Trippin’ Around the West: Park City, Aspen, Fort Collins
I think I’ve spent more time in a car driving around the West in the past two weeks than I have actually training time. Six hours from Sun Valley to Park City + seven hours from Park City to Aspen + five hours from Aspen to Fort Collins = Eighteen hours in a car. Since I left Sun Valley, I have trained a measly eleven hours.
I spent just three days in Park City at Rosie’s house, and had a cold for most of that time, so I didn’t do much skiing. Wednesday we headed out to Aspen, and the drive was much less interesting than I anticipated. Most of the way was scrubby trees and mesa-tops, and lots of oil fields. Western Colorado…
Only when we got close to Aspen did the mountains start to look like what I expected. The races in Aspen were HARD. Freaking hard. The race courses were around 8000 ft elevation or higher, which meant that you had to be really careful about going out too hard. Three-quarters of my races this year have been at altitude, but in the 4-6000 ft elevation range, so there was still a significantly different feeling at 8000′. The first day in Aspen we previewed the Owl Creek Chase course. It was a beautiful day and a fantastic ski, but made me dread what was coming for me on Sunday just a little bit. Unlike the BMT, which is a constant slight downhill, the Owl Creek Chase starts in Snowmass Village at 8000′, climbs up and over two mini-passes before descending down part of Buttermilk Alpine area into Aspen, and then to really stick it to you, you then have to ski past the finish and continue on the 5k race loop at the high school before finishing. I found these two course profiles of the BMT and the OCC, so you can see the difference in difficulty!
Owl Creek Chase Course Profile
Some photos from our ski:
Taking a fuel break among the aspen trees.
Crossing the gorge into Aspen
Saturday was a brutal day, with a sprint qualifier at 9am followed by a 5k at 11am. It was snowing lightly as we tested skis and warmed up, and then all of a sudden it started just dumping snow about 30 minutes before the start. The snow was so dense and coming down so fast that you could hardly see the tracks in front of you; they quickly got obliterated. By 9:45am, there were about four inches of freshy-fresh snow, and then the clouds parted and the sun came out. Fortunately, they took the groomer out and regroomed the 5k loop for the next race, and the tracks packed out quite nicely with a teeny bit of moisture in the snow. Only five women completed the sprint qualifier, so the podium was Rosie, myself and Erika.
The 5k did not go so well for me. My body felt flat and tired, especially after the sprint. I think the cumulative effect of being sick earlier in the week, a marathon last weekend, and being at 8-9000′ took more of a toll on me than I expected. I got beat by a few local juniors. Bummer.
I was nervous going into Sunday’s race, the 21k Owl Creek Chase, but also looking forward to it. However, my body did not want to cooperate, and pretty much from the start I was struggling to feel a race effort. I got dropped from the lead pack pretty early, and just decided to settle in and try to at least make it a good L3 workout. As Rosie liked to say, no matter what, you come away from this race fitter and everything else seems easy comparatively. It’s true, it was possibly the hardest race I’ve ever done, but I know I got more out of it by finishing than if I had decided not to race or not finish.
The lead pack shortly after I got dropped. (all photos by Thomas Wells)
After the races, we spent some much needed time in the hot tub. Thank you so much to Rosie’s aunt, who generously let us stay in her vacation house in Snowmass for the weekend. Also thank you to Nick Brown for waxing our skis.
The secret theater room behind the bookcase!
After Aspen, I drove back to Denver area with my friend Thomas, who was nice enough to let me borrow his car to drive an hour north to Fort Collins to visit my brother at CSU. I had never been to CSU, so it was fun to check out campus and meet my brother’s friends. His roommate treated us to some delicious wine from his family’s winery in Denver.