Trans-Rockies: An Epic Six Day Trail Running Adventure

Day 5 Summit View

“Wow!”  “Stunning!”  “Insane!”  Probably the three most common words to come out of my mouth last month at Trans-Rockies.  So how do I recap such an amazing adventure?  Let me start by saying the organizers of Trans-Rockies did a fabulous job!!!  From setting up start lines only to tear them down immediately following the start, packing it up and then re-setting it back up as the finish line (and all before the first finishers arrived)–wow! Then there was the crew which daily tore down our tents every morning and had them set up at the new location every afternoon–over 350 of them ready for our arrival.  On top of that there was breakfast which was ready each morning by 6am and dinner by 4:30 pm, the massage therapists and their tents, the first aid and taping team, the shower truck guy, the three aid stations at each stage, the transport crew when we needed to be shuttled to a different location, the station to charge hundreds of phones, ipods and garmins and the nightly awards and preview of the next days race.  These guys had their details down and were simply amazing!  As for the race itself, here is a daily recap with the best pics from the day.

Day 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge, 21 miles, 2500 ft of climbing

This is was the warmest day by far and the day of the lowest elevation.  I believe we stayed below 9,000 ft. all day.  It would be the only day we would run so “low”.  Yikes!  While this day did not have alpine terrain it was still beautiful with quite a few rolling hills and a mix of jeep trail, single track and at the end, a nasty little 4 miles false flat on an exposed fire road…no bueno!  Those last 4 miles were hard and hot.  My friend Amber and I were running this event as a team and competing against other women’s teams of two whose combined ages were over 80.  This would be the one and only day of the week we would podium, taking third place in our division and each winning a new hydration pack.  Pretty cool!

Day 1

 

Day 1 Rock Formation

The pic below is from the nasty 4 mile road at the end of the race…the false flat!  At the beginning of this section there were a couple of tunnels which were cool.  I wish there had been more of them.  At least there was a river of icy water at the finish where we could soak. 🙂

Day 1 tunnels

 Day 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes, 13.4 miles, 3200 ft of climbing

This day started at over 9600 ft. of elevation and went to over 12,500 ft.!  Yep, folks, imagine starting a race near the summit of Baldy and then climbing higher.  There was a lot of walking involved!  The start line was on a fire road and after about a mile we turned on to a single track which began an amazing climb through a grove of Aspen…it made you want to bust out in a melody of old John Denver tunes.  Except of course I couldn’t breath, hike and sing at the same time.

Day 2 Aspens

If you look close on the pic below you can see little tiny people making their pilgrimage to the top.  I later asked a few of the elites if they had actually run up this monster.  They assured me that they too had walked.  While that made me feel better I am sure their walk was probably faster than my run.  But to be honest I really didn’t care as the scenery was becoming incredibly beautiful.

Day 2 View Up Hope Pass

 

Day 2 Hope Pass View

Almost to the top of Hope Pass at 12,500 feet!

Day 2 Hope Pass Trail

Panoramic view of Hope Pass (one of my favorite pics).

Day 2 Hope Pass Panorama

We made it to the top and would get to run down a screaming fast and technical downhill.  About 3 miles down I started getting a blister under my heel so we did the smart thing and stopped to tape it up.  The last few miles were all flat as we ran alongside Twin Lakes which we were able to soak in after finishing.

Day 2 Top of Hope Pass

Day 2 Flat

 

Day 2 Twin Lakes

Day 3: Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale, 24.3 miles, 2700 ft of climbing

After finishing the race the day before we were bussed into Leadville where we camped on a field at the high school.  Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the lower 48 at over 10,500 feet in elevation.  This days race would be the longest (over 24 miles) and almost all of it (20 miles) would be over 10,000 feet.  We started on the highway and ran a couple of miles to a truck trail where we began yet another long climb.

Day 3 Climbing Up

After a while we found ourselves running on the actual Continental Divide which I thought was cool.  Remember the Continental Divide from your high school days?  If I remember right, all the rain which falls east of it flows to the Mississippi and drains in the Gulf and the rain that falls to the west drains in the Pacific.

Day 3 Continental Divide Sign

We ran along the divide for a while and…

Day 3 Continental Divide

…eventually went through a beautiful meadow.  There was rain in the distance.  This would be the one day we would be rained on before we finished.

Day 3 Meadow

Day 4: Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff, 14.2 miles, 2800 ft of climbing

The morning of day 4 was beautiful with a fog rising off the lake where we were camped.

Day 4 Camp Hale Sunrise

Day 4 Camp Hale Sunrise 2

In the next pic you can see how close our sleeping quarters were.  A little too close for my liking as you could hear a chorus of snoring throughout the night.

Day 4 Tent City

I had not been sleeping well (and neither had Amber) so we decided to take a phone and credit card with us and if we could get reception up at 11,000 feet (which is where we were going that day!) we would try to book a hotel for the following night in Vail.  The start of the race had us running back up the section we had finished on the afternoon before and then we turned left for once again another climb.

Day 3 View from Top

 

Day 4 Fire Road View

This was an absolutely beautiful day with stunning views.  At this point in the race we had decided to just enjoy ourselves and not push real hard.  We hung out in the back half and met some of the most fun, nice, cool, interesting people.  It was incredibly enjoyable, and to make matters even better we got reception and booked a hotel in Vail for night number 5!!!  It was actually a humorous sight.  You know how when you get reception in a difficult area you freeze not wanting to lose your bars?  Imagine me frozen with phone in hand just like that in the middle of the wilderness calling 411 and booking a hotel.  Everyone around us thought it was awesome and many others followed suit.  We were all tired of tent living while racing (especially since it rained almost every night).

Day 4 Panorama

As I wrote earlier, it was stunning so we took some fun pics…  🙂

Day 4 Amber Summit Pose

 

Day 4 Summit Lookout Dawn

This is what we were looking at from the top of the rock…

Day 4 Summit View 2

Day 4 Stream Trail

Toward the end of this stage there was a half mile where the trail turned into a stream.  We had no choice but to run through it and it was awesome…like being 6 years old again and splashing through puddles!

Day 4 Stream RunDay 4 Finish

The finish (above pic) was next door to a small restaurant called Mango’s which is known for their fish taco’s and margarita’s.  I don’t drink so I settled for fish tacos and ice water and we hung out for a while before catching our shuttle back to Camp Hale where we would have one more night in the tents.  That afternoon while in my tent we got hit with a crazy thunder and lightning hail storm.  Yep, I was going to enjoy having a hotel room the next day!

Day 5: Red Cliff to Vail, 23.6 miles, 4100 ft of climbing

The next morning we were bussed back to Red Cliff to start where we had finished the day before…right next to Mango’s.  Day 5 was super stunning in scenery…after all we were running into Vail!  At the beginning it was primarily fire road with incredible views.  In fact, my favorite scenery pic is in this grouping.

Day 4 Trees 2

Day 4 Trek on Top

 

Day 5 View

Fun panoramic below…

Day 5 Panorama

Below is my favorite scenery pic.  I will be printing this as a canvas and including it in my adventure wall which I wall write about another time.  (Thanks for the idea, Alice Bell-Gaines!).  🙂

Day 5 Summit View 2

Some sections were single track and there were wildflowers everywhere.  The pics do not do the flowers justice.

Day 5 Trek Up to the Ridgeline

 

Day 5 Trail Across Ridge

Eventually we headed down to the ski resort for a downhill finish which was somewhat painful as a blister had wrapped around the side and bottom of my foot.

Day 5 Vail Lodge

It felt good to finish.  It felt even better to go to the hotel.  We decided to not go back to the camp for dinner and ordered room service, doctored our own feet and went to bed.

Day 6: Vail to Beaver Creek, 21.8 miles, 4900 ft of climbing

The final day!  And the day with the most elevation gain.  It began with a run through Vail on streets and then we found ourselves climbing through another grove of aspen.  We picked our pace up on this particular day (probably because we could smell the finish!) and I did not take too many pics.  There was lots of climbing but it did not feel that hard.  Perhaps we were finally acclimatizing!

Day 6 Aspens

After the second aid station we entered a narrow canyon for a super steep and technical downhill which seemed to last for a long time.  The pic below is simply the beginning of that section.   The trail  takes you off the edge and down to that tiny valley you see below.  There were roots and rocks everywhere so you really had to watch your feet.

Day 6 Drop to Avon

The bottom portion was more jungle like.

Day 6 Bottom of Canyon

At the bottom of the canyon we came out in the city of Avon and the route became street running.  We had not attended the briefing the night before so we had no idea how long this section was.  In hindsight we were probably better off not knowing as it was long and hot.  Eventually we made it to the third and final aid station which had some very fun and creative snacks for us.

Day 6 Aid Station 2

And then it was back on the trail for a very warm climb of about 3 miles and a 1 mile downhill to the finish at Beaver Creek!

Day 6 Medal

We did it!  We ran 120 miles across the Rocky Mountains in 6 days!  It was good to be done.  And what was really cool was our hotel was literally steps from the finish line.

Overall it was an incredible six days.  It was hard, my feet were torn up, my knee swollen from an old injury and I ended up with cankles (is that how you spell it???) for a couple of days afterwards, but I am SO GLAD I did it.  I am also extremely GRATEFUL to Amber for finding and suggesting the race…thank you!  I had an incredible time!  Now that I have re-lived it by writing this post I realize I have already forgotten the pain and really miss my days in the Rockies  It was a great way to finish an epic spring and summer of trail running  I highly recommend this event!  Trans-Rockies is amazing!

2 thoughts on “Trans-Rockies: An Epic Six Day Trail Running Adventure

    1. Ah yes, the secret to preserving a friendship through six days of roughing it…separate tents! Paying the extra $100 for our own tent was worth it. For those reading this, if you do this event please note that you will be sharing that tent with a humongous, supersize bag (it was so big I could have slept in it) that all your gear must go into each morning in order to be transported to the next location. Of course, you can never find what you need in the bag without dumping it all out each morning while trying to get dressed. I can’t imagine two people and two of those bags in the same tent. That would be a recipe for disaster!

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