Mix a steep hill, some stupid/competitive/crazy/fast runners, and four beers of your choosing (at least 5% alcohol by volume), and you have what could either be a complete clusterf@#$, or an absolutely great time. I guess it depends more on the participants than anything else, and as I looked around at the group prepping their beer transition areas, I knew that this was the right group to take on the first ever vertical beer mile (after a rigorous day of research, I discovered that there have been other vertical beer miles, just not like the one we did, so I'd like to set up some strict standards in order to compare results, test for illegal non-drug use, and foster a spirit of unhealthy competition across the world, or at least between the states of California and Colorado).
Carlyn, an amazing runner who also has the unfortunate trait of being unable to say no to a running adventure, or to a particularly welcoming toilet bush, is leaving us and heading out to Virginia, or maybe Wisononsin, or some other state east of the Rockies, and she wanted to do something fun before she left. It had to be something special, because Carlyn is pretty awesome. She has led or joined a number of really cool adventures including a traverse of Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon R2R2R, as well as a couple of very memorable days in Joshua Tree and among the peaks of Baldy and Gorgonio. Carlyn also leads outdoor yoga classes at the beach (good luck doing that in Wisconginia, Carlyn). So, the idea of a beer mile send-off was suggested, and I thought we really needed to step it up because that is what we do, so I threw out the idea of a Vertical Beer Mile (VBM).
After much discussion, here are the rules we came up with:
1) Find a steep, rugged, and accessible 1/8 mile section of trail. The vertical elevation gain should be between 80-100 feet for the 1/8 mile section.
2) Find a group of stupid and/or crazy people who like to drink a lot, don't really care about their own safety, and will say "yes" to almost any challenge or dumb idea that is presented (some people just call them runners).
3) Set up a drinking transition area at the bottom of the hill.
4) Every participant is responsible for bringing their own beer, and it needs to be over 5% alcohol, or risk being ridiculed by the other competitors.
5) Place a bell at the top of the hill as the turnaround point.
6) Drink a beer before starting the first hill repeat, run to the top of the hill, then run back down. Repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 beers and hill repeats (adding up to a mile).
7) The beer must be consumed in the transition area, and if any participant throws up, they must complete an extra hill repeat (minus the extra beer).
8) The clock starts before the first beer and ends after completion of the last hill repeat.
9) A celebratory post-race beer is recommended, but not mandatory.
After proposing the initial idea, I conveniently started another 21-day detox/cleanse. Since I wasn't drinking, I offered to drive, take pictures, be the official timer, and just offer random advice (gems like "you've got to swallow all of it, no spitting allowed").
The group assembled on an unseasonably warm November day; everyone grabbed their six-packs and made the hike to the bottom of the hill. Some of the top ultra runners in San Diego, and definitely the top beer-swilling drunners in all of California were present. Four women and eight guys started, and I think there were only 2 DNFs, no PNFs (puking non-finishers), and 0 falls, which was a little disappointing, because even hiking down the rugged trail (with no beer to impair my balance), I nearly fell. I was hoping to capture some gnarly wipeouts, and in the process amass amazing footage for Tosh.0, but it was not to be; the talent level of this group was just too high.
Brian Peterson, in his last and most important key workout before this weekend's Chimera 100, led the way and in the process set the fastest known time at 9:44, which was a pretty amazing feat. Unfortunately for Brian, he held the FKT for a mere 5 minutes as what looked like the ghost of Prefontaine came running down the hot and dusty trail, but in reality was latecomer Gregory Wagner, driving directly from Joshua Tree and sporting a legitimate track uniform complete with long wool socks. Greg did a few hamstring stretches on the broken wooden fence, cracked a Ballast Point and proceeded to sprint up the hill. Everyone started laughing and there were a few doubters out there, murmuring that there was no way he could keep that pace. Someone switched in a Sculpin IPA on his second lap, but without missing a beat, Greg downed the 7% IPA, and sprinted up for a second time. He kept the fast pace for the next two repeats and finished in an amazing 8:12. Hands on knees at the finish line, spit falling from the corners of his mouth, he kept it down and no extra lap was needed. Greg was the champion of the day and now holds the internationally recognized fastest known time for the Vertical Beer Mile (Ultra Adventure Rules).
Carlyn, we'll all miss you. Safe travels, and I'm sure our trails will cross again on some new, crazy adventure that none of us will be able to say no to.