TheTransRockies Run by MPF Campmor Athlete, Jody LaPar. I had been thinking about the Trans Rockies Race for close to a year prior to the event. As race day approached, I had been working with teammate Elizabeth Azze to focus on race specific training such as lots of climbing and faster descending to get ready for the big mountains.
I guess I had been thinking so much about race prep that I actually forgot one of the most important pieces of gear, my orthotics. I had no insoles in my shoes whatsoever and didn’t realize it until my layover in Dallas. Yikes!
Elizabeth attempted to Fed Ex them to me but they wouldn’t have arrived prior to race start. Luckily, the race director had asked me to pick up a rental pickup truck to pick up other athletes arriving from France as he had cancelled the shuttle. I had an hour to spare so I jumped into this crazy double cab pickup and sped to the nearest Road Runner Sports 40 minutes away, mastered an impressive parallel park job, purchased some insoles, sped back to the airport for a quick passenger pick up and then 2.5 hour drive to Buena Vista. Whew!
Race check in was the following morning. If you’ve never participated in TRR, it’s like Christmas every day. There is so much free gear giveaway (one of my most favorite things ever!). Gore Tex duffle bags large enough to fit a small human body, Gore Tex blankets, jackets, gloves, flashlights, water bottles, etc.
I had originally registered for the 6 day, team of 2 race however, my friend was not able to follow through with this obligation so I dropped down to the 3 day solo event. I was so excited on Day 1 as I really didn’t know what to expect but was so ready to hit the trails.
AC/DC’s Highway to Hell started blaring (as it did every morning prior to race start) and off we went. I immediately found myself running next to Gordy Ainsleigh (yes, the “Father of ultra running”) and I was thinking to myself, “can it get any better than this?”
The trail immediately started climbing and I was gasping for air. I felt as though I quickly adjusted to the decreased oxygen levels and got into my zone, put my head down and charged on. Day 1 was 21 miles with 2,500 feet of climbing from Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge. The climate was that of high desert. It was quite sandy and very exposed with a combination of single track trails and jeep roads. I have to say that I was quite excited to have been leapfrogging with Ryan Sutter, the Bachelor and Vail resident for most of the day. The most difficult section of Day 1 was the last 3 miles of dreadfully flat, hard packed dirt road to the finish. Many were walking but I bypassed the urge to walk and pushed it to the end to finish in 14th place in the Open Women’s Run 3 division. Soon after, “the Bachelor” arrived and we had a nice discussion of the day’s course.
Each stage offers an icy body of water to soak your feet and legs in (so ideal!). Off to the stream I went. Shuttle buses take you back to camp in Buena Vista. Here you pick up your large duffel filled with gear, select your tent for the evening, rush off to stand in line for the mobile showers then high tail it to your massage (if you were lucky enough to schedule one at registration check in). Each evening, dinner was catered followed by the daily awards ceremony and video presentation. Off to bed. Tent city can get quite noisy which makes for difficult sleeping. Even with earplugs, I averaged approx. 3 – 4 hours of sleep per night.
The morning routine was wake at 6 (that is, if you were lucky enough to be sleeping), head to breakfast, pack up your gear and haul your duffel to the truck that will cart it to the next day’s camp. (you learn to do all of this while you’re ½ awake).
On Day 2, we were shuttled to Twin Lakes where we ran on a road for about 2 miles prior to the 4 mile climb up Hope Pass. Talk about lung burn! Holy! Somehow my body adjusted to very little air while trying to get up these switchbacks as quickly as possible. I was able to pass many people on the way up and I can’t tell you how good that felt. Reaching the summit at 12,600 feet was an amazing feeling. The llamas were already there prepping for the Leadville 100 race. Now for the descent. I tried to channel Elizabeth’s descending prowess. My knees hurt though so I did what I could, trying hard to let gravity do it’s work and not put the brakes on too much. Just before reaching the bottom, the tip of my Nathan tube came off and I was without water (or so I thought). It was hot and I was pushing hard so mentally, I was panicking without water with 5 miles of exposed trails to go. I eventually managed to figure out how to twist the end of the tube to allow water to drip into my mouth. So frustrating. I definitely lost some time during this panic session of the last few miles. I finished Day 2 (14 miles, 3,200 feet of climbing) in 11th place in the Women’s Run 3 division. A quick soak in Twin Lakes, shuttle back to camp in Leadville, tent selection, shower, massage, dinner (+ ½ a beer) and bed. Very tired!
Day 3 was a rough start with a pounding headache, nausea and a lot of difficulty trying to eat anything. I knew I needed fuel but I could barely eat anything. This stage started in downtown Leadville where we ran on a paved road for 2.5 miles (yuck!) then off to climb several ski hills at Cooper Ski Resort. I had visions of strapping on skis and cruising down these trails. I started trying to eat gels from the beginning of the run. With the current state of my head and stomach, it took me about 20 minutes to eat one gel and then I would immediately open the next one. I truly wish I had felt better on this day because the trails were breathtaking, running single track through fields of wildflowers and looking out at the breathtaking vistas. We ran on the Continental Divide and I was amazed how beautiful the scenery was.
The last 4 miles was on a flat, dirt road which was so mentally difficult to stay strong. The finish line seemed like a mirage across the plains. It never seemed to get closer. I so wanted this day’s run to be over so that I could lay down. Finally the turn into Camp Hale and the finish line. 24.5 miles with 2,700 feet of climbing done! 19th place in my division. Not happy but happy to be done.
My combined time over the 3 days was 12:35 giving me a total ranking of 14th. While part of me was thrilled to be done knowing that I wouldn’t have to get up to run the following day, it was bittersweet. Seeing the runners off on Day 4, I felt so sad and as though I was missing out on something really special. I vow to return to TRR to complete the 6 day event. A truly amazing experience that I highly recommend to anyone who is considering this race.