After a long day, Taylor and I are here at Camp Hale, resting in our tent. Day 1 of 6 (or 3) days is complete, and we’re all settled at camp, excited for the next few stages. Yesterday I picked Taylor up at the Denver Airport, giddy to get to Buena Vista. A few hours and wrong turns later, we made it to the tiny mountain town and checked in at Avery Parsons Elementary. The excitement was building as we gathered with the other athletes and teams for the welcome banquet. We met a few runners from all over the US who had come with the same intentions: to explore the Rockies.
Dinner, early to bed, and an early wake-up call and we were at the starting line for Day 1. Looking around the corral, I started getting a little nervous. Even with Taylor on the sidelines cheering, I knew this was my journey alone and I’d need to make some friends on the trails. Gulp.
Luckily runners are the friendliest breed, and within a few minutes, I was chatting with teams and ”singles” about where they were from, how they heard about Transrockies and why they were here with me at what everyone has been calling “summer camp for adults”. Similar to ultrarunning/ other trail running, the pack dictated the pace as we hiked up the bigger climbs and zoomed down the backsides of hills. A lot of us were struggling with the altitude, hitting 9,400 feet at our highest point. OUCH!
After making it through the first Aid Station, I started to feel more like a runner (not a power hiker) again. We slowly descended from 9k+ feet down into the 8,000′s. But as the hills became less daunting, it was heating up, and I knew I needed to hydrate and pace myself. This is only Day 1, after all. Luckily the heat was a lot more moderate compared to previous years, but the 1st Stage of this course are notorious for being dry and exposed trail, so this SF fog dweller was a fish out of water.
As the day wore on, the scenery continued to amaze me, the volunteers and other runners were cheerful, the heat set in, and the flow thinned out a bit. I was stopping every mile or two to snap photos, but they just don’t do these gorgeous views justice.
21 miles later, I crossed the finish and found a few of the women I’d gotten to know over the first day of our journey. Everyone was all smiles, but very salty, sweaty and dirty. I headed to camp to find Taylor, rinse off, hydrate and eat a little. Now, we’re lounging in a sea of tents, and friendly banter between tired and happy runners. This morning, I began this journey fearful, and while I’m still anxious and unsure of what the next few days will bring, my fears have been melted away by the incredible camaraderie shared here between this tribe of trail runners.
Tomorrow we attack the steepest, but shortest stage of the race. We’re headed to Twin Lakes! It’ll be a shorter day- only 13.4 miles, but we’ve got 3,100 feet of elevation gain to tackle. I’m hoping to meet / find a few friends of friends I’ve heard are here over dinner tonight. That’s the thing about runners, even if you go someplace completely new, you can usually find a familiar (or at least friendly) face.