Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Gore-tex TransRockies

"Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams, Seeking grace in every step he takes, His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand, The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake..."

Colorado's high-alpine country is intoxicating. The geology alone is enough for any trail runner to salivate at the opportunity. My training progressed easily and with no significant injuries or setbacks. The numbers speak for themselves: May 20 - August 11, Time: 85:09:56 Distance: 404.13 miles, Vertical: 110,102 ft. I only recall a few runs that I just felt like shit. Awesome.

The 6-day, 120 mile stage race through the Colorado Rockies is an experience worth living. Simply put, wake-up, eat, run, drink beer, eat, sleep; repeat 6 times. The most unusual epiphany, working and day to day living tax your body way more than I imagined. Yes, I was in good shape for the adventure, but truthfully, I didn't feel like we covered that much distance. Every run's finish line is close enough to a cold water source that icing isn't a task. I often finish running and say to myself, "Ok, use the two ice bags you bought six months ago in the freezer." only to get home and take a hot shower. Partly lazy, but I think a naturally flowing water source is much more effective, and safer, than submerging yourself in a static ice-filled ceramic pond. Tendons and ligaments don't like to be frozen and I think there is a fine line between too much and just right. I've had success icing and not icing. Bottom-line, if you respond well to something keep on, keepin' on.

Another unusual aspect from the week that, in my opinion, enables a faster recovery: camaraderie. Trail runners are a breed of their own, and the longer the distances the more a like everyone becomes. The amount of beer than was consumed is astonishing, yet no one, to my knowledge, even woke up with a slight hangover. If they did, altitude was an easy target to blame. Seriously, every moment of the week is filled with laughter, complaints, and smiles. The night time tent sleeping was more inline with your first sleepover. Everyone has a childish laugh, everyone is farting, petulant comments are as abundant as oxygen at sea-level.

It was just a great training week. I arrived with no expectations, unplugged completely, and just enjoyed being outside. Below are pictures and a daily recap of each stage.
Gore-tex TransRockies Stage 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge
My first taste of running at altitude: stomach cramps, leg cramps, finish. Not too excited by limited ability today. Lots of sun in today's high desert. Just didn't get into a groove of comfort after I stopped to pee. I worked too hard to get back with the group and courtesy a sea-level red blood cell count I red lined and never recovered. I should have stopped for a few minutes, but kept rollin' on. It may be a long week. At least the beer is free.
Gore-tex TransRockies Stage 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes
Today should have been a spotlight. The course is catered to my strengths: steep up, steep down. I've been cursed by low oxygen and being too close to the stars, however. I started nervously, stayed patient and then above 10,700 ft. above sea level the wheels came off of my homemade wagon. for the next 11 miles I went in and out of feeling like I held my breath too long. Stars in the daytime are not normal. I don't remember much of anything about today. But after I got into the finish area I just sat down and drooled. I used a beer can to cool my pounding headache and after about an hour of sitting feeling sorry for myself I got up. Stood in a lake for another hour, got sunburned. The rest of the night I didn't talk. I just wanted to stop feeling out of place. By mornings light nothing go any better. I'll be back to take this route on, again, one day. Acclimated.
Gore-tex TransRockies Stage 3: Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale
I have the worst altitude sickness. I'm dizzy, not hungry, not thirsty, and just want to go numb. Life in the high-alpine is tough, right now. I didn't want to start, but I put on a smile, took a lame picture of myself and one foot in front of the other. Cruised up to a ski resort at a steady tromp. As soon as I got below 10,000 ft. above sea level a light came on. My body started to respond and I ran the last 10 miles, at least. It was a slight downhill, and the trail twisted and undulated. Finished the last few miles on a flat road, where I've discovered I have no anaerobic threshold at altitude while my body is adapting. A horrible start with a great finish. A good lesson, an old slogan: Just do it.
Gore-tex TransRockies Stage 4: Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff
After yesterday's morning altitude fiasco and a seamless recovery mid-way through, today's up-rolling-down stage was a good day. A steep climb, put my uphill legs to use and it felt great! Labored breathing, but heart rate stayed low enough that I felt in a good zone. The ridge was cool, hazy views, and the descent was pleasantly fast and sort of technical. Finish at a bar, a plus. However, I didn't really feel like drinking more than half a beer. River was too cold for my blood. Probably will pay for not icing tomorrow.
Gore-tex TransRockies Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail
Yeah, today was a culmination of walking fatigue, altitude fatigue, and just not in the mood to run. Sad because the ridge-line into the Vail Ski Resort was picturesque . The 8-mile jeep road leading to the trail, however, piece of shit. It was a slow start, had ok moments, and then my hip had some weird lock-up that finally gave way with about 3 miles left. I was glad to finish. Ready for the final the finish line.
Gore-tex TransRockies Stage 6: Vail to Beaver Creek
It has been an up and down week, but today I felt the best I've felt since arriving in Colorado. I went out with the leaders just to stretch my legs. I partially intended to stay with them over the next 19 miles, but this is a team event and it's no fun waiting at the finish line by yourself. Plus, about 8 miles into the run I was informed that we would be disqualified if I went through with my plan. Because I felt so good I decided to put a big enough gap between my teammate that even with an hour time penalty we would move up in the ranks. In the end, we finished together. I will never eat oranges on an empty stomach during a race again, by the way. Lesson learned.