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.