Transrockies Run Stage 6 — Vail to Beaver Creek

Total distance :: 21 miles, 1131 ft.
Climbing :: 4623 ft.

Medical tentThis is it…the last stage.  Wow, what a week!  The day started with a long line of runners lined up to get taped, bandaged or otherwise jerry-rigged to get through the last 21 miles.  We started right where we finished inside the Beaver Creek village.  It was a flat 2-mile run through the village before the day’s climb began, so I took off ahead of Kevin again so he might catch me on the climb.

Team LivestrongI was thinking about my sister Julie who had been in the hospital getting steroid treatments for her MS the entire time I was racing.  I was pleased with my efforts in raising nearly $7000 for the National MS Society until I met Karl Robohn and Bill Grar of Team Livestrong.  They have raised an impressive $300,000 for the Lance Armstrong’s cancer foundation over the last three years.  I need to take a page out of their book and figure out how to go well beyond the $10,000 fund-raising goal I set for myself.  Karl and Bill also took the award in my book for the coolest gear–a mini video camera mounted to the visor and a wrist-mounted camera.

I was cruising through the 4-mile mark contemplating the full meaning of this week’s effort when I tripped.  In an instant, I was launched into a somersault, landing on my back left side off the side of the mountain.  I instinctively stopped the roll with my feet and quickly regained my bearings to see that I was just one more roll away from catapulting myself right over the edge of the mountain.  I scrambled up back to the trail and rejoined the long line of runners plodding up the mountain in a trance-like motion.  I was lucky.  That could have turned out a lot worse.

Aspen ForestThe trail suddenly entered a fantastic aspen forest where the breeze causes the leaves to twist and flutter.  It’s an awesome experience to run through this environment.  As I neared the first checkpoint at around the 6.5-mile mark, Kevin had not yet caught up to me, so I waited for him to avoid being assessed a 60-minute penalty at the checkpoint.

Somehow I got way ahead of Kevin again heading toward the second checkpoint, so I stopped to chat with a staff member of the Trans-Alpine Run who was on the course to cheer everyone on.

Early this morning as we were checking out of our hotel, I decided to check the GC and see where we stood in our division.  We were in 18th place, just 13 minutes behind Wullie Brown and Neil Rhodes of Team Rocks & Alps.  Now that seemed like a margin we could make up if we had a good day, except that everyone was probably thinking about giving it everything they had on the final day.  As I waited for Kevin at checkpoint #2, Wullie and Neil approached, so I intercepted the jovial pair for this brief interview:

I shared a beer with the aid station crew at checkpoint #2 as Kevin started making his way down the mountain toward the town of Avon.  We were less than ten miles from the end of the entire race and I was beginning my celebration.  It was a bit surreal running through traffic in Avon toward checkpoint #3 after spending so much time on the trail. 

Kevin didn’t want to stop and have his leg stiffen up at the aid station, so I grabbed his hydration pack and ran ahead to fill it for him.  He stayed less than a minute and was off to tackle the final 700-ft. climb of the race up through the ski slopes of Beaver Creek.  I stayed for another beer and chatted with the crew.  I knew there was a painful climb ahead, but I was in full party mode.

I didn’t catch Kevin until we were less than two miles from the finish.  Turns out there were numerous bear in the area earlier in the day, and several teams bolted straight down the mountain to the finish instead of taking the switchbacks on the course.  Several other runners were stung multiple times by hornets in the final stretch.  And it was hot.  Kevin had absolutely nothing left in his tank.  On the descent into Avon, his right leg had completely seized up, forcing him to stop.  Now, with less than a mile to go, every single step was a serious struggle.  We exchanged some final thoughts about the day, the week, the race, and crossed the finish in 6 hours 5 minutes.  We had run a total of 30 hours and 57 minutes to finish 19th out of 24 teams in our division.

Finish LineThe first thing I did when I crossed the line was call my sister Julie.  She was still in the hospital and I could only leave a message, but as I tried to hold back my emotions, I told her I am immensely proud of her for keeping up her fight against MS.  She struggles every day of her life.  I only struggled for six days, but I actually had a world of fun doing it.

I have lots of final thoughts about the Gore-Tex Transrockies Run, all extremely positive and fulfilling.  I’m going to save them for a final post after giving myself a few days to reflect.  For now, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to participate and experience the adventure of a lifetime.  I am in awe of the effort my teammate put in under incredible pain and stress.  I am inspired by the many other teams and individuals who participated for a myriad of reasons and causes.  And I have a much deeper appreciation for the pure joy of running.

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  1. […] Transrockies Run Stage 6 — Vail to Beaver Creek […]

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