Wednesday, July 6, 2011


My training for the Courage Classic in 2+ weeks continues, with many detours along the way.  First of all, let’s review our progress towards our goal of raising $2,000 dollars for Childrens Hospital:

Celeste and I have raised $580 so far, thank you all so very much!  We are over one quarter of the way there!  If you are considering making a tax-deductible donation to Childrens Hospital on our behalf, I encourage you to do so by clicking one of the links below:
And for those of you who have donated, a heart-felt thank you!  Your support means a lot to me.

So how has the training been going, you ask?  Well, you know, some good, some bad.  Last we left off last Thursday I had decided to bike to Towers and then run towers through a dangerous storm, and then bike home through the rain.

Friday was far more sedate, probably too sedate, as I only logged about 13 miles of city riding, much of that during my normal work commute.  And Saturday was even worse; housework beckoned so I spent no time on the bike at all, and did fun things like trim the trees and drain the hot tub.

But I made up for my slothfulness on Sunday.  Sunday I got up very early and drove to beautiful Vail, Colorado, for the 300th annual La Sportiva Vail Hill Climb race.  Or 30th annual, I don’t remember.  Point being, people have been lacing up their running shoes and climbing the cat trails up the side of Vail mountain long before I even contemplated doing something this nutty.  Yes this was not a biking event, so I’m still not really on the ball here.  Regardless, it is a good workout; the race climbs over 2,000 feet from the covered bridge in Vail Village to the top of the Lionshead gondola at Eagle’s Nest.  There were about 400 competitors lined up at the start, including me and my friends Sarah and Ellen.  Thankfully for all involved, the course did not go straight up the ski slopes, but rather chose a twisty route up the service roads, which double in the winter as the “easiest way down” trails with such names as “Cub’s Way”, and “Getalong Road”, and “Eternal Peril” Wait, I must have misread that last one, that doesn't sound right. 

No matter, I like to climb hills, and I thought I would be relatively competitive in this event, so I lined up right at the front of the pack like a big boy.  I realized quite quickly that I would not be winning this event right after the race started and the leaders blasted out to a 5-minute mile in the first, flat mile through town.  I knew what effort felt good for me and let them go, and tried to maintain a hard but sustainable pace.  Happily I was able to reel in quite a few runners who may have been a little over-eager at the start, and by about mile 4 or 5 everyone was pretty much settled in to their slots.  The road kept climbing up the side of the ski hill, and we crossed under numerous chairlifts, and across bare ski slopes, and through shady groves of trees as the views of the surrounding mountains got more and more impressive.  But the more impressive the view got, the less interested I was in enjoying it, as the climb, as climbs are want to do, got more and more difficult.  By mile 6 (out of 7.3 miles total) my legs and lungs were at the breaking point.  My only thought was not to let those people whom I passed pass me back.  A point of pride, I suppose.  There were two racers just ahead of me but I could not close the gap on them, no matter my effort.

Ellen cranking it out on the final climb
Sarah looking strong in a picture that is in no way staged whatsoever

I was trying to climb the hill in under one hour, and as I rounded the final switchback and the finish line came in to view, I saw the race clock at the side of the finishing arch, and it read ”59:59”, and quickly rolled over to “1:00:00” before I could muster the strength to cross under the banner.  Alas, I came in just over one hour at 1:00:04, finishing a gentleman’s 19th place overall, and a, uh, gentleman’s 4th place in my age group.

The weather was beautiful at the top of the mountain, and we enjoyed a nice cool down run on the trails and then took the gondola back down to Vail.  Then I ate lunch at the Red Lion bar in Vail Village with Sarah’s family, and then started part two of my Vail adventure.

You may be wondering why all this running, and writing about the same, when I should actually be riding in preparation for the Courage Classic.  Fair enough.  That’s why I packed my road bike with me on my trip to Vail.  I decided that after the run, if I felt up to it, I would ride my bike from Vail Village to the top of Vail Pass and back down.  What was I thinking?  And of course I had to open my big mouth and tell everyone I was doing that so now here I was, at 1 pm, clipped into my bike and trying to navigate the Vail Village parking garage in order to strike out for mountain adventure number two for the day.  Finally, some biking to write about!

Vail pass is a lovely mountain climb that is made even better by the fact that it is a car-free climb.  The route uses what I must assume is the old Vail pass road, and then a purpose-built bike trail that parallels the interstate up to the top of the pass.  It is also the centerpiece climb of the first day of the Courage Classic ride, so I figured it would be good to know if I could handle this climb on tired legs.  I changed from running to biking gear and washed my face of salt and trail grime in the public restroom of the Vail parking garage (how glamorous is my life!), applied another round of sunscreen and thought that any day that required multiple applications of sunscreen is a good day, and as mentioned, wound my way out of the parking structure and pointed my bike towards the hill.

I'll be back here in a few weeks!

And you know what, ultimately it really wasn’t that bad.  Indeed I took my time, I think it took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach the top of the pass, but other than being fairly stiff at the beginning of the ride I felt better than I thought I would feel.  Of course a large part of this may have been do to the fact that there was a spectacular tail-wind pushing me up the pass, but let us not obsess over minute atmospheric details, shall we?  Also I must mention that although Vail pass is significantly higher than Rist canyon in Fort Collins, I think Rist is more difficult.

Having successfully attained summit number two on the day I pointed the bike back down to Vail, and then drove back to the Fort for a well-earned dinner at Enzio’s with the Speights, where we were expertly-waited-upon by super-nice Nicole, runner-extraordinaire and apparent inspiration for many dashed adjectives.

For the 4th of July the plan was to ride Rist canyon with Celeste, after we volunteered at the local Firecracker 5k.  And then take the dogs up into the mountains so they would be out of earshot from the loud and scary city fireworks display, which happens to be staged right in our neighborhood.  But nothing went to plan and everything fell apart.  But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to read about that because I have to go to work!

Again, thanks for donating, and once more here are the links:

1 comment:

  1. Nice job in the hill climb. 4th place is pretty amazing especially when you look at the guys that were 1, 2 and 3- these guys all hold top finishes at big mountain races like Pikes, Barr Trail and Blue Sky. You are definitely one of the big boys.