Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jupiter Steeplechase

This past Saturday was the Jupiter Steeplechase at Park City Mountain Resort. The Steeplechase is essentially and out and back course (with a small, short loop at the mid point). It is 16 miles round trip and features 3000 vertical feet of gain & loss (Read: 8 miles in with 3000 feet gain, 8 miles out with 3000 feet loss).

I decided to run the Steeplechase after the Wasatch Back Relay. Even though I've known for almost a month that I was going to be running the race I didn't train as much as I probably should have. I continued to run once or twice a week, but never really put in vert training. I did one training run that focused on vert, but that was all. Needless to say, I was a little nervous on race day because I thought I was going to get thoroughly worked during the race.

The race began at 8:00 am on Saturday. There was a small contingent a runners from Backcountry (there was 4 of us). As the race started I was determined to not make the same mistake as I made during the Mid-Mountain Marathon last year. I started out at a good pace for myself and did my best to ignore the people around me and just focus on how I was feeling. I didn't care if anyone passed me. There were a couple times that I thought to myself "let them pass, you'll catch them later when they are dead from pushing it too early".

The CEO at Backcountry had run the Steeplechase last year and his one piece of advice to me when I asked him about it was "don't be afraid to stop running and just powerhike". It was sage advice. I used a nice combination of running and powerhiking when things got really steep. It was quite useful because I would actually be moving faster hiking and using less energy then trying to propel myself running up the steep sections.

The pinnacle (no pun intended), and crux, of the race is when you have to ascend Jupiter Peak. It is so steep that you literally have to scramble to the top. I didn't hear of anyone during the race that was able to run up it. Reading the description of the race it says "...Once reaching the peak tag the flag pole and begin your decent on to Jupiter Peak Road merging on to Pioneer Ridge Road." The description makes it sound like you hit the top, tag the pole, and then it's all downhill from there. Alas, it is not so. You start running down the backside of Jupiter Peak, only to realize there is another peak to ascend. After reaching the top of the second peak you see a third. A small string of obscenities did run through my mind after reaching the top each time only to see that you have to go down and back up.

Fortunately, after the third peak it literally was downhill the rest of the way back to the finish. After reaching the halfway point, the adrenaline started pumping again at the thought of being halfway done and not feeling completely depleted of energy. I did restrain myself to a slower pace than the adrenaline was telling me to go. As the race continued I was very glad that kept my slower pace. Eight miles of downhill is still very tiring to run. There were a couple of small rolling uphill sections that were extremely difficult to get through after having ran over half the race and ascending over 3000 feet. The most difficult section came at the very end. I was running down the lower switchbacks of the Spiro Trail, keeping pace with a lady in front of me, when I realized I almost done. I picked up the pace through the lower switchbacks. Right before you come out of the switchbacks and into the final open run to the finish line, there were a couple more rolling uphills. These uphill sections almost stopped me. They hurt...a lot! I knew I was so close to the finish that I made myself push on.

Judging from my lack of training and how I performed at the Mid-Mountain last year, I thought it was take me between 3 and 3.5 hours to finish. Jess didn't want to come to the finish line and have to wait forever (I don't blame her) so I told her to get there a few minutes before 11. As it turns out I ran the race in 2:41:55! I was completely surprised by my time! I did surprisingly better than I thought I would. Unfortunately Jess showed up about 10 minutes after I finished. I wish I would have told her I would finish sooner. I love it when she is there to cheer my on! Since I finished the race before she got there, there aren't any pictures. :(

Overall the race was killer and wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I faired better than I could have imagined. Since the race went so well I decided to sign up for the Mid-Mountain again this year!


Mrs. Olsen said...

Wow! That race sounds killer! Isn't it funny how you can think you are close to the end of a race, but you really have some hard work to go? It's sort of frustrating at the time. Congrats on your time!

climbinskier said...

The worst part was as I was getting close to the bottom I would catch glimpses of the base area and the finish line through the trees! Even then I still didn't know exactly how far it was.

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