Running with the Hayneses

Cardigan Mountain State Park Loop

A couple weeks ago I was on the hunt for new trails, as I so often am, and I stumbled across Cardigan Mountain State Park. Peter and I hiked Cardigan Mountain about 12 years ago when we were dating, but we haven’t been back since. I couldn’t find any good maps online, but I gathered enough information to estimate that we could easily run 15-20 miles on the trail network there, so I ordered a map.

When the map came, I planned as big loop as I could, up and over as many peaks as I could. I was pleased when the result netted a total of 7 peaks and 15 miles. Just long enough to make for a substantial run and just do-able enough for my healing knee injury.

We parked at the West Ridge Trailhead and started out by taking the 1.5 mile West Ridge Trail to the summit of Cardigan (3,155′). It’s an easy climb–not too steep or technical–and if you’re accustomed to running in the mountains, the whole trail is definitely runable.


After about a mile, we popped out above the treeline, and from there to the top, the trail heads straight up Cardigan’s giant granite dome.


Limited views on this hazy day


Looking up at the fire tower on the summit


We happened to run into a group of our friends on the summit (totally unplanned!), so we lingered for awhile to chat with them and take some pictures.


Peter, me and Jaime


After 10 minutes or so we headed off down the opposite side of the mountain on the Mowglis Trail. It was hard to find the trail at first because the entire summit is bald, and the only trail markers are white blazes painted on the granite. From there we did some really nice ridge running along the rock slabs, in and out of the trees, all the way to our next peak, Firescrew (3,040′).


First hints of fall colorsDSC01352

It was all downhill to Firescrew, and I didn’t actually realize when we hit the summit because a large group was having a picnic there, and we had to detour around them. We continued on the Mowglis Trail towards Mowglis Mountain (2,370′), still running downhill and then back into the trees to stay, for awhile. The forest here was beautifully mossy and lush!


We took a short side trail out to the lookout from Hanging Rock for a look at the ridge ahead of us.

DSC01355After this it was a short distance to the junction with the Elwell Trail. A little tip: even if you are aiming for the Mowglis summit, you do not want to continue on the Mowglis Trail at this point because for some unfathomable reason the Mowglis Trail does not actually go to Mowglis Mountain, only the Elwell Trail does. Yes, we went the wrong way. :) Thankfully we only went about half a mile out of our way before we realized our mistake.

We backtracked and headed up the Elwell Trail, which does a fair amount of sustained, but not steep, climbing all the way to the Mowglis summit.


From a lookout near the top of Mowglis, looking back at the Firescrew ridge and Hanging Rock


There isn’t a view from the summit itself, but this plaque mountain on a large boulder marks the spot. From there we continued on the Elwell Trail towards Oregon Mountain (2,239′).

I had read reports prior to our trip that the Elwell Trail is unmaintained, and we were concerned that as we got further out it would be overgrown and difficult to follow, but this was not the case. It was clearly a trail that sees very little use, but it was well marked, there were very few blowdowns, and the trail was easily distinguishable.


I absolutely loved this section of the Elwell Trail. The ground was soft and springy, the trail was mostly free of rocks and roots, and the terrain was rolling and easy. We saw moose tracks and scat everywhere (some very fresh!), and it was clear that this trail is used by the local wildlife much more frequently than by hikers.


Moose poop


We also found this chunk of hair stuck on the end of this stick that jabbed me in the shoulder. Apparently the moose impaled itself on it just like I did! :)

I ran that whole section with my camera in my hand hoping that we would see Mr. or Mrs. Moose in person, but we didn’t. :/ It was mostly a ridge run to Oregon with no significant climbing, and we had a limited view from the summit.


From there we had a long descent down the Elwell Trail to where it meets up with Old Dicey Rd. There was an old abandoned truck there that was pretty neat.


Then we got onto the Back 80 Loop to head back towards Cardigan. We crossed a pretty stream where Jaime stopped to refill her hydration pack. DSC01369

We turned off onto the Back 80 Trail (different from the Back 80 LOOP), which took us down to the AMC Cardigan Lodge. Around here we started seeing lots of hikers again, and the trails were well maintained.

After running downhill for quite a ways, it was time to start our final, long ascent. We took the Woodland Trail, Clark Trail and Vistamont Trail to the summit of Orange Mountain (2,684′). This route went straight up the mountain, and it was slow-going on tired legs. DSC01372

From the top we had a good view of the Cardigan summit.


We took the Skyland Trail to Rimrock (2800′), which involved a quick descent and then another fairly significant climb.



Rimrock Summit

It was my original intent at this point to continue on to Cardigan’s South Peak (2,864′), but we were short on time, so we skipped the final summit and headed down South Ridge Trail to West Ridge Trail and back to the trailhead. It took us a little over 5 hours including all our stops, and we ended up with about 16 miles, 6 summits and sore feet. :) It was not quite as spectacular and thrilling as hiking and running in the Whites, but we thoroughly enjoyed the trails and can’t wait to go back and explore further afield. We learned that the Elwell Trail continues all the way to Newfound Lake (approximately 16 miles one way), so I have my sights set on an out-and-back as soon as I feel up to a 30+ mile day. :)

TARC Fall Classic DNF

I wasn’t really expecting to come out of the TransRockies Run unscathed, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I didn’t. And I knew when I set out to run the TARC Fall Classic 50-miler just 4 weeks later that I had very little chance of finishing, so it wasn’t a big deal when (spoiler alert) I didn’t. If I’d had any good sense, I wouldn’t have signed up for any fall races to begin with, but obviously…I didn’t. :)

* * * * *

TransRockies left me with tendonitis in my knee (medial hamstring tendon, for those who care to know :) ), so I took it easy during the 4 weeks between races, but I knew that it takes longer than that for a tendon injury to fully heal. My recovery went smoothly, and I went into the TARC race feeling great, but my knee was untested at long distances, and therefore, a huge wild card.

Because I didn’t want to set back my recovery, my race strategy was essentially to run as long as my knee allowed and drop out the second I felt any hint of pain.

The 50M and 50K races started at 6:00 a.m., just as it was starting to get light. I wore my headlamp, but only used it for the first mile or so and definitely could have gotten away without it.


 It was a super foggy morning, and for the first few hours everything was enshrouded in mist.

As we got underway, I felt good and ran comfortably and conservatively at about 5.5 mph. The trails were mostly flat single-track through fields and forests. The terrain was only slightly technical, so for the most part the entire 10-mile loop consisted of easy running, and I didn’t feel the need to walk at during the first lap. There were a bunch of other people going my pace, and it was easy to just trot along single-file and enjoy the companionship. The course is sort of ridiculously confusing (though well-marked!), so I was glad to have people to follow, too.


Towards the end of my first 10-mile lap my feet were starting to hurt. I had worn a pair of older shoes that leave a little to be desired in the cushioning department, but I figured I’d see if I could get one more race out of them. It was not to be. I stopped at the checkpoint and got my new pair of shoes out of my drop bag–instant relief!


Starting my second lap–still socked in!

For a couple of miles all was well, and then both my achilles started hurting. I stopped at the aid station about 4 miles into the loop and asked if they had a pair of scissors. “I need to do a shoe modification,” I explained. They handed over the scissors, and I sat down and hacked off the stiff, protruding tab on the heels of my Hokas. The volunteers all stared at me, and I felt the need to rationalize my drastic actions: “I’ve done this before. It works wonders.” :)

I continued on feeling much better, but at this point I was starting to think seriously about dropping out of the race once I completed my second lap. Then, Jaime caught up to me around mile 18, and the last couple miles flew by as we talked. As we came within sight of the start/finish, I suddenly  realized that I needed to decide whether or not to go back out for another lap and made a quick assessment of how I was feeling. My knee wasn’t bothering me yet, but I did have lower back pain, which is what triggered the problem in my knee originally. That made me nervous, so I told Jaime that I was going to stretch and rest for a bit to see if it would ease up.

After about 10 minutes or so I did feel better enough to attempt one more lap, so I headed out tentatively to see what would happen. A couple of miles in it became apparent that my body was just not ready for this kind of mileage. Now my hip flexors were hurting, and I knew that having multiple problem areas was a clear sign that it was not in my best interest to continue. I stopped at the aid station and told them I was dropping out. I still needed to get myself back to the finish though, so I hung out waiting for Jaime to come back through the station on her return trip and then ran the last 2-ish miles of the lap with her (essentially I cut out a 4-mile segment from the 10-mile course).


Finishing my third lap with Jaime

The last couple of miles went fine, but I definitely wasn’t tempted to go back out for any more. I ended the day with 26 miles, and no new or worsened injuries, so I considered that a victory. :) In the future this would definitely be a great race for me to aim for a 50K PR given the easy terrain, and I hope to be back next year to give it a shot!

TransRockies Run Tips and Tricks

This post is mainly for those who want to know every detail of what running TRR is all about. Whether you’re interested in running the race in the future or are just curious to know more about the event, this post should answer any questions you may have. :)



Long back-to-backs and lots of hiking experience are key. You can see what I did for training –> here. I think I was well prepared for the long climbs and consecutive long days, but I would do more next time to be prepared for many miles of steep, downhill running. For those of us in NH, where mountain trails are extremely technical and usually not very runable, I think the best way to train would be to pick a mountain with a long access road and do repeats hiking up a trail and running down the road.

On another note, train daily with a full hydration pack so that you get used to carrying it and don’t end up sore and chafed halfway through the race!


Don’t worry if you live and train at sea level, so do most of the other runners that run TransRockies. There’s no way to know ahead of time how the altitude will affect you because even if you’ve responded well in the past, that’s not a guarantee that you will again. If you can get there early and do some hiking on the higher peaks, it will probably help, but it can take weeks for your body to fully acclimate. If showing up early isn’t an option, there are a few supplements you can take that should help decrease the effects of altitude. Hammer Nutrition has several great options: Race Caps Supreme (increases the body’s cellular ability to use oxygen), Super Antioxidant (helps with oxygen transport) and Xobaline (helps with the development of red blood cells). All three of these are also highly beneficial recovery aids. My husband and I took these supplements during our training and the race, and I think they made a huge difference.


In general, the weather is hot during the day and cool at night. You will want a lightweight down jacket, sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a warm sleeping bag for the nights at Leadville and Nova Guides, as the lows will be in the high 30’s-low 40’s. Buena Vista and Vail are not as cold, but definitely still chilly at night. It warms up super fast as soon as the sun comes up, so don’t worry about lots of layers for running. Plan on your typical summer running clothes, and if it’s still a little chilly at the start, you’ll have your mandatory jacket, hat and gloves in your pack anyways. The day temps are typically high 70’s, but the areas where you run during stage 1 and 6 tend to be hotter.

Also, the sun is intense out there at the higher elevations, so if you are at all likely to sunburn, bring sunscreen and apply it every morning before the start. There will be sunscreen at all the aid stations, and you’ll probably want to reapply at least once during your run (maybe more during stage 1, where the trail is exposed for the entire stage). I also recommend bringing sunscreen lip balm, a hat/visor and sunglasses!

It’s usually hot and sunny in camp during the afternoon, so shorts and a tank top after showering are the norm. That said, there is typically the chance for rain/thunderstorms every afternoon, so a waterproof jacket is good to have on hand.


I can’t recommend ziploc bags highly enough. Pack each day’s running outfit, plus any other gear/supplies you will need for that day (hat, sports drink powders, electrolytes, gels, ect.) in a 1 gallon ziploc bag and label it with the stage number. This makes it easy to keep your stuff organized and makes getting ready in the morning super simple. Plus, at the end of the day you can throw your dirty clothes back in the bag and seal in the stench. :)

For non-running clothes, think like a minimalist. You are going to have to carry your duffle bag to and fro every day, and it’s going to be heavy, so pack as little as possible. I brought one set of camp clothes (shorts, tank top, long-sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, sweatpants), and never wished I had more. Pack all of this in a 2 gallon ziploc bag to keep it contained and organized.

One more ziploc for a shower/toiletries bag, and that’s all you really need!

Space-Saving Items

A couple things that made a big difference for saving space and weight for us were travel pillows and camping towels. We loved these –> travel pillows because they weigh nothing, roll up super small and are actually comfortable! :) We also were really glad we had these –> camping towels because they save a ton of space, and they dry almost instantly!


You’re going to be sleeping in a small (7’x7′), two-person tent every night, and where your tent ends, your neighbor’s tent begins. Your tent will be cramped, and you will be able to hear the people snoring in the tents around you. There’s not a good way to solve the issue of the tiny tent, except to pack as little as possible and be super organized. I have a few suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep though. 1) Bring an air mattress. It’s way cheaper than a good camping pad and way more comfortable than a cheap camping pad. :) 2) Use ear plugs or a white noise app. Peter and I like to use a rain app on our Ipad–it’s calming and it blocks out other noises. Our neighbors probably thought it rained all night though! 3) Lots of people resorted to sleep aids to help them fall asleep, and if you think this might be a necessity for you, I can recommend a good one. I use REM caps by Hammer Nutrition, and they work really well. In addition to helping you sleep, they also enhance growth hormone release, support immune system function and help relieve tension and anxiety.

Drop Bags

Every day you will have the option of a drop bag, which you will bring to the start and pick up at the finish (it will not be available to you during the race). I recommend taking advantage of this service because almost every day you will have to take a shuttle either to the start or from the finish, and it’s nice to be able to have your necessities on hand when you need them.

For example, we preferred to pack up our duffle bags and drop them off before heading to breakfast, so having a drop bag meant I could wear my down jacket to breakfast, brush my teeth after breakfast, apply my sunscreen, and then throw all my stuff in the drop bag and leave it at the start. I also liked to pack my phone, my comfy sandals, and my Recoverite and Hammer supplements so that I’d have them as soon as I was done running.


The terrain is mostly sandy ATV trails, smooth singletrack or dirt roads. There are some short sections with rocks and roots, but nothing prolonged or extremely technical. On at least one day your shoes will get wet, so bring a second pair to wear the next day in case they don’t dry.

There are two or three aid stations during every stage, spaced about 7 or 8 miles apart. This year the aid stations had the typical fare: bananas, watermelon, PB+J, chips, pretzels, candy, Gatorade, Pepsi, water and Saltstick electrolytes, but no gels. Always study the race guidebook to find out where the aid stations are ahead of time and plan accordingly because there are some sections where you need to be prepared to go without aid for 10+ miles.

Lots of people used trekking poles and swore by them. We didn’t, but I believe they would help. In my opinion the ones that are adjustable would be the best for this so that you could use them going either up or down.

You’ll probably get blisters, but there will be athletic trainers at camp, and they will work miracles for you. :) If you can, get your feet taken care of before going to bed at night because there will be lines in the morning and not much time to wait in them.


Breakfast is not provided on the morning of Stage 1, so when you book your accommodations for the night before, keep this in mind. We stayed at Arrowhead Point Campground, and they offer a buffet breakfast for about $7 per person.

Lunch is not provided during any of the stages, though there are snacks (PB+J, chips, pretzels, candy and rice cakes) available at camp anytime. You can also get water, Gatorade, soda and beer anytime at camp. There is always the opportunity to buy lunch either at camp (cash only) or in the town where the stage ends, if you prefer.

If you tend to get hungry during the night, bring some snacks with you to keep in your tent. I didn’t do this, and one night I woke up starving and had to eat one of my gels! :)


You will have the opportunity to schedule a massage at camp after any of the stages. The cost is $40 for half an hour, and you’ll need to pay in cash. You can book an appointment during the pre-race check-in times or any afternoon at camp.


* * * * * * *

That’s everything I can think of, but if there’s anything I missed just leave me a comment! :)



TransRockies Run: Stage 6

When we woke up on the morning of stage 6, it was raining and looking pretty bleak, but the weather forecast predicted that it would clear by the time we started. We lingered in the food tent after breakfast hoping the rain would stop before we had to make our way to the start. We would be starting in the same place that we finished yesterday, but we had to walk about a mile to get there, and I wasn’t anxious to walk all that way in the rain.

The rain let up just in time for us to avoid getting wet, and by the time we lined up at the start the skies were blue and the sun was shining.


Last day!

We started our final stage with a quick little up then down on the bottom slopes of Vail, then we ran through Vail village and crossed the interstate via pedestrian bridge.


We climbed that hill behind the bridge and then further into the hills beyond!

From there we started our first big climb of the day to the top of Red and White Mountain. This stage was slightly shorter than the day before, but it involved a lot more climbing–5,100 feet in 22.3 miles.

The climb up Red and White Mountain was about 9 miles total with a few quick dips along the way. It started out with a long series of switchbacks up into the hills directly across from Vail, and we were able to look back at where we had started.


I70 and Vail Resort

After a few miles of hiking, we were rewarded with a long trek through the prettiest aspen groves we had seen all week!




As we made our way up a ridge on Red and White Mountain we were in and out of the trees the whole way, with beautiful views to either side.


Looking back at Vail


We hit our first checkpoint at mile 8, and from there we turned onto an ATV trail that took us the rest of the way to the summit. After one final steep push, we topped out in a grassy meadow and then started a 5-mile, steep descent. Going down, my knees were both stiff and sore at first, but they loosened up and felt better after a bit. This was a very narrow trail bordered by tall grass, and it was often hard to see where we were putting our feet! The trail was fairly technical as well, so we were careful on this descent.


Heading back down!


We wound our way down, following the course of a valley between two hills all the way back to I70, where we crossed the highway again, this time via tunnel. Shortly after this our trail popped out onto a paved road where checkpoint 2 was set up at mile 15. I had run out of water by this point and was grateful to guzzle a cup of Gatorade and refill my pack!

From there we ran down the paved road, through the busy city streets of Avon and then up into the hills beyond. This stretch on the road was about 3 or 4 miles, and it was not much fun. The concrete hurt our feet, and the heat in town was intense. We hit Checkpoint 3 at mile 19 as we were heading out of Avon, and I was planning to skip this station and just push towards the finish until I saw that they had POPSICLES! For 3 glorious minutes I forgot about the heat, my feet and the climb ahead and just enjoyed the best aid station treat I’ve ever had. Thank you checkpoint 3 volunteers for saving the day!


On the climb towards Beaver Creek, looking back at where we had run through Avon and the hills beyond.


Switchbacks on the Beaver Creek ski slopes

The final climb from Avon to Beaver Creek was about 4 miles, and it. was. a. killer. The sun was beating on us the whole time, our legs were completely spent and the fact that our last stage had the hardest ending just felt cruel. During our course briefing the night before, the course markers referred to this section as “one last gift from us to you”. I laughed at the time, but I was too tired to do any laughing now. We needed another popsicle station about halfway up that hill!

After a long and grueling hike, and a great deal of speculation as to how much further we had to go, we finally reached the turn onto the access road that took us blessedly downhill for the final mile to the finish line!

11887876_10100192105636974_5200349992145368233_nPeter and I crossed the line of stage 6 hand in hand after 5 hours and 35 minutes. We had just completed 120 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain in 6 days. The total time on our feet amounted to 28:49:53.4, to be precise. I was both immensely relieved to be done and devastated that it was over. I truly wanted to keep stage racing our way through the Rockies indefinitely (my knees, however, were glad this wasn’t an option).


Swag: a short-sleeve shirt for starting, long-sleeve for finishing, and my first-ever buckle!!!

We relaxed at the finish line for awhile, eating and taking pictures with friends, before going about the business of packing up and heading home. Unfortunately, we had to fly out that night, so we had very little time to savor and celebrate our accomplishments before our departure. Leaving Colorado so soon after completing our race sent me on a roller coaster plunge straight from the highest high to the lowest low. In my physically and mentally exhausted state, I fell into a deep slump as we made our way slowly from shuttle to flight to layover to flight to shuttle to driving home. Once home, I felt better, but I still felt like I had left my heart in Colorado.

The TransRockies Run was a life-changing experience, so rich and fulfilling that the thought of returning to normal, everyday life seemed unbearable. I struggled with discontent until I read this quote, posted by Rivers a couple days after the race, which reminded me to have perspective:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” –Mary Jean Iron

Even now, over a week later, it’s still hard to let go of such a rare and perfect experience, but I am blessed to be currently enjoying normal days that are full to the brim with their own ordinary richness. I hope I’ll always be looking forward to the next big adventure, and I hope I have many more that are so incredible that they make my heart hurt, but I also hope I will always remember to see the beautiful in the mundane, and be thankful for it.

TransRockies Run: Stage 5

On the morning of Stage 5 we said goodbye to Nova Guides and shuttled our way over to Red Cliff to start where we finished the day before.


Goodbye :(

Since I wanted to preserve the memory of standing in the starting chute every morning, I took this little video. It’s best enjoyed with your speakers turned up all the way to get the full effect. :)

AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” was played during the last 60 seconds before the start every day. It will always have a special place in my heart from now on. :)

Stage 4 is another long stage–24 miles, and it would also have a lot more elevation gain than any stage so far–4, 100 feet, with a max elevation of around 11,600 feet. During our training I had been nervous about the fact that our two hardest stages would be the last two days, but at this point I wasn’t really concerned. All the other stages had been amazing regardless of their difficulty, so I was looking forward to seeing what this day would bring! :)

We started out of Red Cliff on the same road that we had run in on the day before, gradually climbing right from the start. This climb would continue for the next ELEVEN MILES (!!!) as we made our way up the back side of Vail.


We were on the dirt road for about 8 miles, and the pitch was gradual enough that we were able to run short sections of it. At checkpoint 1 we turned onto a singletrack trail, which was also fairly gradual, but unfortunately, by this point my legs were DONE with uphill running. So much for those new legs I got out of that massage yesterday!


The trail was beautiful and the shade felt good, but I’ll admit I was a little grumpy during this section. I was feeling run-down, both physically and mentally, and for the first time all week I just wasn’t enjoying myself. Thankfully, we emerged above the tree line before long, and the scenery completely erased my bad mood.


Vail’s ridgeline is covered with meadows and wildflowers much like Hornsilver.


And, of course, incredible views!


As the trail brought us into the back bowls of the Vail ski resort, Peter and I came across our friend Rivers. (We met him when he came to NH with the Iron Cowboy!) He was coming up the wrong trail and was absolutely covered in blood! Rivers is one of the elite athletes on a team with his brother, Jake, and up until this point they had been leading the race in every stage, so we were VERY surprised to see him! We joined up with him and did what we could to help him to the next checkpoint, which thankfully was only a couple of miles away. He told us how he had been cruising out ahead of everyone else when he unknowingly missed a turn and ran about 3 miles downhill in the wrong direction before realizing his mistake. On top of that, he caught a rock during this descent and crashed hard, bloodying his mouth and nose. By the time he regained the course, he had lost almost 2 hours and was badly dehydrated.


Running along the back bowls with Rivers.


The only real technical descent we had all week, and it was all of 50 feet. :)

We reached checkpoint 2 at mile 16, and left Rivers there to be treated by an EMT. His brother had been waiting for him there and was very relieved to see him! They later passed us on the descent and went on to finish the stage as if nothing ever happened!

From mile 10 to mile 18 we had been running up and down the various peaks along the Vail ridgeline, then we headed down the front side of Vail for a 6-mile descent to the finish.


Our first glimpse of the finish down in the Vail village.


Vail is enormous, and it took us an hour of downhill running on a mix of access roads and mountain bike trails to reach checkpoint 3, which was only halfway down the mountain!


Halfway down!


Singletrack through aspen groves


Looking down at the finish (by the gondola), still about a mile away.


We could see our camp! (In the big field next to the road)


We crossed the finish line after 5 hours and 30 minutes, pleasantly surprised that it hadn’t taken us longer! It was nice to again have downhill all the way to the finish, but instead of feeling good, on this stage it was beating me up, and by the end BOTH my knees were hurting! The tendonitis in my right knee that had developed on day 1 was still nagging, and now it seemed that the bursa sacs around my left knee cap were inflamed. I think the problem was that I wasn’t prepared for the many miles of steep, downhill mountain running since our mountain trails in New Hampshire are so technical that our descents are more of a cautious scramble than a run. Oh well, there was only one more day so I wasn’t worried.


Camping in Vail was a huge contrast to our two previous nights in Camp Hale. Instead of being out in the middle of nowhere, we were right next to a busy interstate! I didn’t sleep as well here thanks to the traffic noise all night. On the plus side, we got to use real bathrooms again! Vail was also special because it was our last night, so the catering crew went all out making an enormous, gourmet dinner for us! All the meals during the week were amazing, but this one was definitely the best! We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore and went to bed feeling fat and happy. :)

TransRockies Run: Stage 4

The start for Stage 4 is at Nova Guides, and since we would be returning that night to spend a second night there, for the first and only time during the week we didn’t have to take a shuttle OR pack our duffle bags! As someone who is not particularly a morning person, I really enjoyed sleeping in and taking my time with my morning routine this day. :)


Stage 4 is another big mountain day, very similar to Stage 2 in terms of the elevation profile. We started out on the dirt road leading out of Camp Hale and followed that for about 2 miles. Then we turned on to an ATV trail to begin our ascent of Hornsilver Mountain. The trail starts steep and gets gradually steeper as you work your way up the 4-mile climb.


 The climbing begins…


Getting steep!!!

We walked every step of those 4 miles, and my legs were so tired that I had to stop to rest a few times on the steepest sections. After doing roughly 60 miles in 3 days, I felt like my whole lower body was full of lactic acid, and the lack of oxygenated blood was taking it’s toll. I decided during that climb to treat myself to a massage back at camp that afternoon in hopes of restoring my legs before our last two stages. :)


Nearing the top of Hornsilver!

For this climb we were below the tree line for almost the entire climb, so it wasn’t until we reached the ridgeline that we had any views.


One guy we were running with posed for a picture here while doing a handstand, so Peter got ambitious and tried the pose himself. :)


I didn’t dare get involved in any of those shenanigans. :)


Our first checkpoint was right on the summit of Hornsilver at 11,700 feet, but once again, this aid station was limited to just water because the spot was only accessible by ATV.


From checkpoint 1, looking back

Once on the ridge, we enjoyed about 4 miles of rolling terrain through the high meadows with views to either side. It. was. glorious.


My favorite picture of the entire week!


Rolling hills along the ridge



Red, white and blue flowers!

At the 8 mile mark we started heading down the other side of Hornsilver, which was a fairly rocky (by Colorado standards), steep descent, though nothing out of the ordinary for us. Once we got towards the bottom we had some easy running sections like this:


The highlight of this stage was the half-mile section just before checkpoint 2 where trail and creek became one.


Yes, this is the trail!

The icy Wearyman Creek completely overtakes the trail at this point, and it was impossible to keep our feet dry. The water was mostly ankle-deep with a few spots up to our knees! It was very refreshing, but by the time we emerged onto dry land my feet were completely numb!

Just after that we passed through checkpoint 2 and then turned onto the dirt road that would take us down into Red Cliff where we would finish for the day.


It was nice to finish with a downhill for a change!


We finished 14.5 miles in 3 hours and 45 minutes with a total elevation gain of 2,800 feet. I felt really good at the end of this stage, perhaps because the last 6 miles were downhill. Or maybe it was the ice bath. :) Either way, it was probably my favorite stage of the week, in spite of the grueling climb at the beginning! I absolutely loved the ridge run through the high meadows!

This stage literally ends at the front door to Mango’s Bar and Grill, and most of the runners stayed to buy lunch and drinks, but I had my heart set on that massage, so I took a shuttle back to camp. And it turned out that the few of us who did this got the best of both worlds because we didn’t have to endure the crazy long wait to be seated and served at Mango’s AND we enjoyed the luxury of having a quiet camp for a few hours!

No one in the shower line = nice, looooooong shower. No one in the tents = quiet, undisturbed nap. After that I got a half hour massage, which made me feel like I had new legs again! It was a perfect afternoon of pampering, and I didn’t envy anyone who came back drunk from too many margaritas at Mango’s. :)


Our perfect day ended with a beautiful sunset over the lake. 

TransRockies Run: Stage 3

Our night in Leadville was pretty chilly with a low of 41 degrees, but it warmed up really quickly as soon as the sun came up. My knee had been feeling good walking around camp that morning, so as we lined up to start I was optimistic that the worst was over.


 The starting line in downtown Leadville


We ran through Leadville and out of town on paved roads for about 3 miles. There were some short ups and downs followed by a long down. I was discouraged to find that my knee was not so happy after all, and even the hills weren’t offering any relief at this point. The prospect of 24.5 miles was daunting.

We hit the trailhead at about 3 miles and immediately began a steep, 2-mile climb. We walked the whole thing along with everyone else in the race. :)


View of Twin Lakes, where we finished Stage 2 and the mountains beyond that we climbed up and over.


At the top of our first climb and ready for some downhill!

Two miles of equally steep downhill brought us to our first checkpoint at mile 7. By this point I had decided that the only way to survive this race would be to get some Tylenol ASAP. Thankfully there was an EMT at this checkpoint, and he hooked me up! :) I felt better almost immediately and didn’t have any pain for the rest of the stage!


View from the checkpoint

From there we set out on our second big climb of the day, which was much longer but less steep. Some parts looked like this:


Most parts looked like this:


There was little running to be had, and since we were in the woods most of the time, we didn’t have the expansive vistas that we’d been spoiled with for the past two days. We were grateful for the shade though, and the lush greens of the forest were beautiful.

Eventually we came out on the backside of Ski Cooper, and from there it was a short jaunt up, then down their access road to our second checkpoint at mile 15. My plan for this stage was to start with enough water to last me until checkpoint 2 and refill there to get me through the rest of the race. Refilling only once worked well and saved time at the other checkpoints, so I continued to do this for the rest of the week.

For the next 10 miles, it was mostly easy downhill running on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, and we loved every bit of it.




Last lookout before our final descent into Camp Hale.


Beautiful rolling singletrack

We came out onto a dirt road with about 3 miles to go and made a brief stop at checkpoint 3. Like Stage 1, this long section out on the open road at the end of the stage felt harder than it should have, and it was a tough finish.


Approaching checkpoint 3


We finished our 24.5-mile stage at Nova Guides in Camp Hale after 5 hours and 35 minutes. Our total elevation gain was 2,700 feet, and our max elevation was 10,800 feet. It was our longest stage, though with relatively little climbing compared to some of our big stages to come.

During the previous two stages I had been apprehensive and worried about how my body was going to hold up, but during this stage something clicked into place for me mentally, and instead of doubting myself I became calmly certain that I would finish. Suddenly the aches and pains and tiredness didn’t matter anymore, and I knew that the next morning (and the next and the next) I would get up, put my gear on, and head out to do my thing without giving it a second thought.


Camping at Nova Guides

Nova Guides was by far the best camp site of the week, and we got to stay there for two nights! Peter and I were lucky to get a tent near the food tent, so we didn’t have to walk far for our most basic need. :)


View from our tent

The highlight of the afternoon was the first annual TransRockies Run Beer Mile! This was not a TRR sanctioned event, but I’ve heard that it’s going to be on the schedule for next year. :) It was highly entertaining and definitely kicked off the party atmosphere at Nova Guides. This was also the end of the 3-day race, so the dinner tent that night was full of laughter and cheers as the whole camp celebrated together. I was slightly jealous of the 3-day runners and the fact that they were able to kick back and revel in what they had accomplished, but at the same time I was nowhere near ready for my own adventure to end yet!