Here is a great report broken down for each stage from Aliza and Chad on their 3rd OA finish in the mixed team category at the Transrockies 6 day stage race last week.
Stage 1: Buena Vista To Railroad Bridge Campground
Stats: 20.6 miles/2721 feet of climbing
The energy was high as all the runners packed into the corral for the start of the Transrockies Run. I was very nervous not knowing where we would fit into the mix of those around us. Chad remained calm and excited to explore everything that the course had to offer. With not a cloud to be spotted in the sky we knew that the 20.6 mile route through high desert would be hot. Going into the day of running we were naive to the conditions we would face along with the terrain. We found ourselves running on converted railbed, sandy moto trails, tight single track and dirt road all of which were really exposed to the sun.
The gun sounded and the pace was solid from the start, in retrospect we started the day at a blistering pace. Chad and I had discussed strategy in the days before the race and to be honest before we even left New England. I would be the one to determine the pace and Chad would run in front on climbs, on flats I would run off his back shoulder and I would lead on single track and descents. After reaching the top of the first climb we worked to find a pace that was obtainable for the conditions and the course. We were getting passed by other teams and this was frustrating to me. I had to remain calm and patient and understand that due to the elevation I wouldn’t be able to run at the same pace/intensity that I do at sea level. As the miles ticked away I found myself struggling to find my stride and to settle in. Chad remained solid and confident as we continued to work together. As we got closer to the finish we were very exposed on open dirt road. We could see what we thought was the finish so pushed, although within a few minutes we realized that we had sighted a bridge and not the finish area. Mentally I was shot, my Vermont skin was sunburned and my spirits and energy fading. Looking ahead Chad spotted the team of Krissy Moehl and Bryon Dayton in front of us. This was reassuring that we were hanging in there as they are both phenomenal runners. As we increased our intensity they responded and continued to maintain their lead, without warning Krissy pulled over and we took the opportunity to pass and to our surprise we finished the day in 2nd place for the Mixed Open division. After congratulating those competitors around us we darted down to the creek to soak our legs and begin the recovery process.
“I HOPE THIS PASSES”
Stage 2: Vicksburg To Twin Lakes Dam (Hope Pass)
Stats: 13.5 miles/3,617 ft climbing
After our first night of camping we woke up to cooler temperatures and partially cloudy skies. The news of possible severe weather excited Chad and I as we see nasty conditions as an advantage for us. Due to the variable conditions we were required to carry mandatory gear which included jackets, winter hats, gloves, 1st aid kits and emergency blankets. Once again the energy was intense in the start area and when the music stopped and the gun sounded the leaders set a fast pace as we headed up a dirt road for approximately two miles before starting the 3 mile climb up Hope Pass.
Chad and I had planned to speed hike the trail and run little segments as our energy levels permitted. Since Chad had a longer stride and is a faster/stronger hiker we set up a tow line of the back of his hydration pack which I could easily access and clip to the front of my pack. We quickly warmed up and found a pace that was “comfortable”. We noted that we falling behind our competitors as we could keep track of them on the switch backs that had yet to come for us. We both reassured each other that we could make up ground on the downhill as we are both comfortable with descending technical terrain. At the top of the pass I unclipped the tow, hopped in front of Chad and took a quick look around to take in the astonishing views. We had completed the 3,500 ft climb up above tree line to the summit and we were ready to rock the downhill, but wait I found myself very lightheaded. We had planned on me running in front on the down hills and I warned Chad that I had to easy back on the pace to try and regain my equilibrium. As we worked our way down the rocky switch backs my speed and confidence increased. We dropped back into the woods and I felt like we were running down the Long Trail in Vermont. Still no teams in sight, but we continued to push the pace as much as we could. As we reached the bottom of the pass we caught a glimpse of Twin Lakes and knew that we had three miles to the finish.
As our feet struck flat and uphill terrain it felt like we had concrete pillars for legs. The skies had now cleared and the sun was back out in full force. We continued to traverse our way around the lake and then realized that we were about a minute back from Chris Purslow and Brian Tinder. Since we were running on single track I knew we could quietly make up ground on them without them realizing it. We slowly hunted them down and honestly took them by surprise as we passed them about a mile from the finish. After passing them we increased our pace and popped out on a gravel dirt road. We had a small climb up the road before making a sweeping left hand turn downhill to the finish. Chad and I both opened up our stride eager to secure our 4th place finish for the day.
“24 MILES AT 10,000 FEET”
Stage 3: Leadville to Camp Hale
Stats: 24.3 miles/2,930 ft climbing
Before we knew it or before we were willing to accept reality the starting gun fired setting us off down Leadville’s historic Main Street. We headed towards Cooper and the Colorado Trail where we were treated to buffed out single track, alpine meadows and of course climbing.
The leaders set a strong pace as we headed up a slight paved incline before being treated to a mile of downhill on a quiet open road. Once bending off the road we treated to somewhat shaded paths and 4WD track. We found our groove and caught up to Chris and Brian and we all chatted as we ticked off the miles. After hitting check point 2 I received a major gift from the course Gods. Today we did some climbing, but even more so we did some descending. With a total elevation gain of 2,767 ft and a total elevation lose of 3,662 ft I could relax and enjoy. I really enjoy downhill running whether it is buffed out or technical terrain. As we started to descend to a finishing elevation of 9,203 ft we began putting a gap between us and Chris and Brian.
After we turned off the single track trail we hit an exposed dirt road that would bring us all the way to Nova Guides where the finish was. I found myself eager to be finished and opened up my stride and increased my turnover rate. I guess I have a habit of pushing the end because Chad compared me to an animal headed to the barn at feeding time. I couldn’t be distracted as I only had one thing on my mind and that was to finish. We sprinted across the finish line in a time of 3:47:29 which put us back up on the podium with a third place victory for the stage.
“WE PROMISE NEVER AGAIN”
Stage 4: Camp Hale To Red Cliff
Stats: 13.4 Miles/3,009 ft climbing
Having three days under our belt our energy on the morning of day three had decreased. We awoke in the morning to find ice on our tent and temperatures in the low 30’s. We both struggled to motivate to put on our running shorts and short sleeve tops, although we knew the game continued. The night before we had studied the map and heard returning runners relive the agony of the short but steep stage. The climb was going to be steep and without switch backs. To help assist with our climb Chad gladly traded one of his stage prizes for the usage of a pair of poles. In the starting chute I was nervous and chilled to the bone. I didn’t want to layer knowing that after the two mile gravel road we would go directly into the climb up what our map had labeled “Resolution Hill”. We started to run up the climb, but it quickly became too steep to run efficiently. The fun began and up we went as I clipped the tow line to my pack. Chad made good use of the poles, but either way the climb hurt. Again on this stage we hoped to keep a consistent but modest pace on the uphill so not to overextend ourselves and then try to make up time on the downhill. We emerged out of the trees on top of Hornsilver Mountain and were treated to views of Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive and Mt. Holy Cross. We worked our way across the ridge and down the single track. Eventually we came to several creek crossings, which we had planned to plow right through. The first crossings were brief enough that I was fine. Eventually we came to a section where we had to run a half of mile in the stream and the cold water settled in my shoes. I slowed and Chad passed me and I felt like I was going to be sick. As we hit dry ground again I sounded like a Clydesdale and Chad asked me what was wrong, what was wrong was the fact that I couldn’t feel my feet which made running difficult. Thankfully my Inov-8’s expelled the water quickly and I was back in business in no time.
As we ran down the road with just over a mile of downhill left I wasn’t too worried as I thought we were running in 3rd place. We increased our pace and were running under six minute miles as we crossed the finish line. As I congratulated Chad I looked up and noticed three teams in our division and I was disappointed in myself. We had finished in a solid time, but I had felt like I had let myself and Chad down.
“UPS & DOWNS”
Stage 5: Red Cliff To Vail
Stats: 22.8 (okay lets be honest it was 23.98 miles)/5,500 ft climbing
Chad and I woke up and chatted about how hard it was becoming to get out of the tent even though the sleeping wasn’t uncomfortable. Another challenging day of running awaited us and our muscles were starting to feel like they were ready for a rest day. The temperatures were again sub-40 so I opted to start in arm warmers and mittens. Our goal today was to keep our competitors in sight during the 10 mile climb up Shrine Pass. We quickly lost sight of the Canadian duo of Mark Nelson and Care Wakely, but had Bryon and Krissy in sight as we climbed the dirt road. As the course veered off the dirt road and onto single track Chad and I were in front of Krissy and Bryon but we allowed them to pass. I was struggling, my stomach wasn’t cooperating and every time I ate I got sharp pains in my abdomen. I continued to do what I could so we wouldn’t lose too much time. We would run and then walk and then run some more. As we began to plateau everything for me began to crumble and become painful. Chad was running in front of me and I threw up. I dropped to all fours while grabbing my stomach and threw up again. Chad finally stopped and looked at me and started walking back towards me. He admittingly didn’t know what to do nor did I. I think telepathically we both knew the options which were to get up and walk or to get up and run. We were in the middle of no mans land with nothing or no one around. I got up while complaining about my frustration and pain. As we walked around the next corner Chad spotted a camera man and told me I should at least run till we passed him, I agreed and we took off running. As we continued to press on we noticed that we weren’t far behind Chris and Brian and this proved as motivation for both Chad and I. My stomach was empty and painful, but I tried to eat one shot block at a time. That plan back fired as it came back up faster then it went down. I kept running while focusing on not losing ground on the team in front of us. As we finally made it to the top of Vail Pass we pulled into the aid station to restock on GU, electrolytes and water. Now for the fun part, 3,000 ft of downhill running on service dirt roads and single track. Despite not feeling well I was in heaven. I opened up my stride and took off eager to catch Chris and Brian. About 2 miles into the decent Chad and I had them in our sights and overtook them. We continued to push the pace and as the miles ticked away I got more and more eager to be done. A few miles from the finish I attempted to eat a GU and thought it was going to stay put but without warning projectile vomited while running. As disgusting as it was I think all I could do was laugh. Chad and I crossed the finish line and were pleased with our 3rd place finish given the trying times that we had encountered during the stage.
“THE FINAL FINISH”
Stage 6: Vail To Beaver Creek
Stats: 20.6 miles / 4,780 ft climbing
After a rough night of interrupted sleep Chad and I were only motivated by the fact that the day meant the final day of running. I had been telling myself just 16 miles of running and I was going to be done, but then my bubble was burst when I was informed that it was 21 miles of running with significant climbs. I could do it, we could do it, and I told myself that each step we took we would be that much closer to the finish and returning home to our families. Knowing that I was struggling mentally and with stomach issues Chad suggested that I wear my ipod to help me zone out and I agreed. We started the final leg of the race in the village of Vail and were paced out of town by mountain bikers until we reached the single track that marked the start of our first significant climb of the day. Once again the skies were clear and the sun was intense and we worked to not fall far behind the three teams that surged in front of us. Ever so often I would take my headphones off to check in with Chad to see how he was feeling. For the first 10 miles my stomach was touch and go as I felt like I could only push as hard as it would allow me to and luckily Chad was feeling strong. After running 12 plus miles on road, buffed out single track and double track we were treated some tighter, more technical single track which excited me. At this point Chad requested that I ditched the tunes as he felt like we run better when I could communicate more consistently and I agreed as we continued downhill. Like usual my speed increased until I finally almost went flying heard first down the hill. Knowing my tendencies Chad reined me in. Eventually Chad and I caught Chris and Brian and after exchanging encouraging words we pressed on down the trail. About 1.5 miles later the single track abruptly ended and we found ourselves descending down a pavement hill into the center of Avon. As we flew through intersections, over roundabouts and tunnels again without notice I threw up and could only imagine what motorists/pedestrians must have thought. Chad and I both knew just four miles left, but still a killer climb to come so I clipped the tow rope on. As we arrived at the final aid station I grabbed a few GU’s and decided not to fill my hydration pack. We were maintaining our small lead over Chris and Brian, but they were within sight. They were so close that Brian continued to wave to us as we made our way up the switch backs. As we worked our way up we both began to feel the heat. Chad made the call when to walk and when to run. We both knew that we had to run more sections then our bodies really wanted to. We pushed and I went to take a sip of water and discovered I was out. We leveled out and I unclipped and took the lead as we started to go down. Within two minutes we both realized that in actuality we were not done climbing. We could now see the top but still had several sweeping switchbacks to climb before plummeting to the finish. I lead the way and just before cresting the final section I took a sip of Chad’s water. Down we went on dirt road, then single track and then more dirt road. We could hear the cowbell of the women who hiked up a mile everyday to cheer runners in and then we could hear the announcer at the finish. I peered over my shoulder to see if we need to sprint the finish but nothing behind us but open road. We crossed the finish line in 3rd place for the stage and secured a 3rd place finish for the week.
It was a new experience camping with hundreds of other athletes, although I blended right in with my outdoor wardrobe consisting of all my favorite OR clothing, 2XU compression and recovery garments and of course my Inov-8 shoes and sliders.
It was obvious from the moment that we started living in "tent city" that there was a lack of personal space as we all lived together in a small tent with our teammates for 6 days. To give you an idea the tent was so small that Chad was too tall for it lying down. To help alleviate this problem we slept with the door open and this also aided in not having to hear our tent zipper every few hours for bathroom breaks (PCPO - "Pee Clear, Pee Often).
Throughout the week Chad and I received numerous comments on how well we worked together during the stages. As many teams struggled to find their compatibility Chad and I communicated constantly so to manage things before they escalated. We are still speaking and this is an added bonus. We also noticed that many competitors were having foot problems, whether having massive blisters or banged up toes. Chad and I had no such issues and we were proud of it. Our Inov-8’s dried everyday; they provided protection and traction on all the terrain we encountered.
So now we are both back in New England enjoying the air and catching up on life. My most present thoughts are that I am tired, very tired. I am not sore; I do not have blisters or scrapes and cuts, but just don’t have a jump in my step. The nature of the race we completed didn't allow our bodies enough time for soreness to set in or for us to fully recover. After we finished each stage I asked if we could just do all the mileage at once, a one shot deal. Motivating day after day to will ourselves to the start line and then to the finish line became daunting yet exciting at the same time. It was fun talking to all abilities of runners about Inov-8 shoes while sharing my passion for running and the outdoors with them.