Transrockies Run 2014 – Part One

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.

In today’s installment, we learn a little bit about who Aaron is and how he got here.

For a sport that requires nothing more than shorts and shoes I’m definitely managed to complicate things.

You see, it all started the third year of running. In prior years a combination of shorter distances and less information made for exciting weekend adventures. I would make sure I had clean clothes, a full handheld bottle, and a solid pair of worn in trail shoes. I enjoyed many Saturdays with that setup.

Something happened however. The obsession took over. The races got longer and the training got harder. At work, my stiff walk became water cooler conversation and my missed voicemails were from running friends asking about the upcoming weekend. Evites and Facebook Events were declined in lieu of small group runs. Everywhere I looked was “running”. I had logged miles on the roads around my work and home, as well as hit most every local trail within 40 miles. Like most obsessions gone wrong – I turned to the internet for a fix. A few hundred dollars worth of clothes, shoes and nutrition later I cut myself off. At one point I was spending more dollars per month on gear than miles ran. The run groups became smaller and smaller until there were only two other people showing up. Other group member didn’t even “Like” the Facebook posts (“Anyone want to try the Coosa Loop? It’s got 8k ft of change over 13 miles, it’ll be the hardest Half Marathon of your life. Car leaves at 5am”)

The craziest part of the obsession came at nightfall. The evening before the long runs and races I become a maniacal jittery mess who can’t make decisions or even count. I can’t decide what shorts I want to wear or how many gels I’ll need. I fill bottle with carb mix but leave the water out (in case I decide not to). I have two bladders, two handhelds, bags of solids, assortments of gels, poles, jackets, and hats all laid out for the major production which will be my “long run”. I’ve painstakingly entered the destination into the portable GPS unit for the car because we’ll likely lose cellular service and printed some maps (thanks work computer!) of the area. I’m gathering all the pre-race essentials, lining up my breakfast, prepacking my short’s pockets with gels, filling bottles and packing the car like I’m going to Disney World with an entire youth choir. All for a 4 hour run with an hour cruise on either end. Additionally this usually lasts for about 2 hours and ruins any chance of a “good night’s sleep.”

So, am I any different from anyone else? Maybe – maybe not. I’m sure some of us have a refined routine which is calculated and organized and takes no time at all (and you’re probably a triathlete on the side and we make irrational jokes at your expense because of it). Others are somewhere in the middle and have a “go with the flow” attitude which is exacerbated by iron stomachs that can long run on gas station food. Either way we all pack our bags for a half day away and hit the road.

But, ask me to run a race? Away from home? And bookend it with air travel? ARE YOU KIDDING!? Just on simple math – it takes me two hours prepare for a 6 hour even, so to prepare for a full weekend… lets see…. carry the 1…. I’d have to take the whole prior week off to prepare.

TransRockies Sign Up

I’m calling this guy for packing help. He seem’s happy.

Now, I have no problem doing this – it kind of makes for an even more adventurous event. The excitement, the unknown, the time spent day dreaming at work instead of filing reports… I have successfully packed, traveled to, raced, and traveled back home without complete emotional breakdowns. My first marathon was in fact “out of town” and I’ve since road tripped to trail ultras. Last fall I parlayed the stress with a cross country trip to run the Grand Canyon while in town for the Las Vegas Marathon. It gets easier only because I’ve become more predictable, not because there’s any less anxiety. Only after I’m completely packed, repacked, and packed again, and the travel logistics have been recorded and confirmed can I enjoy myself.

SO how does ANYONE think they’ll enjoy a Running Vacation? Impossible. I mean, take Transrockies for example, its clear across the country, in remote mountains – even their tag line pumps me full with insomnia inducing juices “6 Days – 120 miles – 20,000ft of gain”. The PepsiCo Transrockies 6 Day Race is held in the fall and invites runners from all over to partake in this 300 person stage race. Knowing I can’t hardly get myself together for a long run in my backyard I half heartedly clicked through the event page, looking mostly for screenshots to steal and put on my work computer background (which I may, or may not, pretend to have run if a coworkers asks). And then I saw the runner’s requirements for the event. In more words, the travel details outlined the week’s logistics.
1. Get to Denver.
2. Get on Shuttle.
3 Sleep in Hotel.
4. Have time of your life, race, run, hike, explore, eat, sleep for 6 days.
5. Sleep in Hotel.
6. Get on shuttle.
7. Get Home.

Ok, so you’re already there, you’re reading between the lines and saying – “Well, yeah, anyone can fly to Colorado and get lost in the mountains for 6 days and come back.” And except for the guarantee of return maybe they’re right. BUT do they have tents being set up for them? Or dinners being prepared on the mountain by professional caterers. Heck, even when you’re home can you pick from gluten free options with sweet Colorado Olathe corn? I don’t even know what that is, but I’m sure after 20 miles and 6k ft of change it will be the “Sweetest Corn I’ve even had!”.

As for my pre-run equipment fiascos, I had to check on the required gear list. “Hat, gloves, jacket, space blanket.” Yep – the rest is up to you. If you like shorts, bring ’em. Want to sport your favorite baseball team hat? Go Braves! Need to rotate shoes? Sure – anything that fits in an oversized duffle gets caravanned from stop to stop and you can start and end your day with your favorite gear for the day/terrain/weather. My problems have been solved! My wife – who has learned to fall asleep at night with a pillow over her eyes while I decide which socks I want to wear for 30 minutes – can now get a full week of Aaron-Free sleep while I run around the Rocky Mountains with great food, hand picked gear, and warm sleeping bags at the end of each day.

TR Schedule

I need at least 3 months to figure this out.

And lets play the odds. We joke in the North Georgia Mountains that 1 out of 6 times you summit a mountain you’ll actually get a scenic view. 5 out of 6 you’ll see thick fog and clouds and you’ll just have to take the trail/footprint traffic patterns as sign enough that you’re in the right place. With Trans Rockies you’ll play the odds – but over 6 Days with over half of the race being over 9,000 feet you’re guaranteed to capture some amazing views.

The only thing better than pulling off a destination run is giving yourself enough time and enough miles to make sure to enjoy it. You can have a horrible day, one where it rains, your shorts split open, and the miles don’t end. Luckily, during the Trans Rockies Race you’ll just be moving through a stage of natural wonderment and you can wrap up the run with friends around a fire, get a good nights rest, wake up to a chef inspired breakfast and start over. Trips like this only get better, never ruined. Plus, the chances of coming back with at least one “hard to believe” story when there 6 back to back days of long distance mountain running is extremely high!

The actual trails that the race runs is another story all together. Lets just say, there’s a reason people MOVE to Colorado just to mountain run. Not visit, not train, not split a timeshare, but find a way to live on these mountains that the Tranrockies Event Team will help you explore in August. Its not something I’d want to do alone, but with this crew and some good friends (or friends to-be) this will make a trip of a lifetime.

Read more in Part Two.

AMaasAaron 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

  1. This sounds AMAZING! Huge kudos for your desire to attempt it, and best of luck to you!

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