Monday, August 8, 2011

La Sportiva Mountain Cup

La Sportiva Mountain Cup
August 6, 2011

Classic single track

The Jupiter Peak Steeplechase mountain trail run is a 16 mile course that starts at the base of the Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. The race tops out on the summit of Jupiter Peak which is 3,000 feet in elevation gain from the base area. The race start had a healthy looking crowd signing up, warming up, and dressed to go. I had a spot on the front row and left side. At we were set free from the starting line.
I had a strategy for the race and it was mainly to go out hard, but steady, and see how the race initially unfolded and then potentially make a move. I had walked and previewed the initial 2 miles of the course and last 2 miles on Thursday when I arrived in Utah. I knew that the first half mile was on a mountain service road and then it went under the canopy and onto single track. I knew that it would be prudent to get in a decent position before the trail narrowed to single file. It can be difficult to pass other runners on single track as you often have to wait for an opening or widening of the trail to pass.

Early part of course - single track

The first half mile is a bit steep and I was able to watch the front runners ahead of me well. The leaders made the turn for the single track and team La Sportiva was amongst them. I wasn’t far back and guessed I was in about 12th place or so when I hit the single track.
I locked in behind another runner for the first portion of the single track, but soon heard footsteps behind me. I waited a short while and stepped to the side to let the racer pass but kept my momentum going. I continued to pace until another runner approached from behind. Again, I slowed a bit and stepped to the side and she went by me as well as the person I was pacing off. At the next possible passing zone I took off after the others who had gone by me. I focused on the runner ahead of me, a La Sportiva Sponsored Athlete Runner, and she had a good steady pace. By now it was probably 1.5 miles into the race and I was slowly gaining on her. I took advantage of all the small downhill’s and accelerated on all of them until I had taken to her heals which took another half mile or so. She was the lead woman in the field and eventual women’s winner.
Park City, Utah
I had a pacer and the speed was about right. I checked by fuel balance and hydrated from my water bottle and kept pace. Soon, there was a pair of other runners ahead of us and in sight. We were gaining on them steadily and surely. We ran step for step until we caught them and they quickly pulled to the side as we dashed by. At about mile 3.5, I again went for a shot of nutrients and water, and I fell a few steps off her pace and she took a quick look back to see who was behind her and if I had fallen off. I hadn’t and quickly gained her tail again and began to pace off her. We dashed through the woods, jumped the creeks, and continued to gain elevation. We passed an old mine at about mile 5 and the trail steepened and I saw her pace slow just a bit, the trail was wide there, and I made my move and passed her and then sped up a bit more to finish that climb. The course was mostly single track but also had some service roads mixed in occasionally. I hit the dirt road and knew this was the start of the final switchbacks and climb to Jupiter Peak. I looked ahead and could now see two more runners ahead of me and I was gaining ground on both of them, again I picked up the pace a bit. At the final switchback before the steep climb to the summit I took a look back to see what was developing behind me. I saw two runners, the lead women and another not too far behind her. The steepest part of the road is just before the ‘scramble’ to the summit. I was gaining quickly on the person ahead of me, though our pace slowing due to the pitch. The runner in front of me was ‘power-walking’ and I passed him just as we went for the ‘scramble’ to the peak. He knew I had caught him and he let me go. I looked ahead and another runner was suffering on the last portion before the top. The ‘scramble’ was only a couple hundred feet, but loose and steep. We all were forced to power stride. Again, I was gaining quickly and dropping the person I had just passed. I almost caught the next runner before the summit and as I crested the top a fellow said “you’re in 7th place” (though it may have actually been eight). I was a bit surprised, but on the final switchback, I had seen the yellow colors of the La Sportiva team on the scramble to the summit. From the summit of Jupiter, I ‘tagged’ the pole and bolted down to a saddle. There was one more climb before the descent. Again, I saw the racer ahead of me and he was forced to a power walk and hands on knees – he was suffering. I ran half the way up the steep climb and then, I too, power walked to drop my heart rate. The runner ahead was now only 100 feet from me.
Racers at Finish area
At the top he had held his position and he flew down the hill. I realized there were still 7 or eight miles to the finish, but it was all down hill from here. I also realized the runner’s behind me were also going to let it fly on the downhill. On the initial switchbacks going down I could see the runner ahead of me and two runners behind me. After another mile and on the dirt road I made a push to catch the runner ahead of me, this time I did, and locked on his heals. He pushed the pace harder and so did the runner’s behind us as they soon caught us. We were in a pack now and cruised a few miles together. At around the 12 mile marker one of the runner’s went by me. Again, at the 13 mile marker a runner went by, I had moved to the side and he thanked me as he went for the others. I felt like there were rocks or pebbles in my shoes but there was no time to stop and I didn’t want another runner to pass me on the downhill. 
Team La Sportiva Mountain Runners
I also felt the first tightness in my quads and calf muscles. I continued on and our pace was probably a 6 minute mile or less on the downhill. The 3 ahead were slowly pulling away and I was bothered by the apparent dirt and pebbles in my shoes. Soon, I recognized the trail again, it was the final 2 miles I had walked 2 days prior. I knew the end wasn’t too far ahead. I worked through it and kept a steady pace and even a few small sprints until a volunteer said “you’ve got 2 more minutes to the finish”. Soon, I was off the trail and on the final ¼ mile of asphalt to the Finish line. I ended up 10th place Overall and was happy with the results. I was greeted at the Finish by a friend and I congratulated him on his 3rd place finish, a La Sportiva Sponsored Athlete Runner. I powered a lot of water and then snuck off to get the pebbles out of my shoes. To my surprise as I took my shoes off, there was no dirt or small rocks in there.
I then took off my socks to find blisters on both heels and this was the culprit a few miles before the Finish. The La Sportiva Mountain Cup’s final race in the series – the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase was a great race.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Muddy Shoes

Muddy Shoes
Trail conditions
August 1, 2011

Today, I set the alarm for and planned on a little different than the ordinary morning. Instead of getting up just after for work as usual and having a casual breakfast, a short dog walk, and a few relaxing moments over a brew of coffee. The plan was to sneak in an early morning trail run and hill climb before work. An early morning trail run offers an abundance of reasons to set the alarm clock a bit earlier. Including, the first light of the day, solitude and quietness, being first on the trail, the sunrise and its colors on the mountains, birds singing and chirping, the fresh air, and much more. 
Bella dog on summit
So shortly after I made a quick exit out of the house and was on the road. It was raining outside, but that didn’t alter my plan, in fact it made it more appealing on this day. Breakfast was still settling in the stomach as I drove towards work and the trailhead. My dog Bella was looking like she wanted in and I knew the trail and running distance would suit her well. She slept in a bit and gulped her food down and was ready by the time I was. She jumped in the back of the car in the darkness and we were off. I was sipping a good up of coffee and had some good music playing in the car to get me going for the day.
The rain continued off and on as I drove to the trail. I was moving on the trail by and Bella dog didn’t seem to notice the rain at all. The trail run was 2.7 miles and gained 1,850 feet on a service road. I started easy and watched Bella bolt around the new surroundings with ears popped up with alertness and wild excitement. I jogged further up the trail and enjoyed the intermittent rain showers. The trail was in good shape down low and had a few spots of wetness and slickness at the higher elevation. In the end the trail offered everything from dry under canopy, to tacky, to slick and wet in spots. But, all in all, it was as expected and if anything the rain seemed to soften the trail quite a bit. I picked up the pace the final 10 minutes of the 35 minute hill climb and finished in a complete sweat.
Mud shower
At the top, the weather had backed off and wasn’t raining. I took in the views from the summit with Bella as she scanned the valleys for creatures, scent, and movement. Clouds dominated over the 11,000 foot mark and behind me the next wave of showers was ready to rumble in. Bella was excellent company and I could tell she had had a great morning. I was in agreement and sometimes the morning run is a great way to start your day.                                                                                 

Dog owner

Muddy Bells