This was kind of sad ... to get as close as he did ....
That'll ultimately be the record for most consecutive days skiing, but first Rainer Hertrich needs to get well enough to alert Guinness World Records that his amazing streak has come to an end.
Hertrich, a Summit County local and 29-year snowcat operator at Copper Mountain, strapped into his telemark skis every day for more than eight years, until Wednesday when a cardiac arrhythmia (or irregular heartbeat) prevented him from hitting the slopes.
For Hertrich, it was a definitely more bitter than sweet, as the streak concluded less than 2 million vertical feet shy of the ultimate goal of 100 million — a figure that once seemed completely out of reach but was within sight this North American season.
“I'm feeling pretty good,” Hertrich said Thursday from the intensive care unit in Frisco. “I've been through a lot of injuries, and I've always joked that the streak would come to an end in the hospital bed, but I thought more along the lines of a broken leg or hip — something really broken. But I didn't expect it to be a broken heart.”
Throughout the course of the record, Hertrich hasn't been merely strapping into his skis, heading out for a run and calling it a day; he was chasing the maximum vertical, logging as many feet as possible and most days skiing the equivalent of Mount Everest. He suspects the demanding regimen at high altitude had something to do with overstressing his ticker.
“I was shooting for 3,000 days, which was only a week away. Or, what I really wanted to do was hit 100 million vertical in a hundred months, which would have been Feb. 29,” Hertrich said. “I made some sacrifices work-wise and was really gunning for it. It was totally within reach, until this happened.”
The problem began when Hertrich noticed he was gaining weight abnormally fast, which seemed unusual considering his active lifestyle. It became painful for him to squeeze into his ski boots, so he visited the Copper Mountain clinic. The doctor, who was aware of Hertrich's ongoing streak, told him if I went skiing, he would most likely have a heart attack.
After taking what he called the most stressful single run of his life, Hertrich checked into the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, where the incredible streak officially came to an end on Wednesday evening at the stroke of midnight.
“I'm sad that I didn't hit the big goal that I dreamt about way back when. I'm bummed that I fell short by two million. That should have been a cakewalk,” Hertrich said.
However, most observers and people who know and work with Hertrich are amazed by the accomplishment, regardless of which side of 100 million he concluded the streak.
“Not only is he a character, but he brings new meaning to the word commitment,” said Chris Runyon, spokesman for Copper Mountain. “Hertrich has kept skiing with separated shoulders, bruised ribs and many days of knock-you-off-your-feet sickness. It seemed like nothing was going to stop this Fu Manchu skiing machine. That's why we were all extremely surprised to hear that was in the hospital. Everyone at Copper wishes him a speedy recovery, and we know he'll be back on the slopes to finish his goal.”
“They didn't have a plaque for 7 million. I might be sitting on a record and I don't even know it,” Hertrich said. “I hadn't missed a day since Nov. 1, so (the consecutive days) can be a part of the record also. I thought, I haven't committed to my summer job yet. Let's see where it goes.”
Hertrich hopped on a motorcycle and headed through Utah, up to Oregon, after which the journey took him to the Andes, a part of the world he had always wanted to visit and conveniently enjoys an opposing winter season.
Asked if he has any favorite memories or experiences over the last eight years, Hertrich said, “There's a pile of them.” The scariest was getting held at gunpoint in Chile while a ski patroller walked away with his passport. But more than anything else, he will remember the scenery he never would have seen and people he never would have met if it were not for the record.
Guinness has already confirmed that Hertrich will ultimately be the record holder for “accumulated vertical descent in consecutive days for telemark skiing.” Strangely, Guinness differentiates between telemark and alpine, so Hertrich will not hold the record for “skiing” in general,but that's something that will be up for discussion now that the streak is over.