Well, this is one of those posts where I really don’t even know where to begin. All I know is that as I left for Transrockies, I knew that it would be one of those races that would change my life,…again. This year has been a huge one in terms of experiences rather than races. I do plan on being competitive in the coming race seasons, but I needed to stop, take a breather from it all, and just treat running like playing for a while.
This was my summer vacation and it was the most perfect one ever. You can check out my first couple days in Denver and Buena Vista here.
Tuesday morning, we were up bright and early for our 8:30 AM start.
The race course runs from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek and the route looks a bit like this: The first day was gorgeous. 21 miles and 2,180 ft of elevation. I knew going into this race that there was a bit of a disparity in athletic strength between my team mate and myself so she brought a tow rope for when I was able to move faster up the mountains. The first day, I was not used to the rope and over exerted myself, especially on the last 5 KM stretch of flat road when the sun was beating down and I was pulling her along a little too hard. When we returned to camp, we found our tents, cleaned up and got ready for the awards ceremony. I didn’t even look at the results because I wanted to keep my head out of the competitive side of things. This was a vacation and training camp for me, not a race. It would not be fair to push my team mate harder than she was able and I wanted to enjoy the mountains and get in some solid altitude training for my fall season. I was shocked to hear we made it on the podium for the first day. Amazing what being third out of three teams does…
Successful first day in the mountains! 20.8 miles and 2,500 ft of elevation gain. Foam rolling with Jenn Shelton, dinner with Adam Goucher and awards ceremony with Rob Krar? Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday. A photo posted by Jessica Kuepfer (@lacesandlattes) on
Transrockies sets up a mini athlete’s village of tents at each stage. They have a rock star team of volunteers that set them up and take them down every day.
After awards every evening, we headed to dinner for 5 PM and always ate the MOST incredible meals from BBQ to tacos to pasta. We then had a brief of that day’s stage and an overview of the next day’s course as well as highlight photos of the day. At 7:30, we were free to head to the “Relaxation Station” where they set up couches, phone chargers, snacks and beer to hang out with runners or head to our tents to prepare for the next day.
Stage 2 was 13.4 miles and 3,200 feet of elevation gain. This was a climb day and I certainly felt it! We tapped out at almost 13,000 ft altitude, although I was very fortunate to not have any negative altitude effects the entire time I was there. The views absolutely blew my mind and I kept slipping back to my race mantra “I’m so lucky.”
Stage 3 was a longer day of 24.2 miles and 2,700 feet of elevation gain. It was the last day for our Run3 friends who were doing half the distance. I also had a little bit of excitement at this point. Before heading out for the race, I was vigorously washing my face and my contact disappeared. I wear dailies when I am out in the wilderness so I am not used to how delicate they are. Later, I found half of it and asked my friends to check and see if I had anything in my eye. She confirmed I didn’t and mentioned the air was just dry when I said it was scratchy. Fast forward 4 days later when I finally had a mirror (the morning of this race) in Leadville and I saw all was NOT well. The medic guys insisted I go to the emergency room immediately, but I would have been disqualified if I skipped a stage so I headed out for 24.2 miles and as soon as I crossed the finish line, we headed to the emergency room. I was quite the spectacle in my grimy, sweaty race outfit, complete with race bib with recovery drink in hand.
They were able to extract the contact no problem and I immediately felt better and was ready to tackle the second half of the race! The fourth day was 14.2 miles and 2,900 feet of elevation gain. This was a FUN day. We got to run through streams and although there was (as always) a lot of climbing, I finished feeling strong. It is amazing what not needing to deal with a stray contact will do for moral! The last two days are hard because they are both long. Day 5 was 23.6 miles and 4,100 ft of elevation gain. The good news is, there were views that left me feeling like I was on top of the world. There was a lot of down hill on this day and my team mate had a tumble on the last mile before the finish line and twisted her ankle. We were a little afraid she would be unable to proceed, but we decided, the next day, we would take it even slower than usual and just cruise. The last day, I soaked it all in. I sat in a river while I waited for her. I picked wild flowers. I just loved being in the mountains and enjoyed being able to train and have a strong, healthy body. The last day was 22.2 miles and 5,100 feet of elevation gain. Crossing the finish line was MONEY. It was such a phenomenal week and I learned so so much about myself as a leader, an athlete, a team mate and a person.
120 miles of mountains behind me. Time to party. 🎶💃🍻 A photo posted by Jessica Kuepfer (@lacesandlattes) on
After the race, we checked into our hotel room, packed for our flight the next day and got ready for the awards ceremony with all the amazing people that we met that week. We received our final medals and our invitations to race next year.
Then, we partied. I have made some amazing future plans with some of the athletes I connected with over the past week and I can’t wait to be reunited with them again soon!
Top 5 things I learned at Transrockies this year?
1. There is a time and a place for HOKA ONE ONE’s – never and in the garbage. New Balance encourages me to demo other company’s shoes for an honest review of their products. This was by far the worst shoe experience I have ever had. Just ask my team mate – she needed to hear me grumble all the way up the mountain.
2. I love stage races. I felt stronger and stronger as the week progressed and I love the mental component of pushing yourself every day.
3. Altitude training is amazing for performance! I tried out my new hill legs at the 5 Peaks Dundas race this weekend and took second female over all on a tempo run. Amazing what running in the mountains does for fitness!
4. Running celebrities are some of the most nice, down to earth people. I tend to idolize them, but I had the pleasure of getting to know some of my heroes and watched their habits and learned from them.
5. Being a team is hard work and commitment but very fulfilling.