Transrockies Run Stage 3 — Leadville to Camp Hale

 Total distance :: 24.2 miles
Climbing :: 2930 ft.
TRR staff member Sarah provides taxi service for me.
TRR staff member Sarah provides taxi service for me.

Today’s forecast:  Partly sunny. Isolated rain showers in the morning… then scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highs 54 to 64. West winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation 40 percent.

What a difference a day can make.  We started the day in Leadville, the highest city in the country at 10,200 ft.  First thing I did was leave my digital camera battery in the charger plugged in to the bathroom wall socket.  Sarah from the TRR staff kindly shuttled me two miles back to the Super 8 motel.  Just another example of the staff here who are prepared to do just about anything to make the experience truly fantastic.

It seemed that by Stage 3, everyone had the drill down at the start line.  File in about 15 mins. before the start, go through  the mandatory gear check, scan your ankle chip as you enter the starting gates, and get ready to rock-n-roll.  Kevin and I were mentally prepared for a very long day although his right leg felt better at the start than it did the day before at the start.

Clmbing out of Leadville at 10,600 ft.
Climbing out of Leadville at 10,600 ft.

We decided to take it out slow and steady from the start line in downtown Leadville.  The first three miles are on roads.  Kevin felt pretty good, so we kept up a slow but steady pace.  At mile 3, the course turned up toward the mountains as we started climbing out of Leadville.  Everyone was walking, but Kevin was making great time as his leg doesn’t bother him as much on the climbs.

We were ecstatic to reach the first aid station at mile 7.5 in 1:44.  Kevin was still feeling good, so we kept up a strong pace.  Now we were beginning to pass teams for what seemed like the first time in the race, although we had a ton of ground to make up if we really wanted to run a time we knew were capable of running.  All systems were working properly, so we just kept going.  We hit the halfway mark in a little over 2.5 hrs. and kept a decent pace up to the third and last aid station at mile 20.  From that point on, Kevin really began to struggle.  He was using my poles because I had the Leki antishock poles with springs that are much more forgiving on the wrists, arms and shoulders (see my Leki review here).  We clambered through the finish in 5 hrs. 47 mins.  Kevin is a stud.  I don’t know if I could have done what he did today in his condition.

The course was stunning today, climbing through high timber, rolling through alpine meadows, crossing numerous streams and valleys.  What saved me like yesterday was the phenomenal weather.  It was perfect racing conditions with temps in the 40s at 11,000 ft. and never getting above 65 degrees.  A constantly changing Colorado cloud cover kept us cool all day.

I wore my Vasque Celerator shoes today.  I’m wearing my second pair and intended on writing a review while I was putting 300+ miles on my first pair over the summer.  These were the perfect shoes for the well groomed trails we ran today.  They are also comfortable on the occasional asphalt and quickly shed water from stream crossings.  I’ll probably wear my Inov-8 Roclite’s tomorrow for the steeper and more technical terrain.Camp Hale Cabin

Our tent at Camp Hale.

Camp Hale looks and feels like an oasis snuggled in a vast meadow at 9200 ft.  From 1959 to 1964, 259 Tibetan guerillas were secretly trained here by the CIA. Camp Hale was chosen because of the similarities of the Rocky Mountains with the Himalayan Plateau.  We stay here two nights.  Kevin had made reservations for a cabin but we had no idea what kind of accommodations to expect in the middle of nowhere.  We were stunned and relieved when we stepped in to find a fully furnished 2-bedroom cabin with very comfortable beds and furniture.  When creature comforts are available, there’s no point cramming into a 7’ x 7’ tent.  We’re trying not to brag about our lavish accommodations as it appears there are only three cabins here.  We were especially pleased with our decision to book a cabin when it started pouring rain tonight.

Upon discovering our fine lodging, we quickly showered and headed for a massage.  I stuck with Mary Jo just to be safe.  She had given me an outstanding massage two days ago.  I know I recover faster than most people, but throw a 50-min. massage into the mix (I only asked for 30 mins. but gave her a good tip), and I don’t feel at all like I just ran 55 miles over the last three days.  Kevin and I both feel remarkably good.  Neither of us suffered on today’s run.  We have acclimated and finally feel comfortable running above 10,000 ft. 

That’s not the case for many others.  Today, we started seeing some carnage on the trail.  I passed a guy who described his medial hamstring tear as he limped along, saw someone else getting a massage with a heavily bandaged ankle, and numerous people still feeling nauseated, unable to acclimate. Even yesterday’s stage winner took a rock in the mouth bombing down the mountain, chipped his tooth, and needed a root canal in the afternoon.  Not sure where they found a dentist in the middle of the wilderness.

It’s probably a combination of things that allowed Kevin to rally today.  He continues to take the meds he brought (physician, heal thyself?), the terrain today was very runnable, the massages are really out of this world, and sleeping in a regular bed and not in a cold moist tent helps a lot.  Good thing we upgraded.  Still, I am amazed Kevin was able to get through the day in well under six hours.  24 miles at 10,000 – 11,000 ft. is not easy under the best of circumstances.  To do it with a torn muscle is unbelievable.  We’re well aware we’re only halfway done.  We’re playing it one day at a time, one aid station at a time.

Camp Hale morningCamp Hale at 6:00 am.

This evening we stayed for the entire awards ceremony and really enjoyed it sitting right in front of the stage.  The schwag continues to be doled out.  Tonight everyone received Windstopper ear warmers.  First through third place in every division were awarded Leki trekking poles, a heart rate monitor, and other cool stuff.  Virtually all the big names took the podium in their category–Kami Semick, Hal Koerner, Nikki Kimball, Dean Karnazes, Helen Cospolitch, Caitlin Smith, Anita Ortiz, Prudence L’Heureaux and Devon Crosby-Helms.  Not all of them are winning, but this year’s field is very competitive, largely due to the number of elite runners.  So far the course seems to be favoring the marathoners, not the ultra trail runners.  Except for a few nasty climbs, there are long flat finishes and well groomed trails that make the course very runnable.

As for me, I am living in the moment.  I feel incredibly fortunate to be having the experience of a lifetime.  My wife is taking care of the kids at home while I’m meeting some amazing people, seeing some jaw-dropping scenery, and running the kinds of trails you see photographed in magazines.  The striking feature of the Rocky Mountains is the sheer vastness of what you see.  Most of the time, I point my camera at something to take a picture and I realize the camera will never quite capture the sweeping expanse in front of me.

I’ll be perfectly honest—I do wish we could go bombing down the mountains, race to the finish, and see how we really stack up against this field.  Kevin and I can both go a lot harder.  But then I reflect on what we went through to get here and I am reminded once again that the journey is the prize, and it has been a truly amazing journey.

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3 Responses

  1. Your blog post showed up two days late–we were all panicked!! :0 Seriously, I wondered if maybe you had to drop out since Kevin had been having such a hard time. I’m SO glad to hear that Day 3 went well. So just one more day now!! I’m still praying!!

    Jody :>}

  2. WOW Lynn, I am so impressed!! I TOTALLY love reading about your adventures. So glad to hear that you guys are still trudging along and that Kevin was able to run well today. You guys will do great, you are an awesome team!! Good Luck on your last leg tomorrow!!

  3. […] Transrockies Run Stage 3 — Leadville to Camp Hale […]

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