There was no stage of the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run that I was looking forward to more than today’s stage over Hope Pass. It’s not that I wasn’t or am not looking forward to the other stages; rather, it’s that I’ve run over Hope Pass a couple of times before and it’s awesome. It manages to be, at the same time, one of my biggest physical challenges, one of my favorite vistas, and one of the sweetest pieces of runnable single track out there.
Read iRunFar’s Stage 2 TRR report and then go over to the Picasa album for more pictures of today’s stage. Also check out the official Stage 2 recap for details on the day’s results. If you are enjoying iRunFar’s coverage of the 2008 TransRockies Run considered subscribing to iRunFar via RSS or via email.
The stage started off with perfect weather which held on throughout the run and the rest of the day, for that matter. Despite the perfect conditions, I struggled mightily on the 1.35 miles of dirt road that took us to Control Point 1. It didn’t help that I dropped my water bottle early on and that it promptly exploded. No biggy in terms of performance, but it threw me off my game.
I continued to set a pretty solid tempo for another mile of the climb. Our position was pretty well fixed and Martin seemed satisfied with the pace. The final mile and a half to the summit has increasingly frequent runnable stretches. However, I wanted no part of running. This was partly due to the fact that I fast hike well, but also due to the altitude taking its toll on me. At 12,000′ I was moving, but my effort had declined from 164 bpm early in the climb and our solid 160 bpm for the central part of the climb to only 152 bpm. Meissner and Hart ran right by us maybe 1/3 or 1/2 a mile from the summit.
Martin took the lead position right before the pinnacle of Hope Pass at 12,600′ and cruised down the other side ahead of me. We had climbed the 2.5 miles and 2,600′ of climb in 53 minutes, which I felt was great.
We descended two thirds of a mile of switchbacks to Control Point 2. After very quick Control Point we set out on a 4 mile descent… it turns out descending is a relative team strength of Wings of Glory.
I think we had a great balance of quickness and efficiency on the descent that we hope will help us in the overall standings by week’s end.
Notice that my heart is at its lowest at the highest elevation
Once we finished the picturesque descent through pine forest and alpine meadows we came to the flatlands at the bottom. Martin and I decided to run strong, but smart and not worry about what the folks in front of us or behind us were doing. A few seconds or even a few minutes gained in the last mile and a half of today’s stage would not be worth the toll they would take on us.
Even when we started to catch another team, we controlled out pace. It was also around this time that we had the stream crossing. The stream crossing was fun, but involved some scrambling on loose river rock and… crossing water, duh! I was already laboring a bit on the flat land and it didn’t help being repeatedly knocked out of stride. Even worse were the half dozen water crossings over the next half mile. Each successive mud hole further sapped my leg strength.
The team ahead of us never pulled away, but we stopped making up ground. It was around this time that we noticed that we were being caught by a team we had passed on the downhill. They slowly caught us over the last half mile and finally passed us with 2-300 meters to go. We didn’t react. Fine by me. I hope Martin was fine with it, too. I think he and I are pretty much on the same page in terms of race strategy.
In the final mile of today’s awesome course was the Windstopper mile, where we were reminded that Gore’s Windstopper is versatile, breathable, and waterproof. Fair enough. The cool part was that after the finish there was a videographer who you could tell what you loved about Windstopper and if your footage was shown during the daily evening video presentation, you would win a Windstopper Gore Running Wear jacket. Being the resourceful lads we are, Martin and I brain stormed on the course. At the finish line Martin explained, in French, why he loved Windstopper. I immediately followed Martin’s monologue with an English translation and a bit of ad lib. By the end of the evening we were both wearing sweet new Windstopper running jackets! :-)
Oh, so you want to know how Martin and I made out today? Well, we ran the 9.3 miles in 1:53 minutes. We worked pretty darn hard for an overall pace that was only a hair under 12 minutes/mile. However, I think we were both satisfied, as we finished a few places higher in the open men’s category than yesterday. Today we were 1oth in the category, rather than yesterday’s 13th, and finished just behind 9th place. We did, however, get beat by a team from another category. Keri Nelson recovered from yesterday and the co-ed Gore-Tex/Sportiva team whooped us by 6 minutes.
After cleaning up at the shower truck and a bit of time in camp, I headed up to Provin’ Grounds, a.k.a. Tony’s coffee shop, in downtown Leadville. There I joined up with the fastest table of pure runners that I’ve ever sat with … and that was before Tony Krupicka (of Tony’s Coffee) came to hold court! What a cool group of people to boot.
The day was not without controversy. Rumor is that the British Saab/Salomon team with its strong fell running roots cut a few switchbacks, as is standard practice in their fell racing. However, this is clearly prohibited in the TransRockies Run race rules and the Saab/Salomon team went on to win the stage, finishing the stage just 82 seconds ahead of Erik Skaggs and Max King of Team Nike/Rogue Valley Runners. As of tonight’s banquet, the issue of what to do was not yet settled and a lengthy meeting took place after the evening’s dinner. We’ll keep you posted on the outcome. Most of the folks that matter don’t want the full 2 hour penalty imposed on Saab/Salomon and would prefer a more equitable solution to the issue that would not put Saab/Salomon out of the running for the overall title.
Of course, even a bad day in Leadville can actually be a great day. For instance, while blogging this afternoon a bad headache crept up on me. By the time I sat down to eat dinner around 5:15 I was literally on the verge of tears. After finishing a very tasty meal of veggie lasagna and pasta with capers in a light sauce I headed outside to get some fresh air. After laying along the sidewalk for a couple minutes I got up to head to either a pharmacy or the campsite for some painkillers. It was then that I was literally stopped in my tracks twice. First off, I tried to pop my ears as I walked down the street the equalize the pressure. Bad… no, very bad idea. I lost all balance and nearly fell over. As I recovered and began to walk down the street once again I looked up and saw the below scene. Wow! I whipped out my camera and snapped a shot. I then reversed direction and walked uphill to get a better shot. I took a few more shots. Then I started running uphill for an even better vantage point. The beauty of the moment overwhelmed the crippling pain.