Red Cliff-Vail/ 23.4mi/ 4407ft climbing
The 2009 GORE-TEX TransRockies Run saves two epic stages for the end of the event and today, the participants took on the first of these, a 23.5 mile run from Red Cliff, up and through the legendary back bowls of Vail Mountain and then down into the village itself for the last race night of 2009. All told, runners would climb over 4400 feet iand reach an maximum elevation of over 11,700 feet while running through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Rockies.
After four tough days on the trails, there was no let up as Stage 5 pitched up 3,000 feet over the course of 10 unrelenting miles of climbing. The top part of the climb consisted of a famous piece of singletrack called Bowman’s Shortcut famously used by soidiers at Camp Hale to access the nightlife in Minturn and Vail. Considering the steepness and difficulty of the terrain, it‘s a little humbling to think of soldiers crossing these passes in full winter gear just for a beer and a little entertainment.
If the course was tough, the conditions were perfect late summer Rocky Mountain alpine with crystal clear blue skies and warm temperatures, though the high altitude sunshine made the temperatures seem warmer than the thermometer showed.
The one universal of the TransRockies Run is that runners from front to back need to dig deep to get to the finish line. Stage 5 saw team throughout the field making huge efforts, whether to hold onto a top placing or just to get to the finish line. While they have been dominant throughout the race, Team RunFlagstaff show the complete effort put in every day—today both Robert Krar and Mike Smith were utterly spent after another stunning finish covering the 23.5 miles in 3:07:22 to stretch their overall lead to just over 22 minutes with only the final stage to go. In the Open Women’s race, Devon Crosby-Helms felt so bad at the start of the first climb that she was near tears thinking that the overall lead would slip away from her and her teammate Caitlin Smith. By checkpoint 2, they were over 8 minutes behind the the North Face Girls who were making a huge push to close the overall gap and take the leaders jerseys back. In the last 9 downhill miles to the finish, Crosby-Helms and Smith made a huge push to cut the gap in half, saving 9 minutes of their overall lead for the last run into Beaver Creek.
That level of commitment is displayed throughout—at TransRockies Run cameraman was shooting on top of a ridge and coaxed a participant into running for the camera when she stopped, she said “I ran 10 feet so you could film it, but it’s a good thing you didn’t see me 30 feet further back when I was throwing up.” She finished the stage.
There’s one more tough stage to go before runners can call themselves finishers. Stage 6 will cover 21.2 miles with over 4600 feet of climbing including a last 700 vertical foot grunt up to the finish line and closing ceremonies at Beaver Creek.