Friday, July 19, 2013

37th Annual La Sportiva Vail Hill Climb, Vail, Colorado (July 6th, 2013)

Getting There:
A few months ago when planing our summer vacation, we had planned on doing Moab, UT with the kids for some fun hiking adventures.  I brought up the idea to fly into Aspen, CO and drive to Vail for the La Sportiva Vail Hill Climb.  So we fly out of Dulles on Friday morning and get to Denver, from Denver take a small plane over to Aspen.  Here is a quick shot of me goofing around at Dulles

Get there, get the rental car and off to Vail.  This is where the real fun begins.  Heather had mentioned that she wanted to take a different route to Vail which would lead us through Aspen up to Independence Pass which sits at 12,000 feet elevation and then cruise into Vail that afternoon.  So, we hop in the rental SUV with no water, no food and expect to hit something along the way.  Well guess what, there wasn't shit along the way.  Unless you call death defying cliffs with no barriers far as food went, we were shit out of luck.  Now Aspen sits at about 7800 feet so I was feeling a tad whoosy plus only had one bottle of water to drink about 3 hours before.  The whole purpose was to drive over Independence Pass and through Leadville, CO, an ultra runners must see.  Here are some shots of the top of Independence pass and Leadville, CO:

At this point, I can barely stand and snap a few quick shots before handing the car keys over to heather.

 It's about 100 miles from Aspen to Vail much of it driving 25 miles an hour and through tiny and dangerous roads.  Finally, we got to Twin Lakes, CO which had this little dump of a store but to me, was heaven  - I got 7 bottles of water for the family and I and some food.  We finally arrive at the Vail Marriott soon after and checked in the hotel.
Packet pick up

The Race
 So the day of the race comes and after a gallon of water, 25 trips to pee during the night and 3 solid hours of sleep (maybe), I am ready to go for my first altitude run in Vail, CO.  We wake up around 5am, get dressed and head out of the Vail Marriott to the shuttle.
Waiting for the shuttle

Shuttle ride to the start line

As I always do for any race is assess the shitter situation - I give this one a B+.  They had no port-o-shitters but they did have a nice and warm bus station center you could use if you want to dump it up.
Near the start line

It was about 53 F out, alot colder than the 90+ temps I was used to in VA.  Get to the starting line, pee 5 more times, go to SBUX to warm up and then kiss heather goodbye.  No, I didn't have a mocha however, a guy I met in line waiting said he went out all night drinking.  Thinking that was not quite a good idea, he tops it by ordering a bacon, egg, and cheese AND venti ice coffee...10-1 he chucked on the course or DNF'd.  Heather and the kids headed out early so they could catch the gondola up to the top of the mountain.

Kids chilling in the gondola on the way to the finish line
After a few words by the race director and the national anthem, we are OFF.  The first mile was around the Vail Village...I wanted to be conservative so I kept my pace around a 8 min mile for the first mile thinking this shit is going to get real fast...then, we go up and up and up and up....When mile 2 started, all conversational talk that usually exists with most races, ENDED....The air was thin and the inclines were massively steep.  Starting at 8500 feet, we would rise to 9500 feet by mile 4, from 4-7.5, we would end at 10,200.  The course was go like this..go up a long hill (run if you could), switchback which was a smaller hill but runnable, repeat 20 times!  There were aid stations at miles 2.5, 4, and mile 6.5.  I carried an handheld from the beginning which was a godsend only a few miles in.  It was kind of like a game of donkey kong where you kept going up the side of the mountain snaking up and up and up - except no barrels being thrown at you..just no oxygen and plenty of trail.  I think the trail we went up was a blue ski trail, no sure though.
View of Mile 6.5 aid station from gondola

Course views from gondola

Finish area

Waiting for Dad-you could see down to almost the mile 3 marker from the top
I met some guy on the course from Louisiana and he said the altitude was killing him too.  It felt like I was catching my breath every so often but having to take twice as many breaths to run.  The funny thing was, my legs felt great, it was just crazy hard to breath.   I had to piss something fierce from drinking all the water the night before so I hurried behind the white truck at the 6 mile aid station..  If I were running hard, would of held it or just pissed my pants.   I started to get a headache at about mile 5 and thought, hmm, this is not good, so I kept drinking water...I went with a handheld, some locals didn't bring anything...I was not that brave plus I had a vacation ahead of me and wanted to enjoy it.  The last 2 miles were grueling and ended at the top of the ski run where the gondola drops people off.  I came in 209th out of almost 500, midpacker is who I am with a time of 1:20:59...all in all, I am happy with the run and loved the race.  If I had more than 18 hours to acclimate from going to 200 feet above sea level to 9000 feet, I may have done better...but this was more of a fun run for me  - heather, the boys, and I had blast and would definitely do it again.
Shot from the top of the mountain-Where's JD? (Hint:  Look for the red socks)
Finishing strong

After the race, I took some shots at the top of the mountain finish line:

Can someone get me an oxygen tank, stat :)  At this point, we are 
at 10,200 feet above sea leve.
Grabbing the swag - no shirt until you finish.

The boys and I goofing around after the race.

Next up for me is the Drake Well Marathon on August 18th in Titusville, PA...should be a nice training run for the Oil Creek 100k in October.

1 comment:

  1. Wow-- this sounds like an awesome family trip and great family bonding. You guys are truly living life to the fullest. Love the photos!