Race report: 'Ultimate Mt. Challenge' a leg-killer, lung-crusher in Vail

Day One: Nordic Freestyle 10k

Toughness Factor: Intense, but short and sweet. Race Recap: Sprint 10 kilometers on a groomed trail at the Vail Nordic Center. Rolling hills made for some lung-burning climbs to 9,000 feet.

Key Gear: I raced on a very “experienced” pair of Rossignol Xium S1 skis
(186cm) borrowed from my father, who has used them in two Masters’ World Cups and four Birkies. They were waxed with layers of Vauti LF Graphite, Swix LF6, and Toko flouro paste. Thanks pops! The boots were Salomon SNS Pilots; poles, OneWay 960 (157cm).

Nordic XC race.jpg

Maximum speed on groomed Nordic trails

Summary: Fully expecting this to be my weakest event I shuddered near the back of a pack of about 100 Spandex-clad super athletes. A big purse brings in Olympic-caliber specialists, so I wasn’t surprised to watch the front of the pack disappear around the first bend of the race, never to be seen again.

My strategy was to push as hard as I could without going anaerobic at the ~9,000-foot altitude. The race wound through spectacularly beautiful scenery in the Vail Valley. I marveled at the Gore Range in the distance as the sun warmed the course. I huffed and puffed and finished in the middle of the pack.

Next page: Day Two: Ski Mountaineering Race. . .