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The Triple Crown: One Racer's Experience

Power of Four Trail Running

By Jon Jay (special guest contributor from SKI Magazine)
Finishing a Power of Four race is amazing. Each route between Aspen and Snowmass will involve no less than 8,000 vertical feet of ascent over a minimum of thirty miles. Combined with an incredible backdrop of the Elk Mountains in either winter or summer, a single race is a tough but rewarding experience for any athlete.

But to compete in all three events—SkiMo, mountain bike, and trail running—in a calendar year to complete the Triple Crown takes a high level of fortitude with, as some people might tell you, a sprinkle of lunacy.

After finishing the Power of Four 50k trail run last year, I started thinking about entering the Triple Crown. The run was by no means easy, with three sharp ascents and descents of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk, followed by 13 miles on some of the best trails in Colorado to the finish line in Snowmass. But the idea of being able to ski or ride the downhills sounded lovely to my sore legs at the time. So, with a little bit of coaxing from a friend who needed a SkiMo partner, I decided to jump into the Triple Crown in November.
Unfortunately, as I would soon discover, Triple Crown participants still have to go up all four mountains on skis, on a bike, and on foot, which I’ll get to later. Otherwise, I was right: the ski and bike descents are fantastic. Whether it’s making turns down Highlands Bowl or not touching the brakes on Snowmass’ smooth new French Press trail, rushing down all of Aspen’s four mountains in a race is simply divine. Skis and bikes are significantly better than the knee-jarring run descents I had experienced the year prior, but even those were enjoyable in their own way, too.
"Unfortunately, as I would soon discover, Triple Crown participants still have to go up all four mountains on skis, on a bike, and on foot, which I’ll get to later."

Power of Four Mountain Biking

Power of Four Mountain Biking

But what goes down, must first go up. That’s where the Power of Four Triple Crown competitors really earn their three meal tickets. Whether it’s running up Tiehack in the mid-morning heat or suffering through the relentless climb of the Midnight Mine road under a blazing sun on skis, there’s really no way to prepare for the mental anguish that is sure to arrive at many points during the Power of Four races.
“Why did I do this?” I found myself wondering during the SkiMo race, searching the skies above Aspen Mountain for answers while my partner silently looked at his watch, wondering if I was going to survive the final 1,000 vertical feet of climbing still to come. “When does this become fun?”

Less than an hour later, in a full tuck down Little Nell to the finish line, it did become fun. And a few months after that, as my mountain bike came to a stop in Gondola Plaza, it felt simply glorious. But it was absolute ecstasy as I sprinted down from Snowmass’ Ullrhof to Sam’s Knob to the finish line at The Treehouse, beating my previous run time by twenty minutes. That’s when it all made sense. That’s when the Power of Four became sheer bliss in motion.

That’s why I signed up for the Triple Crown.

One thing is certain, however: It’s not about the speed. With stellar Aspen athletes like Max Taam, Steve Denny, Caroline Tory and Madeline Fones in the mix, I had no hope of finishing near the top of the finisher list. I just wanted to finish all three races, which, as I would find out, is a pretty big accomplishment, even if I was hours behind the next person.
Power of Four Ski Mountaineering
I put in a lot of training in the mountains of Colorado and beyond leading up to the races, which didn’t go unnoticed by my friends and family. I watched sunrises from mountain tops, blizzards from skin tracks, electrical storms from my bike saddle, and sunsets from the trail during my training. Each sight was burned into my brain as something I would not have seen if I hadn’t signed up for the Power of Four Triple Crown. But no matter how many summits and storms I saw while training and racing, nothing can compare to the feeling of crossing the three finish lines.

And maybe that’s why—just maybe—I’ll do the Triple Crown again next year.

Published August 2018

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