Monday, June 18, 2007

La Sportiva Trail Running Trifecta - Snowmass, CO

This was a sequence of races held on Snowmass Mountain just outside of Aspen. Trail Runner Magazine was kind enough to send me out there for being Trail Runner of the Year last year. The "trifecta" consisted of three races: a 5 mile run up and down the hill Saturday morning, a hill run straight up Snowmass Mountain on Sunday, and a half marathon on Sunday up and around the mountain and down.

Rebecca and I flew direct from SFO to Aspen the night before, an easy trip since the direct flight from SFO to Aspen just opened up after several months of not being available. We drove the short jaunt from Aspen/Pitkin airport to Snowmass Village to stay in the Laurelwood Condominiums right next to the race site. When we pulled into the parking lot there was a large fat bear in the first available spot. With some large white object in its mouth (a sandwich? a human body part?). A thrilling start to our stay.

The next morning dawned sunny and glorious in what is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We went down to the race start to check in. We picked up some lattes on the way to the lift which carried us up to the race start. It was a small but hardcore field with grizzled trail racing vets such as Bernie Boettcher ready to compete with recent cross country collegians. The fact that I knew I wouldn't be competitive at elevation let me enjoy it more, with no pressure to perform.

The race director sent us off up the wide grassy fairway straight up the mountain. After a quarter mile of climbing we turned off onto some single track which turned into the woods undulating across the mountain face. Most of the course was then single track with brief jaunts onto fireroad. The race organizers had two aid stations set up, almost unheard of for such a short course. Although I had trouble breathing at this altitude I drank in the scenery, enjoying every minute. At sea level, I can't imagine a course I would enjoy more or do better at. It definitely reminded me of the short course Pacific Coast Trail Runs races (such as Mount Diablo two weeks earlier).

After 25 minutes or so I hit the downhill which contained a fair amount of fireroad. I didn't really bomb the downhill since we had a couple days more of racing, and my right foot's outer edge was still hurting from the Lake Youngs Ultra. I got passed by one young racer on the downhill and another older guy threatened to pass me. I finished at 46 minutes and change.

Finishing the five miler

Rebecca and I immediately hightailed it to Aspen to go to the Main Street Bakery Cafe for breakfast before the afternoon hill race at 1pm. After a good breakfast we headed back to the Village.

My right foot was hurting so I tried to ice it in an attempt to be able to run on it for the afternoon's race. I was unsuccessful so we instead ordered a masseuse in and relaxed by the pool for the afternoon before heading into Aspen for dinner at Bistro Rustique, a great little country French restaurant.

After Saturday's massage my foot felt fine, so we got up at 8am to walk down to wait for the half marathon start. This race started just a hundred feet up from the village based.

We ran up to where the five mile loop had begun and started doing the same loop counterclockwise. I was really moving slow as the altitude had begun to affect me even more the second day. I enjoyed doing it in the other direction this time, and as we got back down to the base of the loop we did another full loop of that five miler course. Once out we ran back down the mountain to the starting area. I enjoyed myself the whole time, treating it as a training run for next week's marathon at Pacific Crest at 4000 feet in Bend, Oregon. I finished just under 2:21, which I was happy with given all the climbing and racing at elevation.

Rebecca and I headed off to downtown Aspen afterwards for the Food and Wine Festival which happened to be the same weekend. We had lunch at the Pacifica Seafood Bar, drinks at the Hotel Jerome and dinner at the Explorer bookstore (which has a cute vegetarian cafe amidst their eclectic stacks) before heading back to the airport for the 2 hour flight back to San Francisco.

It was a small crowd (seemed smaller than the 70 people they claimed). But I hope the race does well as the venue is perfect: both the oncourse scenery and the offcourse surroundings.


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