Teva I mean, GoPro Mtn Games
Still takes some getting used to anytime a big event decides to change sponsors but uses it in their name for branding.
Each of the past three years I’ve made the pilgrimage to Vail for the Mtn Games and when you repeat events from year to year with the same flight itinerary you tend to develop habits, good or bad, and develop traditions. Take Chipotle for example. Each of the past years I’ve arrived in Denver mid-morning on Friday, rented a car and started the drive to Vail. The first year as I was passing through Denver about lunch time I got hungry, imagine that, and because I had just purchased one of the most amazing devices called an iPhone I could Google something to eat and it would tell my rental car that I still get for $7 a day to go to that place. It was amazing. It took me to Chipotle at the Youngfield exit off I70. So each year now it continues to direct my rental car to that same Chipotle. But this year a surprise was waiting for me.
Because of my connections and I know people, I was hooked up with a room at the Vorlaufer literally in Vail Village. All I had to do was buy a six pack of beer for the caretaker and my stay was on the house. Well, because I’m from Bend, beer capital of the world, I had to deliever only the finest Bend beer from Deschutes Brewery. I knew though that I could get said beer in Colorado allowing me not to check a bag or for my clothes to smell and taste like beer all weekend due to a broken six pack in my luggage. That’s how I found AppleJack.
For those not in the know, I am a self labeled notorious light-weight, meaning rarely will I have more than one beer at a time (I’m talking in like a day here) but for some reason I have this fascination with all the different ways in which you can use a single ingredient like ethanol. From Scotch, my favorite if you’d like to send any for me to test, to liquors, to beer, to well, everything, except wine, it really doesn’t do it for me. That’s why AppleJack is amazing to me. The size of a regular Walmart (I may or may not be exaggerating here) it carries only alcoholic beverages (although, and I didn’t know they even had such a thing, non-alcoholic wine). I got my said six pack of Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale and then I found an item I’ve been scouring the globe for ever since Peter Maximow introduced me to it last summer. Blackmaker is a small batch herb based root beer liquor and I have finally found it. I’m just hoping it lasts the trip home in the belly of this jet. Eh, baggage handlers. Anyway, after my ritualistic stop at Chipotle, Applejack became a new tradition.
Moving on. In past years the tradition was to rent a car that was cheap and I could potentially sleep in. This tradition was born more out of my frugalness and less for the sake of tradition though. But this year, after bumming floor space from Peter Maximow the past two years, I called him up and proactively sought floor space. Turned out he wasn’t coming but still could hook me up with Hooker, no, not A hooker. It’s a pretty sweet hook up but turns out he likes dark beer. My bad. He still let me stay.
The whole Mtn Games experience is a pretty fun weekend with concerts, athletes to watch from World Bouldering Championships to kayaking, vendor booths, and mountain films. With two running races in two days both with prize money it seemed like a great weekend of racing that first year. And each year it continues to be a place to head to at the beginning of June.
This year, and each year, I compete in the Vail Pass Half Marathon on Saturday, a mostly uphill half running from Vail Village at 8,000ft to Vail Pass at 10,600ft, and the Spring Runoff 10k is on Sunday running up and down the trails of Vail Ski Resort. The half marathon is a road race and it’s pretty gradual. I should be good at it. Problem is, it’s at high altitude. Turns out, running at altitude against guys training at altitude makes it very difficult to compete with them. It’s a lung buster. The 10k is more my bag with trails, steep ups and downs. It’s still at altitude but the technical downhills help to even things out a bit and it’s a fun course to fly down.
This year was no different except that Josh Eberly is in monster shape right now. He won the half on Saturday, beating out Mario Macias, king of high altitude races (I think his half PR is faster at like 10000ft than at sea level), then proceeded to trounce me on the uphills during the 10k. I caught up and passed him on several downhills only to be passed right back on the next climb. I so thought I had him. After trading places three times, I stayed close on the last climb as both of us were just about out of steam. The last long gradual downhill was where I was going to take him as we came to the finish, but he had different ideas and so did the course. Josh is a 2:12-2:14 marathoner so he’s got decent leg speed but I was catching him on the more technical downhills pretty easily. Unfortunately we were out of technical downhills though. The last long downhill was all relatively smooth downhill service road and while I was making up ground, I wasn’t making it up fast enough. He kept his lead, I ran out of steam, and couldn’t quite reel him in.
It was a great race and as disappointed as I am when I don’t pull out a win in a race like this, this is my favorite way to race, head-to-head, using strategy and strengths to gain advantages and pushing each other to the brink. In my career, as many races as I’ve competed in, I’ve only had a handful of these races that truly embody the spirit of really racing for me. There are a few requirements that are difficult to line up on any given day. Two, or maybe a few, racers have to be almost equal in fitness and each person has to have a willingness to race and put up a good fight against the other. It’s rare enough that these races don’t happen all that often but when they do, you know why you compete. It’s what makes competition so much fun.
The weekend in Vail is spent catching up with old friends from Colorado, lounging around Vail Village in one (or a few) of the local eateries, and watching other athletes at the top of their game. It’s a great weekend and a great outdoor festival that I would love to see other mountain towns emulate to bring athletes, events, and spectators together.
After a short and sweet awards ceremony where 1st place was handed a golden hatchet by Gerber Knives (possibly the coolest award that I’ve ever seen and of all the times not to get first, I was bummed to say the least), I headed out to explore some of the upcoming UROC 100k course being held in these parts in September. I didn’t make it very far on the course before snow prevented any forward movement so I back tracked to find another beautiful trail and ran along Gore Creek for a couple miles before deciding that I better make for the airport. My time in Colorado is generally very short but I always wish I could stay a bit longer and relish the altitude and elevation change that I can train with while there. Until next time, may your lungs sear from lack of oxygen, your nostrils dry up like a parched mud flat, and your legs scream as they fill with lactate. Ahhh, mountain running.