In the pouring rain 250 of us stood ready to take on 10,000+ feet of climbing in the first of its kind Sky Running (World Cup Trail Running) to take place on the eastern US and it’s 40 degrees in June…
The race went off with the usual excitement and soon we running, uphill, really slowly. My ignorance of languages was showing as I was getting plenty of comments for being the only fool to wear a singlet and gloves. Most were in jackets, hats, pants…The Euros got quite a kick out of my braving the weather, yet I was well trained for 40 degrees, sleet on the summits, rain at the base; I’m @AlpineAthlete from Vermont!
The hill kept going and one mile in I was happy with my clothing selections. It was way harder than I ever imagined, climbing a near vertical wall of alpine moss & rock with rain and water everywhere. I would find out in about three miles that as part of the lead 30 runners we were lost & had veered off course.
A course official stopped up to inform that we were lost and the race coordinator apologizes, but was now uncertain how to score the race now.
There was no time to think as we were screaming downhill fast and headed back toward the base. Running was on par with trying to run an elevator shaft coated in motor oil and Crisco, being chased by Euros with ski poles, blindfolded…
Back at the base it became apparent that the struggle was real, coated in mud and into an aid station was just chaos and unlike my last ultra – my Bro was not there to help and provide mojo. Just a group of broken adults rationalizing why they should abandon the race at this point. No chariots of fire music for this scene, I fumbled through eating and was off for the easy section before heading to the summit again.
Easy turned out to be flatter, yet the rain now had banks overflowing and the river had deposited 12 inches of water on the bulk of the trail, but I was moving, warm and not wearing 20 pounds of wet jacket, so WINNING!!!
After hearing from a course official that I had,
One more mile on the section.
My GPS watch ticked off three miles before popping out at a tent aid station where I was offered water, Gatorade or BEER!?
After pounding two beers (I was over-hydrated and this was a great idea! – Thank you Ithaca Hash House Harriers!) I was blasting back to the check in at the base.
Again more talk of legitimizing a DNF (Did Not Finish) from folks, I needed to roll, so back up the hill.
This was the mental low of the event: tired and not able to benefit from knowing where I was because I got lost on round one, I set off picking people off ahead of me. They were like tiny ants and I was heading up not knowing when I would hit the top. The folks with ski poles had an advantage and I was starting to slow after catching a few runners ahead of me. I rationalized that I would kick about a mile from the summit and the use my descending speed skill from years of skiing. But I was lost, tired and the rain was changing to sleet again. With the last of my energy I spotted a bamboo trail pole that had seen years of ski area abuse. With all I had, I snapped the bamboo over my knee and BAM– POLES! I found another gear and took off (albeit this was compared to my speed on hands and knees prior on the steep terrain).
I hit the top of the mountain to cheering, a woman handed me a coffee and a handful of Oreos and Swedish fish; I was heading toward the finish.
I fell no less than six times hard on the way back, yet I was determined to have no regrets on this day. With half a mile to go I passed a pack of racers and kept sprinting, it was their time to chase and we were tearing down the hill. Rather than go straight which was deadly, I was sprinting super-G turns and pulling away…
Poor course markings
Yet, There Is Another Way To Live!