Friday, August 30, 2013

A 5K Straight Up The Mountain

The family and I had our first big on-our-own vacation (because Disneyworld is a totally different experience) at the beginning of August going to Denver, Colorado. It was also our first trip since Sophie was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Thankfully, Denver is super gluten-aware and keeping her from getting sick wasn't as bad as we expected.

By coincidence during our planning, I had discovered that on Sunday while we were in Vail for a couple days, there would be a race called the La Sportiva Berry Picker 5K Trail Run starting just steps from our resort. Of course I signed up.

I picked up my bib the day before. No chip timing. The race shirt would be given out at the top of the mountain post-race (BAD IDEA: unless you were a frontrunner, no one got the size they had requested during sign-up).

I had deacclimated from the altitude tent (I'd been out of it for a few weeks), and, unlike Bighorn or Tahoe, I could feel the altitude here in Vail.
The bike rack reinforces why it's so hard to breathe!
I checked out the course a little bit the night before. I would be running up the mountain on the Berry Picker Trail, crisscrossing on switchbacks, nearby where the Eagle Bahn Gondola went up the mountain. In fact the race started right by the Gondola, then crossed on a bridge over a creek, before stepping onto the trail.

I'm going up THAT!

Yes, I get it. It. Goes. Up.

The trail had some decent pebbles and small loose rocks to contend with.

Looking back down the couple tenths of a mile up the mountain I went the night before.

Sunday morning, I walked out of the resort and 20 paces to where the start was. Sitting around waiting, I ended up chatting with a guy from Cincinnati who was also an ultrarunner. We chuckled at all the people warming up going a quarter mile up the trail and back down. I know it's appropriate for a 5K, but I hadn't done a 5K in 3 years! The first 5 miles in a race was my warmup nowadays. Just a different atmosphere completely.
Super casual packet pickup
We would be climbing 2,100 feet over the 3 miles, at a pretty constant rate.

We started and it wasn't long before we were all single file huffing and puffing up this mountain. I could tell from conversation that most people were locals and many of the ones who weren't had summer homes or timeshares here.

I huffed and puffed and was surprised at the technicality of this course. There were rocks, roots, and the morning dew and later yesterday afternoon shower had left the steeper uphills a little tacky and muddy. Switchbacks through the woods as we got higher were almost like eroded cliffs. We climbed over roots on roots in those sections. So many roots keeping the ground from just slipping away down the mountain.

I wanted to stop and breathe a lot of times. But I was determined to just keep moving the whole way. At mile 1.6 there was an older couple sweetly manning a small aid station for us.

A little further up was a bivouac - a wood a-frame for people to throw tarps on and take shelter. A little over 2 miles I was really asking myself, "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?"

A few minutes later, we came out of a wooded section and I glanced behind me and the morning sun on the mountains took my breath away (more than the elevation at that second!). And I truly had tears in my eyes. We couldn't see the gondola for most of the powerhike up. This was remote and isolated. I felt like the view I was seeing was special. That exact view could only be found by hiking up that steep trail to this point. It was all mine.

I gained on the folks in front of me in the last 1/2 mile. People were getting tuckered out, and this was when I felt my endurance win out. We hit the top and it turned into dirt road with a small downhill. People were spent and walking. I ran home road paces, 11:15 pace, for that 0.2 mile segment and got a cheer of surprise for my sudden speed at the top from two guys I passed. Then another BIG steep powerhike climb before the last 0.1 mile run-in.

I turned a curve and there was Steve and the girls. They've never seen me finish a race! Marissa had picked a little bouquet of wildflowers. Steve was trying to snap pictures and actually got this one before he had to drop the camera to stop Sophie from running onto the course. I ADORE this picture.

I bent down and kissed each girl while I huffed and puffed. I thanked Marissa for the flowers, took them, and turned to run the last couple hundred feet into the finish.

Coming into the finish corral, the announcer called my name and then I enjoyed the incredulity when he announced I was from Texas. A spattering of extra applause for this stupid flatlander who came to climb a mountain.

I crossed the finish line and went to collect my race shirt. Which again was a horrid Men's Medium because all the pretty periwinkle women's shirts had been claimed already. Grrrr.

My worst 5K ever, 1:14:40, and I was proud. :-D

And then I hacked up a lung for the next 20 minutes. I had seen folks do this after Bighorn and Tahoe, but I had the altitude tent working in my favor. Not anymore. My lungs were not happy campers with a race that finished at 10,200 ft altitude.

Even better than the finish was the fact that it had capped off a week of vertical training. A lot of hills. Miles may be low compared to lots of ultrarunners, but that week I hit 7,000 ft of VERTICAL. As an aspiring mountain runner, that's important. That matters.

So happy my girls could see me finish. And to later hear Sophie, when asked what mommy was doing on the mountain, say, "Mommy running." Prompted: "Mommy was running?!?" Sophie: "Yes, on dirt."

Yep, that's what I do in a nutshell. I run on dirt. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Because that's what mountain goats do! :) Love that picture too... so cute!