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You could call top-ranked randonnée racer Jeannie Wall a long-distance specialist. You can say she’s over the top. But whatever you do, don’t mention anything about the Energizer Bunny. Wall, 37, got tagged with the nickname by an Outdoor Life Network announcer last spring—and isn’t too pleased about it. “People think I’m this endurance freak. But that’s not right, she says. “I’m not some junkie who needs my fix every day. It’s not about the endorphins. It’s about being connected with the world in a really physical way.
Wall may be a far cry from a battery-powered rabbit. But the fact is that no other female ski-mountaineer can catch her. In 2002, after 10 years as a national- caliber Nordic racer, the Bozeman, Montana, resident traded her skinny skis for an alpine-touring rig—and since then she’s been dominating North America’s growing women’s randonnée race circuit. From 2002 to 2004, she won the American Ski Mountaineering Championships three times and the Wasatch Powderkeg—a seven-mile, up-and-down race between Alta and Brighton resorts—twice. In Val d’Aran, Spain, she placed fifth in her first World Championships, skinning, boot-packing, and straight-lining past 25-plus sponsored European athletes whose gear weighed on average two pounds less than hers, and who train full-time for their national teams.
In contrast, Wall maintains a part-time job marketing and developing for Patagonia. Atomic is her only sponsor, and she doesn’t have a coach. But world-class adventure racer Adam Chase says none of that matters. “Jeannie’s no-nonsense. She trains and races with a bunch of men she can totally hold her own with. Whatever she’s doing, it’s working.
When she’s not on the job, Wall is out training for her next big race: She’s route-finding and running in Montana’s Absaroka Mountains. She’s climbing 10-pitch Teton routes and summitting 20,000-foot peaks in places like Alaska, Nepal, and Peru. But she’s also stopping and sitting on a big peak in the middle of a backcountry tour—taking it in. “It’s not all about the sport, Wall says. “It’s not about the speed. It’s about going into the wilderness and finding some kind of connection.
Born: October 8, 1967; Elgin, Illinois
It’s all about the bike: Wall wasn’t gifted with a huge heart or lungs—she claims her upbringing is responsible for her Armstrong-esque engine. “I was the youngest of 11 kids. By the time I got my first bike, my parents were too tired to care where I went. I’d take off into the woods and ride forever.
Mountain-bound: With just five Nordic races under her belt, Wall qualified for the 1994 Olympic Trials in Anchorage, Alaska—missing the team by one spot. She was bummed, but redirected: “The whole time I was racing, I was watching Denali and thinking, ‘I have to climb that. I have to get into the mountains.’
But can she stop moving? “If I ever become paralyzed, I’ll just build a cabin in the woods, learn to make guitars, write books, read, cook, meditate, and hope that I can be a whole human being.