|At the final finish line, Stage 6 ~ photo by Klaus Fengler.|
After driving about 5 hours in the car, we reached Grand Junction, and decided to stop for gelato (we needed to fuel up on pre-race calories since we would be in calorie deficit for the upcoming week of racing). After consulting the gear list and Sue sent a couple of emails, we stopped by Summit Canyon Mountaineering store to pick up a camp towel for me (no towels would be provided by the race, and "towel" was not listed on the gear checklist). Unfortunately, Summit Canyon Grand Junction only had small towels, so they called ahead to the Glenwood store, and set aside an extra-large towel for me. Crisis averted.
We made the quick stop in Glenwood at the store, then settled in to the Comfort Inn in Beaver Creek for the night. A rain shower had passed through in the afternoon, and the temperature was a cool 70 degrees. Delightful.
|Start of Stage 1 in Buena Vista, CO|
|Above Buena Vista, Stage 1|
Marit had gotten off the freeway at Lionshead, Vail, or thereabouts, and I directed her up the hill to where we were waiting. At least if we were in the wrong place, we could all wait together.
The shuttle did come, and the driver of the van had been a bit confused about the location as well, but we all got packed into the van: me, Sue, Adam, Karmen, Cathy, and Marit, and our driver "Turbo" drove us not so smoothly on Highway 24 south to Buena Vista. Marit and I had some car-sickness issues in the back of the van, as it is a really windy road... thankfully Turbo let us all out in Leadville for a quick bathroom break and some fresh air.
|Sue on the false-flat, final miles of Stage 1|
Check-in on Monday at the museum went well enough, and we picked up our gear bags and booked our massages for the upcoming week of racing. We had dinner with the other racers at the elementary school gym on Monday night and watched slideshows and videos to get us pumped up for the race.
Race start came dark and early Tuesday morning. We set our bags out at the motel office for the luggage van to pick up and take to our finish camp later in the afternoon. I'm sure we were both nervous about how the day would proceed, but Sue and I had an understanding that we would both race within our limits, kind of get a feel for the whole thing, and not get too worked up about things. After all, we were on vacation, summer camp for adults, right?
|Stage 2, nearing Hope Pass|
Sue and I were happy with our time and happy with how we felt (other than the last 3.9 miles of the course which was a false-flat on a dirt road... but I just put my head down and pretended that I was doing an interval workout in Liberty Park to get through it. Sue said her hamstring was seizing up, and so we backed off the pace a bit for the last couple of miles.) Wow, was I excited when we came around the corner to the finish chute by the Railroad Bridge. Cynthia, from the Gore-Tex sponsor team greeted us into the finish with cups of cold water and electrolyte drink (GU Brew) and after chilling out at the finish with some ice packs for a few minutes, we went down for a soak in the Arkansas River.
|Sue killing the downhill off Hope Pass |
to Twin Lakes, Stage 2
While waiting for the shuttle van to take us to Arrowhead Camp for the night, Karmen (from the pre-race shuttle) had to move off to the side to puke (ugh, the heat had gotten to her) so we didn't ride with her and Adam. After settling into camp and having a nice hot shower in the shower trailer (a full-sized semi trailer with a dozen showers powered by propane) we waited what seemed like an eternity for dinner to start (it started at 5pm). TransRockies did a great job to give us lots of healthy snacks and drinks while we waited though, and if you were game, there was all of the Micholob Ultra that you could consume.
|Start of Stage 4, the lake at Camp Hale|
|Sue at start of Stage 4, Camp Hale to Red Cliff|
Sue and I went into the event thinking we would just run our own race, and honestly that's what we did (except for the end of Stage 3 where we over-took the French ladies in the last 2 miles of the day's 23 mile-course. That was a race!). I felt like I ran at red-line several days, and we avoided major injury (we both had injuries, it's just a matter of dealing with them appropriately so as not to make them worse). We had daily massages each afternoon which helped us immensely to recover. We were fed delicious, nutritious food every morning and every evening. We even had ice cream one night for desert! Watching the slide shows and videos in the evenings was one of my favorite parts of the event. Every night, we sat by friends and would "Ooh" and "Aah" at the scenes of the day: "There you are!" and "There I am!" each night. It was a fabulous way to end each evening.
|Finish of Stage 4, start of Stage 5, Red Cliff|
Being on the winners' podium each night was an unexpected surprise. I knew I was a strong runner, but I didn't know that I was a strong, good runner. The winning team was a pair of ladies who were officers in the French military, Valerie and Marielle. Each morning we would greet each other at the start line and wish each other good luck (the hugs got more numerous as the days went on). And each evening, we would congratulate each other in camp and on the podium. If we passed each other during the race, we would give each other thumbs-up and encouragement, telling each other "good job" and "magnifique". It was really amazing to be battling it out with two women who were so gracious. I would have loved to just run with them all day too.
It's not to say that I didn't have some difficulties along the way. After our strong finishes winning Stages 2 and 3, I pulled a groin muscle on Stage 4 running down into Red Cliff. Massage that night hurt like hell, and I was really afraid of what day 5 would bring. I had a really tough start to the day on Stage 5, and found myself, although dressed in the overall leader's jersey, falling far off the pace. I got really frustrated with the 8-mile climb on the dirt road. The more frustrated I got with myself and my hurt leg, the slower I got. Then I saw a smiling face bouncing down the road ~ it was Adam from the pre-race shuttle! Karmen had sent him back down the route to pick me up and pace me back up to Sue (a good mile ahead of me by now... ) and that is exactly what I did. I couldn't talk, and my breathing was so labored that I'm sure some of the other racers thought I was going to have a seizure and pass out. They cheered me on anyway, "Go get 'em, Missy! You can do it!" They believed in me, and I started to believe in myself. By the time we got to the first aid station, I had caught up to Sue, and Adam had re-joined Karmen. I really couldn't have gotten there without the help of Adam. Sue and I reached the top of Vail Mountain, and I found myself rejuvenated and running strong at 11,000 ft elevation. We pounded down to the finish and found ourselves only 5 minutes behind the French ladies for the day.
|Atop Vail Mountain, the Back Bowls, Stage 5|
Our stages went back and forth like that with the French ladies. Although we won three stages, we only got to wear the leaders' jerseys for one day (Stage 5). There were days that our teams were only separated by two and a half minutes for the overall time. By the end, we finished 19 minutes behind the French ladies for all six days and 120 miles. The third-place team was almost three hours behind us, and the fourth place team was three and a half hours behind. At the final dinner party at Beaver Creek, surrounded by about 300 of our newest, closest friends, we got up on the winners' podium for the last time. The French ladies gave us their bottle of champagne from the finish line, another example of their gracious generosity, and congratulated us on giving them a good race.
|Missy's got her groove back, |
Stage 5 on Vail Mountain, 11,000 ft
|Finish line of Stage 5 ~ Vail Resort|
On the week:
Stage 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge: 20.8 miles, 4 hr 14 min, 2,400ft gain: 2nd place finish
Stage 2: Vicksburg (over Hope Pass) to Twin Lakes: 13.23mi, 3 hr 16 min, 3,110ft: 1st place finish
Stage 3: Leadville to Nova Guides, Camp Hale: 24.23mi, 4 hr 53 min, 2,550 ft gain: 1st place finish
Stage 4: Camp Hale to Red Cliff: 14.03mi, 3hrs 1 min, 2,746 ft gain: 1st place, attained leaders' jerseys
Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail Resort: 23.9mi, 5hr 14min, 4,200ft gain: 2nd place finish, lost leaders' jerseys
Stage 6: Vail Resort to Beaver Creek Resort: 23.1mi, 5hr 22min, 5,150ft gain, 2nd place, 2nd overall
Total: ~123 miles, 26hr 3min, ~20,500 ft vertical gain
|Final podium at Beaver Creek ~ (l to r): |
3rd place Cathy and Verna "MAD",
1st place Marielle and Valerie "Resilience",
2nd place Missy and Sue "Titanium"
(and Cynthia from Gore-Tex cheers us on)