Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Race #11: TransRockies RUN3

As our TransRockies/Colorado trip approached, I wrestled with the worries, I faced the fears, I rubbed Ben's head and the Buddha's belly for good luck and then all there was left to do was run. We flew into warm, sunny Denver on Sunday and, as we drove towards our hotel in Salida, the temperature plunged and the thunderstorms rolled in. Then it started to hail. The mountains loomed in the distance, formidable, insurmountable, impossible. But that is, after all, why I came here. To find the boundary between impossible and possible. And push it back, one step, one mile at a time.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. And the weather was only making it worse. I thought, I am not cut out for running up solid rock through lightning. I am cut out for hugging. And then I realized, what is hugging but an embrace. So I decided that whatever happens, I would embrace this experience. Monday, we went to packet pick-up and the opening ceremony in Buena Vista and learned that the rain was fortuitous, making the trails less dusty and more pleasant. Sometimes what seems like bad luck is actually good luck in disguise.

As the start of the race approached, my excitement started to drown out the anxiety. This race would be the farthest I've ever run on trails, the most miles I've ever run in a 3-day span (or in a whole week for that matter), my first 2-day camping experience, my first runcation, my first stage race, my first time in Colorado and my first vacation with Pete. I was about to embark on my most epic and excellent experience to date.

And so the adventure began...

Stage 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge
The first stage was 20.9 miles with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain. The trails were a mix of gravel, rock and sand, mostly wide doubletrack. It was sunny and hot and beautiful. The last four miles were described as a "grueling false flat" which sounded ominous but I loved every minute of it. My legs were fresh, I felt great, the sun and views were amazing and my sweat was evaporating so quickly in the dry air that I never felt sweaty. Luckily, it turned out that my worries about altitude sickness were in vain. I focused on hydrating and fueling and I was totally fine.

Stage 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes
The second stage was the shortest, at 13.4 miles, but with 3,200 feet of elevation gain, I thought it was the most difficult. The previous day's sun had left me with sunburns on the backs of both calves, despite wearing sunscreen. I learned an important lesson that sunburned calves + compression socks = no good. But if that was the only pain I felt after almost 21 miles, I wasn't going to complain. Too much. For stages 2 and 3, we were required to bring a hat, gloves, waterproof jacket and space blanket because the weather can be drastically different at higher elevations. (I was a little concerned about the whole space blanket thing. I was unaware we were going to run to space). This stage took us through part of the Leadville 100 course, with a series of steep climbs and switchbacks up to Hope Pass at 12,500 feet. I'll never be fast enough, strong enough or insane enough to attempt the Leadville 100, but it was neat to experience part of the route. The climbs were tough but totally worth it for the stunning views. I did start to feel a little dizzy at the top, almost like altitude drunkness or something. I stumbled a few times and found I had to really concentrate and focus on my steps. After taking pictures at Hope Pass, we began a steep, technical descent. I'm terrible at downhills so this was my least favorite part of the whole race. I was slow, but I didn't fall. So there's that. The rest of the course was made up of more gradual descents and beautiful singletrack along a lake.

Stage 3: Leadville to Nova Guides
The last stage was the longest, 24.4 miles and 2,700 feet of elevation gain. The 2.5 miles of roads we ran out of Leadville (mostly downhill) were a nice break for my tired muscles. As we were running down the road, another runner said to me "I love your little buns. They're so fun." I'm pretty sure she was talking about my hair. Because my butt was being sore, not fun. And my quads were burning from the previous day's climbs and descents. Though it felt like all the training runs I did when I was sore from Fit1 and pilates, so I didn't mind it. There were some nice climbs and descents on this stage, but they were far more runnable than those of stage 2. We also had a few stream crossings, which felt great on my hot feet. The weather was sunny and warm again, though it started to get a little rainy and windy during our last couple of miles. We could see the finish line but still had about 3 miles to go to get there and it seemed to take forever. But we made it! After 58 miles of gorgeous and tough trails, Pete and I crossed the finish line hand in hand. We took a couple of pictures, got our finishers shirts and medals and I consumed the best tasting PBJ sandwich and Gatorade chocolate protein shake of my life.

For all my worries leading up to this race, it went surprisingly well. It was my highest mileage, toughest climbing and longest time on feet ever, but I felt the best I've ever felt during a long run. Actually, I think this race was pretty much my version of heaven: running through the mountains with my favorite guy, stopping at aid stations stocked with candy and peanut butter pretzels, cheering for and being cheered on by fellow runners/crazy people. This race was my hardest and best adventure yet. I hope there are many more racecations ahead of us. Because what better way is there to see a new place than by your own two feet? But next time we have to bring friends with us. I know all our TrailsRoc peeps would have loved this race.

Thanks to TransRockies for putting on a fantastic race. The course was challenging and beautiful and amazing, the food was delicious and the campsites were fun. I only wish the desserts had been better (though admittedly I have high standards for dessert) and that TransRockies made a RUN3 sticker I could put on my car. I'm going to have to find a new challenge with a cool sticker.

Infinity of thanks to Alison for driving us to the airport and to Danielle, Bob, Alison and Jenn for welcoming us home with signs and cookies. You know you're living the awesome life when you're as excited to come home as you are to go on vacation.

Super infinity of thanks to Pete for a most excellent adventure. I never would have attempted something like this on my own and the 58 miles and 8 days of exploring Colorado were made even sweeter by sharing them. I love him the mostest possible.

Lyric of the moment: "We're a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea. But as long as you are with me, there's no place I'd rather be..."

No comments:

Post a Comment