Friday, October 3, 2014

Four-Pass Loop

TransRockies was such an epic experience that it's hard at this point to think of something bigger than that. While I actually did it, it is also hard to believe I did and it's hard to think of doing anything like it again. 

That said, the hubby and I tried to find an epic adventure for Labor Day weekend. He mentioned climbing Snowmass, a 14er. But after all my uphill struggles during TRR I just could not wrap my head around going up a 14er. Thankfully, we have a few other items on our bucket list and one of them is the Four-Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells Wilderness. 

Not sure why the Four-Pass loop sounded better than the 14er... Let me elaborate. The Four-Pass Loop is a 27 mile loop around the Maroon Bells. To complete the loop, you have to go over 4 mountain passes. Needless to say, you go over 12,000ft for each one of them. Why did I think a 27-mile loop with 10,000ft of gain would be easier than going for a 9 mile, 4,500ft of gain hike to summit a 14er? Not sure. Maybe TRR has officially made me dumber. Although I truly believe the Four-Pass loop is more attractive to me (a runner) than summitting all 14ers. 
4-Pass Elevation Profile... Not the easiest run!
Anyway... I hadn't run since TRR and I wasn't sure I was ready but was willing to give it a shot. The day before I went for a run in Avon and I felt okay. It was only 3 miles and on pavement, but I figured that was a good warm up. Silly me. 

We left the condo at 3am and arrived at the trailhead by 5am. It was chilly, but we wore our warm running gear, grabbed a headlamp and off we go. We didn't really get a view of the Bells early on as it was still pretty dark, but it looked like a gorgeous setting, and while running along the lake, Chuck took a wrong turn. I didn't appreciate it and while it only added probably 1/4 or a 1/2 a mile, I was already cranky at the fact that he made us bush whack a little bit. We found the trail and kept going. 

Early morning views of the Bells from Crater Lake
We arrived to the second lake and we decided to do the loop clockwise so we were headed towards West Maroon Pass. The trail was muddy and it was hard to get moving fast. At that point, Chuck and I had completely different ideas on how to do this. He was aiming for a sub 7h30m finish, while I was aiming to just finish. He's the sprinter in the family, I'm the endurance one. My approach was hike the ups, run the downs and take it easy at the beginning. He wanted to go all out the whole time. We argued... I cried. 

Getting high in the Maroon Bells Wilderness
This is the deal, I know my limits. And when I push on mile 5 of a 27 mile HARD loop, I know I will NOT make it. And it was especially scary once we were past the first pass, as we would be entering true backcountry and if one of us had lost it out there, it'd be a true challenge to come back. He asked I pushed as hard as I did at TRR, and I tried to explain that a steady hike was EXACTLY how I approached a lot of the big climbs at TRR. And now that TRR was over, my legs were slightly more exhausted than the usual... I literally didn't have more in me. I get where he's coming from too... he's more competitive and he had not run TRR and was on fresh legs. I came to the conclusion that we should not do this together and that he should continue and I'd turn back to wait for him at the lake. That wasn't an option for him. He wanted to turn around then and there... I suggested we at least tag the first mountain pass. We continued on without really talking to each other... sigh

We summited the first pass and took some pictures. The views on the other side were wonderful and definitely made me think of pushing through, but I knew it was a bad idea. At that point, Chuck and I were on better terms. We ran back down and it was a much faster and mellow approach. We had a better time. Once back at the lakes, we saw hundreds of tourists taking pictures of the lakes and the Bells. It is truly a wonderful area. 

West Maroon Pass Summit shot
VIews from the top of W. Maroon
So that was that. A failed attempt at the Four-Pass. It was too soon after TRR and we failed to communicate our goals. The section we did was gorgeous, although not as gorgeous as some of the pictures of the sections that are farther back... but we've decided we'll go back to finish it off, although now, we have a more realistic goal of sub-9hours. 

Family shot at Crater Lake on the way back. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 6

Vail, CO to Beaver Creek, CO
Distance: 22.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,554ft

"The reward of a thing well done is to have done it." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bittersweet. That's what I felt the moment my alarm went off. This is the last day I wake up at camp. The last day I pack my camp. The last day I drag the heaviest duffel bag to the Budget truck. The last day I walk to the start line. The last day I listen to Highway to Hell. It was exciting that this crazy adventure was about to end. It was sad that all the work, all the training, all the cool stories... were all about to end. Bittersweet.

I had breakfast with all the other runners in the catering tent... people were excited. Marna, Mark and I walked to the start and chilled at the lodge for 40ish minutes before the start and we lined up a few minutes before go-time.

Start line in Vail Village
I think I became emotional as the runner's came into the start line chute and I was in disbelief that I had gotten this far. I'm pretty sure I had a few tears roll down my cheeks when I heard my name. I looked over to the side and Chuck was there. He made me smile. I was not expecting to see him and it was great to get a hug from the hubby before the start. That is, until he said the words: "You can do it, push for a Top 10 finish!" Oh boy... instead of those being the best words of encouragement anyone could ever hear, I just burst into tears and asked him if what I had done was not good enough (I was 14th overall at that point). He felt horrible. And today, I feel horrible I made him feel horrible. But I guess this is a GREAT example of how exhausted and emotional I was at that point!

The gun went off and I went off with a slow jog despite the big hill ahead of us. I thought it'd be short, but once I got a better angle, I decided to start walking up it since it was probably more like a mile long. We traversed on the front side of the mountain from Vail Village to Lionshead. Once above the Gondola base at Lionshead we dropped into town again, ran through the village and out towards i70. We went over the bridge and down to the Frontage Rd. on the North side and up into that immediate neighborhood. Sooner than later (probably 2-3 miles into our run) we hot the single track and up, up, up we go.

Views of Vail from the North Side. 
The endless switchbacks were slightly heartbreaking, but all I kept in mind was that it was the last push! On the flip side though, given the previous day's mistake of having the elevation profile all mixed up in my head, I actually brought a print out this time. I knew exactly when to push. And this time, the hills were perfectly lining up with the mileage I knew.

Amazing Aspen forest at the top of the switch backs. 
Between miles 7 to 9ish, the terrain flattened and we were pretty far north from Vail, or so it seemed like. The views opened up and we got to see the Gore Range.

Gore Range as seen from some very very remote backcountry! 
As much as my legs hurt going uphill, I tried to take in the views and enjoy the last day. I tried to keep in mind that the downhill didn't start until after 5 significant climbs (based on the elevation profile). Thankfully, the 4th climb wasn't so bad and it didn't feel so significant to me at the time so I didn't count it. So, once I was done climbing, and was enjoying the down, I tried not to get overly excited as I knew there was one more coming... Until I hit the aid station and they said: It's all downhill from here to Avon... That's 5.5 miles of nothing but downhill. Wait, whaaat? All downhill now? Yaay!! Let's do this! I smiled. Downhill was my strong suit!

All downhill until we get to town! 
It was great for a while, and I was catching up to runner after runner. All  those who passed me on the way up were slowly moving down and I was catching up to them one at a time. It was a nice feeling.  For a good 2 or 3 miles it was all easy breezy, but after that we got to a section where the single track was as narrow as it gets, it was as technical as it gets and the vegetation around it was extremely overgrown. I had to slow down. A lot.

I started getting incredibly frustrated at the fact that what had been my strength all week was all of a sudden a huge weakness. I could not push any harder, my  toes were hurting and I could not see through all the plants... I was mentally struggling and didn't seem to be able to pull myself out of the hole I was in. All of a sudden, I look up and there was Chuck and Levi. You'd think that would help, but it didn't. I may have been rude to him because I could not really talk to him and Levi's collar was making way too much noise as I was trying to focus on putting a foot in front of the other. After 5 minutes I had to tell him to go. He made me feel guilty about how I treated him, and I was probably somewhat rude, but at the time, it just seemed like my brain was about to explode and I'm pretty sure I would've been so much more rude if he had stayed. I needed to do this on my own and I needed him more at the finish than I needed him on the trail. Once he went ahead, I had to walk for a few.

Last section of trail before hitting the road. 
Shortly after Chuck left, we got to the last creek crossing and a few yards ahead we were on the road. One of the TRR staff had his RV right at the trailhead and offered me some orange juice. I drank some... it was delicious. We continued down the road until we reached the gas station in Avon. I was hoping I'd see Chuck at some corner now that I was feeling a little better, but he was nowhere to be seen... I did see Kevin and Courtney as they were pulling into Avon, that was randomly awesome. They honked and waved and kept driving.

We ran on the pavement around the Avon Reservoir and made our way into the Bear lot in Beaver Creek and started to climb towards Bachelor's Gulch. Welcome to Beaver Creek, folks! Last last push, for real!

With 2.5 miles of climbing left, I just gave it my all. Although, my "all" wasn't much at all. I just kept putting a foot in front of the other and that seemed to be enough at the moment. The single track climb seemed to never end but I wasn't passed by anyone and I didn't pass anyone... we were all in denial and exhausted. I saw Marna, who passed me while on the aid station before the big downhill into Avon (I stopped for goodies, she didn't), slightly ahead of me in the last few switchbacks before the downhill to the finish. She was focused and looked extremely determined to finish this strong. I lost sight of her once she reached the top. Didn't see her again til the finish.

Once I reached the top though, I let it rip... I knew this road, I'd ran on it in the past and I knew it'd be non-technical and wide. Good old service road. I was running 9 min/miles and it was only 1.5 miles to the finish. I didn't catch up to anyone as I should assume, they all did the same. Once I hit the road I saw Courtney first  and I wanted to cry... she was enthusiastic as always and said I was done. I took a right and there it was. The finish line. The FINISH finish line. Lined up before it was Chuck and Kevin. I barely looked at them and had my eyes set on the finish. I was done. I crossed the finish line in 5h 27m 23s for 18th place. My worst of the week, but it didn't matter. I was done. Took a while to catch my breath but when I looked up, my friend Jenny, her husband and baby were there as well... they'd made the trip up from Denver JUST to see me finish. I was feeling blessed to have so many familiar faces at the finish. I felt loved. I needed that.

And done! Medal and Finisher's shirt in hand. 
The small details of my experience during TransRockies may never be put into words the way I would like it to be. There are way too many stories and experiences that may never be shared. This doesn't mean they didn't mean the world to me at the moment. Running across the Rockies covering a distance of 120 miles at high elevation, meeting new people along the way, sleeping in tents, showering in a truck and eating what is available, not what I want, was my reality for a whole week.

I learned a lot about myself and what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it. I'd do things differently, yes. Training more would be one of them. I was well trained and got through it alright with no injuries, but I'm sure a few more hours on the trail would've made some of those climbs a tad easier and some struggles a little easier to get through.

If you ask me, doing this solo as opposed to with a teammate ended up being a blessing. Seemed like while I would've loved to have my partner Theresa with me during some moments, but I've learned I'm better off alone when in a dark place... and when in a good one. I'm sure it would've been a struggle to stay back when I'm feeling good or feel extra pressured to move faster when in a dark place. If I were to do it again, I'd definitely sign up with a friend, but would make sure to sign us up as "solo" runners. That way we could run together when needed/desired, but we could go our separate ways when we're mentally and physically in different places.

Finish line picture with Houda... Race Director extraordinaire. 
Will I do this race again? Probably not. This one-time experience was beyond amazing and I wouldn't change it for the world. It will always hold a special place in my heart... but I believe I should take what I learned about myself as a person and an athlete to other events and other adventures. I met some amazing people, a few of which, I believe, will stick around in my life for a while. If you're into big adventures though, I would highly recommend this one. It's worth every penny!

Official finish time: 27 hours, 54 minutes, 24 seconds for 14th place out of 59

"Only those who attempt the absurd, will achieve the impossible." -Escher. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 5

Red Cliff, CO to Vail, CO
Distance: 23.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,211ft

Woke up slightly more exhausted than my usual. Sleeping in the day before had been nice, but it was back-to-reality day. Had to pack camp and catch a shuttle back to Red Cliff. I hung out with Marna and Mark at Mango's, the bar in Red Cliff. They opened up early for us to stay warm while waiting for the race to start. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like enough down time and the race started sooner than later.

Quick picture at the start!
As usual, Highway to Hell played loud at the start line and off we go... uphill. I knew we were in for a treat with this one. For the first time since Day 1 we were going to climb more than 4,000ft and I was trying to wrap my head around it. I decided to slowly jog as much as possible, but walk when I felt like it. I was pretty much "going on feel". It all worked out pretty nicely for a while... but this was my biggest mistake of the day- I left the start line without a print out of the elevation profile (which I'm really good at doing at all my races!!).

In my head, it was 8 miles of climbing followed by a couple of rolling hills (10 miles in) followed by 2 miles of climbing (12 miles in)... and then all downhill from there (for 11 miles). Oh boy... was I wrong!!!

I arrived to the first aid station at mile 8 in really great spirits. Up until now, we'd been running on a wide dirt road that basically goes from Red Cliff to the top of Vail Pass. It was a little shaded (lots of trees) during the first couple of miles, but then it opened up and we had some awesome views.

Views opening up on our way to Vail Pass
The grade of the incline on the way up to Vail Pass wasn't horrible, so while I definitely did not run the whole 8 miles, I was able to maintain a very steady and efficient pace. Filled up my water bladder at the aid station and proceeded to the single track. This is when things got gnarly. What I had expected to be "rolling" for 2 miles, was more uphill... and actually, slightly steeper and more technical than the previous 8 miles (well, duh... now we were on single track!).  I could hear my heart break piece by piece... but I was still optimistic that maybe I'd be summitting soon! When my Garmin beeped for mile 10, we started going downhill... at which point we were already in what I thought was Vail Ski Resort (or at least the side country of it) so I figured, how much farther up can we go? So I just bombed down whatever went down, but to my disappointment, that lasted a half a mile... Ok, I was off by 2 miles. THIS was the rolling section. I pushed through despite it being more up than down, but we then arrived in Vail Ski Resort. For REAL this time.

We're in... FOR SURE! 
I continued very contently since I thought... How much farther up can we go? Well, a random girl behind me said: "Look to your right?" Ugh... I SO wish she hadn't said that... HUGE switch backs to the ridge. But I mean... the ridge was WAY up there. My heart broke JUST a little more. At this point, we were roughly at mile 13, so seriously? How much farther up can we go... we gotta go down at one point!! I walked slowly to the top, and I would just see the people who I had stuck with for 4 days slowly disappear in front of me... I feel like this broke me and slowed me down even more. Regardless, I got to the top to areas of the resort I recognized. I tried to regroup and continue on. I reached the rocky technical descent that the course director had talked about and even smiled for the camera. For all I knew, the climbing was OVER! It was all downhill from there!

TRR was a technical run, but not like this!  This was just a short scrambling section! :)
I reached the aid station shortly after this and even sat down on the chair to take in some calories. I got up quick though and continued on. Let's have some fun!!! Unfortunately, the fun lasted a half a mile... and at mile 16, I found myself climbing again! Ok, I was SUPER off... For all I knew, the climbing ended at mile 12!!! I was 4 ahead at that point, and had a hill in front of me that I had NO idea how long it'd be.

I literally cried. I was absolutely exhausted... I turned off my iPod, replied to some words of encouragement from my TRR friend Rob with some very cranky words in a very cranky mood... and fell behind. Before I knew it, Marna caught up to me... nicely, she pushed me. Like she ACTUALLY pushed me from the bottom of my hydration pack. It seemed to help, but I knew she was probably as tired as me.. she just happened to be in a less dark place. She eventually moved ahead and I was left behind with my tears.

We reached the top of Chair 4. Which I knew well. I was exhausted, I had cried and I was ready for an all downhill. It took me a little while to regroup (maybe a mile), but from the top (mile 17) to the aid station (mile 21) I was able to run. I stopped at the aid for a couple minutes and had a beverage and some watermelon and continued on... the downhill was fun:

I eventually caught up to Marna, who was now struggling. I stayed with her for a couple minutes and told her we were close (I know that mountain a little too well) and I passed her. I finally came close to the village and saw the finish line. It was a huge relief! I crossed the finish line in 5 hours 49 minutes and 49 seconds for 14th place. This was officially my longest day out on the trails and I was stoked it was over.

It was great  to see Marna finish just 4 minutes behind me. She was getting stronger as I was getting weaker! 
The rest of the evening was uneventful... Marna and I walked to camp together and it felt great to be at "home". I was struggling with eating as it seemed as if I had completely lost my appetite, but they had grilled some veggies and I ate some of that. Despite having had a crappy day, I was focusing on the next day's adventure... which was pretty much the end. Visualizing the finish was an emotional experience. It was surreal that this was the last night I was going to sleep in a tent and eat with all these people.

I tried to focus on the fact that despite the last stage being known to be a hard stage, it was still under 20 miles. Unfortunately, when the course briefing began, we learned that the last stage was not 19 miles as published on the guide book, it was more like 22. I was in disbelief and I may have had a tear roll down my cheek. I sat there silently listening, but heartbroken that I still had 22  miles to go. I know, it's not that big a difference, but after 5 long days of running at elevation, 3 miles was a huge difference.

I went to bed slightly bummed out, but tried to focus on the fact that it was almost over. One more day... and then, it'll all be a memory. I wasn't even sure I was emotionally ready for it to be over.

"Dig deep, my friend." Theresa said on her card for Day 5. I don't think I'd ever dug any deeper...

Up Next: TransRockies Run6 - Stage 6

Monday, September 22, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 4

Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff, CO
Distance: 14.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,830ft

I was pretty tired when I woke up, but the start line today was only steps away from my tent. Not only that, BUT we didn't have to pack our campsite as we were going to be shuttled back to this same spot for that night. This was the day that I allowed myself to sleep in the most.

I was feeling pretty sore and was a little nervous about it... regardless I was hopeful that I'd have a good run. Feedback I had heard from people that had run this stage in previous years was all over the place. Some people were happy about a shorter leg, while others said the climb was worse than Hope Pass- seriously?!?

I lined up for the start with a little extra inspiration as Jenny had tagged me on a Facebook post that read as follows: "My girl Gaby is running the TransRockies and is currently 13th out of 59 women. 120 miles across some intense, high altitude terrain. I just want everyone to know how amazing and inspiring she is! Go Gaby!! You got it!!!" Yes, that made me smile and reminded me there were people following my progress. In addition, my amazing husband would meet me at the finish line in Red Cliff to grab a couple drinks in Red Cliff. With that in mind, I set off on day 4 of this crazy adventure.

At the start line
To not mess with the theme that TransRockies seemed to have going on, the run started with 6 miles of straight uphill. It was mellow the first 2 miles, with 4 miles of steep, technical jeep roads. People seemed to struggle a ton, but I seemed to be moving somewhat efficiently. I reached the top faster than I thought and was convinced that this climb had been WAY easier than Hope Pass. Apparently, most everyone seemed to disagree with me even after doing it. They all thought I was crazy! Regardless, I'm happy I had a good climb.

The last push uphill. Some amazing views.
Once at the top, we traversed on the ridge for a little while before coming back down to tree line. The traverse was a mild climb, but I jogged most of it.

Highest point of the run
Once at treeline and when we started going downhill there seemed to be endless switchbacks down... I just kept wondering when I was going to reach the river! I was averaging 10 min/mile on the technical descent, until we reached the bottom of the switchbacks and it was time to run on a creek. In reality, it was a trail, but a few years ago, the creek seemed to swell up to cover the trail, so while we didn't run IN the creek, our feet were wet. This water stretch was longer than expected and we ran in the water for 3/4's of a mile.

Trail under water. We ran on this for 3/4's of a mile
We then crossed a bridge and were on a smooth dirt road that'd take us into town. Chuck met me 1.5 miles away from the finish with the pup and I was stoked to see them. I maintained 9:30 min/mile those last 2 miles and finished in 3h29m43s for 16th place just like on day 2. Seemed like with the shorter distances I didn't have enough time to catch up to some of the other gals and longer days were more favorable to me, but that's no news... we've always known that.

Finish Line Shot
Chuck and I hung out by the creek until Marna finished and then Marna, her husband and Chuck and I enjoyed a couple drinks at Mango's- Red Cliff's most famous (and only) bar. Chuck then gave us a ride back to Camp Hale. He hung out with us for a while and even went for a run there... He kissed me goodnight and left right before dinner. I'm not gonna lie, but I desperately wanted to go to the Avon condo with him, but wouldn't give up my full TransRockies experience. Crappy sleep was part of it all...

Post-run drinks at Mango's 
I again passed out early feeling somewhat confident about the upcoming Day 5 as we were approaching a very familiar area to me. In the end, Vail area was where I has trained so much in the previous 6 months. I was ready to come "home".

Up Next: TransRockies Run6 - Stage 5

Monday, September 15, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 3

Leadville, CO to Nova Guides at Camp Hale
Distance: 24.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,361ft

"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go" -T.S. Eliot.
Motivation words from Theresa on my "Day 3" card.  

During the course briefing the night before, the run course director shared some cool info about Camp Hale. It's a little bit of history that if I hadn't run this race, I probably would never learn; I figured I'd share:

What's left of Camp Hale. Added to NHRP in 1992.
Camp Hale is located between Red Cliff and Leadville in the Eagle River Valley (we run to Red Cliff on Day 4). It was a U.S. Army training facility built in 1942 for what became the 10th Mountain Division (I'll talk about this in a minute). Soldiers were trained in mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, and cold-weather survival. When it was in full operation, 15,000 (approx) soldiers lived there. Camp Hale was decommissioned in November 1945. 

The 10th Mountain Division is a light infantry division in the U.S. Army currently based at Fort Drum, NY. Originally constituted as a unique mountain warfare unit, the division was the only unit of its size in the U.S. Army to specialize in fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions, thus earning the division "mountain" tab. It was on July 10, 1943 that the 10th Mountain Division was constituted, and activated at Camp Hale 5 days later. 

Now, back to the race. I woke up in Leadville with a little bit of frost in my tent. I still tried to be efficient and got out of "bed" quickly, change and pack my stuff. After dropping off the duffel, we had the option of taking a shuttle to the Museum for breakfast. I, instead, walked there to calm the nerves and let the muscles loosen a bit. It was a 10 minute walk. My breakfast was light and I walked to the start on Harrison St. (main street). Starting a race in Leadville, CO is pretty amazing; I love it!

Start line in Leadville
At the start corral I saw Marna and Mark, we chatted up a bit and her and I started together. The first couple miles out of town were on pavement, which I gladly welcomed. It was nice to get the legs moving in a somewhat efficient way and without really thinking about it. Unfortunately, they went fast and all of a sudden I found myself climbing. As usual, I slowed down to a crawl. Fortunately, it was a 2.5 mile climb and we topped off at the 4.5 mile marker. After this, I picked up the pace on the downhill and caught up to a whole bunch of people. It was VERY muddy in some sections and while some people were slowing down I figured I should just push through it; I was gonna get muddy anyway, so if I was gonna fall, better do it sooner than later. I didn't fall though. All of a sudden and feeling good, I got to aid 1 at mile 7.

Some views from the top at mile 4.5
Coming in hot in muddy trails (you can't tell it was muddy, but I distinctively remember the photographer camped out where she could see people slipping and sliding!) 
The miles after this checkpoint went slow, I was going up again. Thankfully, this uphill was very runnable, and while slow, I was able to efficiently do a walk/run. I managed to pass a few girls in my category that pushed through hard run intervals but had to take a break or walk REALLY slowly after. The highest point was at mile 12 and after this I picked up the pace again. I realized I was close to the aid since I was clearly at a ski resort and we had been told that aid 2 was at the base of Ski Cooper. I left fairly quick and kept running down towards Tennessee Pass. Weird to run down to a mountain pass.

Tennessee Pass!
After crossing hwy 24, we jumped on the Colorado Trail. It was GORGEOUS and easy to run on. I was able to pick up the pace before hitting some single track. I was able to maintain a fast pace and was able to enjoy the views. The last climb came between miles 17 and 18.5 after crossing back to the east side of hwy 24, but we quickly got to the top and came down a heavily treed fun single track. At the bottom, there was a trail head and some structure that was left from the army days of Camp Hale (pictured above). I knew I was close. The aid station was right after this.

While I had 3 miles to go on a flat dirt road after the checkpoint, the weather had turned bad and it was now cold, drizzly and we all had a head wind. I tried to slow down and maintain a mellow pace and push through it. I did my best, but had to walk a couple little hills. This section felt like it was never going to end, but I eventually saw the finish and crossed it at 5h13m49s for 14th place.

Finish line shot! 
I picked a tent as close to the duffel bag pick up area as I could and showered right away. My friend Amanda from Boulder had run the 3-day guiding a blind runner and offered to give me a quick massage before heading home. She treated me to an AMAZING 15 minute massage!

Later, while at dinner (maybe 5:30ish), Houda came into the tent to announce that the last finishers were almost there... It was amazing  to see the 400+ people leave their dinner and seats to go out to the finish line to cheer them on. The team (an older married couple, maybe in their 60s), had tears in their eyes. Truly inspiring.

The night went on as usual with course, medical and weather briefing for the next day and an early bed time for me. I was truly exhausted this day, although I had very much enjoyed the run. Today I can say, it was probably my favorite stage (and favorite camp site).

Gorgeous place to camp! 
Up Next: TransRockies Run6 - Stage 4

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 2

Vicksburg, CO to Twin Lakes (up and over Hope Pass). 
Distance: 13.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,672ft

"If you're willing to throw caution into the wind and take a chance, the view from the other side is spectacular!" -TRR partner, Theresa wrote it on my "Day 2" card. Pretty fitting for a day like this. 

It's no surprise that I LOVE to sleep in as much as possible, and with that in mind I set my alarm as late as possible to give me enough time to pack my camp, get dressed, have breakfast and catch the shuttle. The first shuttle would be at 6:45am, therefore I set my alarm for 6:00am. Packing my duffel bag went fairly fast since everything was in zip-lock bags and getting ready took a couple minutes. I was all packed and ready for breakfast at 6:25am. The catering company was back for breakfast and there were plenty of options. I had eggs and toast with a side of cranberry juice. Jumped in the shuttle at 6:50am. 

The drive to Vicksburg was roughly 20-30 minutes... Our driver, Crash, said it'd be a bumpy drive. It was, but we still arrived to the start line safely with plenty of time to kill.  The race started at 8:30am sharp...

Start line at Vicksburg
The course started with a gentle climb on a gravel road for 1.7 miles where we got to the first aid station, trailhead and turn around point for the Leadville 100 race. It was exciting that I would be running on one of the most popular sections of one of the most popular 100-mile races: up Hope Pass. The trail narrowed quickly and before mile 2 we were already in a tight single track climbing towards the top of the pass. I tried to go "slow and steady", which meant a steady hike, but I ended up taking a couple breaks. This trail seemed way too steep. 

Still going up! Gorgeous views!
Once at treeline, it seemed like the trail was no longer that steep, and while still going up, it was an easier walk although the breathing was harder. I looked back and Marna was right behind me so when I summitted I waited for her to take a couple pictures. We left fairly fast and I KNEW this was my time to shine. I bolted down the hill. It was roughly 5 miles downhill before getting to Twin Lakes area where I was able to catch up to a whole bunch of people. The last 3 or 4 miles were rolling, but the rollers were bigger than expected. I had hoped my strategy of slow and steady from the day before would work this day too, but some of the uphills were too steep. I walked a few early on, but later decided to slow down and tackle the ups and downs at the same speed, which in the end paid off and was able to run the last 2.5 miles without stopping/walking. 

Marna and I at the top of Hope Pass
I finished in 3 hours 42 minutes and 29 seconds for 16th place and learned the valuable lesson that a shorter day in the TransRockies world means a harder run. I didn't stick around at the finish and instead took the shuttle to Leadville to set up camp and shower. Shortly after my shower I headed to the Leadville Race Series headquarters to get a hug from my good friend Abby (Athlete Services Manager for LRS) and let race director Josh know that Hope Pass is darn tough! 

Done for the day! 
I later met up with Marna and Mark in town and we walked together to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum for dinner. It was Italian night and I believe, this was the most delicious meal of them all! After awards, course and medical briefings, pictures of the day and video, we walked back to camp. I took some time to charge my phone and garmin and went to bed fairly early. It was a chilly night at 10,200ft. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 1

Buena Vista, CO to Railroad Bridge (just north of Buena Vista). 
Distance: 20.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,672ft

When my alarm went off at 6am, I was focused and ready to go. I showered, got the baggie labeled "day 1", put on the running outfit that was in it and packed my hydration vest with the nutrition I had previously prepared. The hotel in Salida had breakfast available at 6:30, but luckily they were all set up by 6:20. We hit the road and arrived in Buena Vista at 7:05am.

While the TransRockies crew arranged for trucks to drive around town and pick up duffel bags from the hotels, I had to personally drop mine off since I had stayed in Salida the night before. It was fast and easy. I walked from the Heritage Museum over to the start line (roughly a half a mile away). People were slowly showing up and you could just feel everyone's excitement. I found a good place to sit and relax... even stretch a little bit and pulled out the elevation profile for the day to figure out a run strategy.

T-minus 41 minutes until start time! 
As we were getting ready to start, the announcer asked that we seed ourselves based on what we thought our pace would be. There were 3 main starting "corrals" and I placed myself in the middle of the pack. The race started promptly at 8:30am and off we go! The day started with a half a mile paved section as we made our way out of town and across the Arkansas River. Once on the other side, we were immediately on a single track working our way up.

After 2 miles we hit a wider road where we were able to enjoy some better views (well-earned views!) The uphill continued but it was a milder slope and a slow, easy jog made the trick for me. It got slightly steeper close to mile 6 where I was forced to power-hike for a mile before we hit the first aid station at mile 7 after 1500ft of gain. Grabbed a couple potato chips and continued on. All downhill from here!! For a while at least.

One of the last climbs before hitting the aid (behind those big rocky things in the middle)... you can even see some runners if you squint! :) 
After a 4-mile and 1000ft drop, we hit 2 more "biggish" climbs with their respective descents. At the end of the second one I saw the 2nd aid. Pounded some gatorade and continued on a rolling course until aid station 3. I didn't get  much stuff here but I knew the hardest part of the course was about to start.

The weather had been nice this day so far... it was mid to upper 40's at the start with not a cloud in sight. The day slowly warmed and by noon it was already in the mid-80's. While the heat didn't feel so bad up until mile 17, I was about to run the last 4 miles of the course on an exposed dirt road with a slight incline. The second I jumped on this road, I felt it; it was extremely hot and extremely dry. Thankfully there were some tunnels...

Only two of these though... :( 
I walked through these just to cool off a bit. The rest of the 4 miles were slightly uphill and it was getting to EVERYONE. I decided to maintain a slow pace and while it was legitimately a VERY slow jog, I managed to pass a whole bunch of people walking. Sooner than expected I heard the music, then the announcer and then I saw it; the finish line was right around the corner.

I finished Stage One in 4 hours 11 minutes 19 seconds for 13th place. I was stoked since I was aiming for mid-pack (my usual) and shortly after I finished, I realized there were 59 ladies in my category. This was WAY better than mid-pack.

The day didn't end there... I jumped in a shuttle and was taken to our campsite. These people KNOW what they're doing. By the time we got there, they have all the duffel bags lined up in numerical order and 400 tents set up. You just grab your bag and pick a tent. I set up all my camp stuff (air mattress, sleeping bag, etc), grabbed my little "drop-bag" and went over to take a shower. I hung out at the relaxation tent with a beer, met some people and charged my phone and ipod.

Tent City
Dinner started at 4:30pm and I managed to meet up with Marna and Mark (her husband) right before dinner time. It was Greek night! Dinner was delicious!! By 6:00pm, everyone was in the dinner tent and there's an award ceremony to recognize the top 3 in each category followed by a medical briefing and a course briefing for next day. At that point, Houda took over the microphone who made us all laugh with all his stories of the day (and some random announcements!). The evening ended with 2 slideshows of pictures of the day and a short video. I went to bed shortly after 8pm.

Up Next: TransRockies Run6 - Stage 2

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 0

It all started on August 21st of 2013. This was the day that I clicked on the TransRockies website and registered to run the 6-day run with my all-time training partner Theresa. While I was under the impression that I had signed up for a 6-day adventure, little did I know I had signed up for a whole year full of adventures that would end with a 6-day race filled with excitement, emotions, pain, joy, tears and smiles.

Many things happened in the last 12-months to make me a stronger runner and a better person... and a lot of lessons were learned, but the biggest thing was that I lost my partner to an injury. Unfortunately, it was probably 3 months before the race that Theresa approached me to let me know she could not make it happen since an injury had her side-lined. After a lot of thought, I decided to continue the journey on my own instead of differing or cancelling the race. I had already put on a lot of time into training and I figured that while I'd miss my friend a ton, it wouldn't really change the actual race.

After I finished the race, it seems like it has taken a while for me to put my thoughts together about TransRockies and it's been hard to figure out how to best describe this experience without having to write a whole book about it (because so much happened!). Following the TransRockies newsletter format, I've decided to write one day at a time starting with Stage 0 and as I go through each one, I'll try my best to explain the pro's and con's of not having my partner and best friend with me.

The weekend before race week I had a ton of work, therefore I decided to fully finish packing on Thursday night. It was time to run through my checklist one last time and put everything away. I carefully planned each day's outfit and nutrition as well as all the extra gear for hanging out at camp.

Gear ready to be packed
On Friday I drove up to Vail to get one last run in before the race. While I was planning a not-so-long run, my brother was in town and getting ready for his marathon on August 31st... so we ended up running some 18 miles... luckily, they were all downhill!

Pretty views from the top of Vail Pass
After my run in Vail I went up to Leadville to meet up with the RaceRite crew. We timed the Leadville 100 MTB race on Saturday which meant my work day started with a 4:45am wake up call. After an 11hr work day at 12,000ft and a quick dinner I drove back to Boulder to work at the Outdoor Divas Triathlon in Longmont. After going to bed at midnight, I somehow managed to be at the race venue by 6am. Thankfully, this day was a tad shorter and I was back home by 2pm.

On Monday, I woke up early (again) and drove up to Vail to pick up my mama. We then had a big breakfast at the West Side Cafe and then drove to Buena Vista. Arrived at 2pm to go pick up my race packet right away. Finally, it was time to get this adventure started. Packet pick up was at the Buena Vista Heritage Museum and it was quick. I got my duffel bag, goodies and bib number with chip. Yikes. Things were getting real.

It's really happening
We went to the hotel to check-in, I took a nap, finished packing and went back to the race headquarters. I met with my now good friend Marna, who was introduced to me by Theresa over email. They met at a race in Oregon and she learned that Marna and her husband were going to do TRR and she thought it would be a great idea to introduce us... let me tell you, it was THE BEST idea!

The pre-race briefing was not too long and very informative. They introduced the course team, the medical team and race director extraordinaire, Mr. Houda. They all had some words of wisdom for us as well as some helpful pointers. After all that, they gathered everyone at the front, took a pre-race picture and they sent us back to our hotels to enjoy our last night.

All TRR runners the day before the start
And with that I went to bed... a little nervous, but not too much. I had a good night's sleep... I was at peace with my training and I was looking forward to start the adventure.

Up Next: TransRockies Run 6 - Stage 1