Part II- TransRockies Run 2008 - Race Report
I don't think I have ever been to an event quite like the TransRockies Run. It really is like going to running camp with the one-of-a-kind blend of running and camping for 6 days. While the race itself is tough and challenging, it is also very achievable for regular folks. O.K. Regular folks who train properly! I enjoyed both aspects of the race equally: running a challenging trail race with a partner was brilliant and coming back to camp at the end of day was a sweet reward. The camaraderie I shared with runners, volunteers and organizers was just icing on the cake.
As an athlete, it was awesome to reap the rewards of such great planning and volunteerism: I was spoiled rotten on and off the race course. What more could a runner ask for? A beautiful race course, incredible volunteers, great schwag, a crowd of like minded athletes, a fun and lively camp environment and lots of tasty food. For 6 phenomenal days! There is seriously a lot of value for your dollar to be found at this event. Thanks y'all - the TransRockies Run 2008 edition, really was something special to be a part of.
I'll let you read my report now, but really it is more of a story!
So many of my most memorable adventures have started with an epic road trip. From Banff we had to journey across Alberta, Montana and Wyoming to reach our destination: Buena Vista Colorado, the starting place of the TransRockies Run 2008 edition!
After picking up Meghan at her home in Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, we hit the road with a sense of urgency and excitement. Meghan and I are new friends and what a better way to get to know someone than 1000 km's in a car?? Last year, I also got to know my teammate on the road trip to Colorado. And he turned out to be a stud! Immediately, I knew Meghan was going to be a pleasure to partner with. Our simple goal was to have fun and finish comfortably every day. It was obvious we had way to much in common and shared a common sense of adventure and humour. When we loaded up and hit the road, she was sporting a T-shirt that proclaimed, "We Are All Going to Hell!!" Team Banff/Yellowstone Trailtrash was going to work out just fine.
The evening before the start of the TransRockies run, we were treated to a fantastic welcome BBQ. We met up with some new friends and some old, for a fun evening with like-minded people. We connected immediately with Bryon Powell, Sean Meissner and Matt Hart and shared lots of laughs throughout the evening and the week to follow. But one thing was for sure, this crowd was definitely ready to run!
"Let's Get This Show on the Road!"
We were pretty stoked to wake up to blue sky, clear skies and perfect weather. The day started with a breakfast for everyone and then a stroll over to the main street of Buena Vista. This being Day 1, nervous energy abounded. Everyone was smiling, but smiling with that air of slightly nervous anticipation and anxiousness. I was excited and stoked, but not nervous. I did however, want to get the show on the road and get 'er done.
Day 1 and we are ready to go!
This stage was flat and straight, with great scenery. For this mountain girl, the dry desert like landscape, the Arkansas river and mountain peaks beckoning in the distance were a pleasure to behold. The truth is, I never run flat or straight, so I knew this would a challenging stage for me, especially at elevation. I took it for what it was: an opportunity to acclimatize and breathe that high country rare air, get to know my teammate and get my legs rolling. I dictated the pace, which was slow, easy and conservative. Meghan was a delight and didn't pressure me to push the pace. I like to start slow and finish strong and this is what we were hoping for as the week progressed. To finish each stage strong and smiling and enjoy the experience.
Finally begins, Day 2. I am very excited to be climbing up and over 12,600 foot Hope Pass to say the least. I've heard lots about Hope Pass. It's mostly single track, it's pretty, it's a massive climb and a technical descent and it is just about my favorite type of running: big and gnarly. There is a short section of gravel road to allow us all to spread out before we reach the single track. I don't want to go to fast to start, but I also don't want any slower runners ahead of us on the single track. Either way, we are breathing heavy pretty quick as the double track turns to single. We are off.
The climb starts through a beautiful grove of aspens and continues upward. Steep, technical and awesome. We mix up the running and power walking and pass a few teams. Pretty quickly it becomes evident that we are all going the same speed, so we hook up with Erin and Jeannie the Cookie Girls, as well as Colleen of Cliff Bar, who is the "blogger in residence" for this years TransRockies run. We are chatting and talking as well as huffing and puffing. The effort is comfortable and fun - but we are moving at a good speed. When we exit treeline - we are five motoring along in a train of girls and I am leading the train. Ginnie is suffering, but I am not worried for her. I can tell she is as tough as nails. She is 52 years old and pushing hard! We are all charging uphill and motivating each other - and it is a lot of fun. Meghan is looking strong - I can tell she has another gear or two to take it up a notch. We bust out our run on the "flatter" sections nearing the pass and catch Christine and Kendra of Ontario along the way. I can also tell that they are tough chiquitas, as they suffer there way up the mountain. Go girls! Finally, we catch sight of the pass and run the final ascent on some sweeet single track.
I charge up the pass with renewed energy, just stoked to be there with Meghan in this beautiful place running on the trails. On top of the pass is Keith and is it ever great to see him!! He is jumping up and down and cheering on runners. I pause for a kiss and a few pictures, before taking off a wee bit kamikaze down the other side. I am so stoked because I looooove to descend!! It is the end of the chick train as we take off full speed.
The first of the single track is sweeeet, flowing and lovely. I am hooting and hollering and shouting "Downhills are freeeeeeee!!!" We can see lots of runners making their way down the trail and before long we are passing them. The meadows just before reaching the treeline are pretty and remnants of wild flowers remain. There is also an aid station just before heading back into treeline. We thank the volunteers as we blast through the aid station without stopping.
The downhill just keeps on going and going and going. And it gets tricky and technical through the forest. We pass a few more teams and we also pass Tony Krupicka on the trail. I burst into fits of giggling at the notion of me passing Tony on a trail. But hey - it really happened!! I did pass Mr. Leadville on the trail, during a race!!
When the trail finally bottoms out, my legs are flat. I try and pick them up, but I am sloooow across the flats. Meghan is feeling much stronger and definitely has more leg speed than me, but together we work our way to the finish. We get to run down a river for awhile and it feels deliciously cool on the feet. It is a beautiful day in Twin Lakes and we find another creek for a post-race soak after a great day on the trail. A bus takes us in to Leadville, where we enjoy the luxury of a hot shower, a massage, lunch and a nap. Life is good at TransRockies!!
Stage 3: Leadville to Camp Hale24.3 miles/2,930 ft. climbing "Excuse Me Officer, Can I Give You a Hug?"
Finally, some distance! I didn't quite know what to do with 12.9 miles and 10 miles of the previous 2 days, so I am relieved to back in familiar territory: running for many hours over a long distance.
Our day starts in Leadville and while I am in the tent getting my gear together, I hear a voice through the tent wall singing the first line of Eye of the Tiger. I think it is Eric Skaggs and he is singing: "It's the eye of the tiger it's the cream of the fight..." Of course, I follow with "Rising up to the battle of our riiiiival!!" And soon follows: "And the last know survivor stalks his prey in the night" Wait for it, everyone all together.... "And he's watching us all in the iiiiiiii of the tiiiiiger!"
The start is on main street Leadville where the crowd seems considerably more relaxed than they were 2 days earlier. Just check out Amy Comstock and Troy Crady of team TNA ready to go!
The course heads out of town with just a couple of km's on the asphalt and soon we hit the dirt jeep trail and start climbing. The weather is shaping up to be clear and sunny yet again and it is heating up quickly. The first little section of gentle climbs and descents is perfect to get the legs rolling and we soon blast past the first aid station. There we have a very short section of old road and this is what I think of it:
Soon we come across Colleen and she is running with Adam Chase. Whaaaaat? What happened to Michelle his partner? He says Michelle is sick with bronchitis and they parted ways at the aid station. We get to enjoy his company for an hour plus on some lovely, scenic double track. We are all having fun running on this beautiful morning and the tempo is getting faster as we chat. I came up with this equation to describe it, pretty profound, eh??
good people + sweet trails + great weather = happy runners
The trail just keeps getting better and better, too! We roll through another aid station at the bottom of a ski hill and then join the Colorado Trail. This section is sweet and fast. I get to see Meghan fly. She is a joy to watch and she is built to run! She is 3 inches shorter than me, but our legs are the same length. She is a beautiful effortless runner, with a tall running stance and a great stride - I begin to suspect she could be very, very fast given the right opportunity (read: not a 6 day race with me as a partner!!) But, I am keeping up, we are having a great time and her momentum is pulling me along.
Still giggling, we hit some brilliant single track. It climbs and descends and I find a glorious creek to soak my hat, head and bandana. It revitalizes and cools my hot Canadian head. Soon, we are descending to the final stretch of flat road. We know that there are a few miles of hot, flat road ahead of us. Our unspoken coping strategy is to put our heads down, suck it up and run. Along the way, we are picking up dead soldiers. A few teams here and there who are hot, tired and walking. We can see a long ways ahead and we eventually catch and pass the first and second place Masters Ladies. At the end of 24 miles on a hot long stretch of gravel road, they are duking it out for the podium. Man! I'm glad I'm not racing. That would suck at the end of a long day! We finish the day at Camp Hale, feeling strong and smooth.
In this section, we had to cross the highway and when we reached the crossing, there was a State Highway Patroller waiting for us. I thought he was pretty photo worthy, so I sent Meghan in. She asked him, "Can I give you a hug?" which broke the tough guy armour, but they settled on a shoulder instead of a hug. Good thing, because he might have broke her!!
The after race creek soak is the best yet! It is cold, deep and lovely and it is right beside the final turn to the finish line. We get to soak our legs with friends Tannis and Jess and simultaneously cheer on runners to the finish line!! Yaaay! I followed this up with a massage and the longest shower EVER. Shortly after, Salomon dropped up a bunch of great schwag in the middle of camp to reward us for our days efforts. Sweeeet. Post massage, I go to check out the days results. Hey - we finished 4th! That's cool. It's a nice little reward for a solid effort.
It was still a beautiful warm day at Camp Hale and after a nap, I was feeling downright giddy with the afterglow of a great, satisfying day. Keith, Meghan and I lounged with Glen and Tanya, Matt, Sean and Bryon and I personally enjoyed at least 3 plates of yummy dinner!! After dinner, Keith found us a brownie which prompted a frenzy of outright glee. Shortly after, another brownie miraculously found its way into our happy band of runners which prompted Matt to do the Happy Brownie Chair Dance.
Satiated and content, we retreated to the comfy chairs of the Gore-Tex tent. There we lounged, relaxed, talked trash and laughed out loud many times over! What a great ending to a fantastic day.
As a grand finale, we got to enjoy the awards presentation from the comfort of our deluxe chairs. In this beautiful place we cozied up with our down coats, some blankets, a great sunset, a bag of chips and some new friends. Thanks for a great night y'all!
We passed the Vasque ladies on the ridge, who we had followed all the way up the climb. Again, they were being pursued from behind by the second place team. As always, they had their game faces on and were rocking the trail. These gals are both 50+ and are strong, competitive and tough and I told them so. You don't have to look far to find inspiration at TransRockies.
Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail, CO 23.4 miles/4,407 feet climbing
"Busting it Out"
Having run a variation of today's stage last year, I have a good vision of what is ahead. A long dirt road, lots of great climbing, some incredible views and a wicked descent. I also know that is going to be a little bit tougher today if we are going to bust it out. I might have to take less photographs!! Either way, I am stoked and excited. From the start in Red Cliff, we climb for almost 7 miles on a dirt road before reaching the first aid station and the single track. I thought there might be the potential for a lot of teams to blow up from running to fast on the first climb up the road as it is very runnable. We choose to power walk and I am almost maxed out just with my walking effort! On the long road, we steal a few glances behind us and see the 3rd place team. Meghan is keeping an eye out, but I focus my attentions on what is ahead and not behind.
I am so thrilled to see the aid station and the start of the single track, that I get a huge burst of energy! Meghan lets me pace this section and I feel great. I feel like I am superwoman and I am flying! Whether I was or not, I don't know, but we have picked up a men's team and together, we climb. We walk. Run. Move forward. Quickly. Lift the feet. And move. The scenery is getting better and better and it fuels our momentum!
Again, we are enjoying another bluebird day in the Colorado Rockies and the race is forgotten. Shit, I'm supposed to be racing, not taking photographs!! I'm easily distracted and this fantastic scenery is not helping my focus! Meghan takes charge on the second climb and I just focus on following her. We break out of treeline, into the upper slopes and ski boundary of Vail and we can see that there is one more big climb to the top. I tell Meghan to stop and do the "I'm Queen of The World!!" pose.
Near the top we come across Team Fluffy Bunny who were podium contenders in Open Men and they are looking deflated. They had taken a wrong turn and a major detour and are now out of contention. We scramble a small section and then discover that we are at the top and the aid station is right around the corner. Also at the top is Keith, our own personal man-slave-support-crew-good-guy and best husband in the world! Fantastic. All that remains is a massive descent of something like 7 or 8 miles and 4000 feet? Ouch! Time to put those uber-quads to good use.
And run. Down. Fast. I'll quote Meghan here:
"In the 5.2 miles from the last aid station to the finish line, we ran sub 7:00 minute miles, using the advantage of the gorgeous, smooth, gentle, downhill double track. We even stopped to take this photograph, which we found hilarious, and maintained our sub-7:00 minute mile pace!"
Yes, the ski trail name is Briskwalk and we are going the Easiest Way. Shortly after this photo was taking, we rounded a corner and spotted another team a long ways below us on the road. I almost fell over when we realized it was the 2nd place team. We were on them before we even had time to "strategize" and the adrenaline had kicked in! I apologized when I passed my friends Tannis and Jess on the fly. We passed them about 500 metres from the finish line and sprinted in as fast as we could. I couldn't risk looking over my shoulder until the finish line and struggled to keep up with Meg's as she sprinted to the end. Wow - a little drama to end a great day! At the finish line, we are happy-happy-happy. We bust it out on this day and it felt great! Over the past few days we have finished in 7th place, in 5th place, 4th place, 4th place and today, in 2nd place.
In Vail, I purchased one of those hot, salty pretzels - and it was the sweetest thing ever. I got one last creek soak and massage in to prepare me for one last day of running the beautiful trails of Colorado. Can you tell I was a little tired from the days effort? Tired and happy!
Stage 6: Vail to Beaver Creek21.2 miles/4,623 feet climbing
"It Ain't Over Until It's Over!"
On the last morning at the start line, hugs abound in Vail. There is no longer any sense of that nervous energy that we experienced on Day 1. It has been replaced with camaraderie, satisfaction, a sense of calm mixed with a lot of excitement. This is it! It is the last day. I am happy, sad and excited, simultaneously.
We start our day with a run through the streets of Vail, where the visitors are not quite sure what to make of this spectacle of runners. Fortunately, we get through town quickly and hit the trail. It climbs sharply and steeply in the sunshine, before diving back into the trembling aspens.
It's quite the climb and it probably feels more epic than it actually is. We are running on 5 day old legs and brains. We walk most of it and run when we can and Meghan is looking strong. Day 6 and she is moving comfortably, quickly and confidently. I am feeling great, content to be on the trail with my friend, but my legs are not cooperating and are a little slow on this day. So I put the camera away as I need to concentrate on moving every foot forward as quickly as I can. Still smiling on Day 6!
The teams get spread out very quickly on this day. It is a warm day and we find ourselves going the same speed as our favorite master's ladies, Pamela and Susan of Team Vasque. When we finally reach the top and the aid station, we fuel up and take off on the descent. And take off we do! We lose sight of any teams we climbed with and soon we are passing teams through the bushes of this crazy, technical descent. Again Meghan is leading the charge and I am barely keeping up. But we are going quicker than those around us, which gives me a boost. I am however, having a "clothing malfunction". My fantastic pink running skirt, which I have worn many times before, refuses to stay up while I am descending. Every 30 seconds on this tricky descent, I have to reach behind and pull up my skirt. Finally, I give up with all of the yanking and tugging and leave it alone. There is at least 3 inches of crack for those behind me to see. Evidently, I have lost some weight!
The trail spits us out into the town of Avon, where we get an urban tour before heading back into the forest for the final climb up to Beaver Creek. From last years race, I know what it still ahead of us and how tough it will be! There is still another 5 or 6 miles of tough climbing to be done on this 21 mile day!! My legs are not moving quickly and I am stuck in first gear. We put Meghan behind me and she puts her hand on my back and pushes me up the mountain. I learned this little trick from adventure racing and it works great! Fortunately for me, Meghan is feeling incredibly strong and she pushes me up the mountain for all of those last, long, tough, uphill miles. Holy crap, she is strong! Finally, we emerge onto the ski runs where we can see Beaver Creek below us. There is still a couple kilometres of sweet single track to enjoy right until the end. I pull up my skirt one last time to cross the finish line and we are done. Sweet success! Big smiles! Hugs and joy. How lucky am I? Team Banff/Yellowstone Trailtrash enjoyed every moment of this week, right down to the finish line!
Glen and Tanya Meeth of Auburn
Jeannie: She's thirsty
But wait! It's not over! After spending a week on the trails enjoying the scenery, the people and the places, we are just not ready to be done. We need to continue the little adventure, for just one more night.
The TransRockies organizers have just one more gift for us! A big celebration party. Afterall, we need a party to end the party! Just when you think you've been spoiled all week, you get treated to an awesome wind-up party with dinner and drinks. Now that is a great way to wind up the week. Our little merry band of sombrero wearing, Nuun-tini drinkin', butter eatin' fools certainly enjoyed themselves! The evening featured awards for all, finishers jerseys, photo and video highlights of the week and some great prizing for the podium finishers. And a few beers to celebrate our achievements!
And what an achievement it was for all. The coming together of volunteers, organizers and athletes was a fine way celebrate and conclude the TransRockies Run 2008 edition.
A big thank-you to all of the fantastic people who made this event run so seemlessly. I have never been to such a well organized event and the collaboration between organizers, volunteers and sponsors was really something to behold!Registration opens October 1st for next year and would you believe, my husband wants to sign up? Their website is full of great race reports, videos and photos for those of you who are interested in hearing more about the 2008 edition of the TransRockies Run. It's a whole lot of fun and you should do it!!