Wild and Free Tour- GoPro Mountain Games

Every year we make our way through the Colorado mountains and end up in Vail for the GoPro Mountain Games. It is arguable the largest and most fun outdoor event of the year as it is filled with all types of sports, great spectating and vendor villages, and tons of family fun activities. It is always a family favorite of ours as we can do family events like the mud run, and check out some of the other top sports with the kids, all while Emily and I also get to compete in the top kayak events with my tandem kayak. The 4-day event was quite packed for us this year as both Emily and I also tried to take on the Ultimate Mountain Challenge with is a combination of six events consisting of biking, river, and running races.

We kicked off the whole thing on Thursday with the Homestake Creek race. It was a good flow for the shallow and sharp race course. The Preliminary runs were two race runs with your times combined. The times were tight as the top 20 racers moved into the finals, with the single fastest run winning. I was having consistently good runs throughtout the day, though in my final run I had a slight bobble at the final “Leap of Faith” drop, it set me up on the left hand side of the river and I decided to try a new channel down the left to the finish. The entire race is under 2 minutes, and this mistake ended up costing me a couple crucial seconds which pushed me down into 6th place overall.
We followed up the creek race straight into the Freestyle Prelims. The hole is located in downtown Vail, right under the international bridge, which makes for a stadium feel as there are spectators cheering and surrounding the feature.

Friday was another busy day with several more events. I started off with the Short Track bike relay race, which was awesome. I got to partner up with fellow GoPro athlete and Pro biker, Brian Lopes, and race head to head against several other GoPro athletes like my buddy Chuck Patterson. Brian taught me several bike racing techniques and we ended up just missing the podium with our 4th place finish.
Following the Short Track Relay was the Freestyle Semi Finals which cut the field down from 15 to 5 competitors. The field of athletes were strong, with all the hardest tricks being thrown down. Luckily for me I had a couple solid rides that pushed me through onto the Finals.
My final event on Friday was the 5K mountain run. It was a hot, steep, and felt like there was very little oxygen as I sprinted through the course at 8000 ft of elevation. It was another tight finish for me as I gasped across the finish with another 4th place.

 

Saturday was one of the busiest days, both is number of athletes, spectators and events for me. I started off early with a 7:30am Down River sprint. Like all the events, the altitude and lack of oxygen was apparent during the 15-minute kayak sprint, as I sprinted through the course and under the finish bridge. I had to quickly get changed out of my kayak gear and into some biking gear for the grueling 3-hour Cross-Country bike race. This was in my mind the hardest event of the weekend, as we climbed up over 3,000 vertical feet. Although the climb was brutal, the single track downhill seemed worth it. Although my legs were killing me, I knew that the next event was one of the best, the family mud run. Emily, myself, Tucker, Parker, EJ, KC, and Phil all joined in for a fun time running through some mud, and up and over some obstacles. The kids were super into it at first, though by the end, both Tucker and Parker were ready to clean off and take a bath. Saturdays Finale was the Freestyle Finals. Both Emily and I had been racing all day, though we were ready to through down with everything we had left. The Women’s class was first and there were some incredible rides by all the women. Emily was in first place until the very last ride, were French paddler Marlene Devillez pulled off a couple massive moves to take over the thrown. In the Men’s class it was tight as we all jockeyed for the podium. In the end I had the ride I was looking for, though it still seemed not enough to put me on the podium. It was still quite an honor to paddle in finals and compete alongside my brother-in-law Dane Jackson and watch him take home another GoPro Mountain Games gold medal.

Our last day of the games was Sunday, and it was the finale of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge with the Pepis Face Off. This is another grueling running race as you climb (or for me crawl, literally on my hands) up one of the steepest faces of Vail Mountain. The race is 30 minutes and you see how many laps you can do within the time cap. I ended up completing 5 laps, which was the same as my record last year, and I lifted my arms in celebration as I crossed the finish line (I then went to the sidelines and had to throw up). This market the end of the overall Ultimate Mountain Challenge, which I also placed 4th in. Though the competing wasn’t over for me, as I had one last event, the all new Bosch e-Bike Boogaloo. Honestly, being that is was a new event, I had no idea what to expect. Though it ended up being arguable the most fun event of the weekend. It was a moto-cross style bike race, we electric powered bicycles. We all started head-to-head with 20+ races as we funneled into the first turn. There were jumps, ramps, obstacles, snow, mud, tunnels, uphills and steep downhills. Racers were rubbing, some tumbles, mud flying, and all smiles. I got to race again against Chuck Patterson which made it even more fun as we both were a bit out of out element and enjoying it to the max.

In the end, the weekend came to an end too quick. There was so much fun, some many rad athletes and friends to catch up with. I was exhausted but filled with stoked and adrenaline, and I can’t wait to go back again next year. Here is a little video recap from our weekend.

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