While standing in the Phoenix airport with Rob and Jeremy, my fellow HATRs, heading to Utah for a week of running and exploring, a gal approached Rob. She recognized Rob as the race director for Trail Racing Over Texas. She asked if we were headed to Utah for the race. We replied yes and that we were looking forward to the North Face race in Park City. She surprised us by responding, “No, the Xterra Trail Championship in Ogden, TOMORROW.” Whaaat? Another race? A chance at a bonus race in the mountains of Utah? Yes!
After some internet searching we found the details. The race would fit perfectly in our plans. Well, perfectly for us and not the fourth HATR expected to arrive at the Salt Lake airport while we would be enjoying the race! We shot him a message and told him to take the train to Ogden and meet us at the hotel after the race.
Driving up to Snowbasin Mountain Resort was beautiful. I was surprised to see the trees in autumn color. Coming
from Houston, all plant life remains green most of the year and I forget other parts of the country still have four seasons! The mountains were beautiful and I was excited to get a taste of mountain running.
We checked in, got our bibs and milled around the start line. The bibs did not come with a chip timing device which was , as we were told, “old school”. Strange for a race billed as a National Trail Championship, but then again, I’ve never run an Xtrerra series race before. The scene at the start with all the tents wa
s more commercial than I’m used to. Trail races in Texas are much lower key. This one for example had a salon set up. The main supporter of Xterra is Paul Mitchel after all.
The 21K started with a canon blast and we looped down around the parking lot and back up the mountain. As I approached the first trail, a jeep road coming off the pavement, the 10K race cannon fired and those runners immediately joined the trail. It was congested with runners three abreast. There were speedy kids (9-12) sprinting by effortlessly. Throughout the race I would come upon boys and girls not even teenagers who were running hard. It was impressive and I could only think how great their running ability will ultimately be.
The road eventually turned into some sweet single track. I was now experiencing real mountain running. I tested the inclines with confidence, but caution. I didn’t want to wear out my legs on the first day of a weeklong Utah run-cation! I did however want to find out how much I could run up the inclines. I was surprised how good I felt. The air was crisp and easy to breathe after I settled into a rhythm. We were running mostly below 7,000-ft but the temps were cooler than Houston so I figured that was to my advantage. I worked on maintaining a constant effort by feel and rarely looked at my Suunto’s HR monitor.
The aid stations were frequent for the first half of the race. Again, the race was different from my experiences in Texas. The stations had half full cups of water and Gatorade and rarely had the cooler spout readily available to fill my hand held. I was appalled to find cups and gel packets littered along the trail. It was a mess and this would not be acceptable in a Texas trail race. The second half of the race did not have as many aid stations and I believe they even missed one that was supposed to be located in the last 5 miles as I found none there.
I was happy I ran with the hand held bottle as it kept me going. The trail was great and very runnable. My favorites included the tacky black soil on some stretches. I could really rip it with confidence. My Salomon Mantra 2 held the trail well even on the switch backs. I made it to the highest point around mile 7 and stopped to look over the valley. Again, the beauty was breathtaking. I belted out a Wooo whoo and flexed my arms and bounded on down the trail. I was having a ball running a race I didn’t know about 24 hours earlier!
The last 5 miles included a three mile constant decline. This was definitely new for me. I loved it! I still ran relaxed, but tried to run fast on the front of my feet. I learned to keep an eye on the switchback turns as I could tell others over shot, especially bike skids over the edge! This segment did start to leave me yearning for another gel and water refill, so that absence of the aid station was big issue for me.
With less than a mile to go, I ran up on a 10-year old boy. He was slowly walking up the trail. I gave him words of encouragement and off he went! I ran with him until the very end. He finished in front of me and got the attention of the PA announcer. I didn’t get my name or hometown called out as the other runners. Oh well. I feasted on refreshments and MuscleMilk and awaited for my fellow HATRs to come in.
Finishers did not receive a medal, which was disappointing, from a trophy collection standpoint, but fine anyway. We did receive a printout card at the finish line with our finishing time, place, etc data.
After all my team finished we headed to the hotel to clean up and discovered the train does not run from Salt Lake to Ogden on Sunday. Our fourth HATR was riding around Salt Lake City on a bike rental toting two stuffed bags. He ultimately found a bar and we ultimately found him to continue our Utah run-cation. Xterra was a fun “bonus” race and I’m glad I got to experience it.