Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Under Armour Killington 50K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review and write race reviews!
Never have I been so physically and mentally annihilated by a race. Without a doubt the Under Armour Killington 50k was the hardest race I’ve ever done. Going into the race I thought it would be on par with the Music City Trail Ultra, but I was wrong. This was so much harder.
Note, this will be a long post.
On race morning I was jazzed. I had never been to Vermont before, and the drive to Killington was absolutely beautiful. Trees on trees on trees. Amazing country! So a mountain race that would take us through forests? Yeah, I was ready to rock and roll.
It was a brisk morning, which was perfect for race day. Dew point was in the high 50s/low 60s, and the temperature followed suit. We had a bit of wind, but that cooling breeze would be a god-send later in the race.
The start of the race got us going on a nice downhill. We charged through some mud, which was also a sign of things to come. The first mile was not at all what I expected. Downhill, gravel, and some pavement before we descended into the woods.
As always with long races, I’m going to try and more or less break this down by Aid Stations. And the trip to the first AS was pretty easy. Like I said, some good downhill and then some rolling single and double track through the woods.
Heading over to the second AS was almost entirely downhill on grassy double track. The nice part was that it was the longest runnable stretch of the race. The challenge was not being able to see some of the dips and holes in the trail; so I felt we couldn’t pick up as much speed as I would’ve liked. We descended into the morning fog on switchbacks taking us down to the second AS.
Then the climb began.
That nice downhill we just ran? Well, we were headed almost straight back up. This climb was literally two miles at about a 10-15% grade (roughly). When we reached the top, we merged back onto course with the 25k and had a lovely mile long downhill to the next AS around Mile 8.
After that? You guessed it. It was another almost 3 mile climb uphill. The story of this section was uphill climbs on gravel, mud, and grass coupled with some brief runnable single track that connected us to another hill.
We had another downhill respite where we rolled into another AS (I think…this part of the race blurs a bit for me). It was around here where I passed fellow BibRave Pro Brenda on some glorious single track as were worked our way up the mountain.
We churned our way all the way up to the top of Killington Peak where we were greeted by spectators and some spectacular views. And despite all the climbing, I’d like to say I felt incredibly good between Miles 11 and 18. I was climbing at a solid clip and passed both 25k and 50k runners like it was my job.
Somewhere back here I also saw BibRave Pro Sam on one of our many grueling climbs.
As we came into the AS around 16, we were greeted with the best thing ever.
Yes, they had a tray of bacon. And I took the risk and devoured some. It was a magical as you would imagine, and incredibly energizing (not as much as Pickle Juice though).
Leaving this AS we ran into what could best be described as a mud pit. I was cruising downhill on the dirt and followed one of the race ATVs. At one section the ATV almost sunk then flipped over in the mud; and I proceeded to nearly do the same thing. There were many times I thought my shoes would be sucked off in the race and this was one of those times. But it wouldn’t be the last.
And don’t just take my word for it. Hollie (FueledByLolz) also charged through this area in the 25k and described it as “knee deep mud.” Not an exaggeration.
We continued this downhill stretch to the next AS just past Mile 18. Here I ran into (almost literally) Jami from Under Armour who was in the 25k. We chatted about the course before she headed downhill to the finish, and us 50k runners set off for Pico Peak.
Yes. We had another mountain to run up. We worked our way up a rocky path/road to the top of the mountain before rolling down to the next AS just past 21. At this point, I was with two other runners, as we restocked at this AS before heading out on what would be a fourish mile loop back to the same AS.
This section of the course was hell.
Coming out of the AS we climbed what could best be described as a mud hill. That same mud we encountered around 17? That. But uphill. At the top, I turned to the two runners I was with (who would eventually blow past me in this stretch) and told them that hill had destroyed my soul.
More climbs just like this followed. And the downhills were just as steep and muddy as the climbs. Absolutely brutal.
By the time I returned to the AS around 25.5, I was toast. And guess what was waiting for us leaving that AS? You guessed it, more steep uphill. Literally for three miles straight we went back up Pico Peak, gaining about 1,300 feet straight in those miles.
I felt like I was going nowhere on those climbs, and logged some 25+ minute miles. Once we got to the top, it was more or less downhill to the finish. I wish I could say I charged into the last AS (where we were at 18) but it was more of a shuffle.
At the AS I mentioned that I felt way better the first time than here at Mile 29. One of the volunteers replied, “Yeah, everyone looked pretty happy the first time. Coming back you all looked like you went through Afghanistan.”
I pounded more soda at this AS than I have since High School here, and shuffled my way downhill to the finish. According to my Strava splits I was barely under 10 minute miles here, but it felt like I was sprinting.
Done. I was a shell of a man at the finish. Both of my quads and hamstrings were cramping due to all the ascents and descents. I could barely move, let alone walk; so I grabbed some Nutella and promptly laid down on the grass completely defeated.
After the race, my mom asked me if I would run Killington again. After hesitating for a minute, I said I probably would. There’s just too much epic to not want to try again.
The Under Armour Mountain Series wraps up next month at Mt. Bachelor. I’d love to be there, but it’s only 3 weeks out from Chicago. Plus, I don’t know if my bank account could handle another cross country trip. Maybe next year!