2009 GORE-TEX® TranRockies Run Stage 1 Report
Buena Vista-Railroad Bridge Campground/20.4 miles/2721ft climbing
After all the training, packing and preparation that participants do in advance of the 2009 GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run, the mixture of nerves and exuberance on display in at the start was completely understandable. Under clear Rocky Mountain skies, over 260 runners from 10 countries lined up at the start line in Buena Vista, Colorado for the third and largest edition yet of the TransRockies Run.
This year’s field not only included the largest number of runners but also the deepest and competitive elite field in a TransRockies Run. With trail legends like current Western States 100 Champions Hal Koerner and Anita Ortiz and superb runners like Nikki Kimball, Devon Crosby-Helms, Kami Semick, Adam Chase Mr. Ultramarathon himself Dean Karnazes, there was going to be a lot of pace and power at the front of the field.
Today, though, the trail running star power on hand gave way to the speedy duo of Robert Krar and Mike Smith of RunFlagstaff who laid the law down early in stage 1. They grabbed the lead on the long first climb out of Buena Vista to the day’s high point at 9329 feet and never looked back. By the top, they had stretched their lead out to a minute over the chasing Team Nike/Rogue Valley Runners duo of Hal Koerner and Andy Martin who continued to pursue them closely through the first two checkpoints. RunFlagstaff’s lead continued to grow on the sandy singletrack between CP 2 and 3. They put their sub-2:20 marathon speed to use on the run-in to the finish along a hard-packed converted railbed, blowing the gap open and finishing the stage in a smoking time of 2:27:19, more than 3 ½ minutes ahead of Koerner and Martin who crossed the line in 2:50:52. The Salomon Canada duo of Phil Villeneuve and Gavin Hamilton ran a steady, smart and obviously fast race to grab third place and a spot the podium.
The day’s route was brand new for 2009 and featured a fun mixture of converted railbed doubletrack, tight singletrack and sandy moto and quad trails. The arid high desert surroundings which sometimes feel more like Arizona than Colorado, and on a day when the temperatures reached well over 80 with little shade, hydration and pacing were vital. From front to back, the runners got to the finish line at Railroad Bridge Campground with big smiles on their faces after a hot fast day in the hot sunshine. Over the course of the 20 miles, there were few flat spots and plenty of technical challenge to make sure that runners paid attention to their footing along the way.
The Open Mixed category often provides some super racing and the duo of Keri Nelson and Jason Wolfe (GORE-TEX®/La Sportiva) who blazed through the course in 2:54:07, dicing with the leading Open Men’s and 80+ Men’s teams all day, finally finishing as the sixth team across the line. Keri, part of the winning 2008 TransRockies Run Mixed team and past winner of the Leadville Trail Marathon and Pike’s Peak Trail Marathon was the first woman across. The second woman across the line was also part of a mixed team as Michelle Barton and her partner Mark Matayzik (Team Punk/GenRS) came in at 3:04:48 for second place.
The Open Women’s division lived up to its pre-event billing as potentially the most competitive category as several teams fought hard for the win with Team GORE-TEX® Caitlin Smith and Devon Crosby-Helms coming out tops in a smoking time of 3:06:30 with two very accomplished duos, Team Nathan and the Northface Girls filling out the rest of the podium.
A quick shuttle from the finish line brought the runners 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, the adventure begins in earnest as runners face another epic day of running, this time with legs and lungs a lot less fresh after 20 ½ hard miles on the trails.