TransRockies 3-Day 2019 - Stage One

TransRockies, where to start?! This was my first stage race, my first time running above 9000 feet, and my biggest week ever. It was a big undertaking for me and to be honest, I was legit scared and not feeling confident about it during my summer training. In hindsight, I was ready (thanks coach Jenny!) but wouldn't let myself believe I was ready. Between carrying a lot of stress in other aspects of life and having a sprained ankle during a key part of the training cycle, my mental game was off. Luckily, a few days of relaxation in Buena Vista prior to the race took care of the issue and the mind+body got into the game before stage one started.

Kevin and I planned this adventure to celebrate our 15-year wedding Anniversary, which was August 7. Our friends Meghan and Josh joined us for the trip, plus SF friends Matt and Kristin were doing the 6-day, making it even more fun! On our first morning in Buena Vista, we tested our lungs at altitude with a run to the Midland Hill summit. For us sea level folks, Midland Hill is more mountain than hill, topping out at 9600 feet. It was tough but I felt much better than I expected, which fueled my excitement for the race and calmed my nerves. On the way down from the summit, we crossed paths with a burro race and gave them some cheers. I didn't even know burro racing existed and it was fantastic to watch; we learned it's the state sport of Colorado!

Midland Hill summit.

I don't remember taking this but I love it. I was SO EXCITED about being in the mountains!

Meghan on the way up up up.

We encountered a lot of rocky trail.

Burro racing! They did a half marathon.

After a fun morning of exploring the trails, we enjoyed brunch at our hotel and headed to the race expo. We stayed at the host hotel, Surf Hotel & Chateau, and the race expo was only steps outside the lobby door. The hotel was amazing, including great food and Arkansas River views from our room balcony. I hope to vacation there again in the future. I mean let's be real, I'm probably going back for the 6-day in a couple of years because this whole thing rocked.

View of the expo set up from the hotel balcony.

Chilling at the expo!

11 hours and 52 minutes until go time.

Later in the evening, the race held an info session to provide details on overall logistics and the stage one course. They did this each night to let runners know about the next day, and it was very useful (although sometimes too long.) Race personnel took us through history of the route, what to expect with regards to terrain, potential medical issues, and logistics of the day like shuttles and timing. The organizers were absolutely amazing and had every little detail under control; I'm so impressed by the race logistics. Kevin McDonald, the race director, was hilarious and I loved hearing him talk each night. The race faced multiple issues with vehicle breakdowns and general unexpected nightmares during the event, but you'd never know it from the runner side without him talking about it! Impeccable organization.

Ok, morning of day one. We packed up all of our gear into our fancy new TransRockies duffels (each runner gets one to handle their gear during the race) and dropped it off at the hotel doorstep. The race picks up all the runner gear from various hotels in Buena Vista and transports it to camp. They even pick up your extra gear and hold it in a truck until the finish, which was so helpful because we had a longer trip than our time at the race.

Although I was excited, I found myself super nervous at the start line. This was happening, it was real. I must have gone to the bathroom 5 times in the hour before the race, time felt like it slowed to a halt. Eventually we entered the start corral (also right outside of the hotel) and off we went!

OMG start line!

As we ran through town to the trailhead, I could already tell it was going to be a great experience because of the people. They call it 'Summer camp for Big Kids' for a reason - everyone is excited, meeting one another, and super supportive. We hit a big bottleneck when we crossed the river to the single track and everyone slowed way down, but that was fine with me. I didn't know how my body would handle the altitude and I was more than happy to take it easy. We made our way uphill for a while, then turned right onto a fire road where we spent the next couple of miles chatting with everyone around us and relishing in the mountain views.

Mountains. I can't get enough.

At some point we found ourselves back on gorgeous single track, winding through the high desert. I'm a huge fan of high desert and I loved stage one. From what I gathered chatting with others, many people don't like stage one and find it too hot and sandy, but that was not my experience at all. Heat training FTW, I suppose! They also suggest using gaiters and I did not, which wasn't an issue. I did empty my shoes one time that day and that was better for me than wearing gaiters the whole time.

We went up a large climb with views for days and topped out just before the first aid station. Then we ran a very enjoyable downhill for a long time. We climbed back out of that hole later and then ventured along rolling single track for quite some time before arriving at the third aid station and the gravel road of death. Seriously, the last 3ish miles of stage one are a very long, false flat to the finish. The bright side of the gravel road was the railroad tunnels, and I love running through tunnels!

A long uphill and gorgeous view.

Kevin topping out a climb. Photo from Sportograf.

Running a train track ridge line with mountain views. Photo from Sportograf.

Clouds, wow.

Fun with tunnels. Photo from Sportograf.

I made him hold hands. Photo from Sportograf.

The rest of the gravel road was mentally rough. We were tired, so I alternated walking and running through that segment to the finish. We kept pushing forward and even passed a few people along the way. Not that I was trying for any specific time or place here, but sometimes you just need the mental game to keep the body going and rabbiting people is a good way to do it. With about 1.5 miles to go, it started to get windy and rainy but the rain never became more than a sprinkle. Soon we could see the railroad bridge near the finish, then the finish, and then we were there!

Finishing stage one was a huge confidence boost! We were 22 miles into this thing and I felt strong. Before taking the shuttle to camp, we enjoyed snacks and recovery drink at the finish and a dip in the river.

22 miles. 2500 feet gain. Time: 5:44:31.

The very cold river, that is.

Kevin loved it too.

We hopped on a shuttle to Arrowhead camp once we finished soaking in the river. The crew had our bags ready where the shuttle dropped us off, and they piled us all into a truck to drive us up a big hill to the tent area. We checked in, chose a tent, and settled in for the night. The crew for this race is great, we truly appreciated their hard work to ferry our gear from place to place!

We also took advantage of the shower truck and massages before dinner. The 30 minute massage was clutch for getting the legs and body ready to go again the next day. Night one was taco night which I loved, and I was a happy camper when I went to bed.

Stay tuned for part 2, stage two!


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