2016 TransRockies RUN6 Recap
The TransRockies RUN6 is a six-day stage race in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. So basically a cross-country camp for adults. Yes, where do I register? 🙂 This race has always been on my radar to do but just didn’t line up with our schedule until this year. A friend of my, Erin, asked me last fall to join her in the open mix team division for the RUN6. And with that nudge, this sea dwelling trail runner was registered to run where many elites have trampled through in years past.
Getting Ready for 20,000+ of Elevation Gain
Knowing that we’ll be running 6 days straight and covering over 120 miles + 20,000 ft of elevation gain I had to re-evaluate my training regiment for 2016. While I’ve felt strong in the past couple years at some ultra races I wanted to see if I could take my physical strength and endurance to the next level. So I began by getting back to basics and working on my diet and my core strength. Overall my routine included: daily core work (planks every night before bed with modified plank/mountain climbers), weight training (focusing on legs and core) twice a week for two solid months. Then my diet was a big factor as I basically cut down on the large portions at meal time and stopped my 4 bowls of cereal at night. Amazing how this alone helped out. The past few years I was a solid 170 lbs and with this new routine I was able to cut down to 155 at my lowest.
Another element that I learned was heart rate training. Earlier in the year, week of my Haven-Kal-Haven FKT, I took a metabolic test at Athletic Mentors. This test gave me great information about my pace and heart rate based on my goals for this year. My goals were to finish strong at TRR and hit a sub 20 hour finish at a 100 miler. I believe this HR training has truly helped me be a stronger and more efficient runner and that I can run more quality runs throughout a week without causing damage. Plus my metabolism has increased thus burning more fat on my runs. This plan has paid off for me in a 5 mile PR in July to a marathon PR in May.
Colorado Here I Come!
August came quick this year and I was beyond excitement to get on the plane to head west. The family was going to come but the logistics to have them around each day of the race was tough. So with the support of my amazing family they sent me off for 10 days in the mountains. Thankfully I had some friends that live in Lakewood (just outside of Denver) that I was able to stay with Saturday through Monday morning. It was fun to reconnect with them along with getting acclimated in CO.
Stage 0 – Buena Vista (Packet Pickup)
Monday morning we drove out to Buena Vista as I was going to meet up with Erin for packet pickup. The drive alone out that way was crazy amazing. Annnd we drove past South Park!! I looked for Kenny but I figured he was dead. 😛
Stage 1 – Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge (20.8 miles w/2,500ft of climbing – Start 7,888ft / Finish 8,256ft / Max 9,337ft)
Left our cabin in Arrowhead and headed to BV for the start of the race. We meet up with others from the Kalamazoo area that also were running the race. Was great to see familiar faces that morning. Yes my nerves were off the chart as I hadn’t run in CO yet so I had no clue if I was going to get the ‘altitude sickness’ that so many warned me about. Leading up to race day I drank water like a camel for days as I hoped that would help.
As we took off from the starting chute Erin and I kept an easy pace through town. I quickly could feel my breathing was harder than usual but as soon as we got off the roads and onto the trails I was able to relax and my breathing fell into place. This would be the trend for all 6 days. I feel that my two months of humidity training back home in Michigan helped with the elevation for me but then again maybe I just got lucky. Oooor I’m meant to live in CO. 🙂
Stage 1 was amazing. Anything I saw was amazing. Just ask Erin. Pretty sure you could have turned my quotes into a drinking game for the week because I was in awe all week and I definitely would say it out loud every day. 🙂 Stage 1 was hot though and very sandy/desert like of a course. Heck I saw cactus’ on the trail. While the elevation was pretty low that day the intense sun with no wind did take a toll on many of the runners. Erin was one of them so we kept the pace easy but kept the movement forward. There were some sections that she let me ‘play’ and this was a trend for the week to come. Any of the downhills I would push hard forward and have some fun with it.
Stage 2 – Vicksburg to Twin Lakes (13.3 miles w/3,200ft of climbing – Start 9,662ft / Finish 9,211ft / Max 12,536ft)
With just a little breakfast, in which will bite me later in the run, day two of running was upon us. Today called for big elevation as we would climb up and through Hope Pass just outside of Leadville. We started out on a slow incline dirt road for roughly two miles and then we all jumped onboard the single-file train up the mountain. Temps were cool and the effort was intense. I’ve heard you never sweat much in CO but this section of the race I was like an open faucet. By the time we hit tree line and in the open my core cooled down. Overall I felt good and wasn’t feeling the altitude until we were around 11,500ft then the breathing just got heavy. During this section we took many switchbacks to get to the top and it seemed like it kept going and going. I stopped in a couple of sections to snag some photos and to also wait up for Erin.
Once we made it to the top we grabbed a couple quick selfies with the GoPro and high-fived the amazing volunteers then we begin our descent. I was amazed how much cooler and windier it was that high up. Even with my RunS2S shirt on I was pretty cold when we made it up.
Now it was time to see if my months of training to strengthen my legs for the downhills was about to be tested. I let Erin lead us out as she is a beast with the downhills.
After 4 miles of downhill at an average of -20% grade we had a BLAST! We definitely pushed it and let gravity be our friend. At this time I was feeling okay but knew that I needed to eat something as I didn’t have a big breakfast and didn’t do my traditional nutrition before the race. Well as we came out of the descent and into some rolling trails I began to feel the fatigue and my heart rate was dropping. I knew then it would be a challenge to get across the line. When we rolled into some flat area I downed my UCAN gel mix but I knew it would probably be too late. With roughly 4 miles to go it felt like 20 miles to go but with help from Erin we pushed through and made it. Lesson learned from Stage 2….eat, eat, eat before the race as mountains WILL take everything out of you.
Stage 3 – Leadville to Nova Guides/Camp Hale (24.5 miles w/2,700ft of climbing – Start 10,146ft / Finish 9,205ft / Max 10,915ft)
Needless to say I ate like a king Stage 3 morning as I knew we had a long haul of a run for the day. Erin and I agreed to keep the pace easy and possibly run with some of our Kalamazoo friends for the first half.
I kept up on my nutrition (oranges, M&Ms, watermelon) at the checkpoints and in the end I felt great. The trails on this day where again gorgeous as can be. With slightly cooler temps and an abundant amount of shade it felt like at home sometimes on the trail.
Stage 4 – Camp Hale to Red Cliff (14.5 miles w/2,800ft of climbing – Start 9,206ft / Finish 8,650ft / Max 11,683ft)
Stage 4 challenged us with another big climb of the day. After an easy 2 mile warm up we proceeded to climb up and once we reached the top the views were again amazing.
After coming out of mountain cold stream for a mile we couldn’t feel our feet for a bit. It was an odd feeling, kinda like a pirate with two peg legs. 🙂 We checked into the last checkpoint, a couple of shots of Fireball and we proceeded to head downhill to Red Cliff where our fish tacos at Mango’s Mountain Grill were waiting for us.
Stage 5 – Red Cliff to Vail (24.1 miles w/4,100ft of climbing – Start 8,650ft / Finish 8,194ft / Max 11,697ft)
Stage 5, Saturday, brought us back to Red Cliff to start our 24 mile journey to Vail. With temps in the mid 30s before the start, Mangos was happily open for the runners to hangout inside to stay warm.
This stage was awesome! Yes it had a killer incline but the descent was a blast! With around 6 or so miles to go Erin let me play and bomb ahead for a few miles (until the next checkpoint) and wow it was fun. Running switchbacks down a mountain and onto service roads at 90% full throttle….woohooo, I was pushing low 7 minute pace and sometimes dipping into the mid 6s. It was great to feel this strong on day 5 with 20+ miles under my legs for the day alone. My training for this event worked perfectly!
Upon finishing and getting our tent picked out I quickly utilized the local stream to cool the legs off.
Stage 6 – Vail to Beaver Creek (22.4 miles w/5,250ft of climbing – Start 8,194ft / Finish 8,120ft / Max 10,553ft)
The last day. Was exciting and sad all the same. Overall I didn’t have any issues with rolled ankles or strains so I honestly didn’t want the week to end but I was excited to get home and see the family.
As we left Vail we quickly were routed onto a trail that basically consisted of switch backs up and over the mountain in Vail.
We finished! Overall in the mix team open division Erin and I placed 10th. Not bad for a couple of flat landers that had some struggles throughout the week. In the end I did not care about the placement but was so happy to be in Colorado and to run with many amazing athletes in such a beautiful place and incredibly thankful that Erin asked me join her on this adventure.
Would I go back? Heck ya but not for a couple of years as I’d like to have my family come along next time when our boys are a bit older. Besides I have some other bucket list adventures I’d like to check off first (WS100). Kevin Houda and the entire TransRockies crew put on a top-notch event and race-cation. If you are ever looking for an adult run camp in the mountains, TRR is what you should be signing up for. From the gorgeous scenery to the beautiful individuals you meet all week, this race will always be an amazing highlight in my runner career.
Next up for me is redemption and WS100 ticket earning at Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 mile in September. I’m really stoked this time as my training has been on a different level this year and I’m excited to see how the day unfolds. Besides finishing my top goal is to try to finish under the 20hr mark. What’s on your race radar next? Love to hear from you all.