The Longest Days Takes Runners Up and Over Vail Mountain
22.8mi/ 5500ft climbing
With over 44 miles of running and 10,000 feet of elevation gain during the last two stages, there’s no easy way to the finish line of the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run. Stage 5 from Red Cliff to Vail was going to be the longest day on the trails of the 2010 TransRockies Run with the most climbing and the hottest temperatures of any day so far this week.
After a great Stage 4 and second night in Camp Hale, the runners packed and dressed for the day’s run in cold sub-40 degree temperatures knowing that this would be another hot day as the sun rose in the cloudless deep blue mountain sky. Sure enough, even as the runners started the climb up Shrine Pass they were taking off jackets and armwarmers and stashing them away for the rest of the day.
If Stage 5 was going to be the toughest grind of the week, it would make up for it with superb trails, incredible scenery and the promise of the traditional last camp feast prepared by local favourites Cowboy Catering. It’s amazing what athletes will do for food after a few hard days of racing . . .
One of the early casualties of the heat and course was Will Kelsay (Team Timex Multisport) who was the last athlete standing of the three who had signed up to try and become the first to complete the TransRockies Bike/GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run. Suffering from a flu bug, he gamely tried to get through the stage but was forced to pull out at checkpoint 1. The challenge for 2011 remains in place—who will be the first athlete to complete two TransRockies stage races in two sports with only a week’s rest in-between?
Ironically, for all the climbing which was in the stage, it was the 3,000 vertical foot final descent which was toughest for many of the runners as the constant pounding led to very sore and beat up legs at the finish. Open Mixed leaders Bryan Dayton and Krissy Moehl remarked that they felt like they were “just hanging on” after five days of racing which has seen the second-placed duo of Mark Nelson and Care Wakely win four straight stages in closing to within 12 minutes of first place. It’s a tall order but there are 21 tough miles left to race tomorrow and experience shows that anything can happen.
There were some changes front of the pack as the Open Women’s Leaders jerseys changed hands and the La Sportiva Dirt Divas Melody Fairchild and Ellen Fairchild turned in a strong Stage 5 peformance to win by 16 minutes and grab a 9 ½ minute lead heading into the final stage.
In the 80+ Mixed Division, Julie Leasure and Peter Courogen finally had their clean sweep of stages broken as four-time TransRockies Run participant Adam Chase and his partner Sara Wagner (Team Salomon Mixed) grabbed a satisfying five minute win in Stage 5. There was no such upset in the other categories as the other overall leaders continued to pad their leads with stage victories.
It would be surprising enough for an event as grueling as the 2010 GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run to have one competitor over 70 years of age but this year, the TransRockies Run had two 70+ runners and more over 60 as well. While 71-year old Doug Malewicki of the California Old Goats was back in the Rockies again having already completed the Run, 73-year old Hildegard Durynek had come from Münster, Germany with her teammate Almuth Mecking to take on the TransRockies for the first time. It’s so far, so good for Hildegard as she’s completed five stages successfully and it set to add a TransRockies Run finisher medal to the ones she already has from our sister European event, the TransAlpine Run.
There’s just one stage left for Hildegard, Doug and the rest of the 2010 GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run participants. It’s always a tough one though, as Stage 6 takes runners over 21 miles from Vail Resort to Beaver Creek Resort further West down the Eagle River Valley. With temperatures forecast to be in the 80s and more than 4500 feet of climbing including a steep last 700 foot grunt to the finish line, this year’s finisher medals and shirts will be honestly earned by all who reach Beaver Creek.