Transrockies Run Report

Well, it’s been almost a week since we completed the 2011 Gore-Tex Transrockies Run. I still find myself thinking about Colorado views a lot. Sure, the race was tough with the endless climbing while at high altitudes, but we were rewarded heavily with some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.

As Sara mentioned on her blog, we are working on an article for in the next few weeks, and will also have an article coming out in Canadian Running Magazine in the future.

I just thought I’d mention a few of the things that stand out the most in my mind and that I’m sure I’ll remember for years to come…

Views: Words and even photos do nothing to describe the beauty of the mountains and trails we ran on.

Climbs: The endless length of some of the climbs we did were mind and leg numbing. We are lucky to find hills of maybe 5mins long on our trails at home, so to be climbing for 10 miles uphill continuous is a whole different beast.

Hope Pass: The ruggedness and beauty of this famous climb to 12,500 feet on stage 2 did not disappoint. Truly a highlight. Flying down the other side was very fun and exciting, and where we did our fastest running of the race.

High Alpine: Running some sweet single track through high alpine trails and meadows with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The smell of these trails was pure heaven.

Friends: We met a number of people at TRR who we’ve only met before online, and a few others through races. We also met so many other people for the first time who we share a special bond with and now consider to be very close friends. The ultra/trail running community tends to be like that. It was especially nice to see Francesco and Katia from Italy who we met a few years ago at Rock and Ice Ultra.

Trail Variety: Each of the 6 stages were very different. We ran every imaginable type of surface and terrain possible over the course of the race. Long gradual climbs. Long steep climbs, and of course the resulting descents. Single track. Double track. Jeep trail. Dirt road. Pine needles. Grass. Rock. Sand. One mile section of running through a cold river. Did I miss any? We saw snow, but didn’t run on any. The weather also changed frequently over the course of the race and different altitudes.

Pampered: Unlike the last stage race we did at Rock and Ice where you had to cook your own meals before and after running, we felt a little pampered at TRR. Breakfast and Dinner were massive buffets that could have easily been laid out at any quality restaurant and not looked out of place. We were never hungry. The variety and quality of food was amazing, and always included many vegetarian options as well.

Organization: As a race director, I marveled at the organization involved with TRR. Setting up and tearing down stage camps including our tents, then moving them to the next stage for us once we have arrived. Some of the little things that were thought of included showers (a transport trailer equipped with a couple of dozen showers), charging stations for GPS watches and phones, hospitality tent including free munches and beer/drinks. Then there was the daily awards, race swag, videos of the day completed and preview of the next day. So many balls in the air and always going without a hitch. I was thinking throughout the race if there is something I would do differently and really struggled to come up with anything that could be improved upon.

Teamwork: This was a different type of race than what I’ve done in the past and I found it very interesting being part of a team. Sara and I ran every step together and helped each other out by encouraging, towing occasionally, staying on top of hydration/fueling…basically it was a team effort and you not only looked out for yourself, but for the other person as well. In a sport like running that is so individual focused, I found this very interesting, fun and rewarding.

Toughness: To be able to complete a race like this, you need to be well trained, but also you need to be tough. I looked at many of the people at the start line and just on first impressions wondered if they would make it to the end. I was very impressed though at how people handled the course and kept going no matter what. The most impressive though was when Sara fell hard on Stage 3. Her wrist was cut deep and you could see the tendon. We were only about a mile past an aid station, but she wouldn’t go back to have it looked at. So we wrapped it in a Buff and she ran the last 10 miles in pain to finish the stage, before going to get 4 stitches in Leadville. The resulting stitches, tetanus shot and antibiotics didn’t make things easier for the last 3 days either. Very impressive.

Hardened: One of the things that I found most interesting physically was how my body adapted to the course. The first few days were difficult due to the steep downhills and the strain they put on your quads. I was pleasantly surprised that after the first few days of discomfort, by the end of the race I was feeling relatively fresh and ready to go each morning with a little more spring in my step. I found myself thinking about long trail end to end hikers/runners and about how they get stronger as they go. The same concept applied to us, though on a smaller scale. The altitude did make things difficult early on, but using an Altitudetech altitude tent helped us prepare a little better than some others.

Transrockies is certainly a very unique race with how it’s put together, the logistics involved and who it attracts. I expect that it will continue to grow in the future and for good reason. It is truly a quality event, that offers a life changing opportunity for many. It’s no wonder that TRR has so many returning runners each year.

It’s funny, I was just planning to type out a few words about the race and ended up spitting out all this. The fact that I didn’t mention anything about racing and where we placed shows how much more there is to this race than the competition. For the record, there was some racing happening though and we were pleased to move up to 6th place in the masters mixed competition by the last day. Interestingly enough, it was the final two miles of stage 6 that secured our place with only 15 seconds ahead of 7th place and a few minutes up on 8th. This made for a crazy downhill finish.

Now, back to dreaming of more mountains.

Here is a little montage that we put together to give you a better feeling of what our Transrockies experience was like…


  1. Nice report, fun to relive.

    You missed pavement, but maybe you’re blocking that from your mind. I know there weren’t very many miles of that in the big scheme of things, though a few of those connecting sections seemed pretty tough at the time.

  2. An incredible experience, thanks for sharing it with us!

  3. Jealous!! 😉 Can’t imagine!!! Can’t wait for retirement so I can rent a condo and run those trails for a month or two.

    So happy the two of you got to experience such a fantastic experience together. You’ll never be the same. You are now true mountain runners – 10mile climb? Really? Nice!

  4. Sara…yup, wanna go back? The pavement in Leadville was nasty. The strangest section though was the roundabout going past the Wallmart before hitting the trails again. Didn’t seem quite right.

    Rob…Thanks. Was amazing and if you ever get the chance…Jump!

    Montage now posted again. Had some nice audio that included Jesus and Mary Chain, White Stripes and Dropkick Murphys playing, but youtube copyright blocked the video. Guess you’ll have to listen to your own music while you watch.

  5. Strider…so many great trails. YOu’d love it! The Colorado Trail was another highlight. Very fun running.

    Ask Sara about the 10mile climb. The start from Red Cliff on Day 5(?) began on a dirt road that just kept going up and up…gradually at first, then steeper in places. Just a long grind. The first 8miles of that was toughest mentally on the road and we both actually listened to ipods (first time in a race).

  6. That long climb up on day 5 made that day the hardest for me (which is saying a lot because they were all hard). The ipod probably made it worse, because it helped me delude myself that I could run the whole thing strong and be okay for the rest of the stage. Deee Louuu Sional. When the dirt road up ended at 8 miles I felt like I had run up Mt Washington and still had a 16 mile trail run to do. The single track from 8 was beautiful but I was already so zapped and it kept going up and up…. Until finally it started going down, down, down. Mercy.

  7. It all looked so tranquil and beautiful and peaceful and then I read Sara’s accounting and realize the reality is never like as it appears in pictures. Thanks for posting. It was fun playing “Is that Sara or Derrick” again and getting a feel for what the day to day race experience was like.

  8. Karen Spafford-Fitz says:

    Love the report and the montage! What a range of emotions both elicited. Heart-wrenching, spectacular, gritty, frightening, breath-taking, inspiring… Good luck coming down from such an experience. Or simply DON’T come down! Congrats again to you guys and keep livin’ the dream!!! xo

  9. EJ…I was the one with the ever scruffy beard by the end of the week.

    Thanks Karen…really want to go back again…soon!

  10. When I’m all growed up (as a runner), I want to do this!

    Congrats guys.

  11. Oops, that was JD.

  12. Hey Derrick,

    Great report, thanks! And congrats! TRR is certainly on the must-do list.

    I was fortunate to run in Colorado at about the same time as you. I ran the Pikes Peak marathon (race report to come!) and boy, oh boy, what a great place to run! Up, and up, and up we go into the thin air! Awesome!

    Also happening in Colorado during that span of a little over a week:
    1. Leadville 100;
    2. Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon;
    3. Trans Rockies;
    4. USA Pro cycling tour (featuring the top 3 finishers of Le Tour de France).

    Many, many incredible athletes everywhere throughout the state!

    Gotta run,

  13. JD, Vince…you definitely need to do it sometime!

    Vince…Congrats on Pikes Peak. That’s one I’ve wanted to do for a long time too. Was pretty neat when our stage stayed in Leadville…the town was still buzzing about that race. We ran some of the same route with their trail markers. We also had a stage through Vail during the bike race too. Saw the awards ceremony, but didn’t see any of the race. This was our second trip to Colorado after a week of holidays there last summer. Love it and can’t wait to return.

  14. Derrick Thank you, thank you, and thank you; you managed to take me from my chair and drop me in the middle of your race. I could almost feel the sweat running down my face, the joy, and the pain every step of the way. It was a breathtaking, joyful experience. This is an excellent article, and the video just blew me away.
    There is nothing like the mountains, you always seem to carry a piece of it with you when you leave. You and Sara must really get to B.C. I know you have a friend or two out there.
    Thank you so much for sharing this, and Congratulations to Sara and yourself for an excellent race. Sixth together a race you have to share in memories forever. Thank you for taking me along. B

  15. Thanks Buttons. After a couple of trips to Colorado and one to Banff, yes we really need to get to BC sometime soon. &/or Alaska.

  16. Congratulations Derrick and Sara on your great finish !
    It’s a small world, in a Kevin Bacon sort of way. You are Kendra’s (Dora’s) coach, and I see Kendra’s good friend Alistair (and Kim) ran in the same category as you guys. I’m sure you met them. Did you happen to meet a guy named Jon Tiesher (Brownie) ? He is a serious trail runner ( 100 mile grand slam last year)and Kendra and I have been following his very funny blog for a year or two. He was in the men’s open category.
    How did the shoes hold up? I just got my 6th pair of Crosslites.

  17. Thanks Digger. Yes, the wonderful small world of online trail and ultra running. Love it.

    It was great getting to know Alistair and Kim. We spent a bit of time together. A couple of photos in the 10minute slideshow…understandable not watching all of it. Don’t think I met Brownie, but never know. There were a ton of people who we talked to but never caught/remembered names.

    Shoes were great. I ran in the Quantums the first day, but then switched back to my beloved Crosslites for the remaining 5 days. Almost wore the Quantums again later in the week due to some road sections, but decided no at the last minute.

    Congrats on your 50m! Shocktop beer was good, but if in Colorado try Fat Tire and 1554. Excellent!

  18. I tried to watch it last night, but couldn’t. I just watched it now, it looks amazing.Great photos, I love running with a camera also, and will gladly give up a few seconds for a good shot.
    Brownie would have been the one wearing a fishing hat.
    I already have someone in mind for a partner for TR.

  19. I did see at least one person with a fishing hat.

    …and Kendra would be a great guide for Transrockies!

  20. Very cool slide-show and recap. Martina and I were just talking about doing doing this one next year maybe. I like your thoughts on the team element in a sport that is predominantly solo.

  21. Thanks Chris. You guys really should! Also a great opportunity to test out what the altitude feels like for future higher elevation ultras.

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