Running up and down mountains is fun stuff, and especially satisfying in this aspenglow time of year, when a trail run turns into a trip down a yellow brick road of fallen leaves.
A long run through the woods can turn on you, though, if you end up with cramps or an upset stomach or your legs end up bonking on you. So, the distance running conundrum is how to keep food (and energy) coming into your body without screwing up your stomach or stopping?
I’ve tried goos and bars and whatever gross concoctions they try to market to endurance athletes. But the best thing out there is still Clif’s Shot Bloks. They taste like Swedish Fish, keep your energy up, let you eat mid-stride, and won’t mess up your tummy.
Each block has 33 calories in it, electrolytes and sugar to keep you going, and a little caffeine. Simple enough.
Last weekend, I took to the trail for the Golden Leaf Half-Marathon, that iconic (and brutal) run from Snowmass to Aspen. It’s a weird, Darwinian kind of race profile. The thing starts you off running up the Snowmass Ski Area for about 1,000 feet of lung-scorching elevation gain. From there it’s an up and down (but more down than up) run along the single track Government Trail across Snowmass, Buttermilk and into Aspen — ending in Koch Park.
I’ve run a handful of long races over the last couple years — a marathon in New Orleans, a triathlon in Beaver Creek, a half-marathon here in Aspen — but getting ready for this one was unique. How do you train to run up a mountain without burning out, and then do another dozen miles through the woods?
I did training runs mostly in the Hunter Creek Valley, increasing mileage each week for two months. Eventually, I was going up the Iowa Shaft trail, which has about 1,000 feet of elevation gain from my house, and coming down Smuggler Mountain Road. As my distance went from 6 miles a pop, to 8 and ten 10 up to 13, I found it was more and more important to keep food coming in, and found Shot Bloks the easiest way to do it.
I started race day with seven blocks in my pocket, and threw one down about every two miles.
Though my last couple weeks of training runs went well, on race day I was pretty convinced I was in over my head — looking up the mountain, with Lance Armstrong in my corral at the start, along with all the local uphill freaks, I wondered what I was doing there. Some aggro woman actually pushed me from behind on a stretch of single track. But in the end it went smoothly. My goal time for the race was two hours, and I came in just under that at 1:57 and change — good enough to put me across the finish line 63rd out of 782 finishers.
That felt pretty good. Though I was limping for the next couple days, and my brief appearance on the dance floor at a wedding that night was downright Frankensteinian, I was glad I gave it a shot.
Get Your Own
Clif Shot Bloks at City Market