It is long and it is 4 months late....but I had promised some of my running friends that I would write one up, so here it is:
I have a running hangover.
This is what happens when you run for 5 days in the Colorado Rockies. You should try it sometime! I had way too much fun. The TransRockies Run was a great running holiday, tour, adventure, whatever you want to call it.....I would definitely call it a good time and recommend it to ALL!
My trip to Colorado was very last minute and I had decided to go, only 3 weeks out! But I needed a partner, who could pull it off on short notice. Evidently, this was the first ever running race in North America that was a Stage Race where you run as a team of two! Who knew?? I love the partner idea for a few different reasons: safety in the backcountry and entertainment value....it's always more fun with a friend! Knowing this, I asked my good friend the lovely and talented Iris to join me for some fun on the trails and she was very excited to take on Colorado, but eventually had to bow out with a cranky knee two weeks before race day. Bummer. So, I put it out there to a handful of runners I know to see if anyone could compete last minute. With only 10 days before race day, I came up with my partner: a local guy by the name of Steven Miller. Steve was one of those guys in the Bow Valley who was always out there running around in the woods and most importantly, he was STOKED about the idea of running for 5 days. He seemed like a sweetheart too, so I lured him in with my evil plan and signed him up: Team Banff Trail Trash was going to toe the start line.
I love a good roadtrip and Steve had no passport...so the decision was made for us to drive to Colorado. It was also a great way to get to know each other, because Steve and I had spent little time together socially. Read: never. And so begins the 9 day get-to-know-each-other-roadtrip-run-sleep-together-in-tent-experiment. I love my husband. He lets me go on roadtrips with complete uber-athlete strangers. Now that's a secure man! We got up early, and spent the day driving across Montana. Lots of space....no people....Great Falls....Butte....blue sky's...coffee. Our day ends in Pocatello, Idaho where we score with the Ultimate American Buffet Restaurant.... every car in Pocatello was parked there so we decided it was THE place to eat! The All U Can Eat left us happy and bewildered simultaneously. Steve and I toured the buffet mesmerized at the prospect of Steaks, Ribs, Salad, Veg, Pasta, Roast Beef, Burgers, Roast Chicken, Fried Chicken, Curried Chicken.......and then there was the dessert...phew! I love food!
Next day we cruised through Salt Lake into the mountains and into Red Rock and mesas and buttes....I'm still not sure what a Mesa and a Butte are, but I know we passed a few. We arrived in Colorado and rolled into Beaver Creek before you could say "Beaver Liquor".....yes, it is the name of the local liquor store and yes, they sell T-shirts. Beaver Liquor. Hey-hey. That is pretty funny. We settled in to relax before the race mayhem...
We are greeted by a sweet German girl named Steffi, who evidently knows my husband. He made a lot of new friends working at the Trans Rockies Bike Race. The German girl asks me..."Ver ist uur hoosband?" Then she looks at Steve and says...."who are yooo...yoo must be her luv-errr!" Steve is speechless....so I give him a hug and say "Yes! My new boyfriend!" I have known him for 48 hours and he has the good nature to blush.
We are issued one large duffel bag to put all of our weeks worth of gear in. I attempt to stuff all of my belongings into one duffel bag. Sleeping bag. Extra thick sleeping pad. Running clothes. Cozy clothes. Cold weather clothes. Rainwear. Socks. Lots of socks. I pack. I repack. Steve makes fun of me. His bag is half empty. He has brought what looks like....nothing. He was a treeplanter in a past life....so I figure he is probably O.K with stinky base layers. But I still have to sleep with him in a tent every night.
Pre Race Shenanigans
We arrive at the Beaver Creek Resort Parkade and are confused when we see a couple of guys in Mission Impossible outfits carrying paint ball guns?!? When we meet up with Aaron, the race organiser over breakfast, he tells us there is a marauding black bear in the parkade....and this is how they deal with bears. Earlier that morning, he had taken the elevator down to the parkade, and when the doors opened, there was a bear! Waiting! For a lift?! Maybe for breakfast? We will never know for sure. We are up early to catch the breakfast at a slope side restaurant at the shiny Beaver Creek Resort before the race starts. It is all so civilised!! It is all part of the race package so I enjoy some bacon and eggs...and sit back with a coffee to people watch. An hour later I have a second breakfast. More athlete friendly this time...bagels and bananas and bacon. Did I mention the bacon? Over breakfast, we meet up with the race owners and the race organisers both of whom are friends. We see Doone and Tim Watson of Calgary, and the Canmore Girls: Tannis and Laura. We see my friend Elinor who has come to run for Trail Runner Magazine where she is associate editor. We see my friend Charlotte and her partner Pam: we went to Junior High School together! We see Dan Seto an ex-Banff Bike shop owner and friend of Steves from years gone by. Everyone is getting anxious and jittery and keen to start. There are many friends of past present and future. It is going to be a great week!!
Day 1 Beaver Creek to Vail 15.1 miles
Race Start! Wooohoo! Finally, it begins. We have come a long way to run and we are keen to get at it. That and we have been drinking coffee for 2 hours. We are jostled into a starting corral and the music is blaring with AC\DC's Highway to Hell.....and finally....WE ARE OFF!! The trail takes us on a tour of the Beaver Creek ski hill and we get a glimpse of the front runners. They look to be two thirteen year old brothers and they have take their shirts off. We nickname them the Naked Boys. They are tall, skinny, FAST and naked. This is the last we see of them. We get a great tour of the ski hill: the views are gorgeous, the colours are changing and there is bears shit everywhere. I feel at home! We descend down from the mountain into town where we have to endure a substantial bit of road running to get us out of town....and we pass the Beaver Liquors and as an extra bonus: the Beaver Divers (a local dive shop). Too funny. Steve is taking photos and running with his camera. We are cruising comfortably and having fun when we hit the first Aid Station and some more gravel road before finally hitting the singletrack and our first big climb. Fifteen minutes into my effort, I begin to feel a wee bit dizzy. Then, seemingly out of nowhere: nausea, dizziness, and heavy legs and arms. Even with my poles I feel like I am staggering. Steve takes my hydration pack for me - it seems to help, but I am definitely getting my ass kicked by the elevation. It is a simple climb, but it is feeling monumental! I am suffering. The cobwebs begin to clear from my brain and body a little ways from the top and the finish line and I feel a bit better. A massive storm has followed us up the mountain and just as we roll into the finish line, it descends. Winds, hail and rain are pounding the top of Vail Mountain and half of the field is is still out there! I am feeling fortunate to be cozy and warm inside of the gondola station where we wait for the storm to pass. We get to visit with Laura and Tannis and Doone and Tim. I am reassured when I hear tales of other people suffering as well....I wasn't sure what exactly was wrong with me, but I am assured it is only the elevation. I try not to panic about the upcoming days.
It has been a long day, but I manage to do a few things that will eventually become my daily ritual. I eat, I find a creek to submerge my legs in, I take a hot shower, and then, I nap. Steve and I decide that NAP time is the BEST time of the day. Then I try and get my shit together and organise my gear for the next day. Following that, we hit the dinner tent to gorge ourselves and post-dinner, we enjoy a daily celebration of the days events: a slide show of pictures of the day, video clips and awards presentations for the stage winners of each day. We also get a briefing on the next days course. Laura and Tannis are THRILLED to find themselves on the podium....they have finished the day in second place for the ladies teams! The food is AMAZING and the daily celebration is a great way to end each day. As we wrap up the celebration it starts to rain. It storms all night and it is good one: deafening thunder claps and sheet of rain hammer the tent.
Day 2 Vail to Pando - 19 miles
5:50 AM. It is early and Steve and I need COFFEE!! This is our coping strategy in the AM. We have the coffee first, and then everything else will fall in to place. We wake up to find the rain is still pounding and the soccer field in which we are camped is a giant sponge. I have brought a giant umbrella - and we huddle under it and dash to find some coffee, eat some breakfast and try and stay warm. Already at 6:00AM the food is waiting for us and again, it is superb. We are starting at the top of Vail Mountain today and are required to take the gondola to the summit....but the weather is causing mayhem. There is wind, rain and lightening. When the sun comes up we discover there is also snow! Woohoo! This excites Steve and I who both enjoy cool temperatures and a little adversity. Over at the gondola station we are delayed: wind and lightening are not good! So we wait...Steve and I find a quiet corner, sit back and try and relax. Some of the athletes are definitely getting cold and cranky. An hour later when we bust out the salty potatoes and other treats from breakfast that we have horded our fellow runner are looking ravenous and jealous. Finally: word comes down that the course will be modified due to the gondola delays and a major ascent and descent will be cut from the course. By the time we all get to the top of the gondola station it is 10:30 we had breakfast at 6:00 and we have been sitting on our butts for a couple of hours. There is an inch of snow to greet us up top and we are excited when the show finally gets rolling. We start off climbing up a ridge from the top of Vail and I strip off my layers rapidly as we heat up. Every now and then the clouds lift to expose some massive snow capped mountains. The temperature is perfect and the wind had died completely and it is very calm. Steve is keen to get some good photos and keeps running ahead and taking pictures of us all. I don't think he has cracked a sweat yet and he looks deliriously happy running through the snow which is getting deeper as we climb. I am thrilled to be feeling great and more like my normal self. Out on the course we see Glen Crawford and Dan Hudson - who are out filming us - they are both Canmore boys and I enjoy seeing them out there every day. I juggle some snowballs for Glen at the top of the mountain as the clouds begin to clear and the sun comes out!
Day 3 - Pando to Leadville 24 Miles
5:50 AM. The tent is frozen shut with frost. We get a snow shower getting out of the tent and we need our new socks to keep our frozen toes cozy. The organizers get the bonfire roaring to offer up some warmth as we gather for the start. The naked boys are huddled by the fire to keep warm. They are skinny and cold and vulnerable. But they have won every stage so far and appear to be unaffected! It is a gorgeous frosty morning when we start off our morning run! The first few kilometres are on a flat gravel road but soon we hit the goods: some sweet and scenic singletrack, rolling and twisting and climbing. We cross one highway, where there is a police officer working traffic control...I give him a hug and Steve gets the photo. An hour and a half into a most enjoyable morning....my digestive system self destructs. My legs are fine, but.....ooooooo, my belly is NOT. It takes me the rest of the day to get over "the bellies" and I seem to be "pit-stopping" more than I am running. By the time we hit the last 10k, I am over it. I take off for the last 10k to redeem myself and we pass quite a few people along the way. It's a loooooong day and I am glad to reach Leadville. When we cross the finish line we are presented with another prezzie: a great Timex watch! What a nice surprise. But I am starving when I get to Leadville and I need real food and I need it NOW. I run an extra kilometre to get to town and buy a sandwich, still covered in mud and still wearing my running skirt. I get a few strange looks because it is evident that nobody knows there is a race in town!
Day 4 - Turquoise Lake to Chapman Campground 28.3 miles
The night is cccccccold in Leadville...you can tell this is a high mountain town! I sleep in most of my layers just to keep warm in my lightweight sleeping bag. We start the day with a shuttle to the beautiful Turquoise Lake, outside of Leadville. Today's course profile is basically up for 10 miles and down for 20 miles. At the top is Haggerman Pass at 11925 feet! It is a calm, beautiful day when we depart from Turquoise Lake and begin climbing on the fire road. Lots of people are power walking, myself included....and the top of the pass comes quickly.
Day 5 - Basalt to Aspen 18.25 miles
At the meeting the night before, we learn we are going to be running the entire distance into Aspen and the finish line on a bike path. Ouch! I haven't run a mile on asphalt in years!! But I don't care....it is JUST an easy 18.25 miles rockin' the bike path and it is scenic and pretty. How hard can it be?? We have a fun last day and get to spend one final day on the trail with all of the nice people we met during the last 4 days....this is a wickedly social race! How could it not be?? You end up racing with a lot of the same people daily who are going the same pace...you get to have communal breakfasts and dinners and camp out....and you get to meet trail runners from all over the world. We enjoyed the company of crazy Brits, flatlanders from Louisiana, cigarette smoking Germans and ya know....quite a good collection of Canadians, eh? We enjoyed one last run through a little waterfall/creek beside the bike path, took some more photos, mooned a few unsuspecting runners.....and made it to the finish line happy and smiling. Steve was a superstar: not only did he NEVER complain, he was great company, ran my pace and ran for five days holding his camera....did I mention it was a HUGE camera? He really was on the 5 day photo tour while I was on the TransRockies Run. It is a great feeling to be finished and Steve and I are pretty elated/stoked/happy and tired....Banff Trail Trash not only finished, but finished strong, happy and comfortably! The TransRockies staffers and volunteers made us all feel like rockstars and made everyone feel like they were part of something very special. And we were. The scenery was great, the food was awesome and I enjoyed 5 days of running with my buddy AND met some new friends along the way! What can I say? TransRockies Rocks: you should go do it.
For our last night together, the TransRockies crew has put together the perfect ending to our week. The have organised the ultimate runners party: a big yummy dinner, awards presentations, finishers jerseys and certificates for ALL...a mini-movie and slide show documenting our 5 days of fun and most importantly, a bed in a hotel in Aspen at the end of the night!! Exactly what I need after my five days of running in the Colorado Rockies!
See photos here of Banff Trail Trash at the TransRockies Run.