It’s been a long time since I ran the final stage of the 2008 GORE-TEX TransRockies Run; however, it’s a day that will long stand out in my mind for so many reasons. It was a day I raced my butt off, a day I celebrated with friends new and old, and a day when I communed with nature in a way I never had before. While I posted pictures from the previous five stages, there’s a good reason why you won’t see any pictures from this stage – Martin and I were racing all out this day, so I left my camera in camp. [However, I did just post my Stage 5 photos.]
The morning started off with a two mile road run out of downtown Vail. Once we hit the trail we started climbing for quite a ways. As this was the final stage, Martin was eager to be more aggressive, but I tried to rein him in. I shouldn’t have and it was what I consider my one tactical mistake of the entire race. It was the final day and our team, Wings of Glory, was in a tight competition with both Team Salt Stick (ahead of us) and Team Montrail (behind us). Had I know what the final 10 miles looked like, I would have gone harder on the eight mile, 2,300′ climb to the high point and mid-point of the final stage.
As it was, we were all mixed up with Team Salt Stick and Team Montrail on the climb, which was interspersed with short level sections. In the later half of the climb, the pairings of all three teams broke apart to one degree or another leading to a random mix of Wings of Glory, Salt Stick, and Montrail runners – game on! By the end of the climb, Team Salt Stick pulled away and were out of sightt. Martin took off and I told him I’d stay within the permitted two minute gap. It turns out that he let it all out and had to wait a bit at the bottom of the mountain. While I moved well, I was not quite as fast down the mountain. The second half of the descent was somewhat rocky/rooty and the path overgrown, so I was a bit cautious. In the end, Martin caught Team Salt Stick, but I merely got within sight.
The final climb of the 2008 GORE-TEX TransRockies Run was… unpleasant. Actually, a drunk sailor would do well to describe it. It hurt alot. I climbed with gusto and made up a good deal of ground on Team Salt Stick, which had given up on the idea of towing. It was every man for himself at this point. After rocking the previous descent, Martin fell off the pace a bit early on the climb, but hung tough and was never more than 50 meters back. As hard as I was pushing up this beastly climb, I couldn’t close the final gap to Salt Stick. I’ll spare you my account of the penultimate pitch on this climb except to say that the course designers are sick #$%#s for sending us 200 meters straight up a steep ski slope 18 and a half miles into the sixth stage. It was the toughest pitch of the entire race.
Martin and I bombed the final descent and although we saw Team Salt Stick a few switchbacks ahead, we never caught them. It was fitting that the three team competition finished stage 6 in the same order and with a similar amount of gap as we’d accumulated over the first five stages. At the start of the final climb, there was a videographer to whom I sincerely thanked the runners on Team Salt Stick and Team Montrail for making the TransRockies run the most meaningful and fulfilling running event of my life. After the first two stages, the three teams made it a race within a race and every man gave it his all.
At the finish I embraced Martin after we arose from the ground. When Team Montrail crossed the line I went over to Meissner and admittedly got a little weepy eyed. Along with all the effort we put into the race, we put alot of emotion into it as well.
After snacking out at the finish, I went for a final soak and made some phone calls before returning to the finish to cheer runners on for a couple more hours. Then came the celebrating. There were beer steins, penthouses, and flying sombreros… and all that before the party started! The TransRockies party and the bar fiesta that followed were commensurate with the epic scales of the six days that preceded them.
After a good night out on the town with friends new and old I walked back to condo where Martin and I were staying. Unfortunately, he hadn’t returned yet and while I had a key, I didn’t know the key code to the outside door. Oh well. I sat in front of the condo for quite a while. I intermittently stared at the starry sky and contemplated my awesome TransRockies experience. During this time a fox scampered out of the dark. He came closer and closer and circled me numerous times. He came within a few feet of me. I looked at him and he at me. I’ve never had so close, so prolonged, or so intimate experience with a wild animal. It was a fitting end to my TransRockies Run.