Race up Mammoth Mountain not for the faint of heart
What makes the Ezakimak race unique?
First, “nobody can pronounce the name.” That’s according to race creator Bill Cockroft.
It’s Kamikaze backwards. That is, both the spelling and the course are kamikaze backwards. The race runs straight up the Kamikaze Trail on Mammoth Mountain, finishing at the summit.
Second, and more importantly, it’s a beast. It is a race on snow, at altitude, running, biking, or skiing up 3,000 feet of elevation gain in 3.6 miles, at night. It will happen Saturday, April 27.
“I don’t care what kind of an athlete you are,” Cockroft said, “It will suck the wind out of anybody.”
Matt Guntert came in second in the bike division last year. He said that he approaches this race differently from almost any other race, because, “You are full throttle the whole way.”
He hydrates earlier in the week but not as much the day of in order to cut some water weight. He eats earlier than usual and drinks his coffee earlier as well to avoid a full stomach. He wears the tightest Lycra he owns to prevent drag from the strong wind at the summit.
He believes that the race is won and lost between the start and the first turn, known as hay bail corner. The first big hill comes after the hay bail then the course flattens out around chair 14. The last quarter mile goes up Cornice Bowl.
Guntert plans on going out hard to be the first to the hay bail, then riding steady up the hill, “picking up the wattage” on the flat bit, flying into the last hill and using his momentum to hop off his bike and push it up to the summit.
“The whole time you are dreading that last quarter mile crest,” Guntert said. “Don’t even worry about breathing at that point.”
The winner is the first to reach the totem pole at the summit.
The first Ezakimak took place in 1986 and was just a bike race. It wasn’t run for a while and was brought back in 2015. Now, the male and female winners get $1,000 prizes, and it ends with a sunset party at the summit.
Deena Kastor has raced the Ezakimak four times and won each time.
She said this about the race:
“The Ezakimak is the most extreme adventure that Mammoth Mountain has to offer. The lung burning 5K is a mental and physical challenge like I’ve never faced before, which is why, of course, I keep coming back for more.”
Kastor will toe the line this Saturday to defend her title.