Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mountain running? I do that too.

After a three days of walking the floor at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City I headed east to ski town Park City, Utah, to run in the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, a 16 mile (about 27 kilometre) trail run in the Wasatch Mountains. The race is one of 10 in the LaSportiva Mountain Cup race series, the richest trail racing series in North America with $25,000 up for grabs for the cup winner.
Gore (makers of Gore-tex et. al.) and La Sportiva sponsor the series and invited a small team of journalists to experience the race for themselves. I was pretty nervous about Jupiter Peak - I'd never run that far before, the race starts at 7,000 feet and climbs above 10,000 and I live and train at sea level, and my IT band has been bugging me on all my long training runs.
The night before was a good relaxer though as we got a run through of La Sportiva's spring 2011 new trail shoes (lots of really cool stuff coming for next year) and went to dinner at Robert Redford's Zoom Restaurant (try the giant onion rings and the ribs). We also learned about Park City's incredible trail infrastructure. With leadership from the Mountain Trails Foundation, a locally supported non-profit, 380 miles of trails have been built and are maintained in the Park City area, linking three ski resorts and surrounding public lands with some of the buffest and smoothest trails I've ever seen. "We think we have the best mountain biking in the country right now," Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of the foundation, told us. With two IMBA epics nearby the business model and trail infrastructure is a model for others to follow.
After dinner we headed out onto Park City's historic Main Street to check out the Kimball Arts Festival. The entire street was filled with art of all types and descriptions and the entire town seemed to be out to enjoy it.
The next day, 300 racers left the start line at the Park City ski hill base headed for the distant summit of Jupiter Peak. The first part of the race was on a steady and steepening road and then onto single track where I fell into line with everyone else, basically staring at the feet of the runner in front of you. It was good though, since it gave me a chance to catch my breath and find a rhythm. Slowly the pack thinned out and before long I was cruising along comfortably. I ran most of the way up the seven mile climb, walking only where the grade steepened. At the summit I felt strong, but it didn't last.
The steep descent tightened my IT band. I had to stop several times to stretch it out as we raced along an exposed ridge with great views and then dropped into flowy singletrack. I couldn't help wishing I was on my mountain bike.
If I didn't try and slow myself down my IT band felt better, so after a while I just let it all go. I started passing people too. I coasted into the finish feeling pretty spent and sore. Total time: 2:38 minutes. Since I was aiming for under three hours I was pretty happy with my time. It was good enough for 72nd male and 84th overall. And top Canadian, although ex-pat Elinor Fish, an editor at Trail Runner Magazine, beat me by seven minutes.
If you're ever in the area in August this is an exceptional race, well worth considering. And if you're ever heading south with the mountain bikes make sure you stop in Park City. I'm planning on riding there next year.
For a great race report and links to full results check out Bryon Powell's irunfar.com site.

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