Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Weekend: Summit for Life Race

Getting close to the summit.  I had another racer use my camera and snap the photo.  I only took my gloves off to get my camera out, I didn't go up without them on.
I have run a grand total of five races this fall/early winter since Leadville.  This fifth one though was the one that I was looking forward to the most.  I really don't know why, but it just sounded like a lot of fun when I learned about it in September on my first trip to Aspen.

The start at the base of Little Nell. The gondola station would be to the left of the frame.
The Summit for Life is a race put on by the Chris Klug Foundation.  It's a forty dollar entry fee plus a $100 minimum donation collection.  There are two waves to the race.  The recreational division that takes off at 17:00 from the base of Aspen Mountain next to the gondola, and the competitive division which takes off at 18:00 from the same place.  The race is 2.5 miles in distance, and 3200 vertical feet gain.  You can ski up, snowshoe up, run up, hike up, take your pick.  There was a pretty even mix I think between the groups.  Seems the skiers went up faster maybe.  Waiting at the summit at the Sun Deck Lounge were lots of good food, drinks and post race awards and a very festive party. 

My first priority for this entire event was my fundraising efforts and I can't thank all of my friends and family who made donations enough.  Thank you.  My goal was to raise $1000 which I thought was lofty and in the end I raised $1300, even more awesome.  As far as the race goes?  Eh... I wasn't prepared to race it and didn't plan to race it.  Really.

Well, that isn't entirely true.  The weather and whatnot really influenced my decision.  Teens and snow at the base and snowing, and colder at the summit (I think it was two degrees Fahrenheit when I got up there) made me decide to dress for comfort rather than speed.

Vasque leather hiking boots, micro-spikes, ski pants, gore-tex gaiters, two shirts, insulation layer and my heavy jacket.  I had to be wearing 20 lbs in clothes I bet.  Others, more experienced to this kind of thing were dressed a lot lighter and when I do it again I will probably take that approach too but again conditions will ultimately dictate that.

The race... decided it was going to be a slow and steady hike and try to keep my HR down and not blow up.  And start slow I did...  I swear I was the last person over the top of Little Nell climb or at least it felt that way.  I just figured no big deal, just keep taking steps and get a rhythm going.   I did pick this race to try something totally different than I have ever done before and that was that I used poles on the ascent.  Except for my arms getting really tired at times I think they really made a difference especially after I learned to use the loops as opposed to the handle for pushing down on the poles.  Plus, going up in that snow, besides some added propulsion from my arms and not just my legs, the poles were extremely beneficial in maintaining stability on the way up.  So poles might be something I look into in the future for racing but only in places where they might come in handy and actually be warranted.

I only had my Garmin set to display altitude as I knew that was the real measuring stick of progress on this mountain.  The first 1000 feet gain just sucked pretty much mostly because it was just a shock to my system to be climbing like that.  I wasn't totally efficient yet, and really had no idea where I was going.  But after that first 1K of gain I started feeling better.  I also started passing a lot of people.  It seemed like a lot of people who went out too fast were slowing once they got into Spar Gulch.  Spar Gulch is steep and when it isn't steep it's damned near vertical.  Vertical enough that I was actually kicking steps it seemed a few times.

After passing 1600 in gain I was feeling better just knowing I was halfway there.  We passed the second and last aid station at 2000 in gain and after that is when it really started to get cold.  I had to zip my jacket up, put my face mask on to protect skin and close the vents in my jacket.  Fortunately it wasn't too windy as that would have made it worse but it was definitely cold.  It also seemed much more dark the last 1000 feet to the summit also.  Not sure why but it was.

I finished in 1:48.  I was hoping for something more like 1:30 but for my first time I am okay with it and really I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the trip up.  I would definitely do it again next year.  Also I get to do the same race again pretty much in March when I do the Americas Uphill on March 15.  Video of the Americas Uphill course which is the same as the Summit for life course.

Side note.... I wore my HRM but did not keep an eye on it all and only tried to maintain my level of effort by feel.  When all was said and done and Melissa and I were going down the gondola back to town I told her I bet my average HR was maybe 152.  I was surprised to find out when I downloaded everything that it was only 147 so I did a good job on keeping it damned near in the MAF zone the entire time just by feel.

Past that... a tough, quick, turnaround weekend.  It was my first time up in Aspen since Nov 13 and seemed like forever.  The drive up Friday night was not fun.  Today's drive back was only slightly better but I damned near bought it when a jack ass cut me off on Vail Pass.  I got lucky.  Damned lucky.   So back in the springs for another five days and then to Aspen again on Friday but this time I get to stay for three weeks.  Melissa and I have not spent more than week together at a time since July so it will be nice. 

Coming into the finish.  The 100 yards or so of flat terrain was a nice break.   Melissa rode the gondola up and waited at the top and took this photo as I was finishing.
I am still on my running break.  The "lottery results" of this past weekend have left me feeling even more unfocused, disenchanted, and less motivated than ever before.  The earliest I might run will be Thursday but I doubt I will. 


  1. No! Not poles!

    Not counting weather, is this harder or easier than the Incline?

  2. I have a plan for you- Silver King. congrats on a tough one uphill.