Day 1: Buena Vista --> Railroad Bridge
21.5 miles/2800’ climbing
Day 1 started with a mini climb up and out of Buena Vista. Being a little over-eager and following an altitude-accustomed Basham, we ran pretty fast. Scratch that. We ran way too fast. Pretty much doing the very thing you shouldn’t do early on in a 6-day stage race at altitude when your low-lander self is still trying to make sense of the lack of oxygen and increased heart rate.
Don’t worry, I’m not super woman, I paid for it.
About ~2 miles in I was riding the struggle bus, never mind that, I was driving the damn thing.
Amanda waited for me at the first Check Point ~7 miles in. After telling her that I was paying for my stupidly fast start, she stayed with me the whole time and let me suffer behind her. That was probably one of the worst runs I have ever had, but it was easier to keep going knowing that she was relying on me.
We finished 3rd female team that day by about 6 minutes. I wasn’t too worried, knowing that it could only get better, but part of me was a bit worried that the altitude was going to kick my ass all week.
Things learned from Day 1:
Day 2: Vicksburg—> Twin Lakes
13.3 miles/ 3,357’ climbing
Day 2 took us all the way up and down Hope Pass (12,600’!!!). We started out conservatively behind the winning team from the day before (it was easy to keep them in sight, they had to wear bright pink!). Amanda took the lead strong up the climb and I chugged up a little way behind her, passing the second teammate of first place on the way up. The climb was beautiful, it opens up near the top and you can see the switchbacks wind up the peak. Breathtaking.
I could barely breath up there, but damn was it pretty. After summiting and deferring the nap I secretly wanted to take, I was able to kick it in gear for a slightly technical, beautiful descent. About half way down the descent I rolled my ankle a bit, Ezra and Alex blew past us exclaiming that their quads were most definitely going to be destroyed, and Arden caught us (girl from the leading women’s team) without her partner. We chatted a bit and then at a turn off, she held back to wait for her partner.
'With 10k to go I neglected my internal buzzer for a gel and figured I would be fine. Oops. We slowly caught Ezra and Alex and bantered and ran with them. We were cruising along when suddenly I could feel a little bonkiness coming on, with only about ~2 miles to go, I ignored it, but soon enough found myself on the ground.
“Pick up your feet, Keel.” I whispered to myself in frustration.
2 minutes later. “Oof.” *Keely sprawled on the ground again*
My bonkiness was making me really lazy and more fall prone than usual.. not good combinations.
Ezra told me to get my shit together. So I suffered on, following Amanda and trying to maintain some sort of pace, kicking myself (literally and figuratively) for not popping a gel, and soon enough we were out of the woods and coming in on the finish.
“They’re right there, Keel.” Said Ezra.
I turned around to see Arden and Lisa sprinting in on our heels. How did they get there!?
I ran up to Amanda, “Amanda, they're here!”
She turned, and yelled “Run, Keely!” And took off sprinting at the high speed of her adrenaline rush. I stuck with them for a couple seconds longer, not knowing how much either I or they had left, and finally kicked into gear and sprinted into the finish, luckily leaving them in the dust.
Crossing the finish line, my heart rate was probably >190? I had to stand there for awhile. Woof. Altitude+ sprinting = freaking hard. But we won! Wahoo! First win in the books, even if it was only by a couple of seconds!
This race was going to be interesting, having such close competition was fun.
Learnings from Day 2:
Day 3: Leadville--> Nova Guides
24.3 miles/2800’ climbing
Day 3 started off running through the cute little town of Leadville and gave us a couple miles of flat/downhill before the first big climb. We took the climb relatively quickly, putting us well ahead of the first place ladies team (still in bright pink). The descent was really fast, and soon enough we were back to climbing. This was my favorite type of climbing grade, very runnable, “douche” grade as I like to call it, so I took the lead on this one.
I felt great - finally!! The week was not going to be a complete suffer fest. Wahoo!
The cool thing about a team event is that you learn to feed off your partner. Without Amanda, the first two days would have been my demise. So it was only suiting that I felt like a rockstar day 3 when she felt a little off from her typical super-woman-ness. However, If she hadn’t told me she wasn’t feeling the best, I would not have noticed, she stuck right with me. She is a suffering champ.
I loved the long final descent/rolling single track and we were crushing it! We figured we had put some time in between us and the first place woman’s team, but since I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT want another sprint finish, I kept us cruising at a pretty fast pace.
We finished averaging under 9 minute pace overall for the ~24 miles and ended up beating the other girls by over 23 minutes! We were finally in first place overall, and would be the new bearers of the obnoxious pink shirts.
But first- to watch and film some crazies running a beer mile. Mind you, this was with craft beer, at 10,000'. Alex and Ezra both ran around 8 minute beer miles (DANG!) and then continued to drink beer after they finished. I was shocked. And Celia from GU represented the ladies (as she was only one of about 3 ladies who ran it) with a win and a cart wheel to finish!
After the awards ceremony with our new pink leader shirts in tow, we decided to cut them to match our personalities.
Learnings from Day 3:
Day 4: Nova Guide --> Red Cliff
14.2 miles/ 2950’ climbing
With all of the 3-dayers gone, the crowd was a little slimmer, and the coffee line wasn’t nearly as long. We started Day 4 being shuttled to a trail head 20 minutes away.
With our Flintstones themed-pink tanks on, we were ready for Day 4! It begun with another big climb up 2800’ and then a long descent the little town of Red Cliff. We took the climb pretty conservatively, and had some guys tag along on the “pain train” :P It was fun and made the time pass by rather quickly. Since it was a much more runnable climb than Hope Pass and not quite as high, we got it over with pretty quickly.
After the climb, it was literally all downhill to the finish, but with one river run thrown in the middle.
Literally- we were running through a stream. For about a mile. Down the mountain.
Maybe 3 steps into the water and I sat down, sort of avoiding a fall, sort of creating one. Ha. This was going to be interesting. Needless to say we took that part rather slowly.
We finished the day in about 2:30, smiling and feeling great.
When we got back to camp we got the opportunity to get interviewed by Emerging Sports TV! Super cool. Although smiling at the camera was rather painful. If you want to watch a good mix of humor, awkwardness, and chapped lips- tune in when they air their coverage of TRR in November!
Learnings from Day 4:
Day 5: Red Cliff --> Vail
24 miles/ 4100’ climbing
After sleeping for probably 2 hours the night before due to my sleeping bag not being up to par for 30 degrees (or colder?!) and staying up all night 100% certain I was freezing to death, I felt surprisingly awful to start day 5.
After huddling in the one and only local bar to stay warm, we were shuttled out into the cold to line up at the start.
This race started with a ~7 mile steady climb ascending 2,000'. Luckily for me running snapped me back from my sleepless night, and I soon felt fine. However, the majority of the climb was above 11,000' and continued to climb/roll around 11,000-11,5000' for the rest of the run until the descent. Needless to say, the run turned rather sluggish after the first 7 miles once our bodies realized that we weren't going to be absorbing Oxygen any easier any time soon.
Amanda and I were running with Kerrie Wlad for the climb and our train of 3 grew as we caught Magda and Brian and a couple other runners. Although we were all suffering a bit, it was fun to have a large pain train of some beastly runners to keep the motivation levels high.
On the final descent I rolled my ankle pretty hard and had to gimp for about a mile. The roll slowed us down a little bit, but eventually I was able to suck it up and roll some quick miles down the mountain to the finish.
We took away the win that day by about 20 minutes. Like always, once we were done, we stuck around for awhile to give high-fives. (My favorite part of the day) Then it was ice ice bath baby!
Learnings from Day 5:
Day 6: Vail --> Beaver Creek
23 miles/ 5000’ climbing
Ezra and Alex decided that the best costume for their final day would be to wear our extra pink “Leader” T-shirts. Since they were women’s size small, they fit two >6’0” men perfectly..
Amanda and I had cut ours special for the last day, they were fringe-tastic, and ready for our epic finish idea. After struggling to swallow some luke warm coffee, we were off on our final day!
“Did you just fall again?”
“Hmm. Not really, that was like a half fall.”
I was glad to keep Amanda entertained during our runs, she wasn’t used to running with someone as clumsy and in denial as myself.
“If you think about it, I’ve only fallen like 3.5 times in 6 days and over 90 miles, that’s a pretty low percentage!”
Who was I kidding- I will never be a leg model and I was just going to have accept my easily-distracted, clumsy fate.
The final day we ran with Ezra and Alex, took it a little easier than the other days, and enjoyed ourselves (even though our leggies were a bit shot). We snagged bottles of Fireball Whisky from the final aid station and planned to take them at the end. It was the perfect run to end a perfect week.
We had won TransRockies. Life was surreal.
Coming into the finish, we stripped off our Kiger Vests and began the count down.
Stats from the week:
I'd like to send a shout out to Amanda Basham for being the best running partner I could have asked for. I could not have done it without you, I am so grateful to have gained such a great friend. Shout out to Ezra and Alex Ho for being the most hilarious company I have ever had. Thanks to my coach David Roche for being 100% supportive of beer drinking and doing these crazy mountain adventures. Thank you to Kevin Houda for having Amanda and I out to #TRR and for putting together the best and most organized race I have ever been to. Thank you to my sponsors Nike for the gear & Bobo's Oat Bars for supplying me with plenty of bars to get me through the long days. And a final thanks to Celia and Brian at Gu for supporting us with energy, awesome swag and sharing in our excitement.
This was one of th best weeks of my life, I recommend TransRockiesRun to anyone looking for a challenge and/or to spend a week running & camping with amazing people in the mountains.