Saturday, August 20, 2016

Colorado Withdrawal

Its been godamn forever since I posted something. I was never that good at it anyway, but now I'm completely out of practice. Crap.

Alright, that shameless self promotion is over so lets get to the gritty-nitty.

The Trans Rockies Run.

I'm gonna cram a whole weeks worth of fun into one post. I'm probably going to miss some important deets, forget the real order of events, and I may even make some stuff up. So bare with me.
(All pictures, unless otherwise noted, are taken by me or Heather at Relentless Forward Commotion)

You may have known already, Heather and I were winners in a contest sponsored by Kahtoola to run in the 2016 Transrockies Run, a six day stage race run over some of the Rocky Mountains (duh) in Colorado.

This view felt so much like Reno, I cried. I miss mountains.

Before I go on, I need to thank any/all of you that voted for us during the contest. I'd no idea so many of you actually liked me. I mean, maybe you don't and you just wanted Heather to go, I don't know. But I went too, so thanks.

Made it!

I also really need to thank Kahtoola. I never would have done this race without them. So any New England/winter runners, please check out their web page and get some spikes. They work.

I need to thank the Transrockies Run themselves. Those cats know how to put on a good time, and they do it efficiently and effectively.

Thank you to Sister-in-Law Holly for the funding help, that made such a difference in the quality of our fun.

Thank you Sister-in-Law Cathy for taking care of the cats while I was gone. You are a wonderful caring person and I owe you so much, nobody should be asked to do what you did willingly. Forever grateful.

Thank you to our friend Sarah for picking us up at the Denver airport and driving us all the bloody way to Buena Vista!

Another thanks to our friend Jen for carting us around and having fun with us during the first few days of our adventure.

A gigantic thanks going out to my mom and sister for flying out from Vermont to see us finish, paying for so much of the final weekend, and getting us back to the Denver airport. Without my mom and sister, this would have been a very abrupt adventure. Family (well, my family anyway) makes everything better.

Me Mom, me, and my sister at Centennial Park in Beaver Creek.

Here we go:

Day -2, Sunday Aug 7th we flew from Myrtle to Denver with a layover in Charlotte NC. We had very nice uneventful flight. I received several complements on my awesome Mermaid shorts that I bought at a Big Lots a few years back, which is kinda hilarious. The TSA guy and one of our Flight Attendants really like 'em.

As I mentioned in my Thank Yous, our friend from New England, now living in CO, Sarah picked us up at the Denver airport and drove us up to Boulder for a few hours. We had some good groceries at Whole Paycheck. No I don't have any food pics.

Then we shuffled down to Buena Vista. I think it was about a 3hr drive. I feel asleep in the van, so I don't remember much. I remember driving through Leadville though!

Our original plan was for Sarah to crash with us in BV for the night, but alas, life takes it course and she had to dump us at the camp and drive all the damn way back to Boulder.

View through the windshield. Look at the mountains!!!

We stayed at the Arrowhead Campground, just outside BV. The race actually camped here Tuesday night, but Heather and I booked a cabin for Sunday and Monday night. Do I have a picture of our cabin?

I'm already bitching about the cold.

Our Myrtle Beach friend Jen had a hotel right in BV, and more importantly, she had a vehicle! Being the kickass broad she is, she graciously carted Heather and I all over BV and had some food and beers with us at some of the local digs.

Please note my hat and hoodie. Product placement people.

Holy skippy, this is gonna be a long post. Get some coffee or food. How the hell do I wrap up 10 days in one post? Heather has the right idea, and time :), to do it day by day...

Day -1, Monday August 8th we kicked around in Buena Vista and it was freaking great. Honest. That town was great. I saw hippies, jocks, some animal murdering redneck hunters, white water kayaks, mountain bikes, all sorts of shit. If it wasn't for the hunters, I'd live there in a minute.

Oh ya, the race starts in BV. Picture time.

Jen, Heather and me. And our duffels.

Rego was pretty straight forward. We got our timing chips, a tee shirt, a Nathan water bottle and this big ass Grizzly duffle bag. When I say "big ass", I honestly mean big enough to stick couple of little kids in and ship to Abu Dahbi (not that I would do that).

I'm gonna take another minute and try to explain just what the hell we were getting into. This is a Stage Race. A to B. Meaning we start each day in one location then end in another location. Easy enough.
Not really though. Because TRR (Transrockies Run) had to transport all our shit (and all the other stuff) from camp to camp every damn day. That's why were issued our big ol' duffels. They were meant to hold 6 days worth of racing gear. And I'm mentioning this bag thing because it's important if you ever do this damn race! The bags are HUGE. I had so much extra room in my bag. If you do TRR, I would recommend bringing another bag to jam in the big bag, just to keep gear separated. Especially your funky running gear.

Actually if you need advice on this race, just join one of the event pages, I don't have the patience to walk you through everything.

Stage 1, Tuesday August 9th we line up for our first day.

Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge Camp. About 21miles with maybe 2500ft of vert.

You know what kinda sucks? Running at 9000 feet above sea level. I'm sure if you live at 9g it's awesome. But when you live at 13 feet, it's damn hard.

Remember that through this post. I live in Myrtle Beach. BEACH meaning SEA LEVEL. There is no altitude here, and there are zero climbs. It's flat, flat, flat. Get me a tissue. Oh! It's also balls hot here in Myrtle. BALLS HOT. The temp in BV dips down into the 40s at nite. In, 40s?

I feel like it's picture time? Nope, I don't have pertinent picture.

For me personally, only two things come to mind about stage 1. The first thing, it was stage 1. The second was the ugly ass four mile dirt road we finished on. Uck. But I remember thoroughly enjoying the first 17miles. How couldn't I? It's Colorado damnit. And my running partner is pretty cute. (editors note: she really is.)

A kind of cool tunnel on the last leg.

There were 3 checkpoints this day. Fully loaded with the kind of groceries you really want when doing this dumb shit. Chips, candy, etc. GU had a bunch of great nutrition available and there was sunblock, thank Christ. I may have even seen bug spray? I sure the hell didn't see any bugs though. The CP's throughout the entire race were excellent

I took a shot of whisky at CP3. Neat, it was actually hot. Almost like a cup of coffee. Still pretty kickass though. Thank you CP3!

Keeping with my usual MO, I'm not going to tell you how long it took us to finish. Who cares anyway? I do this for fun.

After we finished there was a super nice stream to cool off in. Our time in the water was unfortunately interrupted by an approaching thunderstorm, but I still got to stick me feet in.

Thank you Darn Tough Socks!!

We took the shuttle back to Arrowhead Camp where Tent City and Chillville had been set up.

This was after the bloody thunderstorm hit.

The weather in CO is a fickle thing. It's cold as shit without the sun shining, and storms seem to blow in at random. Our first night was pretty chilly.

I wish I remember what they fed us for dinner. I do remember that every meal was excellent and there was good local beer. All you could drink beer too. This happened every stage. Excellent food, excellent beer. It was almost like a Mega 6 Day Camp Hash. Well, except the beer was good.

Am I done with Stage 1? I think so...

Stage 2, Wednesday August 10th is rumored to be a rough day.

Vicksburg to Twin Lakes. Hope Pass. 13miles with 3200ft of gain. This puppy tops out at 12,500 feet.

After a nice cold sleep in a cold tent, we wake up and have a good breakfast. Damn, TRR feeds us well. The usual porta-jon queue ensues, as it does everyday, then we hop into buses to shuttle to the start point.

I really want to start chanting "the other bus sucks" but I'm not sure if anyone would get it, and I'm also here on Kahtoola's dime, so I decide to behave myself.

The bus ride is hilarious and really reminds me of GAP and NURD. Thank god I didn't have to pee, those bumps would have been the end of me, and the unfortunate chick sitting beside me.

It's cold at the start, like it is for every stage. But once you find a little ray of sun, you can strip down a bit.

I gotta throw a quick shout out to Ink N Burn for hooking me up with some quality shirts for this race. Man, the right gear can make or brake ya.

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Cisneros, TRR Social Media

I remember this stage starting on a dirt road. Again, trying to run just hurt the lungs. So the three of us alternated shuffling, running, and walking.

This stage is where I really learned how much I hate trekking poles. I'm sure they're handy if you're using them. But good god man, so dangerous to anyone around you. I should have worn safety glasses...Do I have a picture of those damn things? No, well this was stuck in my head all day. Just change Stepping Stone to Trekking Pole. Heather and Jen were both hit by these things.

The climb up Hope Pass is actually really damn pretty. It's singletrack the whole way up, and we were fortunate enough to get stuck behind a train going just a bit slower than we would have solo. We couldn't pass 'em, so we actually ended up saving our legs a good bit.

After breaking out of the tree line, it's kind of windy up there. And cold.

It's12,500ft, of course it's going to be cold.

Here I took a moment to be sappy. At the highest point either of us have ever been, I asked Heather to marry me. Ya, she may have been delirious and oxygen deprived, but I did confirm with her again later in the race, and she said yes.

Yes, sappy.

But this is about me.


Descending Hope Pass was a bit dodgy. The views were amazing and my feet were kinda numb, so I certainly didn't fly down the mountain. Plus I had to hold hands with my better half :)

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Cisneros, TRR Social Media

Here's a picture of a donkey thing that Heather took at the CP. It's pretty cute. Very photogenic.

Photo courtesy Relentless Forward Commotion.

Towards the end of the stage there was a neat little abandoned town. Rumor has it Teddy Roosevelt (Redneck) used to vacation there. We stopped in an checked out his old pad. The break was nice after the quad-busting descent.


The finish line for this stage seemed to take forever too. We could hear it before we could see it...ugh. But once we crossed the line, there was a nice lake to soak in for a while, and this time the weather stayed awesome.

Back on the shuttle back to Tent City in the (in)famous Leadville CO!

I think I took my first shower since getting to CO this night. Don't judge me.

Stage 3, Thursday August 11th may have been the coldest start of the race.

We were now sleeping in a different kind of tent. Essentially it was bug screen with a rain fly. I appreciate that Eureka sponsored the TRR, but good gravy those "tents" really should have walls. It's freeking cold man! There's frost on the door!

Leadville to Camp Hale
. 25 or so miles with only 2700ft of gain. Long day coming up.

The start of Stage 3 is downtown Leadville. I first heard of Leadville way back in my mountain biking days. I saw the 2009 movie Race Across the Sky.

Now here I am, an aspiring Ultra Runner, hanging out where the dookey really hits the fan. Leadville.

Stoked is rather an understatement.

They check our mandatory gear in Leadville before we can get into the corral. I end up wearing most of mine for the start for the rest of the week, makes it easier for them to check. Plus it's cold. Damn, I'm such a wuss now.

Jen, Heather and me. Chilly start.

I really liked the Leadville start. It's a cool town. Do I remember a mostly down hill start? We got to see the local PD pull some guy over. We were able to warm up a few miles on pavement. And the views...good god the views.

I'm always the best dressed amongst my peers.

Stage 3 was indeed a long day. We ran through a bunch of different types of terrain but I don't remember any colossal climbing.

I took off my shoes for the water crossing and suffered zero blisters.

I do however, remember Jen kicking into high gear for that final descent out of the mountains to the fire road. She pulled Heather and I along a great pace through what would instead have been a meandering hike. There was a good stretch of dirt road to the finish, but I really liked the trail this day.

Can I get a picture of the three of us finishing? No picture of us finishing.

But here's a picture of me drinking a beer in Chillville.

Cool hat. Good beer too. Crazy Mountain's Hookiebobb IPA.

Heather brought me lunch 2hrs ago. That's how long it's taken me to write this. I still have 3 more days of racing to write aboot. And I gotta add pictures too. I need more food. And you'd best get some more coffee and crumpets. This is gonna get worse before it gets better.

Tent City at Camp Hale/ Nova Guides.

The camp at Nova Guides was one of my favorite things during this race. Tent City was set up mostly on a lake, Chillville had heaters, there was live music and a beer mile that did not happen.

I want all my hashers to know that I did not participate in the beer mile that didn't happen. I had really wanted to, but man, I needed to make it through this race healthy and happy. And again, I was there on a sponsors dime, I needed to behave like it. However, if we make it back in 2020 I will do the beer mile that never happens. And get my arse kicked....

Stage 4, Friday August 12th is a great start. No shuttle to take and it's a real quick walk from tent city. We did however have to say goodbye to Jen, who was only there for the Three Day event. Rest assured though, we talked plenty of coming back with a crew from Myrtle to do the Six Day. I really hope we can make that happen. Everyone that runs trails needs to do this.

Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff
, just over 14miles  with 2800ft of gain. Maxing out at 11,700 feet.

Let me tell you about stage 4!! This my friends, was a climb. Hope Pass was good, but nothing compared to this. If there was a day I wish I'd a mountain to train on...

How long did we climb for? 2hrs? Two hours of just climbing.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or makes you limp.

Climbing up a fire road, an ugly fire road with rocks and ruts. Don't get me wrong, the woods were beautiful, but the road itself, ick.

This is where I really got to see the advantage Team Tow Line had. There weren't any switchbacks on this climb so the tow line must have worked great. I held Heathers hand and assisted her as much as I could, but next time I'll be bringing my tow line. By the way, to the dude
at the front of Team Tow Line, you are an Animal.
You actually kind of scared me.

The great thing about the climbs on this race is the view you get at the top. This is one of the reasons we came out here. We may have suffered a bit on the climb, but who cares when you get to see something like this? Got a picture there dummy?

Nice thumb in the upper left pinhead.

Thank you again Kahtoola!

The weather for Stage Four could not have been better. In fact all around the weather was great for us, but towards the end of stage four we had a great mile long stretch through a stream that would have utterly sucked had it been raining. But since the sun was shining and it was nice and warm, only our feet went numb. And it was worth it.

Cold water, warm day.

Salomon was a sponsor of this race, and I took an opportunity to demo a pair of their shoes for this stage. The SpeedCross 3 (4?) worked like a charm on both the climbs and descent.

We also spent a bunch of time planning (plotting) our upcoming wedding shindig. Stay tuned. You're invited.

Heather actually joined us in a shot of Fireball!

The end of this stage ends at Red Cliff, a small mountain town that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. There's a little place called Mango's where everyone purchases a Margarita and maybe some tacos. We bought some booze, but actually met another really great couple who gave us some food tickets. Ben and Rebecca, huge Thank You! We probably could have made it back to camp, but when Heather gets rungry, it does get ugly.

Stage Four may be my favourite of the race.

Bus ride back to Camp Hale.

Stage 5, Saturday August 13th is another long day with a shuttle to the start line, which is yesterdays finish line. Replace coffee for tequilla because we're back at Mango's.

It's so cold, even the picture turned blue.

Red Cliff to Vail
. 24+ miles and some good gain with 4100ft.

Vail, Colorado. I certainly never thought I'd be there.

I remember a good solid amount of climbing on a dirt road. Not a crappy fire road like Stage 4, but a wide open dirt road with cars on it. I think I even saw a Prius doing some light four-wheeling out here.

A rather dull portion of an otherwise amazing day.

Not a ton to mention here. We crossed some of Vail's legendary terrain and got some sunburn. A portion of our climb was on mountain bike trails. Unfortunately these were those narrow little gully like trails, ya know the ones made strictly from tires? The footing was rather treacherous to my big feet. Can I get a picture of Vail's view here? The sky here was huge. Maybe even Bozeman huge. Damn I really like Colorado.

Damn I really like my woman.

Ahh gawd! Now I remember the descent into Vail. It's important to note that I am not complaining! I would run this every day if I could, but the descent was rough. Soooo many switchbacks to that final CP. Then the dirt road and it's switcbacks to the finish. The last 5 miles felt longer than the first 19. It was worth it.

Vail. There were at least three different outdoor events goin on here.

Our last night camping. Wow, so many feelings about that. The tents were rather....weak. Having to pee in a cup because it's so cold out kinda sucks, waking up to frost on the tent and a damp sleeping bag gets tiresome too. On the other hand being part of this event and moving caravan of like minded people is invigorating and inspiring. I'd do it again in a second.

Stage 6, Sunday August 14th is our last day of racing.

Vail to Beaver Creek
. 22/23 miles and an intimidating 5,250 feet of climbing.

At this point in the race I actually can't believe how good I feel. I was never "in it to win it". We took it pretty easy and honestly just enjoyed the race for the scenery, the comradery, the beer, the experience, everything but the "race" itself. The altitude, although definitely an issue, never crushed us the way were worried it might. Our sore legs seemed to have hit a point during stage four where they just decided not to get any sorer. Sorer? More sore? Anyway, I felt great.

And my mom and sister were gonna be at the finish line :).

The start line out of Vail brought us to a good chunk of pavement. This, to me, was actually nice as we got to warm up before the climb and it ticked out some pretty easy mileage. Unfortunately the climb after the pavement was pretty knarly. But like all the climbs the view was phenominal. The aspen forest...gorgeous.

Imagine if this was in your back yard?

This was another stage with a good amount of terrian change. We ran through aforementioned forests, flowered meadows and water run-offs before entering the town of Avon.

Heather, prettier than the flowers. Even if she does look startled at something...

I took a second to dunk my visor into a cold stream.

Checkpoint 2 was essentially at the bottom of the first climb and the top of Avon, it also just happened to spit us out on a paved descent.

Normally I talk a lot of smack about pavement. I think most trail runners do? Pavement hurts the body in ways that the trails never would. Pavement's ugly, hot and smelly.

One of the descents heading toward CP3

But at this point I loved it. And Heather and I finally started racing. Yep, at mile 15 on the last day we decided to push.

We'd seen many gorgeous views, we were able to enjoy 90% of time during this race, so why not see what it feels like to actually push? hurts. That altitude issue I talked about is real.

But, it had to be in the mid-80s at this point. Pretty damn warm for CO, but perfectly comfortable for us beach-bums.

So we flew down the hill as fast as we could. We barreled through town, sharing some road crossings with a dude that had done the whole race in Vibrams. We stopped to get some ice cubes from a spectator at Walgreens. We ran past a beach. It felt pretty good all things considered.

Rolling into CP3 kind of forced our perspective a bit. This was the beggining of the 2nd climb. But I took a shot of Jack anyway.

In a pinch, Jack may work as good as GU.

Heather and I split a popsicle and up we went.

I really gotta hand it to my woman here. 99 out of 100 days we're equals on the trail. Today was the 1 day I felt stronger. She wasn't weaker, I just felt good, so she let me pull her up this final climb.

We climbed up an open mountain bike path, actually passing a few cyclists on our way up. Man, this climb really never seemed to end. Kind of like this blog. We cat and moused with a few other runners. We came across a few false summits, each one killing us a little more than the previous. More switchbacks, more climbing....

I don't even remember how it transitioned, but we finally hit the descent, a wide open gravel road. And Heather put the hammer down.

At this point, I think it's safe to say, we both wanted to be done. Jimmy and Jenny are waiting at the finish line, we've frozen our butts of for 5 nights, we've covered 115 miles, we're ready to finish.

At the bottom of the hill some volunteers point us towards the left, over a bridge, through the grass and towards the gate.

And although it was great to see the line and hear the crowds and the MC, it was even greater to see my mom and sister there. Wait, is this getting sappy? Maybe. Whatever. Having family there to meet us at the end of this epic-ness was hugely emotional.

This was Heather's and my first attempt at something of this magnitude. Not only did we finish it, but we had the support of family at the end. Thank you again Mom and Jenny!

Ya matching outfits, wanna fight about it?

Here's a picture of our finisher belt buckle.

There is some conversation about a Belt Buckle. Tradition has it that the participant should do 100miles in one shot. We were given buckles for doing 120miles over 6 days. Well ya know what, I'm going to keep my buckle on it's lanyard until I earn my Hundred Mile Buckle. Then I'll wear whichever buckle I want. Judge how you want. But remember everyone has their own goals and limits. Everyone should have the right to recognize their accomplishments as they deem fit.

So much typing....

Heather and I have set a tentative of 2020 to do this race again. If an opportunity should arise to do it sooner, we will gladly do it.

I'm gonna tell you again, if you're a trail runner, no matter where you live, you should do this race. Check all the forums and pages, go into this race prepared and informed. But most importantly go into this race knowing that TRR has done it's homework. They are going to bring you an epic event, no matter what pace you run, no matter what altitude you live at, you are going to have a great time. Everyone at TRR cares about every one of their participants. They work hard and it shows.

I wish I could have covered everything, or gotten more in depth about the race, Tent City, Chillville, etc. My pictures and words can't do it justice. I just don't have the time. Keep checking my girly's blog though, Relentless Forward Commotion for better formulated thoughts, stories and grammar.

I've been typing this for 5hrs. And I still gotta put in pictures. Now I'm going to drink that Crazy Mountain IPA I was able to shanghai home.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Great write up! I wondered if there were other HHH folks attending....(I didn't do the beer mile either tho....)
    Question: where'd y'all get those Ink -n-Burn TRR shirts? I got mine in 2009 (I thinks) at that year's TRR, but this was your first time. Congrats on the engagement!!! (will there be an M-word R**?) #TRR2020!
    DuuHHH from Surf City H3 (Santa Cruz, CA)

    1. Oh man, sorry took me so long to reply. I didn't think anyone actually read my shit...Anyway, my wifey was an InkNBurn Ambassador for a few years and she's got a couple of hook ups :)

  2. Rock on brother. Great write up. Looking forward to doing some adventures together, weather that is on a bike or by foot.

    1. DUDE!! Come play with us! I finally got wifey an MTB!!