Stage 1 Report
Buena Vista – Railway Bridge
20.8 Miles, 2500 feet climbing
As it had each of the four previous years, the fifth annual GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run started its six-day journey on Main Street in historic Buena Vista, Colorado. And, as it had each of the previous years, the group of runners leaving the start line had grown again and the 2011 start list was now three times as long as it had been in the first year of the run.
When the starter’s pistol went off at 9am sharp, 360 runners from 13 countries and over 20 states headed out under clear skies out for a 20.8 mile “warmup” to their TransRockies Run 6-day or RUN3 3-day run trek through the desert scenery and heat. While the starting elevation of 8,000 feet is still a shock to runners from sea level it’s a stepping stone to the next four days which will see runners above 10,000 feet for extended periods topping out at 12,000 feet above sea level at the highest point.
One of the great appeals of the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run is the way it brings a kaleidoscope of runners of all ages, sizes and styles together for a celebration of trails. Weekend warriors get to rub shoulders with a group of elite runners which this year included champions and course record holders like Rickey Gates, Ann Frost, Justin Ricks, Max King, Dean Karnazes, Cynthia Arnold and many others.
The deep elite field meant that competition on Day 1 got off to a fierce start as teams gunning for top placings sought to lay down a marker and send a message to their competition. The sister team of Ashley and Cynthia Arnold (Team Trail Runner Magazine) lived up to their impressive resumes with first place on Stage 1 in the Open Women’s Division in 2:58:37 beating Brianna Torres and Jennifer McCarthy, one of the super-fast Flagstaff teams, into second place. The Canadian Arc’Teryx duo of Amy Golumbia and Roser Gerspacher came in just behind them grabbing the last spot on the first day’s podium.
Half of last year’s Open Men’s winning team Max King is back for another year with a new partner in former track All-American Ryan Bak as is half of last year’s second place team Jason Wolfe who stepped up to the start line with 2009 winner Mike Smith as his new partner. Stage one would be the first chance for these very experienced teams to measure each other and it would be Wolfe and Smith (Team Run Flagstaff) who took the win ahead of King and Bak (Team Bend). Both teams know that lots can happen in five more days but the early advantage has been taken.
Long time TransRockies Run supporter Salomon always brings a top group of athletes to the event and one team that everyone was looking at was the Open Mixed duo of Rickey Gates who’s been on a roll of great results this summer and Anna Frost who destroyed the field in the TransRockies RUN3 last year. They lived up to their billing with a dominant 12 ½ minute win in Stage 1. Look for these two to do amazing things all week.
The TransRockies Run also has three age-group categories which annually see great competition and congratulations go to Stage 1 Winners Team Salomon (Tim Menoher/Ross McMahon 80+Men), North Face Betties (Nikki Kimball/Tracy Garneau 80+ Women) and Katie and Jeff Caba in the 80+ Mixed Division. Watch for more coverage on this great racing as the week progresses.
Along with the team racing in the full GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run, the event also includes a solo 3-day race called RUN3 and last year’s men’s winner Justin Ricks has come back with the goal of a second-straight win. He moved a long way toward that goal with a super quick 2:27 run and a big gap over second-placed Brian Rusieki and third-placed Phil Villeneuve of Salomon, who was one of a number of runners who had run part of the Leadville 100 route the day before as a pacer. Haven’t they ever heard of resting before race day? In the women’s division, Deborah Davies followed Ricks’ example establishing a solid lead after one day of the RUN3.
So, Stage 1 is in the books and runners now know what’s in store for them as the week progresses. The character of the course and race changes dramatically on tomorrow’s stage as the route crosses over to the huge peaks on the West side of the Arkansas River Valley. While the stage is much shorter, it features a lung-busting climb to the top of the 12,540 foot Hope Pass and the technical descent on the other side. It’s a completely different challenge for the runners but one that will be rewarded with some amazing views of the surrounding peaks from high above the treeline.