Friday, 21 August 2015

In Memory of the Black Shorts - The TransRockies Run 2015

"Highway To Hell"

Livin' easy
Lovin' free
Season ticket on a one way ride
Askin' nothin'
Leave me be
Takin' everythin' in my stride
Don't need reason
Don't need rhyme
Ain't nothin' that I'd rather do
Goin' down
Party time
My friends are gonna be there too

I'm on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I'm on the highway to hell

No stop signs
Speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down
Like a wheel
Gonna spin it
Nobody's gonna mess me around
Hey, Satan
Payin' my dues
Playin' in a rockin' band
Hey, mamma
Look at me
I'm on the way to the promised land

I'm on the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I'm on the highway to hell
Highway to hell

Don't stop me

I'm on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
I'm on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell

(highway to hell) I'm on the highway to hell
(highway to hell) highway to hell
(highway to hell) highway to hell
(highway to hell)

And I'm goin' down
All the way
I'm on the highway to hell

These words – or at least the opening lines and chorus – will stay in my memory for a long time to come, and I’m certain that every time I hear them, they will conjure up a whole range of feelings and emotions that I felt throughout the TransRockies Run – excitement, anticipation, despair, joy, happiness, sadness, worry, concern, anxiety, relief, pain, confidence, fear – you name it, they were there.

What can I say about this awesome event? There really aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice, and even simple words such as fantastic and amazing just don’t seem enough to describe 6 days of trail running in the back country of the Colorado Rockies. Every day you are running and camping at higher altitudes, making new friends both on the trails and in camp, and sharing your stories and innermost feelings whilst drinking beer in “The Pit” or whilst during dinner in the communal dining room.

There really is nothing bad that I can say about this event - given the number of runners and bearing in mind that all food and accommodation is provided, I was seriously impressed by the slick organisation and how well the team worked together. Everybody was always smiling and extremely courteous and helpful, which is fantastic, and the daily routes that we had to run were in hindsight, completely outstanding.

Those of you that still follow my blog regularly will know that the TransRockies Run was one of my A races this year. I wanted to be competitive and go there in the best possible shape to give myself every opportunity of having one of my best races ever. I was never under any illusions that I would win the event or even make the top 3, but I did go there with a 3 stage plan: 1 – to finish safely, uninjured and in one piece, 2 – to make the top 10 women overall, and 3 – to make the top 5 overall – anything better than that would mean that I was far fitter and much stronger than I thought, and would simply be out of this world!

The good news is that I achieved my optimum goal – I did finish 5th lady overall in a combined time of 22 hours, 22 minutes and 1 second after 6 days of racing 120 miles and around 20,000 ft of ascent. Some days I felt like I was flying along those trails, other days I felt exhausted and really had to dig deep, and achieving that final 5th place was no walk in the park. It took a great deal of effort and a hard fought battle which came down to the final day in the end, where I really did have to put aside my fears and anxieties from stage 5 when I seriously thought I may have to drop out due to the physical effects of being at altitude.

I battled so many things physically, mentally and emotionally, and it is difficult to express all of those things in just one short summary of the entire time we spent in Colorado and to make sense of them if I didn’t explain the entire journey from start to finish. Therefore, I have done a stage by stage account of the race which will hopefully better describe the journey from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek. I’m not the world’s best writer - I’m not really very creative and I’m sure that many people will find things somewhat boring and irrelevant, but if nothing else, this will allow ME to look back at the adventure in a few years time and to relive all those feelings and memories once again. Should anybody be interested, you are of course more than welcome to join me on my trip back in time to the TransRockies Run (TRR) 2015, and I hope that you enjoy things as much as I did.

Earlier this year, Andy started a new job in Phoenix, Arizona, and so I’d spent the 3 months leading up the TRR alone in Calgary, with just Wilson, Brandy and Khayman for company. I’d been working for a short time as an admin officer with the local community association, and whilst it was a customer facing roll, very few people called in to the office and I found that I wasn’t having very much contact with anybody during this time. In a way this made things better as I was able to just focus on my training without having to socialise with other people, but it was also difficult as I had nobody to share my excitement with and nobody to plan our trip with and ask advice.

With just a couple of weeks to go before we were due in Buena Vista, we still hadn’t decided whether we would be flying in to Denver and hiring a camper van, or whether we were to drive there which meant we would be able to take our dogs with us. The extortionate cost of hiring an RV, the lack of available hotels in Buena Vista, and the fact that Wilson and Brandy hadn’t had a vacation this year made the decision for us – we hired a truck and opted for a 20 hour drive which would take us through Montana, Wyoming and eventually Colorado, where we hoped to arrive a couple of days prior to the start of the race in order to acclimatise to the altitude (Buena Vista stands at a little over 8,000 ft).

The drive south was simply amazing. We were blessed with beautiful, clear blue skies giving us the most wonderful views of endless farmland and distant mountains as we drove through Montana, before entering Wyoming where we encountered rolling hills and yet more farmland which gradually turned to mountains as we neared the Bighorn Mountain Range. We were surprised at how few towns there were on route, how few cars and people, with just open space for miles and miles and miles as we drove for 2 days, staying in motels overnight.

Entering Colorado came as a bit of a shock. We’d become accustomed to quiet roads and tiny hamlets, but as soon as we crossed the state border, we noticed an increase in traffic and more built up communities. I guess it wasn’t surprising as we were so close to Denver and no doubt we got caught up in some of the city traffic, but first impressions were a little disappointing and it wasn’t the Colorado I had imagined. Thankfully, we skirted around Denver and it soon disappeared into the distance as the road started to climb, and that vast open space with barely any evidence of human impact reappeared.

Due to the lack of available hotels near to the start, we had opted to spend the first couple of nights camping at the Kamp of America Campground in Buena Vista. We arrived around tea time and once the tent was up, we got the campfire going and had a hearty meal. It was the most beautiful evening as the skies remained clear, and as they gradually turned to a midnight blue as night time set in, we were treated to a sky full of millions of stars and endless meteors shooting across the evening sky.

Camping at Buena Vista
I slept like a log that first night, but the heat of the morning sun meant I awoke early on the Monday morning, so I decided to hit the trails with Wilson and Brandy for a shakeout run. It was hard work. My legs felt a little heavy and I put that down to the long journey, but my breathing was terrible and I felt breathless just walking quickly up a few of the short, steep hills. I suspected that this was my lungs just adjusting to the lower levels of oxygen and it helped in someway to prepare me for what I could expect to feel like once racing commenced the following day.

Package Pickup in Buena Vista
Monday was race package pickup day and also the opening ceremony, and that’s when the nerves started to kick in. The weather was beautiful and I managed to run a short section of the hot and dusty route for Stage 1 prior to things starting.  However, come 7pm when we were just wrapping up the introductions at the opening ceremony, the wind picked up and shortly afterwards, the intense thunder and lightning started, the hail started to fall followed by torrential rain for a good half an hour.

Transrockies Competitors - 3 day and 6 day solo and teams
As we headed back to the campground, we noticed several emergency vehicles that had been called out to deal with flash flooding as a result of the passing storm, and as we drove along the gravel road back towards out campsite, we came face to face with the reality of things. The road to the campground had been completely washed away and there was just a huge, deep trench in its place making the campground completely inaccessible. The electric supply to the campground had also been damaged as the waters had caused them to become dangerously exposed above ground, and we were told that we were unable to go back to our tents for the next couple of hours whilst they attempted to pile sand, earth and gravel from the nearby hills into the huge trench in order to rebuild the road as a temporary measure until things dried out.

In normal circumstances, it would have been somewhat exciting to encounter a drama such as this, but all my running kit – including race numbers and the huge kit bad they had provided for us – was in our tent, and I had an awful feeling that it had been washed away along with our tent which would really screw things up for tomorrow’s race.

We waited anxiously for a good few hours, and it wasn’t until around 11pm that the road was deemed safe enough to drive across. Thankfully despite being soggy wet, it came as a huge relief that our stuff was safe and all accounted for – I would still get to race tomorrow – and despite the ongoing flashes of lightning and deep rumbles of thunder, I went to bed happily excited about the following day.

STAGE 1 – BUENA VISTA – 20.8 miles, 2,500 ft Ascent
Overall Position at start of stage: -     Position on Day: 7th       Time: 3.30.20

I awoke on the Tuesday morning feeling nervous but excited. Today was the day the adventure really started, and although I had a little trouble eating breakfast due to a nervous tummy, I was raring to get going.

Being the first stage, I was a little unsure how to tackle the race. At almost 21 miles, it was a long one today, and with having to keep some energy in the tank for the rest of the week, I really didn’t want to burn myself out before I’d even started. I also didn’t yet know my competition – if I’m too cautious, the time difference could be immense and difficult to claw back, but if I go off too quick, any time advantage would be lost later on in the week as I would no doubt tire over the coming days.

I decided to be cautious on the first day – try to get to the front of the field but not go too crazy, and just assess the competition around me and make sure I kept them in my sights if possible.

As we arrived at the start line in Buena Vista, there was a buzz in the air and lots of excited chatter. The TRR can be done solo or in teams of 2, and with a 3 day option as well as a 6 day option, there were around 400 people on the start line that morning. As we were called to the start with 20 minutes to go, I found that I was at the front of the funnel – not really where I wanted to be, but with everybody else being somewhat reluctant to move forward, I decided to just go with the flow.

All set to go and getting excited but nervous!
As was to become the daily routine, with around 2 mins to the start, Highway to Hell by AC/DC blasted out of the speakers, and everybody was getting pumped for a great race. It was difficult not to get sucked into singing along with everybody else and whoop whooping as the countdown began, and then the gun sounded and the TRR 2015 started.

A police escort led us along the short stretch of pavement before we turned off over onto a sandy trail, crossing the bridge before following the gently climbing rocky, sandy trail alongside the Arkansis River. The sun was by now breaking through the early morning clouds and things were already starting to warm up as we all began the steady climb along the trail.

The trail wasn’t particularly steep, but within a couple of km, I found that I was having real trouble maintaining the comfortable pace I had set myself. I was already gasping for air and ended up slowing down and eventually walking  up the hills. I was a little frustrated at myself having to walk so early on – training the past couple of months in Canada had gone really well and I was finding running hills far more enjoyable – yet here I was, struggling just barely 1 or 2 miles into the event, with an endless stream of people passing me by.

Start of the trail on Stage 1
I gave myself a stern talking to – it was indeed early on in the race, and I told myself that maybe some of these people were caught up in the excitement and they would tire later on, allowing me to pass them in the closing miles. All I could do was stay focused and keep moving forward, hoping that eventually I would catch some of them again as the race progressed.

Although the sun had started to come out, some sections of the trail were still extremely wet and muddy from the heavy rains the previous day resulting in us having to scramble around some sections to avoid having soggy wet feet for the entire day. Where there wasn’t mud, we were faced with gravel, rocks and sand which made it hard work at times, and whilst it wasn’t exactly like running across a beach, there were some short stretches that did sap the energy where the sand had dried out from the rains and was much softer.

The trail really was lovely and varied with some parts reminding me of forests back home, and others of areas in Arizona when we visited there a few years ago. It climbed steadily for several miles until we reached the first checkpoint where I was sure to refuel on fluids and salty snacks to get me through the remainder of the run.

Shortly after checkpoint 1, the trail descended steeply. By now we were on ATV tracks so although it wasn’t technical, there were some steep sections which enabled me to really pick up the pace. I’m actually quite a good downhill runner, and after my poor start, I finally found myself overtaking lots of people on the descent. The only problem was that none of them were ladies, and at that point, I had absolutely no idea what position I was in.

I still wasn’t feeling as strong as I would have liked, but thankfully I was able to pick up the pace. After passing checkpoint 2 and grabbing a few more nibbles to keep up the energy levels, we ran through some amazing boulder scenery – single track trails that twisted and turned through an almost rocky desert landscape. I’d lost sight of all other runners by then, and with the endless trails spiralling off in to different directions, it was important to stay alert and pay attention to the flags guiding us around the route. The end of this section would bring us to a gravel road which we would then have to follow for around 3 miles to the finish, and as I approached the final feed station on this road, I finally saw some ladies ahead of me which prompted me to attempt to give chase.

That final stretch along a straight road was the toughest section of the day. We were all still getting used to the altitude, we had already ran 18 or so miles in pretty warm conditions, and now we had to contend with a long straight road that disappeared in to the distance, and yet the finish line couldn’t be seen and the road just seemed to go on forever.

By now I had resorted to trying to run for 500m and then walk 100m just to get me to the finish line. It became a cat and mouse game with some of the other runners around me – I would pass them, only for them to come shuffling past me a minute or so later. Some of us spoke encouragement to each other, others just glanced knowingly, but eventually the finish appeared to the greatest relief of all the runners around me.

I finished in 3 hours 30 mins which placed me 7thon stage 1. It wasn’t a bad performance and was certainly already within my goal of being top 10, but for some reason I felt disappointed. The top 3 ladies were way ahead of the rest of the field, but positions 4 through to 10 were a mere 7 or 8 minutes apart and I was frustrated to see that a lady from Blackpool had finished ahead of me – ok, it was only 30 seconds or so, but having done so much hill training in recent weeks and knowing how flat it is in Blackpool, I was certainly feeling somewhat annoyed at my sluggishness.

I tried not to dwell on things too much – after all, there were still 5 more days to go and anything could happen – so I put aside my disappointment and looked forward to the next day.

Arrowhead Campground in Buena Vista 
Following the race I caught the shuttle bus back to Buena Vista where Andy was waiting with the dogs. We were all staying at the Arrowhead Campground for the first night, and whilst I was taking advantage of the tents provided by the TRR Crew, Andy was spending the night in the tent with the dogs. It was pretty impressive how quickly they set up camp and it was certainly cosy with how close the tents were to each other, and yet the proximity to our neighbours really wasn't an issue and once again, despite being awoken by howling coyotes in nearby fields at one point, I closed my eyes that evening and fell into a blissful sleep pretty much straight away.

STAGE 2 – VICKSBURG TO TWIN LAKES – 13.3 miles, 3,200 ft Ascent
Overall Position at start of stage: 7th     Position on Day: 5th       Time: 2.56.55

This morning, we awoke early to a beautiful sunrise as we headed down the hill to breakfast. I was in great spirits and felt ready to run hard and claw back some time which would hopefully get me higher up the table.

Gorgeous breakfast sunrise in Buena Vista and start of day 2
Today's run started in Vicksburg, a 30 minute drive away from camp on narrow, gravel roads. They recommended that supporters didn't go to the start and so I said a somewhat emotional bye bye to Andy and the dogs and looked forward to next seeing them at the finish line at Twin Lakes.

On arrival at the start area, despite glorious blue skies and bright sunshine, we were sheltered by the trees and it was quite cool in the shade as we awaited the starting gun. There was even more excited chatter today and the conversation turned to altitude. Although today's course was only 13 miles or so, we would be climbing over 3,000 ft to the top of Hope Pass which stood at around 12,500 ft - the highest elevation we would face this week. Even I was nervous. Physically I was feeling fantastic despite yesterday's long run, but altitude sickness can catch you unawares and before we had even started, I was imagining that I had a headache coming, that my breathing was more elevated than it should be, that I had palpitations and was starting to feeling dizzy. In reality, I was feeling fine, but the next hour or two would be the real test as to how we would all cope.

After a couple of minutes running on road, we made a right turn and the climbing started straight away. I started off more steady today as I knew with the climb, the chances were that everybody would be walking most of the way up and I figured that I could perhaps overtake some of them if I could just keep the momentum going with a fast walk myself.

Snake of people climbing up Hope Pass
The climb started through trees with some steep switchbacks and as we headed up the trail, we ended up on single track which made it difficult to pass. There was a steady stream of people heading upwards, and only when we came out of the trees did we finally see how high the climb really went. The people ahead looked like army of ants, following in single file like an army marching up the mountainside, onwards and upwards. Those around me were huffing and puffing, hands on knees and pushing themselves up whilst other carried poles to make life easier to push upwards. I too was huffing and puffing, and yet I was still managing to overtake folks and was feeling surprisingly far better than the previous day.

After a good 90 mins or more, we finally summited Hope Pass, and the views from the top were simply amazing. Whilst I was today in race mode, it seemed such a shame to get here and not snap some photos of the splendid views - particularly as I may never come back here - and so the runners in our little group took pictures of eachother, cheering happily at the realisation that they had successfully made it up one of the toughest climbs this week.

Summit of Hope Pass - 12,500 ft!
Having climbed so high, it was pretty obvious that now we had to head back down, and with the downhill being described as "technical", I was very excited to get going. It didn't disappoint and I started to head down the other side, it was steep, it was rocky, it was slippy, it was narrow, and eventually it turned to twisting woodland trails where we had to negotiate hidden tree roots and tricky rocky stretches. I literally flew down the hills with no holding back, and got a thrill from jumping from side to side to avoid the obstacles that could easily result in a nasty fall if I didn't concentrate. I was absolutely loving it, I felt revived and was speeding up and in the process I was gaining ground on those ahead of me.

The checkpoint on the way down was lovely and some had dressed up as demons to mimic the "Highway to Hell" link to both the TRR and the Leadville 100, which also uses the route up to Hope Pass. The supplies for this aid station were brought in by horses and as I spotted them grazing in a small meadow on the way down along with their riders, I gave them a wave and a cheery thank you1

After quite considerable down, things flattened out and the trail starting to wind its way through trees alongside the lake.  I noticed at this point how heavy my legs had gone from pushing on the downhill, and although I was still feeling great, I knew that tomorrow my quads would be extremely sore thanks to my exuberant running on the downhill! 

It was now harder to run on the flatter and undulating sections, particularly as I now found myself running along for a while, but then I caught up a team and a couple of solo ladies which gave me that push that I needed to keep going. As I passed them, I recognised some ladies that were ahead of me in the current overall standings and prompted me to grit my teeth and keep pushing hard, trying to put as much space and time between me and them as possible. One of the ladies was from Montreal and I gave her a well done as I passed by. She was holding her side and said she was in pain, so I stopped momentarily to see if it was genuine pain or just a stitch in case she needed my help. Thankfully it turned out to be just a stitch so having double checked that she really WAS ok, I selfishly continued pushing onwards and left her behind to battle through on her own.

The final stretch was quite tough. We had been following a beautiful single track alongside the lake and with passing hikers, it was quite nice to have that little encouragement from them, and them telling you that it wasn't far to go. I knew that we finished on a gravel road again - ok, it was only a few hundred metres, but that last bit was tough when I could see the finish but veered away from it momentarily up a slight incline before turning back to the finish line. 

As I approached the line, for some reason I was overcome with emotion - was it relief at doing what was considered one the hardest sections of the TRR, was it that I knew I'd had a good run and really couldn't have done anymore, or was it because I saw Andy at the finish line and was so happy to see them and tell them all about how amazing today had been? All I know is that I finished strongly and was absolutely chuffed to be 5th lady on stage 5 which meant i had moved up to 5th overall with almost 5 minutes over the next placed lady. I knew I'd had a much better day - I felt far happier and far more confident about the remainder of the week.

Heading into the finish at Twin Lakes on Stage 2

At the finish in Twin Lakes and so pleased to see my pups :-)
That night we camped in legendary Leadville – renowned for the tough 100 mile race held here each year. The town has lots of history and is quite old and quaint and despite its  old and dilapidated appearance in some parts of town, it was a lovely, friendly town and I honestly couldn't believe that we were there having read it about it so much over the years.

We camped in school grounds that night and had the most fabulous pasta dinner served to us by the TRR crew - so fantastic that I went back for thirds! It was the first time since the racing had started that I felt I was properly refuelled and hydrated - I was feeling superb and was so excited about racing once again the next day. I went to bed that night feeling far more positive - yes, my legs were a little tight in the quads and I knew they wouldn't be much better in the morning, but although tomorrow's stage 3 was long, there was no steep downhill, so I figured I would be ok and be able to deal with any discomfort. 

STAGE 3 – LEADVILLE TO CAMP HALE – 24.3 miles, 2,700 ft Ascent
Overall Position at start of stage: 5th     Position on Day: 5th       Time: 4.15.41

I'd set my alarm for 5.45am to give us sufficient time for breakfast and to get to the start line on the main street through Leadville, but with so many other campers being early risers, I was awoken at 5am and just decided to get up.

At just over 24 miles, today was the longest stage of the week, and whilst there would be some climbing, it wouldn't be as intense as the previous day. The route would take us onto the Continental Divide and we would be spending the latter stages running on the rolling Continental Divide National Scenic Trail through meadows and along woodland trails.

I made sure to have a good breakfast as I knew I would need all the energy I could find. By now, I had settled more into the event - I knew who my competition was and I was starting to realise what their strengths were and what I needed to do to ensure I stayed ahead of them on the overall leader board.

The start of Stage 3 in Leadville - 10,200ft
We started off with a couple of miles on the road today which took us out of Leadville, and the pace was fast. Being a former road runner, I found myself running faster than I intended and had to consciously hold back, allowing some of the others to go speeding by. It sounds cocky but I wasn't really too concerned that they had gone ahead - we still had lots of miles to cover, and I knew that I would pass some of them once again later on in the race.

As we left the road, we entered the forests and started to climb up a four wheel drive road. It was relatively steep, but I was able to run up it today - legs and lungs feeling pretty good all things considered. I settled into a nice pace as the steep climb eventually ended and gradually became rolling woodland trails with some good downhill sections. 

The first checkpoint was at the bottom of a long, gradual downhill and as I approached, I noticed that the lady from Montreal was just ahead of me. In the overall standings, she was a mere 3 or 4 minutes behind me, so I knew that I had to keep my eyes on her over the coming days if I was to remain in my current position. I was feeling ok at this point, so I made my move and passed her although I heard her pace pick up as she tried to stay with me. For the next few miles, she was probably just a couple of minutes behind and I was very aware that if I slipped up, she could easily pass me. Thankfully my mind seemed to be in the right place today, and I took comfort in fact that not only was I ahead of the lady from Montreal, but also Stephanie who was English, but now lived in Chamonix (she was in 4th overall). However, I was well aware that positions don’t count and everything is based on accumulative time, and I was conscious that no matter how much it hurt, I had to keep pushing to gain as much time over them as possible to give me a cushion fro later on in week.

I glanced at my watch to see how far I still had to go, but it was reading 30km already and I knew based on how long I had been running, there was no way that I only had about 8km to go. The GPS was clearly having problems tracking where I was so I chose to ignore my watch and run based on how I was feeling instead. A group of around 5 guys finally caught me up and I asked how far we had done - almost 11 miles - not quite half way, but almost there. On the uphills, the guys would put in a greater effort and would open a gap over me as I shortened my stride and jogged up the hills to save energy - on the downhills, I let the gradient take me and even though none was particularly steep, I would pass the guys again, only for them to pass me again on the next uphill.

We eventually approached checkpoint 2, and having been drinking from my bladder for the past few hours, I just grabbed some food and kept going, spending less than a minute at the checkpoint, whilst the guys were there far longer and so I found that I was once again running alone. I glanced behind me to see if anybody was close by, and although I could still see Steph, she was a good few hundred yards behind and nobody was close to her.

As we crossed the highway at Tennessee Pass and commenced our journey on the National Scenic Trail, something inside me today kept me pushing onwards and I did very little walking, feeling really focused, determined and competitive. After a couple of km, the trail narrow considerably and we meandered across beautiful meadows in a valley with 14,000 ft mountains towering over us on either side. I found that admiring the scenery helped to keep me motivated - it took my mind off the running and gave me a different focus from the bruising in my toe nails and aching in my quads.

After a few km, we crossed the highway once again, the meadows disappeared and we were running on an undulating forest trail that was pretty technical in parts. Ahead of me I saw some runners, and as i relaxed and enjoyed the run, I found that I was gaining on them. Although they were struggling, they were still going strong, and after a few encouraging words to each other, I passed them by - focusing on getting to the final checkpoint.

By now my watch was saying I'd done 60km which was making me laugh - if only! - but I knew that I needed to get to that final checkpoint as I would then know that only 3 miles or so lay between me and the finish line at Camp Hale. Finally the trail started to descend and I knew that it wouldn't be long before I saw the checkpoint and could put in a final spurt to the finish. I appeared to pick up the pace the more I thought about the  finish line - I knew it must be close - and in the process, I caught another 2 guys that had been ahead of me. What I will say is that most of the guys during the TRR were awesome - they were always encouraging and never seemed to be mind being passed by a lady, and it really helped when they commented on how strong they thought you looked, and what a fighter you were.

I took my time at the final aid station - there was a lady about 5 minutes behind but I knew it was Steph who was already way ahead of me on the overall standings - and I wanted to make sure I had enough in the tank to get me to the finish line strongly. 5km isn't really that far - except when you consider the hills and mileage that are already in your legs from the past few days!

I pushed as hard as possible in those last couple of miles, and whilst I still had no idea how far it was to the finish due to watch issues, I finally saw the marquees at camp and knew that it was only another 10 minutes or so of running.

Stage 3 was once again a successful day for me as I finished 5th once again on this stage, although I had now slipped to 6th overall as the lady from Blackpool had once again finished ahead of me, this time by minutes rather than seconds. The good news was that the next lady behind me was now 12 minutes behind me, so unless I had a really awful run in the next 3 days, I was happy to settle for 6th place overall.

Camp Hale was amazing. It was far more isolated than the other campgrounds so far, nestled in a valley overlooked by majestic mountains and with a couple of fishing lakes which provided great entertainment for all the dogs in camp! Today was also the last day for the Run 3 competitors and from tomorrow, there would be fewer people on the course and half of the field would be leaving for home in the morning. Needless to say, there were lots of celebrations tonight with them leaving, and the atmosphere around camp was amazing.

Camp Hale for the end of Stages 3 and 4
Tomorrow we would be encountering steep ascents and descents one again, and with the current state of my quads, I had massage at camp tonight. Even gentle pressure on them, I was laughing and howling in pain, but I knew that suffering tonight would mean a far easier run tomorrow. I wanted to be as prepared as possible to tackle those hills to give me as much opportunity as possible to run well. I  was beginning to realise that my strength lay in the technical downhills, and as tomorrow had one of these in the second half, I wanted my legs to be able to handle another battering as I was sure that this is where I would make up ground on the others.

I also decided to see the medics tonight for some attention. I was lucky that I had not got any blisters, or taken a fall, but I did have a few bruised toe nails  which would make the downhill running more painful tomorrow. They drained away some of blood and covered them to prevent protection and they felt so much better now that some of the pressure had been released from them.

That night we had a really bad thunderstorm move through camp and both the camping field and the food tent were swamped with water. Even that couldn't dampen the spirits of everybody and all I could hear as I settled down for bed was happy chatter and lots of laughter, and I'm pretty certain that once again, I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

STAGE 4 – NOVA GUIDES TO RED CLIFF – 14.2 miles, 2,800 ft Ascent
Overall Position at start of stage: 6th     Position on Day: 8th       Time: 2.42.34

After another great night's sleep, I actually awoke this morning feeling tired and in need of more rest. Thankfully today's distance was just a little over 14 miles with a steep climb at the start and because I knew I had a 12 minute advantage over the next lady in the overall standings, I said to Andy that I was going to take things a little easier today as I needed to recover for the final 2 days which would be long and tough. He agreed, and with us staying on the same camp ground for a second night tonight, the plan was to have a good rest this afternoon after the run rather than running around with Wilson and Brandy to keep them entertained.

Beautiful early morning mist at Camp Hale
I was also feeling a little emotional today and also a little irritable - a sure sign that I needed more sleep and recovery. People being too loud at the breakfast table were really bugging me, I was ready to yell at those talking about how they were "dreading this stage", and every time somebody bumped into me, I found myself gritting my teeth and scowling, trying not to tut very loudly at their inconsiderate behaviour! Yes, I was tired and my reaction to such trivial things was a sure sign that I needed some down time later today. Physically I was still feeling good - the massage had really helped to loosen things up and I had no aches or pains anywhere, but I felt like i was walking around in a daze and mumbling to Andy rather than having proper conversations. It was great to have him and the dogs there at the start - he helped to calm me and comfort me despite feeling angry and frustrated about nothing in particular, and a big hug just before we started really helped.

The course description for today had said that we climbed steeply out of Nova Guides, and I can say for certain that the start of stage 4 was TOUGH. The climb was indeed exceptionally steep to start with, and the higher we climbed, the steeper it go. I tried to run, but the fatigue I was feeling had me walking before too long which was actually faster than my run. I'd been finding I was coping with altitude far better with every passing day, but today I was struggling a bit due to the gradient, and I had to stop a couple of times to inhale deeply before knuckling down and climbing again. I was quite breathy and head achy today – felt a little dizzy and lacking in energy, so I was consciously drinking far more and trying to make use of the gels and the Stinger waffles I had in my backpack. It was once again very warm despite the 8am start, and I was already dripping with sweat despite being at over 11000 ft. Even those with poles were struggling to drag themselves up the hill which lasted for a good few miles, and although I had got a good pace going with power walking, there were still more ladies ahead of me than I would have liked, and even more just behind. 

The relentless climbing did eventually come to an end as we came out of the trees and we were treated to a beautiful ridge that was coated in wildflowers and fab open views of surrounding mountains. It wasn’t flat up there but at least we could start running again across the undulating trail, but after the initial climb up the jeep road, my legs were a little reluctant to move and I really had to grit my teeth to get them to do what I wanted.

Beautiful meadows along the ridge
There were still tons of ladies around me so even though I had initially intended to take things easy, I knew that I had to speed up a bit if I wanted a decent chance of retaining my position. I was aware that there was technical downhill coming as the previous nights briefing warned us to take care as lots of folks had twisted ankles on the way down, so I tried to run as much as possible until the steep, rocky descent started.

The downhill came and I just went for it. It was rocky and twisty turny, and yet I was doing sub 4 km pace and blasted down. I overtook loads of folks including ladies, and didn’t look back. I was conscious that if I lost concentration or thought about it too much, I would likely fall flat on face, so I just tried to look a few feet ahead to determine my best route down and to avoid falling on rocks or tree roots. I approached a couple of guys as I turned a sharp corner, and we were confronted by a very steep rocky section that needed some negotiation. I was already in my stride but overheard them comment "jeez this is crazy, take it easy here!" and I shot past them still feeling grumpy and mumbling in frustration for them to just go for it.

After a most excellent downhill of about 5 miles (yes, my quads would once again pay dearly for it tomorrow!) we reached the turn where the next mile meant running on a river bed as part of the trail. The water was around knee deep in parts, but it was so cooling and refreshing and I found that I had a second wind as it cooled the legs and feet down. Some of the guys I had overtaken on the downhill attempted to fly past me on the river section, but I was being cautious once again, not wanting to slip on the wet rock and twist and ankle or anything that would put me out of the race.

By now, my dark and miserable mood was starting ease and I was making good progress. I was starting to feel absolutely amazing and found a smile was forming at long last - I was starting to feel like I was having a great run after that amazingly fast downhill sections, so much so that I even did a sprint finish for no reason whatsoever as I came in to Red Cliff – the last 400m was on pavement and my road running instinct kicked in as I sprinted to the line.

Today I finished 8th lady but thankfully, I felt no disappointment today. I knew that I'd been tired at the start and whilst wanting to be competitive, I was unable to must the energy until later on in the race, when I had given my all. I was even more relieved that despite a poor start today, I had actually made up so many places on the downhill - I can safely say that that is one area where I am definitely confident, and it was to become my weapon over the remaining days.
With staying on same campsite for 2 nights, it meant I could relax in the afternoon and I ended up falling asleep for around 4 hours. Clearly the effects of past few days were becoming apparent, but we only had 2 more days to go – over half way there already, and the next two days would be crucial if I wanted to hold on to my 6th position overall.

My legs were sore again from the downhill but I felt that I would be ok to run tomorrow without another massage. A couple more toe nails had also become victim of my passionate downhill running but due to yet more thunderstorms and heavy rain, the medical guys had packed up early, so I sat in my tent treating things myself and hoping that they wouldn't get infected.

It was great to have Andy and the dogs there - it was extremely comforting and although I was happier with my run today than what I'd originally anticipated, I still need those comforting words and cuddles to reassure me that I could do this. Despite 4 hours sleep this afternoon, I went to bed at 9pm and fell asleep immediately, sleeping peacefully until my alarm woke me up at 5.30am the next day.

STAGE 5 – RED CLIFF TO VAIL – 24 miles, 4,100 ft Ascent
Overall Position at start of stage: 6th     Position on Day: 11th      Time: 4.40.37

I was feeling a little nervous when I awoke this morning, and although I was feeling hungry for breakfast, I perhaps didn't eat as much as I should have done. I managed to force down some coffee and juice and a good bowl of porridge, but the boiled egg and a banana were a struggle, the latter causing me to gag which told me that my body really didn't need a banana.

Today's run started in Red Cliff, a little hamlet about 15 minutes drive from camp. There isn't really a great deal there although it is a community, and some of the houses are actually built on the of the cliffs that over look the river.

Having had such a good rest yesterday, I was really looking forward to racing again, and yet it turned out to be my worst performance of the week. Standing on the start line as we counted down the seconds to start with "Highway to Hell" once again blasting out, I was buzzing and grinning like a Cheshire cat - today was the penultimate day, and I was EXCITED! And yet despite the excitement, despite the motivation I was feeling, there was something niggling at me and I was starting to think that sometimes ignorance is bliss - I really wish I hadn't read the description of today's course which would start with a 12 mile climb, most of which would be on a gravel jeep road. The thought of having to fun up a gravel road for the best part of 12 miles was depressing, and I knew that my mental strength was about to be tested more than ever before.

I started well enough and had positioned myself well amongst the ladies, but as we left the houses of Red Cliff behind, and the real climbing started, all I could see ahead of me was a continuous gravel road that just seemed to be an endless uphill. It wasn't particularly steep and it was perfectly runnable, but it was just the thought of no reprieve - no turnings, no single track trail, no jumping tree roots or dodging rocks - just an endless drag uphill listening to every body's footsteps in the gravel. I tried to run as much as I possibly good, but with every corner we turned, we just continued upwards. An hour of running passed by and we were still seeing exactly the same scenery - I was bored and desperately needed a break from the road to mix things up a bit. I was also struggling to breath. Crazy as it sounds, I was wearing a sports bra where the elastic was far too tight - i needed to take in as much air as possible but I felt like I couldn't expand my diaphragm enough to get the oxygen I need, so I found I was fidgeting with things on the way up which altered my running gait and had me stumbling a few times.

I needed a medic with a pair of scissors to cut the elastic, but the first aid station was still about 5 miles away and boy, was i struggling. Even the walking became a chore, and I started to swear to myself as every turn just brought even more climbing. We eventually reached what appeared to be the top as the trail started to descend, but with a couple of minutes we were climbing again and I was seriously starting to struggle mentally, I was getting physically tired and emotionally drained. To top it all, it seemed that every lady racing that day was now passing me, and my confidence in my ability to finish started to hit rock bottom. That 12 mile climb up that damn road was my downfall on day 5 and I HATED it!

Eventually we did break out of the trees and were once again greeted by meadow full of wild flowers. It really was very pretty and I tried desperately to use the scenery to lift my spirits - but I was feeling extremely grumpy and miserable after that climb, and I found I couldn’t fully appreciate the views around me.

Fabulous views but feeling grumpy today - how is that possible with such a sight??!
We came out on the back of ski slopes above Vail and I was expecting things to flatten out a bit now, but having ran just a mile or 2 of flat trail, it once again started to climb. I knew my mind not in right place when I started crying and swearing. I really was fed up and was hating every minute. It was then that I started to experience palpitations and I started to feel dizzy and spaced out. I tried to slap myself across the face to wake things up, but noticed that my arms had started to go numb and my hands were turning deathly white as if there was no blood in them. I got a little panicky at this stage and even though I wasn't running particularly fast as things stood, I found I needed to slow down even further in order to bring my breathing under control and to clear the fuzzy feeling in my head. 

It seemed to take ages before I reached the second aid station and thinking that maybe more fluids and some food would help me to feel more like myself, I  attempted to pick up a cup of water at aid station along with some nibbles. It was the strangest feeling - my mind was telling me to grip the cup, but my arms and hand weren't obeying and I ended up dropping the cup on the floor. I tried a second time and really had to concentrate to get my hands to grip, but it seemed like I had no control over them as once again the cup started to slip.

At this point there was still a good 7 or 8 miles to go and I was genuinely worried that I was about to collapse and be pulled from the race. I could feel my heart pounding and could feel the thumping in my head, I was having trouble controlling my breathing but I didn't wan to quit! I was feeling somewhat concerned for my own welfare and admittedly a little scared, but knowing that most of it was now downhill, I decided to keep going but to slow things down completely and to just take it easy to get to the finish line.

Even the downhill was hard work today and it felt like I was using far too much energy just to go down. I had no pace, my vision was getting blurred but stupidly or not, I refused to give in. I could see the town of Vail down below so I just tried to focus on getting down there where I knew Andy would be to look after me - I needed him to tell me what to do!

Thinking about Andy and the dogs made me cry. I was feeling sorry for myself - sulky, moody, dripping with sweat, and feeling so so hungry and not happy at all. I needed to finish as soon as possible, but my legs were wobbly and I had absolutely no energy. Even when I saw a couple of ladies ahead, my chasing instinct didn't kick in - I had today for some reason, given up the fight.

I eventually staggered in to the finish line in 11th  position today, and the time advantage I'd had over some of the other ladies overall had now dropped to just 3 minutes. A couple of other ladies had leapfrogged me as they had finished well ahead by a good 10 minutes or more thanks to my poor run, so I was now lying in 7th again overall. I now had to make up at least 5 minutes tomorrow to be in with any chance of getting back into the top 5. I really didn't think that was likely- especially after today - and came to the conclusion that finishing 7th overall wouldn't be so bad.

It was very hot again today and there was no shelter from the sun and the heat, but I needed to do something to get me focused again ready for the final day tomorrow. Andy and I found a lovely restaurant in Vail and I scoffed as much food as I could in an attempt to get me feeling more like my old self. In addition, I guzzled a full tube of Pringles and drank a litre of water - I was so hungry and thirsty and I couldn't get enough fuel into me fast enough.

I also had another massage again today and i have to say that it was truly amazing! It helped to iron out the aches and tightness in my legs, hips and back, but also helped me to relax at the same time.

Dinner tonight was fantastic with some deliciously tasting steak, roasted veg and chicken. I didn't realise how hungry I still was, and despite having eaten a huge lunch, I still managed to eat 3 plates of food at tea time. 

Tomorrow was the final day and I was now determined to finish as best I could. The feelings I'd encountered today had got me a little concerned as we had yet another 22 miles to run tomorrow and over 5000 ft of climbing. The only thing I could hope for was that I had refuelled enough to get me through the final day safely and no matter how long it took me, I was adamant that I would finish this year's Transrockies Run. 

STAGE 6 – VAIL TO BEAVER CREEK – 22.2 miles, 5,100 ft Ascent
Overall Position at start of stage: 7th     Position on Day: 5th       Time: 4.15.53

After a fit full night's sleep, I was wide awake again at 5am as the torrential rain fell outside. Whether it was knowing that today was the final day, or whether the sound of the rain was comforting (I love running in the rain!) I don't know, but I jumped out of bed feeling ready for a great day of racing. I had absolutely everything to run for today, but I was also still well aware of how I'd felt yesterday. My plan was to see how I felt in the first few miles today, and if all was good, I would attempt to pick up the pace at the midway point.

I managed to eat some breakfast and having given Andy and the dogs a hug, I once again got a little emotional thinking that the next time I see them I will have finished completely, and I would be a successful finisher of the TRR.

Ski hut in Vail pre-race where folks were keeping warm!
It was a short walk to the start in Vail, and due to the rain and cooler temperatures, everybody was huddled inside the ski hut for warmth whilst waiting for the rain to ease off. It was strange how quiet it was in there - there were a couple of hundred people and yet the chattiness of the earlier stages had been replaced by quiet whispering as people got themselves ready with bleary eyes and plenty of yawning.

Start of the final Stage 6 in Vail
Shortly before the start, the rain ceased and the sun started to break through the clouds. I headed outside and having gone through the gear check and check-in, I waiting alone in the start chute. Having looked at the overall results last night, and knowing that finishing any higher than 7th place overall was now going to be a tall ask, I was trying to do the maths in my head as to how far ahead of the next ladies I needed to be to ensure that I stayed in the top 10. Yesterday's experience had really knocked my confidence, and I was still feeling a little scared about pushing too hard, but I had an 8 minute margin over the chasing ladies so just had to ensure that I was consistent and put in enough effort to retain that lead over them.

For the final time this week, we all sang along to "Highway to Hell"  but my mouth was extremely dry and I was feeling very nervous. I'm not afraid to push myself to my limits, but how do we truly know what our limits are, until it's too late? Was I on the brink yesterday? Was my body telling me that enough is enough? Sure I'd had a good feed since then and a rest, but was I recovered enough to put on a good race again today? Only time would tell.

The first couple of km today was once again a steep uphill start, and as the gun went off, it was a brisk start. I tried to go with the flow, but sadly after a couple of hundred metres, my breathing was laboured and I started to panic as I released the buckle on my backpack to allow me to breath more easily. No way was I going to be able to run at that pace and so the decision was made - today I would not be racing and pushing hard - today I would look after myself, and attempt to keep both my breathing and my heart rate under control if I was to have any hope of finishing comfortably. To some degree, that helped to release some of the pressure I had put on myself, but at the same time I was disappointed as I had so wanted to come to Colorado for a good race.

Having crossed the highway, we finally hit the trails and faced  a short but steep climb up a beautiful mountainside, following a lovely meandering woodland trail that was laced with woodland flowers. By now the sun had come out but thankfully it was still quite cool, and due to the rain, it was quite refreshing having the moisture from the bushes along the trail cooling the legs down as we ran up. As we were heading  up that trail, I started to feel like my energy was coming back, and from nowhere I felt the strength coming back in to my legs and my lungs opening up and allowing the air to flow. I started to climb strongly, I started to pass people, I was running far more than I had anticipated, and before long, I had made it to the top of the first major climb of the day. No ladies had passed me and although I wasn't certain of it, I had a feeling that despite everything, I was already in a good position.

At the top of the climb, we started to follow undulating forest tracks and I found that the nerves i had felt earlier in the day were starting to diminish. That sense of freedom, that sense of excitement and joy were returning, and from nowhere I felt like I was bouncing along! I didn't stay too long at the aid station - just enough time to take on board some fluids and to grab a few Twizzlers which had become my new best fuelling buddy over the past few days - and without any hesitation, I carried on running down the trail. Today's course included a technical downhill that last for around 5 miles, and I couldn't wait to get to there so that I could really just go for things.

Gorgeous woodland trails heading up up up!
 About a km before the downhill started, I suddenly became aware that I was catching a couple of ladies, one of them being the lady who was currently lying in 6th place overall with almost a 5 minute lead on me. I couldn't believe it! I knew now that maybe, just maybe, I was going to end up in a proper race on the final day and boy was I ready for it!

I tried to keep my running controlled - pass her too quickly and I would just get too tired, but I had to keep my momentum going in order to pass her. I suspected that if I did manage to pass, she would try to stay with me, so I had to time it right to make sure I had every opportunity to open as big a gap over her as possible.

With 5 days of racing already behind us, and having got to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors, I knew that if I could get away on the approaching technical descent, that may just give me the advantage - GAME ON!

I passed her without looking back and as the trail started to head downwards, I felt a rush of adrenalin as I started to pick up the pace. The trail became far more narrow, it became rocky in parts with loose rocks making things a little more dodgy, it was also extremely slippy and muddy thanks to the earlier rain - but I just went for it. There was a stretch of steep narrow trail that headed straight downwards for about 100 metres, and a couple of guys were tentatively picking their way down. As I passed them, they shouted that I was "F***ing crazy" and I thanked them for the compliment - smiling widely and laughing. When they then replied, "no seriously,  you're f***ing irresponsible and stupid" I was convinced that they weren't joking and were perhaps a  little annoyed that I had such disregard for the technicality of the trail.

It was amazing running down there and I was like a little kid, laughing my head off and whooping away as we jumped over streams, dodged slippery rocks and hopped over tree roots. Toward the bottom  it became extremely overgrown and it was difficult to see what was lying underneath the damp grass but that didn't stop me, and I surged through relying simply on my balance and hoping to goodness that I didn't fall flat on my face. I was convinced that at this crazy pace (sub 3.40 km pace!!) I was opening a huge gap on the lady from Montreal behind me, and as I ran into the aid station feeling somewhat heavy legged but smiling like a complete lunatic, I was so thankful that my competitive spirit had returned and that I had ran down the hill like I knew I could.

Except about a minute later, the lady from Montreal also appeared out of the bushes and I would love to have seen my own face when I saw here stop right next to me, looking utterly exhausted from her efforts, but still quite prepared to race me. I don't usually swear, but with around 6 miles still to go, the F word sneaked out as I knew this was now going to be a true test of will and strength.

I wasted no more time at the aid station and headed off down the road where we had to do a small loop of the small town of Avon before one final 2 mile climb that would bring us close to the finish in Beaver Creek. I tried not to take sneaky looks behind, but as we turned a corner I was able to take a glance back up the road, and sure enough, the lady was in hot pursuit. 

Being on pavement meant that I automatically increased my pace, and for the next couple of miles on the road to the next aid station, I was running faster than my marathon pace. Today I was experiencing a different type of panic, but I had it in my mind that if she wanted to catch me, I was going to make her work for it, even if it meant me hurting too. What did I have to lose?

I reached the final aid station, grabbed food and water and tried to act chilled out and not fazed by being caught up in a proper race, but as I started to climb the final hill and once again managed to look back down the road, I could see Montreal Lady in the distance and I guessed that I probably had a 2 or 3 minute lead over her now. It wasn't enough - I needed to have a good 5 minutes or more to secure my 6th position overall - but the thought of having to run non-stop up a 2 mile hill just to increase my advantage was not appealing. 

I looked up at the trail ahead - it was definitely going to be a climb, but it was runnable due to the switchbacks, and I was quite prepared to give absolutely everything I had to get up that hill before she did, even if it meant a run/walk strategy.

I started to run despite the protests from my legs, forcing myself to do the 50m run, 10m walk. Every second counted. Without realising, I started to gain on some of the men ahead of me which was reassuring as it meant that I must have been moving well. The zig-zaggy trail and the amount of trees meant that you couldn't see people too far ahead or behind, but I somehow knew that I was gradually increasing my lead over the chasing lady but even though I knew it was unlikely she would pass me now, I still needed that time advantage.

that final climb was tough - teasing us by flattening out at times and then dropping slightly, before the trail once again started to climb. I was no longer swearing - I was now shouting at myself to "come on!" and telling myself "i can do this!". I was once again dripping with sweat and knew that I needed to drink, but I also knew that I only had around 2 miles to the final finish and that faffing around with my camelbak could lose me precious seconds.

I saw a couple of walkers sitting at the side of the trail ahead, and as I passed them, I asked them if they knew where the trail headed down. They said another 100ft and we would be heading down in to Beaver Creek and into the finish line. I couldn't believe it!

the final mile or so down the gravel track  into town was once again amazing, and I ran at speeds i haven't done for a long time. some of the guys passed me again on the downhill, but i didn't care - this was about me and the chasing lady from Montreal.

I crossed the final finish line in 4 hours 15 mins and I had finished the Transrockies Run - but until that clock read 4 hours 20 minutes, I couldn't bring myself to celebrate just yet. I waited anxiously as the seconds ticked by. I heard applause and cheers as another runner made it down to the finish - was it the lady from Montreal? No! A couple of minutes later, more cheers and clapping, and more relief as it was a couple of men finishing. Whilst I was waiting, I chatted to the lady from Blackpool who finally admitted that she actually lived in Chamonix in France - no wonder she was so good! Sadly though, she'd had to drop out due to an infected foot, which meant that I was now waiting to see whether I had indeed finished 5th overall.

Finally, as the timing clock read 4.20.01 I knew that I had done it - I had achieved my ultimate goal and I had finished the Transrockies Run as 5th lady overall in a combined time of 22 hours 22 minutes and 1 second. Montreal Lady finished 7 minutes behind me in the end on Stage 6 giving me the 5th spot by just 2 1/2 minutes - it was only then that the tears flowed and the relief flooded through me.


So there you have it. I finished the Transrockies Run 2015 and i finished 5th lady overall. I couldn't have been happier!

Looking back on things, I can honestly say that I really couldn't have done any better than I did. My training leading up to it had been spot on and I really did feel prepared for a multi-day race in the mountains. I did lots of back to back runs, I did lots of hills both up and down - the only thing that I could not have prepared for is the altitude but all things considered, I think I coped far better with that than what I was expecting.

Would I do the Transrockies again? Damn right I would! I'm so pleased that I ran it solo, but I would love to go back and do it as a team one day. 

Of course, I wouldn't have had such a successful race if it weren't for a couple of people. Firstly my coach Laura who has provided the structure to my training to make sure I got to both the start and finish lines in one piece - thank you so much for believing in me and for your help,support and encouragement - your enthusiasm is contagious and it has been greatly appreciated.

Secondly Andy who is simply amazing. He did all the driving, he coped with two hyperactive dogs, he listened to my moans and groans, he's smiled kindly when I've been overly excited, he lumbered all the camping gear backwards and forwards throughout the week and made me cups of tea when I desperately needed them. He never lost faith in my ability and he has encouraged me all the way.Thank you just doesn't seem to say enough how much I appreciate this man's ability to make me laugh, cry, yell, scream, smile - he really is my rock.

Before I close, there are some other things that just need to be mentioned. You may have noticed how obsessed I was with times and positions - this was simply because I had gone there to compete as well as have lots of fun - I make no apologies for this.

Also, on the final day, whilst I was full of elation at finishing, it was also a day of mixed emotions as I suffered a great loss. 10 years ago, I purchased a pair of jet black Sugoi shorts from the "Bargain Basement" at Bourne Sports in Stoke. They cost just £5.00 and although they made my bum look big, they were the most comfortable running shorts I ever had. The first time I wore them, I won the Blackpool Marathon - the second time I wore them, I won Uttoxeter Half Marathon. I ran the Dartmoor Discovery ultra Marathon in them - which I won in a new course record - and went on to win several other races and break records whilst wearing those same shorts. Those shorts became my "lucky" shorts, and whilst they lost their vibrant blackness over the years, I only ever wore them when I needed that little bit of extra luck. 

I wore those same shorts on Stage 6 of the Transrockies Run, believing that they would bring me all the luck I needed to get my backside in gear and get me back into the top 5 ladies overall. It worked as you have already seen, but those shorts were sadly lost that day. On the simply amazing downhill where I didn't hold back, we had to launch ourselves over some fallen trees, and in the process, my beloved shorts were torn and trashed by a rogue tree branch that ripped out the gusset and had me wondering whether I would be able to remain my dignity towards the end. They served me well even in their final hours, but on crossing the finish line and finally getting to a hotel, it was time to say a very emotional goodbye. Fortunately I now have a pair of lucky blue Adidas shorts that served me well during the TransRockies Run, so if you see me wearing them, watch out ;-)

So what happens now? It all seems like a dream now looking back on last week's adventure, especially as I sit her looking outside at our garden here in Calgary. It was nice to get back home, and these past few days have been spent simply relaxing and recovering ready for my next adventure.

At the moment, I don't know what that will be as in the next couple of weeks or so, we will finally - at last! - be making our move to Phoenix to start a new life. It will be another road trip and another adventure to get to our new home, and there are so many trail races to choose from down that way. One thing is for sure though. I used to always consider myself a road runner, chasing PBs and trying to run as fast as I could over certain distances. Last week taught me alot and I now know for sure that I am no longer a pure road runner - it's the trails where I belong. Trail running is far more exciting - you have to have your wits about you to make sure you are following the correct route, you are forced to confront mother nature and battle the elements, sometimes in extreme conditions, there is nothing like the beauty of the open trail whether it's in dense forest, open meadows with lush green grass, or the high trails of the mountains, sometimes you have to be self-sufficient and rely on your own intuition about risks and other things, and for me personally, I find more camaraderie on the trails. Trail running is addictive and it's an addiction I - and I'm sure many others - are not ashamed to admit. I really can't wait for the next one!


  1. Hi Adela, you likely won't remember me, but we met at the CC hiring day way back in the fall, we were on the same Cranium team. I lasted a couple of weeks longer than you at that job :) My son does a bit of cross country running and for some reason when I did a google search for the name of a race he did, you popped up and I remembered your name. So I've been following your blog for just a little while. Don't say you're not a writer - I was riveted reading this post! and I'm not a runner in the least. Just wanted to say congratulations and all the best in your move! - Pat Richardson

    1. Hey Pat,

      Yes I definitely remember you! Hope you are well and staying happy :-)

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments. It's amazing how people can track you down on the Internet but I'm pleased you enjoy reading my waffle :-)

      I didn't realise you had a runner on the family too - that's fantastic. You'll have to share some of your son's adventures with me - I love to see others doing well too.

      Thanks so much once again. Love and hugs, Del :-)


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