What an adventure! I’ll write about the experience in another post when I have time to collect my thoughts, but I wanted to get something out there. Here’s some early thoughts on the actual running experience:
The Dirty Stats
This info comes from the TransRockies website. I haven’t had a chance to download the GPS data from the Garmins.
- Total miles: 120-ish miles over 6 stages (approximately 21, 13, 24, 14, 23, and 23 miles)
- Race takes place between an altitude 7,400′ and 12,500′
- Total elevation gain: 20,000 ft
- Roughly 50/50 split between roads and trails
Shelly and I did fairly well. Our total time was a bit under 30 hours, which was good enough for 12th place in the “mixed open” division (male/female teams with a total age less than 80) out of 23 teams that started stage 1. At least two teams dropped from the race. For each stage, we placed anywhere from 11th to 16th.
Since Shelly and I don’t have the chops to hang with the leaders, we decided to run hard enough to get a great training effect but also make the experience enjoyable. We ran about 60% of each stage together. If we came to a big climb, I’d usually run ahead. I was trying to get as much hill training as possible. I’d wait for her at the top. The rules required us to enter aid stations at the same time or incur a penalty, so we never got more than two miles apart.
As far as actual running, we used our ultra strategy of running flats and downhill and walking the uphills. We ate a fairly large breakfast and about 200 calories per aid station (three per stage). We both used two handhelds filled with water. Shelly took an occasional S! Cap; I didn’t use any electrolyte replacement.
How it Compares to Ultras
I didn’t know what to expect. A long time ago, I ran one 100 mile week. I have never run more than 10 miles a day for three days or more. The best comparison I had were 100 milers.
As it turns out, stage races are far different than ultras 50 miles or longer. The rest period between stages allowed us to correct issues and problems before they became severe. For example, I never hit a low during any of the stages. The distances were short enough to fuel with a good breakfast and a little bit of aid station food.
The difficulty came from the rigors of running longer distances day after day in race conditions. Shelly put in more effort than I did (I took around 700 pictures). On day five, she could barely walk from new blisters under the old blisters from the 60 miles we ran at Grand Mesa two weeks ago. I had a few minor problems, including scrotum chafing (it sucked) and a few small foot blisters.
I was eager to run the race because it would allow for a bit of experimentation.Here are some things I tried and the results:
- Pre-race meal (breakfast): The organizers have exceptional meals twice per day. For breakfast, I elected for about four eggs,the equivalent of one diced, fried potato, and five pieces of bacon or sausage. It was a protein-heavy breakfast. Result were not significantly different than my traditional pre-race breakfast of Pop-Tarts or a big muffin. I did feel slightly less sluggish… at least until the cumulative fatigue of the stages set in after three days.
- Clothing: Going off my theory that moisture-wicking material sucks in hot, dry weather, I wore cotton shirts exclusively. As expected, I did not have issues with overheating at any point during the race. It was rather cool for the last five stages, though. I don’t think the temperature topped 75°.
- Shoes: I alternated between a pair of Merrell Mix Master AeroBlocks and two pairs of Merrell Trail Gloves. The terrain was pretty tame for the vast majority of the course, so protection was never an issue. The MMAB’s DID allow me to bomb down hills a little faster with a pace that occasionally dipped below six minute miles. The MMAB’s were also awesome over wet rocks. The zero drop Trail Gloves were better for the too-frequent roads. Shelly preferred her Mix Master 2’s because they offered more protection for her blisters.
- Hydration: Even though I carried two bottles, I ran the entire race using a “drink-to-thirst” strategy. I never emptied more than one bottle for any one section between aid stations (usually about 5-8 miles). This strategy worked great! I didn’t waste time pissing excessively, and I never ran into dehydration problems. It helped confirm my overheating problems I’ve experienced a few times this last year.
- Pacing and heart rate: I’ve been tracking my heart rate when running mountains for about eight months. I’m attempting to find a “sweet spot” in efficiency for running 100 milers. The goal is to run as fast as possible with the lowest possible heart rate. If I can keep my heart rate below about 155 beats per minute, I can run comfortably longer.
- Volume: Since this race totaled 25% more mileage than I’ve ever run in a week, this was going to be a test case for making a move to higher-volume training. I was surprised my body handled the volume as well as it did. Had I not pushed hard going up and down the climbs, I probably wouldn’t have any ill effects. My goal is to continue training about 80-100 miles per week for a few more weeks.
The actual running part of the event was challenging and fun, though the frequent roads sucked. We did adapt as the stages progressed, though. We had fun spending time together and were really pleased with our results. I was proud of Shelly; she overcame some pretty significant obstacles to continue running day after day. We got some great training for our upcoming ultras (Grindstone and Chimera for me; Pumpkin Holler for Shelly), and we were able to do plenty of experimentation.
The actual race report could be book-length, so I’ll have to do some work to organize and shorten my thoughts. We met a ton of cool people, saw breath-taking scenery, and had a great time. I’ll get that report up as soon as possible.