Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TransRockies Day 6 - The Grand Finale

Vail to Beaver Creek - 21.2 miles

This was it. The final day of our 6 day run. This time there was no saving any for the next day (not that we were able to go much faster anyway!). It was definitely a bittersweet day. The last 5 days had slowly drained Toby and I, both physically and mentally, so one last push of 21.2 miles was a welcome site.

After awarding Andrew (the announcer) a WS4 the night before, he called us up to the front of the starting shoot that morning to get everyone warmed up in our own special way. What way you ask? By doing the Peanut Butter Jelly Time dance!

The Timex WS4 - the Wide Screen 4 function watch helped keep Toby and I on track over 113 miles. Check it out online at http://www.timexexpedition.com

After doing our warm up dance, Toby and I stayed in the front. Just for fun, on the lead out out of town, he and I jumped to the front to say "we were leading the race." The real race actually started when we crossed the foot bridge over I-70 and the leaders took off uphill at a blistering pace as usual.

To make sure that we got enough climbing in, the race organizers sent us up another massive, lung busting climb that would eventually drop us into the town of Avon. There was definitely a light heartiness about us that day, knowing that this was it. Taking in as much of the scenery as we could, we decided not to leave anything out there as well.

Push, push, push
As hard as you can
You'll never catch us
Tuff Brit & American

The descent down into Avon was awe inspiring. The single track trail sliced a thin line through the lush fields of wild flowers that blanketed the hill side. You had to resist looking up and staring at the magnificent sights around you because one wrong step on these narrow, steep, off camber trails and you would be rolling the rest of the way down!

We started the race with several tunnels on day 1, and finished it the same way on day 6. It really put a smile on my face to duck down and fly though the creek filled culverts. The launch over the ice water filled creeks to climb back out.

As the grand finale, we ascended a couple thousand feet up to Beaver Creek from the valley floor. Again we didn't leave anything thing out there, pushing as hard as we could with what little was left in our legs. After 5 days and over 20,000ft of elevation gain so far, our "fast" wasn't so "fast."

Being unique as always, Toby grabbed our tow rope, wrapped it around my neck and strangled me with it as we crossed the finish line. A not so typical finish, for a not so typical group of lads.

After we crossed the finish line, were given our finishers medals and shirts, we plopped down on the grass above the chute to cheer the other races across the line. It was surprising that once I sat down, my body finally said "I'm done!" Almost immediately I was overcome with a soreness and tired feeling that I hadn't felt the past week. I hurt everywhere and just wanted a nap! It was great!

We all (a group of 8 of us) dumped our stuff at the hotel and headed straight for the hot tub and pool not long after finishing. Greasy burgers and fries were the perfect treat as we splashed around and relaxed in the pool.

Hanging around the bright poolside, I had my Rudy Projects on as always. I wore (and still do wear) these glasses everyday. It was so nice to have the adjustable ear and nose pieces for the varying conditions of the ever changing race. Find about more about them at www.RudyProjectUSA.com.

That night there was a huge banquet and awards ceremony to honor and celebrate all the runners, crew, and other fantastic people and organizations involved with the TransRockies Run.
It was really fun to see everyone dressed up.

We, of course, got silly as usual and partied the night away. I'm not going to post all the pics from that night on grounds that I don't want to incriminate anyone. hehehe :-)

So there it is... The TransRockies Run. One of, if not the most, epic things I have ever done in my entire life (so far). I would totally recommend that anyone who fancies themselves a runner should do this. Anyone who wants a real challenge should do this. And anyone who just wants to have the time of their life for a week in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with some absolutely amazing people, should do this. I can't say enough good things about the staff, crew, other runners, and all the people involved in this race. I will be back for sure next year, ready to run my keester off!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TransRockies Day 5

Red Cliff to Vail - 23.4 miles

Brutally epic, extremely challenging, surprisingly difficult, lung busting, and devastatingly beautiful would all be drastic understatements when it comes to describing today's stage! It was the second longest stage (about 1 mile shorter than stage 3), but had over 4,000ft of climbing. The lowest point of the day was 8,000ft!

The night before we were gathered as usual in the giant tent to be briefed on the next days stage. We were all in good spirits, but it was a nervous happy. Eyeing the map of the next day, it was bound to be a tough one. We had got to spend a second night at Camp Hale, which was nice because we didn't have to pack everything up like all the other mornings.

The morning of Stage 5, they shuttled us back into the tiny town of Red Cliff. It was really freakin cold because it is tucked away in a little valley. Toby and I were so glad Sugoi had set us up with their Helium Jacket (http://www.sugoi.com/usa/usaeng/Products/Run/Details/1451-70100F-Helium-Jacket). This was part of our emergency pack that we each had to carry daily and pulling that on when you can see your breath is a nice feeling. This jacket only weights 3 ounces, but is surprisingly warm.

I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that if you are a runner who is accustom to adverse or even just early morning conditions, you have to have this jacket! It's light weight, breathable, and water resistant. I seriously can't say enough good things about this jacket. I am a HUGE FAN!

Toby and I decided to go with a similar plan to the previous day of pushing the uphills and hoping to not lose to much on the 9.5mile descent that was the final push of the day. Unfortunately for us, things didn't go quite as planned.

The stage started out going up a long jeep road for about 7 miles. I was feeling strong and had Toby in tow. We unhooked at the first aid station and stuffed our faces with everything we could. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to take 2 salt tabs (http://www.saltstick.com/), and follow that with all the rest of my nutrition. As we left the aid station off onto the single track climb, those 2 salt tabs got stuck in my throat. I immediately started heaving and threw up everything else I had swallowed after. Those 2 tabs went down, leaving me with a nearly empty stomach and a ton of salt in my belly. Not good.

As we kept climbing, things starting to get ugly. Toby's ankle was feeling a bit better, but the altitude was hurting him. I wasn't doing so great either. All that salt was giving me stomach cramps and I was now starting to feel the previous 4 days of running. We reattached the tow and kept plugging along trying to stay positive, but its hard when you both feel like crap.

One thing I was happy about, was the fact that my feet didn't hurt at all. I had decided to go with the New Balance 790 over the Avia Avi-Stoltz because there was so much climbing. I think the Avi-Stoltz would be better for the descent, but with 4,000+ ft of fighting gravity, I didn't want the extra weight.

As we neared the top (the second one!), it became more of a death march. We posed a couple times for the photographers and once again stuffed our faces at the second aid station, but the damage had been done. We had lost several spots and lots of time due to the fact that both Toby and I were "in the box" as he so eloquently put it. "The box" "The hurt locker" "The pain cave" Whatever you want to call it, we were both there as we trudged along at over 11,500ft above sea level.

The 9.5 mile descent from the top of Vail Ski Resort to the base wasn't much easier than going up. Both Toby's ankle and my quads were screaming out to stop. We didn't talk much for those long painful miles, but rather just kept pushing, each in our own way. I shut my brain off and tried to not think or focus on anything. This helped me to keep throwing one leg in front of the other knowing that every step was wearing on me more and more.

We pushed through to the end finishing 9th again in the Open Men's division. This had been "that one day" that everyone talked about. We both suffered like dogs and came out mentally stronger. I was glad that the next day was our final stage because if we had to do one more like today, I'm not sure how I would have fared.

They must have known that we were suffering out there because we got to camp and were greeted by burgers and beers at the Saloman Relaxation Station. Our dinner that night was fit for a king and believe me we were grateful for every last bite!

The crew got a little creative with set up of our tents on the fields of East Vail.

Though today was so brutal, I was a bit sad that it was over. That meant that we were just one day away from the finale of our trans Rockies adventure. I tried to take in as much of it as I could (which could be seen by the sun burn I got that afternoon hanging out in my short shorts), and not think about tomorrows finish.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TransRockies Day 4

Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff - 14.2 miles

After the never ending stage from the day before, we were quite excited for a "short" day. Only 14.2 miles!?! That's a walk in the park... except for that 3,000ft gain in the first few miles.

Toby's ankle was still in poor shape, so based off of our performance from yesterday we came up with a game plan. Go hard in the beginning and try to put as much time into our competitors on the uphill, in hopes that they wouldn't catch us on the long downhill.

I had a blast using the tow to sling shot Toby over the water bars on our way up. As I would approach a steep section, I would go into an all out sprint that would stretch the bungee almost 15ft! This would be enough to give Toby a HUGE pull up and over each little incline.

This was working great until the bungee came untied from the caribeaners that we were using. I found it quite hilarious, Toby didn't. Probably because the bungee came undone and snapped back, hitting him square in the chest. We took that as a sign to give it a break. This was fine by me because we had reached the steepest part of the day. How steep you ask? Well, steep enough that the 4 wheel drive jeep that was supposed to take supplies to check point one, got stuck! It was kinda funny until we realized that there wouldn't be our normal buffet at the check point. No worries though because we were on a mission to destroy that uphill, so we kept motoring.

The views from the top were absolutely spectacular. By far some of the best I have ever seen!

After a long descent, we came to one of the most fun sections of the entire race. We crossed a couple of creeks, then just jumped right into one! That's right, we got to run down the creek! The cool water felt good on our sore feet as we splashed along the picturesk creek bed, smiling the whole time.

From the finish of the creek run, we had only 3 miles of dirt road to reach the tiny mountain town of Red Cliff. I was anticipating Toby's ankle to be slowing him up after being soaked in cold water for 20 or so minutes, but once again he surprised me. HE started pushing the pace. We both knew that there were several teams not far behind, so I followed his lead. At one point I stopped to dance for the camera guy (It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!!!), and looked back to see 2 teams not more than 150 meters back! Finishing my dance up quickly, I sprinted back up to Toby and let him know that we had to keep pushing if we were going to hold them off. We crossed the line in 9th and were quite pleased with our performance for the day.

After the race it was the usual routine. Back to camp, eat, ice the legs in the creek, eat, shower up, eat, get a massage, eat, hang out, eat, meet a few more great people, and finally eat! One of the fun things we found to do today between all the eating was walking the slack line. One of the Saloman guys set it up between the trucks, so we played on that for a while.

It was early to bed as usual (9:30-10ish) because we had what would end up being one of the hardest stages of the entire race the next day. I was so excited!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

TransRockies Day 3

Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale - 24 miles

This was going to be a real test for Toby and I. For him, the ankle and ribs were not doing well. For me, this would be the longest run (in both time and distance) that I had ever done! We were both a little nervous, but it ended up working out just dandy!

This was a cool race start for Stage 3 - Main St in Leadville! Lead out of town by the police, we were certainly a sight to see! We put in a few miles along the highway before turning off onto the dirt and starting a climb. Another climb?!? Oh what a surprise! ;-)

As soon as we left the pavement, out came the tow line. We knew if we were going to finish this day we would have to seriously work together. There were 2 creek crossings early on that we strategically avoided (sort of). We skirted around the first one, and to keep Toby's ankle wrap dry, I gave him a piggy back across the second one.

Nutrition and Hydration were key for this day because as I mentioned before, I have never gone this long. I had two bottles strapped to my hands and went through them between each aid station.

I went with the New Balance 790 again because I feel that they are one of the closest things to natural running (no shoes). I really like how they aren't over built and they allow my body to run naturally, as its meant to. They dried out pretty quickly after the creek crossing, so my feet felt great the rest of the day.

It was a little frustrating when Toby and I would work our way past several teams and then on the downhill, they would fly past us. This happened a couple of times throughout the day and when it came to the final descent and then flat 3 miles to finish, I had had enough. I didn't want to lose all that time we had worked so hard for and when we popped out onto a dirt road for the final approach to the finish, some really light a fire under me.

I turned to Toby and said "I feel the need. The need for speed!" And off we went. I was giving it every thing I had. Sweat poring down my face, drool flying from my lips, legs screaming to stop. But I wouldn't give in because I was determined to make up some of that lost time. My plan was to hold that grueling pace until Toby said something, but I later learned that he had said to himself that he wouldn't back off until I did. We made such a great team! Though we only caught one other team of runners, I was very content with the effort at the end of the day. Not a bad way to finish the longest run I had ever done (and while towing someone!).

Fun sight to see at the finish line. We wore our Team Timex kits today and totally matched all the banners and flags. REPRESENT!

Life is so rough when you have to run in the morning and then get a massage in the afternoon.

Sarah, one of the TRR crew, could often be found in her hammock in the back of the Uhaul in the afternoon. She just moved over 300 giant, wicked heavy duffel bags on and off of the truck, I think a little nap is in order.

This is what we would do every afternoon, just hang out. It was so much fun! Run in the morning, shower, eat, and then hang out. Doesn't get much better.

After showing off the "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" dance to everyone at the house the night before the race started, they insisted that I do it in front of everyone one of the nights. So when the perfect opportunity arose, I just up on the table and announced to everyone that "the Timex boys want to make sure everyone knows what time it is! It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" I did my little song and dance and had the entire room laughing. I was then on known as "the peanut butter jelly guy."

Getting a classy shot with the sponsors logo in front of the awards stage.

Thomas Miller brought Toby and I up to help present awards for the evening. It was pretty cool to be recognized as "The Timex Team." Great way to show everyone how much Timex is involved with the race and it really matters to them/us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

TransRockies Day 2

Vicksburg to Twin Lakes 10 miles

Not a bad sight to wake up to when you crawl out of the tent at 5:30 in the morning!

This day, though short, turned out to be one of the most significant days of the race for Toby and I. This stage saw us starting with a couple miles on a dirt road, then over 3,000ft elevation gain over the next few! Once we reached the pass, we descended 3,000ft to the town of Twin Lakes.

We busted out the tow (a long bungee cord with a couple of caribeaners on the ends) early on and I pulled, or more rather assisted, Toby up over Hope Pass. We had a blast hooting and hollering and listening to our echos. This was a short day, but with this much elevation gain we were gasping for air the whole way up.

Because there was so much downhill, I wanted to go with a shoe with a bit more cushioning and support. The Avi-Stoltz was the perfect fit! (www.avia.com) Co-designed by my buddy Conrad (http://www.conradstoltz.com/), these shoes can really motor! They were light weight considering the traction and support they offer. On the descents, I had plenty of grip. I totally dig the colors too!

While descending, actually I'd call it flying, off of Hope Pass, Toby took a nasty spill. He went down hard on his right side bruising several ribs, rolling his right ankle, and scraping up his arm pretty good. He jumped right back up and we kept cruising down the hill, but once we reached the stream crossings at the bottom, we knew we were in trouble.

We finished 9th for the day, moving us into 8th position in the Open Men's division, but we were far more concerned about Toby's ankle and what it would mean for the days to come.

We were loaded onto shuttles at the finish line to take us to Leadville for the evening. Camp was set up on the high school fields, and after the previous nights uncomfortably hard ground, I was pumped about the soft grass. We spent the afternoon meandering around Leadville, eating and hanging out in a coffee shop. The brief glimpse of civilization was a good reminder that I was having fun being away from it. I had really been enjoying the fact that there was no email, no internet, no cell phones.

Day 2 down and I was in great spirits as usual! Can't wait for the next day, it will be the longest run (time and distance) that I have ever done.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TransRockies Day 1

Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge 20.4 miles

Talk about ants in the pants! We were all so excited we could hardly hold still! There was so much nervous energy in the air! Early breakfast (7am) and out to the start area for a 10am start.

Toby and I felt pretty cool with our Timex Expedition WS4 jerseys on. It was pretty easy to tell we are a team, to bad that doesn't mean we were a fast team! ;-) Check out the link below to see the Timex WS4 watch that we were sporting.


Phillip on the bike, Glen, Colleen, Stephen, Shelby, Toby, and me before the start. If only we knew what we were getting into.... Our smiles would have been bigger! Phillip was out on course on his bike telling us where everyone was. Which just turned out to be quite helpful during the last section.

Every morning we would pack our bags and bring them to the truck. Memphis Joe and Sarah would lug over 300 bags into the back of this Uhaul every day! Every time we had to pack our bags, it took both Toby and I to zip them up (maybe we brought just a smidgen to much??)

This stage didn't have much down hill (only ~2700ft elevation gain), so I went with the New Balance 790 (www.newbalance.com) . This is a really light weight trail shoe. Its pretty much a racing flat with a more aggressive soul. I love them because they are so light and simple. Not over built. This ended up being my shoe of choice for 5 out of 6 stages.

The gun went off and we charged out of town. Toby and I tried to keep it easy in the beginning, but we were so excited that we pushed it a little to hard. In the middle section of the day, with a combination of heat and altitude, Toby started to bonk.

He rallied during the last few miles and we were back to a solid pace. The final ~3miles were on an old railway converted to a road. Check out the sweet tunnels we got to run through!

With Phillip telling us about the teams ahead, we charged down the dirt road and passed 2 of the top teams right before the end to finish 9th overall for the day. Not a bad start for a couple of triathletes doing a multi day stage running race.

After the race it was straight to the creek to ice the legs. This was a pretty common sight after every stage. It felt so good and really recharged the legs!

After we got to camp, where our tents were all set up, we unpacked bags and chilled at the Salomon Relaxation Station (http://www.salomonrunning.com/us/). With the whole afternoon off, we found plenty of time to goof around.

Day 1 down and we were in great spirits. Both a little sore, but in no way deterred from the excitement of what was to come! After the spectacular views, fun running, and sheer excitement of the day, it was hard to head to bed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TransRockies Pre Race (8/22)

This is the first in a series of many posts about my EPIC adventure that was the TransRockies Run. While in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for 7 days, I ran 113 miles, meet loads of amazing people, saw some of the most spectacular views ever, and walked away absolutely loving life.

Here is how it all started...

Packing turned out to be far more complicated than I originally thought. Adam Chase gave me load of tips and tricks for a race like this, and trying to fit in all the gear that could be quite crucial, was a challenge.
Maybe all those energy drinks were a bad idea!?!

We (my race partner Toby Radcliffe and I) picked up Jonathan Toker, creator of SaltStick (http://www.saltstick.com/) Saturday afternoon and made the almost 3 hour drive it Buena Vista. It would have been a lot quicker, but those guys had the bladders the size of peas, so we kept stopping to take a leak.

In BV, we checked in for the race and it turned out to be swag city. We got loads of sweet stuff (including a new Timex watch! My collection is almost complete!) Everyone had to get a competitors badge made up and the only picture I had around was one from my previous hair style.

Then came the fun part (not really)! We had to pack all of our stuff in plastic bags (in case it rained) and then pack those into our team duffel bags. It took us forever and we had to leave a bit of stuff behind.

After the first of many massive group dinners, it was off to a friend of a friends house to get some sleep and get ready for the race tomorrow morning.

This was the most comfortable (and I'm sure safest) way for me to travel in the back of a truck!

That night we all packed and re packed our bags trying to get everything in order. By the end of the trip, we were pretty good at it!

Check back soon (as in 1 day) for next instalment of Toby and Will's TransRockies Run