It’s that time of year again ... time to dust off the kayak, tune up the mountain bike, and cram in some final quality training for the upcoming GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge, which kicks off at 8 a.m. on June 8. After the welcome late season snowfall, spring has finally arrived ... I think. For most of us it is one of the first early season races, but with such strong competition, this world-class event it is worth being prepared for.
Here are my tips for the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, by each event:
• 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 X-Country Mountain Bike
This is a fitness course. No matter what trails are available on June 8th, know that you will spend a majority of the race on long, sustained climbs. Bring your big engine and capitalize on your altitude training advantage.
• The Trail Run
This is arguably the toughest 10K I have ever done, but I also consider it the most fun trail race of the year. Luckily, it is very similar energetically to the snowshoe races, which were not that long ago! The hardest part to prepare for is the fatigue from the back-to-back hard workouts. In your training, try to follow a grueling bike workout with a hard uphill run the next day. It is also a good idea to prepare the legs with some downhill running.
• The Vail Pass Time Trial
I always wonder how this would go if it weren’t for the three events preceding. The self-inflicted pain is intense, but the race is relatively short. I have seen different successful strategies for this event. Strong time-trialists can get out fast and front-load their effort, hoping to hang on for the climb. Solid climbers have been successful by delaying their attack until they reach the gate in East Vail, thus enabling them to take back huge amounts of time on the climb. My advice: Race your strengths.
Recovery between the events is vital. Be sure to time your recovery nutrition by remembering the 30-minute window following each event. Another local trick is soaking the legs in Gore Creek for 5 to 10 minutes after each race.
It is easy to come up with pre-race excuses when most of the trails are still covered with snow, but really the Ultimate Mountain Challenge should present a huge home-course advantage. This leads me to my all-time favorite quote:
“If you’re always ready, you never have to get ready.”
Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to change my thinking and my training to attempt to race at a higher level, year-round. Instead of considering the winter months a hindrance to my triathlon racing career, I decided to take advantage of my environment and training facilities. Cross training options like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering are now part of the equation. Winter races such as the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series and the Pedal Power Adventure Series help me hone my skills and keep me feeling competitive. Perhaps the most important component is my structured indoor training at Dogma Athletica. Whether I’m using the CompuTrainer, the Woodway treadmill or weights in the gym, I know that I’ll be ready for any race when spring arrives. To win, I’ll only need to fine-tune certain components instead of building a base from scratch. I now consider Eagle County an ideal training ground for endurance sports.
Josiah Middaugh is a Dogma Athletica athlete and endurance coach. He is the reigning five-time winner of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. To contact Middaugh for training or coaching, call Dogma Athletica at 970-688-4433.