Seventy-eight people ran in the legendary Pepi’s Face-Off Competition this Sunday, which challenges participants to complete as many laps of the Pepi’s Face Ski Trail on Vail Mountain as they can in 30 minutes.
Riders ascend 860 feet in a straight line, gaining 250 feet in elevation before descending onto a winding walkway to start the process all over again. Once the 30-minute horn sounds, riders complete the current lap and cross the finish line for their time.
This event is considered one of the most grueling of the GoPro Mountain Games, and it quickly became apparent why this was the case. Many started with a fast first lap, digging into the steep incline and muscled with momentum in the second, but it wasn’t long before the mass of people began to look like an army of zombies from The Walking Dead, dragging their body against gravity. strong pull to complete a third, fourth and fifth lap.
The top eight riders managed to complete six laps within the time limit. Cam Smith, 26, from Crested Butte, took first place, completing six laps in 31 minutes and 51 seconds. It was Smith’s first time attempting the Pepi’s Face-Off, but he said he was a regular competitor in skimo, or ski mountaineering, and his training on the skis translated well to the steep slope. .
“I really like steep climbing, especially with poles. My soft spot actually went back down,” Smith said. “I’m in good shape after climbing in winter, but I can’t run as fast, like guys who run on roads and tracks.”
Smith said the first lap was the hardest, but he quickly managed to find a rhythm, and his main goal was to keep distance between him and the riders who were right on his tail.
“When there’s someone behind you, it’s really stressful when you go as hard as you can and there’s still someone right there. It’s like I can’t go any faster “Said Smiths. “I was very hard on the fifth of six runs and got a few seconds on it, and when we’re so close, a few seconds is a big margin.
Twenty-two women took part in Pepi’s Face-Off this year, and the winner of the women’s category was Janelle Lincks from Thornton. Lincks ran five laps in 35 minutes and two seconds, beating runner-up Karley Rempel by 22 seconds.
Even after completing several broken leg twists, many competitors sprinted full-out towards the finish line, summoning all their remaining strength to shave seconds off their completion time. It’s all the more impressive as for some riders it wasn’t their only race of the weekend, or even of the day.
University of Western Colorado athletes Caroline Benney, 22, and Sam Burke, 19, had just finished the 10k spring race on Sunday morning before heading to Pepi’s Face. Benney and Burke also ran in the After 5K on Saturday and said their goal was to enjoy as many races as possible during games.
“It’s one of the few opportunities we have with the team, so for me, I was ready to do anything,” Burke said. “We were both on our warm up jogs for Pepi and feeling every thing. I think it got a bit better as we went along, some of the adrenaline and competition kicks in, but the legs were definitely screaming until Pepi’s.
While many incredible athletic feats were witnessed on the mountain this Sunday, none surpassed that of nine-year-old Zeke Morris of Silverthorne, who completed three laps on Pepi’s Face-Off in 42 minutes and 19 seconds . Morris was the only child to take part in the race and is believed to be the youngest competitor to ever complete the challenge. Not only did he race the grueling laps alongside competitors three times his size, but he did so with a huge smile on his face that had all onlookers cheering in amazement.
Morris raced alongside his mother, Lizeth Morris, who said she had no doubts he would be able to finish.
“We gave him a choice, we said ‘listen, this is going to be tough, man’ and he said, ‘no, I can do it,'” Lizeth Morris said. “He has no renunciation in him, he just doesn’t. He keeps on. He is doing very well. »
Morris also completed the After 5K with his father, Enrique Morris, on Saturday. Enrique Morris said he underestimated the elevation gain of the 5K and had second thoughts towards the end of the race, but Zeke had no problem conquering this course either.
“Of course, shortly after finishing he crosses the finish line with a big smile on his face,” said Enrique Morris. “He just did fantastic, so I wasn’t worried about him at all on this one.”
When asked what it was like to race the Pepi’s Face-Off, Zeke Morris had only one word: “Tired,” replied with a smile from ear to ear.