Wednesday, July 30, 2014

La Maratona Verticale Race Report

Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner
After a few not-my-greatest races I figured I should go back to what worked in my last good race, Quad Rock. Obviously it was the Five Guys burger I had for dinner the night before. After I got all my gear packed and took an hour nap I made a quick Five Guys stop before picking up James. I roughly sketched out some splits, but without really having anything to go off of for the course, not to mention the website claimed somewhere between 5900 - 13,000 ft of vertical gain, I figured I would just go out there and have fun. 

My alarm clock went off at the obnoxious time of 3:00 am, snoozed until 3:15 and was finally out the door by 3:45. I got to Copper around 5:15 and was greeted with a blast of cold air as I got out of my car. Cursing myself for not bringing, sleeves, gloves, or a warm jacket I nearly sprinted to check-in. The biggest advantage to the race being at a ski resort meant not only was there a place to wait inside for the start there was a plethora of real bathrooms! A luxury to us ultra runners. As I stood there watching the clock tick down I kept debating how long to wait to take off my long sleeve. And then a race official came in to say they were starting late because the paramedics weren't here yet. I spent the next hour or so eyeing up the roughly 30 runners waiting in the locker rooms for the race start. Thankfully Stevie Kremer said she was running the half, but looking at the other women left me with zero confidence. Everyone appeared to be sponsored, and most by Salomon. Well I thought, this race is just about having fun. Finally they called us out to the race briefing and to start. 
Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner

Then we were off. The first couple miles were a series of switchbacks right up the front of the mountain. It was mostly singletrack and super runnable. I ran the first 5 miles at a pretty consistent pace. Then you hit the top of Reso and from there we climbed to the top of Copper Mountain via Storm King. Stevie and the lead marathon men came charging by us at that point and I was amazed how fast they were all going. I have found memories of riding this t-bar so running up was quite the experience. I tagged the flag, took in the 360 view of Vail Pass and Sky Valley and started back down. It was a scramble up the last mile and even as a good downhill runner I was reduced to barely faster than a hike over the loose rocks. I had made the first climb and downhill pretty close to my goal times and aside from a tight hip flexor I was really feeling good. 
Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner

Back up to the top of Copper Mountain. I forced myself to run almost the whole way back to the top of Reso before scrambling back to the top. The guy in front of me on the scramble stopped twice to take everything in and each time he did so it was like a silent reminder to myself to look around, to enjoy the views and appreciate it all. I mean this is why we do these climbs right? Back down we went. 

I quickly began to realize the miles I had on my Garmin were not matching what I was expecting. As I crossed across Copper toward Union Peak I asked the mileage at an aid station. They said they were at 16 miles, bewildered I read 20 on my watch. I knew something seemed amiss. I had been thinking I was in 2nd, as had the guy I was running with, Jordan, but on the second climb up Copper Mountain a girl that had been nearly 2 miles behind me was suddenly ahead. For a moment I thought maybe she wasn't feeling good and was just coming down from her first climb when I was on my second. But now that I was showing 4 miles long for the course I assumed I had gotten off course. But the group guys I had been running with the whole morning had run every step I had and we had seen flags the whole way. 

Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner
After another awesome downhill we traversed across toward Union Peak. It was relatively flat and not technical so I was able to keep a pretty good pace here. Clouds were starting to move in and I was really just hoping to get up and down Union as quick as possible to avoid any storms.
I still don't know what happened, but we're guessing we may have done an extra loop out of an aid station. We hit most aid stations several times so it would have been easy to leave in the wrong direction. At aid station at the bottom of Union Peak I asked again and I was still 4 miles long. I started climbing up to Union saddle and was pleasantly surprised by how runnable this climb was. I had prepared myself for a doozy. I soon spotted the girl that had mysteriously gone from 2 miles behind to 2 miles ahead of me, but she was now less than half a mile ahead. I was determined to catch her. Jordan also saw her and said there was no way he was going to let her beat me. 
Top of Copper Mountain
Photo by Vertical Runner

Now it was on and I charged down Union saddle on a mission to catch the girl. I was determined to hold onto the podium and finish this race racing. I got into the aid station at the same time as the girl. Jordan was right behind me and asked if anyone else mentioned having ran an extra 4 miles. They said yeah quite a few people have. The girl just stopped and turned saying that she was wondering how she had gotten ahead of us. I slammed a coke and took off with Jordan right on my heels pushing me to keep going faster. We quickly hit the last aid station where they said everyone had run an extra 4 miles, but that swore it was only 2.5 miles to the finish. I, in a very nice way, told them they had better not be lying. I swear all aid station volunteers lie about distance left and hills. Probably to keep you positive, but after spending the last 11 miles having no idea how much was left I wanted to know exactly what we had left. 

3rd Place
Photo by Vertical Runner
Jordan and I continued to charge downhill. From the last aid station we basically just had to make our way back down the switchbacks to the main village. I was beginning to remember each of the switchbacks from a few hours earlier and knew we were almost there. Some kids were rockin' the small railyard as we came flying down and I chuckled thinking about how many broken bones I had suffered at the hands of Copper rails. But the railyard meant we were at the village. I came around the corner from the last switchback and just took off for the finish line. I ended up with a total of 29.03 miles and 5:32:23. 

I found out a few minutes later that Stevie Kremer had decided to switch to the full so I ended up in 3rd. I certainly can't complain about losing to Stevie or Sarah, who is a former Salomon runner. Overall a great day and a great course. My goal was top 5 and sub-5:00. I figure without the extra 4 miles I would have been sub-5:00 so I can't really be disappointed by that, plus I got some extra training in. And 3rd place? In the money? That was more than I expected for a Skyrunner event. Sure there weren't very many runners, but still. I definitely have my confidence back and am now trying to figure out how to get Five Guys burgers to Steamboat for before Run Rabbit. 

Week July 21 - 27

Miles Running: 52.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 10.5





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