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.
You can read part one here.
In today’s installment, Aaron and ORM Teammate Matt B. Davis hit Georgia’s Coosa Loop in preparation for TRR.
No one wants to be called a “flatlander.” At least no one wants to EARN the title. Many runners travel great lengths to tackle hills and find mountains to prepare for the big dance out west. One of my run buds is on work detail in Miami and currently has a parking deck regime that simulates the multi-mile climbs we find in the mountains.
If you’re in Georgia you have a few options, the Appalachian Trail, Stone Mountain, and a special place called The Coosa Backcountry Trail. This is to Atlanta as Camelback Mountain is to Phoenix, Mount Skylight in New York, or whatever major pain in the glute trail you can find near your front door. We drive up to Vogel State Park about 90 minutes north of where we live to start up the winding single track of roots and rocks. According to Trimble Outdoors the Coosa Loop is 12.9 miles and 5,159 feet of gain. We top out just over 4k so we don’t know about big elevation, but we learn to CLIMB! TransRockies Stage 2 has the whole field worried – and if they aren’t, they should be. After a 1 day warm up we take on 3.250 feet of gain over 13.3 miles (there’s a reason the TransRockies folk make it a short day). Knowing there are multiple 4k+ ft gain days at the Stage Race we lace up and got to training.
Matt and I grabbed two of our obstacle race friends and went north to hit the loop. We had dropped water at the 8 mile mark and had a good feeling about the day. I hadn’t seen Matt since his showing at the ThunderRock 100 mile race in TN and wanted to hear his stories from the 34 hours of Peak Death Race in VT. We started down the trails fueled on pop tarts and coffee cutting up like we do. Between getting suited up to pace a runner at ThunderRock (that dropped 5 miles before I could hop in and pace), and having to follow Matt’s efforts at Spartan Death Race via Twitter and Facebook – I was pumped to actually be winding the trails with him,
I think I started doing the math the same time he did. We were just doing different calculations. I realized my TransRockies 6 Day Run Teammate had spent 9 for 9 weekends racing. And the type of running that would give Hal Higdon a heart attack. He’s either dragging himself through roughly 4 mile obstacle courses or grinding out 40+ mile mountain range trails. Some months he’s touching down in as many states as I got in long runs. I started being happy with my lowly 2014 race and training schedule and worried for my friend. Matt was doing a much more specific math – 3.974 ft over 3 miles. His legs didn’t have it, his heart wasn’t in it. He needed rest, he needed a confidence boost, he needed a hard pack dirt trail. He DID NOT need Coosa.
We ran into a GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning and Trail Society) friend coming at us early on the mountain. He was back tracing looking for missing gear and we dedicated the rest of our run to keeping an eye out for dropped sunglasses. Soon there after, the ascent got steep and we all took the hill at our own speeds. If you’ve ever dropped a friend, a loved one, or a team mate its on a heart pounding, leg throbbing climb that you just won’t stop. Won’t stop, can’t stop. Our obstacle race friends had a strong showing and cruised to the top. I caught up and steered them towards our water drop. I turned back, waited, and then decided to add some mileage and run back for Matt. Minutes became miles and I ran into my GUTS friend (still no sunglasses). He asked if I was looking for Matt, he reported that it wasn’t Matt’s day and he had turned back 3/4 of the way up the climb (4.5 miles into the run). I spent the next 6 miles trying to catch my OCR friends with the head start. Part of me wanted to show them how “ultra runners” do it. The other part of me realized Matt was fading fast and I never told him where the spare key to my car was (he knows now).
It took all of 6 miles to catch my friends and we rounded down the trail to the parking lot to find Matt laid out by the truck. He was in good spirits, having just got his phone back after total destruction in a GORUCK Challenge a few days before. He got his social media up to date and ate everything in his pack (which pretty much describes half of my ultra friends – Facebook check-ins and trail food). He was ready to hit the road and declined on another 4 mile inner loop run. I never met trail mileage I didn’t like, so I decided to join another friend to give myself 20 miles on the day.
You gotta know when to fold ’em. And know when to run. Matt vowed that this off day wouldn’t be a soul crushing recognition of lost training days, but rather a motivating moment reminding him that rest, consistency, and more rest would be the key heading into August. Since then has some great training runs including visiting Colorado where he took on the Manitou Incline and Pikes Peak. For a “Mud Runner” this guy is really taking to the mountains well.
How will the “Doctor Bob’s Nightmare” team fare at TransRockies 6 Day? Well, we’ll go for the win, but be happy with top 100 finish and a few good check-ins and trail food. Throw a little barbwire across the course and a rope climb and I think we could tip the field in our favor. No matter what, we’ll cross paths with friends, push each other up and down the mountains, and pass out a the finish with lactic acid in our legs, and joy in our hearts.
Aaron 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 run1more.com.
Cover photo courtesy of groundedgraphics.com
Elevation photo courtesy of dogfoodmoney.com
Latest posts by Aaron Maas (see all)
- TransRockies Run 2014- Part Four (The Highs and Lows) - September 1, 2014
- TransRockies Run 2014- Part Three (Half Way Point) - August 31, 2014
- Transrockies Run 2014 – Part Two (Know when to fold ’em) - July 29, 2014
Great job Aaron! This was well written and kept me engaged until the very end. Backtracking to check on Matt was a classy move and shows good character. Catching up to two runners that had a signifigant head start in that terrain is pretty impressive as well.
Cooooooosa! “The toughest half marathon in Georgia!”
Can’t wait to hear about Aaron & Matt’s adventures at Transrockies!
Bookmarked. When I have to knock out a boring mid-week training run and I’m just not looking forward to it, articles like this remind me why I do it and inspire me to get up, get out, and get running. Keep ’em coming!
Great job Aaron. Now you have me wanting to go try out these trails because they sound awesome. Can’t wait to hear more about the Transrockies because I am sure that will be quite the adventure! Good luck to you guys and have lots of fun!
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