Crystal Mountain Hill Climb Race Report

Race: Crystal Mountain Hill Climb

Runner: Coach Keith Laverty

Race Date: 09/09/2023

Location: Crystal Mountain Resort, WA

Results: 2nd, 37:15

Strava Activity Link:

Photo: Crystal Mountain Resort

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The scenic views at the summit including Mt. Rainier
  2. Loved the upbeat music at the summit; encouraging to hear it as you got closer to the top when things were hurting!T
  3. The gondola ride

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

A little more pre-race enthusiasm/energy from the race organization would’ve been nice – it felt a little underwhelming and quieter than I’d see compared to other events.

Not a huge deal but the race results were never posted online publicly and only sent out to racers as a separate PDF file; listing out only the last names and not a first name. I always like seeing race results posted for a particular event as well as their historical results, course records, etc.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Not weird to the race event itself but there was also a disc golf tournament happening that same morning around the resort. And the campsite I reserved for the night before had quite the rowdy crowd of disc golfers until late into the evening. Lesson learned to always have ear plugs available in my bag!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I haven’t breathed that deeply in a long time! Fun to mix it up with a shorter but steep race. Race went out hot and had already found myself in about 4th/5th a half mile in but then I decided to settle into my own pace and what felt appropriate.

Got as close to as maybe ~20 seconds to 1st position halfway into the climb but I couldn’t quite reel him in. Ended up being about 1 minute back of the winner, Joe Berger. Solid day on the mountain and good for a $250 prize!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Certainly felt like a V02max development effort! Definitely work on overall higher-end aerobic fitness (think 5k-10k training) but also climbing ability for a longer duration. I’d recommend bringing some form of hydration but likely more on the minimal side too.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The first half is mostly on a wider road but pretty challenging terrain with loose rocks, uneven footing, and several sharp turns. Some unrelenting climbs in there! Then the 2nd half transitions more into singletrack trail that’s not quite as technical but still climbs; some trail was dusty. Then just when you think you’re getting close to the top, you get a couple of more really steep bits including a staircase section!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Beautiful! High alpine terrain, mountains all around, and assuming a clear day, a picturesque view of Mt. Rainier.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I don’t know if I’d call any entirely uphill, VK style of course as “easy”, so yeah, it’s tough!

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

In only it’s 2nd-year event, it did alright! But I could tell a few minor, nice-to-have details could’ve been ironed out that you’d typically see at other events with more experience.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

With a prize purse for the top-3 male and female including $500 for the winners, it can draw some solid competition. But still not a particularly deep or competitive field compared to something like the Cirque mountain running series.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Race registration was open until the day before the race; lots of space. This year’s event had about 75 finishers. Lots of campgrounds nearby including Buck Creek Campground where they host White River 50 from. Otherwise, any of the AirBNBs, the Loge Hotel (Alta Crystal), or hotels next to the resort are very expensive!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

No aid stations but not really necessary either for a relatively shorter event. Just prepare to bring your own hydration or nutrition.

Weather and typical race conditions

Overall, pretty nice! Sunny, clear, smoke-less, and maybe in the high 50’s/low 60’s. It was also a later 10am start, so very convenient for not needing to wake up super early but the sun was shining fairly warm by the time the race began.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Although it is a relatively shorter race in terms of duration, I’d still recommend bringing some hydration, such as a single flask/handheld or a smaller-capacity vest. I raced without any water and basically regretted not bringing a smaller handheld to at least prevent the back of my throat from drying up! With working really hard combined with the altitude starting at about 4500′ elevation, a little water would’ve been nice.

I’m also glad that I wore sunscreen!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not so much mid-course but spectators can conveniently take the scenic gondola up right near the race start and then see their runners finish at the summit!

How’s the Swag?

Pretty minimal; each finisher got a wood-etched medal, and I think that was it! Although they were giving out free Red Bull and other items from The North Face booth.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

3.5 out of 5 stars – I think this race has the potential to draw a bigger field and community, with a little more marketing and logistics dialed in; and especially being essentially the only VK (uphill only with no downhill) type of race in Washington State.

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his profile.

Photo: Crystal Mountain Resort