When I tell people that I will spend a week of my 2011 summer vacation trekking 120 miles up and down the peaks and valleys of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado while participating in the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run, several questions surface over and again:
[Photo credits: y Kevin Arnold/Courtesy GORE-TEX TransRockies Run.]
Where do you sleep at night?
In a tent. Each night we camp at a new location convenient to the finish of that stage and the start of the next. After finishing certain stages we are even shuttled to tent city a valley away. Everyone sleeps in tents.
The fine folks at TransRockies set up and tear down roughly 400 tents each day. Runners just show up and sleep in them. As good as it gets? Well, maybe not. But after hauling ass all day over crazy terrain with massive elevation change, it’s a welcome sight to see your tent already set up for you. Plus, you’ll be so tired from surviving the day that you will fall asleep immediately. You will not even notice the hard ground underneath. But, hey, just in case, Team HumpMe will bring a large inflatable mattress.
Do you carry all of your gear?
Yes and no. TransRockies transports a bag for each runner to the night’s camp location. At event check in, we are given a rather large duffle bag for our gear. We can bring whatever we can stuff inside. The bag is ours. We will live out of it all week. Each morning we drop the bag at the baggage truck; after the day’s stage, later at the next camping area, we pick up our bag again. TransRockies does the rest.
During the race, we are required to bring our own gear. There isn’t much since you’re wearing most of it. But we will have to have a hydration pack, warm clothes in case the weather turns – which can happen rather briskly up at that kind of elevation. On top of that, there are items that are mandatory, such as a hat, gloves, rain jacket, and emergency blanket. We carry those too. There will be checkpoints every 5 to 8 miles on course, so you’re never too far from comfort. Not exactly Pampered Living, but not far from it for adrenaline junkies like ourselves.
What do you do for meals?
Eat. Each day a full breakfast and dinner is supplied by TransRockies. We are on our own for lunch. This might sound crude until you know that each stage finishes at or at least within hobbling distance of a town with at least one lunch spot. In addition to that, there are fully stocked checkpoints on course every 5 to 8 miles, including the finish line. Not only that but there also is what has become the now-famous Margarita night put on by Memphis Joe (can’t wait to meet this dude!), and I’m told that the folks at Salomon set up each night a “Relaxation Zone”, complete with a few tasty adult beverages. This is my kind of adventure!
Are you really running 20 miles per day?
Yes. On average. The total distance is 120 miles spread over 6 days. Some days are over 20 miles while others are shorter. The longest day is nearly 25 miles. I think that is the last day. The shortest stage is Day 2 as we scale Hope Pass. It is only 14 miles. But those 14 miles are packed with the toughest climbing of the week. 20 miles per day.
And what do you do when you’re done for the day?
Sleep. No, just kidding. Sort of. I mean, we sleep, but we also do a lot of other things. In fact, although running through such grueling terrain several hours per day is why we all come from faraway places to participate in TransRockies, it is the other time – the down time, or call it recovery time – that transforms the experience into a life event, one none of us will forget.
After crossing the finish line of the day’s stage, we might gather with the faster runners to swap war stories of the battle just waged while cheering in slower teams as they come into the finish. From there we might take an ice bath dip in a nearby river to assist recovery. Then it is on to shower up and head into town for a long, relaxing lunch, where we will surely tell more war stories of the peaks scaled hours earlier. Back at camp, dinner comes late evening under big communal tents that will soon turn into a few announcements on race leaders, daily awards, and an overview of the next day’s stage. All of that comes before trail side entertainment of sorts. Maybe a sing-along and S’mores by a roaring camp fire comes before bedtime. Then we hit the sack, literally, for a long night’s sleep before doing it all again, the next time with some of the details changed.
Summer camp for adults. That’s what it is.