SC coach finishes 6th in Vail

Surry Central track coach Jason Bryant, seen in this file photo, raced in Colorado over the weekend, finishing second in his age group.

Jason Bryant pushes up a steep incline at Jupiter Peak last year.

At 42 years old, Jason Bryant is usually one of the top five racers in his age group at events across the country.

VAIL, Colo. — Surry Central track coach Jason Bryant finished sixth this week in a mountain race in Colorado.

The 39th-annual Vail HillClimb features a 7.5-mile run up to the mountain’s summit, including a vertical climb of 2,500 feet, or nearly half a mile.

The race, part of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup Series, began at Vail Village and ascended up a graveled roadway to what the locals call the Eagle’s Nest.

Bryant, 42, finished the race in 49:34.

“This race went okay,” he said from Colorado. “I was sixth, which was about what I expected.”

He was only 22 seconds behind Dan Weiland for the fastest time in the 40-and-older age group.

Bryant was the only runner in the top 15 who doesn’t live in Colorado.

“Racing over 10,000 feet is tough coming from home and the low altitude,” he said. “I sleep in an altitude tent which helps, but is not the same as living here.”

Once he had a chance to get acclimated, the track coach said he was staying in the area a couple of extra days to do some hiking and exploring.

He will take some time off this weekend to attend the Highland Games, then head to California for another La Sportiva Mountain Cup race July 18.

Bryant said he plans to stay out West after that to work at Steens Mountain Camp for Youths in Oregon. Surry Central cross country runner Daniel Alvarez will be there after getting a scholarship to cover the camp cost.

Then it’s Bend, Oregon, July 25, and Park City, Utah, on Aug. 1, the final race of the Mountain Cup series.

After that, Bryant switches gears to go into an obstacle race in Pittsburgh.

“I ran my first obstacle race on June 20,” he said. “I had been thinking about doing one for quite some time. I figured that I’d have the running ability for it, so it was more a matter of how hard the obstacles were and my upper body strength.

“I’ve always believed in being a complete athlete with total-body fitness. So I work core strength fairly heavy and try to work on it with my high school athletes.”

Because of that fitness, Bryant admitted that he did very little training specific to an obstacle course.

After that June 20 race, Bryant said he certainly will be doing some new training to get ready.

“On the Sunday after the race I had a rope traverse up in my front yard and a rope climb,” he said. “That went along with a slack line that was already up for working on balance, core strength and lower leg strengthening.”

On Aug. 8, he will compete in the Pittsburgh BattleFrog.

From the race’s own website: The course doesn’t just take you over rocks, but through them. Yes, you will run in the forest, climb hills, and cross several creeks — but that’s nothing. What makes this course special are the mines. BattleFrog takes you 250 feet beneath the surface to run in total darkness through abandoned tunnels and swim across an underground lake, fed by icy cold springs.

“I like the BattleFrog Series as their rules include mandatory obstacle completion,” he said.

The rules state: If you fail an obstacle, you must give your “elite heat” armband to the volunteer/staff present. You will be able to continue the race, but will not be eligible for awards.

“BattleFrog also has a competitive Masters Elite division with a good prize purse,” Bryant said.