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Race Report: TransRockies Run – 6 Days, 120 Miles, 20,000 Feet of Gain by nbrwebjohn
September 5, 2015, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Inspiration, Marathon, Members, Pain, Races, Ultrarunning

There is something refreshing to taking on a physically challenging adventure. You all know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s your first 5K, training deeply for a marathon PR, or perfecting your dizzy bat skills… The first thing that sticks out in my mind as being the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done was a 5-day mountain trek to Macchu Picchu a few months out of college (the Salkantay route, for any of you wondering) and the next was my NYC Marathon effort in 2011. So, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a good and tough physical endeavor to work through.

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I’d spied ads for the TransRockies Run over the past few years in running and outdoor magazines: 6 Days, 120 Miles, 20,000 Feet of Elevation Gain. My initial reaction was “woah, crazy,” immediately proceeded by “…I’m listening.” Somehow, it follows for me that the more crazy and extreme something seems, the more interested I am in it, or at least, the more the idea clings to me (ahem, NBR), so it’s not unsurprising that this might be my entry point into trail racing. And I’ve been curious about stage racing, and TRR is the perfect entry point. It’s fully supported (they set up your tents, provide breakfast and dinner and fully stocked aid stations during and after the race, and schlep all your gear), so you’re only responsible for carrying a few required items (hat, gloves, etc.) and water and nutrition enough to get you to each aid station. Most stage races require you to carry your own gear, so you’re running with a 15-pound bag every day— ask our own Zandy Mangold what this is like. Towards the end of 2014, knowing many new changes were forthcoming in my life, I thought “this is the year.” And one TRR presentation at Finish Line with an unexpected raffle prize win later, I found myself (with Misha eagerly in tow) for the 6 day, 120 mile event.

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August 11-13: Stages One, Two, and Three

Misha and I were excited, nervous, and full of energy— much like the other 400 or so runners. We met some people in the corrals, had perfect weather, and were raring to go. The first day was a tough, warm, dusty 21 miles, but it was fun, scenic, and a good kick-off. But, the next couple of days got progressively more difficult. Stage 2 was a grueling 13+ mile run starting with a big, steep climb up the Continental Divide Trail and up through Hope Pass. I wasn’t feeling well and had to pullover to just stand there when the single-track opened up as people marched by and I was slow, slow. Once over the pass, we were greeted with a steep, forested descent that coincided with whatever was ailing me disappearing, so I gleefully bombed down the rocky, tree-rooty hills, passing dozens of people descending with more trepidation, and I just enjoyed the ride. A good thing too, because by the time the path bottomed out and the now rolling course wended its way around the Twin Lakes Reservoir I felt terrible again. So with a sturdy combination of running, jogging, walking, and grit, I made it to the end of that day at last.

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Stage 3 was my darkest day. 24.5 miles starting in Leadville and running through the San Isabel Forest— should have been great. But, there are no photos, I did not enjoy myself, and I lost my mental fight. I still felt physically ill, my digestion not working with me for the third day in a row, and while the first 7 or 8 miles were okay, after a creek crossing left my feet sodden, and the pain in my lower back and quads peaking after the previous day’s beating, I lost my will to continue. Primarily walking the 7 miles to the next aid station, I tried to enjoy this nice walk through the woods, but mostly I contemplated… everything. Did I want to drop out of this stage? And how would I feel if I didn’t complete it? Did I want to even do the next three days? What was I trying to prove, what did I want to achieve? Could I trick or otherwise motivate myself into getting through the rest of the day?

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To the credit of all of the mid- and back-of-the-packers that day, many of my fellow runners paused when they saw me walking slowly with my head down, asked if I needed anything, if I was ok, offering me salt and gels, and general words of encouragement. I wanted to be able, if only for them, to continue, not to let them down. But I couldn’t escape my own mental trap. I spoke to the medics at the next aid station, a bit incoherently (so, either I’d just been in my head too long, or something actually was not alright with me, I’m still not sure) and they laid out the options: they could give me a ride to the next (and last) checkpoint or to the finish. Though I was tempted to walk the rest, I didn’t think a 10-mile walk was going to fix me. So, I took a ride to the finish, thinking that if I could use the extra time to chill out, get my head in the right place, and take some pressure off, maybe I could redeem myself in the days to come. And I got to see Misha cross the finish line (turns out he had a terrible day on the course as well), I got a massage to work out my lower back, and foam rolled my trashed quads nearly to tears.

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In retrospect, it’s easy for me to think that I should have handled that day differently. Maybe if I just camped out at the aid station for a bit I might have shaken off the darkness enough to get through the rest— I’d already done more than half the course, and had plenty of time to make the cutoffs. But, I made the decision I had to at the time, and encouraged and supported by some of my new friends on the trail, I was able to feel good about it.

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August 14-16: Stages Four, Five, and Six

And just as well, because by the morning I felt RIGHT AS RAIN and the next few days were fun. I started Stage 4 with a different outlook and approach. I changed my breakfast to something more similar to what I might eat at home (though at home I often run first thing on an empty stomach, I didn’t think that would be a great idea for 4-6 hour running days). I reminded myself I was doing this to have fun, enjoy the scenery, and challenge myself. But I didn’t need to win. I’d done more running and hiking in 3 days than I do in 2-3 weeks, so I was already proud of myself. With my body finally feeling almost normal, I decided against wearing my watch (only the time I was having mattered, not the timing), and I positioned myself towards the very back of the pack. As the run began, I took it really easy, talked to people, and I did pass many along the way, but at my own pace. I found some clusters of runners with a similar pace and ran with them at different points, gaining a lot just from being near them— observing their efforts, their form, gleaning what I could from their experience and attitudes— crushing hard on a team of two ladies in their fifties who were just killing it every day (I did tell them they were my heroes). Stage 4 was a shorter day at 14.5 miles, with a 1 mile jaunt through a creek not too far from the finish. I ran the last handful of miles that day with a new friend from the UK and we chatted happily as we navigated a descent down a rocky jeep road and treaded carefully through the creek, not minding as people slosh-ran past us. We finished strong together, and with smiles, too!

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Stage 5 was a long day, 24 miles up yet another mountain. But the views from Vail Mountain were beautiful, meadows full of wildflowers, mountains and green in every direction. I felt great and power-hiked like a champ on the long ascents. I stopped at the aid station near the summit,  had my picture taken, and ate a few salty chips and copious amounts of watermelon (I even yelled to anyone who would listen “THIS IS THE BEST WATERMELON OF THE WEEK!” . After the pain of Tuesday’s speedy descent, I approached all long or steep downhills with a bit more caution. There’s this feeling that when you’re going downhill you’re not expending any energy because gravity is working with you (if you let it), but, bombing down the hills, especially when technical, does take a lot out of you, and I wanted to save a little something in the tank for later. This seemed to work for me as I was able to take the last half to quarter of a mile at a speed I hadn’t run all week, crossing the finish line with a happy leap.

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Stage 6 came and I was definitely tired and we had another long day going— 23 miles, but I was still feeling healthy and strong, and grateful this was the only day we were faced with any notable humidity. There was a lot of magic scenery that day— tropical feeling aspen forests, dead pine forests, 5-foot tall grass and thistle fields that nearly covered the trail, and narrow, narrow single-track much of the way. But Misha and I agreed that one of our favorite parts was where we ran a few miles through and around a town— roads! While we’ve been training primarily on trails the past six months, roads are still very much in our blood and rolling hills through town were the perfect “rest” opportunity from a gentle running perspective, and I took full advantage. We were greeted at the end of the road portion by the final aid station where they were playing Prince and offering popsicles, making this the best aid station ever, and as I trudged up the 1600ft hill that made up most of the final 4 miles, I was so glad to be nearly done, especially now the humidity and heat got all mixed up. At the peak, a course marshal greeted us and said the rest of the 1.5 miles were downhill. That’s all I needed to hear. I took off and found some extra gears I didn’t know it was possible to have left at that point, and cruised down into Beaver Creek, slapping the waiting high-fives of kids in the final stretch, crossing the line, and feeling so grateful to the strength of my body, my legs, my lungs, and my mind for getting through this epic week.

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Lessons Learned

All the great things you hear about trail running and trail racing are true— great community spirit, yummy food at aid stations, and amazing support from other runners. There’s a lot of walking and hiking and taking a solid break at the aid station. And you wouldn’t think so, but unless you are running with a partner (many people compete in teams of two), there are many times you are just all alone. There are moments when this is a bit disconcerting, and you start to wonder if you missed a turn or what, but eventually someone catches up to you, or you hit the next aid station and the rank and file changes again.

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Stage 3 It made me realize why people might choose to do this as a team. You can help keep each other out of those deep mind bogs, or at least you have another person to be accountable to. The days that I talked to people and didn’t go all introspective were my best days— you kill some miles talking about what it’s like to run in other states, countries, what adventures you’ve been on, and how they came to be here. But that dark day also taught me a lot about myself— I did what I had to do to continue in the big picture, and if I’d decided to drop out of the rest of the week, I wouldn’t have known how much fun I could have— that I could feel good and be happy at the end of Stage 6 (and not only because it was over!).

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There was also much to be learned about what it’s like to run when tired. Really physically tired. It’s a thing that’s pretty challenging to make yourself do in training, but running really long and on really sore legs everyday is hard. But! It is doable. Granted, it helps when your meals are made for you and your only responsibilities are eating and sleeping, but still, it’s possible. There are people who hiked this whole thing, people who missed turns, and people who fell hard and got back up again.

Should you think you’d like to tackle the 3- or 6-day run next year, know that 2016 marks TransRockies’ 10th Anniversary, and there was much talk about some exciting extras and features — live music at every stage, a big dance after party with an 80’s cover band, etc. and it is expected to sell out quickly. I doubt you’ll find me there, but I’ll be rooting for you!

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There’s a lot more I could say about training, packing and preparing, camping every night, the food, the people, and the recovery, but I think this is enough for now. That being said, if you are interested in learning more about our experience or seeking some additional insights, I’d be super happy to chat with you. Drop me a line: aja@northbrooklynrunners.org

Aja’s TRR Photos on Flickr

TransRockies Run – 2015 Routes & Maps

-Aja Marsh

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NBR at Burning Man! by northbrooklynrunners
September 17, 2012, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Members, Ultrarunning | Tags: , ,

North Brooklyn in Black Rock City? Yep. As the RD of the ultramarathon at Burning Man, I’ve been excited to have a crew of NBR folks representing. Last year, we had five NBR members start the ultra (Johnny Max, Peter Menderson, John Budge, Wayne Pacileo, and me). This year, we had Wayne and I, plus Johnny Max did a lap, and Stephen Neary (new to NBR) ran his first ultra, and another guy from Greenpoint ran too! Full race results here!

Burning Man is week-long festival in the desert with music, art, costumes, radical self-expression, and a lot of thinking, experimenting, falling in love, dancing, having fun, good drinks, and lots more. Tickets tend to go on sale in January for this amazing event – if you are interested, contact Cherie or check out the Burning Man website.Image



Before the start of the Burning Man 50k! by northbrooklynrunners
September 17, 2012, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Inspiration, Ultrarunning

Before the start of the Burning Man 50k!



Coming Sept. 14th: In It For The Long Haul – Long Run Workshop by northbrooklynrunners
September 8, 2011, 10:00 am
Filed under: Events, Inspiration, Members, NBR Goings On, Ultrarunning, Workouts

In It For the Long Haul…How to Survive the Long Run (Without Going Crazy)
When: Wednesday, September 14 · 8:30pm – 10:00pm
Where: Ken Allen Studios – 50 South 1st St (b/t Kent & Wythe) – Brooklyn, NY 11211
More Info

The long run. It’s the worst (and sometimes the best) part about training for a marathon. The first time I did an 18 miler, I couldn’t get out of bed and was too exhausted to eat. Let’s share our tips and ideas on how to make long runs beyond bearable…even FUN! Novice and experienced runners are encouraged to come – with their own training tips, questions.

Thanks to Ken for hosting this meeting. Please bring drink/food to share if you can.

– Cherie



Ultrarunning Resources by northbrooklynrunners
April 12, 2011, 2:25 pm
Filed under: Ultrarunning | Tags: , , ,

Here are some ultrarunning resources from our recent ultrarunning workshop:

 

UltraRunning

The mag

www.ultrarunning.com

UltraRunning Calendar

Pick your next ultra!

http://www.ultrarunning.com/ultra/calendar/index.shtml

Run 100s

Stan Jensen’s fantastic ultra resource, primarily geared towards 100 milers. Includes links to all U.S. 100s, blogs, articles, etc.

http://run100s.com/

Ultra Sign Up

Links to various ultras, race results, athlete profiles

http://ultrasignup.com/default.aspx

UltraRunner.Net

More links to races

http://www.ultrarunner.net/race_listings.html

Real Endurance Calendar

Select races by distance or geography

http://realendurance.com/index.php?Calendar

Real Endurance Compare Tool

http://realendurance.com/index.php?compare

Compare the difficulties of various ultras

Trail and Ultra Races Close to NY

Updated constantly by my friend Chris

http://www.essexrunning.com/trails

Trail Runner Race Calendar

Calendar of various trail races

http://www.trailrunnermag.com/racecalendar.php

Coach Weber’s Ultra Calendar

http://www.coachweber.com/ultracalendar.htm

New York Ultrarunning

Great NY-specific races & resources

http://www.newyorkultrarunning.org/Racecalendar.htm

Multiday and Ultramarathon Race Calendars

Multidays, ultras, adventure races

http://multidays.com/the-multiday-and-ultra-marathon-calendars/

Pacific Coast Trail Runs

Various great trail races up and down the Pacific Coast trails.

http://www.pctrailruns.com/

Ultra Training Schedule

Develop a training plan for a 50k or 50 miler

http://www.scrunners.org/ultrasch.php

Kevin Sayers UltRunr Site

Great site, full of tons of resources on ultras

http://www.ultrunr.com/

Endurance Planet

Great podcasts; focuses on endurance sports inc. cycling, running, ironman

http://www.enduranceplanet.com/

100 Mile Training Schedule

A training plan for 100 miler newbies just wanting to finish their first hundred!

http://www.trailrunevents.com/ul/schedule-100m.asp

How to Train for Your First 100 (Umstead)

http://www.umstead100.org/First%20100.doc

 

 

–Cherie



The Burning Man 50K! by northbrooklynrunners
September 16, 2010, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Inspiration, Ultrarunning

Well we may have all thought she was crazy, but can’t knock her vision…

Our own Cherie Yanek, resident ultramathoner, planned and executed the first-ever Burning Man 50K a few weeks ago out at that big event in the Nevada desert. They had over 35 runners and earned some press, to boot!

Read Cherie’s full race report here: World of Cherie

And check out the event’s press coverage on wired.com and ultrarunning.com.

Way to go, Cherie, your enthusiasm for running is awe-inspiring!



For the Beauty of It All by northbrooklynrunners
May 3, 2010, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Inspiration, Races, Ultrarunning | Tags: , ,

I do races because they’re pretty. They might be tough, but I do them for the beauty. I ran the extremely hilly Miwok 100k in the glorious Marin Headlands on May 1st. Pain is temporary, but beautiful photographs (and pride) lasts forever.

–Cherie