Friday, September 7, 2012

First Mountain Experience

Sue and I had the opportunity to spend the week in the fantastic Vail Village in Colorado. This provided me the opportunity to run on a “real” mountain for the first time. For local (Ohio) runs we talk about how a race has “x” feet of overall climb. In Vail it’s pretty simple; climb 3000 feet, then decend 3000 feet. I started at 7000 and ran (call it a spirited hike) to 10,000 feet then ran (call it a quick step shuffle) back to the base. Round trip from the hotel was just under 9 miles.

Running (aka falling) down a mountain takes a toll on knees. I’ll bet actually running down would put more stress on the quads but my stutter step thing stressed my knees. More time on a mountain would probably yield big improvements. It’s probably like skiing, where local runs last a few minutes but runs on mountains can last 30 minutes. The longer runs give you time to “try stuff” and see what works and what doesn’t.

I thought my local (Mount Airy Forest) trails were considered very technical. And compared to the other trails, they are difficult. The hiking/running trail in Vail I ran was called Berry Pickers. This name conjures up a casual hike with the chance to find wild berries to eat on the way. Not. The average grade is over 15% with sections much steeper than that. Here is a section that lasted about 100 yards that was very steep, rocky, off camber, and slippery. Decending was just as challenging as climbing it.

The views were just incredible. Many stream crossings, groves of Aspens, and traverses across the face of the mountain provided views worthy of postcards. Most of these pictures were taken on my first run which also gave me a chance to give my oxygen-deprived lungs a rest.

There is a 5K race they have every year on this trail and times are between 35 min for elite runners and an hour + for age groupers. I just can’t imagine people getting up that mountain in 35 minutes. My second day climb was about a 19 min pace which would have been just under an hour for the 5K. My second day decent was 12:20 min pace or just over 38 minutes. So these people are climbing faster than I decend !
Ski Run

moon-near summit

I think Sue and I have found a new contender for a summer condo when we retire. But this place is expensive to live although the trail running is free.