The TransRockies Run course runs from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, through the heart of the White River and San Isabel National Forests. The course includes a mix of single-track and forest road with nearly 20,000 feet of elevation gain, reaching altitudes of over 12,500 ft.
Runners were fed and housed in a tent city, and treated to hot showers and other amenities every night, and are supported throughout each stage with food and aid stations along with a fully equipped and mobile medical team. Each morning, the runners will leave the race village en masse and tackle the day’s course before arriving at the finish where the Event Team has moved in and rebuilt the village from the night before. With gear bags, tents, showers and food waiting, the runners can spend the rest of the afternoon and evening trading stories, healing wounds and recovering in preparation for the next day’s run.
6-Day Team Event & Solo
Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, CO
120 miles, 20,000 feet of climbing
The Story Behind The Story
So it started sometime in Winter 2015, when I lost hope. I thought I would have a void on my summer running schedule, since I did not get into any lottery for this year, from Western State, Leadville, and UTMB. One day, a bunch oh my friends encourage my to come out through the friggin cold temperature, to attend the TransRockies Run 2015 presentation. I did not have anything to do anyway, plus Rob Krar would be there, Tha Man of Tha Year. I was a little late, came in just before the presentation started. A few minutes later, I was drooling in the corner of the room, looking at slide show of the course along the mountain range. I was kinda sad, because I knew I would not have the budget for the registration fee. Here is where the magic happened!! At the end of presentation, they were about to started the drawing for prizes. And Mary Arnold was asking if anyone had not put their name in. A few of us dropped our name, and Rob Krar was responsible to draw the name. Then he called Eric. I did not even realize it was my name, until Keila and Kat were yelling at me. “That’s your name!!” Hey, I had never win anything on door-prize, so I was not expecting. So there it was, how did I make it to this amazing race. And I still owe Rob a beer or two or more.
PS. Eventhough the registration fee is not cheap, but it was worth it. Even if you compare to regular marathon where you only get gatorade, water, gel, and banana.Plus some useless medal and finisher shirt, this race is worth every penny ten times folds. It would carve into your soul.
The gun is off, oh yeah they use a real gun, which probably was my first experience. I ran it a bit fast but not too fast for one flat mile or so. I tried to place myself in a better position before the 2 or 3 miles long hike to the hope pass. After the 1st aid station, we went into the single track, the entrance into the hope pass. This section was also part of the famous Leadville 100, which would be the 50 miles half way turn. The hike was pretty relentless, but it was not that bad, and also I was still feeling pretty good at that time. I started to pass people, thanks to my magic poles, I could keep my pace in a good rate without spiked up my heart rate. After about 20 minutes or so, I passed the tree-line. I could feel how the breathing got a little bit more heavy, we were pretty exposed that the wind got a little colder. But the view was pretty stunning, it was really remind me of my hike in The Alps. I was started to feel weary, it felt like every step that I took, would add extra kilo on my shoulder, but I was still in a good spirit. Then I saw the top was like a couple of hundreds meters away (vertical gain), and I started to become impatient and ramped up my pace. I was talking nonsense with other runners the whole hike. I remembered that I talked with Rob who was behind me about the climb in Kilimanjaro, we both agreed it was kinda walk in the park until the last pitch. Right after I finished the sentence, I could not hold on my nausea anymore and threw up on the side of the trail. I let the other runners pass while I tried to calm down my guts. Meanwhile, I took a couple of pictures while I was at it, I felt awful, but fortunately I could still enjoy the view.
When I got into the Hope Pass, the highest point of Trans Rockies Run, I felt pretty miserable. I took a quick picture of the view, another picture for another runner, and I left as soon as I could. The only way for me to get better from this altitude sickness, was by going down to lower altitude as soon as I could. The descent from the Hope Pass was pretty steep, yet it was not technical whatsoever, it was a little narrow and switching back pretty sharp. I remembered I screamed yip yip when I passed Captain America. There was a guy, an ironman and adventure race athlete, he might had been in the army, but all of his attire was american flag.
I was really running down the hills pretty fast, like I was chased by a bear. I felt that I was a little rude when I passed people in front of me, but I felt either I passed them or I vomited on their back. After a couple of miles, when the trail was less steep, but still a downhill, I took a bladder break. I felt so much better, although I had my heart rate spiked too high. So I started to slow down my pace into reasonable pace where I would not break my ankles.
I was so happy when I got off the trail and I could see the twin lakes, the day hikers, and cabins. It meant that I was about a few miles short (or long) away. Suddenly the nausea hit me again. Not sure why, I was on the lower altitude already, but I felt nausea again and hard to breathe. Right after Tarryn and Marvin, from Ithaca, passed me on the trail by the lake, I could not hold my guts, and vomited on the trail side. From there, shit went down, I was barely running anymore. Then I heard music, I looked back, there were Megan and Hozumi from Vancouver, and I told them that I think I heard music but not sure if it was real or hallucination. They encouraged me to start running again and keep up with them. Alas, I could not keep up with him, but I was not hallucinating, there was the finish line.
When I got to the finish line, I felt horrible. But I overall I had a good time. Also I got a chance to meet the founders of NBR (North Brooklyn Runners), one of the top running club in NY, Aja and Misha. We rode the bus together to go to the tent city in Leadville, and I learned a lot from Misha about running in high altitude, which effected how I ran the rest of the race.
Our tent was located on the football field on the skirt of downtown Leadville. It pretty much looked like a refugee camp, but with runner gears hanging around. I spent the rest of the day just sitting around, tried to settle down my stomach. And I just found out that Matt Gun, the RD of The Grand Circle Trail Series, was running the 3 days event. It was good that I could catch up with the Matt, I love his races. Also that day I got my first sport massage, it was phenomenal. If anyone gonna do a TRR, the massage is a must. They fixed me up really well.
The real gun shot to the sky, the fast people just shoot out like a sprinter. I saw Flo, the German runners that had ruled the race for the past 2 days, ran like he stole some beehives. Me, I was trying to hang back as much as I can. We started on the road for a mile probably, and I think it was pretty much downhill. For the first few minutes I was running with a bad ass veteran runners. They were the leader for 100+ team open, David Blankenship and Jon Sinclair, these 2 bad asses was my favorite runners of this race. They were very humble and yet very inspiring, they were very focus and constant performance throughout the course. They were more a road runners than trail runners, nevertheless they kicked ass and schooled me on the course. Jon was another Olympian living legends and David was as fast and though as his partner, who chose a regular life over running careers. I learned many things from them, stole their wisdom. I was honored that I could run with them in this race. Oh they told me that day “Run The Edge”.
Just before we got into the trail, I saw Rob Krar was running back to the starting line. At the end of the race, I found out that he got an injury issue. This stage was the longest course distance of the race with a mild elevation gain. I took it easy, and just trucking the first ascent, and not trying to spike up my heart rate. This section was pretty much an off-road trail, not technical, but it was pretty bumpy. After the 1st peak, I caught up my pace on the downhill before the 1st aid station, which the gateway to the second ascent of the course. Just before the peak, I saw Michelle Green’s husband, I met them and their kids before the race at the Arrowhead Campsite. Michelle and I had been playing catching up the whole ascent.
After the first aid station, the second ascent was started, and it was not an off-road trail any more, and the trail was a little more technical than rough. It was pretty frustrating since I could not really hike it with my normal pace, the altitude sickness was kinda peeking behind my shoulder, waiting to jump onto my face anytime. More people continued to pass me, and I just had to swallow this bad medicine. But, like old wise man says, no pain no gain, bruising my ego. When I got into the top, all of those miserable feelings was paid off. I was surrounding by peaks after peaks after peaks. I felt like I was running on the top of mountain in the sound of music movie. This gorges single trail run for a quite a few minutes, and I was just suck them in. And then here came the fun part, steep down hill. I ran down a little bit more careless than I should, where I twisted my ankles once or twice. But it was the fun part of mountain races. Also these downhill were not as technical as in Northeastern trail, so no death threat from it. Then I got into the single trail that more flat, I caught up with Malia, a pretty bad ass runner from NY. We ran together for a little bit on this switch back trail which was pretty stunning. I might had been enjoying the run too much that I did not realize that I should have slow down my pace, where my stomach was starting to feel queasy. So I slowed down a little and let Malia ran passed me.
After the aid station 3, the course was heading into a jeep trail. It was going slightly downhill for a couple of mile, before it became a bit rolling. I could see the Camp Hale, where we were camping out for day 3 and 4, but it seemed that I would never get there. It was not even getting closer, and to make it worst, it felt that I ran passed it for awhile, until I made the left turn to go back to the Camp Hale direction. I was happy to be done, it had been a long day, and not running on my desire pace made it worse.
Camp Hale was pretty cool. Our tent city was surrounded by water (not sure if it was natural or man-made) and the mountains were our livingroom. We were also greeted by a delicious burger (paid by ourselves). Those combination was enough to wash down my tiredness and refresh my spirit. We jumped into the waters to cool down our muscle. Some people took the plastics chairs, sitting in the water while drinking beers. Living our live. We also had our own beer mile competition, with some censored finisher moments, cowboy commando.
After we finished the award ceremony, suddenly all the runners, volunteers, and every one else were lining up on the finishing shoot. We just found out that there was the last runner finishing, probably over 10 hours in the wilderness. Everyone was shouting and encouraging her and banging on the finishing shoot dividers. In my book she was the real champ, she endured the pain longer than any of us, and yet had the determination to finish what she started. And she was finishing with a big smile, I want to be like her when I grow up.
Day 3 was the last day for the RUN 3 people, so this night was the last time we would have a full pack crowds in the dining room. There were a couple of unfortunate news from today race. First the front female runner from China that had been dominating, she dropped out due to injury (I think). And the second was Rob Krar was also dropped out from the race due to back injury and he was probably playing safe for his UTMB attempt in a few weeks. Or might be from Western State, which he dominated it again for the second year in a row.
We tracked backed the way we came in from day 3, but we continued to the left on the first big junction, up to the Hornsilver Mountain. For a while I was running with the Ithacan, until we got into the end of the gravel road. I hiked the trail with more comfortable pace, comfortable for my heart rate. I started to lose sight of the Ithacans, and one by one the other runners passed me. It was kind of frustrating, but I know it would be only one big hike, I could catch them up on the downhill. The trail seemed getting steeper and steeper the further I went. I thought they moved the peak and the aid station further up.
After we hit the top, we started to running down through the meadow and a gentle rocky downhill. I started to pick up my pace and for a while I was running with a runner from Mexico. The trail was a really fun one, not too technical like in the North East, but it was steep enough that I could leap on here and there. Sometime it was too close to break my ankle.
From the race briefing, the cowboy man (the course director) had told us about the creek crossing. I thought it would be just like normal creek crossing. What I found, it was literally running on the creek for a good half a mile. While most people was being careful from the slippery rocks under the water, I, on the other hand, being silly with splashing water, jumping and slipping here and there. I kept running careless maybe a bit rude when I splashing to the others on my left and right. I had a blast, like a kid in the playground. Finally I caught up with the couple from Ithaca, Taryn and Marvin, they were crazy, they stopped every minute to take pictures and videos of their creek crossing.
At the end of the creek, the course went up to the wooden bridge where I slipped a bit. There was the second aid station located, where I took a quick stop. The last mile was a downhill on the pavement, which I hate, but I knew it would be not that far to the finished line. When I saw the roof of the houses and the finish line around the corner, I was the happiest kid in town. Finally I had fun in TransRockies Run. I might have yelling around, out of my excitement.
The finish-line was in Red Cliff, in front of the infamous Mango’s, where the finishers could drown themselves into margarita while munching tacos. I sat on the roof with Jose Colon, another NY-er, we drank and ate while watching the runners crossing the finish line. It was a good day.
Again, we tracked back the way we came in from the previous day and we took the left side that ran onto a long dirt road. I was thinking to try something new, I was really taking it easy as if I was running on the 100 miles race. I ran super slow but constant, to conserve more for the second half of the course. For a while I ran with Margareth, Julie and Matt. Many people passed me, but some I could catch back after the aid station 1. By that time I ended up in my run hike mode. When I got into the switch back, a few hundreds vertical meters away from the peak, I heard some one call my name. I looked up, it was Jeney. It gave me a little hope that I did not fall behind that bad. I was feeling really slow that day. When I got to the top of that peak, I stopped to take a picture for a couple of ladies. The scenery across the peak was stunning. And when I started to run again, it was getting flat, but my stomach started to churn and I threw up in a second. From that point, my memory was a little blur. Between nausea, delirious feeling, and minor migraine, I remembered vaguely that I was running on the ridge behind a Canadian female runners. She told me that she too had the same issue. At one point we had to step over a cable, forgot what it was for, but it was there, just before a steep climb down over a wall. Again, not remember what was the wall for, I think they call it the China Wall or something like that. The climb down was pretty steep, and it continued to the aid station 2. In the aid station 2, I saw Jacob Puzey in the aid station. I asked him what was going on. And he said that Thomas Rivers, his brother and team partner, had been lost for almost an hour. I wondered that was the reason I saw the course director with race crew were running back step the course, passing me on the way to the peak. Despite his race situation in jeopardy, Jacob still got a chance to check how did I do. I told him that my head felt like exploding and dying. The course continued into a dirt road that running through some ski facility. It was a little flat and some downhill on a dirt road before the course back to a short ascent. But that short ascent felt like forever, probably it felt longer than the whole distance. I felt that I barely running straight, I threw up more than twice I believe. Just before I got into the end of the peak, I was leaning on my knee and threw up again. I stood on my knee for a while until I heard somebody was talking to me, I was not sure what was he talking about, but it was my wake up call. I just realized that I was still on the race. I slapped his back say thank you for the wake up call, and started to run again. I guessed second wind does happen. I started to run down the mountain, and caught up to some of the runners. The downhill a little bit steep, but it just the perfect “flat” steep. When the sun started to bake my back, I ran through a single trail for bike, which was pretty narrow. Somehow those excuses managed to slow me down.
The race started from Vail Village heading north into the North Vail Trail. Despite running on the pavement and pedestrian bridge over a highway for a few miles, before we hit the trail, it was not as bad as usually I would feel. Maybe it was still early in the morning. Or also maybe I started the race with my preference pace, which I had a lot of fun with huffing puffing, chasing the fast kids at the end of my eyesight. I also saw the Puzey brothers, I thought they would drop out after the accident that Thomas had, but they were running in the leading pack group. It was kinda a disappointment for me, that they had to drop to second place. I was rooting for them after Rob dropped. They were a humble yet beats on the trail. I did not think they could come back up after got delayed more than an hour from day 5. Maybe that was why they were running hard at the front line, to closing the gap, and maybe stole the crowns again. When I hit the trail and started the ascent, I started to feel nausea again. I saw Andy and his teammate, who were also part of the Orangemud family, were ahead of me. So I was kinda stalking them and used them as my pacer. After a couple of miles, where there was a little dip before another steep ascent, I fell way behind everyone. I had been, again, fighting with my sickness for about an hour by now.
After aid station 1, I got a little break from “flat” down hill for about a mile. It was a pretty nice wide trail with a lush trees by our sides. Then the course started to get steep again before we got into another scenic peaks, beyond the tree lines. Probably it was the last high peak of the race. Then the course was running downhill again till I hit the aid station 2. I did a quick stop for chips and snacks, and continued with the decent. It was getting a little technical but it was not that bad actually. The only issue, the trail was a single narrow trail that I almost crashed so many runners in the process. A few section of this descent was next of a steep drop from the back of the mountain, which made some people ran extra careful. So it was hard to pass people, especially on the switch back with narrow space. Once in a while I got stuck behind a people and got a little antsy, I hoped I was not being rude. The long decent ended up on a small creek under a bridge, and we climbed up onto a road side. The road was running down headed to the interstate. As much as I wanted to bomb the pavement, but my legs said the other way. I missed those steep single trail descent already. The course ran across the interstate and ran toward the city of Avon. Not many people on the street but here and there some people say hi or cheering. After I passed a residence area, I could see the aid station 3 from far away.It was located on the parking area that looks like a resort or something like that. By that point I had enough with the road, despite the road was only a couple of miles.
When I got into the aid station 3, I drank a little water, threw it over my head and got a salt tablet. I felt a little bit dehydrated. And these awesome volunteer gave me a popsicle, it made my day. I was singing in my heart while enjoying my treat along the last ascent of the course, the whole TRR course. It was getting really hot at that time and I had already out of gas. Between hike and run, I could see some familiar faces were catching up with me. Megan and Hozumi, a couple from Vancouver, and Matt. About a mile away from the peak, I lost Megan and Hozumi, and barely kept up with Matt. It was the moment that I knew that I was barely move again, I think I had reach my limit after 6 days run through the back of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain, getting sick almost everyday, and sore every morning. But in away I was blessed that I had privilege to do this kind of thing, enjoying this kind of live, and soaking my soul into these mother nature’s beauty. This last ascent ran on switch back for mountain bike. I met a few bikers, and they were really nice that cheering at us and gave us some space to finish up our last ascent. By the time I hit the peak of this small hill, I felt a mix of happiness, relieve and sad. It was great that finally I basically had finished the race, finally I hit the last peak, but at the same time I felt sad that it meant my summer camp would be over soon. On the running down section, I was thinking how I would miss this habit of eat sleep run everyday, with the best people I could get. I would miss my new extended family.
It was a coincident, by the time I hit the finish line, it was the same time we (Indonesian) celebrate our independence day back home. So I was running with our national flag across the finish line. After the finish line I was greeted by Michelle kids, and they gave me a flower. I wore it behind my ear. In Balinese culture, people who has attended a spiritual ceremony, they wear the flower from the ceremony behind they ear. So in away, I was honoring my week-long spiritual journey.