Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Banff Trail Trash at the TransRockies Run: We're trashy. We're fun. We Really Like to Run. PART 2: The Race Report

The Trans Rockies Run, 2009 edition was magic - a once in a lifetime experience and a whole heckuva' lotta' of fun.

For me, this was my third year participating in this event and I keep returning, for the challenge, the people and the fun. I love a good adventure. This year was special for me, because I got to run with my hubby Keith as my partner. Keith had done a whole lot of work to get to the TransRockies run start line: he had increased his running mileage, started training on more challenging terrain and lost a whole bunch of weight. I knew he would have no problem completing the run, because he had put in the training and has the best attitude of anyone I know. The man does not complain and he is eternally positive. Like everyone else, we were stoked and excited to be starting this race and it was new territory for us, a married couple of 10 years.

Keith at the finish line on Day 2, tired but happy!

As for the the race itself, TransRockies is the bomb. This race has everything you could want in a running race and some. The organizers of this event are the best: they've figured out what people want in a multi day race and delivered the goodies. A partner race with a gorgeous and challenging course, a comfy camp with all of the amenities, great food, lots of schwag and ambience. Really, it is like an all inclusive holiday for runners. Yes, you are camping - but it's 4 star camping! It's a no-brainer, all you have to do is show up at the start every day, run your guts out and then recover in the evening. In a nutshell, it's summer camp for adults.

Colleen Cooke at the start line, ready to Go!

At the pre-race dinner, we got to socialize with friends and racers from previous years and races and I realized this: between the race organizers, running friends from home, blogging friends and TransRockies friends from years gone by, we know a LOT of people. It was looking like it was going to be a great week. At the pre-race dinner pre-race and on race morning, there was a lot of nervous anticipation. People just wanted to get the show on the road and run off some of that energy. Our race plan was to have the Most Fun of All, and my race plan was to make it All About Keith. Good plan, yes?

Day 1 - Keith and those sassy High Altitude Housewives

On Day 1, we started at 10:00 on a sunny day in Buena Vista. It turned into a very hot day. Like everyone else, our breathing was pretty erratic for those first few kilometers, but we settled into a groove as walked up the first climb of the day, happy and in our element. We met up with Shelby and Steven of Boulder and chatted our way up the hillside. I loved the scenery on this day, the dry, desert-like landscape was very different from the mountains in my backyard. On this day, we were participating in a photo contest, with some great prizes offered up for the winner. Keith was on photo duty and at one point we passed these rock formations that looked like a big butt crack. So, I got out the ass and posed next to it. Of note, I was impressed when Shelby followed suite and busted out a moon of her own! It was pretty funny, as we were only an hour into the race and there I was, with my pants down for everyone to see. I think that Deb and Jen, the High Altitude Housewives, caught a glimpse of the action.

It's All About Keith

The trail was gorgeous, the company was great and it was a beautiful day to be running. When we hit the final stretch of road to the finish line, we hooked up with the Sierra Honeys, Sarah and Elisa. There were a lot of people walking this stretch, feeling the effects of the heat and elevation. It was so strange to be walking on the flattest section of the trail on this day, but there we were and so were most of the teams around us! We cheered on runners and crossed the finish line with The Honey's. We finished 24th out of the 50 Mixed Teams, smiling the whole way. And we won the photo contest!

Start line fun: Day 2

On Day 2, we were keen to run in some real mountains and get up high! It was a mountain run, featuring one big climb up Hope Pass to 12, 600 feet and one big descent down the other side. This kind of terrain gets us excited. From the gun, I made Keith run a little faster than he wanted to so we could reach the single track in a reasonable place. The single track trail isn't a great place to pass people and I wanted to be climbing the trail surrounded by people who were going the same speed as us. The Hope Pass trail is gorgeous and when you leave tree line and get your first glimpse of the pass, it just puts a fire under your butt.
We climbed the trail in good company, including a special appearance by Heine, one of the race partners of the TransRockies group.

Keith and Heine

Just like last year, I was hooting and hollering and cheering people on all the way up the pass. And just like last year, I got to march up the pass with Colleen Cooke and her partner Glen. I think at some point, I might have bust out The Ass, yet again. Speaking of Ass, we also spent some quality time with Team Wigglebutt Dan and Audra on this day. It was a great day. Audra is from Ouray and she's been following my adventures on Banff Trail Trash for the past year. It was great to meet her and get to know her a bit throughout the week!

Audra and I - Hope Pass

On top of the pass, I turned the camera on Glen Crawford and he gave me his best Paparazzi shot. The man is a pro!

We ripped down the other side and for a moment Keith was leading a train of runners, which challenged him a little and made him run a little faster than usual on the descent! We hit the flats and finished strong, finishing 16th out of the 50 Mixed Teams. Keith was surprised, and he kept saying to me quietly but excitedly, "What am I doing here running amongst all of these athletes?!" It took him awhile to realize he was actually one of them. After the race, we got to enjoy an afternoon in Leadville and hooked up with Bryon, who was still relaxing after an impressive performance at the Leadville 100 miler a few days earlier.

On Day 3, we awoke to a cool morning in Leadville and while standing at the start line, I remembered that I had forgotten my poles at camp. Bryon was the hero of the day, when he went charging off to camp to retrieve my poles and save my butt. The day before, he had been hobbling around on his tired Post-100 mile-legs and there he was, sprinting down the street to get my poles. Thanks, Bryon!

Day 3 was a long day at 24 miles and our plan was to take it easy and enjoy the day. It was a great day on the trail and we met up with Chantal and Heather, the Lost Girls and entertained each other for a few miles. These gals were working hard, but having fun. Just my kind of girls!! Also in the mix, Team Sasquatch of Jake and Jeremy. The single track section on the Colorado Trail was sweet, but we slowed down to a crawl on the last flat road section to the finish line. There was lots of folks walking in that final stretch. We enjoyed a sweet leg soak in the river and a great relaxing evening at camp. Camp Hale is sweet and we spent the evening hanging with all the new friends. Damn, runners are good people!

Nadia and Phil

Memphis Joe, Superstar.

On Day 4, we were excited to be running another "Up and Over". Another day of running featuring a big climb and a monster descent. Just our style. The boy had gained a little confidence and though he struggled with erratic breathing for the first few kilometres, when we hit the climb we were walking strong and fast with the help of our poles. On this day, the climb is nasty, rocky and steep and the poles helped us power up that hill pretty darn good. Keith was working hard, but feeling great and we were having so much fun.

The View on The Ridge

The views on the ridge line were fantastic and we took lots of photos, but still managed to pass a few teams on this stretch. I was captured on video, skipping my way across the ridge, by the videographer Glen. We shared some laughs with Jennifer and Carolyn, The Twisted Sisters who were to become the eventual winners in the Masters Ladies Category. We also had great time on the descent and got to run with our friend Aaron MacConnell which was a bonus. Aaron is the Trans Rockies Run Race Director and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. It was his first time in 3 years that he had the opportunity to participate and he had decided to run on this day. How cool is that?

Twisted Sisters

On this particular downhill, we didn't get passed by a single team. Actually, we didn't even see any other teams. When we hit the flats, we expected a few teams to fly by but instead again, we found ourselves all alone. Keith, dug deep and found his fastest gear, pushing all the way to the finish line. On this day, the boy was racing. He had such a great run! I was so proud of my honey, he worked so hard on this day and I've never been more impressed. We finished the day 15th out of 50 in our category and rewarded ourselves with fish tacos and a hotel room in Red Cliff for the night. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. The bed was great, as was the day!

I *heart* Keith! Me so proud.

Red Cliff is a great place to enjoy yourself after a fun day on the trail. We soaked in the incredibly cold creek, relaxed with everyone and then celebrated with a feed of fish tacos and margaritas on this beautiful sunny day.

Who's more tough? Leslie or Anita Ortiz?
(Just for the record, Anita is....)

Tired Housewives. Or maybe it was the margaritas.

Doone and Tim with Tamara

Cool in the shade: Day 5 at the start line.


On Day 5, we woke up well rested and feeling great. Keith took all of that good energy from the previous day and ran with it! It w
as an epic day, featuring a 23.5 mile run from Red Cliff, up and through the legendary back bowls of Vail Mountain and then down into the village itself. We would climb over 4400 feet and reach an maximum elevation of over 11,700 feet while running through some spectacular scenery.

We loved it! Keith was flying up the climb and enjoying every moment of it. It was a beautiful day on the trails of Colorado. On this day, we spent lots of trail time with the top 3 Women's Masters teams and got to encourage them all to get at it! It was fun to see the race unfolding all around us. These gals had their race faces on and were going for it. We had a great time encouraging Chantal and Heather, and told them this was their day to bust it out and get on the podium.


Chantal and Heather

I loved that Keith was pushing himself to the limits of his ability, but enjoying every moment of it. As for me, I was running around taking photographs and cheering on all of the runners around us. I was participating in the photo contest on this day and was determined to take a winning picture.

After climbing to the top of Vail, happy and smiling we got to descend down the backside all the way into Vail village. It was a huge descent - I think it was almost 14 km of downhill. Normally, a descent of this magnitude wouldn't be a problem, but 5 days into a race on tired legs there was a little "ouch" going on with all of the teams around us.

For Keith, the "ouch" started pretty immediately on the first few kilometres of descending and then got worse and worse and worse. He was getting a little shin pain, which turned into a LOT of shin pain. He wasn't complaining, but the boy was slowing down and every step was clearly painful for him. We both rocked through the last aid station, with our asses out which was a great source of laughs for the volunteers. Being silly was a good distraction for Keith, too! They presented us with mardi-gras beads for our special performance. We finished up the day with Chantal and Heather and motivated each other to just get to the finish line. We had a great day and finished in 17th place.

There was lots of excitement at the finish line on this day, we were all getting giddy with the end within sight. We had another creek soaking party apres-race, and we made sure Keith got those swollen shins into the icy creek a few times.

When we rolled in to camp, they had a fun little surprise for us! Check out the tent formation:


At the awards and presentation that night, I got the winning photo! Yeeeeah! The funny thing was, the runner-up photo, was a photo that another team had taken of my bottom with um, flowers tucked in it.

The final day, we awoke to a beautiful day in Vail, which promised to be hot. Keith awoke with legs that looked like sausages. After 5 days of running, for this endurance newbie, his body had finally rebelled. Every step was painful and we were well aware that he had done some serious damage. Fortunately, he still wanted to get to the finish line.

At the start line of Day 6, I got some last day photos of some of the teams that had made our week so much fun.

The Porch Dogs

Team Gu, Steven and Shelby

Audra and Moi

The Twisted Sisters

We ran out of Vail on the asphalt for a few kilometres, which was torture for Keith. It was obvious, that running wasn't going to be an option on this day. When we hit the trail, we decided that we would walk every step of the way. He could still ascend quite well, but descending was awful for him. Keith sucked it up and began his 21 Mile Death March.

I still got some photos opportunities on those first few kilometres, before saying farewell to most of the teams that we had spent the week with.

Jen and Deb, Yiiiiihaw Cowgirls. You had a great week!

On a total random side note, I've got to say...the quality of good-looking-fun-talented-entertaining-athletic-gorgeous runner girls at this years TransRockies was over the top! Yes ladies, y'all are gorgeous. And decorative and functional!!

Sarah, THE High Sierra Honey!

A few kilometres into The Death March, as Keith was suffering and stressing, he got stung by a wasp on the same shin that was bothering him. Keith hasn't been stung in a few years, but the past few episodes were pretty severe allergic reaction. We pumped him full of Benadryl and I hoped that he could keep going. This little episode worried me more than the sore shins! The last time he got stung, he virtually fell over on the trail and had to sit there for an hour. Keith being the superstar that he is, kept moving despite it all. I would stop him and ask him if he was O.K every 10 minutes, like he was a concussion victim. The suffering was only beginning, but at least he was staying in motion.

Day 6: Keith - Sucking it up.

It was a long and lonely day out there in the back of the pack. Most of the folks were quietly suffering and we were done with talking. On the final climb up to Beaver Creek, we still had tons of energy because of our slowed pace. We flew up the hill using our poles and finished our 21 mile day on the trail, in 6 and a half long hours. Our friends Doone and Tim as well as The Porchdogs Michael and Mark, had decided to wait for us. I was so glad they did! After a long day, and a late finish it was super to have someone cheering us in. That was awesome. Keith did a dramatic dive to the ground at the finish line, and just like that, we were done.


We caught a quick nap, took a long and luxurious shower and headed out for the wrap-up banquet. What a great night! A great meal, good company and a celebration to wind up the week. The Trans Rockies organizers put lots of thought and work into this evening, and it was fun to party it up and celebrate a week of running, memories and friendships.

Keith, Jen and Deb

At the party, we made Keith sit and ice and elevate his leg. Here's a great shot of Keith's legs at the banquet. Look at the size of that thing! Later at the bar, Chantal and Heather took charge and led the drinking games. Let me tell you, it doesn't take much to get a bunch of tired, skinny runners pissed at the end of a week of adventure. There's nothing like a party to finish up a great week!

To all of the new and old friends that I met at this year's TransRockies event: Thanks! It was an incredible week and a great adventure. Thanks for an incredibly fun week of running, memories and friendships!

To Keith: Thanks! Congrats on becoming a running stud and achieving something momumental. You were the best partner of all!

To the race organizers and volunteers: Thanks! You've got it dialed. Don't change a thing. TransRockies Run 2009 was the best organized event I've ever had the pleasure of attending. Keep up the good work.

To anyone who is thinking about signing up for this event: Find yourself a partner and do it! Early registration is opening October 1st.


ianL said...

Awesome. You guys rock! Next year, Keith needs to run Ironlegs with us...
oh, and the ROCKWALL!
and, terrace/ribbon/guinns/galatea!
and, volcano ridge!

Danni said...

I want to be from Ouray! I remember going there when I was little and thinking it was purty. Oh wait, that's how I ended up here.

You guys are awesome. I love you guys!

Audra said...

Danni, ouray IS beautiful and you are welcome ANY time. perhaps we should trade visits to each other's beautiful place, meet, play, run, and eat! oh and ouray has hot springs!!!

leslie - thank you, a million times over, for inspiring me in a myriad of ways, mostly getting my butt to transrockies. it was the week of a lifetime and has had many transformative effects in my personal life post race. i can't wait to come to banff! hugs to you and keith! and keith, get healed soon.

JeffO said...

Nobody writes race reports quite like you, Leslie! Butt I didn't know the moon could rise several times in a single day! Keith was sure a tough one, and he is definitely an athlete to keep pushing to the end.
Awesome photos, so many laughs - thanks for sharing!

kristen said...

I need to get myself on the trails...that looks like crazy fun! Maybe in a few years...

Fun minus those shins of course...holy crap that looks painful! Good job Keith! And good job Leslie!

Backofpack said...

What a wild week for you two! You got to meet Michael and Tamara Cartwright (Porch Dogs) - more of our local running buddies. Cool!

Unknown said...

Thanks for doing this - I did not take a single photo! Best of luck at The Bear, I'll be "stalking" you online to see how you are doing. And I definitely think y'all should consider doing the Tahoe Rim Trail next July - you have a place to stay with either High Sierra Honey. Kick ass next week!


Meghan said...

Dood, Keith's leg is naaaaaasty, and he's one tuff bugger. Yikes!

Looks like a WONDERFUL time, and congratulations to both of you for the tough finish.

I'm really proud of Keith, as he's been working soooooo hard towards this for the last year!

Recover happy!

Leslie said...

Thanks y'all for the kind words! And Keith is taking a little time off....I never meant to "break" my husband!

Anonymous said...

I was just invited to be part of a team for the TRR this year and stumbled upon your blog while trying to get some more info.
Your crazy fun attitude has made me really excited about the event.
Thanks for sharing.
Martha :o)

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