run (TRR), it is a stage race from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, covering approximately 120 miles and 20,000 feet of vertical gain. Runners compete as a solo runner or a team in 5 categories: Open Men, Open Women, Open Team Men, Open Team Women, and Open Team Mixed. In the team categories, both runners must run together during each stage and the overall winner of the TRR is determined based on the cumulative time for the team to finish the entire 6 stage course. This adds an interesting dynamic to racing because if 1 runner blows up, you both blow up.

Stage 1: The Meltdown

21 Miles, 2500 Ft of gain

Psyched to start the race, we went out hard running with the front runners in the race. A surprising thing happened, Kara had a complete meltdown at the top of the 10 mile climb. Now this wouldn’t be so surprising except for the fact that she is by far the stronger runner, and I have never seen her so messed up, not even during either Leadville 100 mile finish. We walked in the last 10 miles for a dismal finish (#walkitin).

Stage 2: Taking it chill

13.3 miles, 3200 feet of gain

With our race over on day 1, we decided to take it easy and just enjoy running in the mountains, so that’s what we did.

Stage 3: Taking it chiller

24.2 miles, 2800 feet of gain

With our new attitude, we unofficially changed our team name to team alcoholic and enjoyed plenty of beers every night. Our new favorite activity was to find our friend Tom after each stage and watch his lifeless eyes grow dimmer with each day. (Sorry Tom, he did great at the TRR and stuck it out, but had some rough looks in camp). Today we hung back and ran with Tom and his partner Megan for a while, joking and making asses of ourselves.

Stage 4: Comeback Kara

14.1 miles, 2900 feet of gain

Kara woke up and decided to put the hurt on, I guess all the carbo-loading (read beer drinking) was finally paying off. We finished 3rd for the stage, and closed the gap to 3rd overall by half an hour, but still were an hour behind.

Stage 5: Game face

23.6, 4200 feet of gain

With our new-found legs, we kept pushing scoring another podium finish in 3rd and closing the gap another40 minutes. We were now only 15 minutes behind 3rd overall. It was fun to compete these last stages, but really it was just super fun to feel strong and be able to push it like we wanted in the beginning.

Stage 6: Go big or go home

24 miles, 4900 feet of gain

We continued our trend and added 30 minutes, finishing 3rd for the stage and making a comeback and landing 3rd place overall.

The next week we were both really tired physically, but our legs felt pretty good. So, why not run 100 miles again, except in a single day. I took the time after TRR to rest my legs and focus on climbing. I went to the Rifle Climber’s Festival and had a great time climbing with friends, and got a bonus by climbing a really classic stout Rifle 13d called Simply Read. That same week, just three weeks after finishing the TRR, I found myself standing at the start line of the Run Rabbit Run 100 in Steamboat. I never thought I would actually show up to this thing, which I foolishly registered for back in January. The course was rather difficult with a length of about 105 miles and a gain of 21,000 ft. Some people had said during the TRR that it was perhaps more difficult than doing a 100 miler. I am going to say right now that that is total bullshit! The Run Rabbit Run 100 was the hardest thing I have ever done physically and I experienced a new depth of busted that I didn’t know I could get to. It turns out getting to eat a huge catered meal, drink beer, and sleep in a kush tent after every 20 miles or so is a hell of a lot easier than grabbing some cola from an aid station and stumbling back to the trail after every 20 miles. I had so many low point during the race where I thought I was done for, but with the help of my positive pacers I just kept at it, and before I knew it I was heading down the home stretch to the finish line at 29 hours.

If I learned 1 thing from the TRR and the Run Rabbit Run, it is this: No matter how terrible things are, or how far you are behind, if you keep pushing, you will eventually succeed and everything can turn around. Or maybe it is that running really really far is a stupid thing to do, kind of a tossup really.

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