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. 

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