Athletic Life Series-Jim & Carolyn Phillips the Athletic Duo

Question: Jim and Carolyn, please tell us a bit about yourself. 
Answer: Jim: I enjoy spending time with family, skiing and climbing. Being on backpacking trips with our grandchildren as well.
Carolyn: Ditto, but I would add camping, fly fishing and quilting. 

Jim Phillips, keeper of the canyon.

Question: Carolyn, did I see on Facebook that you are 80? Jim, how old are you? Did I see you have been married for over 50 years? That is fantastic. How did you meet?
Answer: Carolyn: I just turned 81.
Jim: I am 80 years old. We met in Oakland, California when we were both working at Mills College. Skiing connected us forever.

Carolyn Phillips skier extraordinaire.

Question: What type of work did you do at Mills College?
Answer: Carolyn: I taught Physical Education at the high school level for two years, then at Mills College and later at Pacific Lutheran University.
Jim: I was Assistant Director of Buildings and Grounds at Mills College and the Director of Buildings and Grounds at Pacific Lutheran University.

Question: What food or sleep routines should I partake in to have as much energy as you do? Answer: Jim: Generally I get eight hours of sleep a night. We mostly eat at home and only eat out when we are on road trips. Carolyn makes great homemade meals. Our breakfasts are oatmeal, cream of wheat, eggs, waffles and French toast. Sunday, Carolyn makes her specialty: Swedish Hot Cakes.
Carolyn: My schedule is the same as Jim’s.

Question: For those people who are in their 60s-90s who aren’t super active, what advice or suggestions can you give them to start being more active?
Answer: Carolyn: First of all don’t stop being active. That’s the secret. If you aren’t active, start slow. Walking is a great place to begin. If the person is not mobile, there are a lot of exercises to perform while sitting in a chair.
Jim: I agree with Carolyn’s assessment.

Question: Are you downhill ski racers? 
Answer: Jim: We do enjoy downhill racing on the USSA Masters circuit. Masters racing is an age group competition for older skiers. We do Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Downhill.
Carolyn: Our whole family is full of ski racers. Our children raced through college, and our daughter continues to race Masters. Our son also occasionally enters a Masters race when not coaching younger racers. Our grandchildren also race.

Question: How did you get into ski racing? What type of racing is your favorite? How many years have you been ski racing?
Answer: Jim: We occasionally entered local races early on, then when our kids were away at college, we started traveling to local, regional and national races. My favorites are Slalom and Downhill. I have been skiing for 54 years.
Carolyn: I began skiing 59 years ago when I took my first teaching job and was appointed Ski Club Advisor. I had never previously been on skis. My high school students were happy to show me how. The rest is history.

Question: How do you train for ski racing? How long before race season starts do you start preparing for it?
Answer: Jim: We have a coach that we train with once a week, starting in January every year. We also attend a five-day training camp at the start of each season. I just try to stay in shape all year. We train specifically for racing by running gates under supervision of a coach. We also do technical free skiing under the supervision of a coach to improve the performance and speed of running gates.
Carolyn: Jim and I train together, and I sometimes attend a Summer Ski Camp at Mt. Hood. During the summer, I run, bike and swim. Also I hike and backpack. I use the Skier Edge Machine, Rowing ERG (Ergometer) and bike on a trainer if the weather is too inclement to go outdoors. Prior to the ski season I attend a Ski Race Camp to work on technique. During the season I train slalom and/or GS one morning a week. Other than that, I ski a lot, 80+ days per year.

Question: Are you both rock climbers? Jim, I believe you have been cleaning and creating climbing routes for years now? What inspired you to do this? How long have you been rock climbing?
Answer: Jim: I seldom repeat routes, so I am always looking for a new climb which leads to putting up new routes. I have been climbing for 62 years, and my first climb was in Yosemite in 1958. My favorite is alpine climbing, but now that I am old and slow I spend almost all of my time rock climbing. I still love road trips and manage at least one each year.
Carolyn: I don’t rock climb but do alpine climbing. I have climbed Mt. Rainier eight times by six different routes and all the other Cascade Volcanoes at least once.

Question: Jim, how many climbing routes have you put up to date? Do you keep track?
Answer: I really don’t keep track of the exact number of new routes that I put up. It is probably in the range of 200 to date. As I mentioned I very seldom repeat routes and always like to climb something new. I do keep a journal of my climbs and know that I have climbed over 1000 routes in the Leavenworth area.

Question: Any books or resources you can recommend for training for downhill ski racing, rock climbing, crew or triathlons? Or just books that inspire you?
Answer: Carolyn: I don’t learn how “to do” from books.  I learn by “doing” and getting good instruction. I am a self motivator.
Jim: I really don’t get much out of books relating to climbing instruction or ski racing. I do get my inspiration from mountaineering-and climbing-related books. I have collected rare and first-edition books on those subjects for many years.

Question: Favorite piece of ski gear, climbing gear or wood splitting gear and why?
Answer: Carolyn: I love my Atomic GS Skis. Jim keeps them perfectly tuned. Condition of Marriage: I’ll cook his meals as long as he tunes my skis. And I do have a favorite splitting maul that is lightweight.
Jim: I don’t have a favorite. I just try to keep my equipment up to date (and light as possible these days).

Question: Favorite life quote for each of you and why.
Answer: Jim: Each generation can – and shall – enjoy its own special time.
Carolyn: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.

Question: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Answer: Jim: Carolyn is known for her skiing, but she is a two time National Champion in crew and a triathlete that has been on the podium many times as well as a National Champion in skiing so many times I can’t count!
Carolyn: Jim is known as “Keeper of the Canyon.”

Question: Jim, how did you get the title as “keeper of the canyon”?
Answer: Carolyn: Someone called to ask Jim to do something in the canyon. He began, “I know you are not the Keeper of the Canyon but could you replace a missing bolt hanger.” After that Jim received numerous requests to replace missing anchors at top of routes, bolts, etc. and the name stuck.

Question: Carolyn, how did you get into crew racing and doing triathlons? What is your favorite triathlon race?
Answer: While at Mills, I was assigned to be Faculty Advisor to the Mills College Crew. Since they rowed out of Lake Merritt Rowing Club facility, I decided to join the Lake Merritt Rowing Club and began rowing. I still have my own single hanging in the garage, but haven’t rowed in years.

My daughter is an Ironman and has made it to the Ironman Championships in Kona. She convinced me to enter a triathlon. I only do the Sprint Distance. Swim 0.5 miles, Bike 12.4 miles, Run 3.1 miles.

Question: Jim, when we have seen you out at the crags, I believe you mentioned one time being home to have a stiff drink with your wife at a specific time every day? Is this true? What a nice evening activity.
Answer: Carolyn: 5:00 pm is cocktail hour.
Jim: I like a social drink, not a stiff drink, at what we call our cocktail hour which is a time for Carolyn and I to get together at the end of the day.

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2 Responses

  1. Sarah Lemire

    Love this story Carolyn and Jim. I too share many of your sports though I no longer run. I love my road bike and wish I could do it year round. I learned to scull on the Great Salt Lake and was taught by the Women’s Crew Coach – I would have loved that if they had women’s sports when I was in HS and College. Like you I’m pre Title Nine. My motto is like yours – Always Keep Moving. You both are definitely inspiring.

    • Carolyn Phillips

      Thanks Sarah. I hope to see you at a ski race in the not too distance future.


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