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The TransRockies Run

The TransRockies Run covers 120 miles in 6 days. Jo Meek recounts her experience there in 2019.

Pre-Race Obstacles

Getting out to America was a challenge in itself. With Covid restrictions in place, I had to apply for an exemption to travel. Fortunately, I had just competed in the UK trail championships and come 2nd (qualifying me to represent GB in the World Trail Champs 2021) so seeking an elite athlete exemption did not seem too cheeky. I had planned to do the TransRockies Run in 2020 as a solo participant but after a quiet year due to lockdown, I was keen to enter as a pair and share the experience. My friend Siân and I had done lots of running together since meeting in 2019 and she was keen and able to come along.

The flight out to Denver was a connecting one via Dallas. Entry and exit went smoothly.

At the Airport

We spent a night in Denver followed by pancakes for breakfast before catching a Bustang bus ride out to Buena Vista. Our last night in sheets before camping for the next 7.

Pre-Race Entertainment

It rained the whole journey up the mountain with splendid fork lightning. Arriving in BV we soon discovered that race HQ was 3miles from the bus drop off. Amazingly two local ladies were inquiring about what we were doing and then proceeded to offer us a lift up to the road. Admittedly she volunteered to take mints to cover her alcoholic breath in case the police stopped her. We arrived in the rain to an extensive set up of tents and marques. The atmosphere was immediately friendly and we found a tent and made it home.

A relaxing Sunday meant a little run, registration, race opening and bed. The most memorable thing was the effects of altitude on the run. Blimey, it felt hard! Camp was at 2400m. Luckily there was a local Burro (donkey) race on to celebrate the town’s gold mining history so an opportunity to stop and cheer the contestants on.

Monday: Day 1 – Buena Vista Loop

19.4miles/ 31km, 711m/ 2336ft
Jet lag meant we didn’t have to set an alarm. Woke up, had breakfast and then headed to the start.

The starting pace was swift and the temperature was warm and humid. We were both breathless from the start but I found it only really hit me in the ascents. We soon got into a routine of Siân being in front on the climbs and me leading on the descents. A mixture of wide sandy tracks and single paths. The last checkpoint was at the top of a long climb and we were the leading pair with 8miles to go.

TransRockies

Things would probably have stayed that way but with 2miles to go, I took us on a detour following …red tape … not red flags. In that time a mixed pair overtook us. We corrected quickly but then Siân got cramps and in the final straight the Canadian female pair shot in front. It was all so close. We finished in 2hrs 53mins; 6secs behind.

All that was required in the afternoon was to rest and recover.

TransRockies Run

Then watch the rain come in and stay all night. Overnight a small flood entered the tent. My race kit got wet along with some of my duffel bag but nothing too serious.

Tuesday: Day 2 – Vicksburg to Twin Lakes

21km, 3130ft/ 954
We were apprehensive. We started at Vicksburg at a height of 2800m, ran 1.7miles and then climbed hands on knees puffing and panting to Hope Pass 2.7miles up at 3800m/ 12600ft. No views for the first time in 14yrs unfortunately. Mist and rain all the way!

TransRockies Run

We made the climb alongside our competitors. Well,  Siân did –  I couldn’t keep up so was permanently 60m behind until the top when I could unleash my newfound (been working hard on this) descending skill.

The descent was 4miles down a single muddy slippy slidey rocky technical trail to Twin Lakes and then an undulating single track following the lake around for 5miles. It wasn’t until the last 4miles when the Canadian girl’s team just pushed on to win the stage.

The effects of altitude can happen much lower than the 914m/ 3000ft most people associate with ‘being at altitude’ and we were at 3000+m/ 10000ft. They are also more pronounced in women and older athletes as we have lower levels of oxygen-carrying haemoglobin. Anyway, we puffed our way to finish in 2hrs 28mins; 2nd female pair but still in front of the mixed pairs and the male pairs.

The camp was in Leadville. The volunteers are incredible – they moved the camp whilst we raced and were mopping out tents on our arrival. So much rain they were saturated inside! A lot of the runners (especially the leaders) all moved to hotels and Airbnb’s!

Wednesday: Day 3 – Leadvill to Nova Guides

24.2miles/ 40km, 2800ft/ 850m
It was a cold start but not for long – temperatures soon soared. Running out of Leadville was spectacular. Past the odd saloon bar! We climbed up to cross the highway at Tennessee Pass onto the Continental Divide which separates the water that drains into the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. My memories of the run were through a shady single track down the Continental divide scenic trail. I saw deer, chipmunks and squirrels.

I struggled today – I had to rein in my overriding instinct to want to race and remember I was in a pair. Siân was having a bad day but she dug in to finish. We finished together in 3hrs 59mins holding onto second female pair.

We stayed in tents on the Eagle River at Camp Hale which was a US Army training facility constructed in 1942 for what became the 10th Mountain division. One of the most scenic and peaceful campsites (until the beer mile was held!)

Thursday: Day 4 – Nova Guides to Red Cliff

14miles/ 23km, 2800ft/ 850m
Day 4 of the TransRockies Run was a cold start with ice on the tent. This stage peaked at 3500m but was essentially up for 7 and down for 7miles. By this point, so as not to put any more pressure on Siân, I  was running on to checkpoints and then waiting for her there. There was a short river stint from mile 11 so I ran to the top of the Wearyman Creek and waited for Siân.

TransRockies Route

This worked well as we could descend at our own paces. We then ran in together reaching Red Cliff in 2hrs 40mins.

We were driven back to Camp Hale for a second night there.

Friday: Day 5 – Red Cliff to Vail

24miles/ 39km, 1200m/ 3900ft
This section was from Red Cliff to Vale. The first 8miles were 600m of uphill climbing and annoyingly runnable. It was then single track climbing for about 400m to the next checkpoint at 14miles. I struggled up the hills – I guess I was fatigued. I couldn’t keep up with the front girls and eventually, due to the switchback paths, I lost sight of them. It seemed like my downhill pace was competitive but I had no one to compare it to as the field was pretty stretched out. Eventually, I reached the ridgeline.

TransRockies

The final checkpoint was at 19miles and then it was downhill along a ski slope (green!) into Vale. By this time Siân was in a really hard place emotionally, mentally and physically so it took some effort to help her across the line.

Luckily I collected our bags and got our tent all set up before a massive thunderstorm with lightning arrived. It disappeared as quickly as it arrived and we headed to Vail for lunch.

Saturday: Day 6 – Vail to Beaver Creek

22.5miles/ 37km, 4357ft/ 1350m
It was the last day of the TransRockies Run! I must admit the prospect of not sleeping in a tent spurred me on the get to the start line. Heading off with the front ladies, I ran with them to the first chekpoint -8miles & 800m up. It felt good to have had the run out with them.

Jo Meek Runs TransRockies

After I was reunited with Siân we ran through the checkpoint and headed on. There was quite a bit of smoke in the air from the California fires (so sad). The miles slipped by through silver beech forests, meadows, single track, wide ski paths. Running from the last checkpoint to the end was a climb and then a glorious descent. We crossed the finish line in Beaver creek together arms held high.

Looking Back Over The TransRockies Run

Jo Meek finishes TransRockies

If I’m honest, the race wasn’t what I expected. We were competitive on the first two days but then Siân really struggled and I had to come to terms with this. I couldn’t pin my goals and expectations on my teammate and needed to accept the situation and just enjoy the event for what it is. Running 120miles in one week is the most I’ve ever done and with well-marked routes, excellent organisation good food(they served breakfast and dinner) and beautiful scenery, there are many positives to take away. Most importantly we got to experience the community that the TransRockies run really is, meet new people and make fabulous memories.

 

Read some more of Jo’s adventures here:

Olympus Ultra
UTMB
Wings For Life, Florida

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Jo Meek
Jo Meek
An early riser who likes to make the most of each and every day ❤️ Run ? Run

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