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Caroline Sandry laCeS her trail ShoeS and headS to Colorado, to get in on the aCtion of the teva Mountain gaMeS
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September 2011 www.womensrunninguk.co.uk

‘the trails were beautiful, flowing through trees on soft ground one minute, careering down a snowy, muddy ski run the next’

ail, Colorado, is a well-known ski destination in the Rocky Mountains of North America. It’s also the playground of many extreme athletes and every spring hundreds of them descend upon the valley for the Teva Mountain Games, which comprises eight sports and 23 disciplines – everything from trail running to extreme kayaking. I was so excited at the prospect of combining two of my passions (mountains and running) that I immediately signed up for the Vail Pass Half Marathon and merrily began upping my mileage that very week. However, some days later, upon reading that this half marathon is one of the toughest in the world, I realised I may have bitten off more than I could chew, so I downscaled and entered the 10K trail run instead.

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The 10K trail run challenged runners, while (below) dogs enjoyed the long jump!

the teva Games experience Upon arrival in Vail, exhaustion and jet lag were quickly cast aside in favour of excitement and motivation. The valley slowly filled with super-lithe, sun-tanned athletes in their cool Teva mountain attire, along with the most gorgeous dogs I have ever seen (part of the weekend is dedicated to hilarious doggy games!). You may know the Teva brand for its sandals, but it’s huge in the water sports world, so there were athletes from all over the world, including Hawaii and the UK, competing in various adrenaline-fuelled and wet events! I loved watching the kayakers as they battled torrents of crashing, swirling Colorado river; I gazed in awe at bicycle stunt riders somersaulting over piles of earth

into the cloudless, blue sky; and laughed until I cried at the doggy pool long jump! GettinG prepared According to my hosts at Teva, this was to be one of the hardest 10Ks in the world, which did nothing to allay my terror! Prior to the trip, I added some hill work into my routine. I knew I could run 10K no problem, but with only one hill for miles around where I live, I’m not much of a hill runner. So, in spite of an aversion

to the gym, I hit the treadmill hill programme several times that month. I also added speed sessions to my outdoor runs and, as for that one hill where I live? I went up and down it a lot! I also switched to trail shoes (the Teva Forge Pro eVent). On my first day in Vail, I headed out for an ‘easy’ run, to give my body the chance to acclimatise to the altitude. It was hard – my heart rate went high quickly and needed longer to come back down
www.womensrunninguk.co.uk September 2011

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during recoveries. Because of the reduced oxygen at altitude, even pushing up a flight of stairs makes your heart thump! On my third day in Vail, I took part in what some would say is the highlight of the games – the 5K Mud Run! This brings everyone together and is great fun, running short laps through a huge sloshy mud pit. Because the 10K was the next morning, I went super slow and just enjoyed the madness. Unfortunately for me, the Mountain Ball was the night before my race, but I was a good girl, skipped the alcohol and was tucked up in bed by 1am (better than my fellow revellers, who partied until 3.30am!). the sprinG run-off 10K challenGe My race began at 8am, and the combination of nerves, altitude and lack of sleep meant my heart rate was 120bpm before I even started – oops! The race started with a gentle slope for a couple of hundred metres, then turned a corner and went straight up the face of the mountain! This part was so narrow, steep, muddy and rocky that we were forced to walk single file through the trees. It then opened out onto the ski slope, where we traversed mud, snow and ice. At this point, I didn’t even consider running – my heart rate was high and the terrain was tough, but I was having a lovely time and felt happy that plenty of other people were doing the same. We climbed to the top of the mountain (around 10,000ft) leaving Vail as a hazy blur below us, before rounding the last corner and beginning our descent. This section was lovely – fortunately I don’t suffer downhill and could let loose like a big kid. The trails were beautiful, flowing through trees on soft ground one minute, careering down a snowy, muddy, squelchy ski run the next. As I reached the path and saw the end in sight, my legs turned to lead and I had to really push to run over the line. Although my legs were tired, I felt great and was almost sad it was over! the vail pass half marathon ‘Only the strong survive’ was one of the first things I read about the half marathon. The other was that it might take a week to get your voice back to brag about it! With altitudes of more than 10,000ft and a climb of 2,900ft, this is serious. Megan (Lund) Lizotte, is a professional distance runner and coach. She came

Megan (Lund) Lizotte hits the uphill road in the Vail Pass Half Marathon

‘the race started with a gentle slope for a couple of hundred metres, then turned a corner and went straight up the face of the mountain’

second this year and has competed every year since its debut, ten years ago. I asked her if the race’s reputation is justified. ‘The course gains more than 2,400ft, but most of the climbing doesn’t start until about five miles into the race and the start line is already above 8,000ft,’ she says. ‘That’s got to be heart wrenching for someone coming from sea level! The first part of the course is rolling ups and downs on a golf path and then it’s just a constant grind up to the top of the pass. The race is all on pavement, so it attracts some elite road runners, but the big climb is the real test and usually the portion of the race that separates the gazelles from the mountain goats. This year, the course was changed because of snow, and there was more descent than usual, which didn’t play into my hands (I’m a much better up-hiller), so I was placed second to Kim Dobson. The race was really competitive this year, with many world-class elite road runners as well as world-class mountain runners. I can’t wait for next year!’ fancy a challenGe? If this sounds like your idea of fun, the Teva Mountain Games is an annual event. Visit www.tevamountaingames.com and take a peek at May 2012’s line-up – there’s plenty of time to get ready! Even if you only try the mud-run, I’d thoroughly recommend this event to anyone who loves nature, sport, music and fun!

more info

To see Caroline’s video blog of the race, visit www.carolinesandry. wordpress.com. To check out the Teva range, visit www.teva.co.uk

Carolin e ’ s tips for raCing abroad

■ Train in the shoes you will race in. ■ Eat and drink the same products and fluids that you will use on race day. ■ Try to train on similar terrain. ■ To beat jet lag, switch to your new time zone immediately and forget home time. ■ Arrive a few days before the race, to give yourself time to acclimatise. ■ Remember to have fun – it’s the taking part that counts!

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September 2011 www.womensrunninguk.co.uk

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