TransRockies Race Report:  Days 0 – 2

The Gore-Tex TransRockies Run has come and went.  I was excited but a little nervous about this run.  Until this race, my longest run week was 75 miles, now I would be adding an extra 40 to that number.  I had done a couple trail races, but nothing longer than a 10K.  With all of that I was super excited for the challenge.
This adventure would cover more than 115 miles over 6 days.  The run started in Buena Vista Colorado and made its way to Beaver Creek.  Each day we would start as a group and run that days stage.  Over the six days there would be close to 25,000 feet of gain and we hit an elevation of 12,500’ at Hopes Pass on Stage 2. The TransRockies crew took care of everything from catering, setting up tents, transporting gear, providing shower and medical facilities, and taking the guesswork out of everything.  All we had to do was show up and run.

It's looks shorter on paper

To title the days, I will use the awesome song that the TransRockies used every night to start the awards Banquet, and every morning to get us pumped at the start.

Gore-Tex Keep On Running

Day 0: “I know I will always make my way, Wherever it will lead me”

Gary Gets around

I pulled into the small town of Buena Vista Colorado and stopped at the Museum to do race check in.  I had just recently found out that my partner would be a day late due to an unexpected trip.  A stand in runner was scheduled to meet me, but I didn’t have any contact info, and was unsure when he would check in.  I proceeded up the stairs of the old museum and signed the necessary waivers and got my credentials and huge bag to tote my gear for a week of running in the Rockies.

The TransRockies race doesn’t skimp on Swag.  By the end of the race week, I had collected the following: HUGE duffle bag, Gore-Tex jacket, Timex watch, shoe drier, Trail running book, Tech Shirt, Running hat, ceramic mug, gloves, blanket, hand held water bottle, various nutritional samples, & finishers shirt.  Whew!  I actually then proceeded to transfer my gear from an over packed duffle bag to the TransRockies duffle, and still had room left over.

I then met up with Robin & her sister, the Monkey Posse.  We snapped a couple pictures with Gary the Gnike Gnome and we made our way to the start dinner.  After chowing down, we got the info on what to expect for the week, along with the course fly over for stage 1 and the weather.  The weather for the week couldn’t be any better for runners, but we didn’t have a chance to use our rain gear for the week.  When the presentation was over, I made my way to Salida, to get ready for a week of running through the Rockies!

Day 1: “Afraid of future I don’t know A hammer strike that hits me”

Looking down the Main street of Buena Vista, you would see an odd sight of people dragging, hauling, pushing, and teaming up to bring to rest Red, Blue, & Black duffle bags.  I’m sure some of these bags may have been well over 50 pounds.  To be ready for whatever nature throws at you for 6 days of the unknown can make for a heavy bag.  My bag alone, had 6 days of running clothes, 2 pairs of shoes, nutrition, and dry clothes for evenings, along with things to cover whatever might happen.

"Take out the kitchen sink"

I snapped a picture of Gary, and then was going to stow him away.  One of the volunteers, said, “Maybe he would like to ride shotgun.”  Little did I know that this was the start of one of Gary’s biggest adventures.  Of which, I have only heard rumors, but I’m trying to locate the pictures.

After depositing the bag at the moving van, and seeing Gary off, I headed to the start line and waited with that same butterfly in the stomach feeling that I feel right before most races.  I knew that I wouldn’t be running this race at full speed or in a competitive outlet.  More than the butterfly feeling, was the excitement of adventure that I could feel.

Fresh and clean at the start.

Five minutes before race time, my partner stand in showed up, which surprised me, I had gotten in the mind set of running the stage solo.  Soon we were off down the road, the start of 115 miles of running was underway.  Over the next 6 days most of our running would take place on trails and dirt roads, very little pavement would be felt, and that was an awesome thing.  Soon we crossed a bridge and entered a narrow trail that made the pace slow to a walk, looking back showed Buena Vista and mountains.  Those mountains were a glimpse of what would be coming.

Stage 1 was an introduction to the week, and was the flattest of all the stages with an average grade of 4.8%/-4.7%.  The course ended up being just short of 21 miles and a day that warmed up.  The course had the lowest average elevation of all stages.  The views were more desert like, but still had some great trails.  A lot of the stage was on 4WD tracks and gravel roads, but there were a couple short corridors of trails.


I ran ahead here and there to open the legs, but made sure I let Steve catch up to me.  This run would be the furthest distance that Steve had ever run.  His usual runs were around 10 miles, and a few years back he had run a 15 miler.  The first aide station of the race came into view, and I waited for Steve to catch up.  He really did a great job over the whole stage.  Dean Karnazes pulled into the first aid station soon after we did.

Fuel up

Dean was doing something a little different with this race, he had decided to run each stage with a different runner.  He was going after getting a different experience and giving back.  Instead of leading the whole weekend, he opted to run the pace of whoever he was paired up with for the day.  At the end of the weekend, he told us that it was a much different and difficult task.  Some days, he was out there on the course much longer than he was accustomed to.

After the first aid station, we flip flopped with Dean, he caught up to us at each aid station until the final station where he pulled ahead to the finish.  After station 3 Steve was starting to feel the heat and affect of running the distance.  We passed through some tunnels after the last check point.  The last few miles of the stage were on a gravel road, we ended up walking some as we brought it near the finish.  We then ran the last of the distance.  Steve’s wife and kids met him at the finish.  He had a blast and was ready for a couple cold ones that he had waiting for him in the cooler.

Running through the mountain

Overall, Steve had a great time, and still felt good after the run.  It was great to help someone run a new distance and achieve a personal goal.  I was able to get some running in myself, snap some pictures, and have a good time.  Stage 1 was complete, I hopped on the shuttle and made my way to Tent City.  The first night of festivities was about to begin.

After a refreshing shower and a full belly, I waited for my partner to pull into tent city.  She had flown in that afternoon, Steve’s wife was driving to pick her up.  She arrived around 9 pm, tired and drained from travels and the altitude.  Day 2 was coming fast.

Day 2: “Up to God and down to hell In never ending mountains”

The rickety bus made it’s way down the road toward a start in the mountains.  We all sat wondering what was about to happen on the biggest climb day.  Stage 2 was completely different from the first day.  We had a day of inclines and declines.  With an average climb and declines of 10% and altitude topping out over 12,000 feet, this was the heart of TransRockies.

How did he get up there?

At the start, we saw Gary hanging out at the top of the Start sign, so that is what he was doing.  People piled into line and crowded the 5 porta johns and the one outdoor stall; definitely not enough for a group of over 400 runners.  Soon though, we were off and down the road.  Less than 2 miles down the road we turned and headed up the mountain, passing the last aid station until over the summit.

Climbing, up, up, up

The trail soon got narrow and made it difficult to pass.  It wound through trees and slowly made a rise toward the summit.  It was a great trail that hugged the hillside, every so often we would bust out of the trees and see glimpses of mountains.

Is that a shortcut down?

Soon the tree line ended and the trail turned to switchbacks as we made our way to the summit.  My cardio still felt great, I know that my Insanity workouts had helped raise my mountain endurance.  We were well over 11,000 feet now.  The going was slow as we single filed up the mountain.  I did take an opportunity to do some running to the summit.  Then I was at the highest point of the weekend at Hope’s Pass and 12,534 feet.

The reward for the climb... Straight down

I soon found myself at the top, and charged down the other side.  Now this is where you have to be careful.  Not only is the downhill steep at -10%, but there is also a lot of loose rock.  My stride was short, but the pace was quick.  We headed down to the check point to prepare for the downhill and trek toward the finish.

A little while later, I was thundering down the path.  It was a great downhill, padded trail and not terribly steep.  Good enough to get some good speed going.  With all downhill trails during the week, branches would sneak up from the floor and try to trip.  One of the things I love about trail running is that it creates an alertness and excitement.  Attention must be given to the trail, unlike road racing, it is all about shuffling to the end, rarely does the mind have to watch where the feet are moving next.  It is like interactive running.

Running along the stream, why do I need to go?

As I rushed down hill, there was a stream to the left that provided a few good camera shots.  Soon, the downhill ended and we broke out into a trail along the twin lakes reservoir.  To the left was water as we hugged the trail that ran along the shores.  This portion of the stage was new this year and added an additional 3 miles that was a great compliment of the inclines and declines.

We passed by an old historic village that was in the process of being restored.  The establishment was at one time the stomping grounds for the rich.  After the dam was put in, fears of Malaria, caused the once pristine village to fall into ruin and abandonment.

A haunted cabin?

Soon we entered the gravel road, it was a commonplace for stages to end on or near these gravel roads.  Before long we were done with the 2nd stage and the highest elevation of the week.  Some of the finishers made their way down to the water to soak, soon we were boarded on the bus and headed to a new tent city that was set up on the grounds of a school in Leadville.

Each night ended with an awesome catered meal, usually by Cowboy Tom.  After eating we then celebrated the top 3 finishes for each category.  The winners would then receive a prize for their finish and a monetary award.  Then the top finisher in each category would then be awarded a leader jersey.  If you were fast enough out of the chute, you would then have a rabbit to chase if you were striving for first place in your division.

Little did I know that night would be the last cell service for a couple days.  I had a good conversation with Theresa; it was good to hear her voice.  I also had sent a text to Jerry about the possibility of teaming up for TRR in 2011.

Nightly Awards presentation

After awards we would then get a preview of the next day’s stage along with weather and what to expect on the next day.  Then the evening was finished off with a stage review in pictures and video.  On each stage, there were strategically placed photographers and videographers.  They would capture the feeling of the stage and the funny moments of the trail.

Before we left for the night we were told that there may be sheep on a couple of the stages.  Along with sheep would be sheep dogs, and you didn’t want to come between a dog and his sheep.  We were warned, to shout at the dog “Back to the sheep!” and all would be good.

Preview of stage 3 and an average morning for the TRR crew, including Gary.