Monday morning we rise early, pack up our things and check out of our AirBNB. Dressed for a day of running we leave ALL OUR LUGGAGE on the curb out front to be picked up by shuttle and waiting for us when we finish. This action alone caused me stress. Born and raised in a big city, I would never leave legal documents(like ID & passport), cash or other important belongings in a bag outside my house. As we wheeled out and carried our bags to the curb I was reminded of the address line up the night before. Where I was reassured by Erica, she promised me that it’s just LUGGAGE MAGIC and to trust the process. I listened to this clearly wise individual and we walked away from all our clothes and gear to grab a nearby shuttle to the start.
The shuttle arrived and drove us down near the start. The road was blocked off for the race so our driver evicted us and we all walked down the remaining blocks to the start line.
We reached the start just outside of the Surf Chateau hotel and all was well. We gathered into the chute and began running at 8:30 Monday morning. We ran in the same area as the previous days 5km. This area was unlike the others. It was mountainous but desert like at the same time. It was hot and exposed. I ran by myself and I ran with others. I had wonderful conversations with folks and enjoyed this new environment.
As the day wore on though I started having lots of issues with muscle cramps. I ate a mustard pack to relieve the cramping and increased my salt intake, but as the day wore on my legs were clearly not acclimated to the altitude. I fought off leg cramps right until the bitter end. Including running through the finish just to have my calf cramp up.
After a couple glasses of GU recovery smoothie, I trotted down to the Arkansas river for another glorious dunk in its cool, clear waters. The racers celebrated a successful end to Day 1 by splashing and laughing in the river. Once I’ve dried off it’s time to grab a shuttle to chillville and see if my luggage had in fact arrived.
A quick shuttle ride across town has me transported to Chillville and it’s now time to setup camp. I grabbed a piece of flagging tape from the tent crew and set out to find an unoccupied tent. After a bit of searching I’d found a free tent. I marked the tent and left my pack outside so I can find it when I get back. I ask the luggage crew and not only do they help me find my bag but they also helped me carry it to my tent. Now to unpack my shower bag and find clean clothes. BUT FIRST go get the sleeping pad you rented and figure out how to fill it up. After receiving inflation instructions I thought the lady on tent crew was f* cking with me, scoop a bag of air and smush it into the pad??!!! Ha ha ha, in all seriousness she was right and it got easier & faster each day. Finally after breaking a sweat getting camp set it was off to Burt’s infamous shower truck. A know a 4 minute shower isn’t much but on a hot smelly day it was just right.
The alarm goes off at 5:30am as it does most days in tent city. We pack up all our belongings into our TRR official duffles and break camp for the first time. A quick breakfast and then we are ushered off to a row of school buses that will shuttle us up to Vicksburg and the start of the second day. We say goodbye to Buena Vista and I’m a bit sad as I’d grown fond of the sleepy little town over the last 3 days there.
We started by running down a gravel road for a couple miles. I was happy to see a couple familiar faces in the crowd Jaime & Greg, some friends from back home. They had signed up for this race in 2019 and had been training their butts off for this race, including multiple high altitude hikes on their drive down to Colorado. We hit the first checkpoint and Joanne was there?!?! Turns out the altitude sickness was getting to her and after beginning the heart pumping climbs of Hope Pass she had to turn back for her own safety. She was still giving it her all and volunteered through feeling ill that day.
After beginning the steep and relentless climbs myself I could soon see why Joanne had issues with these climbs. I had to stop and take breaks on climbs I could usually power through in the Canadian mountains I’ve climbed. The ALTITUDE was becoming an issue, most definitely. It was during these climbs where my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest. During a break on the side of the trail, while I questioned my life choices ,Roxanne and Jackie appeared and I joined the two ladies in the never ending grind to the top. We took small breaks from the climb to snack, take pictures and just trying to get a full breath of air.
Eventually we could hear cowbells and cheers from the top. As the trail wound around the side of the mountain we were able to see the top and those already celebrating the accomplishment of the climb. As we approached the top we celebrated and posed for photos. 12,500ft above sea level, the air was thin but the stoke was high. After photos and a snack, off we went down the backside of the mountain. Passing through rocky trails and into lush meadows that led you through a forest and never ending down hill single track.
Finally running around a large reservoir that we just wanted to jump into and cool off but we persisted. remembering that you can sit on the porch but DON’T GO INSIDE as you pass by the old museum that remains in Interlaken. We didn’t stop, we were women in a mission and playing leap frog through the single track with Jaime and Greg was too much fun. As we approached the final 1/2 mile we agreed to finish Simultaneously after a great day out there together. Arms and poles extended skywards, we rushed through the finish line. Despite running next to a lake for the last several miles we ended in a parking lot with buses awaiting our arrival, no swim today I thought. After a couple photos and a quick snack we loaded onto the school bus and headed off to camp in Leadville.
Leadville, Colorado; home to now several races including the infamous Leadville 100(miler). A long standing and challenging foot race. When the town’s mine closure threatened to topple the entire towns economy they banded together to create the Leadville 100 and now many other races to keep tourism alive in their historic town. Knowing the history of Leadville it was a joyous occasion to have time to wander the main streets and check out a few local shops.
After a tour of main street it was back to camp, which was on a baseball field in Leadville. After each day you have dinner, athlete meeting and then it’s pretty much time to get ready for bed. Organizing gear becomes a nightly priority. If I’m organized at night I’ll sleep better and will be more prepared in the morning.
This stage is the longest but this whole day was my favourite. By day 3 you are starting to form habits, recognize volunteers and form your pace group. Look around because these are the folks you’ll see intermittently throughout the rest of the week. These runners are the same pace or stop frequently enough for you to pass them but then catch right back up.
The day starts by walking a couple blocks to downtown Leadville. We began on Harrison Ave, following hollowed grounds and by police escort we run anxiously out of town. Local police use their vehicles to block traffic at multiple points for runners to safely cross the highway. Ryan, who marks the course and does the briefing each night was quite clear about the road crossings on this day so I felt prepared and safe.
Running on the highway shoulder going downhill was all fun and games until we made a turn and started hiking up and up. Why didn’t I bring poles?? I marched on up hill, choosing visual landmarks to stop for a break when needed. During a break under a tree I see Roxanne and Jessica climbing towards me. What a wonderful surprise!! I’d seen them ahead of me when we began the race but lost sight once we got moving. Our trio was back in action and we headed up that hill and all the other hills together.
After checkpoint 2 we were really picking up steam. We nicknamed our crew ‘the party train’ and had other runners jump on and chug along at our pace, helping to pull others through climbs and long stretches with us. We enjoyed open valleys, wild flowers, beautifully flowy single track and conversations with other runners along the way.
Finally reaching checkpoint 3 we find the udderly fabulous Wendy, giving SHOTS of Fireball from a plastic udder in a COW onesie. She pours water over our heads and off we go to finish off the day. It’s only 4 miles left but it’s a hot slow 4mi/6.5k the sun beating down on us as we do our best to trudge along to finish off a 40km day.
Finishing was bittersweet, finishing Day 3 meant Jessica was finished her race. She did an amazing job on her 3 day run and I’m happy she stayed to celebrate but also Roxxie and I were sad to see her go.
At the end of Stage 3 they hold a beer mile. If you aren’t familiar with it, I’ll explain.
Beer mile; you drink(chug) a beer as quick as you can and then run 400m as quick as you can. repeat 4 times or until you puke.
I don’t drink so I just dressed up to cheer. We cheered the last runners in and celebrated the completion of Run 3. We celebrated Jackie’s finish by getting an Air Relax compression boot therapy, it’s like blood pressure cuffs that fit over your whole legs and feet. It helps with blood flow and recovery.
That night we had an awesome band (the Sweet Lillies) play, some folks got a bit tipsy and others just enjoyed letting loose and dancing. We hung out in hammocks, enjoyed the entertainment, drank hot cocoa, laughed, danced and breathed. It was a perfect night.