We were first notified about the Under Armour Mountain Series quite a few months back and I remember thinking simply “that looks awesome”. Their series creation – 3 races in 3 states (Oregon, Vermont, and Colorado) spread out over 3 months – was admirable, motivating, and maybe even a little bit different than what I thought Under Armour was capable of. When I think of UA, my mind goes back to those “will you protect this house?!” commercials and more mainstreamed sports gear. With this committment to trail running, as well as their new line of trail running shoes, it was evident to me that UA was making a splash. It was also evident to me (after a couple of months of poor choices) that there was no way I could survive what they were throwing down.
Or so I thought.
After pulling myself up out of my self-made rut, I finally made the decision to challenge myself at Mt. Bachelor in mid-July. Nikki did a brilliant job recapping her experience in the marathon relay and vertical challenge, and it was my task to tackle the half marathon – a giant looped course that hit the trails to the tune of over 2100 feet of drop and gain. As a complete NON-snowsports individual, I had only been to Mt. Bachelor once in my life and it only consisted of riding the chairlift to the restaurant with my young daughter (back when I only had one – now 3). Needless to say I wasn’t entire sure what to expect, aside from a challenge that lay ahead.
We stayed at the very hospitable and new Springhill Suites in Bend and I ended up driving to the mountain well in advance of my 9am start. I wanted to get a sense of what I was in for without feeling the need to rush. I figured the last thing I wanted to be before running for 2 hours in altitude on trails, was more stressed. The set up was nice with plenty of space to move around and stretch beforehand. Tents for registration, gear check, beer, shoe testing, recovery, and vendors were all going up and there was definitely a vibe to the whole place as early as 7am. Mt. Bachelor was offering breakfast up at the mountain as well – from Biscuits and Gravy to Acai Bowls, there was something for everyone (runner or spectator). There was also plenty of space to run around nearby to loosen up and the parking lot was not all that far from the start, making last-minute modifications to wardrobe and gear simple.
That positive energy, combined with completely blue skies and a beautiful mountain backdrop really got me in the zone. I remember feeling “one-ness” with the area, a peaceful sensation that made me eternally grateful for being a runner – and one with an opportunity to be able to experience such cool locations and events such as this one.
I took some photos and videos beforehand (which you may have seen on our Instagram). It wasn’t until the 50k group took off that I was slowly brought down to earth. I watched some extremely fit guys and gals toe the line, hit the dusty trail in front of them, and then…start to climb. And climb. And climb.
Yes, though I had looked at the course and elevation profile, it was then I realized what was in store right off the bat – a heavy incline crossing the entire bare landscape just up the way from us. Those same fit people were definitely slowing down and I couldn’t even fathom what it was going to be like for me (clearly NOT one of those fit people). I didn’t have much time to dwell on it however, as we were called up to the line and were off.
It seemed everyone was in anticipation of what lied ahead as everyone took off on a much slower pace than usually happens at the start of the race. The incline was evident and we took to a sort of slow-ish shoulder to shoulder climb along the thin trail. There was some passing going on, but no one seemed to know quite when the uphill would stop, so nobody really wanted to expend too much energy right off the bat. Luckily, the climb, while rough, didn’t last abnormally long. After getting off the “main” slope and into the trees, we turned the corner and were greeted with this:
I don’t know about everybody else, but this view right here made the whole race worthwhile – and that climb seemed well worth it. Over the next mile or so, there were some rolling single track trails through the trees, as well as on some larger forest roads. Shortly after the climb, however, there were some long downhill stretches, which were definitely welcome. A short out-and-back near mile 5 (or more appropriately, an up-and-down) helped space things out even further before hitting more back country trails.
From miles 5-10 or so, things were definitely interesting. I never got lost along the way, but we seemed to go in and out of stretches were 1) initially “definitely” a trail, followed by 2) “I’m pretty sure” this is a trail. There were colored ribbons to keep us guided, but I know I struggle sometimes with looking for these before I remember I could be lost in the woods somewhere if I don’t check. The trail marking was made more challenging by the fact that the course terrain, while varied, did consist of a lot of rock and volcanic rust/dirt. The fact that not everything looked like the nicely groomed trail above, made those more remote sections a little more trying.
With just a few miles to go, we came upon a section where we could see the lodge from the opposite end of the parking lot. This was a really trying time for me, as the elements of the day were taking a small toll and being within distance of the finish, and knowing I still had some work to do was rough. An early morning wakeup, coupled with warm temps, high altitude, and tired feet from the continual challenge of running on rocks, left me hoping that things were flat and easy the rest of the way.
While things ended up not being too terribly hilly the rest of the way, it definitely wasn’t flat. We did get to cut through some really cool and windy single track before a wide forest road carried us to the finish. It was definitely worth it.
In the end, this was one of the most rewarding events I have ever participated, and I anticipate it will be one of my most memorable. I walked more than I wanted to (something I generally don’t do), but was definitely pleased with my result and what it took to conquer Mt. Bachelor. As I grabbed my 10-Barrel IPA, ate a few oranges, and got some recovery stim work done, I looked up at the peak just to our south and smiled. Maybe I will come back and learn to ski, now that I know I conquered this mountain.
If you are interested in experiencing more of the Under Armour Mountain Trail Series, check this out:
There are two more races in the series and I’m sure that the Mt. Bachelor experience will only help to make those even more epic. The Killington, VT Mountain Series event will occur over the course of two days, August 19th and 20th. The Copper Mountain, CO Mountain Series event will happen September 9th and Sept 10th. I plan to run the Copper Mountain series and am really looking forward to seeing how amazing it will be. There’s still time to sign up for these other races, so check them out (or read Nikki’s race preview here to get more details) if you are looking for what’s guaranteed to be a beautiful and challenging event of a lifetime.