A Long Day on the Roof of the Rockies
Stage 3 Report: Leadville-Camp Hale (Nova Guides)/24.2 miles/2930 ft climbing
The weather in the Rockies can change in a flash, surprising in turn with its violence or beauty. After a cold, overcast day on Stage 2 which included heavy rain showers at the finish line in Leadville, Tuesday dawned clear with only a few clouds moving past the peaks of Mt Elbert and Mt. Massive which loom over the valley. Though the cold of a 10,000ft above sea level made layers a necessity as runners started lining up for breakfast at 6am, it was obvious that the air would heat up quickly and competitors came to the start line ready for a long hot day of running.
Luckily for the competitors, this stage, both the longest and highest of 2009, was mostly run on tree-shaded trails providing great conditions and beautiful surroundings for a long day of running. At more than 24 miles long, stage unlike Stage 2, the 3000 vertical feet of climbing was broken up into two gentle treed ascents to 11,000 feet and with a number of rolling climbs though gorgeous singletrack on the Colorado Trail. While it wasn’t the high point of the ride, runners had the rare chance to run over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass which also provided a barrier against the storm cells which were running up and down the Leadville valley all afternoon. The rain and wind never managed to reach the runners either on the trail or relaxing afterwards at Nova Guides in historic Camp Hale.
After being beaten by the death or glory downhill attacks of Team Salomon Canada and The Two Joes, the boys of RunFlagstaff were determined to get their revenge on Stage 3. They found the less technical course profile more to their liking and powered away from the rest of the field after only 3 miles. Though other teams hung close for a couple of miles after the attack, Michael Smith and Robert Krar were soon by themselves setting a furious tempo that would see them finish 7 minutes clear of their competition. Over 24 plus miles at extreme elevation and with 3000 feet of vertical gain thrown in, they averaged a 7:10/mile pace to cross the line in 2:56:14!
Behind them, The Two Joes continued the momentum they had built winning Stage 2 to cross the line in second place. Despite falling in Stage 2 and sustaining a broken tooth and split lip which required a root canal, stitches and glued tooth to fix, Aaron Heidt powered through the course with his partner Aaron Campbell in 3:03:40 to continue their climb up the GC. Hal Koerner and Andy Martin came across the line third to solidify their second place overall behind Team RunFlagstaff.
In the Open Women’s division, Devon Crosby-Helms and Caitlin Smith, Team Salomon/GORE-TEX®, got back on top of the podium again in stage 3 with a hard-fought 1-minute win over the North Face Girls, Kami Semick and Nikki Kimball. Devon and Caitlin led through much of the stage but Devon took a hard fall on the technical singletrack section of the Colorado Trail. While she was gathering herself, a number of teams passed by, including the North Face Girls. Following Aaron Heidt’s example from the day before, she got up and got back on the gas again. She and Caitlin were able to pass the North Face Girls in the few miles of fire road to take the stage and stretch their overall lead to 11:46 after three stages.
Running is obviously a key part of life for TransRockies Run competitors, but there are always events that remind us that there are other, more important things in life. Keri Nelson along with her teammate Jason Wolfe tore up the Open Mixed field in the first two stages this year and looked certain to hold their lead through to the finish. She was running with a heavy heart, though, as she had received news of a death in her family just a few days before the start of the race. During Stage 3, Keri made the difficult decision to withdraw from the race to join her family. On behalf of the whole TransRockies family, we send our condolences to Keri and her family.
Stage 4 is another shorter day distance-wise in the 2009 GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run, but runners will again climb high above the tree line to the peak of Hornsilver Mountain at 11,462 feet. The top is exposed and offers 360 degree vistas of the surrounding peaks before the runners plunge back down to the finish line in Red Cliff. Of the 3009 feet of climbing, over 2,500 are packed into the 4 mile climb to the top of Hornsilver Mountain—a tough enough grind when fresh but bound to be even harder when runners have already put three big days in on the trails.