When Ben asked me a couple days before the race if I wanted to compete in the Vail Pass Half Marathon at the Teva Games I jumped at the opportunity. I checked out the course map and elevation chart and thought, hey, that’s not that bad.
I don’t think the statement “it sounded like a good idea at the time” could ever be more fitting than in this situation.
Looking back now, I definitely had a blast and loved the brutal experience, but there were definitely some low points during the race in which my thoughts were full of every single expletive imaginable.
Here’s the lowdown on the course:
- Vail Village to the top of Vail Pass
- 13.7 miles
- 2,900 feet of elevation gain
- Finish line altitude of 10,000 feet
Did I also mention that the race only attracts top runners and amazing athletes? Oh yeah, out of the 120-something participants, only about 100 finished, most of which in amazing time. One of them was Amy Smith, a friend of ours who dominated the course in a time of just over 2 hours. She finished up 3rd in her age group (my age group too) – congrats Smith!!
Smith, Ben and I met up before the race and were all in good spirits. I really had no clue what to expect. Ben and I decided to just take ‘er easy and treat it like a training run for the Leadville 50 and Transrockies races.
The first 4 miles of the course were full of breathtaking vistas over undulating road and paved trails. I was seriously giddy I was enjoying myself that much. Ben and I were joking around and high-fiving other participants, not really thinking about what was to come.
Just before the 4-mile mark the course started to take a “gradual” uphill trend as we began our official ascent of Vail Pass. As Ben and I trucked up miles 4-6, we were less talkative and more down-to-business-like.
Miles 6-9 were brutal. I no longer said anything (except remarking at how nasty my chocolate gu was) due to the fact that I was breathing so heavily. I was so thankful to have Ben there to help me keep in a rhythm. He’s such a good climber, and his steady footfalls up the mountain helped me stay in check.
Mile 9 was my breaking point. I walked through that particular aid station and watched Ben continue up the mountain. I was crestfallen. I really wanted to keep up with him and steadily make my way up the course. Unfortunately, my lack of hill (or mountain??) training was finally getting to me.
Miles 9-12 were a mix of “power hiking” and running what I deemed runable. I must say, I was actually pretty proud of my speedy power hiking. I was averaging a 14-minute mile up that damn mountain and I actually passed 2 people that were RUNNING while I was power hiking. I felt like one of those Mom’s you see at the mall early in the morning power walking her way through the stores. Yep, that was me, just on a steep-ass mountainside.
I will say that my mix of power hiking and running lifted my spirits. I didn’t feel that I was losing too much ground, I could still see Ben (still running – trucking his way up that Pass), I hadn’t been passed and my energy levels were relatively good.
I hit mile 12 and said screw this noise, and started running. My goal was to make it back to Ben. I finally joined him at mile 13.6 – right before the finish. We crossed the line together in 2:35 – not too shabby if you ask me. The first words out of Ben’s mouth were “you stubborn, stubborn girl!”. I was pretty happy with that!
Here are my Garmin stats from the race:
So, when it’s all said and run, I have to say that I’m absurdly impressed with myself, Ben and Smith. We dominated that Pass and surprised ourselves. Can’t say it was too smart to register without knowing the enormity of the race, but it was definitely worth it and totally epic!!