Thursday, August 18, 2016

TransRockies Race Report (2016): 6 Days, 120 miles DONE!

Let's get going on the race report before I forget everything. I am oldish and that happens. What was I saying? This is by far the longest race report I've ever written, but then again it was a long race. So, you will have to deal with all the pictures and babbling.

Let's get the show on the road.

We drove to Buena Vista, CO for check in. And, carbs in the form of beer. I bought a trucker hat because I hope to drive an 18 wheeler one day.

Meet Sylvie. My multi lingual partner in crime. We weren't a team, but we kept each other sane and alive.

Here are all of my new best friends. Can you find me? I'll give you $1.

I laid out my clothes the night before knowing that the lucky cheetah skirt (wore it when I BQ'd and they don't sell them anymore) would have to make an appearance (I only heard one person say, "Who wears a skirt like that on the first day of TransRockies??" "ME! I DO!".

It was all pretty seamless and chill. Ken and I spent the night in Salida a half hour away and made it in for the 8:30 a.m. start.

My main man Ken who never fails to support me in these crazy endeavors.

Stage 1: Sand, Cactus and Heat.  21 miles, 2,500 feet of vertical.

Hmmm. Not sure what the hell I was thinking doing this race. On a good day I can run 21 miles, but I don't usually get up and do it again for the next five days. There are a plethora of ridiculously fit people around me telling stories of running multi stage races and ultras. Braggarts. I am in good company, but not as experienced as these guys.

The gun goes off and Highway to Hell starts playing (this would happen everyday at the start). Damn this run is gorgeous. Hey, there's the prison we passed on the way in. Look. A check point. Going to grab a salted watermelon GU and chug some water. It's getting hot. Must not stop. I've got my mind on a chilly soak in the river and a cold beer at the finish line. Meeting lots of nice people. There's Paul from Boulder. And, Vicky from where ever who did her first ultra in Indonesia (doesn't everyone?). Classic Vicky.

Running through this sand and cactus landscape is getting kind of old. SWEET. Only 3 miles to go. And finally some shade through this tunnel.

God these last three miles are brutal. It's got to be 90 degrees. Finally, the finish. And, just like that - day #1 is DONE. 4 hours, 30 minutes.

We are shuttled to camp and got a pretty sweet spot.

I grab a beer (Crazy Mountain Brewery with all the beer you can drink) and huddle in my tent during a storm. Dinner, then a very early bed time.

Stage 2: Climbing Into the Sky. 13.3 miles 3,300 feet vertical.

Good grief. It is freezing. I'm on a school bus on the roughest 4 wheel drive road going up to the start of this stage. Hopefully I don't spew my oatmeal on my seatmate. It might be only 13.3 miles but we are climbing up to 12,600 feet - Hope Pass. Yes, it was cold enough for a down coat.

The gun goes off. Okay this climb is killing me. I've never run/power hiked anything this steep in my life. My legs are burning, much like an unwanted urinary tract infection (<random). 

But the scenery. I can't even.

Finally to what felt like the top of the world.

There was only emergency water at the top, because there is no way to get supplies up here except by burro. Here are the water carrying asses:

I carried your water. You are welcome
And, then a swift run down to the finish in Leadville where my two best friends, Julie and Erika, were waiting. 3 hours, 30 minutes. Day 2 DONE!

I will now tell you a few hard core things about this race. They told us the first night that if we are running and our hair stands on end, lightening is about to strike and we have to drop to the ground in a squatting position. They also told us that the medics had oxygen for us if it was needed, but once they administered it, you would be pulled from the race. Well, ok then. Note so self. Do not request oxygen.

Stage 3: I'm a Mess. 24.5 miles, 2,700 feet of vertical.

I'm waiting in line in the start chute. Wait!! Why are they checking for gear in our bags? What do you mean you need a jacket, hat, emergency blanket and gloves for this stage? Shit. That stuff's in my drop bag, which is in a truck somewhere. I am lectured and told to go find it before I can start. I'm now inside the truck ruffling through hundreds of bags, trying to find mine. Everyone has started running. I am the sole person left. I am panicking. Can't find my bag. Will they kick me out? Tears in my eyes, frantic, I go back to the guy and he begrudgingly lets me through. I spend the next 15 minutes trying to get back to where I was supposed to be on the course. Sprinting almost. 

Mile 3, we are heading up steep, steep inclines. My legs are  not cooperating. They are sore and pissed. Then, BAM, I am flying through the air and find myself in a face plant on the trail. This day is screwing with me. I pick myself up, continue climbing and finally settle into a steady pace. This run, while long, is amazing. Lots of soft trails covered in pine needles, many amazing views. Everyday I have started breaking up the run by the check points. Today's are miles 7, 14, and 21. At mile 21, I can see the finish line 3 miles away. They are offering shots of Canadian whiskey, so I partake. 

I feel amazing at this point (maybe it was the whiskey)? I haul ass into the finish, feeling strong. 24.5 miles in 5 hours, 28 minutes.

In fact, I felt so strong that a couple of hours later I did the beer mile. I was one of three women who did it - the rest were men. It took me about 15 minutes to chug a full beer every 1/4 mile (for a total of 4 beers) and to run the distance (in flip flops nonetheless).

The winner. I was so close I could touch him. But I didn't.

This was also the day Kara Goucher visited our camp and spoke. She is something.

For the next two nights we would be at Camp Hale, which is pretty remote and spectacularly beautiful. No internet access, no phone service. But there was this:

Sylvie and me chilling in the cool lake

Picture postcard perfect

Stage 4: More Climbing and Whiskey. 14 miles 4,000 feet of vertical.

Yes indeed when I woke up my tent was covered in ice. ICE IN AUGUST. It is about 30 degrees outside. I don't do well in the cold. I got in the habit of sleeping in my running clothes under lots of layers so I wouldn't have to go through the agony of getting undressed and dressed. Hmmm. something's off. Oh, SWEET! I've just gotten my period, which means I'm not pregnant! Haha. As if. Anyway, for all of you peri menopausal women, you know how unpredictable things can be. Seriously though?? Day 4 of this race???

What I remember most about this stage is that near to the finish we had to run in a stream for about a mile. It was gorgeous, but the water was seriously ice cold. With my Reynauds issue in my feet, I was going totally numb and my feet hurt. I was almost in tears. I had to keep coaching myself that I'd get out of the water soon and survive. It helped when I got to the next check point and had a little shot of Fireball. 

The finish of this stage actually ended right at a bar called Mangos where there were cold margaritas and tasty fish tacos waiting. Every race should end this way.

Stage 5: Running Into Vail and My Favorite Day. 24.1 miles, 4,100 feet of vertical.

Truth be told, I am nervous about this day. I wake up with my tent covered in ice again. We are on day 5, with 73 miles behind us and I don't know if my legs really want climb and run 24 miles. Check points are at 8, 14 and 19 miles. I am going to cut up this run into those chunks because it is way more manageable. Wow. 13 miles up and this is the most beautiful run I've ever done. I cannot wipe the smile off of my face and I know this is a true runner's high right now. For most of the stages I have run alone, and that's fine with me. It's kind of my happy place. Now that I can see the town of Vail thousands of feet below I feel literally and figuratively on top of the world.

I cruise into the finish line in Vail, still smiling in 5 hours, 28 minutes. I can't find Sylvie and hear she is in the medical tent having suffered from altitude sickness and dehydration during the run. She made it to the finish and is still recovering. She's a warrior and will run tomorrow. I plop my ass down in a chair with a beer and stay there for a bit, then get to bed as the sun sets.

I've gotten good at sleeping with a hat on and my sleeping bag up to my ears:

Stage 6: I Cannot Believe I've Made It This Far. 22.4 miles, 5,300 feet of vertical.

Getting up this morning in Vail I am slightly giddy. It is day 6 and I KNOW I can take whatever this day throws at me.

I have a calm and laid back attitude. I know I've got many miles to go and many climbs to make before the finish, but my confidence is in tact. Immediately we are climbing out of Vail, single track. I hate climbing on single track with lots of people, because it's hard to find paces that sync up, and hard to pass and be passed. Eventually things spread out and we enter this magical canopy of trees:

After miles and miles of climbing, we descend through waist high meadows of wild flowers and over streams. Before I know it we are making our final ascent (of the week!!) up Beaver Creek Mountain. The final mile will be a swift downhill to the finish line and I can taste it. I'm welling up again with gratitude to be able to be doing this and to be almost f&cking finished.

After 5 hours, 30 minutes I reach the finish and find Emma, dad and mom there.

YES!! I've done it and in all honestly I really wasn't sure I was going to make it. Once I began the race, I knew I would push through, but in the months/weeks/days leading up to it I just didn't know.

This race challenged me mentally and physically in ways I've never been challenged. I really had to tap into my confidence as there were hundreds of moments along the way that it would have been very easy to doubt myself. I had to use lots of strategies including mantras ("you are strong" "you can do hard things" "this too shall pass") and compartmentalizing - meaning taking one day at a time, one mile at a time.

The most important thing was to keep moving forward as fast as I could without bonking or getting injured. It is a fine line to stay on, and I feel like you have to know your body really well to do something like this. The weird thing was that after about day three, things started to get easier, or at least they didn't get any harder. I had read something before this race that really struck with me: "It doesn't get easier, you just get used to it." It's amazing how the body acclimates and adapts.

All of this to say - this race proved to me once again how running can make us better and stronger. We pull through when we didn't think we could and the next time we are up against adversity we tap into that strength.

Thanks for joining me on the journey, you guys.

Now go sign up for TRR 2017. You know you want to.


A huge thank you to TransRockies Events for sponsoring me on this journey.

And...hats off to Cindy Honebein who provided me with the best massages (even if they made me scream and jump off the table) for 4/6 days.


  1. HAHA! That WAS you in the flip flops at the beer mile! Again, bummed I didn't make the connection till AFTER the fact, but that's often the story of my life. My beer mile record is an hour and fifteen minutes (crazy fast, right?) so I didn't even attempt it, what with the 6.7% alcohol content and my crazy chugging skills :P

  2. I am so amazed and in awe of you. Actually, I'm so not worthy of your friendship. I cannot imagine having the mental toughness to do a race like this. You need to give me lessons. What an experience! I loved reading this--it's too bad the scenery was so ugly. I don't know how you passed the time without music...

    And dat ass! The burro, I mean...

    1. You could so do it. If I can, you can. And, between you and me, I did listen to some music

  3. Wow. Just wow. And on your period too. It doesn't get any more badass than that.

  4. Congrats! I consider you an Ultra runner. Now come and run the Umstead 100! I'll find you pacers!

  5. Congrats! So inspired and now I wish to run this myself….

  6. In awe. Yep I am in awe of you. I loved reading this recap. It almost made me want to run it. Note the almost. I am laid up with Plantar Fasciitis right now and to see what you have done is so inspiring. Thanks!

  7. What an incredible adventure! Way to go! Thanks for sharing; it was such an engaging/inspiring/fun read. I'd love to do something like this...but with hotels instead of camping :)

  8. You are incredible. Thank you for a great read. Loved the whole thing. I felt every bit of misery and joy. Nice job.

  9. Freakin' awesome. Thanks for sharing the adventure!

  10. Freakin' awesome. Thanks for sharing the adventure!

  11. It just occurred to me, maybe Ken is the insane one. I'm surprised you didn't figure out a way to raft the mile down that creek.

  12. You are awesome and so inspirational! Congratulations and thank you for sharing it with us!

  13. Beautiful! I love that this exists, you did it, and you shared it with us. I want to come hiking in CO now, so bad!

  14. You're seated in the front row...flip flops, blue t-shirt, trucker hat, next to a girl in a turquoise shirt. Where's my $1? Also, you are incredible and inspiring. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  15. Beth, once again you show us how amazing you are! Simply incredible. What's next??

    1. That is a great question. Not sure. Am probably going to do the Blue Sky Marathon in FT. Collins in October. Haven't thought beyond that. You?

    2. Honolulul Marathon in December for me. It helps that my husband is employed by a company on Oahu so I can do some of my training here.

    3. That is so cool. What an awesome place to do a race in December! I've never been to Hawaii...

    4. Put it on your list! I snagged a $64 registration in January (it was $32 for locals.) The course is beautiful, some hills, but running through Waikiki and along the Pacific Ocean is tough to beat.

  16. cannot give you enough congratulations for this! really outstanding and inspirational. way to go!!!

  17. Do you running hill? I also like to run hill. So great! I actually like your sharing. Nice photos! I like... ^^

  18. big fat stinkin' EFFFFFFFFF!!! This sucker is on my bucket list now. Nice job.

  19. Amazing adventure. I have yet to try an ultra but that's what it looks like in my mind. An adventure, lots of ups and downs and you seemed to capture that so well. I am inspired and hope to try an ultra soon when I can figure out how to marry the training of a triathlon with the ultra. Thanks

  20. Beer is my favorite carb! Haha!

    Congrats on your result. You're a beast!

  21. You are a phenom. Words fail me.

    So you are down to three at home now? So am I (two in college). I hear crickets - it's so quiet. At least I might have a little more time to train for Chicago...

    1. Yes, one child (adult?) gone and one left. Weird. Definitely a transition time for all of us. Good luck with Chicago training. I'm jealous!

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  27. Hi there! We haven't met but you finished just before me in this year's (2017) Camp Hale Half Marathon. I came out from sea level to do it and I loved it! I am dying to do Trans Rockies and wonder how you would compare Legs 1-3 of Trans Rockies to Camp Hale Half Marathon course in terms of difficulty. I would only do the 3 stage Trans Rockies to start. Thanks! Kirsten