This Saturday the 25th at 6:00 AM, I’ll start the 2017 Audi Aspen Snowmass Power of Four race at the base of Snowmass Mountain. For Hende and me, it will end, if all goes well, 24 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing (and an equal amount of descending) later and before the lifts close at 4:00 PM at the base of Aspen Mountain.
We’ve put in six weeks of hard work on The Alpine Training Center’s ski-mo program, courtesy of Coach Connie Sciolino. We’ve gone easy (kind of) on the alcohol and tried to sleep enough (minus a few all-nighters with sick, vomiting children). Now it’s go time, and we’ve got some nuggets of racing wisdom for those of you considering an endurance event of this magnitude.
Mind the Family For any all-day competitive affair — where beforehand you’ll be consumed with preparation minutiae and afterward you’ll just be trying to stand up and act normal — rule number one is take care of your family. Make sure they’re well situated and able to self entertain while you’re getting the shit kicked out of you. To that end, my family of four booked at the Limelight Hotel in downtown Aspen. Located near the finish line, it’s a convenient base camp for the Power of Four because both registration and the post-race party happen there. It’s got a great brick-oven pizza and pool — a duo of niceness to keep my dear ones happy while I’m in the Pain Cave. Hende’s staying at a condo in Snowmass near the start line, so I may crash with him tonight rather than subjecting my family to my 3:55 AM wake-up freakout.
Eat Well Before we competed in the 40-mile Elk Mountains Grand Traverse a few years ago, my former fellow Skiing editor Kevin Luby ate a spicy five-pound burrito, which had disastrous gastrointestinal consequences about 25 miles into the race (it also allowed Hende and me to beat Kevin and his poor partner Jonny, despite being 20 combined years older than they are). Don’t be Kevin. Eat a dinner that agrees with your constitution. Then, wake up about two hours before start time and eat real food for breakfast. Rory Kelly, the world-class pro racer I interviewed last week, likes rice and scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee. About 45 minutes before the start, he’ll eat a PB&J or a Clif Bar. During the race, set a watch alarm to sound every 20 to 30 minutes to remind you to grab a gel or snack (I pack tasty, energy-packed date-nut balls that my ski-mo mentor Sari Anderson introduced me to a few years ago). Finally, racer Stevie Kremer recommends eating and drinking on the uphill in order to avoid pausing to eat — or trying to eat on the descent (not recommended).
Make it Fun: Introduce some friendly competition to the race. Kelly says, “Know who you’re racing against, and select portions of the course where you can get an advantage — push it here, dial back there.” A group of us called the Old GOATs (combined team age of at least 80) are all trying to one-up each other. “If you know your friends are faster on the uphill, don’t destroy yourself on the first climb,” Kelly advises. “Let them get a little bit of a gap, knowing that it’s a long day.”
Know the Course: This one’s obvious, but it also might be the most important. Memorize your course map, and know the order of climbs and descents to minimize surprises. For example, Power of Four starts with an hour-ish-long climb up a wide groomer at Snowmass. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the mass start and go out too hard, but holding back and building up slowly will leave more gas in the tank to pass friends who might burn their matches too soon. By the same token, near the end of Po4, when you’ve finally reached the top of the Aspen Gondola, it’s tempting to think all you need to do is cruise to the base. But — ha! — the sadistic course planners route you through a terrifying maze of bumps and glades that eventually dump you, drooling and spent at the base of Aspen Mountain. You need to know that’s coming.
Reward Thyself: After the race, even Kelly often just feels like sitting in one place and drinking water. “It takes a while for my appetite to recover,” he says. “That night though, it’s game on.”
Amen to that.
Like all the teams, we’ll be carrying a GPS tracking device, so tune into the race website after 6:00 AM MST on Saturday to see our progress. I’ll be back here next week to let you know how it all went. Wish us luck, and thanks for following along.