Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gore-Tex TransRockies Run 2011

Words can't describe my experience.  It was a mixed bag of humble pie, adrenaline-charged excitement, tear-jerking pain and glorious, almost sinful pleasure.  I was lucky enough to team up with my good friend and fellow Pearl Izumi teammate Timothy Olson (from Ashland, OR) for this year's Gore-Tex TransRockies Run.  Our plan:  Have fun and do a lot of running.  We achieved both goals.  Tim, who's a league above me in fitness, had just completed a stellar White River 50 Mile and was in the midst of training for the Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run, a race he won last year.  It was a good time for him to relax and enjoy the event's atmosphere as I did my best to keep us within the top ten spots in the Open Men's Division.  Will I return next year?  You bet!

Special thanks and credit to those who took the photos used in this blog:  Erin Strout, Timothy Olson, Klaus Fengler and Chris Hunter.  The videos herein were filmed and brought to you by Timothy Allen Olson.

Team Pearl Izumi/Nathan with jerseys...

...and without.

Ian Torrence and Tim Olson (Team Pearl Izumi/Nathan)

Stage One:  Buena Vista to the "Railroad Bridge"
20.8 miles, 2,500 feet of gain


This stage was brutal.  Lots of runners discovered that a 75 degree day at 9,000' can really feel like a 90 degree day at sea level.  Repercussions of an ambitious start would haunt some teams for the rest of the event.  This was the only stage that race management didn't require runners to carry the mandatory team space blanket, jacket, gloves and hat.  We soon found out why.  The course looped around in the high desert hills east of Buena Vista.  Though the scenery was breathtaking this stage had the latest start time of the event, 9am.  We were exposed to the sun all day and the late start didn't help matters; just really hot and dry.  The final four miles of the course ran down a road that never seemed to turn or end.  You could look forward and back and see runners stretched for miles.  Tim and I instituted a walk-run strategy in these closing miles and still managed to pass several teams on the way to the finish line.  The cold soak in the Arkansas River at the finish was just what the doctor ordered!

Pausing during our warm-up above the Arkansas River in Buena Vista.

The sun is getting higher...can we please start already?

The first steps of a six day journey.

Not much shade on this stage...exposed, hot, sandy.

Rolling along the railroad grade with Buena Vista and the Collegiate Peaks in the background.


The tunnels signal the final miles.

Andreas Santiago entertains the ladies at the Inov-8 Regeneration Tent.

Recharging the Garmin

Stage Two:  Hope Pass
13.4 miles, 3,200' of gain


I had ambitions of running up Hope Pass.  What was I thinking?  I was familiar with the climb as I had done it several times while running and pacing at the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run, but I had just forgotten how steep that trail truly was.  I never found my groove on this stage and struggled the last five miles to the finish along the shores of Twin Lakes.

The expression is priceless.  Mark Thurston eats Hope Pass for breakfast.  Or was it the other way around?

Views down valley from below Hope Pass.

Jason Wolfe leads Mike Smith (Team Run Flagstaff) up Hope Pass.

Ladies in Pink:  Cynthia and Ashley Arnold (Team Trailrunner Magazine) make Hope look like a joke.

Views continue to improve as you continue to ascend.

Eric Bohn and Sara Wagner minutes before the finish line.

Winners!  Max King, Ryan Bak, Tom Owens, Ricky Lightfoot, Jason Wolfe and Mike Smith collect the day's loot.

Discussing the day's events over dinner in Leadville's 6th Street Gym.

Tent city in Leadville.

Stage Three:  Leadville to Nova Guides (Camp Hale)
24.3 miles, 2,700' of gain


We were lead out of Leadville by police cars, but soon found ourselves off the pavement and thrust upon Zion Grade, a steep 4x4 road that definitely raised the heart rate.  The second, more gentle climb took us to Ski Cooper and Tennessee Pass where we gained the Colorado Trail, some of the best single track running of the entire event.  I was quickly reminded of the time I spent on this section of trail back in 2003 when I ran along side Hal Koerner as he went on to set the then Colorado Trail Fastest Known Time.

The pack heads out of Leadville under police escort.

Looking back on Turquoise Lake from Zion Grade.

Descending into Tennessee Park and the first check point of the day.

Rolling over the final miles of the Colorado Trail.

Getting ready for a well-deserved shower.

Erin Stout, finisher in the RUN3 race, is so happy to not have to run tomorrow.

Claire Lears and Anna Kobb (Team Gore Running Wear) show off their pink jerseys and smiles.

The Trail Loving Bastards of the Extreme (Andres Santiago and Mark Thurston) take the stand.

Liz Davis and Chris Purslow (Team Dominachix) pass the time with a game of checkers.

Mixed Open winners:  Eric Bohn, Sara Wagner, Rickey Gates, Anna Frost, Zac Violette and Stephanie Howe.

No joke...my parents used to own a green Gremlin.

Congratulations to Flagstaff RUN3 finishers Janel Lanphere, Rob Hall and Erin Strout.

Nova Guides (Camp Hale).  Our home for the end of both Stages Three and Four.

Tent city at Nova Guides.

Stage Four:  Nova Guides to Red Cliff
14.2 miles, 2,800' of gain


My ears perked up when Mike Smith said it's the steepest thing he's ever run.  He wasn't fooling, but how did he run it?  This was another "short" stage, like Hope Pass, but the grunt to the top was out of this world!  However, once on top we were rewarded with an awesome ridge run that afforded views of Mount of the Holy Cross and the remaining top of Colorado.  It was on this decent that I had a tumble, the only one of the entire 120 miles, but one that shook my foundations and bestowed upon me some of the best trail rash I've ever had.  The half-mile+ run through Wearyman Creek (3 miles from the finish) took my mind from my throbbing and bloody palms to my frozen feet.

Ready to go as the sun rises on Camp Hale.

Elizabeth Davis ready to tackle the day!

Max King and Ryan Bak (Team Bend) charge the long climb on Day Four.

Zac Violette and Stephanie Howe (Team Gore/We Might Be Crazy) work their way up the steep climb.

Finally on top and running across Hornsilver Mountain.

Trying to push at 11,700'.  Mount of the Holy Cross sits mid-photo.

Angela Mudge works her way through a road turned stream.

Splashing through Wearyman Creek.

Finally out of the COLD water.

Skies darken at the finish line in Red Cliff.  Mango's (Red Cliff's token restaurant) provided the perfect recovery sanctuary post run.

Just a wee bit bloody.  My reward for the day's toil.

Rock and Roll.  Joel Axler and Mark Williams find their stride.

Just glad to be done icing the legs in the frigid waters of Red Cliff's Turkey Creek.

Three-quarters of the Flagstaff contingent at Nova Guides.

Awards time!  Excitement is in the air!

Brianna Torres and Jenny McCarthy "smile" at their winnings:  shampoo and conditioner.

Tim figures out the route for the following day.

Stage Five:  Red Cliff to Vail
23.6 miles, 4,100' of gain


They promised that the first aid would be at 7.9 miles, but when it finally arrived at 8.6 miles I was in no mood to debate.  I thought this day was going to be worse than it was especially if I was complaining already about a 0.7-mile inconsistency.  But after getting off the roads and onto the single track my mood and body changed for the better.  We spent a solid 10 miles at or above 11,000' on this stage.  The views from the ridge line were incredible and the long ~3,000' descent into Vail on single-track was as sweet as sweet could be.

Anxious at the chilly Red Cliff start line.

Eric Bohn and Sara Wagner work the tow rope.

Katie Caba (along with her husband Jeff Caba) competed as the Caba-nators and ruled the 80+ Mixed Division.

Cruising along at 11,000'.


Robert Steele and Joebob Armstrong (Team Gore Running Wear) finish day five.

My best stage...

Hands up ladies!  Team Arcteryx (Amy Golumbia, Rosmarie Gerspacher), Team Trailrunner Magazine (Cynthia and Ashley Arnold) and Flagstaff's Jenny McCarthy and Brianna Torres.

Stage Six:  Vail to Beaver Creek (The Finish)
23.6 miles, 5,000' of gain


With 5,000' feet of gain on the last day and the first 5K on flat bike path through Vail I knew the faint of heart would not enjoy this stage.  We were lucky as we had cloudy skies and rain in the afternoon.  On any other day I could see this being a repeat of Stage One; a very hot run as many of the trails and roads were exposed and on south facing slopes.  All teams used what they left in their tanks, pulled all the stops and ran for the win on this final stage.  With the exception of the round-abouts outside of Beaver Creek's Walmart, this stage was chock full of gorgeous, aspen laden and runnable single-track.  The last climb (new to the event this year) seemed to never end, but it was all good, because beyond it the finish line awaited!

Sara Wagner's expression says it all.  "Thank goodness I don't have to race tomorrow!"

The start of the stage six...the first and only uphill starting stage.  This got us warmed up in a hurry!

You've got to love a single track through the aspens!

Yes, finally leading the Inov-8 boys : )

The coveted finish line in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

"Flagstaff's going down!"  Down to the bank to collect their prize money.  
Congratulations to Flagstaff's Jason Wolfe and Mike Smith.

The come back kids.  After a wrong turn on day one and a tough stage two Sara Wagner and Eric Bohn created a myth of their own.

Hands and heads held high!  Tim was a the best partner a guy could ask for!  Thanks man!

Where'd these ladies come from?  Brianna Torres (right) and Jenny McCarthy reinvent Flagstaff running!

Podium!!!  Joel Axler and Mark Williams put the icing on the cake.

Max King, Ryan Bak, Jason Wolfe, Mike Smith, Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens enjoy what's rightfully theirs.

 Go Flagstaff, it's your birthday!

Beaver Creek from The Pines Hotel.

My favorite photo from the week!

Tim, Stephanie Howe and myself are all smiles at Beaver Creek.

Rickey Gates (one half of Team Salomon along with Anna Frost) shows off his finishers shirt.

Your Moment of Zen

The theme of the week:  Where the frick is Ian?
Tim Olson on his way to make the infamous cell phone call.

Full and final results can be found here.
More TRR race photos can be found here.

8 comments:

Speedgoat Karl said...

The chops kick ass man! Love it! Great to see you out there gettin' it. Next year you are coming to the Speedgoat for some real hills. :-)

A job well done.

Missy B. said...

Awesome, Ian! What an amazing experience this must have been. Congrats!

Jana said...

Even though the experience was one of those "you had to be there" type things, you still did a great job of describing it so I almost felt like I was there. And I didn't have to race my legs off for 6 straight days! Well done!

Dave James said...

Awesome recap Ian! :) great times up in Colorado! Karl when is your 50K? Your CR at that Silverton Marathon is very impressive!

Derek Schultz said...

What an awesome adventure!! Thanks for sharing the story, photos and videos! And the chops are freaking AWESOME! Way to rock it out there TEAM PI/Nathans!

Missy B. said...

Dave-- Speedgoat 50k is the last weekend in July. it's listed on ultrasignup dot com if you want to check out past results.

FastED said...

Congratulations I-An and to Timothy as well! What an amazing journey and experience.

valfrid said...

Nice one post.
Gore Tex.