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2012 GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – Hitchhikers & Tow Ropes

Post by:  Jake
8/19/12

As the sixth and last stage of the GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run (TRR) came to a close today I thought about what I wanted to close my coverage with.  LOTS of cool topics came time mind such as what “camp life” is like for an event like this; or what is it that brings some competitors back year after year while others are content to run it once and move on to other challenges and other adventures.  There’s certainly dozens of inspirational personal stories I could tell, such as the couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary by running a 125 miles race together after the doctor said he would be lucky to walk again a few years ago after getting T-boned in his car.  But, as the race draws to a close I’d like to reflect on just three quick questions I’ve been asked recently, 1.)  What’s with all the stuffed animals on peoples packs?  Do they really need the extra weight?  2.)  A tow rope, really? Couldn’t you find a partner that was equal to your athleticism?  3.)  Why on earth would someone pay any amount of money to get their ass kicked for a week?

Hitchhikers. The toys, trinkets, note cards, stuffed animals and other useless junk carried by racers.  Useless, at least, in the mind of the observer.  These hitchhikers are actually a huge morale boost to the runners.  From a child’s favorite toy, to a team mascot, every hitchhiker has a story behind it.  One team carried stuffed gophers to represent their home of Saskatchewan.  One glance at the crazy animal on their teammates back brought a smile to each other’s faces and lightened an otherwise lousy mood.  Another team carried notecards laminated and dangling off the back of their backpack, each one with an inspiring quote or word of encouragement to keep going when they felt like quitting.  Whatever the story, these hitchhikers are easily considered worth their weight in gold!

Short Roping or Towing.  Seeing a couple running down a dusty trail tethered to each other by a short piece of surgical tubing is quite an odd sight until you figure out its purpose.  The first time I saw this I scratched my head thinking it was some sort of cruel joke or a bet gone bad.  “If my team beats your team today, you guys have to run the race tied to each other tomorrow!” The tether actually serves a brilliant purpose.  Relieving a small amount of effort from one team mate by utilizing some of the other teammate’s “extra” energy.   It helps balance a team’s energy reserves, an important factor when racing a multi-day stage race.  And instead of simply picking the strongest matched partner, it allows teammates to race together that are otherwise not equally balanced in terms of the energy equation.  For more really good info on towing, and when and how to incorporate it into your team races check out this blog from Salomon Running.

$$$ WHY $$$ As you know by now, the TRR is a 6-day trail running race.  It’s all inclusive: meals are provided, transportation can be arranged, tents are setup and tore down each night; really, all you need to do is show up and run.  The race is run exceptionally well, but it does command a fairly steep entry fee of around $1,000 per person for the entire event.  So why on earth would anyone pony up so much cash just to get their ass kicked on the trail day after day?  The answer is simple, no pain no gain, and this is a heck of a good time!  The comradery and sense of accomplishment achieved through this race is like none other.  By the end of the race, you’ll be feeling beat down and like a million bucks at the same time.  If $1,000 sounds steep, consider this:  How much does a 6-day vacation cost you anywhere else?  With food, lodging, transportation, entertainment, ect…?  Put your mind to doing it and that’s it.  Do it!  Make it happen.  While the experience I had this year was merely camp life, taking pictures, and posting updates, I have been extremely inspired by everyone.  Biking around the course, seeing everyone start off each morning and come across the finish line grinning from ear to ear; I’m absolutely considering paying the entry fee and joining the race next year with my wife.  This is coming from someone who’s only run about 3-miles on trail and is much more of a cyclist than a runner.  But if someone from sea level Florida who has only the hot Everglades to train in, I sure as heck can get my butt on the trail over the next 12-months and get in good enough shape.    Here’s some coverage from Stage-6 today.  Enjoy!

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2012 GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – It Takes a Village

Post by:  Jake
8/18/12

Stage 5, 23.6 miles, 4,200 feet of elevation gain, one of the most challenging stages of the 6-day Trans Rockies Run.  While a gunshot signals the start of another leg of the race for the runners, to many, that same gunshot signals the start of a turbo charged migration of gear, equipment, and personnel.  While the racers are out jumping over logs, crossing streams and charging up and down mountains; a small army of volunteers is rapidly breaking down camp, the starting/finishing gates, and shuttling everything to a new base camp.  It’s cliché to say this, but it’s true, the volunteers of the Trans Rockies run are the lifeblood of this race.  Without them, the event certainly wouldn’t be possible.

While it would seem challenging to get people to volunteer to tear down then re-setup 200+ tents, hand out water at check stations, and pick up trash accidentally dropped on the trail; it’s actually a tough gig to land if you’re thinking of stepping up as a volunteer.  While a small army is needed to keep the wheels of the race in motion, most of the volunteers commit to returning year after year after year.  While they often don’t get the opportunity to run even a mile of the race, they keep coming back because of the bonds they’ve built over the years with racers and with the other volunteers.  That’s just how the Trans Rockies run is.  The community of racers AND volunteers is so tight, the majority of the competitors AND volunteers that I’ve met are returning race veterans.  In fact, several have been doing this every year of the races 6-year history.  Here’s a quick video from Stage 5 action today, including several shots of the volunteers that keep this ship from sinking!  Thanks Team!!

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GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – Stage 4

Post by:  Jake
8/17/12

Nearly an hour before sunrise, my alarm went off and I crawled out of my sleeping bag to find myself completely immersed in the Trans Rockies Run (TRR).  Although the competitors range from full time sponsored athletes to weekend warrior trail runners, the TRR is a little Shangri La at the top of the Rockies.  It’s a little slice of heaven, a chunk of nirvana.   It’s what so many runners eagerly await all winter and train all summer for.  There I stood, still half asleep, in line for breakfast rubbing shoulders with a brotherhood of trail runners I was only beginning to understand.  Although I was joining the TRR close to half way through the six day event, every single racer I talked with cheerfully welcomed me into their clan.  It didn’t matter that I had never run a marathon, and hadn’t even run a mile of the TRR, the family of trail striders was quick to take me under their wing, answer my ignorant questions, and share their passion for running.

A gunshot signaled 8:00 a.m. and the start of Stage 4.  This stage consisted of 14.1 miles, and 2,900 vertical feet of elevation gain.  At the end waited the promise of margaritas and fish tacos at Mango’s in Red Cliff, Colorado.  Steep vertical rises, narrow single track, miles of loose cobble, and several river crossings comprised the day’s obstacles.  While covering the race, I got my feet wet, both metaphorically and physically.  My goal was to shadow the runners on my mountain bike.  I’d take “strategic” shortcuts to cut off the pack, snap some photos, and then hop back on my bike to leap frog ahead again.  Eight miles of my route would take me on an old abandoned rail line.  The track was beautiful, but hard to ride as it was full of loose scree and steep drop offs.  At one point a beaver dammed a nearby creek and I was forced to ride through in 2-foot water.  I had already forded a fairly large creek earlier in the day, so having wet feet wasn’t new.  Arriving at the finish line through the backdoor, I realized no racers had crossed yet, so I rode up to meet them.  Several miles later I came to Checkpoint 3, just in time to see team La Sportiva flying around the corner, not even blinking at the checkpoint.

Nearly an hour later the bulk of the pack came pouring out of the forest with wet feet.   From Checkpoint 3 a mere two mile dash downhill lay between them and the finish line at Mango’s in Red Cliff where fish tacos and a much needed cool dip in the creek awaited.  Check out the video I took of today’s race here:

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GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run 2012

Post by:  Jake
8/16/12

120-miles of trail running over 6 days.  The GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run is a stage running race that starts in Buena Vista, Colorado and ends in Beaver Creek.  180 teams of two and 100 solo runners are currently taking on one of the most enjoyable, yet challenging trail running races in the nation.

For this year’s race, I’ve been invited to immerse myself in the Trans Rockies community of athletes and write about what I experience.  I’ll be joining the race at Stage 3 of 6, and will be living with the runners over the next 4 days.

Stage run races are similar to stage bike races such as the Tour de France.  Each day starts a new leg of the race.  Many of the teams-of-two compete for the fastest time, and high stakes prize money ($20,000 is up for grabs this year), while other teams simply compete for new personal bests and bragging rights that they completed one of the most grueling high altitude races in the world.

Throughout the 6-day race teams will gain nearly 25,000 feet of elevation while reaching altitudes of over 12,500 feet.  Stage 3 (where I will be joining the race) is a gorgeous 24.1 mile run from downtown Leadville to Camp Hale, summiting Tennessee Pass at an elevation of 10,918 feet.  Total elevation gain for the day will be 2,674feet.

My hope is that you’ll enjoy this race coverage, and will be inspired to push beyond your current comfort zones. Here’s a video clip of the start of Stage 3 this morning. And other of Stage 3 action.

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