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

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.

running in snow.jpg

Runners emerge over a crest, depleted after climbing 2,200 vertical feet up Vail Mountain

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.