The TransRockies Run in the Colorado Rockies covers over 113 miles in 6 stages with nearly 21,000 feet of elevation gain in an appealing point-to-point format. The start is at Buena Vista and the route passes through Leadville, Red Cliff, Vail, and finishes at Beaver Creek. Every day the crews reconstruct a tent city as the community of runners moves along the course and you get to meet virtually every participant during the week. This was the third edition of the race and each year the race gets more popular and competitive. I was entered into the race as a late addition less than two weeks before the event kicked off and I’m happy I took advantage of the opportunity to run it.
- Race Organization: Tip-top. These guys know what they are doing and have this event dialed in. There were absolutely no lines for necessities like porta-potties, van shuttles, water, food, etc. The races always went off exactly on time and course marking was great. As the week went on, it became apparent how much of a logistical nightmare it must be to organize this race, but everything went off smoothly. Hats off to the organizers.
- Course: There was more jeep track/roads and less single track than I was hoping for. I guess the permits and logistical issues preclude having a race entirely (or even a majority) on single track. Nonetheless, there were great views and sections of alpine meadows, particularly on stage four atop Hornsilver and stage five on the backside of Vail ski area. There were some cool stream crossings over the course of the race and my Fireblade’s handled everything extremely well.
- Team Aspect: This is a team event which presents unique challenges. I was fortunate to be asked by Jonathan Toker (founder and owner of SaltStick) to join team SaltStick.com less than a couple weeks before the event. However, I had never run with Jonathan or even spoken to him before I was approached to run the event. Obviously, it would have been nice to train and converse more with Jonathan before the race and I feel the lack of team preparation led to pacing issues. Climbing up to Hope Pass on day two, I desperately wanted to maintain contact with the leaders, but Jonathan was not feeling great and whipped out the tow rope. I did not like the tow rope because the backwards pressure was causing me stomach aches. Beginning on day three when Jonathan insisted that he lead I decided that I would accede to his request and follow him for the remainder of the race/stages and just go with the flow. With Jonathan setting the pace, our team performance got stronger as the event progressed with our best result occurring on the 24+ mile Stage 5 where we finished in fourth place, narrowly missing a podium spot for the stage by 2 minutes.
- Altitude & Heat: The first stage, set in a high desert setting, was a rough one for me coming from sea level the day before. The altitude was definitely a factor, but I think the excessive heat and strong sun was a bigger element of my crappy feeling. The sandy, open terrain was very uninspiring and the 20+ miles were a real drag. SaltStick capsules saved the day for many runners on the first stage! By day two I had no noticeable affects from the altitude as we climbed up and over 12,500+ ft Hope Pass. Fortunately, the weather also cooled for the remainder of the race; we even had a 3 hour period of cold rain at the camp in Leadville, but for the most part it was sunny with comfortable afternoon temps and frosty nights.
- Results: Team SaltStick.com finished in sixth place but 4th through 6th was only separated by 7 minutes (not much over a 16+ hour race), manifesting the depth of the field this year. The top three teams were elite and dominated the podium almost every stage with Run Flagstaff’s Michael Smith and Rob Krar coming out on top, Hal Koerner and Andy Martin’s Rogue Valley Runners/Nike team in second, and the Canadian duo of Adam Campbell and Aaron Heidt in third. I have never run 100 miles in a week (or even 90 miles in a week) so tackling 113+ intense miles in six days was a big jump and definitely a concern at the outset. While my legs became tired by stage six, I was happy to finish the event feeling reasonably good. Big congratulations to La Sportiva teammate Caitlin Smith and partner Devon Crosby-Helms for taking the open women’s category and holding off a surging North Face team of Kami Semick and Nikki Kimball in the last stage.
- The Colorado Rockies: Generally not as impressive and not as rugged as I had imagined. The area of the range I visited seemed very weathered and the fourteeners in particular looked like big giant choss piles. There were glimpses of ruggedness out toward the Gore Range and I was told the San Juans and parts of Rocky Mountain National Park are more rugged. I am sure the Colorado natives can help direct me to the best spots for adventure running next time I visit Colorado.
- Conclusion: This was a highly enjoyable event and it was great to meet so many people over the course of the week. Thanks to the organizers and everybody involved who make this thing work flawlessly. Also big thanks Jonathan for giving me the opportunity to experience this unique event and developing the product that allowed me to finish the event cramp-free!