TransRockies Run 2014- Part Four (The Highs and Lows)

In this multi-part series, contributor Aaron Maas will take us on his journey from preparation to (we hope) completion of the 2014 Transrockies Run. A 6 day multi stage race that takes place in Colorado in August.

Need to catch up? Read parts one, two, and three here!

In today’s installment, we discover the highs and lows of the TransRockies Run.

I managed to maintain a pretty good pace over the 6 days. My father encouraged me to “Negative Split” the whole event and try to keep something in the tank through the 6th Stage. This worked and I geeked out a top 10 finish for Men’s Solo Open on the last day (probably only remotely possible because stronger/faster runners were nursing injuries and taking it easy on the last 22 mile stage).  We ran from Vail to Beaver Creek and the day was saved by great aid stations (as always), beautiful views, and stunning single track in these Mountain Ski Towns. No doubt the highlight of the trip was laying on the lawn in Beaver Creek and watching hundreds of committed participants pushing through the last of this 120 mile journey. The blood, sweat and tears in this stage weren’t from course destruction but rather from the exertion and strength that came from deep within these runners.



The “Highs” include Race Support – the aid stations were amply stocked with trail race fare (Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, chips,pretzels, Gatorade Bars etc).  (note: “To each his own” when it comes to nutrition, but personally the low calorie electrolyte drinks and super fresh organic dribble that some races promote is NOT what I want on race day. ) Gatorade provided their Endurance Formula and Pepsi was ‘allowed’ because I had left the 770/404 areacode (Coke Nation).  Also, instead of gels (which they warned us of and we all packed our own) they had delicious Gatorade Energy Chews which (no – I’m not being paid to say this) I’m TOTALLY going to move to as my hourly energy support – they ate well and sat well in my stomach.  Post race they provided the afore mentioned Gatorade Protein drink that I think prompted recovery and allowed these back to back runs.  ADDITIONALLY these aid stations were run by RUNNERS from all over the country, they knew how to run an aid station and support the runner with accurate mileage, hydration pack refills, and motivational encouragement.


Bert’s Shower Truck – This was the highlight of the afternoon.   After a long run and a cold river cool-down the next best thing is a clean, hot shower.  Bert provided this with complete fake-grass roll out changing area and hot water.  Each day the truck was setup and available from 1pm – 9pm giving all of the runners plenty of time and rarely any line for showers.

Dinner/Food – We had a Greek night, a taco night, fantastic BBQ, everything you could want at dinner.  I’m no track and field bird; I’m a guy who likes to eat and I was pleased.  Seriously, the worst dinner of the week was the banquet provided by the exclusive Beaver Creek Ski Resort on the last night.  Breakfast was such a huge array (thanks in part to Pepsico) of healthy options like Naked juice, flavored Quaker Oatmeal, cereals, fruit medleys, and the bacon and eggs you expect at a buffet.  The coffee wasn’t great – but I’ve had worse and it did the trick.


Porta-Jons – Sure we’re out “camping” for 6 days but it never really felt like it.  The tents were set up and broken down by the TRR crews. They hauled our gear around.  They setup a relaxation station complete with coolers filled with soda and beers, toast ovens, snack bar and a couch (talk about all-inclusive!).  There was always a free chair and usually a volunteer maintaining this side station for the runners (All. Day. Long.)  Equally as important was the porta-jon maintenance.  The TRR coodinators err’d on the side of “too many” and would have rows and rows of Jon’s at every campsite AND at the race Start/Finish.  If you’re a real runner and racer you totally understand what I’m saying here.  This is SO important in planning a great race and it was covered at every stage of the game.

Coordination and “No No’s”  – Houda explained at the Pre-Race meeting his “No No’s” plea. He begged us to come to him (complete with announcing his cell phone number to all 400+ of us) with any worries before they became problems. He said there wasn’t anything they couldn’t try. Need someone to move a car for you after the start? Talk to Turbo. Need a greek yogurt instead of plain? We’ll have it by Day 3.  Toaster? Out of toiletpaper? Hot tea instead of Hot Chocolate? Houda and his team were super adaptable and would do their best to cover all special requests. (Even runners become a little high maintenance after 4 days and 80 miles of mountains).

Lows –Jeep Road vs Single Track– This is a problem EVERYWHERE. A major challenge for race directors from Florida to Alaska is to find places they can take large parties/races and no conflict with park rules and regulations. Many parks don’t allow large groups and we’re forced onto access/logging/jeep/Forest Service roads. The good news was it helped Teams have some scenery change and run side by side as well as created ample room to pass runners. Long stretches of this type of road/trail can be mind numbing and TRR did their best to avoid it. Day 1 was the worst with a 3 mile up hill gravel road finish so maybe it just sticks out in my mind.

Other Runner’s Routine –  For the most part we all have a pre-race routine (see my TRR Part 1) which is finicky and compulsive. Perhaps some people like to get ready the night before (me). Others may want get up obscenely early to discuss with their team mate what flavored gels they’ll be eating and decide if they want to match arm warmers or calf compression that day. I want all of the early morning outift coodinators to move to one section of the campsite. Preferably near the bathrooms they’ll be swinging open and slamming shut starting at 4am. If you’re reading this, and you’re one of those people know this: I’m still catching up on sleep because of you. Get it together. We had 6am breakfast and an 8am start. You have plenty of time – no more 4am Packing Parties, PLEASE!

On the Colorado Mountain Express shuttle back to Denver International Airport the morning after the race I heard an interesting comment. I asked the group if they’d run it again.  4 of the 5 said “Definitely!”. One said she wasn’t sure if she would, she preferred something a little more “Grass Roots” and less of a “Production”.  I understand, sometimes a big group can leave you feeling like herded sheep and assembly line workers. I have walked away from mega-marathons with a lingering notion that I was cattle to a trough. After TRR, this wasn’t my feeling at all – I felt over encouraged and excessively tended to. I felt, in essence, like an elite invited guest running for the podium. I felt like there was a bunch of people who cared as much about my race as I did. I can’t run out my back door and do this. And It’d take weeks or maybe month’s of planning to pull off anything close to a vacation-training-destination-race-networking-event like this.
What made it great? ALL of the interesting people, the beautiful views, and the mountains and trails that I don’t see regularly.  I didn’t have to do any of the work and I got to have all the fun. It seems way to obvious tosay “You should run this race, it’s a great course and beautiful views.” That really simplified the event. This is a “once in a lifetime” trip that can be replicated and still hold that title. This is the sort of trip that connects you with the glossy photos in Runner’s World, and the wallpaper on your desktop. Want to know what you’re made of? Want to hammer the hills? Tackle the mountains? Take 336 photos in 4days? Not do dishes for a week? Skip a couple races you’ve already done and time your vacation with TransRockies 2015.  This is the one race or vacation that may wear you down but leaves you charged up and feeling stronger than ever.
*Photos By: Aaron Maas
IMG_3233Aaron is a cautiously optimistic runner from Atlanta, GA. He spends his time searching for answers and trails, sometimes simultaneously. Along with ORM co-founder Matt B. Davis, he is half of Team “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare” that will participate in the Transrockies Run. He has recently begun blogging on his own site


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