The GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge is something I look forward to every year. The competition combines four endurance events, including the kayak down-river sprint, a cross-country mountain bike race, a 10K trail run and the Vail Pass road bike time trial. This combination of events suits the mountain endurance athlete and serves as a great test of ability in the four disciplines.
Here are my tips for a great performance at the Ultimate Mountain Challenge:
The Down-River Sprint
For me, the kayaking leg is all about damage control. I can’t speak to the expert kayaker, but beginners listen up. Rent a sit-on-top kayak, stay in the fast water and out of the bushes and paddle hard. Remember, the river does most of the work! The maximum boat length is 12 feet, so remember a longer boat is a faster boat.
The X-country Mountain Bike
The mountain bike course is all about elevation gain — you will either be going up or down. Prepare for the long sustained climbs with lengthy threshold intervals. My bread and butter workout includes three to five long race-paced bouts totaling about 40 minutes, all performed uphill.
The Trail Run
Don’t let the distance deceive you. This is one tough 10K. In the first grueling mile you are sent straight up from Golden Peak on the ski slopes. Then a majority of the run is on the popular summer hiking trails. Nearly everyone is forced to walk/hike at some point during this race, so don’t feel defeated, rather prepare for it with some steep ups and downs.
The Vail Pass Time Trial
I always wonder how this would go if it weren’t for the three events preceding it. The self-inflicted pain is intense, but the race is relatively short. I have seen different strategies succeed for this event. Since half of the race is relatively flat and the other half has sustained climbs, there are different ways to approach this race. If you are strong on the flats, then there is time to be saved there. If you are a stronger climber, then you may consider saving your energy for the back half. My advice is to race your strengths.
Recovery between the events is vital. For best results, make solid attempts to fuel during the events themselves to cut recovery time. Be sure to time recovery nutrition by remembering the 30-minute window following each event with a focus on carbohydrate, water and small amounts of protein. Muscle glycogen, carbohydrate stored in the muscle cells and liver, is the most critical reserve for back-to-back racing. A local’s trick is soaking the legs in Gore Creek for five to 10 minutes after each race.
It can be tough to feel prepared for this type of racing in early June unless you have taken advantage of winter cross training and some structured indoor training. The key to my success has always been the indoor training at Dogma Athletica, specifically the structured Compu-Trainer classes. For more information on these classes and other summer programming, visit www.dogmaathletica.com. Good luck preparing for the Ultimate Mountain Challenge — I’ll see you out there!
Josiah Middaugh is a Dogma Athletica trainer and athlete. He won the Ultimate Mountain Challenge in 2013. He can be reached at 970-688-4433.