After a pretty smooth drive from Fort Collins to Vail on Friday afternoon, Nora and I pulled into the Village, found registration and picked up our race numbers and goodies for the Vail Winter Mountain Games 5K and 10K snowshoe races. I went in to the bathroom to change from work clothes in to tights and winter gear for the race and then we rushed back to Golden Peaks for the start of the race with about 15 minutes to spare. No problem . . . except that when we got there, I realized I had left my race # in the bathroom at registration and there was no time to go back and get it. I had a moment of panicked stress and then decided to let it go and trust that it would work out. And sure enough, the wonderful people at the start looked up my # and gave me a timing chip -- all good. Nora and I got our snowshoes on and had a full 90 seconds of warm up and then we were off up the slopes in the waning light of the mountain sunset. The 5K is 2 loops on the lower part of the mountain and the 10K is one of the lower loops followed by a big climb and longer loop higher on the mountain. I ran the 10K last year and remember it being pretty tough. This year, I took it out at a casual pace still trying to warm up after 3 hours in the car on I-70. I got through the first loop okay and then just tried to keep up a steady hike on the big climb that followed At the top I looked out and enjoyed the sight of the lights in Vail Village below as evening turned in to night, flipped on my headlamp and started the awkward snowshoe run back down the mountain. I got passed on one of the steep down hill sections (I still haven't figured out the proper downhill technique on snowshoes) but then regained my position on the next climb. There was one more long downhill section on very packed snow at an incline that I could run pretty steadily and then I could see the lights and hear the announcer at the finish. 1:00:59 (about 6 minutes faster then last year) and I was done. Nora was at the finish taking pictures and "warming up" my jacket for me. Nora had finished the 5K (her first snowshoe race) in just over 36 minutes and took 1st in her age group. My finish was good enough for 3rd AG, but we were too cold to wait around for the awards and they said they'd send them to us. Check out the Results here.
After changing in to warmer clothes, we celebrated our victories with nachos and a burrito at La Cantina, Vail's finest parking lot restaurant. And then walked back through the village to see the Flobots live. We watched for a while, enjoyed the music and people watching and then headed up to the Blue House in Leadville for the night.
Steph for some Mountain Game event spectating. We watched some mixed climbing on the big wall, but opted not to try it ourselves, saw some finishes from the Ski Mountaineering race that had begun that morning and watched some of the practice and qualifying rounds for the telemark big air and bike trick competitions. After some lunch, Nora and I went out to the Vail Nordic Center and I got my first cross country ski lesson. Nora is a good teacher and was very patient and after an hour or so of putzing around on the skis I began to sort of get the hang of it. I have a ways to go, but it was a lot of fun and this is definitely a sport that I'd like to get better at. After about 4 miles on the golf course, we went back to the games and got some coffee and hot chocolate and then took a test ride on some fat tire snow bikes. This is really fun, because with tires that are 6+ inches wide, you can ride through or over anything. Later we watched some of the finals in the tele big air and bike tricks as skiers and bikes flew over a big jump with bursts of flames. Fun stuff.
Sunday morning in Leadville was cold (3 degrees), but sunny. After breakfast we took the skis out the Mineral Belt Trail that does a big loop around Leadville and is groomed throughout the winter. It felt great to get out on the skis again and I felt a little less awkward than the previous day. I'd love to go back and ski the whole loop sometime and maybe the loop around Turquoise Lake. It's funny, I never thought I'd be sad about winter being almost over. Hopefully we can get back up to Leadville soon.