September 20, 2019

GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run (Abbreviated)

I “ran” ha .. again, I can’t help myself … across the flyer that is the featured image for this post in a local runner’s magazine in 2008.  Since that time, the flyer had been prominently displayed in my office where I frequently contemplated when I would get a chance to complete this epic event.  Finally, the TransRockies Run found its place on my “2011 Race Calendar” and I enlisted my new friend Paul Hardcastle to run with me (teams are required, at least as of the 2011 running, in order to complete the full event).  Training for the TransRockies was fairly straightforward.  I was coming off the the Run Rabbit Run 50-miler in the fall of 2010 and would use the off-season to focus a bit more on general strength and conditioning.  I would begin adding substantial miles in early-2011 and gradually build mileage in order to be able to endure the multiple back-to-back marathon-like distances that make up the TransRockies event.  As the start date approached, I eventually used a “free” TransRockies training program to guide my preparations (the 16-week “finishers” program shown below); however, I supplemented this program with significant resistance training.


The free training plan that I elected to follow to prepare for the TransRockies Run.


I generally left Paul to his own devices as he assured me that he was getting in his mileage.  And as the event neared, Paul was even working a personalized 12-week plan provided to him by McMillan Running; however, Paul was beginning to display signs that he wasn’t going to be up for this year’s run.  Paul had generally complained about knee pain during the spring, and by the first week of July was telling me things like, “my mind and body are willing … my knee just has other thoughts” when I inquired about his long runs.  I was concerned (both for Paul’s knee and the prospects for our being able to complete the TransRockies run); note that this was the same knee that burdened Paul with a DNF at the 2010 Run Rabbit Run event.  The problems with Paul’s knee continued and by the end of July I had confirmation that Paul would not be joining me this year.  Fortunately, I had been exploring my options with Joanne with the TransRockies team and she had advised me that I had two: 1) team up with a new partner as a “free agent,” or 2) convert to the RUN3 (the shorter, solo, 3-day event that covers approximately 60 miles, from Buena Vista to Camp Hale, CO with 8,600 feet of elevation gain) … I selected the later—Colorado Runner posted an article on the RUN3 here.  I was disappointed in not being able to compete in the 6-day event; however, with Ironman Cozumel looming, I felt as though the shorter event might better serve my other training goals for the year.  Also, Paul’s withdrawal allowed me to commit to save the full TransRockies as a “team” event with my wife—we are now both looking forward to running around in the Colorado mountains for 6 days when our children get a bit older!

My TransRockies Experience

I realize that I generally offer upbeat assessments, but  they are honest and I really enjoyed this run—to date I have recommended the full TransRockies event to many other runners.  Sadly, at the end of day 3 I was not ready to stop running (albeit I was extremely excited to return home to see my wife and children).  My times for the various stages reflect my determination to finish in good form but also my commitment to savoring the experience (primarily enjoying some of Colorado’s greatest running trails).

Stage 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge – 20.9 miles, 2,550 feet elevation gain (Time: 3 hrs. 58 minutes, official results here)

Stage 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes – 13.3 miles, 3,250 feet elevation gain (Time: 3 hrs. 36 minutes, official results here)

Stage 3: Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale – 24.2 miles, 2,800 feet elevation gain (Time: 5 hrs. 17 minutes, official results here)

Note: Upon looking back at the results, I finished 13th out of 33 runners in the RUN3 men’s open division with 12 hrs. and 51 minutes of total running time—had I been following the daily results (which I did not), I would have found that less than 10 minutes separated me from a top-10 finish (10 minutes is nothing over the course of twelve hours of running)—anyway, official results can be found here.

I didn’t write while I was running the event; instead, I managed only to capture a few photos that I have set out below:



I have also included a video montage of all of the GoPro footage that I shot during the event:


Recommendations & Reflections

Recommendations:  This is an event of durability.  Prepare and train for running long distances on back-to-back days.  If I had a single piece of advice, even if it came at a cost of your total weekly training mileage, it would be to run multiple back-to-back long runs during each week of your training.  Also, if you are running the TransRockies event with a partner and have elected the tent camping option, get TWO tents.  The supported tent camping provided by the TransRockies staff is excellent, but the limitations posed by the large number of participants and the size of the available campgrounds allows for massive tent “cities.”  The quarters are already cramped and the thought of cramming two tired runners, along with all their gear, into a single tent should not be a pleasant one—pay the additional $$$ and get separate tents.  Also, don’t underestimate the shower truck: this is a luxury at the end of a hard day and bring along some post-shower, clean and comfortable clothes to enjoy the remainder of the day after you have cleaned up (really a special treat).  Finally, bring along sufficient supplemental calories/food.  I am NOT a picky eater (I am an omnivore); however, I perform at my best when I eat a “clean” diet.  Again the logistics of the TransRockies event challenged the food service providers along the way and, despite their best efforts to offer healthy and even a variety of gluten-free options, I was constantly hungry!  Pack some supplemental food (the concern about bears is real, but really, what are you going to do about this issue in a massive tentropolis?).  I was happy to be able to supplement my daily calories with multiple, calorically-dense Honey Stinger 20g protein bars (oh yes, and a hot fudge sundae in Leadville, CO and a cheeseburger with a beer provisioned by the guides at Nova Guides—a great reason to bring along some cash, I think the chess burger set me back close to $20, the beer was “free”).

Reflections:  Stage 1 was sandy and HOT.  As always, in Colorado you need to be prepared for just about every type of weather imaginable.  Also, if you are planning on running this event as a team, you need to operate as a one—I look back and recall the banter between two teammates as they attempted to finish stage 1: “I TOLD you we went out too fast.”  “Damn it … why don’t you listen” … “Oh, just shut up” was the reply—and it deteriorated from there (it really was sad), not pretty.  Such poor behavior stood in sharp contrast to other teams who dealt with the demands of the event (even serious injuries) in a supportive and uplifting way.  TransRockies involves individual, team, and group dynamics … it is important to work together at all three.  Stage 2 offered some of the best single track and the up and over Hope Pass was spectacular (I have provided a link to the Leadville/Twin Lakes region here).  The accommodations at Leadville allowed a good opportunity to eat more calories (hence my stop at the ice cream parlor) and reconnect with family (great cell coverage).  Stage 3 to Camp Hale offered a mix of terrain and I enjoyed the  longer stage … 24 miles of running.  I ran the better part of a mile with Dean Karnazes (aka “Ultramarahtonman”)—I had met Dean on Day 1 (see picture above) and had visited with him briefly over dinner the night before.  It simply worked out that we were able to run together for a bit and we discussed our athletic backgrounds and I inquired about the run that launched his career (I had read in a WSJ article that Dean, after a 15-year absence from running, had left out from a bar on his 30th birthday, only to run nearly 3o miles from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay in his boxer shorts and an old pair of shoes, using the $20 bill he carried to purchase Tacos as fuel—all true).  See: Finley, A., “The Cross-Country Runner.” The Wall Street Journal. April 21, 2001.  In all I had too many positive experiences along the way to count and I look forward to encouraging others to participate in this great event as well as completing the 6-day run with my wife some time soon!

View the complete details for all the TransRockies events here.


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