Weather smiles on Up-the-Hill Race

Newcomers mix with veterans at classic event

August 30, 2013 | The Up-the-Hill Race may miss a year now and then, but it always comes back in style. Dashed by rain in 2012, the foot and bike race returned this year on August 23, orchestrated by the volunteers of the Employee Activities Committee (EAC).

Rory Kelly at Up-the-Hill Race
Rory Kelly storms to the second-best performance ever recorded on two wheels in the Up-the-Hill Race, with a time of 04:47.36. See more photos and video of the race action. (© UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

After the race—amid a few sprinkles and cool, gusty winds—spectators and participants feasted on burgers (traditional and veggie), cole slaw, beans, and other perfect-for-summer dishes prepared by Food Services. The Sizzle String Band, featuring musicians from CISL, provided a mellow backdrop of bluegrass tunes.

Circumstances have made the classic Up-the-Hill Race a biennial event over the last few years. Weather pushed the race indoors in 2008 and to the top of the hill in 2012, and in 2010 road construction forced it off the mesa and onto the CG and FL campuses, where it morphed into a variation of “The Amazing Race.”

The inaugural Up-the-Hill Race was in 1980, only a year after the Bolder Boulder began. In that kickoff event, EAC official Bill Kohri told the cyclists, “There are no rules. Just stay on the road.” This year’s participants not only managed that feat but turned in impressive times to boot. Rory Kelly (CISL) notched the second-fastest time in bike race history, falling only behind his own 2011 record.

“It could be that I’m slowing with age,” says Rory, “but I prefer to blame it on the wind instead.”

Below is some perspective from the four winners, including tips from Rory on how to approach the race. The EAC website includes times for all of this year’s participants. (Note: the EAC page with archived times going back to the 1980s is temporarily offline as part of a website transition.)

See also:

Video of the winning performances

Slideshow of the race and party
Laura Landrum wins the women's bike race at Up-the-Hill Race
Cycling competitors push hard on their home stretch. (© UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)


Women’s bike race: Laura Landrum, NESL/CGD, 08:43.55

“The up-the-hill-race and party is my favorite NCAR celebration. It seems the perfect way to wind down the summer and celebrate what feels like the end of one year and beginning of the next. Summer visitors are  heading home, kids are heading back to school, CESM workshops and tutorials are over, and the season is changing. Thanks to the powers that be for continuing the tradition and celebrating it with great food, adult beverages, and a bluegrass band on the patio!

“Funny how I ride that hill faster in the race than when I commute. It’s a relief I can still ride it faster than the runners are running it!”

Men’s foot race: Romain Pilon, NESL/MMM, 10:12.55

“I’ve been a postdoc at the University of Miami for four months and a long-term visitor at MMM. Two months ago, I went to the Mesa Lab for the first time on the shuttle, but I was sleeping, so last Friday was really the first time I saw the mesa road. Because I did not know how steep the road is, I took it easy and did not run as fast as I could run. It was very nice, though.

“I used to practice trail running in the tropical mountains a couple years ago when I was working on my master’s degree in Reunion Island. The maximum was 60 kilometers (37 miles) at elevations between 1500 and 2500 meters (4860–8100 feet).”

Women’s foot race: Jen Kay, NESL/CGD, 12:33.96

“What a great race! Unfortunately, this year was my last up-the-hill as an NCAR employee.  I am starting an assistant professor position at the University of Colorado in January 2014. NCAR is a great place to work for so many reasons, but I’ll be just down the hill from the Mesa Lab.  I’m planning on staying very involved with NCAR through research collaborations and friends.”

Men’s bike race: Rory Kelly, CISL, 04:47.36

“I commute by bike pretty often, so I get to ride the hill a lot. At a leisurely pace coming to the office, it’s a nice scenic way to start the day, but when I’m going fast for the race it’s tough! Mentally I break it down into short sections: the steep ramp at the bottom, the long straight before the road turns south, the steep part of the curve before it flattens at the top, and the flat part from the speed limit sign to the finish. In order to do a good time, it’s important to pace the race well. I think a lot of people start out too hard at the bottom and fade at the top. On the way up, I also remind myself that the faster I go, the sooner it’ll be over.

“Thanks to EAC and Event services for putting on a fun event. Knowing there’s going to be great music, delicious food, and cold beer when I get to the top does wonders for my motivation!”