Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TransRockies (Part II- My perspective)

Team "..." smiling in the tent city after Day 1 victory.

Running is an intensely personal activity. No matter what, on any given day, you only have the power to run as well as you can and you have no control over your competitors. You can only run your own race. You navigate your own set of strengths and weaknesses, strategies and paces to cobble together a race. GoreTex Transrockies throws down an epic challenge for any runner: 113 miles over 6 days with over 20,000 feet of elevation gain, all at above 8,500 feet. And then, to make it more interesting, they make it a partner race. If running is intensely personal, than pairing up as runners is a formula worthy of advanced Calculus. Strengths and weakness must be balanced, strategy was be in tune and communication must be flawless. And for the partnership that does it best: Victory. And for 2009 GoreTex Transrockies that duo was us: Caitlin Smith and myself. We battled it out with some heavy favorites, we battled it out with the elements and the course, we even battled it out with each other, but together as a partnership, as a dynamic duo, we pulled out a fantastic race.

Pre-race:
I had been up in Colorado for 9 days before the race start, mostly at 10,200+ feet and running to upwards of 12,000+. I was hoping it would acclimatize me to the altitude for at least the majority of the race. After doing many runs over that 9 days, I knew I had made the right choice for me since I felt like absolute garbage. Not only did I feel altitude sick, I just felt plain old sick. My energy was in the toilet and no matter what I ate, drank or hours of sleep I would get, I just didn't feel right. I was hoping day one of racing I would feel better, or at least improved.

The Wednesday before TR started, I headed down to Boulder to hang out with some Salomon teammates as well as catch up with some old friends, including my favorite, Bob Sweeney, who was a 100k teammate my first world championships. On Friday, I scooped up Caitlin in downtown Boulder and by Saturday morning we were on the road with some of my Salomon teammates, making our way up to see a bit of the Leadville race and then onward to "Day 0" activities and check in at Buena Vista. We drove up to Beaver Creek in two cars, mine to drop off and Gordon from Outside PR had a van. I drove with Adam Chase, my awesome team manager for Salomon and Caitlin rode up with Martin and Gordon, so Gordon could interview her.

About 2.5 seconds after we arrived in Buena Vista, Caitlin and I were asked a half dozen times if we were going to beat Kami and Nikki, aka The North Face girls. Not being gifted with the ability to see the future, I had no idea. I did respond that all we can do is run the best race we can and see where that shakes out to. We went to the pre-race dinner and meeting, enjoying meeting and reuniting with friends/runners from around the world and found out lots of what was in store for us. We had picked up our race bags which we had to stuff everything into for the week and they were brimming with schwag, it was fantastic.

After dinner, when our group was settled into the hotel, Caitlin and I went for a walk to shake out our legs and talk about the race. We talked about communication being absolutely essential and how to work through problems, motivate one another and we made an agreement that no matter what was said or felt that we would continually work to be on the same page. This conversation was essential to our success as we both verbalized our determination to work together, not against, each other at any cost. As I mentioned, there are so many factors colliding when you team up runners that the only way to make that work is #1 communication, #2 patience and #3 dedication. As I said in previous blog posts, I have been working my ass off since WC100k in June to become a better hill runner. My motivation? Caitlin's kick ass ability to sprint up hills. I had little more than a month to improve my uphill running, but I feel like I made a drastic improvement over that time. I cannot even imagine how much TR would have sucked for me (and us) if I hadn't done that work. We probably would have been a victim of breakup like many a teams at TR. Plan set, we went to sleep and got rested for the days ahead.

Elevation Profile for TR

Day 1:
Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge. 20.83 miles, 2721 feet of climbing, 9329 Max elevation


Before the start of Stage one

The first stage was a later start at 10am. Thus, it was seriously hot and exposed. For what in theory would be an easy run, turned out to be brutal on the majority of teams. And it was, for at least half our team (that would be me). Caitlin and I had decided based on recommendation from previous participants, that we should go out from the gun and race the first day. Drop the hammer early and trust your body to recover. We both have an incredible ability to recover day to day, so we were both down with this strategy. Caitlin was seriously ready to run after 3 days off and I knew I would have to make sure to not hammer it out too hard at the start. While we wanted to race from the gun, I also didn't want to break myself day one. I was nervous since I still wasn't feeling very well. I hoped the race day adrenaline would kick in and I would be fine. I was also hoping that my body would turn the corner on acclimatization and I would no longer feel it, it was day 10 of being in CO, so I was hopeful (ok, I was desperately hoping).

10am hit and we were off in a tear. I could tell immediately that I was working too hard and that it was still the altitude affecting me. Both Caitlin and I felt that the elevations of 8-9,000 feet hit us the hardest and as we worked up the first easy climb, I definitely had a higher HR and disturbed breathing than I would have liked. We quickly settled in and ticked off the miles. The heat soon got to me and I could feel myself getting desperately dehydrated. The aid station was 7.36 miles into the race and one bottle just was not enough for me, the second was at 14.80 miles. By the time we hit the second aid station, I was feeling awful. I could tell I was slowing Caitlin down on the uphills because I simply couldn't find the energy (which I could later trace to not getting enough pre-race fuel the night before, something I would battle with all week) and just felt dead. I started to worry that I was getting heat stroke and did my best just to keep moving forward. I felt frustrated with myself because it was Day 1 and I was running like shit. Despite that, we had established a really good lead over the next women's teams. And once we hit the pavement for the last 3.69miles on the road, I realized that it was universally a tough day. We passed several of what would eventually be Top 10 men's teams, who were walking on the road. Caitlin made it look easy, as I staggered and shuffled behind her. The only thing that kept me going was not wanting to be dead weight. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that I was feeling shitty the first day because it helped conserve Caitlin's energy for days to come. In the end we put between 9-20 minutes on the next open women's teams and ran our way into the leader's pink jerseys. A quick soak in the creek with other competitors and we head back to camp to refuel and relax for day 2, up Hope Pass.
Day 1 Open Women's Podium. Team ... on top
(that would be us, having not decided on a name)


Day 2:
Vicksburg to Twin Lakes. 10.04 miles, 3098 Feet of Climbing, 12,538 Max elevation

Day 2 made me feel a mixture of anxiety and anticipation. I had run up and over Hope Pass, twice, with Bryon Powell when I arrived in CO and so I knew what I was in for. I eagerly anticipated it because I knew what I was getting in for and it was so much fun (especially the down), but I was anxious because of how I had felt Day 1 and because Caitlin is super strong on the ups. I knew our strength differences would show themselves on this stage.

We had a nice cool early start and I was feeling much more fueled and hydrated. When the gun went off and we hit the road from Missouri Gulch to Sheep Gulch, I could instantly tell that my acclimatization period was over. My heartrate was low, my breathing easier.

My goal for the stage, knowing that there were tons of strong female uphillers in the field, including Nikki (who could tow Kami) and Anita (who could tow Prudence), was to run hard enough to keep them in striking distance and within eye sight. I also knew that would be desperately hard for Caitlin since she is such a good uphiller. As I said, I have highly improved my uphilling ability. I have made myself into a good ultrarunning uphiller, Caitlin is a good mountain uphiller. The difference is that my speed is fast for ultras, hers is blazing fast from doing short events such as this stage was. She is a great ultrarunner, but her speed on the hills comes from her brilliant background in Mountain racing. In fact, she would be a great bet for the 2010 US Mountain running team. As we headed up, I had to break out a combination of fast hiking and running where I could. We were about 1/4 way up when Nikki/Kami and Anita/Prudence passed us, each team utilizing the ability to tow. Caitlin and I were not going to be able to tow at least uphills, because our size difference makes it too awkward and difficult.

While I could sense Caitlin getting frustrated, I kept calm and pushed up the hill, keeping the other ladies teams in sight and making sure I wasn't expending too much energy. While we wanted to maintain our hefty lead, we didn't need to break ourselves to do it. We could be mellow and spend the time conserving, conserving, conserving. We made it to the top 25-30 minutes faster than I had gone up that way the previous attempt and I was very pleased.
Nearing the top of Hope Pass, less than 2 minutes back. Pink leaders jerseys!

We swapped positions and I prepared to unleash my strength (downhilling) and lead Caitlin down the hill. We could see the other two teams ahead of us by less than 2 minutes and I smiled knowing that the strategy I had in mind was right on point. I am a lifelong team sports player and I have long watch the Tour De France and examined team dynamics in such a race. I knew that in order to be victorious after six days of this race we would have to do a lot more than just run fast. We would have to be smart, do gamesmanship and keep our wits and heads about us at all times. I also knew that, as my friend Gary Robbins said, there would be nothing worse than winning 5 days in a row and ending up second. To do that requires a delicate balance.

Caitlin expressed her feelings about technical and slippy downhills and so I lead her out pretty conservatively, but still moving at a nice clip. I feel most free and unleashed on downhills, flats and rolling terrain. My long legs are made to hop boulders at high speed. We made it to Little Willis Gulch aid station at mil 5.13 and barely stopped long enough to take a breathe. We were in hot pursuit of the other women's teams. I was feeling awesome and happy since we had made it out of the danger zone for losing significant time. We got to the bottom of the hill and headed out through the grass and creek to the finish line. As we crossed the creek we overtook Anita and Prudence and we were running right behind Kami who was trying to catch back up to Nikki (Kami had stopped for a pit stop). Caitlin was pushing the pace across the flats, but I encouraged her to stay moderate and comfortable and not to kick at the finishline. From my study of TDF and team sports, the worst possible thing we could have done would have been have a sprint off at the finish line on Day 2. Instead, I pulled back and we waltzed in about 30 seconds back. My strategy was to give Nikki and Kami the win and let them think that the hard mountain stages would be theirs to dominate. I didn't really let Caitlin in on this strategy per se, but I sandbagged a bit at the end. In my mind, it was lose the battle but win the war. We were second in 1:55:36.

We headed into Leadville to camp for the evening and I got to return to my favorite spot: Provin Grounds and hang out with some great people. Friendships were building and we were all settling in to the whole experience.

Day 3:
Leadville to Nova Guides. 24 miles, 2930 feet of elevation gain, 10,945 Max elevation
.

This stage was a pretty easy stage or should have been since there was minimal climbing and lots of very "me" terrain. Lots of rolling hills, lots of downhill and plenty of flat, including a longish road section at the beginning and very end. There were only two climbs that topped out at 10,927 @ mile 5.21 and 10,777 @ mile 11.83. I could tell Caitlin was still brimming with energy and go, but I felt that this stage was a good place to get some needed "recovery" miles in.

We took it out as we did every stage, running down the road ahead of the other women's team. Caitlin is more of a "gun-runner" than I am. I go out at a steady clip and then smash the second half, she goes out blazing from the start. Being in the pink leaders jersey again felt good, but it also puts pressure on to race strong every day. I went into this stage with the strategy of running only hard enough to maintain the lead and perhaps get a little bit more of an advantage over the second place North Face girls whom we were leading by about 10 minutes. As with the WC100k when I helped pace two of my teammates to top 10 finishes and a team gold medal, I thought in terms of protecting our team position instead of merely the stage win. During this stage, we even took the time to stop for one of the fantastic photographers and take a funny picture of us pretending to beat each other up (there was a nightly slide show with photos from the day).

The stage was "easy" but I still immensely frustrated Caitlin. I was going "slow" up the hills, though we were out of eye sight of any of the other teams and I knew she wanted to speed up. We had our first big blow up of the race on this stage. She wanted to go faster and said it was hard for her to slow down, I told her that we should settle in and not tax ourselves. There were many miles of subsequent silence as we both worked to get back on the same page. I could sympathize with her position, she just wanted to run fast. But I also knew that, from my 100 mile experience, that we had to met out that brimming energy carefully. If you go out to hard in a 100 mile (113 miles in this case) run, you can run great until about 75-80 and then just have nothing left. I was approaching this race as an ultra and she was approaching it like a series of mtn races. Neither is wrong, just like our differences in strengths, there is room for difference in perspective. We allowed ourselves the space to just run and we clipped along the rolling hills. I was feeling good, not great (and was still wondering why I felt quasi-flu/low iron) as we passed a photographer and Gordon, running behind Caitlin downhill. We turned a corner and started along the edge of a field, still running downhill and I caught a foot and my knee went smashing into a rock, sending me head and shoulders into the dirt. For a moment, I thought it was over, I thought I had broken my knee. I burst into a fit of sobs and rolled on to my back. Caitlin screamed at me to get up. I couldn't even focus on the fact on how insensitive I felt she was being because I was too concerned that I wouldn't be able to get up. I got up and hobbled, barely able to put weight on my foot, down the trail, crying the whole way.

We were quickly passed by 4 teams including Team Timex,Will/Toby, the North Face girls, and two co-ed teams including eventual winners NSA, which included my buddy Gary Robbins. No one asked me if I was ok. Except Gary. As we crested up to a road crossing, en masse, he said, "I know what you need" and gave me a big hug. "In 5 minutes you won't even feel it". He was not only right but within 5 minutes I was pissed at everyone who had passed me and I took off in hot pursuit. Caitlin hitched her wagon onto (the crazy) train and held on for a ride. She now encouraged my moderation and we quickly got back 3 of 4 teams before leaving the single track. We only had Nikki and Kami left ahead of us about 20 seconds as we popped out on the road into Nova Guides. I smiled a sinister grin and told Caitlin that we were not going to hammer it yet, but just run patiently and reel them in if we could. Caitlin was starting to feel dehyrdated and bonky, so I told her (as I did in the 100k) to tuck in and I would lead her out. Kami was towing Nikki on the road and we passed them within a 1/2 mile of hitting the road. Having the lead in hand, I pushed the pace a bit more, feeling my second half power flood through me, knowing I could drop mid-6s if I pleased. Caitlin told me not to break her, that she was borderline going to throw up, so I lead her in, taking her by the hand along the final stretch. We hammered it in at 3:37:30 for first place. The North Face gals came in about 90 seconds later.
A run down on the road into Nova Guides. The North Face Girls and Team ...
Photo by irunfar.com

I finally pulled up the leg of my torn tights and revealed a knee cap with major damage, which would continue to bleed for several hours. After a shower, the medics examined it and told me how lucky I was since I was mm from needing stitches. They bandaged it, iced it and gave me drugs. I was just hoping it wouldn't get too stiff overnight as day 4 was another fast climb.

My favorite thing about this day was that Caitlin and I proved that we could seemingly be at our wits ends with one another and yet still always come back to the same page and find patience, caring and strength together. This stage also showed how much each of our strengths mattered in our overall success.

Camp Hale, Day 3 and 4 camp
Day 4:
Nova Guides to Red Cliff. 14.3 miles, 3009 feet of elevation gain, 11,668 Max elevation
.

Another day, another mountain to climb. By Day 4, the atmosphere of TR was infectious. Everyone was bonding, enjoying and racing their asses off. At the end of each day, no matter how things shook out, we were building a community with runners from around the world and hanging with runners we might not otherwise have a chance too. Day 4 was similar to Day 2 in that there was a big climb up to the top at mile 6.36, a run along the most breathtaking ridge and then a sweet downhill for the remainder, including running through a creek bed. Before the race, we talked to Nikki and Kami and Anita. Anita's partner had to drop out due to injury and Anita needed a team to officially sign up with and the North Face girls wanted us to be in on the decision on whether it was fair to have her with them. Anita's plan was to run her own race, but safety rules mean you have to start with another team. It was fine by us.

It was a chilly morning, but my knee was not super stiff and we went out from the gun in our usual fashion. We hit the hill and Caitlin danced up the dirt road (not nearly as pretty as Hope Pass) and I combination run/speed hiked up behind her. I was passed by Nikki and Kami a few miles in and I encourage Caitlin to run side by side with them. Part of me simply didn't want to hear her yelling at me "COME ON DEVON" in what was only partially masked frustration. I had enough frustration with myself to not need to compounded by someone else. I wish I could have willed myself sudden impeccable uphill speed, but I was mildly (ok, totally) satisfied that I was able to keep the three of them within eye sight by merely hiking. Caitlin would look back and I would throw hang signals telling her to stay with them. I only needed to be within 2 minutes of her at all times (at least at the aid stations) and so strategically I wanted her to stay right there with them.

I made it to the top, pretty proud of myself for once again being right there with the good mountain runners. Sure Anita was long gone and Caitlin could have been too, but for this race and for the long term strategy we were spot on. As we cruised along the ridge at the top, I exclaimed to Caitlin, as I surveyed the endless mountains and beauty, "I am so blissed out right now". She laughed and we beat feet to make up the remaining 10-15 seconds that Nikki and Kami had on us. We had barely started downhill when all of us were together, chatting away and enjoying the heck out of ourselves. We had been running together for a few miles when I decided to speak up, "I am just going to say it, I have no intention of sprinting it out at the end and would be happy to cross the line all together". There was a collective sigh of relief, the mood got even lighter (if that was possible) and we enjoyed what basically was a bunch of bad ass women runners out for a fun run. We hit the last stretch into Red Cliff which was a dirt road (after splashing for a 1/2 mile through a creek) and made plans for a hilarious finish. Caitlin went in front of us and I held on to her ponytail and Nikki and Kami each held on to her hydration pack and we pretended that Caitlin was towing us all (we even grimaced and moaned and groaned). We were credited the co-win even though chip timing had us behind by a half second, as I was behind Caitlin and crossed last out of the 4 of us. Nikki and Kami even insisted that we all share the win, which I found classy. Our finish time was 2:19:29 and more importantly, the most fun we had all race. I was pleasantly surprised how much I was able to manage the pain in my knee and hoped that would continue.

That night we were joined by Caitlin's boyfriend, Ed and so I ended up having a whole tent to myself and had a decent night sleep which was incredibly rare for my entire time in CO.

Day 5:
Red Cliff to Vail. 23.4 miles, 4407 elevation gain, 11,787 max elevation

Day 5 was game on, the buddy buddy antics of the day before were out the window. We heard rumors around camp that the North Face girls strategy was to haul on Day 5 and 6. I hoped that my knee would feel as good as Day 4, but as soon as I awoke in the morning, I knew that my knee had other plans. It was so stiff from the top of the knee cap to mid-shin that I could barely bend my leg. There was a super runnable section for the first 8 miles back up the dirt road on which we finished (part of it anyways) but as soon as the gun went off, I knew it was not a road I would be moving up quickly. Within a quarter mile, I was in tears and my knee hurt so badly. I considered opting out of the race. I was so frustrated with myself that I can't even begin to think how annoying it was for Caitlin. All she could do was helplessly watch as Nikki and Kami ran off ahead of us and I plodded along behind her, pushing with everything I could, which didn't seem like very much.

We made it into Aid Station #1 and I begged for some advil or ibuprofen to dull the pain. I knew if I could take the ice pick out of my knee I might be able to run. I was demoralized. I felt like dead weight. I was filled with self doubt and felt bad for letting Caitlin down. She did her best to mediate her own frustrations. I wouldn't expect her to not be frustrated. We had wanted to stay with the North Face girls and keep them within striking distance and I simply couldn't for the first half. Thankfully, the advil helped and by mile 10.65 at the summit of Bowman's Shortcut Trail I was gassed up and ready to run. We hit a stretch of nice technical downhill after the long grunt uphill, we were about tapped out with frustration and Caitlin snapped at me before having me take the lead on my stronger discipline. Funny though I fell and obliterated myself, I am actually very gifted on technical downhills, it is the non-technical that got me! I focused all my frustrations and feelings toward hammering the downhill and took off. I figured Caitlin would follow and then I heard a yell from behind me, "don't leave me". I turned and looked to see Caitlin was no where to be seen. I slowed up, we had a silent moment in which we returned to the same page, cast each other a "let's do this" smile and took off in hot pursuit.

As I have said, I am a second half girl. I like to drop negative splits. We headed up Two Elk Pass which is a series of really long and exposed switchbacks. And then we spotted the North Face girls. They were in sight and that was all that mattered to me, it got me going knowing that even if the reality was that they were 7 minutes ahead of us, that we were still within striking distance. I ran in front of Caitlin (yes I ran all the way up!) up to the top and we scratched, clawed and hammered our way to the high point and second aid station at Benchmark Summit (mile 13.84). I was jazzed to be at the top because I knew there was 9.5 miles left of all downhill and runnable downhill consisting of 4x4 road and ski trail. Caitlin put the reins in my hand to lead us down the hill. She didn't feel great going down the hill, as she was finally feeling the altitude, but I pushed our pace as hard as we could. We made it down the hill, cruising along thinking, "man we are going fast!". We cut a line down the final slope through the brush and burst into the finish at Vail. Caitlin was on the verge of getting sick and so I took her by the hand and practically levitated her through the finishing stretch and across the line in a time of 3:47:06 and a solid 2nd place. We had nearly erased the time advantage Nikki and Kami had on us for the stage and were only 2.5 minutes back. We ran the final 9.5 miles in a blazing 1:06 and that, my friends, includes a stop at aid station 3. With one day left to race, we were excited and nervous for the final and most brutal day, but we were also encouraged by the fact that as a team we were rock solid. Different as we might be in so many ways, we were working together really well and we were becoming increasingly closer which seemed camp wide to be the exception.



Day 6:
Vail to Beaver Creek, 21.21 miles, 4623 Elevation Gain, 10,512 max elevation

You can look it two ways: 9 and a half is an eternity. 9 and a half minutes is absolutely nothing in an ultra. It was game on in every way. I knew we had definitely made a strong statement by holding them off on Day 5. I was particularly nervous about Day 6. After the confidence blasting going uphill on Day 5, I was worried that my tired legs would desert me. I was determined though to be smart and not crack myself too early. I made sure that I took some asprin before the race and my knee was feeling at the very least, runnable. I had made an error the day before however. We had gone out with Gi to sushi for a late lunch and despite eating a hefty portion, I did not follow it up with a good portion of dinner. Hunger hit me about 9pm as I was lying down to sleep. Getting behind in fueling on a race like this is bad. I woke up in the morning and had my gluten free crispy rice with pb and fruit, but I knew I would have to gel up early. Every day I had taken my pre-race Vespa and a mid-race hyper-vespa, but also took in more calories than I might have for such short stages (200-400 cals/20 miles) since it was more about pre-fueling for the next day.

The final gun went off and we knew that nothing else mattered but this stage. The race had a controlled start since we were heading through the town of Vail and surprisingly, the start went out really slow. This thwarted Caitlin and my usual early race cushion and as we headed up the hill about 2 miles in, Nikki and Kami made their move and were gone in a flash. I knew that I had to be more careful about how much time they put on us going up this hill since instead of having a long descent to the finish, we had a descent then climb up to nearly the finish and then only a mile downhill to the end. I moved uphill as hard as I could. I reminded myself that everyone was tired, everyone hurt and that I just had to freaking keep moving. Going up hill, I had the constant encouragement of my Salomon buddy and good friend Martin, such a good motivator, he renewed my confidence for sure. He and his partner Justin had decided to just have a fun final day and we would see them flinting about the majority of the day, making it look easy. I ran up and up the hill, still not fast enough for Caitlin's abilities but I was running damnit and that was pretty impressive enough for me. I didn't feel great and would only know after the race that neither did Caitlin.

Will from Team Timex, coming up to offer some encouragement. Yes, I am always motivated by a hot guy offering me encouragement. Photo by Justin Mock.

We made it up most of the way of the first part of the hill when I heard Will from Team Timex tell his partner Toby that he would be right back. He ran up behind me, offered me some encouraging words and then headed back to his partner. It gave me a big boost and I hit the 4x4 road and had to scream at Caitlin to come back since she missed a turned and had headed the wrong way.

We made it to Check Point #1 where the Med guy told us that we were "reportedly" getting help from a guys team. We were not getting help at all from Justin and Martin, but I understood that the fact that Justin wore one of our pink jerseys might be cause for speculation. We kept going up and up. Martin told me at one point, "I wish I could tell you that you are nearly there". I was getting dehydrated and definitely was feeling a lull in my energy. I popped a hyper vespa and took a caffinated gel. We hit the high point and then the Buck Creek Check Point and strapped in to hammer it down hill. The downhill to Avon I had been warned was really technical and had a ton of tall grass. I took the lead and we sped down and down towards Avon. I was running with every ounce I could muster and I kept going to the well and feeling it come up dry. I was feeling overwhelmed by thinking I had blown it, that I had given it away from getting dehydrate and messed up from the start of day 1. I had blown it by not getting enough fuel day to day or not getting good enough sleep. I never doubted my training, I could tell I had done enough there. Doubt, doubt, doubt even as I ran easily (though hammering) down the hill. We hit the pavement in Avon and I could feel myself nearly staggering. We made it to the aid station and I gulped down some coke and mentally prepared for the final 4.63 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing. We were so close and yet, we had no idea how the North Face girls had done. Would their strategy prevail or had our brazen go for it from the gun strategy work? As we pushed up the final climb in the beating hot sun, Caitlin and I stopped caring. We pushed as hard as we could, she encouraged the hell out of me on the climbs, but we simply let go of the outcome. We had journeyed so far together, battled and battled and battled and come together to form a brilliant team. We had done everything we could as a team to lead from wire to wire of the race and the rest was out of our control.

The last hill was a battle, I was entering that place where you are pushing every last ounce. You are leaving everything out there on the course. I haven't really ever been forced to do that. And I was. I took a page from the Krissy book and let out some primal yells and grunts (and swear words) to get up the hill. Finally, dehydrated and punished, we made it to the top. Caitlin and I exchanged a few "let's do this" looks and took off with everything we had down the final mile+. Beaver Creek emerged below in our sights and I lead us down the hill, pushing with everything I had. We hit the bottom and sprinted across the bridge and into the finish area. We crossed the finish line in 3:27:24. We could feel the entire finish area collectively holding its breathe. Caitlin and I hugged and I whispered, "I am sorry". I just didn't know if I had had enough that day, I had given it everything.

The announcer said, we have to calculate it, hold on..... I held my breathe. Caitlin told me it didn't even matter. And then, the words that were the sweetest sound: We won!!! We had retained our lead by over 2 minutes. Nikki and Kami had thrown down and broken themselves to come back on that final day, but it was not enough. We won! We won! Our strategy, strengths teamwork and communication came together to be the triumphant combination. We went wire to wire, we took risks, we ran with our hearts and together triumphed.

The entire experience from start to finish was transformative. I came to Colorado and immediately felt like I had come home. This race took me across the most amazing terrain and through the most intense journey, which really mimics alot of my inner journey currently. Whats more than the victory, is the friendships, experiences and memories that were forged. The experience of sharing a journey such as this one and triumphing together makes it so much more sweet. I feel like Caitlin and I made a dynamic team and no matter which way you slice it (even if I try to slice it with the most self-defacing/deprecating knife), we had the winning combination. I am so grateful for my partner and my friend Caitlin. It was an honor to run with her.
GoreTex TransRockies 2009. Wow. What an experience. I almost find it difficult to write about because reflecting back upon it means accepting that it is indeed over. As my friend Adam Chase said, it's like summer camp is over and we are all back to our parents, brimming with memories and stories of our time away. When I left for Colorado more than 3 weeks ago, I had no idea how much it would change me. That is another story for another day..... But I return to the bay area with a renewed direction. For now, the race itself is enough. It was an amazing, challenging, transformative experience. Will I return? Without a doubt! I can't freaking wait!

11 comments:

  1. Excellent race, excellent report...congrats to both of you, I think your differences (in abilities on climbs, descents, etc) obviously proved to be an asset overall.

    Will G.

    ReplyDelete
  2. D, I love you and thanks for putting up with my frustration and impatience. Without you I would not have made it those 113 miles (even if it seemed like I could). Looking forward to running with you again and hanging out with you too!

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  3. Oh my Gosh!! This looks like so much fun! Great job you two!

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  4. Awesome post, my dear friend. Maybe one day I'll get fast enough to team up with you. I'll have to remember the Krissy book next big climb. :)

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  5. In that top photo, Caitlin's hoodie and boy beater are pretty nice.

    Will G.

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  6. Hey girlie! Such detail. Congrats on running your race. I know you put a lot into being ready for that event. Oh and see - making noises helps.

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  7. The photos show a bakery at the start line. So, Ms. Foodie, how was it? I know you had to check it out.

    Oh, and great race. And report.

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  8. This is the coolest race report. Epic! You really captured the ups and downs of working with another runner day in and day out. Amazing work both individually and as a team.

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  9. Steve, couldn't check out the bakery. I am gluten intolerant and allergic to eggs, so bakeries (other than special ones) are my worst nightmare. In fact breakfast in general is always a sad occasion to me. Oh well :)I am sure it was good! Smelled good!

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  10. Devon, wow, I read a few reports, but your total excitement made me want to try it too. Totally different beats, and the team work - thanks for your and Caitlin's honesty on how frustrated you guys were yet still raced together and helped each other! That is a lesson to take home for sure. Was so glad to see your names at the top after the race, no disrepsect to Nikki and Kami, but wow, what a competition, what a win!

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  11. Great teamwork on the race. Great race report. Thanks for sharing your amazing experience. It is blogs like this that inspire me to continue running.

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