“It was my main victory and I’m really happy about that… the John Muir Trail and UTMB are nothing in comparison.” François D’haene in a lucid post-race interview to Rickey Gates after setting the FBT (Fastest Beer Time) in 14:27 on the inaugural Lickskillet Beer Mile (LBM).
Lickskillet Road is the steepest county road in the United States. With an average 14% grade, the dirt road climbs a little over 750 feet in exactly one mile to link Lefthand Canyon to the town of Gold Hill, Colorado, topping out at roughly 8,300 feet.
A beer mile is typically run on a track and consists of drinking a total of four beers in four laps. People take this very seriously. There’s an official beer-mile website that ratifies records (with a 4:34:35 world record, yikes!), lists top performances, as well as the most popular beers used, the rules, and even has a discussion forum.
Running in circles, though, sounds like a sure way to induce nausea (teacup ride anyone?), while a straight point-to-point mile, with a bit of a hill to curb the running enthusiasm, seemed like a much more appropriate venue to chug a couple cans of ale.
Initially, when I floated the idea of the LBM to some friends at a neighbor’s party, I thought this would be a local affair with only a couple hardened mountain folk taking on the inebriated battle with gravity up the Skillet. As these things go, though, word got out and the group of milers grew with about a third local representation (mostly ladies), another third from the beach (Boulder), and the rest, outsiders wrangled by top shenanigan instigator, Rickey Gates.
François came all the way from France to face the legendary Skillet, admitting that he didn’t want to put pressure on himself prior to the event by announcing his intentions to set an FBT on social media. He was accompanied by fellow Frenchman Serge Chapuis, taking an off day from sewing Salomon packs, to drink the most beer he’s ever had in his life. Even Anton Krupicka came up to town, fresh off a recent PRP injection in his Achilles, knowing perfectly well that hops are an all around more effective recovery superfood than anything a doc might prescribe.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, in perfect course-record conditions (bitterly cold), the motley crew gathered and set off shivering down the Skillet for the pregame staging of the beers at quarter-mile intervals. The walk down felt longer than expected as we all giggled nervously and contemplated our future. At the bottom, those in the know took a pee break to rid themselves of any excess fluid before lining up at the stop sign ready for the onslaught. Three, two, one… crack a can!
I cock my head back and start chugging. I know there’s a method to this, I tell myself, something about opening up your esophagus wider for a direct pour. Is that even a thing? It sure doesn’t feel like it as I desperately try to not choke on a wave of bubbles and foam.
Jon Davis, a beer-mile legend from the eastern plains, is the first to crush his can and sets off sprinting. I neck the end of my beer and charge off the line in hot pursuit.
The first quarter mile is deceptive with a less pronounced uphill grade, allowing you to go out much harder than you should. Despite knowing this, I’m already all out with the stride of a Jamaican sprinter and within about a minute, I’m hyperventilating.
About 20 yards from the second beer, I strategically start walking to catch my breath before the next round of fluids. Good idea in theory, but I just stare at the can in my hand, chest heaving uncontrollably, unable to take a sip for several seconds.
François has caught up and leaves just behind Jon who’s necking those beers like they’re filled with sweet mountain water.
I’m about 10 seconds back now, and when I look up I see both of them powerhiking up the hill. I’m still running and just as I think I might catch them, a little wave of nausea forces me to walk as well. The penalty for throwing up is an extra beer at the top with the time still running, something I desperately want to avoid.
The third beer is sitting in the sun, and while not warm, it seems harder to get down. I joked beforehand that the alcohol only really hits you at the end, but I’m beginning to feel a little touched.
As I stumble up the hill on the last half-mile, I question my decision to go with the 6.4% Oskar Blues IPA. The positions are still the same, though François now has a comfortable lead and Cordis passes me before the fourth beer stop. And then, the unthinkable happens. Jon Davis pukes. I manage to leave in second with a quarter to go with Jon still bent over on the side of the road.
I can see the Lickskillet sign up ahead, but hear Ginna and Niko right behind. What!? I make a faux-attempt at a sprint, which kinda’ works as Niko exclaims, “I’m not matching that.”
Just before letting that last beer rest in peace in the grass, I slap the sign, nearly a minute back from François. The man is just too good at everything, including beer.
I find out that Ginna and Niko are actually the top relay team, though I tell myself that the extra final push was good for the cardio.
Abby Mitchell took top honors for the ladies in 24 minutes, including a penalty beer and a victory at the Blue Sky Marathon in the morning!
With no DNFs and a particularly joyous group of friends celebrating at the finish, I’d say this was a successful first edition and the making of a classic. Cheers!