Stage 4 – 2014 PepsiCo TransRockies Run

After completing yesterday’s Stage 3, the RUN6 participants have now reached their halfway point. With three days to go, these athletes gear up for today’s Stage 4 route from Nova Guides to Red Cliff, totaling 14.1 miles and 2,900 feet of elevation gain. The distance is on the shorter side yet runners face the biggest climb of the week.

The morning temperatures were a chilly 45 degrees but thanks to the Gourmet Cowboy and the people of Nova Guides hot tea and coffee were served to warm the runners up beginning at 5:30am. From then until 8am, runners sat in the heated tent eating a delicious breakfast before heading to the start.

Brrrrr….but beautiful.

At 8am sharp, the RUN6 runners departed with the traditional AC/DC’s Highway to Hell blasting. The remainder of the RUN3 participants that camped last night stood along the start giving their final cheer for the TransRockies Run athletes before boarding their 9am shuttle back home.

While Stage 4 covers just over a half-marathon in distance, it’s the uphill climbing just two miles in that makes this stage tough. After a two-mile warm-up on an open dirt road, runners weaved their way through the shaded woods and began their gradual climb up. This climb quickly turned steep as the casual conversations diminished and running strides turned to a fast hike…and then a slow hike. With each step forward and up, runners continued their steady pace focusing on the ground in front. It was a climb where trekking poles or hands to the quads were needed for added support. After the five-mile and 2,300 foot climb, runners were above the tree line soaking in the panoramic view of blue sky and weaving mountains. With temperatures now in the 60s and almost through with today’s climbing the runners were on a high.

Trust us…it’s a lot steeper than it looks.

Just ahead was Checkpoint 1 and volunteers were standing by ready to serve water, Gatorade Endurance and Gatorade bars to all the athletes. One would think they were at the summit, but not quite! With the open view ahead, two more miles of climbing was to come. The best way to conquer this section is to focus not on the uphill but the views of Colorado’s mountainside. Up above 10,000 feet and surrounded by never ending sky and mountains made runners feel like tiny specs trotting through the open air-an empowering feeling of pure joy.

The ants go marching on and on.

At the summit of the climb runners ran a flat trail along the ridge allowing them to soak in the view and recover before dropping back in the forest for their descent into Red Cliff. Runners were warned last night that today there was a stream crossing so all were prepared to finish with soggy and cold feet. There was no option to skip between rocks to avoid wet feet. Instead, it was full foot submerge as runners ran a half mile down an ice-cold stream.

I can walk on water! Umm, maybe not.

At the end of the stream Check Point 2 awaited, just two miles from the finish. The final stretch was a gradual downhill that emptied into the small mountain town of Red Cliff where fish tacos and margaritas awaited the runners at the highly recommended Mango’s Mountain Grilll. Runners may have forgotten to stretch this morning but they to remembered to put cash in their running packs for post-run drinks and tacos!

The RUN6 top men finishers gave quite the show as the top three came strolling through the line within minutes. Jonathan Toker continues to lead the RUN6 Open Men division but today the top finisher of Stage 4 went to Ian MacNairn with a time of 2:02:35. Cameron Widoff placed second with a time of 2:04:39 and third went to Jonathan Toker with a time of 2:04:59.

For the women, Magdalena Boulet and Caitlin Smith continued their winning streak with a Stage 4 time of 2:21:55, placing them in a commanding lead in the Team Open Women division. The first Solo Woman finish went to Becky Kirschenmann who ran a strong and steady pace up and down the mountain with a time of 2:24:50.

Fish tacos and margaritas at Mango’s Mountain Grill!

Overall a great day, a fantastic run, and a finale of tacos and margaritas! Two stages left as we continue on the TransRockies Run journey to Beaver Creek. Tomorrow is Stage 5 from Red Cliff to Vail. This will be the second longest run of the week with 22.5 miles to cover and 4,100 feet of elevation gain. Bring it on!

Full Results HERE.  More images HERE.

Images courtesy of Raven Eye Photography and Hunter Imagery.

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