Monday 31 August 2009

Day 6: The final 21 (miles, that is)

The sixth and final stage of the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run now seems so far in the past - and yet we completed it just over 48 hours ago.

We awoke to a frozen tent and cold temperatures on that super lush grassy green field in Vail. Sleep was good there, despite the I-70 highway that passes alongside the field. For the last time we ambled over to breakfast; neither of us felt like getting any food down, but knowing we would have to. Gulp!

We made it to the start, in town, with a few minutes to spare before the gun went off. The first part of the route took us through the town - very pretty with its tidy buildings and colourful flowerboxes. And then it was up a hillside, on switchback paths, as a line of runners. This was a little frustrating because it is difficult to make headway. We relaxed into the groove to trek in the queue.

My favourite part of this initial section was the large Aspen grove that the trail wove through. The way the dappled light plays on the tree trunks and undergrowth is really a pretty. I took a photo (see previous posting), but it really doesn'ty do justice to the elegance of the trees and almost fairy-forest feel.

We met up with Matt and Kyle just before the first Aid Station; Matt gave me a sweet, which was... sweet. We quickly loaded up with fluids and I grabbed more Gu Chomps* before setting off again.

* Gu Chomps are like those gummy Super Cs, only they're a bit bigger. We had two flavours here - strawberry and orange. In the sachets are four Gu Chomps, which are equivalent to one Gu gel. They're way easier to get down and are less sweet than the gel. I really took a liking to them.

The route on this final course shows one big up, a big down and then a smaller up and final down. But in reality the route was quite undulating - a good number of climbs to keep the ticker beating rapidly and nice descents for cardiac recovery.

One of the prettiest sections was the single track from aid station 2 and down into the town of Avon. The flowers and grasses on this part were absolutely stunning - hugging either side of the path; long grasses, purple thistles, yellow daisies, white somethings and those puffy round ones that you blow to release the 'fairies' (airborne seeds). As much as I appreciate their beauty, flower varieties have never been my forte.

The run through Avon was good; we posed for a photo with some sporty statues (see photos). And oddly, the tar felt good on our legs. I guess this was also a 'horse-bolting-for-home' effect, knowing that we only had about five miles to go.

The final drop into Beaver Creek held much excitement. We'd crested the final hill and had started down a switchback path on a ski slope. To my left was a woman on her mobile phone shouting something to the person she was talking too - "There's some kind of race... more people...". She was quite hysterical and I didn't get what was going on. Then it came out... BEARS!

There were a few runners on the switchback below us - and there in the trees was a mommy bear; her cubs were in the bushes on the other side of the slope. And, just as you should never get between a hippo and water, so you should never get between a bear and her cubs. We shot straight down the slope.

I did catch a brief look at the mommy bear - small, brown and very cute ;)

Mid-slope we were back on a dirt road and back on course. A few hundred meters later, with the finish in sight, a mixed pair who were about 30-metres in front of us, came shooting back out from the tree shaded section they'd just entered. Two bears sitting on the road eating plants for lunch! We again bolted down the ski slope to run the last 200 metres to the finish. A guy from race organisation came out to tell/scold us for slip-sliding down the slope instead of sticking to the trail. "Bears!" was enough explanation to justify our actions.

At the finish Cynthia, from Gore-Tex, was there to welcome us with a medal and drinks, just as she has every day of the event - except for the stage she did. Cynthia is the most amazing ambassador and representative for this brand; she passion for Gore shines through.

We headed to our overnight accommodation - yes, beds! A lovely spot. We had our own bathrooms, which we spent a lot of time in. Fabulous shower!

The dinner function was held at the Hyatt in Beaver Creek - a super evening with good food, company and festivities.

And so it was that the event wrapped up.

Gore-Tex TransRockies Run is a spectacular event in terms of scenery, terrain, routes and exceptional organisation. This is one event I can highly recommend, especially those hesitant to try staged running... you will be so well looked after at this race. I fear this race has made me soft... I'll be dreaming of this race's luxuries at every self-sufficient staged run I do from here on! It just won't be the same ;)

My thanks first to Gordon (Outside PR) and to Gore-Tex TransRockies Run for having me on board as a media runner-writer. It was an honour to be a part of this event.

And Lisa W, you are a wonderful teammate and it was a pleasure to run with you, laugh with you, play with you and to become your friend.

I'm in the US until Tuesday, staying with family in North Carolina.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Day 6 - Photos

Running through Vail at the start of the sixth and final stage.

Beautiful Aspen forests on the ascent from Vail - really lovely.

The start of the descent into Avon, from Aid Station 2.

Almost in Avon. Only a few miles to go. This was a superb section of single track with grasses and flowers on either side of the trail.

Team Lisa clowning around in Avon.

The final (almost) ascent before the drop into Beaver Creek.

2-miles to go to the finish
Beaver Creek

Team Lisa completes the 2009 Gore-Tex TransRockies Run!

With friends Matt and Kyle (Matt next to me, Kyle next to Lisa W)

Saturday 29 August 2009

Day 6: Got the tee shirt

The race is over! We had an excellent sixth and last day at this most fantastic Gore-Tex TransRockies Run.

It's late now and I have to catch a shuttle to Denver way too early tomorrow morning. I'll catch up once in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I'm going to visit dearest cousins who are now living there. Lisa W. is back home to San Francisco tomorrow and so Team Lisa will be no more.

We had a super race together and have been rewarded with a new friendship. I do hope that in the near future I'll have a chance to play with Lisa again - perhaps next time on her turf, pristine white ski slopes ;)

Friends and family of Lisa D and Lisa W, thank you for your messages of support and encouragement during this past week - they are always very much appreciated.

Day 5 - Photos

Much of the road to the first aid station was like this; pine forests and creek to our right and Aspen groves on our left. Beautiful grass and flowers all around.

Lovely forested scenery and runners on the switchback path

Lisa D and lovely scenery

Entering the Vail ski area. This footpath took us to the top of the ridge via many long switchbacks at a pleasant gradient

Almost at the highest point, just before Aid Station 2. Lisa was waiting for me just up the ridge, while I was playing photo-photo ;)

At Aid Station two with one of the volunteers. Love the sign… (and hat)

Team Lisa prepares to descend

Aid Station 3, Mardi Gras theme

Team Lisa has a photo with a festive aid station volunteer

That’s Vail down in the valley. About 2.5miles to go…

Oh yeah, bring it on!

Team Lisa completes Stage 5! (that’s Gordon sneaking a jump into our photo…)

A really cool skier statue dedicated to Vail’s athletes who have excelled in the US and abroad.

Day 4 - Photos

Up, up, up. This forested track just went on and on and up and up for ages!

Matt on his way up. We're almost at the top of the steepest section.

The first aid station is at the top of the visible road.

Team Lisa, out of the trees and into the sun.

Aid Station 1, certainly the most scenic so far

Lisa W at the aid station

The dirt road along the ridge. Over the top the hill goes down, down, down.

Team Lisa at the top!

Lisa W crossing the first creek.

The creek-bed trail - we liked this section

The last aid station. Only 3-miles to go, downhill.

The finish in the mountain town of RedCliff.

Our submission (Matt's artwork) for today's Salomon Photo theme - Happy Feet (we didn't win or place)

A Jack-a-lope; on the wall at Nova Guides' lodge

Friday 28 August 2009

Day 3 - Photos

Tent City in an overcast Leadville – end of Stage 2

The first part of the day’s big ascent; not as big as yesterday, but a steady upward climb nonetheless

Pretty scenery leaving the first Aid Station

We took off our shoes for this creek crossing. It’s worth not having wet feet a third into the stage

Lisa W running downhill. We ran quite a distance today on these wide-open forestry roads

Aid Station 2. Lots of fluids, lots of munchies and lots of friendly helpers welcoming us in.

Lisa and Lisa at the start of the section on the Continental Divide Trail

Some single-track trail and one of the Gore-Tex trail markers. We have had yellow tape the past two days; orange today. They also use little orange flags too. And boards. You just can’t get lost out here. The routes are very well marked.

Helpers at Aid Station 3, 6.5km from the end. They had a “Beach Party” theme going.

Lisa W with her new concoction – fresh sliced peach with peanut butter. Mmmmm... yummy!

Old shelters used by the 10th Mountain Division during WWII training. I don’t know the full facts but these soldiers trained in this area and then shipped out to Europe during WWII.

A photo for our “Are we there yet?” submission (we didn't win - or place)

Day 5: Heading into Vail

With only one day left, today we completed this 23-mile (34km) stage in just under six hours (5h56). It was another stage with a big, long climb and a 9.5-mile descent on forest roads through the legendary Vail ski area.

It took me a while to settle into today’s stage, even though I’d had a really good night sleep. Lisa’s knee was quite puffy last night but fortunately the inflammation settled overnight and after an hour or so it gave her no trouble. As the first section was uphill, we ran and walked from the start all the way up, up, up. For most of the first 7-miles we had pine forests on one side of the road winding up the valley and Aspen groves on the other side (I’ve taken a shine to Aspen trees – they’re beautiful). Throughout this section a stream (aka creek) ran down the valley, to our side, and lush grass decorated with flowers bordered the road. Picture perfect.

The second Aid Station sat high above the backbowls of the Vail ski area – spectacular view of surrounding mountains. From here, we ran most of the 9.5-miles to the finish – all downhill. The theme at this aid station was “So you think you can dance?” – Lisa and I did a little dance for the camera before starting down.

Although downhills are great to run, they really agitate knees. Lisa did well, only feeling the descent with a few miles to go. She’s sitting with ice now and will be A-ok in the morning – a bit of wear and tear. There are loads of knee complaints in camp, especially as we’ve had such brutal and long descents at the end of most stages. On the whole Team Lisa has weathered the physical and mental hurricane of this week really well.

The final aid station had a Mardi Gras theme, complete with a bare-chested aid station volunteer reveller complete with beaded necklasses. We stole a fun photo and scored a couple of necklasses, which rattled over the last 5.5-miles into Vail (but they look so cool!).

The last 3-miles were hard going – non-stop down and the town in our sights from just over 2-miles to go.

Vail is really cute – neat and tidy with flowerboxes on the buildings. Our campsite is about a mile outside of town on a big grassy green sports field. We’re going to sleep well tonight. And, they’ve arranged the tents in a neat pattern that spells, “TRR” – TransRockies Run. We’ve got a tent near the top of the straight back of the first “R”… I haven’t got a good vantage point to get a good photo for you so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Tomorrow is the final stage (21-miles) and although we’ll be glad to see the end of this final stage, it does mean the end of an amazing week of running and experiences.

Till tomorrow,

Team Lisa

Thursday 27 August 2009

Day 4: The hardest stage, some say

We’re in the little town of RedCliff now, which is where the stage finished. Last night, and tonight, we are at Nova Guides, which is in the valley where the 10th Mountain Division trained (ski) for their WWII efforts. WiFi reception is negligible, even here in town. Devon is kindly uploading content for me at night; images will have to wait until tomorrow because we just can’t get them through.

We went to bed last night with the rain beating down on our tent and awoke to frozen droplets on the flysheet – yes, frozen! It was cold last night and this morning we made the most of our Windstopper scarves and ear warmers (we got the ear warmers last night from Gore-Tex – more swag!). Once the sun came out it started to warm up quite quickly. Lisa and I both went for _ tights. I put on a long sleeved top again; she went for a tee with a light shell. Both worked well for us.

I overheard one of the runners, who did this race last year, saying that today’s stage is the hardest, although it is the second shortest at 14-miles. Once we were out there it was evident why…

After a gentle beginning, the dirt road climbs and climbs. We didn’t climb as much as Day 2, like 500ft less, but goodness gracious it felt a lot worse. I took some photos in the forest on the steep ascents, but they don’t really do the gradient justice.

Up at the first aid station the view was fantastic. Sun shining, multiple shades of green shimmering after the night’s rain and high mountains across the valley, their tops speckled with snow. We continued up for some way, before starting the BIG descent.

Lisa has been battling a sore knee today. No problems yesterday – it flared up first thing this morning, right in the middle of her right kneecap. As with most types of inflammation like this, it really plays up on the downs, so we took it quite easy from the top to the stream at the bottom. The down was as steep as the up – serious gradient, which is hard on the legs, knees, ankles and feet.

One of the fun sections today included a few creek crossings when we hit the bottom of the valley. The first was refreshing on our hard-working feet and calves. The second was cool and the third – or fourth? – was like an ice-cream headache! The trail after these crossings was like a streambed – river rocks with water running down them. Last night we were told, “If it feels like you’re running in a river, you’re in the right place”. And so it was. After the last aid station we ran the last 4km swiftly, making the most of the gentle downhill.

Our friends Matt and Kyle had a mixed day. Over the first three stages Matt wasn’t well. On Day 1 he couldn’t keep much down and so he had to recover and just get through stages 2 and 3. Kyle had been strong and we’d find him on the trail waiting for Matt. Today their roles were reversed. Matt waxed the stage while Kyle suffered up the hill and with the high elevation. Hey, this is pretty typical of staged racing. Hopefully both are at full strength tomorrow.

Right now I’m back at Camp Hale, where we stayed last night. The sun is shining and my rinsed clothing is drying on the roof of our tent (probably blown on to the ground by now). Lisa stayed in ‘town’ – RedCliff – for a bit to catch up on emails on her phone and to post to this blog. She should be back soon.

The showers in camp are really decent. They’re on one of those big trucks and there must be 6 or 7 showers each in the ladies and gents. There’s plenty of hot water and outside they have chairs so if there is a queue you can sit and socialise. Quite fun.

I’m sitting in the Nova Guides lodge to type this posting. They have stuffed antelope and pelts on the walls. There’s a bobcat pelt behind me and last night I saw some mink furs, with feet, hanging on another wall. Nasty. I took a photo of a jack-a-lope (jack-rabbit with antlers), which Matt says is an endangered species, native to the mountains of the western US – very hard to find. “One would consider oneself very lucky to see one in the high alpine areas.” Kinda like seeing a leprechaun eh? Hahaha – enjoy the photo.

Devon will try to upload this content tonight. We’ll catch up on photos from Vail tomorrow where we’ll have proper internet signal again.

Four days down and only two to go. These past few days have been awesome.

P.S. We didn’t win the photo competition yesterday; Matt and Kyle did. Matt and I have just completed a submission for today’s theme “Happy Feet”. Yay!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Lisa and Lisa are done with stage four

> We are done with what we thought was going to be an "easy" stage.
> Not so much! 14 miles of steep ups and steep downs in a little over
> four hours. We are in Red Cliff where we have wireless for a few
> minutes and then back to the camp. We should have phone and wireless
> in Vail tomorrow afternoon. We will be running there so give us some
> time to get there!
> Cheers !!
> Sent from my iPhone

Day 3- The Longest Run

Although today was the longest stage, at 38.4km, it was probably my favourite so far. We ran through beautiful natural forests and on part of the Continental Divide Trail – superb forested single track that is moist, rich and cushioning on the legs. Weeeeeeehhhheeee – better than a roller coaster on some of the slightly undulating sections. And, the scent of pine trees and fertile soils… yes, today was a good day.

Regressing slightly to last night… Arriving for dinner we were warmly welcomed – as usual – by Cynthia, from Gore-Tex. She wished us a “Happy Windstopper Day” by giving us all the most lovely Windstopper scarves. Yes, more swag! One side of the scarf is Windstopper and the other side is this slinky white ‘fur’ – softer than a lamb. And good timing too because it was quite chilly last night. This scarf makes three – we’ve got a delicious green Windstopper jacket, Windstopper mittens and now the scarf. We are spoilt rotten at this race!

To keep us entertained through dinner (veggies, pasta, chicken pieces, salad) there was a really amazing mandolin player. I didn’t catch his name but I think it was Bruce something – real good y’all. The awards were cool – those runners out front are unbelievably fast! Lisa and I are generally double the time of the overall winners… *sniff* - but I bet they don’t get any cool photos; we’ve got lots ;)

It rained a bit last night and was quite cold. We were awake again just before 06h00. Lisa hit the breakfast spot for coffee early; I migrated up the hill a little later. I did the oats and fruit thing again plus half of a syrup-covered waffle. I find the things like bagels, flapjacks and waffles to be a breakfast temptation, but they really don’t sit well. I think I’ll just stick to oats and fruit tomorrow morning.

Lisa has this really weird dietary thing where she has to eat carbs, like cereal, toast, bagels, waffles etc at least an hour before starting to exercise. And while she runs she can only eat things like Gu, hydration drinks, nuts and peanut butter (a treat we discovered at Aid Station 3 today) – no carbohydrate bars, sandwiches, pasta or crisps. She breaks out in hives from top to toe if she munches complex carbs while exercising. She knows someone else who has the same problem, which is reassuring to know you’re not the only one on the planet with this weird affliction.

As for the route today… Lisa and I were actually both feeling a little jumpy this morning, but the route turned out to be way more pleasant than expected. I wasn’t sure whether to wear tights of shorts, deciding shortly before the start to stick with shorts and a light longsleeved top. I made a good call.

We started out on tar and the gradient was pretty good so it made for a good warm-up. Lisa shot off into the bushes about 20-mins into the run – the start of a bit of an upset tummy (Andy, she gambled and won; I laughed hard when she told me about your dog walk). Seems there are a few upset tummies around.

Just off the tar we headed up and up and up, the big climb of the day. Lovely forests and a good view of surrounding mountains, which are still lightly tickled by patches of snow on their summits. Super scenic. Then down, down, down to the first Aid Station.

Lisa and I have settled into a nice rhythm. As mentioned before, she is great on the hills and very comfortable at running them. My strategy is more of the run-walk kind. So she trots ahead and I bring up the rear keeping her in sight. Your run becomes much harder when you try to run at someone else’s pace, so we’re working well to run at our own rhythm – and overall I don’t lose much ground to her, reaching the top with my heart and breathing rate relaxed, which it wouldn’t be if I tried to run. I’m quicker on the descents, but it is far easier to slow on the downs than to bugger up your pace on the ups.

After a mile or two of road we were back on to trails, winding through a beautiful valley. We were briefed about three creek crossings – I only noticed one. And for the rest of the day, bar the last 2-miles, we were on the most wonderful forested trails. A section of the route crossed on to part of the Continental Divide Trail, which – for the most part (some sections are not complete) – runs North-South from the Alaska border to the Mexican border. You’ll have to fact check this on Wiki (and let me know the answer). I recall David Horton, organiser of Mountain Masochist, which I ran a few years ago, attempted to run the entire CD from South to North – perhaps late last year? – but was tripped up on Day 1 by unexpectedly dense vegetation on a section where no trail exists. I can’t remember the details.

Anyway, the route today was awesome and I really got into it, trotting along the winding trails sniffing the pine scent. The weather was also perfect for running. A bit of a nip in the morning with perfect running temperatures (a bit cool) throughout the day. At some places we were also treated to a lovely breeze. We couldn’t have ordered better.

As were were passing through sheep country, where the sheep wander through the forests, we were warned last night at the briefing about the big sheep dogs. These dogs protect the sheep and at some of other mtb event last year a girl was attacked by two of them. We didn’t see any, but just for your reference – should you pass through this area – if you see a sheep dog you’re meant to say, “Back to the sheep” – and off they go. Just so you know…

We finished today’s 38km stage in 5h56.

The theme for the Salomon Photo Competition today is “Are we there yet?”. We grabbed a camera again because we’d like to win at least one day. And the theme is chosen because for the last two miles (3.6 odd kays) you can see the finish, but the road doesn’t go straight to it. Instead it makes a wide loop and so it really does feel like you’re not getting any closer. We took a couple of photos – I’ll let you know tomorrow whether we win anything.

Race apparel is something that I find quite interesting. Compression socks seem to be the current in thing. Lots of runners wear them – and they look pretty cute paired with short running shorts. There are lots of nice colours, lightweight shells and jackets and array of short styles and lengths on the trails. In SA we generally wear tops with sleeves as added protection against the sun’s claws. This time, as on other US runs, I’m amazed to see the number of girls wearing vest-type tops and crop tops leaving their shoulders (and bellies) exposed to the sun. Sunblock is applied generously but being a conservative type, I never feel that sunblock adequately replaces a fabric covering.

And gents, one thing that is very noticeable - in what I feel is a predominately female field – are the fabulous legs. I guess I’ve never really noticed before because one seldom sees as many women at races like this. Being out there – and running behind – so many women, I realised that there are lots of great legs running this race. Fabulous eye-candy for the male runners.

So, tonight again we’ve got awards and the slideshow and day’s video footage. And then it will be time for a good sleep as we prepare for Stage 4.

On the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run website they are posting video and photos. I think the video that we watch every night of the day’s stage is the same as the one of the site. It is really good and it shows the trails, terrain and scenery. Website is Click on the “TransRockies Run” link (right) and you should find the goods there.

Monday 24 August 2009

Salomon Photo Comp - runner-up photo

This is our photo that won runner-up yesterday for Salomon's photo theme - "Are we having fun yet?". This is Lisa W. up a tree.
We're planning to get another Salomon camera tomorrow - it would be nice to win ;)