Day Three: Vail Uphill
Toughness Factor: Another masochist’s delight, this time in running shoes. Race Recap: Climb this mountain, again? Really?
Key Gear: La Sportiva Wildcat GTX shoes with Kahtoola Microspikes. The combination worked great, providing plenty of traction and waterproof protection (yet light weight enough to run hard).
Summary: I felt drained from the start of the Vail Uphill run, which kicked off at an unholy hour of 7 a.m. About 200 people charged the 2,200 vertical feet up the mountain in this event on a full range of gear. AT skis with skins, snowshoes, and shoe “traction devices” galore rounded out the equipment racers employed to get to the top.
This race is a pure gut-check and, while technique and gear does matter, it is mostly mind over body. I finished in a slightly disappointing 48:29.50, seventh place in my division.
Final Impression: After three days of competition, I finished in sixth place in the Amateur Men’s division of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. Looking back, I should have trained harder for the specific events, and with more back to back days. I could have done better. I am, however, a bit hooked on the sport of Ski Mountaineering. It is a natural complement to trail running, tough as heck, and yet very rewarding.
My body is still a bit sore a few days later. Next year? I’m not sure if I’ll be back for this race just yet. Better ask me next week!
—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor based in Denver.