ALTO DE LETRAS, COLOMBIA (80K/3.800M) RECORD AT THE HARDEST MOUNTAIN PASS IN THE WORLD, BY EMILY SCHMITZ
ALTO DE LETRAS, COLOMBIA (80K/3.800M) record at the hardest mountain pass in the world, by Emily Schmitz. Our MOUNTAIN RUNNERS section celebrates a new feat. American runner Emily Schmitz, top 10 at the 2019 World Mountain Running championships in Patagonia, recently achieved an FKT fast mark for history.
Emiliy has been living in Colombia for more than ten years. As he dreams of returning to the 2021 World Mountain Running Championships, this time in Tahiland, she threw herself into a personal challenge to set a new official record in the world’s longest and toughest mountain pass. She left it at 8h36m45s. Let’s go with the video and chronicle by Mayayo.
ALTO DE LETRAS, COLOMBIA (80K/3.800M)
FKT RECORD AT THE HARDEST MOUNTAIN PASS IN THE WORLD,
BY EMILY SCHMITZ 8H36M45S
On April 26, 2021, Chaski coach and HOKA professional athlete Emily Schmitz became the first woman to set a fastest known time (FKT) in the country of Colombia, a country she has called home for the past decade. She covered the nearly 50-mile route (well known to cyclists but without an official race record) in 8 hours, 36 minutes and 45 seconds.
It was no accident. Below, we advance a small extract from her biography, which highlights milestones such as the top10 of the World Mountain Running 2019 in Patagnia or the two top5 achieved in high-level races such as the OCC of Chamonix or the Pike’s Peak Marathon in Colorado.
Emily chose that particular route, because after living in Colombia for almost fourteen years, she wanted to share some of the local routes she had known, specifically during the last few years when she has spent more time running and competing in different parts of the country. The first time she saw the Alto de Letras was by car, going down from its highest point at 3,677 meters, 12,063 feet above sea level, to Mariquita, a small subtropical town located about 150 km from the capital city of Bogotá.
ALTO DE LAS LETRAS: A TITANIC MOUNTIAN PASS, THE HARDEST IN THE WORLD (80K/D+3,700M)
The pass layout, as you can see below is long and very vertical with dozens of curves: The route adds 80k and gains 3,700 meters, with an average slope of 4% as it winds through green pastures, cows and coffee farms. It is known as “the longest climb in the world” and is well known among local cyclists. It is no coincidence, as Egan Bernal has just confirmed in the Giro, that Colombians are today among the strongest cyclists in the world.
Emily herself confessed in the preview that her long stay in Colombia was rather the result of a somewhat unforeseen decision, She never intended to stay so long. As we were able to speak in person during the Pike’s Peak Marathon and on the rideshare to Leadville after it, he always told herself she would stay “six more months.”
But somehow those six-month periods have been adding up to more than ten years already. There was always something else I wanted to do, a new project I wanted to undertake or a new place to explore…
ALTO DE LAS LETRAS: HOW THE IDEA OF THE RECORD WAS BORN?
When the pandemic hit last year, we immediately went into a strict lockdown. We were allowed to leave only for essential reasons. She wasn’t even allowed to exercise for the first six weeks. It had a very homemade static bike roller: It worked by removing the front tire from my MTB and balancing the rear tire with PVC pipes. It served its purpose.
After six weeks we were allowed to leave within a 1 kilometer radius of our house. This restriction was in place for a long time, almost 5 months. In August last year, it finally got up. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, it was difficult for me. I learned that cities are fantastic places to live, as long as you can leave. Bogotá is surrounded by lush mountains, but for almost a year we were not allowed access to them.
ALTO DE LAS LETRAS: FIRST FKT FOR EMILY.
This assault has been a real “reach out and kiss the saint.” Not only was it her first attempt at FKT, but she opted to do it on a truly mythical route, as beautiful and demanding. After the experience, Emily confirms that she has loved the FKT format. She feels it gives her room to be creative: “I like to invent my own route, your own reasons behind what you’re doing and the conditions under which you want to do it. You’re competing against other athletes, but the focus is really on getting the best out of yourself. I had a lot of support from my coach and teammate, who came out to support me. It meant a lot to me too. He turned it into a group project.”
This route is basically a continuous 50-mile climb. To face it successfully, she confesses, towards the end of the route she began to divide it into smaller segments, traveling 10 km at a time. The second half of the climb is much more demanding than the first half. Partly because it’s starting to rise to higher altitudes. Also because the road becomes steeper as you approach the end. Dividing it into small segments helped him to assume it mentally.
“It was a challenging route for me. I’m usually a trail runner, and Letras is basically a road, completely paved. While there are some flat parts and some slight downhill stretches, most of the route is really consistent. This is really different from trail running, where you’ll find different terrain.”
COLOMBIA, A SEMI-UNKNOWN PARADISE FOR MOUNTAIN RACES
Colombia is a country of contrasts. In Bogotá, where I spent most of my time, you can find desolate high-altitude mountains characterized by the páramo, a unique ecosystem in the Andes region that lies above the tree line but below the permanent snowline and is abundant in freshwater springs and relatively intact. by human population.
Below, a few kilometers away, is Bogotá, the largest city in Colombia, with an urban expansion composed of almost 10 million inhabitants. The Andes mountain range is full of unknown trails, and local trail runners are passionate about the sport and happy to share their local routes.
This was the first “official” FKT for Colombia, registered on the FKT website. According to Emiliy’s vision, it wasn’t until this past year, when he has definitely sparked an interest in exploring new routes and even creating unofficial records. The closest thing to the FKT in Colombia can be found in Strava, where there is a fairly active community of riders competing against each other on the leaderboards.
And of course, the Alto de Letras, being the toughest port in the world, is in Strava. But there are only brands for cycling. When I first came up with the idea of doing this running route, I started looking for official times and records, but it was mainly word of mouth. I heard rumors about albums on Alto de Letras but there was no official information.
There are other routes in Colombia that I would also like to keep in mind for FKT Colombia is a geographically diverse country, and you can find snowy mountains, rainforests and everything in between. I would love to run another FKT and have some projects in mind. I really enjoy the creative projects running, and the FKT allow you to do exactly that.
In addition, I have already returned to racing with bib. I have high hopes for the summer racing season and am looking forward to it. I have just been vaccinated and plan to run races in Europe this summer.
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