The National High School Trail Championships (NHSTC) in Salida is just two weeks away, and the race is already shaping up to be a burner - for the legs, and the lungs.
The race has got something for everyone - racers and spectators. NHSTC is open to 2018 high school graduates, and those entering grades 9 through 12 this fall, though it's not just for high schoolers. The event will also have a citizens race. Additionally, there will be team scoring in the NHSTC. Team members must be from the same high school, however.
The course highlights the day, and much of it is similar to last year, minus one or two trails. If Salida's thin air isn't challenging enough, the course sure will be.
"The course is set up for trail racers," race director Kevin Wilcox explained. "You won't be able to fake your way through this one and expect to come out on top. Air sucking ascents, twisting trails, rocks and flowing descents will await those of toe the line."
Racers will start on one of the lowest points in Salida, next to Arkansas River right around 7,000 feet.
"The first .7 of the race will be run on dirt roads before the single track sets in and the climbing begins in earnest," Wilcox shared. "Athletes will get another chance to improve their position on a short, road descent that will take them to the beginning of the Rusty Lung climb.
If you raced last year, that last bit might be important - Rusty Lung is a new addition to this year's course. And, if your lungs aren't properly lubed by the time you hit it, they'll likely be rusty afterwards, because there's a load of climbing early on.
"Just under a mile later, the race will top out at 7,558 feet," Wilcox said. "At this point, we will have discovered who can climb well, but the race is far from over. It's time to drop over 500 feet in about two miles. If you have something left in the tank at the bottom of the descent, it will be time to turn on the jets for the finish in Salida's Riverside Park."
While the course will be a worthy challenge for all competitors, one of the perks is for the spectators, who'll have a nice view through most of the race.
"Spectators can actually take in a fair amount of the race," Wilcox explained. "As racers descend on the Frontside Trail toward the finish line, spectators will be able to watch much of the final mile drama. For those who are little more ambitious or race course savvy, you could gain an excellent vantage point to watch the race unfold as athletes snake their way up the Burn Pile Trail."