So the 2011 GORE-TEX® TransRockies is over. It was over for me pretty much in the first stage when my teammate did a face plant in front of me and I had to hop over her to avoid a major collision. In the process I rolled my recently healed ankle. I felt a searing pain and hobbled away from the scene in major discomfort.
So I did my best to run with a foot injury, but this is not like running a nice smooth road race. The Gore-Tex TransRockies offers up some of the gnarliest running terrain on the planet, and this does not bode well for any racer with a significant injury.
I was pretty impressed that my mind did a great job of blocking the pain for two and half days and 47 miles, but at mile 14, during Stage 3 from Leadville to Camp Hale, my brain sent a text to my body to shut down the power valves. With each mile up a steep long ascent, I felt the body slowing down and shutting down the gas! I was done, my mind and body were spent and with encouragement from teammate Lori, I decided to call it a day at the second check point. Game over!
I was obviously disappointed, but having had one finish under my belt in 2010, I was OK with the decision. It was time to stop being a runner and instead join the ranks of Gore-Tex TransRockies volunteers, the amazing people who make this amazing race happen.
Aside from my daily media duties as a reporter, I jumped in and helped with bag carrying, shuttling athletes to the start and setting up tents. The volunteers on this event do an astounding amount of work each day, and standing in their shoes for a few hours a day, gave me another perspective on a race I had only ever run.
The TransRockies event is like an annual family gathering. A summer running camp for adults - was how one leading runner described it and its true. You get to spend a week with 400 runners, 100 volunteers, race officials, media and more, and its a blast!
I enjoyed being at the finish line to see the winners each day, something you never get to watch if you are racing, unless you can run 6 minute miles, like the winners do most days!
During a week like this one gets to meet many inspiring people. Racers from Italy who have run an endurance race on every continent, men who have placed in the top 10 in the Leadville 100, young studs from Flagstaff who can run a marathon distance over a 12,500 ft mountain in times that would earn them a top 20 finish in the Boston marathon. All impressive.
However the athlete that impressed me most this year was a lanky blonde from Washington State. Kelly Hambelton had run TRR in 2010, but this year she showed up three days after undergoing surgery to insert 9 pins in her forearm after a motorcycle mishap.
I did not believe she would last more than a day running in this condition, fresh out of anesthesia. She grimaced through the first three days and then the grimace slowly turned to a smile as the swelling receded and she felt more comfortable. She defied all expectation and completed the race. This is the type of athlete that races TransRockies!
Photojournalist Paul Shippey is a former elite triathlete and endurance sports competitor. He is also the gear editor for EverymanTri. Shippey’s racing accomplishments are varied and include; Ironman SA, Comrades Ultra Marathon, Boston Marathon, ITU Worlds, Bar One Adventure Racing Series and the Nissan Xterra Series.
The South African native is the owner of Automotive Media Solutions – an automotive marketing and PR firm in Denver. He is also a former professional driver and racing instructor.
Lori Lyons has over twenty marathons to her name, including Boston, and with the addition of trails to her training repertoire, has recently entered the smaller community of ultrarunning. She is an occasional triathlete with the half Ironman as a favorite distance. Lori is an LA-based, independent consultant in the automotive industry, and dedicated mother to her three year old son and four year old bulldog (neither of which want to run with her).
Click HERE to visit Lori and Paul's race blog.