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Rocky Mountain High: GearJunkie Writer Commits to 120-Mile Race

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Well, it’s final; I just might be nuts. After a couple months of training, I have finalized my plans to compete in the GORETEX TransRockies Run, August 14 – 19, in Colorado.

The six-day stage race from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek covers 120 miles and about 20,000 vertical feet, much of it above 10,000 feet in elevation. Did I mention that I’ve never even run a marathon? Yeah, I just might be crazy, but I am also psyched!

Team of two takes on the GORETEX TransRockies Run

In the realm of ultra-endurance racing the TransRockies is unique. Compared to most ultra-marathons like the Leadville 100, in which competitors crank out 100 miles in a single, torturous push, the TransRockies event breaks it up into (somewhat) manageable chunks.

To start things off, stage No. 1 begins in Buena Vista and covers about 20 miles with 2,550 feet of elevation gain. The next day, runners follow with 13.3 miles and 3,250 feet of elevation gain; then on day three, 24.2 miles and 2,800 feet of elevation gain; then 14.1 miles (2,900 feet of gain); next is 23.6 miles (4,200 feet); and, finally, stage No.6 saves the best climbing for last, from Vail to Beaver Creek, with 23.4 miles of distance and a lung-burning 5,100 feet of gain.

Rough Rocky Mountain terrain causes some runners to bring trekking poles

The good news? A support team will transport most of our gear from camp to camp each night. Breakfast and dinner are served every day of the race and support stations are arranged along the course.

I was first approached about doing this race in March and have been steadily training since. I’m in good condition already. No, I won’t be carrying a heavy pack and I won’t be grinding out one huge run in a single blast. But with short stages (in the ultra context, at least) I expect the pace to be rather brisk.

Jason Wolfe and Mike Smith, who won last year’s men’s open division, finished in 14 hours, 57 minutes and 23 seconds — total time for the whole race. That’s about a 7.5 minute-per-mile pace. Fast!

Runners balance speed with pace over long days on mountain trails

My partner for the event, Steven “Leon” Lutz of BackcountryEdge, and I plan to go as fast as we can. That pace is yet to be determined. But having recently spent a few days in the Utah Canyonlands with Leon, I expect some serious effort and serious speed.

We plan to travel light and fast for this event. For the next three months I will be reviewing shoes, apparel and gear as I train my body for the race.

Stay tuned. I invite you to join me on this journey as I train, gear up, and in August make it to the starting line of the TransRockies Run to begin what I expect to be a pretty epic adventure.

—Sean McCoy is a contributing writer. The TransRockies Run is open only to teams of two. Organizers said that registration for the team event is still open with a few slots still remaining as of mid-May. A three-day solo event through the first three stages has already filled up, although a waiting list is available if you’re itching to run across the Rockies alone.

Sock on runner during last year’s arduous TransRockies event

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