TransRockies 3-day 2019 - Stage Two

TransRockies stage two was the shortest day at 13.3 miles, and it was also the biggest climb and highest altitude day topping out at 12,500 feet over Hope Pass. When we signed up for the race, this was one of the highlights that made me excited about the course. Leadville 100 crosses Hope Pass two times and I'd heard stories about it, so I wanted to check it out on my own two feet.

We prepped all of our gear for the second day before we went to bed, including filling our hydration packs, which made it much easier to get going in the early morning. I slept really poorly that first night in part due to nerves and in part due to someone snoring in the next tent over. I was nervous about not hearing my alarm if I used ear plugs, but in hindsight I should have used them anyway. We woke up around 5 am to get ready, pack up camp, eat breakfast, and get the shuttle to the start. We boarded one of the earliest buses; this turned out to be a great idea because we didn't have the terrible porta potty line that the later buses had to deal with. Even so, I needed to use the bathroom a second time and settled for a tree so that I wouldn't be late to start.

Grabbed a photo with Gordy at the start too!

The start was at ~10,000 feet and I felt it as soon as we began running. I had already prepared myself for this being a mostly hiking day, and I started the run/walk pretty early on because of being out of breath. The beginning was chill until the first aid station at mile 1.7, then we started the big climb. There was only one more aid station on this route at 5.3 miles and it was emergency water only, so we were asked to carry everything we needed for the day. Packs were pretty heavy between extra water and mandatory gear (jacket, emergency blanket, warm hat, and gloves.) I also took my poles this day because of the heavy vert, and I'm glad I did. I find it helps with fatigue and can also be a quad saver on downhills.

The first part of the climb felt unexpectedly terrible for some reason, possibly because I tried to take it a little fast for my abilities especially at that altitude. This part is steep single track and a big conga line through the trees. We stopped to have a gel at a rocky spot where it was easy to get off trail, and after we let some people pass we were able to get into a pack at a better pace. Around this time we started to get fantastic mountain views between the trees and kept reminding ourselves to look back for the scenery.

One of the first scenery spots.

Soon after this, the trees started to disappear as we made our way above the tree line. The trail opened up to expansive views of the mountains around us and included some super rocky areas. Climbing was slow and challenging, yet I was enjoying every bit of the experience. Higher up the trail became less steep with switchbacks and felt much better than the earlier part in the trees.

Tiny people in the distance.

Kevin enjoying the climb! Photos are a good breather.

One of the rocky sections.

More switchbacks!

We were almost to the pass and I was thrilled not to have any issues with altitude sickness, one of my big worries going into this event. Life got more exciting as we approached the top and heard people cheering and I felt so accomplished to be up there! Race supporters (including Gina from Trail Sisters!) had brought tequila and Fireball up to the pass, so we joined in on the tequila shot station. Summer camp for big kids, right?!

On the climb. Photo from Sportograf.

Great view on the upper switchbacks.

The final approach.

And we made it!
Shot station!

Photo at the top with my new friend Pam, who we were running near each day!

We started down the other side and were greeted with a small but slippery snow field; Kevin was excited because we saw 'watermelon snow' caused by algae. The next section was fairly rocky and we had to be careful about footing, and I slid onto my butt once along the way due to the scree (thanks poles for helping to break that fall!) The views were still gorgeous and the downhill became runnable as we continued to descend. We were running with a group of people and chatting the miles away, making this part especially fun.

The view down the other side.

Snow. Photo from Sportograf.

We love snow! Photo from Sportograf.

We passed through the emergency water station and then the trail became a gentler downhill grade for a very long time. Someone had warned us that it's a lot of downhill and it's not over when you think it's over, and they were right! As great as downhill can be, it can also get very fatiguing for the muscles in long stretches. After a couple of miles we paused to put our poles away and then continued alongside a river. The trail in this part was rocky and footing was tough on tired bodies. I rolled my recently sprained ankle once but luckily was fine once I walked it off.


The rocky part.

The last few miles of day two took us through a meadow and past an old resort area, Interlaken. The scenery was excellent and we loved seeing the resort, especially because the historian had told us stories about it the evening before. The rest of the run was pretty tough because we were tired and we moved as quickly as we could to the finish. Every little uphill roll felt challenging after the big climb and I was ready for a break!

Meadow time.

Views all around.

The boarded up resort.

We arrived at the finish and enjoyed more Gu recovery drink and snacks (read: so many cheeseballs) while we waited for the shuttle to camp. The shuttle situation had become very backed up and we ended up waiting about an hour for them to send a bigger bus that could take all of the recent finishers. We heard you could go in the lake near this finish line, but I was too tired to figure that part out and stayed sitting in the shade of the finish tent instead. We had fun chatting with our friends Matt and Kristin, as well as meeting other runners while we waited.

13.3 miles. 3300 feet gain. Time: 4:43:52

The only reason I was concerned at all about the shuttle wait was that I wanted to get back for recovery yoga with Jenny, and we made it back with about 15 minutes to spare. We hauled our bags over to the camp and chose our tent, which was conveniently located right next to the yoga area. I felt like I was deliriously wandering around by this point because I was so tired and had no idea how I could do anything else, but yoga was an awesome way to help the body relax and recover before day three.

Jenny's yoga for runners classes focus on activating and recovering the right muscles, and it's not a traditional yoga class. Her class was perfect for stretching and mobilizing the joints. I felt grateful to have my friend, running coach, and trusted yoga instructor there! I also very much enjoyed dog hugs from Henry, who had traveled with Jenny and Chris to Colorado.

Tent village yoga! Photo from Jenny.

After yoga, we once again took advantage of the shower truck (best ever feeling!) and 30 minute massages before dinner. The second night was pasta and lasagna, which we followed up with ice cream from a little shop in town. It was nice to stay in the town of Leadville and walk around a bit in the evening. We had cell phone service for the first two nights, a convenience I hadn't expected going into the event.

Two days of effort in the mountains meant I slept much better the second night, plus we didn't end up near anyone who was snoring.

Next up, stage three. Coming soon!

Ice cream. Very important race fuel.


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