By Paul Done
Communications Director, TransRockies Inc.
Set up a tent.
It’s a pretty basic skill and even when you’re rusty, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get it up and standing. Now set up another tent. This time, you might get your time down to around 5 minutes. Now set up another, and another, until the number grows into the hundreds. Think how good you would be at it then.
Every year, the TransRockies Run tent crew sets up and tears down hundreds of tents a day in every kind of weather from baking sunshine to Rocky Mountain wind and rain. By the time the race finishes at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado, these guys and girls will be among the best tent setter-uppers in the World. They could probably win bets by putting up a tent blindfolded in a windstorm without even breaking a sweat.
While the days on the trails are long and challenging for the runners at the GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run, they are even longer for the crew who set up camp, cook, run the shower truck, move gear bags, provide medical services and take pictures and video. The athletes are the rock stars of the TransRockies Run and the roadies are the crew that’s awake before the runners roll out of their tents and are still working long after the runners crawl back in their sleeping bags.
Here are a few snapshot stories from behind the scenes on Day 2 of the 2009 TransRockies Run which saw the event village moved from Buena Vista to Leadville while the racers ran from Vicksburg to Twin Lakes.
At 4am, long before sunrise, the Gourmet Cowboy catering crew was up in the main banquet tent whipping up breakfast for over 400 athletes and crew. The menu for the day included a quiche, home-made biscuits and gravy along with bagels, fruit salad, and oatmeal. Every day they whip up a different menu for both breakfast and dinner to help runners stay excited about food as they get more worn down.
By 5:30, Glen Crawford, one of the TransRockies TV Cameramen, was on his way to the trailhead to hike up to Hope Pass and get in place before the runners started at 8:30. Normally, he rides a mountain bike with his gear in a pack but today’s climb was too steep and technical to ride, so he got a very early start on a hike with his camera on his back to make sure that he got the shots that would become part of the daily video reel which is shown after awards.
At 7:30, the tent crew aka the Vail Posse, kicked into high gear, tearing down nearly 300 tents which would be immediately trucked to Leadville to be set up again Their job was going to be a little more stressful this morning as Stage 2 is the shortest run of the week and racers could be expected to start flitering into the race camp by 11am. After a drive up Highway 24, all hands were on deck setting up tents for the early arriving teams.
At 8:00, while the two mobile and two still cameramen were already hiking and riding up the course in search of the perfect shooting locations, the TV editor Sean Smith was at the start line getting footage for the early video of the day. With the pressure of editing at least 2 or 3 separate videos a day for posting on the web or screening at the daily awards ceremony, there’s no time to be lost. So, after the runners had left, Sean fired up the laptop in the back of a vehicle being driven by another staff member and plugged it into a power inverter running off the lighter socket. While bouncing around in the back of the car, he cut the Stage start video and delivered it to the Communications Director by 10:00am so that it could be posted on the web and sent out the world. Then he jumped back in the car in search of the next shots.
At 8:30, the runners left from Vicksburg and began to head up the mountain to Hope Pass. The minute they left, the Setup Crew began a rapid teardown of the start line so that it could be moved to the finish which expected the first runners through in roughly 90 minutes. With a full team effort, it took just 25 minutes to get the arch torn down, the banners removed and stowed and the start chute fencing packed away for the trip to the finish line roughly 20 miles away by road. A fast (but legal . . .) drive to the finish line came next and a rapid set-up began. As the first runners approached the line, the timing clock was hung and a new turnaround record had been set.
It’s noon here in Leadville and the village is completely up and running as the quick runners exit the shuttle after the gruelling run to the top of Hope Pass. The weather has pulled a classic Rocky Mountain switch from temperatures in the 80s and sunshine to the 50s and rain but the mobile shower truck is going at full speed with 20 individual showers pumping out steaming hot water and the tent crew has put up a baseball field full of tents where runners can grab some rest and take shelter from the weather.
This is just some of the action that goes on behind the scenes in one typical morning of the GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run. Tomorrow will bring a different challenge for the runners and a new test for the crew as they work to deliver the best running race experience anywhere.