Breck locals prepare for the ‘sufferfest’ of 2017 GoPro Mountain Games this weekend
with Melanie Wong
2017 GoPro Mountain Games
What: A weekend of outdoor sports, music and mountain culture at Vail Mountain, with open events for athletes of all ages and abilities
Where: Vail Mountain
When: Thursday to Sunday, June 8-11
Cost: Free to attend, entry fees vary for competition
Registration for most events is still open for all divisions. To sign up or find out more, see MountainGames.com.
Temperatures were nearing 90 degrees when Jazlyn Smith pre-rode the GoPro Mountain Games enduro course in Eagle on Thursday, and if forecasters can be trusted, it’ll only get hotter before racing begins today.
Blazing heat is no fun for any endurance athlete, but Smith isn’t too worried. The 16-year-old Summit County local is already having a stellar season — she won the 15-18 Category One race at the Firebird 50 on June 3, a 50-miler held on the same course she’ll race for the Mountain Games, and then followed it with another win at the Frisco Roundup cross-country race on June 7 — and she’s no stranger to the podium. She won the 2016 enduro at her very first Mountain Games — a sprawling celebration of all things outdoorsy and adventurous at Vail Mountain from June 8-11 — and barring anything weird or unfortunate this time around, she wants to make it two in a row.
“It was really fun before,” said Smith, whose older sister, Ezra, is a high school MTB state champion and plans to ride in the cross-country race at Vail Mountain tomorrow (June 10). “GoPro (enduro) is a bigger race than what I usually do, so it was fun to have that experience.”
Smith isn’t kidding. Added last season, the Mountain Games enduro today (June 9) is part of the season-long Big Mountain Enduro series, which includes events in Keystone (June 24), Winter Park (July 8), Aspen Snowmass (June 29-30) and Crested Butte (July 19-20) — and that’s just for Colorado. Thanks to the BME pedigree, the Mountain Games enduro boasts a massive prize purse of $10,000 for the pro category and promises to draw upwards of 300 riders.
“I just need to make sure I don’t crash and that everything is clean,” Smith said of her race strategy. “It’s looser over there than what I usually ride. That’s really the big difference. It’s just sandier … that makes the corners tricky.”
Brede back to basics
Smith and her sister are well on their way to becoming bona fide pros, but the Mountain Games isn’t just for athletes who live and breathe their sports. This year’s celebration started Thursday and runs through Sunday, with organizers expecting more than 3,300 athletes and 70,000 spectators throughout the course of the weekend. That includes kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders, slackliners, the top bouldering athletes in the world — look for the IFSC Climbing World Cup tomorrow (June 10) — and Average Joe mountain bikers at the Everbank XC Mountain Bike, where Ezra Smith hopes to out-pace former World Cup pro (and Eagle County local) Gretchen Reeves on lung-busting climbs and twisting descents.
But not everyone at the Mountain Games is charging hard. Summit local Jaime Brede — a former XTERRA off-road triathlon pro before she retired this season — has competed in the weekend-long Ultimate Mountain Challenge for years. But this year, well, she just wants to have fun at the first big party of the summer.
“I’ve been on that (multi-sport) circuit for a long time and I’m just ready for new adventures,” said Brede, who turns 40 years old this summer. “I still want to compete, but I want to do races I’ve never done before. I will miss aspects of it for sure, but I won’t miss all of the sacrifices I’ve had to make, all the intervals I’ve had to do. I’m ready to spend my time doing some other things.”
Brede’s new lease on life begins with the Mountain Games 10K trail run on June 11. She’s done the race before — it’s one of several events in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge lineup — but she’s never done this race and this race only. She hopes that gives here the edge she needs to dominate on a brutal course: 2,280 vertical feet of climbing on Berry Picker, a rooty, rocky slice of singletrack that leads straight up Vail Mountain from Lionshead Village.
“My quote for running uphill is: ‘Baby steps to awesomeness,’” laughed Brede, who’s been training for the 10K with those dreaded uphill intervals. “You’re taking small steps, but you’re always running. I never want to walk or hike. You just have to keep that baby-step cadence to the top.”
Furry, furious fun for all
The Mountain Games will also be introducing its newest event, the Pepi’s Face-Off hill climb challenge on Vail Mountain. The uphill-downhill race promises to be short, but brutal, and will be replacing the traditional road half-marathon.
Not your style? Hit the trails in the mud run or trail 10K. You might even spot U.S. Mountain Running champions Joseph Gray and Addie Bracy as they blow past the field.
And, as if the DockDogs competitions couldn’t get any cuter, the new Blue Buffalo DockDogs Dueling Dogs competition will now feature two side-by-side pools for double pup value. Traditional DockDog favorites such as Speed Retrieve and Big Air will be returning as well.
Look out for pooch celebrities such as Tango, a Long Island-based Instagram star (@tangomunch_pitbull), dog model and pit bull ambassador, who will compete in the Big Air competition with his owners, Chris Geymayr and Autumn Peralta.
The couple adopted the unwanted pit bull puppy when he was a few months old and quickly found that he would do anything for a toy.
“We realized he had a high toy drive and high energy. We’d toss a toy into the lake near our house and he’d go fetch it,” Peralta said. “Chris works at Blue Buffalo and heard about DockDogs. He thought, ‘Hey, Tango would be great at this.’”
He was, now jumping more than 22 feet in the Pro Dog category. He’ll be cheered on at the Mountain Games by his brother, a Boston terrier named Poukie. Poukie isn’t a DockDog athlete, but he will be running with Peralta in the Rocky Dog Trail Run.
Peralta says that people are constantly amazed to see a pit bull compete. She takes it as an opportunity to show people that the breed matters less than the training.
“I love the environment at the Mountain Games,” Peralta said. “Everyone is in such as great mood, and the location is amazing. It’s just a perfect weekend in the mountains.”
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