Thursday, September 22, 2011

Summer Camp for Trail Runners (Transrockies Run Aug 21-26, 2011)

When fellow Maniac VVN asked me if I wanted to run TRR I said yes before I even really knew what it was. It is a multi-stage trail run through the Colorado Rockies, 6 days, 120 miles, 20,000 ft of elevation gain at average altitudes of 8000-12000 ft. You run as a team, and if you don’t finish within 2 minutes of each other at each checkpoint, you’re docked 1 hour. VVN is very experienced on trails and a fast descender, but feared the altitude. I descend slower than I climb and feared the terrain more than the altitude. You better like your partner because you share a tent and run with them all day long, and people can get grumpy when it’s 90 degrees and you’re tired. But that’s about as rough as it gets- crew set up and disassemble your tents for you, there is a catered meal for breakfast and dinner every day, heated showers, options for massage, and reportedly 5700 bottles of beer. The Ritz Carlton of trail running. It was modeled after the TransAlpine Run in Europe and the TransRockies mountain bike ride in Canada.

Day -1: Littleton CO. We stay at a fellow Maniac's house. This is the view from their backyard. We go a little down the street and run in a state park with crazy red rocks.

Then cool off with local brews.

I could move to Colorado!

Day 0: Arrival at Buena Vista
Bus ride with VVN and her husband Tom who is volunteering at TRR, we share a small cabin and meet a bunch of other runners, who look really fit and skinny, including the eventual winners from Quebec who are 2 doors down. "What category are you?" "80+ womens" (i.e. our combined ages). Another asked VVN who our sponsors were. I'm not sure if I should answer "scotch" or "beef jerky".

Stage 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge (20.8 miles, 2500 ft gain, 7891-9336 ft)

Here is team "Sealevel Harriers" at the start of day 1. "This is the cleanest we're going to be for the next 6 days" says VVN. This is supposedly the "boring warmup" stage, but I really like the desert, even the 5 mile sandpit.

Then it's a luxurious soak in a cool river. This is crucial for leg recovery for the next day.

Stage 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes (13.4 miles, 3200 ft gain, 9662-12,532 ft)
This is one of the "short and steep" stages to alternate with the "longer, woodsy" stages. The one with famous Hope Pass, of Leadville Trail lore. Some Leadville ribbons are still up, and running by the glow sticks on the rocky single track, I can't believe people run this climb in the dark after already having completed 50+ miles.

It's a long climb up a steep forest single track. I see the lady ahead of me running in crocs!
Then you clear the forest and there is more climbing, and a rocky pass

Spectacular mountain views

Then we reached the top of Hope Pass and got to meet Gordy Ainsleigh, who famously "invented" the 100 mile run when he decided to do the Western States horse race on foot- then ran Western States 22 times!

Then it's a blazing downhill past a gorgeous lake, to another finish and lake soak, shower and massage at camp.

The food is so healthy if I ate like ultrarunners chronically I'd be skinny too.

Stage 3: Leadville to Camp Hale/ Nova Guides (24.3 miles, 2700 ft gain, 9226-11,000 ft)
Another long climb and more spectacular views

First "mini" creek crossing

Then top of Tennessee Pass! I think I remember driving there when I went to a meeting in Aspen, and being short of breath just walking around there, 6 years ago.

Stage 4: Camp Hale/ Nova Guides to Red Cliff (14.2 miles, 2800 ft gain, 8657-11,679 ft)
The Run3 individual runners have gone and now the back-of-the-pack is a bit more sparse. Another short, steep stage, lots of teams using bungees to pull each other up. Here is Gordy and his partner Doug, whose daughter ended up winning 2nd place in the 80+ women's

This is the one with the mile-long creek crossing. Not actually crossing, but running in the creek- it was so cold I had bilateral foot charley horse

This is also the one where we finish at Mangoes and eat fish tacos/ drink margaritas before heading back to camp

Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail (23.6 miles, 4100 ft gain, 8657-11,700 ft)
This is the longest stage, made longer by the fact that we got lost and did an unfortunate extra 2 miles and 500 ft of climbing. That doesn't sound like much but it can be hard on the morale to think you're almost done but you're not.

Still, more spectacular views ending with the knowledge that we only had one more day. I learned a lot about camping from VVN. Like, everything you pack has to have more than one purpose (for example, running shoes make excellent beer bottle carriers, and trekking poles can be a great clothesline)

The BBQ and sunset were welcome.

Stage 6: Vail to Beaver Creek (23.6 miles, 5000 ft gain, 8160-9532 ft)
Last day, bittersweet, you want to finish but you don't want it to end. Ran through crazy birch forest, then lots of winding single track, ending in an endless climb through fallen trees for tree rot. More wildflowers

but rewarded by a downhill finish
The Sealevel Harriers place #12 out of 14 teams in our category.
And didn't fall once.

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