Blasting rock and roll music, a huge cheer a countdown and the shout “go!” gave way to the sound of a 400 pairs of feet grinding over gravel. Within minutes of the start of the TransRockies Run, athletes were in their own worlds, stomping up narrow single track, along jeep trails and over rolling hills.
On Day one, 400 runners left Buena Vista, Colorado, mostly as strangers on a long, tough communal journey. By the time day three of the 6-day ultra run rolled around, friendships had begun to form and crystalize among athletes who share a passion for a strange and twisted sport. Sometimes called a summer camp for adults, the TransRockies Run pits runners against one another on a spectacular course across 120 miles of the Rocky Mountains from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, Colorado, over six days. They run each day, then live, rest and recover in a communal campground.
Runners can compete in teams of two or as individuals and complete either half the event in three days or the full race in six. I ran the 6-day event in 2012 with my friend Leon. In 2013, we both decided to run the 3-day solo event. I finished second in the open men’s division in 2013.
For trail runners, this is a one of a kind experience. Fully catered and supported, runners have little to worry about other than getting to the starting line and home from the finish. Oh, and running 120 miles across the Rocky Mountains. Let’s not forget that tiny little detail
Two solid meals a day (with vegetarian and gluten free options available) and well-stocked aid stations, a tent city, showers and medical staff, are at runners’ disposal. A great crew of professionals and volunteers makes the traveling tent city a reality waiting for runners after each stage of running.
The daily schedule of the TransRockies is straightforward. Wake each morning around 5:30 a.m., eat breakfast in a large communal tent or gymnasium, get to the starting line (either a short walk or provided shuttle ride away) and begin running around 9 a.m. Depending on the runner, the stage should be over somewhere between two to six hours later, although generous cutoff times allow for some pretty late finishes on the longer stages. After finishing, runners grab their bags, pick one of the hundreds of identical two-man tents for the night and quickly set up camp. The rest of the day is spent in recovery, eating, drinking and getting to know their fellow runners.
Trails are well marked and cross some spectacular scenery. Highlights include the 12,000-foot Hope Pass, Vail Mountain and Camp Hale. About a third of the race is on single-track trails, with most of the remainder on rugged double track jeep roads. The TransRockies Run allows for a unique sporting experience, at least among North American athletes. With days and nights spent together, many runners form long-lasting friendships and build already existing relationships even stronger. Many husband and wife teams run together with success. In 2013, a couple got engaged on the top of hope pass.
Prices range from about $800 for the early bird registration 3-day race to $1500 for the 6-day full price registration. Those prices include food, lodging and racing for the duration of the event. While cutoff times are generous, this is not a race for beginning runners and requires basically six back-to-back marathon efforts to complete the six-day event. Considerable training is advised and trail running experience is quite helpful. For those considering the TransRockies Run, much more information is available at the event website. With the eighth year coming up, runners have a well organized, consistent and beautiful race to explore in 2014.