A passion for trail running, ultras, mountaineering, snowshoeing, hiking, and other outdoor adventures

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Breathless Rockies: Mountains RATS race report

As posted to my Yahoo group on August 4th (never did get around to writing the longer report)....

This is a not so short little recap before I prepare a more> organized report for my blog and post the pictures. Will give a> shout when that happens. And hopefully Brice can chime in with his> own take on things! You can see the final results, and some of the> racers' daily posts, at> http://www.geminiadventures.com/new/?page_id=374> <http://www.geminiadventures.com/new/?page_id=374>>> With me and stage races, I think it was love at first sight! Such> a cool format, combining friendly competition with camaraderie and> lots of emotional support. Really like a series of organized fun> runs, with some widely scattered checkpoints and unmanned water> spots. Time to hang out at camp each day and swap stories and get> to know each other (there were 11 runners here, and almost that> many race officials/organizers!).>> The Colorado high country was always between beautiful and> spectacular, especially the three passes above 12,000 feet that we> crossed on Thursday and then yesterday. About 70% of the time we> were on the Colorado Trail (which at times is shared with the> Continental Divide Trail or other local trails). Maybe 25% of the> time on jeep/fire roads, and 10 miles of pavement on a bike path> to get between trails. We covered approx. 85 miles over 4 days in> daily stages of (approx!) 17, 17.6, 27.4, and 20 miles. All within> the range of about 9,000 and 12,500 or so feet, so these weren't> just "any miles!" We were probably averaging 3,000-3,500 vertical> feet or so of climbing per day though I haven't checked GPS stats> yet (gasp for us flatlanders!), with fairly equal amounts of> descending.>> Oh yeah, and did I mention we had to carry ALL our food and> apparel, any personal items, and a list of required survival gear> (checked at each checkpoint where they would ask to see some> different item), plus copious amounts of water they re-supplied> 2-3 times a day? My pack may have started in the 25-30 pound range> (can you say sore shoulders?!), and gotten down closer to 15 or so> by the last day (but who's counting!). They provided (and set up)> the tents and hot and cold water and a little "mess" area and> washing station. That's it!>> The "mostly self-supported aspect" (which is like some stage races> but unlike some others, like the Desert RATS put on by these same> folks) meant not only "you want it, you carry it for 4 days." It> also meant being at fairly primitive campsites, not being able to> accept any outside assistance (eg no running into town for> supplies during a race, or accepting water from a wandering ATVer> as we were offered once :-), no trips to town at night to buy> beer...and knowing at the campsite just across the way the race> officials were gorging on "real food" as we downed our> freeze-dried camping meals and other fare that would travel well> and light! But you know what, somehow it sort of added to the raw,> barebones "it's all about the running" aspect of the event.>> What was cool about it? The sense of being in your own little> group running cocoon for 4 days, with no contact with outside> world, no distractions. It's really trail running life at its most> simple....get up, load up on calories, pack up the pack, hit the> trail, find a place to minimally wash up after (like maybe a> stream), eat and drink as much as you can to recover, share some> camp stories, and hit the tents and thermarests for the nights.> Get up, and do it again the next day!>> Other cool aspects.....The deep nature. The views. The camaraderie> of a great group of folks, and some incredible runners, from> Colorado, California, Virginia, and even CT and NYC!>> Personal high and lowlights:>> * Pushing it too much the first day (with no acclimatization) for> about eight miles of almost constant uphill, and then having a bit> of a solo sufferfest for the last 12 miles as I dropped back.>> * Getting some energy and zest back once I reached the first pass> on day two, took in the incredible views on a sunny day, and> enjoyed the ridgeline running and beautiful descent through a pine> forest.>> * Then on days three and four, I enjoyed the company of Miles who> went out with me and Brice, as I felt stronger and more acclimated> and he fell back from his two strong days and dealt with blister> and breathing issues. So it was two days solo, two days of tandem> running with lots of mutual support for me.>> * The views up around and from the two passes we went over> consecutively yesterday, and then the wonderful eight-mile almost> uninterrupted gradual descent through mountain meadows, across> streams, through evergreen forest, and with tons of wildflowers> all along the way.>> * Oh yeah, and there was this little encounter on Saturday, via> ungraceful face plant, as I discovered that railroad track is> harder than (believe it or not) human cheek and jaw, shoulder, or> knee...Suffice it to say, my first call this morning was to a> dentist, and there were a few short initial hours of thinking as I> covered the remaining 21 miles that day that maybe I'd need to ask> to go to an ER for an x-ray of cheek/jaw and/or shoulder. I'm> lucky the impact seemed to be spread over those three body parts> on two sides. So no fractures, and just need to check out the> dental damage. Lesson: Don't watch the runner in front of you pose> for the camera of the event photographer, and start thinking of> what pose you will strike or clever line you'll use....while> crossing 4 inch high railroad tracks. But still, I was having a> great day physically, and it continued after that, so you get up,> dust yourself off (with the aid of other runners), and get back at it!>> One fall over 28 hours of mountain trail running across 4> days...my luck it was on railroad tracks! :-)>> All in all? Stage races rule! A whole new world of experiencing> trails and ultras beckons! Bring on some more!>> Cheers, Scott

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