Monday, August 4, 2014

Steeplechase Showdown: Mountain Cup Finale

Course map and elevation profile.
A big lesson was learned the last time I went to Park City, Utah for the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, the final race in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup: stay in a hotel with air conditioning. Last year the combination of a hot hotel room, laboring lungs and a constant nosebleed didn't leave me much to desire to return to this event. But this being the culminating race in the series, I couldn’t resist returning to get the opportunity to hang out with the La Sportiva crew and my fellow competitors who have grown to be great dear friends. Also, having only run 3 races in the series, I needed an extra race in order to place in the most competitive top 5 finish in the history of the series. The race itself –albeit a challenge for this sea-level girl— always brings a great sense of accomplishment and is a rewarding experience.

So off to Salt Lake City Tad and I went.  I have been traveling back and forth to races the past 6 weeks so I have got into the mechanical pattern of coming home, washing my clothes and then putting them right back into my suitcase. Luggage has become a permanent fixture in the hallway. We drove to Park City Friday morning to stun the lungs with a little shake out run on the course. As seems to be the norm lately, we serendipitously ran into Megan Deakins and David Roche at a cafĂ© for lunch. We must share the same eating patterns as we see them every time we go out for a meal at races. Megan and David have had busy summers racing as well and will be traveling to Italy for the World Mountain Running Championship this September. After a long chat we parted ways to nap and continue preparation for the next day.

Sarah and I scramblin'.
For dinner we met Sarah Kjorstad, her husband and adorable little boy for an Italian dinner and a glass of red wine to, you know, quiet the nerves. There is such a calming effect to be around someone who is about to go through the same experience and shares the same pre-race fears. They may not be the same fears (Sarah fears coming in last whereas I fear getting lost, falling down the mountain, getting stuck in a crevasse and not having a tourniquet for when I have to sever my leg off), but they are concerns nonetheless.

LOVE this animal-like pic of Megan Deakins!
We came to the starting line, calm in each other’s presence and at the count of one, two, three, were off. An immediate start up a steep service road had us going a blistering 9ish minute pace. Megan Deakins led the way for the women, with Megan Kimmel close behind, followed by local Salomon tri-athlete and Xterra National Champion Emma Garrard, myself and Sarah. I worked together with the men around me to stick as close to Emma as I could until I reached the clearing to begin the battle up Jupiter Peak. I took a moment to look up at what I was about to ascend and it was truly remarkable. A line of racers studded the path ahead of me with hands on knees. At the point when I had to start using my hands to pull me up the final lip of the peak, Sarah came by with an encouraging word and took off to the second “steeple.” When I reached the climb to the top of Tri-Peak, I saw the Megans, Emma and Sarah all right there. This was a race! Unfortunately, by the time I got up and over the peak, their head start on the downhill was enough to gap me to the end. Fortunately though, I had a guardian angel with me the whole way down. Mark Christopherson, where ever you are, thank you for your encouragement, support, offers of food and water and cheers. You are one of the reason I love trail running. Never will you meet more genuine, kind people. I stuck with Mark as we came down the final 7 miles at 6:20 pace until the last mile.

Last Km to the finish.

I crossed the line 5th woman, 19th overall in a time of 2:08:33… 10 minutes faster than last year. What an incredible race for the ladies! The top 5 woman were within a 5 minute and 35 second spread! The 6th place woman was La Sportiva teammate and ultrarunner Jennilyn Eaton. You can read her humorous account on her experience as to how a “short fast distance” differs from a 100-miler on her blog. Full results here

150Megan DEAKINSSUNNYVALE CAF 20 to 24002:02:58.100:00:00.0007:41.1
2108Sarah KJORSTADJACKSON WYF 35 to 39002:05:11.400:02:13.3007:49.5
3107Megan KIMMELSILVERTON COF 30 to 34002:05:58.900:03:00.8007:52.4
469Emma GARRARDPARK CITY UTF 30 to 34002:06:19.000:03:20.9007:53.7
547Maria DALZOTF 25 to 29002:08:33.900:05:35.8008:02.1
655Jennilyn EATONSANDY UTF 25 to 29002:27:37.100:24:39.0009:13.6

Congratulations to Megan Kimmel for winning the 2014 La Sportiva Mountain Cup. This makes the 6th year in a row that Megan has been victorious. She is truly one of the best on and off the course. Cheers to Ryan Woods, La Sportiva teammate for taking home the stein mug on the men’s side. I ended up 4th in the series by one point. While that is disheartening, it is hard to be disappointed in a good performance and 10 minute improvement from last year. With such a competitive field this year I needed that 5th race to score more points, but it is what it is. Final Mountain Cup results here

Thank you La Sportiva, Everett and Ian for the support you have given me this year and for being such a prominent figure in the growing niche of trail running. Thank you to the Mountain Trails Foundation of Park City, Utah for allowing us to play on your trails and appreciate the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. Much love and gratitude goes to my support in the Northwest- Bogg’sTrail Butter, Terrain Gym and Align Chiropractic.

Top men and women finishers in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup.

I am going to take some time now to reflect on the past 3 races; determine what I did right, what I can do to improve my physical and mental training and write down the many lessons I have learned so that I can continue to grow as an athlete and a person. It is time to put the luggage away and pack the cooler for some mountain adventures in my own backyard. Let me know if you want to join the fun. 

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