TransRockies 2007 – Day 4

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Written by: Jonathan Schmidt

Day 4 – Sept 19/07

We began early at a beautiful location called Chapman Lake. It was a gorgeous mountain lake surrounded by a nice mix of golden aspen and deep green spruce and pine trees. Since our shuttle vans arrived quite early to the start location all the athletes were shuffling around trying to stay warm, stretching out sore muscles form the previous days of running. Justin and I baked in the early morning sun and stretched. A little while later the final vans arrived and we were all summoned to the start line for day four of running through the Rocky Mountains. By now we were all accustomed to the startline festivities. The organizers crank up the music to pump up the runners. With about one minute left to go they play the TransRockies theme song, which is really great, then they follow up with “Highway to Hell”. At first I thought this song was somewhat inappropriate, but after putting myself through 60 miles of running in 3 days, it may have some legitimacy. Heaven doesn’t seem the first link to waking up and running 28 miles, yet looking around, the scenery seems similar. The race began on a steep uphill that winded its way up and up around the mountain. Justin’s brief struggle with the altitude from Sunday was now totally a thing of the past. I had to constantly remind him to keep the pace slow, as I tried to save myself for the grueling miles that come. Soon we were on a smaller road making our way up to our highest elevation point yet, the continental divide at 12,000 ft. Through a combination of running the flats and walking the hills we climbed up to the first aid station, before finally getting a beautiful view of the snow capped Rockies and setting our sights briefly on the sign for the continental divide. Although we expressed little excitement, the location was a fairly monumental milestone. From now on most of our running in the race would be either downhill or at significantly lower altitudes. Up until that point almost all of our running had been above 9,000 ft., with a huge bulk of it around 10,000 ft. The next approximately 6 miles were an absolute dream! We were running down a steep road, letting our legs go and trying, at the same time, to take in the amazing views in front of us. The views included endless valleys of conifers and burning yellow aspen, complemented by mountain lakes and streams. I loved these moments, it was really the first time were able to run fast, let our legs go and just live in the moment. The next aid station came up way too quick, but were in and out fast and back to running down. This time it would be 18 miles of downhill! The dream could only last so long, and thus the road began to level out and the pain of the continental divide began to set in. We encouraged each other, took a few breaks and pushed our bodies to keep moving. Miles after miles of seemingly endless road was revealed out beneath us. This dirt road winding its way through the mountains seemed to be our perpetual home, the concept of an end to it was beyond comprehension. The beauty and pain was permanent, or at least it felt that way. At some point I began to forget about my body and just ran. My arms were flailing, my head was sometimes forward, sometimes back. It must have looked like the most horrible running form, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to keep moving. It was all I could do to hope that at some point the finish line would appear. We switched back down the road for many more miles until finally, like in a dream, we could hear the announcer and music of the finish line. The race trail made a sharp left off the gravel road and we picked up the pace, running for the finish line. When we pushed through the line I was totally whipped. 28 miles of up, then down, running pushing the pace beyond what I thought I could do. My body ached in pain, but I was extremely happy. We had crossed the line in under five hours for the longest day of the race. One day remained, a gradual uphill run of 18 miles, we’d be there in a day.

Some photos copyright of Sho Fujimaki (http://picasaweb.google.com/sebangou2/)

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