La Sportiva Vail Half Marathon, Vail, Colorado
July 19, 2015 - After the long drive up from Silverton to Vail in the rain I slept 
well at the Grouse Creek TH, a long-time staging area for climbing runs on the trails
above Meadow Mountain near Minturn.  After driving to Vail's main parking structure
and picking up my bib number at the Golden Peak Children's Center I ran a bit in
the village to check on the condition of my feet and legs after yesterday's effort.
There did not appear to be a single remnant of the well-fought climb and speedy
descent off Kendall Mountain... which either means I didn't go hard enough, or my
body can take a lickin and keep on kickin.  Methinks the latter is probably the case.

With a couple hundred of us assembled for the day's climb the starter set us off
to head up Mill Creek Road which would take us over to the main catwalk of 
Getalong Road, winding back and forth above the ski resort of Vail.  It seemed like
most of the field took off ahead of me right from the start.  I know many of these
catwalks as well as any trails I have run, having run them countless times over most 
of the last forty years, and I judge myself to be a fairly competent climber, but these 
younger runners just ran away from me.  I held course at a comfortable tempo, 
always a notch below the anaerobic threshold.  The one thing I love about this run up
Vail Mountain is that the entire course is runable.  A conditioned runner need never
walk once.  Until the first aid station at 2.6 miles I only yielded to walking on a steep
section as I caught up to the queue as it walked up the hill.

Once we hit single track I settled down to a comfortable rhythm without much regard 
to those around me.  I was doing my thing to my best ability.  The first thousand
feet of climbing went smoothly.  It was great to look down upon the village far below
so soon in the race.  It was all so familiar and so wonderful to be back running in
Vail.  Even though the mountains were socked in with looming clouds that threatened,
I was entranced by a lifelong passion for the beauty of this hill.  Unfortunately, it
was not a day to take pictures to come back and share.

At the second aid station at mile 4.7 I found the lead runners already had gone 6.4
miles.  I reflected on days of yore when I would have been in that lead group.  When
the trail leveled more and had some extended down hill sections through the trees
I opened up my stride a bit and began to engage the race with the deep strength
of my experience.  After halfway, no one really passed me again.  Reaching the top
of Vail Mountain at about 8 miles, the next four and a half miles were all tilted
down hill as the trail wrapped it's way around Vail's back bowls - China, Sunup and
Sundown.  I layed down a pace that pulled back several runners that were out of
sight at the top by hammering this wonderful stretch.  My quads and feet were up to
it so I just cut loose.  I did keep in mind the last time I raced across the back bowls
three years ago when I took one very nasty stumble and bloody fall in a 10K at 
Eagle's Nest.  There was no stumbling this year.  It was great to fly.

The last half mile of the event turned back up hill mildy to finish at Eagle's Nest.  I
had no problem maintaining my momentum on the final climb back up to finish in
120th place at 2:51:05, a couple minutes faster than my time the day before for 12
miles in Silverton.  Given that this event had more climbing - about 4000 feet - and
measured more accurately at 14 miles rather than the half marathon distance, I felt
very good about the overall effort and time.  Of course, the main reason the time 
was quicker is that I could run 95% of the course, compared to probably 70% of the
course in Silverton.

It was great to run trails that seem like old friends, and just as great to see some
new terrain on Vail Mountain, running on trails I had never seen before.  I love it
here and will never tire of returning, no matter how much I slow.  I bagged a nice
cap and package of Vail Mountain Coffee for placing third in my age group, loaded
up on locally made cookies and some Gatorade, before catching a ride back down
to Lionshead with a very interesting and pleasant young woman from Boulder 
named Jennifer Frederickson.  The village was packed with touristas cramming
the streets as we walked from Lionshead back to the main parking structure to
pick up our cars.  Things have changed.  I kinda like the old days better.  At least
the mountain is still wonderfully the same and too steep for the hordes to climb.

It was a great day with just a few sprinkles.  Perfect temps and very friendly people.
Oh, and the flowers were at their peak.  I was home again... for a short time!!!