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 iRunFar.com 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…
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…