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.

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