Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Under Armor Mountain Runner Series – Killington race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
Last weekend I ran the second race of the Under Armor Mountain Running Series at Mount Killington in Vermont! It also happened to be my first race with BibRave as a BibRave Pro and boy was it a memorable one!
I LOVE trail races, but due to a lack of them being offered in my direct area I have raced far fewer than I would like. This race was not only going to be the longest trail race I’ve ran, but also most likely the most intense based on the name “Mountain Running” compared to the non-technical, flat trails around me. It was also really exciting to see the trail system it was being held in was large enough to allow for 25k of unique trail so the course wasn’t just multiple loops of the same trail. (Almost all trail systems in my area are so small a larger distance race must be laps.)
Being the AMAZING planner that I am, I got home from my trip to Oregon with a less than a day before this race so I was unable to attend the pre-race-day packet pickup even though they generously kept it open until 8PM. I did hear from others it was ultra quick though. I had also been so focused on finishing my Master’s project before (and during.. oops) my trip that I hadn’t figured out my sleeping arrangements until the last T-24 hrs either. I ended up staying at the Happy Bear Motel which was 9 minutes down the road from the start line and a fine little place to stay the night. Had I had more time to be in the area, this race was held <50 minutes from the AWESOME KOA Quechee Campground I stayed at for the Covered Bridges Half and I would have LOVED to stay there again and actually explore the Killington and Quechee Gorge area. (That might be my master plan for next year! 😜)
I woke up bright and early and attempted to eat my first ever actually planned race breakfast. I wasn’t able to eat it all, but looking back I’m insanely glad I ate something to have some energy in me.
Race parking was super easy. It was in an actual gravel parking lot, right where the GPS address said it would be, and SUPER close to the start line! The race venue also had great service which is always nice since I am directionally challenged so there’s no way I’m finding my way back home without a GPS or directions.
It was nice to see there was no line at packet-pickup/resgistration. I had a problem with my registration but they were able to quickly and painlessly fix it for me. I also overheard another woman had forgotten her previously picked-up bib at her hotel and they quickly replaced it for her. With everything so close and run so smoothly I had a lot more time than I thought to just hangout before the race. I chatted with some people, met some of my fellow BibRave Pros, and then cheered on the 50k start.
Another note for next year is this race seemed extremely supporter friendly. Not only did they have a supporter tent that had bells and sign making stuff, but they also had multiple supporter viewing points along the course. I didn’t have anyone with me since I always feel bad having people sit around for hours to only see me at the start and finish so I don’t know exactly what it entailed. I did see supporters at multiple points up the mountain and people in the gondolas though so I’m assuming they were providing transport to these spots for the supporters.
I knew going into this race that it was going to be tough. I wasn’t well trained since I had been focusing on my Master’s and neglecting running, and it seemed it was going to be the toughest trail race I’ve run. But soon as the gun went off I forgot all that and sprinted off into the distance. The first mile was a super easy, mostly gentle decline through grassy fields circling the mountain. It felt like cross country and I was running it like so.
I’m not sure if it was all the travel, the smoke and altitude in Oregon, or what, but the instant we started uphill into the woods back toward the mountain my heart started racing way faster than any other time I can remember. It especially freaked me out since my breathing and everything else felt fine (like I wasn’t even putting in that much effort) so I decided it was already time for a walking break. It was honestly a real bummer since this first little bit of uphill was some of the only uphill you could actually run.
The rest of the race consisted of extreme uphills and crazy downhills (up and down mountain really). We climbed what felt like straight up from about mile 3.5-6.5 and you thought for sure you had to be at the top.. but it had only just begun.
You then got a taste of the crazy straight down-mountains you’d be facing. This was also when you became alarmed as it was only a little over 6 miles in and you already felt like you were going completely back down all you just came up.. What were you supposed to do for the rest of the race if you had already climbed and descended the mountain? Well, go right back up and down multiple other times of course! The terrain varied between deep thick mud, tall thick grassy (vertical) fields, paths made of fist/baseball sized rocks, and technical wooded paths.
It was exhausting and I was really glad I wore my hydration pack even though I could have easily survived off their aid stations were I a normal human who can drink from a cup. I drank almost my entire hydration pack as well as took cups of water from a few of their stations. Their stations had EVERYTHING, full packages of Honey Stinger chews & waffles, Coke & other sodas, sports drinks, candy, pretzels, and at least one even had bacon! I always crave Coke after races so I decided to give it a try at one of the aid stations a bit over halfway. It definitely helped and so I took another one or two cups at other stations. I also decided to bring and try my Skratch chews from my box from The Feed and was surprised how much I liked them. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Honey Stinger chews right before or toward the beginning of runs. They’re so good I actually sometimes just eat them as fruit-snacks for snacks. But as a run goes on, their consistency gets to me because I can’t chew them fast enough for them not to get slimy/stuck in my teeth. The Skratch chews were mildly more firm and coated in sour crystals like a Sour Patch Kid. They only actually had a slight hint of sour, but the coating really helped the texture for me.
There were so many points where I was told it would be the last big uphill, only to go down a bit and find another large up waiting. When the insane inclines and declines continued into mile 12 & 13 I started to doubt we were ever getting off this mountain. It seemed impossible we could finish at the same elevation as we started with how often we seemed to be going up. (Thinking back I think it was just because the downhills were so short due to how steep they were.)
FINALLY with under a mile left the course flattened out. By that time though even these baby inclines you probably wouldn’t normally notice felt like Mount Everest. I had to muster every last bit of energy in my body to jog across the finish line.
While Under Armor sure knows how to destroy you, they also know how to pamper you as well. They had a whole recovery station in the after party with all sorts of rollers, yoga pads, hammocks, and Normatec leg compression sleeves.
My fellow BibRave Pros had both run the other past race from the UA Mountain Running Series, Copper Mountain, and said the two races were completely different. While Copper Mountain had altitude as a factor, it was just up and down the mountain, nothing like the constant up and down here. I also heard from someone else that Mt. Bachelor is similarly its own unique challenge, this time in the terrain, since its volcanic rock and much softer and different from most mountains. Now that I am off the mountain, I kind of wish Killington had been the first of the series and I hadn’t JUST gotten back from a trip to Oregon so I could participate in all three races. I would also be very interested to see how things would go had I been more trained. (Would it even help since I still wouldn’t be “running up a mountain” trained?) Either way I am extremely grateful BibRave let me experience such an amazing race that was previously unknown to me! One that was so great that I will most likely be attempting to add the entire series to my roster for next year! 😁
If you’re crazy like me and this all sounds like fun to you, use the code BIBRAVE20 for 20% the Mt. Bachelor race on 9/15 and race Mt. Bachelor for me!!
Ever “run” up a mountain? Ever wanted to?
What’s the longest trail race you’ve ever run?
What’s the toughest trail race you’ve ever run?