TransRockies Day 5

Red Cliff to Vail – 23.4 miles

Brutally epic, extremely challenging, surprisingly difficult, lung busting, and devastatingly beautiful would all be drastic understatements when it comes to describing today’s stage! It was the second longest stage (about 1 mile shorter than stage 3), but had over 4,000ft of climbing. The lowest point of the day was 8,000ft!

The night before we were gathered as usual in the giant tent to be briefed on the next days stage. We were all in good spirits, but it was a nervous happy. Eyeing the map of the next day, it was bound to be a tough one. We had got to spend a second night at Camp Hale, which was nice because we didn’t have to pack everything up like all the other mornings.

The morning of Stage 5, they shuttled us back into the tiny town of Red Cliff. It was really freakin cold because it is tucked away in a little valley. Toby and I were so glad Sugoi had set us up with their Helium Jacket ( This was part of our emergency pack that we each had to carry daily and pulling that on when you can see your breath is a nice feeling. This jacket only weights 3 ounces, but is surprisingly warm.

I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that if you are a runner who is accustom to adverse or even just early morning conditions, you have to have this jacket! It’s light weight, breathable, and water resistant. I seriously can’t say enough good things about this jacket. I am a HUGE FAN!

Toby and I decided to go with a similar plan to the previous day of pushing the uphills and hoping to not lose to much on the 9.5mile descent that was the final push of the day. Unfortunately for us, things didn’t go quite as planned.

The stage started out going up a long jeep road for about 7 miles. I was feeling strong and had Toby in tow. We unhooked at the first aid station and stuffed our faces with everything we could. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to take 2 salt tabs (, and follow that with all the rest of my nutrition. As we left the aid station off onto the single track climb, those 2 salt tabs got stuck in my throat. I immediately started heaving and threw up everything else I had swallowed after. Those 2 tabs went down, leaving me with a nearly empty stomach and a ton of salt in my belly. Not good.

As we kept climbing, things starting to get ugly. Toby’s ankle was feeling a bit better, but the altitude was hurting him. I wasn’t doing so great either. All that salt was giving me stomach cramps and I was now starting to feel the previous 4 days of running. We reattached the tow and kept plugging along trying to stay positive, but its hard when you both feel like crap.

One thing I was happy about, was the fact that my feet didn’t hurt at all. I had decided to go with the New Balance 790 over the Avia Avi-Stoltz because there was so much climbing. I think the Avi-Stoltz would be better for the descent, but with 4,000+ ft of fighting gravity, I didn’t want the extra weight.

As we neared the top (the second one!), it became more of a death march. We posed a couple times for the photographers and once again stuffed our faces at the second aid station, but the damage had been done. We had lost several spots and lots of time due to the fact that both Toby and I were “in the box” as he so eloquently put it. “The box” “The hurt locker” “The pain cave” Whatever you want to call it, we were both there as we trudged along at over 11,500ft above sea level.

The 9.5 mile descent from the top of Vail Ski Resort to the base wasn’t much easier than going up. Both Toby’s ankle and my quads were screaming out to stop. We didn’t talk much for those long painful miles, but rather just kept pushing, each in our own way. I shut my brain off and tried to not think or focus on anything. This helped me to keep throwing one leg in front of the other knowing that every step was wearing on me more and more.

We pushed through to the end finishing 9th again in the Open Men’s division. This had been “that one day” that everyone talked about. We both suffered like dogs and came out mentally stronger. I was glad that the next day was our final stage because if we had to do one more like today, I’m not sure how I would have fared.

They must have known that we were suffering out there because we got to camp and were greeted by burgers and beers at the Saloman Relaxation Station. Our dinner that night was fit for a king and believe me we were grateful for every last bite!

The crew got a little creative with set up of our tents on the fields of East Vail.

Though today was so brutal, I was a bit sad that it was over. That meant that we were just one day away from the finale of our trans Rockies adventure. I tried to take in as much of it as I could (which could be seen by the sun burn I got that afternoon hanging out in my short shorts), and not think about tomorrows finish.


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