In December, I formally laid out my if-all-goes-well race plans for 2011. It was (and is) a pretty ambitious schedule but leaves some room to sign-up for additional events depending on when they are being held.
Last month, the 2011 La Sportiva Mountain Cup series was announced. If you're unfamiliar with this series that began back in 2008, it consists of 10 trail races ranging from 10K to marathon distances held between March and August at various sites scattered throughout the country. Runners tally points based on where they place (closer to first, the higher the points) in their five best finishes in Mountain Cup races and after all races have been run, La Sportiva posts the winning results and award cash prizes.
I've never taken part in a Mountain Cup race and other than a passing curiosity, I wasn't expecting to do so anytime soon. That changed the second I saw the final date for this year and my determination to get involved solidified as I further investigated the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase.
For the 19th consecutive year, the Mountain Trails Foundation will be putting on this challenging event at Utah's Park City Mountain Resort. A 16-mile sufferfest, the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase starts at 7,000 feet, gains more than 3,000 feet of elevation by the halfway point and then leaves you with an 8-mile run back down from its 10,400 foot high point.
That description alone was more than enough to pique my interest but travel plans also happened to already be in place that coincided perfectly with the date of the event. As a gear buyer for Backcountry Edge (http://www.backcountryedge.com/), an online retailer of backpacking, hiking and camping equipment, I would be in Salt Lake City that entire week for the Summer Market Outdoor Retailer trade show. A little creativity in my scheduling could free up enough time in the morning and afternoon of August 4th to allow me to make the drive up to Park City and the slog up to the top of Jupiter Peak.
I immediately logged onto the Mountain Trails Foundation website and attempted to follow the provided link to register for the event. With a 400-participant cap and the inclusion of the event as a Mountain Cup event, there was a good likelihood that registration would close long before race day. Unable to complete the sign-up, I became nearly frantic and fired off a message to the race director. Minutes later I received a very kind and patient response that pointed out the big bold letters on the event homepage that spelled out the fact that registration opened on February 1st.
I was as apologetic as I was embarrassed.
I marked my calendar and waited. Having checked back on the Mountain Trails Foundation site to find that registration was slated to open at 12:01 AM on the 1st, I decided to stay up late on the 31st. Moments after midnight, I logged onto the page and was disappointed to find that sign-up was still unavailable. Recognizing that the event is being held in Utah, I assumed that I was jumping the gun by a couple of hours and set my alarm for 2:00 AM.
Turns out the registration page is hosted by a west coast administrator. In other words, I caught another 60 minutes of shut eye before rousing at 3:01 to try again. As my sleepy eyes adjusted to the light of the monitor, I gasped to see that the beautiful "add to cart" icon had been activated on the website. A running tally indicated that two other runners had already managed to sign up ahead of me. I hurried through the registration process, hit "submit" and smiled to find that I was on the roster.
After patting myself on the back for not having foolishly waited until morning, I settled into sleep, dreaming of high altitude adventure.
Roughly 19 hours later, the roster shows that a grand total of one more runner has signed up and there are still 396 slots available.
Boy, am I one sleepy running nerd. And a happy one.
So worth it.