Stage 2 Report–Up and Over Hope Pass

Vicksburg – Twin Lakes Dam
13.5 Miles/ 3,617ft climbing

After a rolling 20 miles on the sandy high desert trails of Buena Vista, the runners of the 2010 GORE-TEX TransRockies Run and RUN3 faced a challenge of a completely different sort for Stage 2—a 3500 foot climb up above the treeline to the summit of Hope Pass and a technical rocky descent back down. With the different route, different runners were expected to excel at the front of the pack while the recreational runners who make up most of the field would get to experience a whole new face of the Rockies.

Though the shortest stage of the week at 13.5 miles in length, the course would test runners with elevation, altitude, difficult footing and the possibility of severe weather above the tree line. Stage 2 always seems to take its toll on runners and many came across the line with the telltale signs of falls like bloody knees and dirt on their clothes.

The change to higher elevations and the threat of afternoon storms also meant that runners were required to carry full mandatory gear like jackets, gloves and pants. While the storms held off throughout the afternoon, the dark clouds scudded across the sky, pushed by a cold wind that made the GORE-TEX WindStopper® jackets received as a welcome gift from the title sponsor a very popular choice on the day

The Open Mixed Division always seems to serve up some the closest competition at the TransRockies Run and 2010 looks like no exception. After a difficult Stage 1 in which they ended up nearly 40 minutes behind the winners, Mark Nelson and Care Wakely of Frontrunners/Westshore surged to the front for a clear win by almost six minutes on the rest of the field. Bryan Dayton and Krissy Moehl of Team Vasque grabbed moved up a spot from Stage 1 and grabbed second, moving up in the overall standings. Martin Gaffuri and Caitlin Nelson of Salomon held onto a slim 90 second lead in the overall standings with their third place on the day.

Likewise, the Open Women’s Division tightened up as the LaSportiva Dirt Divas Ellen Parker and Melody Fairchild grabbed the Stage win closing the gap to Stage 1 winners Les filles Salomon Le Coureur, the Quebec duo of Danielle De Guire and Amelie Fournier. The 80+ Women Division had no such turnaround as Nikki Kimball and Monica Ochs (The North Face Betties) ran to their second straight dominant win in two days.

Though their Stage 1 strategy was to try and take advantage of their leg speed to counter the high-altitude trail legs of their competition, Max King and Andy Martin of Team Montrail/Hammer Nutrition also excelled in the high altitude Stage 2 to grab their second straight stage win. This time their gap was less than three minutes over Jason Wolfe and Eric Bohn of GoreTex/Salomon/Run Flagstaff who pushed them hard to the finish.

The inaugural RUN3 saw repeat winners in both the Men’s and Women’s Divisions. Justin Ricks was the fastest runner on the course on Day 2 and was the only one to break the 2-hour mark with a 1:59:44. The slower finish time compared to last year can be attributed to the addition of three miles on rolling doubletrack which changed the dynamics of the stage, increasing average finish times by 20 percent and testing runners to find their tempo legs again after the technical downhill. Phil Villeneuve was happy to improve on a tough Stage 1 when he suffered heat-related leg cramps. He chased Ricks to the line to grab second. With 2 Stages of the Women’s RUN3 in the books, it’s turning into the Anna Frost show as she ran to her second clear stage win, this time in the THIRD fastest solo runner time of the day, only being beaten by Ricks and Villeneuve.

After the straight up and down profile of Stage 2, TransRockies runners will need to change gears again tomorrow for a high-altitude 24-plus mile run from Leadville to historic Camp Hale, former home of the 10th Mountain Division. Though this route includes 3000 feet of climbing it is dished out in much more incremental fashion as runners cross the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass before running over the shoulder of Ski Cooper resort and through rolling meadows to the finish line. Though it’s nearly a marathon in length, Stage 3 will be a trailrunning feast for the runners with lots of sweet singletrack along the Colorado Trail and beautiful treed doubletrack climbs and descents.

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