Buena Vista-Railroad Bridge Campground
20.6 miles/2721 feet climbing
Over the past three years, runners who have participated in the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run have given it their own name: “summer camp for runners.” It’s a chance to get away from daily responsibilities and enjoy a week when summer friends do nothing but run, laugh and tell stories. So, it’s no surprise that the hours before the 2010 edition were like a reunion as runners from 10 countries and dozens of States and Provinces caught up on the past year and welcomed new faces taking part in their first run.
Like it did last year, Stage 1 promised to offer the racers a completely different take on the high Rockies with a 20 mile route through a high desert route of fun running including converted railbed, tight singletrack and sandy moto and quad trails. The exposed landscape and temperatures which soared into the mid-80s felt more like Arizona than Colorado and made hydration and pacing the two essential elements on the day. In the end, the heat caused more problems than the altitude which varied between 8000 feet at the start line to over 9300 at the day’s high point—not high by Colorado and TransRockies standards but high enough to concern the flatlanders and coastal residents who came to run in 2010.
This year was the first year that the start included nearly 250 runners competing as teams in the full six-day GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run along with a sold-out field of athletes running the inaugural RUN3, 3-day solo event. When the dust had settled, it was the RUN3 leaders who crossed the line first, able to really let loose knowing that they only had two more days to race after this one.
In the Open Men’s Division of the TransRockies Run, veteran GTTRR competitors Andy Martin and Max King followed through on their pre-race strategy of setting a scorching tempo early. They felt that the relatively flatter and lower elevation route was to their advantage and they wanted to establish an early gap on the competition. Their attack paid off as they, ripping through the course in 2:26:03 to establish a 7 minute gap on Jason Wolfe and Eric Bohn from Flagstaff who hope to use their high-elevation acclimation to eat into that gap as the course goes higher into the Rockies.
The Open Mixed Division looks like it will again be one to watch for close competition as the first three teams came across the line separated by only six minutes. Half of last year’s winning Open Women’s team Caitlin Smith hit the top step of the podium in a new categoru with her partner with flying Frenchman Martin Gaffuri in 3:01:17. Behind them Aliza Lapierre and Chad Denning edged Bryan Dayton and Kristin Moehl by only 9 seconds for second place. Close racing indeed!
In the Open Women’s Division Danielle De Guire and Amelie Fournier raced to a solid Stage 1 win while the 80+ Mixed Divison was won by perennial TransRockies podium finishers Julie Leasure and Peter Courogen.
The RUN3 athletes didn’t hold back on this first stage and in the Open Men’s Division, past 6-day finisher Justin Ricks scorched to the fastest time of the day in a 2:23:31. This gave him a 4 ½ minute lead over Tim Surface who also broke the 2:30 barrier on the day . . . not bad when you remember that this was for nearly 21 miles, at elevation, including nearly 3000 feet of climbing and lots of loose surface. The Open Women’s Division was won by Anna Frost of New Zealand who beat Karen Barlow of Australia by over six minutes by finishing in 2:48:25, a time faster than all but three of the Open Men’s competitors. All these athletes, along with the winners of the other age group categories will start stage 2 wearing the leaders’ jerseys.
After 20 miles in day 1’s sand and heat, a quick shuttle from the finish line brought everyone back to the group campground where hot showers and recovery tents set up by Salomon and GORE-TEX were there to help runners begin the process or undoing the day’s exertions. Many runners found a comfy napping spot in the team tents set up daily by the small army of volunteers and staff who work long hours making sure that runners have everything they need to recover and prepare for another day on the trails.
Tomorrow, Hope Pass and high elevation awaits.