Monday, August 31, 2009

TransRockies 2009- Trip/Race Report

I don't even know where to start! This experience was so much more than I ever thought it would be. I came into it with little expectations because I had been injured for pretty much 2 months leading into this event. I had probably run a total of 12 days in 8 weeks. Pete and I had actually decided to cancel going to Transrockies (TR) but I just couldn't live with that decision and we came anyways. We had packed climbing gear in case something happened to my foot and we weren't able to continue. This way, we could still enjoy all the wonderful things Colorado (and all the other states along the way: Oregon, Utah) have to offer. As I have said before, we did not taper for this event. I started running again on the 11th of August and pretty much ran everyday leading up to TR. I once heard this saying "In order to taper, you need to have something to taper from". I knew that this 113 mile week we had coming up was going to be a great week of training and was hoping for it to boost my fitness. Pete and I had no plans on racing it, we just wanted to go have fun. But, having fun (for us) also means having a little bit of a competitive edge, so we made sure to throw some of that in there.

(Photo from Day 1)

The drive down was smooth. We left on Wednesday afternoon and camped out that night at snoqualmie pass. We went for a beautiful (and damn hilly) hour and a half run that morning and spent the rest of the day driving. We got as far as Salt Lake City, stayed the night at our favorite Motel 6, and arrived in Leadville late Friday afternoon. We had met a couple last year while attending a wedding and were going to be staying with them for 4 out of the 6 nights. That night we made them dinner and had a nice relaxing evening. The next morning, Sheryl and her husband Justin, made banana bread french toast. Thirteen days later and my mouth is still salivating. The Leadville 100 was happening that day and we spent the morning out on course watching at various aid stations. It's one damn hard 100 mile race. It's hilly as hell as well as at altitude. The day was hot, damn hot, and I felt bad for those running in that kind of heat. Pete and I went for a run that afternoon and I started feeling sorry for the 100 milers out there racing because the heat was incredible. We headed to Buena Vista to get our race package and a whole lot of shwag. And by a whole lot, I mean, so much I didn't even need to pack any gear for the week. We got 2 Nathan hand held water bottles, a Timex watch, a Gortex Windstopper jacket, Solomon socks, a TR running shirt, GU gels, bars, Saltstick tablets and I am sure there is more that I am forgetting...oh ya...a TR hat! We diddled around for the rest of the day in Leadville and then returned that night for the pre-race dinner/presentation. It was great to see all my friends from the North Shore and other friends I have made through ultra running. That night Pete and I went back to Leadville for a wonderful sleep.

Day 1 (20.4 miles)Buena Vista:

We woke up and drove to the start in Buena Vista. I think we got there with 20 minutes to spare and were frantically looking for safety pins for our numbers and the bag drop off area. I was so damn excited to be here and to be running today. I was just hoping my foot would hold up. Peter wasn't feeling very well and had seemed to catch his nephews cold while we were in Shuswap. We started the day off slow. It was hard to go fast because of the altitude. Being that it was day 1, we just wanted to go nice and easy, which for me, is sometimes hard to do. I was definitely pushing the pace a little bit to much and had to hold back on a few occasions. Peter was clearly not feeling well and as the run went on, it just got worse and worse. The scenery was beautiful and as the run went on I wasn't to concerned with the pace or the outcome. We pretty much walked the entire trail b/w checkpoint 1 and 2. He couldn't take in any fuel and was coughing, yakking, and on the verge of puking. I edged him to drop out at checkpoint 3 and get a ride back to the start. In my mind, I didn't see the point of pushing through his sickness just to finish the last 11 km's in pain. I thought being out in the sun, sick as a dog, would only make him worse for tomorrow. The sooner he could get out of the sun and rest, the better he would be for the rest of the week. Although he did pull out, which ultimately was his decision, he regretted stopping that day. He told me to go on and I finished the last 11km solo. I passed everyone who had passed us while we walked into checkpoint 3. The last few miles of this run was on road and seemed to go on for ever. All the teams around me were walking and running. However, I told myself I'd run the entire thing, and that is what I did. I met Peter at the finish and we waited for some friends to come in. We soaked in the river and headed back to tent city for the rest of the day.

(Bitsy and Megan Delany arriving at the finish on Day 1)

Day 2 (10 Miles) Vicksberg to Twin Lakes via Hope Pass:

Today was a lovely short day. One big climb followed by one big kick ass descent. This descent proved to be the gnarliest and most technical descent of the entire trip. Pete and I started off slow and steady. We were to go up and over Hope Pass, which reaches over 12,000 ft of elevation. We pretty much walked the entire thing. We were moving well and passing people as we ascended. We came up to a pack of people and the 2 girls at the back were singing. Peter caught onto what song it was pretty quick and to their surprise, joined in. I didn't really know any of the words so I just echoed the last word of each sentence for comedic effect. We would run into these girls for the rest of the week and everyday they sang us the 'song of the day'. In hind sight, I probably could have ran a lot more of that hill but like I said, we were out there to have fun and take it easy. I was definitely not in power hiking shape and I would have been better off running it. As it proved out over the week, I can actually keep my HR down by running versus hiking. Something to do with efficiency and breathing while I run rather than walk. Anywho, once we got to the top we just started passing team after team. I think we ended the day in 4th in our category, missing the podium by a few minutes. We deiced to go find a creek to soak in. There were a few creek crossings along the course which were over a mile back. Instead of walking all the way back, we tried to find some a little closer. This was the dumbest idea and we ended up walking through really thick mud that sucked your feet in without spitting them back out! It did make for some good laughs.

(Pete's shoes after stepping in suction mud)

Day 3 (24 miles) Leadville to Camp Hale:

I woke up soooo sore today. My quads were just pounded and my glute medius' were just aching. My right hamstring was still very tight. I knew it was going to be a long day and the goal was to have fun and keep a steady moving pace. It was a longer mountain stage and I thought we might do pretty well this day. Peter and I did a great job, taking it easy on the hills, and working it on the downhills and flats. All the discomfort in my legs went away as I warmed up and ran. Pete and I were both having a lot of fun and although it's hard to remember now, the terrain wasn't too steep and pretty runable. We passed the singing girls who's song of the day was "girls just want to have fun". I thought they were listening to the song of the day on IPODS but no...they just made it up each day and sang it aloud! We were making good time and passing team after team. I am all about the slower start, pick it up gradually, and finish strong. All was good and I was loving the downhill we just found ourselves on...until...I went down hard. I'll admit...I'm a but of a crier. For some reason, when I fall, no matter how big, I just feel the need to cry (only for a few seconds). Then I regain my barrings and am off like a bat out of hell. I am sure the 2 boys that passed us just after I fell were wondering if something was dying up ahead, because I was making some nasty sounds. With all that said, falling seems to rejuvenate me and I am instantaneously filled with adrenaline. I got up and all I wanted to do was go catch those boys (and we did). I ended up with a pretty big scrape on my knee and a gusher on my right hand. We kept moving strong and passed a few more teams coming into the last checkpoint. There was about 5 km to go before the finish and it was all flat. I was running out of gas and Peter was keeping me going. I drafted off him along this flat windy section. There was 1 co-ed team directly in front of us. We stayed just behind them as they were holding a great pace. We finally passed them and caught 3 more teams before the finish. Once we crossed the line I was ecstatic. We survived day 3, ran really well, and I think we finished 5th. I was not the only one to have biffed it hard today, Devon Crosby Helms took a nice bail and had quite the shiner on her knee too. Pent and I had a nice soak in the muddy creek pool, got showered up and headed over to Manualita's for some fish taco's for lunch. All in all, a great day!

(Meredith and I slogging up the hill)

Day 4 (14 miles)Camp Hail to Redcliff:

To say that this trail was steep is an understatement. I later found out that day that our friend Aaron Heidt and his partner Adam Cambell (who finished off the day in 2nd) ran the entire thing up until the broken down trucks. At this point the trail got sooo steep, even the trucks couldn't make it up (they had the aid station supplies). Peter pushed me up a lot of this climb but we really did take it pretty easy. I was relieved once we got to check point one as it flattened out quite a bit. After a few smaller climbs we finally got to go downhill. We missed the meeting the night before and weren't aware of all the creek crossings on course. They were pretty fun but I would be lying if I said I flew through them as I was nervous about re-rolling my foot and flaring up my old injury. All was well as we came into checkpoint 3. Peter arrived just before me, in time to see that the spanish mixed couple were just ahead. We were in and out of this aid station and there was only 2 miles until the finish. Our eyes were on the spanish team and we picked up the pace in hopes of picking them off. We caught them 1 mile before the finish and they were working hard but we had a little more left in the tank and took 5th place.

(Peter at the top of the climb)

Day 5 (23 Miles) Redcliffe to Vail:

This day proved to be an emotional day. I woke up just not in the mood to run. Rarely does that happen but I could have done anything today other than run. Peter quickly told me to suck it up and to get in a better mood and so I did.

(Peter and I at the start. It was cold!)
I think today was the first time we actually did a warm-up run. It was really cold this morning and my legs were so stiff. We started off a little quicker this day but my legs were so tired. I had a little mini breakdown going up one of the climbs. I think I just had enough and didn't feel like working hard anymore. After a few seconds and a pep talk from Pete we were back at it and moving steadily (but not too quickly). I started to have fun once we began descending the single track and managed to pass a few teams here.

Just as the fun began it was quickly taken away and we climbed once more. There were many switchbacks and you could see participants winding their way up the trail. I was relieved once we got to the top and all that was left was 9.5 miles of downhill. Peter was under the impression that we were getting onto single track fairly quickly but that was not the case. Our legs were starting to get sore. The road wasnt to steep and you still had to work to move quickly. We were chasing down co-ed team Herbalife and they were in our sights the entire way down. We had passed them at one point but they had re-passed us when I had to take a bathroom break. I ended up having to take 4 stops down this hill. With only 400 meters to go we finally entered the single track section into Vail. I had a feeling we might catch team Herbalife because they weren't moving as quickly along the technical terrain. They came into view and I told Peter to go for it because he was feeling really good. We started gaining on them but time was running out and there wasn't much trail left. We entered the finish shoot with 50 meters to go and Peter found himself in a sprint off with Herbalife's male partner. It was close but Peter finished literally with a foot in front. It was a great completion to a long day. We finished the day off in 6th and quickly found a creek to soak in. Lunch today consisted of beers and french fries!

Day 6 (21 Miles) Vail to Beaver Creek:

(At the start in Vail. It was a beautiful morning and everyone in good spirits)

I woke up today feeling really good. It was the first time all week that nothing really hurt on my body. I had eaten a ton the night before and was feeling fueled and ready to rock. Today being the last day may also have had something to do with my positive outlook! We took it easy every other day and this was the one day where I really just wanted to run. And so I did. I didn't communicate that with Peter, it was just something I wanted to do. Peter walked behind me as I ran everything. His power hiking is so fast, I have to run to stay with him. If I had done this all week I think we would have fared better in the standings. But, with that said, since I was coming off of an injury, the goal of the week was to have a shit load of fun. We started up a hill that switchbacked for quite a while. I was loving the terrain and the fact that it was runnable. I also enjoy running up single track trail versus ATV roads. I was surprised that my legs were feeling so good after 5 days and 97 miles of running. We started to pass teams that we hadn't seen until the finish line all week. That was a huge motivator. Everyone seemed to be struggling out there and we were just on fire. I finally felt like I had air in my lungs and was able to breathe. Once we reached aid station 2, we were to then run 5 miles of downhill. This next section was one of my favorites all week. We were flying and working really well as a team. We passed by the 2nd overall mixed team (Canadian) who we hadn't seen in any stage, which gave me an extra boost of energy. I knew then that we were in 3rd place. There was only one other mixed team I hadn't seen all day and it was the same team we had chased down on day 3. We passed them at the very end of the downhill and it wasn't long before they were passing us right back up at the 3rd aid station. We kept them in our sights all the way up the last final climb. It was hot, it was steep, and both teams were moving well. It wasn't until the final seconds of the last steep climb that we passed them. I was working hard, bent over, hands on the legs, moaning/groaning/grunting/pushing up the hill as hard as I could. Pete had helped push me up a lot of that climb. Side note- for some reason when I run, if I am struggling and need to find motivation within myself- I 'WOOOOOO' as loud as I can. If I am working hard, I'll totally groan and grunt. Something about expressing your pain, makes it more tolerable. K, sorry, back to the story...

There were only a few miles until the finish. I wanted to finish 2nd sooo bad. Well, I really just wanted to podium, but since we were so close to taking 2nd, why not shoot for it. We had worked hard all day and this was our day. Over the next few minutes I was continuously checking back over my shoulder to see if they were there. As we started our descent, they weren't in view. By the time we hit the first switchback I could seem them. I had no clue how far they were behind us but as long as they were in view, I was nervous. I wanted to take off, but Pete was giving it all he had, so I let him lead. I could hear the announcers and finally we were descending off the mountain and into the finish shoot. I was soooo excited. I was excited to finish 2nd and for the journey to be done. Peter and I shared a long embrace. I really couldn't have asked for a better partner.

(Bitsy and Megan Delany at the finish on day 6)

After we watched the majority of racers come in, we went back to the hotel. It was great to stay in a place of our own with a nice hot shower. We walked around Beaver Creek before going to the Hyatt for the wrap-up Banquet.

(The top 3 mixed teams for the stage- Go NSA!)

(The photo for the North Shore News- Thanks Valarie!)

If anyone is interested in doing this next year please contact: Peter Watson at North Shore Athletics. His e-mail address is Signing up through Peter at NSA gets you a discount on the entry. Hope to see you all out next year.

I think I have been on an enormous high since TR. My calves and achilles felt a bit tight after day 6 from all the uphill running but 2 days off on the car ride home made them recover quite well. We ran for an hour and a half the day we got back. It was great to be back on our home turf and I am just reminded all over again how beautiful our trail system is here. The next day Peter and I went to run the Rubble Creek course. It is a 26km trail that starts at the Chekamus Lake parking lot and ends in Rubble Creek. The trail is beautiful and you get to drop down to view Geribaldi lake, which is one of the most stunning lakes I have ever seen.

See you in the trails.


ob1 said...

nice guys. inspiring trip report.

Deb said...

Hey Nicola, awesome meeting you and Pete as well! I wanted to congratulate you guys on your 2nd place on Stage 6 after it was over but didn't see you at the end...that was my toughest day both rocked it, way to go!

I've definitely thought about Knee Knacker for sure...too bad it's a lottery but I guess you've still managed to get into it 3 times anyhow? I know Powderface is that same weekend so i'm not sure yet which one I'd choose. I definitely look forward to checking out some awesome races out that way though in the future! Trailrunning is such a blast...i'm only annoyed at myself for not getting into it sooner!

What are your plans for the rest of the season?

Tom Craik said...

Great entry, Nicola. All you TR people have me so stoked to go. Hopefully next year I can pull it together. Congratulations to you and Pete and well done getting back out on the trails right away.

Sunshine Girl said...

What a great way to finish up the week! The podium feels gooooood, yes?! Congrats!