Monday, July 15, 2019

Redbull 400 World Championships: Whistler 2019 {race recap}

On Saturday we completed our first Redbull 400!

What is a Redbull 400 race? Basically you run 400 meters up a ski jump- in this case, the Olympic ski jump in Whistler. There are 19 other Redbull 400’s across the globe. 

This event was the world championship - Redbull flew the winners of the other races to this one in Whistler to compete which was pretty cool. 

In the morning we got food at Moguls coffee in Whistler village and took pictures with the mountains.

Then we got ready to drive over to the olympic village. It was mandatory to wear the race issued shirt for the race. We also got socks, a buff and meal/drink tickets.

As we pulled into Olympic Park we saw the top of the ski jump and thought oh shit. The videos online didn’t do this hill justice.  37% incline doesn’t look all that bad on YouTube. (Not did I have any concept of what 37% incline would be like)  IRL it looked like a huge ninja warrior wall, concave in the middle and everything. What the efffff!?

We got checked in and took pictures. We were in later heats so we got to watch other people go first and learn from their mistakes. Like sprinting the first 100m too hard. Lolz

At 11:45am it was time for my heat- #6 overall of 11, and 3rd & final women’s heat.

The race is 400m and can be broken into 3 sections- 100m flat, 200m steep grass and 100m steep wooden thing (actual ski jump). My plan was to not go all out and sprint the first 100 as tempting as that was. I knew that going anerobic early would make for a struggle fest and  not make up any time on the climb. 

5-4-3-2-1 and the gun goes off! “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is blaring on the speakers. 

Stride for days. I’m in the black capris and black hat.

I take off at my 5kish pace (around 6:30/mile) for the first 100m and get to the grass hill section. I’m feeling great.  Then I start the climb up. I figured I would try to stay upright for the first 50m or so of the climb and then start using my hands to climb. 

My feet start slipping in the grass. Awesome.

I knew slipping could be a possibility as I was wearing racing flats. But I’m not sure how much of a difference trail shoes would have made as the grass was thick. (Could not wear spikes) so I started scrambling to find divots and basically climb my way up.  My only goal was to keep a steady pace and not stop. 

Finally got to the end of the grass and stood up for a second and then began the wood panel section. Hearing “you’re almost there” is so relative - in a marathon 100m is most certainly “you’re almost there.” In a 400m race with the last 100m being up the actual ski jump, 100m is not so much “you’re almost there” especially when your legs are on fire and you can’t catch your breath- it was more like 2 minutes more of pure hell. 

There were loads of spectators and speakers blasting music which kept the energy level up and kept us completely stoked.

For a second I tried to stand up on the wood panel (because I saw many other people running up this portion) and almost fell backwards. Completely unnecessary shot of adrenaline. I continued to scramble on all 4’s. 

Near the top I tried standing again. This was marginally more successful.

I looked up for the first time in what felt like a while and saw I was only a few more slats away from finishing. I crossed the finish and fell over onto a crash pad to catch my breath. I high fived all the women around me. God damn that was difficult.

Once I got myself together, I pulled my phone out of my flip belt and asked someone to take my picture to commemorate this accomplishment. 

Looking down was dizzying. We climbed basically 400’ over 300m.

I hung out in the ski jump start area thing and took pictures of relics from Vancover 2010 and the gorgeous view.  

I also ran into our friend who was in the heat preceding mine. We high 5’d and chatted a bit before heading back down. 

I climbed up that!

I finished in 8:29- which was around what I was expecting. In the stair climbs I’ve done,  I’m soldidly 2x as slow as the winners. I expected nothing less for this, especially since I didn’t train at all for this specifically. I’ve been averaging 55-60+ run miles per week but no hills.  (Highly don’t recommend this approach) 

I finished in 8:29, was 448/615 overall and 102/173 out of women.  Clearly I have a lot of room for improvement. 

After about 8 minutes I felt like my legs could handle walking again so I started heading down the stairs next to the part I just climbed up and would stop to take photos of the hill) 

Waking down the stairs was fun. They were metal and difficult to see where the stair started and ended. Plus my shoes would grip to them a little causing me to stumble. Awesome with trashed jelly legs.

I got down the ski jump in one piece and made it in time to cheer on L. I saw him as he was lined up in the start area and showed him pictures of the wood section.

His heat took off to Thunderstruck.

We cheered him on as he started his ascent.

Once he got high enough on the hill, I ran back to the car to get our bags so we could get a beer and food.

I waited with our friends while L made it down the jump. And then we celebrated with some local beer and used our meal tickets for some food. There were 2 food trucks and the most popular was the vegan option- due to it having a long line we opted for the ribs (sad face). I also bought a Redbull summer flavor slushee with vodka. It hit the spot hard.  We said goodbye to our friends and then started on the road to Vancouver.

It was a crazy experience that was a great accomplishment. 

I should have trained more specifically for this race- sprint up the small hills near us or the stairs in our condo. Lesson learned. I have no doubt it wouldn’t have made it any easier but I would have been faster. I needed around 7:00 to qualify for the finals (about 1:30 faster than I did)- I was not sad to miss out on having to climb that beast again. My legs were shaking for hours after the event (and my calf’s are sore AF 24+ hours later). The women’s winner was around 4:19 , and men’s winner was 3:30 It was insanity watching them fly up a 37% incline like no big deal. (Most of them get paid to do this- and other athletic events as they are badass trail runners)


•Actually train for this race. When I knew we would be doing this event, I googled for training suggestions. I came across an article from one of the previous winners saying “find the biggest, baddest hill in your neighborhood, sprint up it until you almost puke. Then repeat 20 more times.”  Due to health issues and my general laziness, (And Ze’s aversion to all inclines) I didn’t do any hills. 

•I executed the race perfectly. I took the first (flat) 100m at a decent pace which didn’t make me go anerobic for the climb. I kept a steady pace on the incline and didn’t stop at all. 

•Having friends also competing in this event made it more fun. We got to hang out and watch the earlier heats and cheer each other on. I just wish we would have stayed in Whistler one more night to be able to celebrate with them. 

•Trail shoes. Maybe they would have helped a bit?

•Gloves. I should have worn gloves- even gardening gloves would have been good to hopefully grip the grass, and not get splinters on the wood. Luckily my hands were fine, but I see a benefit to it. 

•It was an all day event. We got to the site around 9am to check in and get our wristband. Then there was an athlete meeting at 10am followed by a warmup. The heats started at 10:30 and went every 15 minutes on the dot. When we read all of that on the emails, we thought it was excessive to be there all day- but the time went fast and we had so much fun spectating and hanging out. 

•It was an exceptionally well run event. There were ample communications about the rules and expectations. Race day everything went off without a hitch and was on time. My wave was 11:45 and the gun went off at 11:45. The energy level remained high from wave #1 through wave #11. It was such a fun day. 

10/10 will do another one of these again someday. And I’ll train for it. 

What’s next? Rock n Roll half marathon this weekend. Yay. 


  1. This is both crazy and wonderful. Great job!!! It sounds super fun, and the pics are awe-inspiring! Badass, gf

    1. Hehe thanks! It was fun! I was initially all WTF at L when he suggested this as my “birthday present” but was so happy and had a great time.

  2. How cool that this was the championships! I can't imagine doing this at all, let alone doing it in 5 mins! WHOA!

    Congrats on your awesome time! This seems like an event you do for fun (if you're in shape, like you are!), to try, then maybe train harder for if you decide to do it again. Like you said, there is a lot to learn from doing it once. I wonder if trail shoes would help much more. I don't feel like mine help much with grass grip.

    It must have been so scary to go down those stairs after, with your legs feeling like jelly! I was wondering how you get down!

  3. This is so awesome! Congrats to you and L both for tackling that! That picture of you at the top is breathtaking and also holy sh*t I can't believe you climbed that!!!

    I was going to ask how you train for this and wondered if Chicago even has such hills that would prepare you for it. One park I trained for my HM in last year in Cleveland had a steep AF hill that I imagine would be perfect for that, but geez even jogging up that was challenging. So basically what I'm saying is I'm with Erin, you're BADASS for doing that!