Thursday, October 1, 2009

TransRockies Race Stage II: Vicksburg to Leadville (via Hope Pass)

12,510' max elevation (holy crap) with river crossings
10Miles: Finish time 3hrs 3min.

It was a chilly morning as we were bussed to the start line. We had just enough time to jump out, run to the restroom, snap a pic, and push through the chute. About two miles down the way we both stopped at the first aid station to strip down to our base layers then begin the climb towards Hope Pass.

Along the way up I realized I had passed a familiar face: ISWIMBIKERUN. (in red)
Wow, I was getting to put a bunch of faces to the blogs I had been following! He was such a trooper! His teammate suffered an injury early on and the two of them still trucked on like champs, finishing each day with a great time and even better attitude.

The trail to Hope Pass turned to scree.

Then cleared up and started the big ascent. Surprisingly, this was very very runnable and fun.

I came across a guy from Florida (Matt) who was looking pretty rough from the altitude. He had trekking poles and was just chugging along. I gave him a little pep talk and did my little nurs-y once over to make sure he wasn't going to fall out on me, then kept running. Later I met Matt's teammate Kyle- both were super cool guys and were our "tent neighbors".

I admit, on my way up Hope Pass, I started to get a little teary. The view was beyond description and my words would not do it justice. It was expansive, beautiful, and humbling. I thought about what an amazing world we live in and how very few actually take advantage of the things outside their little bubble of life. I thought about my past and present failures/accomplishments and the emotions just swelled up in my throat. I wanted so bad to have a family member or good friend right there next to me so I could turn to them and share "my moment". To have someone there to be just as awed as I was. To just stop, sit down in silence, and live in the moment of quietness. Then the tears started to swell thinking about how I was here alone...and then I forced myself to snap back into race mode and keep going. "Suck it up & stop wasting energy" I told myself sternly. I had a mission to accomplish and I wanted to see the top. I had four more days to run after this and, by golly, I was going to finish this beast.

I started to chill a bit at the top but waited for Steph. I knew she would want a picture. We made it!
The mountains seemed to just open up for me and beckon, "Come on, tear this trail is a beautiful flight down!" And so I did just that... as cautious runners picked their way down the trail I opened it up and just let my legs tell me where to go.

river crossing!!!

The finish line...the skies opened up just a few minutes after we crossed the finish line. It became chilly and drizzly while we waited for our bus into camp. Once in camp we showered, napped, and then took a walk into town for a much needed latte at Provin' Grounds.
We stopped in a way cool gear store called Sawatch Backcountry. We ended up at Tennessee Pass Restaurant and decided to skip dinner at camp to eat here. We ordered a TON of food (Eggplant and goat cheese tapas- to DIE for...seriously). Our waiter was a young kid who's eyes got huge as we ordered. He seemed to look around to see if anyone else was joining us. "Nope, just us" I said with a sweet innocent smile. I think we truly messed this kid up.

Freebies tonight included a Windstopper scarf (as displayed above).

TransRockies Race Stage I: Buena Vista to Vicksburg

Let the games begin!
20.1 miles: 5hrs finish time

We woke up after a great night's sleep, took one look at our facebook pages, furrowed our brows, and exclaimed, "what the hell?" then burst out in a fit of giggles. The previous night we had been discussing our "little piggies" and how we do positive vs negative self talk and motivational "power" speeches to get us through difficult sections of our races. It is amazing the amount of physical pain you can endure when you override your mind and just let your body flow through the motions. It is very zen-like once you get to that point...the endorphins kick in to protect from the attack on the pain receptors in your body and push your mind into a euphoric state. Everything is greener, brighter, happier, richer, vibrant. Not many get to experience that feeling because they are afraid of the pain, they give in and give up to the pain too quickly. Our favorite saying during the Coastal Challenge was, "No little piggie, that isn't fear/pain you are feeling, that is excitement!" Needless to say, our facebook comments were very random and silly reflecting this idea. It went something like this:

and so we meet again my little exciteable piggie. no you cannot massage out my knotty spots...

thanks to my very special peeps giving me kick ass shout outs and revvin' my engine. these bitches be craaazy! see y'all on the flip side...


We ate a good breakfast at the hotel lobby, loaded up our luggage, then headed over to race start and grabbed a few more bites there. Black coffee for me, thank you very much. We were both dealing with nervous bladders so made frequent trips back and forth to the ladies room. Eventually it became such a congestion of runners that we joined forces and just shared bathrooms with the sexes. There were men in the women's stalls and vice versa. Yeah, cuz that's how we trail runners roll.

It was great to see all the families at the start line: Little blonde pig-tailed girls in summer dresses doing twirls at their runner mommy's feet, parents pushing strollers alongside their running spouses in support, boyfriends and girlfriends cheering each other on and giving last minute smooches. It was a calming environment; not the hard-core competitive feeling you get starting a road race. Intense focus and negative splits of road races are replaced with eagerness and excitement to get on the trails for some amazing panoramic views, great billy-goat hill climbs, and deliciously fast downhills. You narrow down your target finish time to full and half hours instead of minutes and seconds. Negative splits I say? Toss those out the door! It is nearly impossible to gauge exact time and "negative splits" for trail races due to the dramatic changes in elevation, technicality, and trail quality.

We lined up, scanned our ankle chips, and shot out of the shute a soon as the gun went off. We started off slow (probably too slow but we figured we had six days to run right?) in an attempts to calm our excitement/nerves down. The run was beautiful! It wrapped around a mountain and ended up alongside a river at camp. Mostly dry dirt roads with a bit of plush sandy stuff (not a fave but I'll take it over concrete). Very sunny and a little desert feel to it.

Salomon was offering cameras to runners to shoot their theme of the day "Are We Having Fun Yet" in hopes of some great prizes that night. Steph and I grabbed one and had a great time running and shooting to our hearts desire. Some great photos we had were:

1. Steph literally wrapping her body around a lamppost in protest to starting the race. I had one leg braced against the post and my arms attempting to tear her off the post. It was probably the best pic hands down of the day. As it looked very un-posed and theatrical.

2. Me hiding my body in a Recycle bin with just my eyes peeking out.

3. Someone had dumped some water out of their bottle which produced a little trickle of water on the cement. I crouched over it as if I was taking a leak and pasted on an "oh my" expression. We had runners behind us laughing at this one.

4. Mid run in a very desert-like area of the trail we came across a well picked animal skull with a spine attached. I laid down next to it and pet/kissed the little guy. We cuddled for a bit then ran on. (oh and I got a pic of Steph peeing off the side of the trail too...unbeknownst to her).

5. There was a dead end sign branching off the trail. Steph laid under it pretending to be dead.

6. At the last aid station/check point we met "John" who was to become one of our bestest buddies at the race....oh and he was good looking to boot! He was shirtless and we got our pic taken with Steph and I on either side of him. At the last minute I asked if I could pinch his nipple...and he said yes. So we snapped a pic of that:)

(ok you caught me if you noticed that we are wearing a totally different outfit. We lost the original pic to the Salomon camera "crew" so had to have a re-do the next day. John saw it in his heart to allow us to pinch his nipple yet again....)

7. During the last 7 miles of the course we were on a back cement road. We had befriended a guy we named "L.A." who was a military dude. He was having altitude sickness issues so we decided to walk with him for a mile or two. During this time we had him take a pic of us attempting to hitchhike to the finish line. A car actually stopped for us so we got that pic too.

L.A.'s partner showed up and started drilling him on trying to run faster (ignoring the fact that the dude has altitude sickness and this is the first day of SIX). It got a bit uncomfortable and I whispered to Steph, "let's run!" and so we did.

Crossing the finish line was the best feeling. We were a bit sore but spirits were soaring. We had seen some amazing views, some good conversations, and had one hell of a runners high. It was at this point that I discovered tuna fish mixed with crunched up plain potato chips. Yep sounds gross right?! I KNOW!! I normally wouldn't eat this (in fact there is a childhood story about me and tuna fish that involves projectile puking in my father's brand new truck that has followed me ever since so I don't really eat canned tuna much) but for some reason I devoured this after each day of the race. It was delicious, salty and packed with protein.

We found a creek off the side of a big bridge and eased our way into the freezing waters to help mend our legs. Soon other runners joined us and it became a bit of a bonding experience. Again we did this after every single day of running. It was intensely painful to get in but once your lower body became numb (yep even the girly bits) the pain evaporated and you stayed in another five-ten minutes. Only then did you pull your body out of the frozen depths to a brand new set of legs. It was great.

Not only did we have a great day running, but we had so much fun and silliness too. Unfortunately, and totally against our beliefs, we didn't win a singe picture!

Leslie from Banff Trail Trash- this was her third time at TRR and this time brought her husband.

Dancing in the Gore-Tex rain chamber. I actually won a jacket from them! Woot!

That night we both took a hot shower in their AWESOME mobile shower van. Oh yeah, and if I haven't mentioned it already, this race rocked a thousand times better than The Coastal Challenge. I am in awe....
Dinner was fajitas (which we learned we should get to dinner early or you end up with left overs and no sauce for your fajitas). Salomon gave out free enamel mugs for hot cocoa around the campfire along with a pocket flashlite. Steph and I decided that although the campfire was really cozy, we should head back to the tent to get a good nights sleep. Hope Pass had our names written all over the trails:)

Pre Race Madness: TransRockies Report (Finally)

Aug 20th, 2009- Short and Sweet/Down and Dirty Report

Met Stephanie at DIA and give big "bestest of running buddies" hugs. Drove and chatted the ENTIRE time as we headed to Bent Gate in Golden, CO to check off last minute gear buys. Ate at D-Deli then headed home to drop off luggage, throw on some trail running clothes, and grab Argos. We decided to test Steph's altitude tolerance with a gentle 3miler at Gudy Gaskill Trail. Steph did great and no side effects minus her comment of, "I feel like my lungs are a bit on fire and I am taking some deep heavy breaths!" I smiled, gave her a pat on the back and said, "you'll do great! We can always go slow and walk if we have to." We both knew this was just silly feel-better talk and that both of us are way too competitive to just walk:) With that out of our system we went to eat SUSHI!

August 21st

Woke up and joined Steph in the kitchen for some Clean Eating protein pancakes. These were really yummy and will now be a pre-workout staple in my recipe book (*note, I also tried the cottage cheese protein pancakes at a later date and I think these are actually better and more moist).

A final last minute gear run to Denver's REI and home to pack, unpack, repack, and pack again just to make sure. We wolfed down some delicious fish tacos and headed out the door towards Buena Vista!

A couple hours later we arrived at the Best Western Vista Inn where we were getting dropping off. Walking into the hotel we met our very first "obstacle" of the TRR event. Best Western informed us they gave away our room and had no vacancies. AND every single hotel in a fifty mile radius was booked full due to the race.

Ummm yeah. Come again?

Stephanie and I almost lost it in laughter knowing we had no transportation and now no bed. We eyed the hotel's couch longingly and actually pleaded to let us sleep in the waiting area as the hotel clerk (quite flustered over this error) attempted to call the manager and other hotels to find us a room. This is how we first met Drew, the TRR announcer.

Here we are, two runner chicks with a crap-ton of luggage holed up in the waiting room of a hotel looking a tad lost(**). Drew introduced himself and after a bit of conversation told us we would be welcome to stay in his event trailer in the parking lot. We beamed thinking of how cool THAT would be (kinda like a fort for adults right?) but just at that point the hotel clerk somehow found us a room right there in the Best Western. Steph joked with the clerk, "is it a closet?" I poked Steph in the side, "what are you talking about? You totally know if it was a closet we would so take it and just spoon!" She beamed, "You are so right!"

After carefully avoiding giving ourselves hernias piling our luggage into our room, we headed next door for some bison burgers and sweet potato fries at Buffalo's bar/grill. It was all divine...greasy meaty divineness.

**I was very excited at this point at how everything had turned out. I am very much a "roll with the punches" kinda girl and don't get real flustered at the little blips in life. What could have ended up as a heated argument about the hotel giving up our room etc, turned out to be something quite silly and memorable. What I observed of Steph and how she handled the situation (laughing and joking/glass half full) made me feel like the rest of the week would be just fine!**

August 22 Race Registration

We did a lot of walking today and decided unanamously that all the miles we put on our feet negated the planned pre-race warm up we had on the agenda.

As we meandered our way toward the race registration building a gear shop, Trailhead, caught our eye. We each managed to find an assortment of things we just "needed" for the race such as: a tribal turtle sticker for my nalgene (goat sticker for Steph), hardcase waterproof case for my phone, a smartwool beanie, and a DIVA cup (oh my). We both decided to be adventurous and buy one since we were both "expecting" later that week and knew how the stress of these races tend to excellerate such things. Steph ended up being the gunea pig of the group as my little friend decided to be sweet to me and stay away for the duration.

Breakfast was at The Rooster's Crow. Delicious banana pancakes, coffe, and eggs over easy. While we were waiting for our food we noticed a little crack o' heaven and had to take a pic. Yes, I am going to hell over this but I have come to terms...

I am a bit of a coffee snob. I don't do Starsucks unless it is on a road trip and I am desperate, and I don't do fru-fru sugary stuff. I like my skinny lattes and smooth, strong (as my dad would say, "put some hair on your chest") coffee. I mostly dig mom and pop kinda coffee shops. Anyways, I figured that during the race I would be faced with mediocre coffee with no agave, no soy creamer, and nothing near "natural". After a lengthy discussion with Steph I decided to drink my coffee nekked. Starting now, cold turkey.
It was harsh but it was a good decision that I stuck with thru the entire six days. I converted back as soon as my feet hit Denver soil, but I now know I can do it and it didn't kill me. It actually, kinda tasted good. I shall explore this dark realm further....

Browsed a few other little shoppes until we finally arrived at check-in. A short wait and a bag full of schwagg later and we were registered! Holy crap, I could not believe the amount of goodies we received just through the registration process:

Salomon metal water bottle- gorgeous blood red

Gortex soft shell athletic jacket- lime green and black, very sporty with clean fast lines.

Timex Watch- this was a cool looking watch but proved to be not so impressive. The day I came home I tried it on. In the process of buckling the band the entire (and I mean entire) watch fell apart. The band is metal (not a fan) and it just broke apart from the face of the watch. I ended upwith about eight small peices of watch in my hand. I contacted Timex online and listed specifically where I got the watch etc. They sent me back a very generic email stating I could pay $8 s&h along with the returned watch to get a replacement if the watch was still under warranty. I am attempting to see if they will swap the crappy watch with one of their Ironman plastic band watches. A metalic $120 watch for a plastic $60 = win:win situation right? We shall see. So far not impressed with Timex.

Saltstick tabs
Cliff barssocks
TRR baseball cap
Salomon visorNathan Hydration water bottle
Salomon LAB shoes- Very cozy and a shocking orange-red color. Different but kinda cool

On our way back to our hotel we wandered spontaneously into a tattoo parlor and briefly discussed getting tattoos. We were full of excitement and wanting to get tattoos NOW. Right now, no thinking just doing. Luckily I was able to step back just a second and say "hey wait a minute, maybe this isn't the best decision." I have been planning for a few years on getting a tattoo. I have designed it and drawn it out myself being very symbolic to particular things in my life. However there were some "missing links" of the tattoo I hadn't figured out yet. I didn't want this to be a spontaneous thing and I knew that running for six days with a brand new tat rubbing against my shorts would probably not be the most fun thing evah. Plus, having a few slight doubts of "what if I don't finish this race", I didn't want a permanent reminder of my stupidity/failure. We left the parlor agreeing that we would eventually both get our tattoos.

We packed and repacked our final bags for the race and went back out for the pre-race dinner banquet: a fantastic spread of Greek fare and an electrically charged environment.

We walked back to our hotel room and spent the night chatting, strategizing, and facebooking in an ambien induced craziness. Note to those that take ambien: do not text/facebook/or do anything but sleep post consumption of ambien!