Beaver Creek, Colorado – A sprawling, difficult-but-doable adventure lasting nearly a week, the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies™ Run is more life experience than running race. This year’s iteration, the second-annual, witnessed a proposal of marriage, a third-anniversary party, a 50th birthday and a wedding of two competitors at the finish line.
That the race served as a metaphor for life was evident in the vows exchanged by Amy Baker and Ryan Flock, two Californians who figured that if they could make it through 106 miles of the ups and downs of the gnarliest terrain Colorado had to offer, the marriage thing would be a cinch.
The race, open only to teams of two, began on August 25th in Buena Vista, Colorado. The race left the sleepy retirement and rafting community behind as the racers tore through the opening 13-mile stage. The short opening stage was intended as a way to ease into the rigors of a course that eventually climbed more than 24,000 feet, but with the high caliber of the field (and with $20,000 at stake, a gigantic pot in ultra running), the relatively flat course left some of the top competitors puking in the finishing chute.
Stage Two was shorter still, a ten mile jaunt that had only two simple orientations: up, and down. The up consisted of a steep single-track slog up and over Hope Pass, lying at a dizzying 12,546 feet. The runners-up of the stage were Erik Skaggs and Max King, a pairing that would prove to be the class of the field in the Open Men’s Division. Erik won last year’s race with his brother and fellow ultra-elite runner Kyle. Max took most of June off to prepare for the Olympic Track & Field Trials, where he finished 15th in the steeplechase.
New sponsor Salomon sent a legion of teams to the race, and one of them paired Englishmen Andy Symonds and Tom Ownes, who won Stage Two. Skaggs and King finished second in both of the first two stages, and it cost them. Skaggs is almost exclusively a trail runner, and he suffered mightily on the speedy first day. King, on the other hand, while strong on the flats, suffered more in the mountains.
Stage Three, a massive day starting in Leadville at 10,000 feet and rolling over 24 miles, saw King and Skaggs, competing as Team Nike/Rogue Valley Runners, finally get in the race with a blistering 3:04 to snag a miniscule 52-second lead over the lads from Team SAAB Salomon.
Stage Four, starting at Camp Hale and crossing over the top of Hornsilver Mountain to finish at the funky valley town of Red Cliff, gave Nike/Rogue Valley what they needed: 3000 feet of climbing to 11,400 feet, another stage win, and a GC edge of four minutes.
Stage Five featured some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable, grinding up the White River National Forest from Red Cliff, across the ridges and back bowls of Vail to finish at the ski village base. With a lead cut to less than three and a half minutes, King and Skaggs left any drama at the start of Stage Six in Vail, hammering through the final 21-mile stage to Beaver Creek and dusting their competitors to take the overall win.
Winning the Open Women’s division in comprehensive fashion was the duo from Superfly Beaver Creek, Anita Ortiz and Katie Mazzia. The locals won easily, by over two hours – the largest margin of victory in any of the divisions. After her rough start, Keri Nelson and her teammate Erin Hutchinson of Team GORE-TEX LaSportiva dominated the Mixed Open category for a GC victory, while the Men’s 80+ division saw Carl Bruggeman and Eric Black win in a close battle of the veterans. Adventure racing legends Pamela Fletcher and Susan Murphy (Vasque Ladies) were the class of the 80+ women’s category, winning every individual stage as well as the GC.
Much has been made of the Kumbaya spirit of this event, and it was evident in everything from the mobile hot shower semi-trailer to the nightly campfires to a vibe most resembling adult summer camp. Adam Chase, a Boulder resident and two-time finisher of the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies™ Run, summed it up, “This is a unique event, and anyone that hasn’t tried it, ought to.” Registration for next year’s GORE-TEX™ TransRockies™ Run opens October 1st, 2008.