Getting High in Colorado: Trans Rockies Run 2017 Race Report
Team ELM TRR 2017! L-R: Marion Bryan, Lynn Swift, Erika Spearmann, Lisa Perry, Crystal Mather and Coach Sarah
These girls tho. I am so honoured and proud and beyond grateful to have shared this journey with these amazing, strong, resilient women. Big mountains and thin air are no match for these big hearts and magic smiles. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey and to support you as your coach and friend. My heart is full of love and you have inspired me more than you will ever know.💕Way to kick ass up high with those strong sea level legs, girls! You da best!
Trans Rockies Run you got it goin on! I would like to put into words how amazing this stage race experience was for me...but I am not sure that I can! This journey through the Rockies of Colorado was truly a transformative experience. The only way for me to explain it to you...is for you to try it for yourself! I will, however, do my best to write up my own personal journey at the TRR, the highs and the lows, the pain and the bliss...and how I felt in the moments between. I write my race reports for myself, as a a journal, to reflect, revisit and relive my experiences so that I can learn from them and look back on them when I need too. I also hope that sharing my experience might give you something you need to- motivation, insight, inspiration to rock your own dreams and goals. Be warned...I am a talker;) You might want to bite this off in small pieces...reading one race report per day, kinda like I had to write it. I do believe this might be my longest race report ever! Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Camp life. I miss it already! Cheers to Lole Women for sponsoring Team ELM with these awesome yoga mats!
6 days, 200kms, 20000 vertical feet, 450 rad dirtbags and enough stories to last a lifetime...some to be shared...some to live on in the trail vault...but all good 😊. I might be a bit beat up (second place for biggest blister in camp woot!) but my heart is full, my face hurts from smiling and my spirit feels free✨💕🦄. Running fo days in beautiful spaces with beautiful faces will do that to ya😍. @transrockiesrun_official you rocked my world and I can't thank you enough for bringing together such a rad crew of humans to play in the trails all week including Team @elm_health. TRR truly is summer camp for big kids. No 'adulting' recommended or required, just a whole lot of big kid fun. Big hugs go out to my rad TRR trail family-you all rock and I hope to be lucky enough to cross dirt paths with you again😘
Day 0: August 14th, Buena Vista
Signing in! Getting real!
Best Team ever!
Not very excited;)
We scored an awesome VRBO in Buena Vista, a rad little mountain town with a vibe just like BC's well-loved town of Revelstoke. Old brick and wood buildings filled with cafes and gear line the sweet main street. Nestled in the mountains, you can just tell the folks who live here are either counting down the days until the snow flies or crying cuz it's melting too fast. Mountain towns are home to real awesome mountain folk and Buena Vista stole our hearts immediately. You know those places you can just tell you will return to again and again? I will be back for sure. We spent the day strolling and eating and shopping and eating and packing and repacking and eating:). TRR became REAL once we hit up racer check in and picked up our gear for the week- gear bag, race bibs, camp bracelets and swag and we were feeling stoked to get started! Our first race meeting took place at race central and before we knew it we were in the flow of TRR race week- Summer Camp for Big Kids!
Back at the shack Team ELM got down and dirty with our race plans, assessing the course and setting our process goals for each leg of the race. Process goals are those that we have direct control over and a very important piece of race planning- focus on what you can control and you will have a great time out there. We broke our process goals down into 3 categories- pacing, nutrition and attitude! How do you want to think, act and feel on each leg? A very fun activity to share with the team! After sharing our favourite songs along with our goals, we were all feeling more than ready for the next days adventure! Team ELM 'sea level legs' had been preparing physically and mentally for this big week of racing at high elevation, for many months. They spent 6 months building their aerobic engines and mountain climbing legs, topped up their iron stores, spent 7 days in the sauna building their plasma volume and they had peaked at 100-150kms of mountain running in their biggest week...their bodies and minds were as ready as they were gonna be!
Day 1: PATIENCE. Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge 33.5kms, 760m elevation gain. Start 2400m, top out at 2845m. Exposed, Zion style trails. 3:36, 6th female OA. A great day! PATIENT start, STRONG finish= mission accomplished!
Getting those bibs pinned on...almost go time!
Pre-race warm up with the Team!
Countdown is on!
Post race soak with my new trail friends! These river soaks would be one of the highlights of summer camp for me!
Go time! SO exciting! Group photo with Team ELM (see above) and then we were in the chute and I was giddy with anticipation for what lay ahead. I was tucked in behind a flock of ultra superstars whom I recognized from social media and the masses stretched out behind me. It would be a quick 1 mile run off the start to get a good spot in the single track down the road. "Highway to Hell" meant the countdown was on (would get used to hearing this terrible but funny song every morning) and suddenly we were off...TRR was officially real! Woot!
Into the single track and up a light, winding climb for a few minutes until reaching a plateau and an old rail grade. Keeping things easy, the pace was fine, and the energy was patient but the stoke was super high! It seemed like everyone around me had the same feeling of respecting the week ahead and holding in the reins as best as they could on day 1. But adrenaline is a powerful drug so it took some work! The railgrade was boring but the view of the town below was lovely. It was a chance to check in, settle in and calm all of the voices inside. But it sure had me grouchy! I was wondering how much of this dirt road running I had signed myself up for! Not to worry, it all balanced out between road stretches and beautiful single track views in the end:). Off the grade and back into the singletrack we went in a line of colourful, patiently impatient trail runners. This mountain bike single track was pure Zion style, winding back and forth around boulders, up and down gulley's and past cacti and desert life. The terrain this day reminded me of running in the Okanagan of BC- desert, dusty, hard backed, exposed, hot and dry. Although this stage didn't hand out the epic mountain views of the following days, I do love me some hot and dry so it was allllll good.
After the biking single track, we summitted our wee pass of the day, topping out at 2845m and I sure felt the elevation! Once we climbed above about 2600m, I noticed the altitude for the first time - I felt light headed and weak and slowed to a walk to avoid pushing into my anaerobic zone prematurely. It would be a long week and my strategy was to keep it pure aerobic, with no heavy breathing and no burning legs, other than the final 30-60 minutes of each day, to avoid self destruction. That meant accepting my bodies response to the altitude, backing off the pace and going at the pace which allowed me to stay pure Z1. I am a very conservative racer in early stages, as I love to finish strong with energy to push my strengths (downhill and finishes) and slowing down on the climbs helped me reach my goal for the week. I met a couple of fun guys on the climb, talked about boobs (don't ask), slapped the 'green mans' butt, before finally reaching Aid 1 at the top of the hill.
Then, the fun began for me! Patience on the climbs meant I had juice to play on the descent and I leaned forward, put it in neutral and coasted down the other side. No brakes and no gas, just pure, relaxed easy flow. It would be a long week and I didn't want to crush my quads on the hard pack this early in the game! I learned the hard way in the Zion Ultra this year, that hard packed desert earth can thrash your quads in new ways that coastal loam can't touch, even when you are a downhill cookie monster;). So...lightly I went, downward, smiling and loving life. There were some deep sandy sections along the way, which I enjoyed, and sought out, as I knew they would be easier on my legs than the hard pack and road.
Aid 2 appeared and it was time for my push of the day. My goal was to push my pace up to low Z3 during the final 20-30minutes of each day, for a little anaerobic/cadence training and it was a fun game to play. Tunes went in and the pace ramped up and what a treat that was to be pushing it out on a 4 mile 'false flat' to the finish line. HA! I hate that term. It's not false and it's not flat. It's a slight incline, let's be serious! I saw the finish zone, heard the best cheers ever, smiled the biggest smile and cruised on in. SO happy to have the gift of health, the feeling of pushing my body with strong legs and heart and to have made it to the end. Day 1 was in the books! The results screen was scrolling and I was pleasantly surprised to see I had made top 10 for the ladies- 6th woman across the line, behind a cast of pro ultra superstars! Good job little sea level legs!
I found a new favourite recovery fuel at TRR- GU Recovery drink was the cat's ass! Rather than trying to choke down hard food or a smoothie, this drink was the consistency of water but tasted like chocolate milk. Not sweet- I hate sweet stuff- it was the perfect way to get both fuel (protein and carbs) and water down the hatch during the recovery window at the end of each day. I would down about 4-6 cups of this and be on my way to recovery for the next day.
Then it was in to the river! These post run river soaks would end up being one of the highlights of my TRR week. A wonderful ritual to look forward to and a great way to unwind, recover, connect and share stories with my new trail friends at the end of each run. At the end of day 1, I made some great trail buddies whom I would be sharing race tales and river soaks with all week. Best part of 'Running Camp' is the people you get to share the trail with!
Shuttle back to Arrowhead Point Camping Resort (worst camp cuz the tents were up a stiff hill lol!), showers, buffet dinner, racer meeting (review the day, listen to terrible jokes haha and find out what the plan was for the next day- good fun). Stretch, roll, jammies, eat again and then get to sleep tucked in beside 450 other racers! Bring ear plugs - there is a lot of rustling about, flashlights going pee in the night and snoring (from people like me hahaha!).
Hot Tips of the Day:
Get your routine down- soak in the river, get your recovery fuel in, rest, roll/stretch in the massage zone. Try the GU recovery drink, it's pretty good!
Make trail friends! Take the time to connect with other racers...this is a big part of the TRR experience and a great opportunity to meet some rad peeps who share a love for the trails with you.
Hydrate as much as possible before supper then taper down, so you don't have to get up in the night to pee!
Day 2: PATIENCE. Vicksburg to Twin Lakes. 21.4kms, 975m gain, start at 2944m and max out on Hope Pass at 3821m (wowza things are about to get real!). Real mountain running, packed full of beautiful singletrack, highest climb of the week, 'breathtaking' climb! LOVED the terrain, got to test my body at elevation, rock a fun descent and persevere on a challenging rolling finish. 2:51:46, 6th female OA.
On the crazy bus on route to the start line with Lynn and Crystal! Love these girls!
My start chute buddies! Elizabeth, Taylor and Brian:)
Gabi from Cali! My trail running sister and alter ego! She runs fast up and I run fast down- need to merge into one to create the ultimate runner;)
Hope Pass yeow!!
Sea Level Train...slow and steady...almost there! Team Arizona Boys (best prize for matching outfits:) trekking behind me:)
Well hello there handsome! Summit fun!
'Elevated Legs'! I called them 'crazy legs' hahaha but I couldn't
t resist! Decided to give these a go on two of the nights- compression legs to increase circulation and speed up recovery between stages. Felt really good!
Home sweet home with Crystal in chilly Leadville at 10, 200 feet!
6:00am - Rise and Shine!
Breakfast of champions in the food tent with 450 groggy and slightly tender racers who likely didn't sleep at all last night either. Oh the JOYS of camp life! We had to pack up, load our bags and hop on a shuttle by 7:15am to get to the start line on time.
I was surprised to not even feel the slightest lightheadedness at the start line at 2944m. Overnight, my body had acclimatized to this new elevation and it was ready to go! But I had a bad pain... I had developed a fluke 'itis' on the front of my ankle the day before, from my gators pushing the tongue of my shoe against my shin in an odd way. I had a hot, red, painful, inflamed lump on the tendon (aka lace bite) and I wasn't happy about it. You do not want to be experiencing pain or inflammation on day 1 of a 6 day race! I had taken care of it the night before and had some light tape to protect it for day 2- and I didn't dare use my gators again, for fear of adding pressure! Thankfully it calmed down each day and didn't stop me in the end- yay!
Highway to Hell, GoPro start chute selfie and we were off! A faster push to the single track today (or else I was feeling the higher elevation!). With only a few kms until we would start trekking, it was worth pushing the pace for 15 minutes to get ahead of the masses and be able to trek at your own pace up to Hope Pass. It was a good long climb...a few spots for hands on thighs and poles would have been lovely on this day, to share the load and keep upright so you could enjoy the views better! I would take poles on Day 2 if I had it to do again. Up, up up....finding conversation with new friends, ensured I was in the right zone and kept the climb fun. I found myself leading a crew who were either too kind or too tired to ask to pass, even though I was moving at a snails pace. The Sea Level Train was chugging along and going no where fast lol! But...eventually...with patience...we made it to the pass! Lightheaded and unsure of my legs, I made a quick exit with the goal of dropping back down to my happy elevation as quickly as possible so that I could breath again! I grabbed a GU from Aid ('Which one has the most caffeine??) to fuel my final 1/3 Z3 session and danced down the single track. LOVELY! Just like home, with technical, rooty, rocky, single track in the forest, the whole Van Isle ELM team was smiling on this section I am sure. There was a 9km rolling / flat section of single track to finish the stage and that is where I began to gradually ramp up the pace, saving my Z3 push for the final 4kms. HARD! There were little hills that were just short enough to power up without losing pace, but it went on for a long time! Along Twin Lakes Reservoir and then there was race central! During the week I developed a deep conditioned response of a giant smile and pure joy every time I saw those blue flags that marked the finish chute! YAY! 7th woman across the line and I didn't barf at the top of Hope Pass- happy with that! Time to recover! We got shuttled to the legendary town of Leadville and settled into our camp. Handstands and snacks in the sunshine with new friends made for a lovely afternoon:) Once the Team arrived we all made the 2 block trek into town and spent some time exploring Leadville- the town looked as dog tired as we felt lol! Although this town has re-created itself from a near abandoned mining town to an endurance racing mecca, you couldn't tell from the main street. Zero attitude and 100% grit, Leadville maintains it hard ass pioneer energy no matter how many sponsors and superstars run and ride through it's streets. Leadville is the real deal and worth a visit if you find yourself in CO. Reminds me of many of the dusty BC and Alberta towns I lived and worked in as a tree planter and forest fire fighter over the years. Felt like coming home:)
Tips of the Day:
Get a good spot for the climb
Take poles if you use them
Save something for the looooong 9k rolling final leg!
Check out Leadville and grab an iced latte and a giant cookie up at 'City on a Hill' coffee shop! YUM!
Day 3: PACE. Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale (yay!). 39.4kms with 823m gain...but staying high all day beginning at 3092m and topping out at 3326m. BIG day...relentless climbing...never enough descending for me:). No barfing allowed! 4hours 18minutes... 7th female OA
I hope I don't barf! Fake smile here in the start chute with my start buddies, Taylor and Brian. Taylor has the coolest company, Epic bars (savoury, free range, meat snacks)- be sure to check them out! Ugh, that sleep over in Leadville had me feeling like I had the flu this morning! This was the start of a very long, hard day. Toughest one of the week for me!
Rise and Shine at 10, 200feet! I woke up sick to my stomach and convinced I had the flu! Noooooooooo! The thought of barfing makes me very anxious (I am a barfaphobic) and I was trying not to freak out, but I couldn't eat my breakfast and I was quite fearful of what lay ahead. I realized pretty quick that it was the elevation, and that eased my mind, knowing it would pass and not take me down and ruin my week. I just needed to respond and adapt and it would all be alright:) Ginger Gravol to the rescue! I took 2 ginger pills before the race and continued every hour, along with my fuel and hydration, and a very conservative pace, and I am stoked to say I was able to manage the nausea and did not barf! Yay! My number one goal for the day was reached and I gotta be happy about that hahaha. It did mean a slower pace and moving down a spot in the pack, but I would take that over barfing any day.
The course itself started with an undulating run out of town, then a good stiff climb of about 300m over 4kms. My two favourite Merican cowboys, Doug and Tom, cruised on by me as usual, just a few minutes down the road. All week it would be cat and mouse, pass and be passed with many of my new trail friends- always good fun to share the trail with such great peeps!
Once up top, there was just a bit more;) and then a sweet sigh of relief to come back down for a breather. The second climb was nearly as high but over twice the distance and it ended up being a bit evil for me. The nausea stopped me from running as much as I would have liked, so I had to check my ego and just keep putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the top. Happy times up there I tell you-relieved to be finished with climbing! No barfing and it was time to run back down to a level where I could breathe! Down down down down all the way to the finish with about 16kms of rolling descent. I kept wishing it would get steeper or last longer, but I ran out of real estate and couldn't make up my lost time from my barf free snail pace on the climb. I put my music on after CP2 (second climb) and pushed as best as I could to the finish line. A 3 mile gravel road finish was my Z3 for the day, but it was hard to rally at that point after such a challenging day, mentally. I focused on chasing my new trail friend, Brian, to the finish line and I was OH SO HAPPY to cross that finish line after day 3! Battling nausea and a bit of fear for much of the day was very tiring and I was ready for a nap when I got to Camp Hale!
Camp Hale rocks BTW. On a little lake, with mountains and trees and green grass it was a lovely spot to spend two nights and settle into camp life for a couple of days. Cold unless the sun is shining however! Shower, nap, eat, high fives as each of our Team ELM Members persevered through their own challenging days and across the finish line. So proud of those girls for tackling that big day! That was by far my most challenging day...not sure what I would do differently, other than perhaps switching my frame of mind to focus on the JOY, and not on the FEAR. And I would make a special playlist just for this day...and use it for the climbs:)
Tips of the Day:
Bring happy things- happy food, happy music.
Do happy things- chat with folks, take photos, focus on gratitude and the gifts!
Eat lots of watermelon at the aid stations- YUM!
Be patient...it is a long one.
Enter the Beer Mile (or at least watch hahaha!) if you are looking to shake things up a bit and move up in the unofficial standings...good, dirty fun that was;)
Day 4: BEGIN TO RACE. Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff (tiny town). 23.3kms with 854m gain. Starting at 2800m and maxing out at 3561m. Getting used to this thin air! BIG up = BIG down, my fave! Yeow! 2hours 43minutes... 5th female OA and my closest day to the podium, woot!
Camp Hale by the lake
On top of the world!
Best day of the week for me! Well...ok it's a tie with day 6 but this was a highlight for me for sure!
We got to sleep in a bit, because we didn't have to pack up our gear this one day! Staying two nights at Camp Hale was a real treat and it's amazing how the little things seem like big things when you are working so hard. After a short gradual climb, we had the steepest climb of the week...the terrain just pitched steeper...and steeper...and steeper and believe it or not even steeper! SO happy I had my poles with me for this stage and I would take them again in a heart beat. I felt like I could move at a much more fluid pace, my legs felt zero fatigue and it was a treat to be able to stand upright, rather than slogan away with hands on thighs, doubled right over. Poles rock! We were in the 'gulch' which is similar to a steep messy grown over old logging road here on the island, with ditches and lumps and off camber footing the entire way. The higher we trekked the worse it got. I loved it! Cept I couldn't breathe at the top lol!
Once at the top we had a long rolling plateau to enjoy (I kept getting tricked, putting away my poles and thinking we were ready to go down, cuz I was SO ready!), with stellar views of the surrounding mountains and some of the big old 14 ers. Wildflowers, sunshine and mountain views are the best views, yay! I could NOT wait until the downhill began, because it is my favourite part of trail running and because we had a gnarly steep descent this day. The steeper the better for me as I speed up on the downs...and I always have some making up to do after the climbs! The descent did not disappoint. It was steep and messy and filled with fun obstacles to leap over and dash around. My tunes were in and I was having the time of my life! Managed to catch and pass a few flocks of stronger climbers and made up the time I was back (and more!) because the descent was long enough. About 13k down, with 9k of that nice and steep! Woot!
Once we got to the bottom of the steepest section, we hit a river and it was a wild ride from there on in! Wading shin deep in a rushing creek, we literally ran down the creek for well over a mile. Scary at first, because you could not see what you were stepping on and the river bed was full of small baby heads (small round rocks, sorry, terrible I know but that's what they are called!). But once you surrendered it was fun fun fun! Got to run down the river chasing some of my new trail buddies and we were having a great time:) Feet were numb after but it actually felt really good! Once we popped out of the river it was a short 4km downhill sprint on numb stumps to the finish. SO fun! I leaned forward and worked on getting that daily Z3 training in as best as I could. HUGE smile on my face crossing the finish line on this day!
We stumbled across the line and into the little mountain town of Redcliffe, right outside the local watering hole, Mango's. Margaritas and tacos on special, wouldn't ya know! The girls managed a few sips of their margs before wisely calling it a day (high altitude and dehydration will make you a very thrifty drunk lol!) and I stuck to lemonade:) Back to Nova Guides on the shuttle for another night at Camp Hale. Good times! Big smiles! Happy girl today!
Day 5: PUSH HARDER. Red Cliff to Vail! 38.8kms with 1250m gain. Starting at 2637m and maxing out at 3565m. First of 2 BIG back to back days! 4 hours 22 minutes... 6th female OA and feeling so strong! Man, I really tried my hardest today! That's all you can do!
Post run shopping and iced lattes in Vale!
Evening Yoga with Miss Crystal on the Lole mats! Not fun at all.
Handstand project follows me everywhere;)
Run run run run! I had a nasty blister rip open on me the day before and it was time to hit up first aid for some blister care. My entire heel on one foot was a blister (say wha? I never get blisters!) and it was not a pretty thing. Managed to snag runner up for the biggest blister in camp tho, woot! I like to think I have my shoe/sock combo dialed by now, so it had to be all of the hard pack and road that we were running on during the race. At home I never touch that stuff and it was wreaking havoc on my tender tootsies in Colorado!
The good news is I was feeling stronger every day! No muscle soreness whatsoever, and I knew that my training had been spot on. I had gratitude in my heart for all of the hard training days I had experienced earlier in the season - running an ultra in a full wetsuit (Toughest Mudder Canada, yup, google that!), run camping for a week in Manning Park and running with a 28lb pack on my back for 100k at RunBC, just a week prior! All in all I had done about 300kms of running in my 2 week peak and my legs knew exactly what to do by now. SO happy to have strong legs that feel no pain, especially on the downhills, so I could just gobble them up! So fun.
Today my goal was to start pushing a littler earlier. I kept my first 1/3 easy pace going, but once I reached Aid 1, I started pushing harder up the final stretch of climbing. I wanted to find low Z3 sooner, knowing I would have 15k of downhill to catch my breath afterwards. So I put my music in at Aid 1 and got my hands on thighs going. Danced up the trail to the meadows, did a shimmy with Santa at the top (crazy costumes out there I tell ya!), pushed myself to work hard along the rolling 'flats' at the top and literally kissed the summit marker at the very top!
After the summit we dropped down a bit before tackling the remainder of the climb toward Vail. I dance trekked my way up up up the backside of Vail ski hill and my tunes made it feel so easy. I ran more of the ups and pushed harder than I had on the climbs earlier in the week. Vale ski hill- wow! What amazing, massive terrain! I haven't snowboarded in years, but my mouth was watering for all of those big slopes and bowls! We were lucky to still have fields of wildflowers to enjoy and the beauty really did fill me up:) Music and big views...seriously...it's kinda like cheating for me;)
Once the downhill proper began it was balls to the wall and I literally ran as fast as I possibly could all the way to the finish (for about 13kms). We had a few kms on trail, but the last 8kms or so was straight down a steep, exposed, dirt maintenance road. Eeeesh! I am a downhill lover but this road descent was absolutely soul sucking even for me hahaha! I absolutely gaver, however, trying to make up for my slow climbing and catch the crew ahead of me. Checking my watch, I saw 2:50/km at one point (hahaha!) and averaged 3-4mins/km on the descent. FUN but brutal pounding down that road. I managed to catch a few along the way, but ran out of real estate, hunting down the rest. We had an evil little climb to reach race central and I was SO stoked to see that finish line! My blister had ripped off during the descent and I had issues hiding in the pain cave, that had to be tended to:(. Hobble down to the river for a soak with trail friends, stories shared, shower, first aid, a stroll through Vail with the girls, iced latte's and cookies, dinner and a meeting, Yoga fun, handstands, chats with new friends, and I even found a $20 USD bill (thats like $200 Canadian btw)...it was my lucky day!
Day 6: LEAVE IT ALL ON THE COURSE Vail to Beaver Creek finish! 36kms with 1600m gain. Starting at 2500m and maxing out at 3217m (nearly sea level lol!). The best day! Worked my freaking tail off, drained the tank, and I can say I left it all on the course. Proud of this one! 4hours 18minutes... 4th female OA and finished the week as the 5th woman when the dust settled. I like to think that I was the first HUMAN female to finish, behind all of those rock star pro's, however;) Heehee.
Final day with my start chute buddies!
Done like dinner but OH SO HAPPY!
TEAM ELM ROCKS!
What a bittersweet day! I was super pumped to run this day- knowing I didn't have to pace any longer and I would be able to drain my tank and find out what my legs were capable of. But I was also feeling sad that the week of Summer Camp was coming to an end! In the groove, I finally had my systems down and it was the last day hahaha. My blister was bandaged well and my legs felt great, although a bit sleepy off the line, as we had a little climb right out of the gates. My warm ups saved me each day, easing my body and mind into the day so that I could leave the line feeling ready to roll...but I likely should have spent more time this morning after so many days. Either way, we were heading down before we knew it and through the town of Vale. Over the highway overpass, the first climb of the day began with a sweet set of switchbacks. I could see the leaders just ahead of me, making their way up and along the endless switchbacks. It was open forest and the views of Vale were great! Soon we dipped deeper into the forest and were given an amazing surprise... a spectacular Birch tree forest! WOW! Thick stands of white barked birch and tall green grass engulfed us as we wove our way upward through the woods. It really was a magical place! One of the most beautiful sections of the entire week for me:). I kept a steady pace, not as paranoid about pushing too hard today, however, and climbed onward, running for the most part and trekking short sections when it felt right.
Aid 1 was a happy place, with some serious 80s energy going on! I filled up my water and blew on through...passing a few of my usual trail friends. Although many of us ran close together throughout the race, it was interesting to see where we all excelled vs backed off throughout each day of the week. Running a stage race as a team of 2, with a partner, would be quite a challenge for this reason. Just as in adventure racing, you are only as strong as your weakest link...and there are so many variables that effect how strong we are on any given day! The benefits would be great, of course, just like in adventure racing- shared journey, many more laughs, much more entertaining, power of a friend when you need it most. A good team can elevate each other with the ultimate result faster than the individual times would have been. But I think this is hard to find.
Anyways! I was flying solo and loving every minute as I continued dance trekking up up up the hot, dry doubletrack. Once we started heading down it was game on for me as I knew this would be my chance to eat up as much time as I could for this stage. A 10k single track descent lay before me and I was stoked! I leaned into it and ran as hard as I safely could, passing happy (I think?) downhillers along the way. It was just like the Southern Chilcotins, with a narrow dry dirt trail and dangers hidden amidst long grass creeping over the trail. The steeper and more technical the better and I believe I made up some good time while having a great time on this section. Legs felt nothing but pure joy!
Through a tunnel, a quick rinse in the creek, then into Aid 2 for a refill before heading down the road. Like the highway road. Ugh! Hot asphalt! But I always know if I am not loving the downhill or heat that others are absolutely hating it and so I soldier on spinning my legs out as fast as they would go. I knew what was coming next. The downhill would soon be over and I would have to dig deep to keep pushing UP a big climb to the finish on this day.
Through the town of Avon on pavement the whole way...ugh! Up the asphalt to Aid 3- the final leg! And they gave me a purple Freezie OMG! I have never had a freezei in a race and it was deliciously orgastic (yup real word) and rocked my world. I just got happier and happier as the kms clocked by, from the deep sweet gratitude of it all...the experience, the beginning, the ending, the freezie;) and the gift of a strong, healthy body that allows me the pleasure of playing these games. Emotions were high- a bit frantic to push my pace and not lose any spots, but also filled with pure bliss...and sadness that it would soon be over! It was a beautifully intense place in my mind and body on those final 4miles and I will never forget it. Time slowed down as I willed the final climb to end...once I got to the top I knew I could hold my spot to the finish line...that climb up the back of the ski hill at Beaver Creek went on forever! Then...suddenly, there it was...the drop in pitch and the final descent. Less than a mile to the finish line! And then something rad happened...my new favourite trail song, Southern Man, that I had been waiting to shuffle into my playlist all week, dropped into place at just the right time! Kinda like finding the $20 bill, it was an awesome gift and I blasted out that final mile with a ridiculous grin (and maybe a few tears of joy:) on my face the entire time. Happiness is! Hard push to the finish, jump and cartwheel across the line. DONE! Soooooooooo happy I cannot even tell you what that kind of bliss feels like!
Big hugs all round, a final soak in the river with friends and then laying about in the sunshine for hours...until all of our Team made it across the line safely. What a day. What week. I miss Summer Camp already! I rarely do races twice (or anything for that matter lol)...but I know for certain that I will be back to TRR one day!
Stage racing is hard, and fun and rewarding and repetitive and full of surprises all at the very same time. There will be high highs and low lows. There will be laughter that is for sure, but there may also be tears. There will be doubts and fears and also belief and stoke. You will wonder why the hell you are doing it and you will know it was one of the best decisions you ever made. You will start and end the week the same but a different person. There is life before your stage race and life after. And I think these journeys will call you back again and again.
You still here? Man! Either you have been reading this for a week or you got fired from your job for sitting there for so long hahaha! Go back to work lol! But first...sign up for an adventure! Life is made for living. Go get some! #choosestoke
Running Camp for Big Kids. Best week of the year!
A HUGE thank you goes out to so many...
The TRR crew- 100 strong and we couldn't have had this awesome experience without you. The baggage crew not only tolerated our heavy bags (Team ELM might have won a prize for the heaviest bags in camp, just saying) but they cheered us on and cheered us up day after day, while working their tails off from dawn to dusk. You rock!!
The Course Designer for Day 4 and Day 6 - I love you, who ever you are. More gnarly descents please!
My ELM TEAM! For not only surviving but thriving in such challenging conditions. Living at sea level and racing over 10, 200 feet is no easy game. Thank you for dedicating yourselves to your training plan, trusting me to support you and showing me how resilient and strong you all are when the going gets tuff. I am SO proud of you all- big hugs!
My BODY TEAM! My physio, Kendra at Ascent, my chiro's Derek at Fit and Debbie at Bayview, my massage queen Amber, my Dr. of Chinese medicine Michelle, my Naturopathic Doctor Erika... Your belief and love and support means the world to me. I couldn't bounce back and play as much as I do, without all of you.
That is it that is all. Get up and go outside...that body was meant to play;)