Wilmington, N.Y.—Whiteface Mountain has more vertical gain than any ski area east of the Rockies. On July 9-10, the 4,865 foot Adirondack peak provided a challenging site for the 2.5 mile Whiteface Vertical K Race and the 15.2 mile Whiteface Sky Race.

Pavel Cenkl, 45, from Craftsbury, tested his endurance by competing in both events.

Held at the 1980 Winter Olympics downhill venue, the races drew some of the top mountain trail runners in the world. During the two-day competition, Cenkl climbed 11,000 vertical feet. He ascended the iconic mountain three times and raced down it twice.

“There is very little running involved,” he said. “The course takes the shortest possible route to the summit, with muddy trails, loose gravel, and boulders to climb over.”

Saturday’s race start was postponed from 10 to 11 a.m. due to thunderstorms at the summit.

“It was pouring rain at the beginning,” he said, “but the weather cleared as we got above the clouds.”

Cenkl said he fell a couple of times on the ascent and bruised his left thigh.

“The race is like running in slow motion,” he said. “It can take a long time to catch someone even though they are only a few paces ahead.”

Saturday, Cenkl placed 31st of 107 athletes in the 2.4 mile Vertical K Race. His time was 54 minutes and 32 seconds.

“I was excited to have a Top 10 Masters (age 40+) finish,” he said. “I did best on the steepest parts of the course going straight up the ski trails.”

Rain set in on Saturday evening, making for a clammy night of camping. Sunday’s 15.2 mile Sky Race included two ascents up Whiteface, two descents, and a 5.2 mile more horizontal trail race in between.

“Lots of muddy quad-busting fun,” Cenkl posted after the race, which required more effort than a marathon. He completed the course in 4 hours 21 minutes and 36 seconds, which placed him 49th of 108 finishers.

The Sterling College professor and trail running coach plans to continue ramping up his training this summer to 70-80 miles per week. His ultimate goal is to compete in the 100-mile Sky Race in Leadville, Colorado, on August 20.

—This article, written by Jim Flint, appeared originally on July 13, 2016 in The Hardwick Gazette. We are grateful for permission to reprint it. 

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