2014 PepsiCo TransRockies Run – Stage 2

Waking up at 5:30am can be tough, but watching the sunrise creep over Colorado’s peaks makes it all worth it. As runners began their morning prep work, this view, complimented with blue skies, crisp mountain air and of course the breakfast of champions was a great way to start Stage 2. Soreness was sinking in, yet excitement and determination still high. Runners were ready to take on this climb covering 13.2 miles from Vicksburg to Twin Lakes with 3,400 feet of uphill. Beginning at 6:45am, runners loaded the buses and traveled 30 minutes down a bumpy dirt road to Vicksburg where the TransRockies Run arch was set and ready for the start.

Hey, why is that photographer on the ground?

Compared to yesterdays course, Stage 2 is a completely new running experience. Yes it’s a lower mileage day, but runners have the added challenge of elevation and altitude as they climb 3,400 feet of vertical gain and top out at 12,001 feet in elevation on the summit of Hope Pass. Luckily Colorado’s storms hid today, allowing all the runners to see the beautiful and clear panoramic views of Colorado.

At 8:30am the runners made their way down the gravel road. Yesterday’s temperatures were high 80s but thankfully runners got a break today, with morning temperatures in the 40s reaching mid 70s and cloud coverage by afternoon. The first 1.7 miles to checkpoint 1 gave the runners a nice warm up before the 2,500 foot climb up Hope Pass. Since Stage 2 only has two checkpoints, runners needed to fuel up.

All smiles on the way up!

The climb to the summit of Hope Pass is one of the most difficult parts of the TransRockies Run course, yet one of the most rewarding views and ascents of the week. The technical terrain of loose rocks, boulders and switchbacks gave runners a real taste of Colorado trail running. As runners continued their steady trot above the tree line, the summit became visible and the view opened up to clear blue sky. Course photographers Chris Hunter and Todd Weselake were at the top, capturing the special moments and scenery for all. The runners continued down the 3,000 foot descent, meeting up with the Colorado Trail and finishing at Twin Lakes where spectators were ready and the music was blasting.

Flipp’in out on the flats!

Around 10:40am, Jonathan Toker was spotted running from afar. With his eyes on the finish he picked up his speed, passing through the finish arch with a winning time of 2:10:20. Jonathan was the winner of yesterday’s race and continued to please the crowd today. He crossed the finish line in all smiles, high-fiving the TransRockies crew on his successful run. About 20 minutes later, elite athletes Magadelna Boulet (Hoka/Balega) and teammate Caitlin Smith (Saloman/Balega) came sprinting to the finish, hand-in-hand, awarding them first place women finishers for today with a time of 2:29:09. Before exiting the finish, they hugged one another, soaking in the experience of their Stage 2 success.

We’re done! Can we hug?

The TransRockies Run is a special race and week full of lasting memories. The most memorable part to today’s race was a finish line marriage proposal at 11:45am where Brandon Collins got down on one knee as he greeted his girlfriend, Laura Hempel, with an important question and diamond ring… and she said yes! “I originally had the plan to propose on the top of Hope Pass but Laura was just too frickin fast!” stated Brandon. “I needed a plan B so decided to sprint down to the finish and propose there.” Brandon is running the RUN6 Solo and Laura is running the RUN6 Team with her best friend. Brandon finished his run 15 minutes before Laura and anxiously waited until she came through the finish. The couple met in July of 2013 at the SOB 50K and since then have been running and sharing new adventures together. The 2014 TransRockies is one they won’t forget.

We’re engaged!

For the rest of the afternoon the finish area was THE spot. Runners continued to cheer in the finishers, snacked on recovery foods, and took trips to soak their bodies in the ice-cold Twin Lake Reservoir. After a tough course, relaxation and fun would be the perfect end of the day-and that’s exactly what the TransRockies Run gives to their runners.

Tomorrow runners begin Stage 3 of the TransRockies RUN6 and RUN3 as they depart from Leadville and head to Nova Guides Camp, 24 miles away with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. For those participants in the RUN3, tomorrow will be their final day, but with clear skies in the forecast and beautiful scenery they will be sure to end on a high note. Best of luck to all runners and have a great time out there tomorrow!

Full results HERE.  More images HERE.

Images courtesy of Raven Eye Photography and Hunter Imagery.

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