Ask the Goat: No cigs, no pets, no pot

 A flatlander races the Rockies

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on recovery. Part two will be published on Thursday, Sept. 11.

On Aug. 9, my wife Kristine and I rolled into a small mountain town named Buena Vista.

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

Neither of us had ever been to Colorado before. The 16-hour drive had seen the Texas heat and flat sands recede into chilly, mountainous venues. We luckily squeezed into a hotel room that had been cancelled at the last second, and signed the waiver that affirmed that we had no pets, no cigarettes and no marijuana. The next day was packet pickup for the PepsiCo TransRockies Run.

We got to the heritage museum a bit early, and were surprised at the amount of racers already there. I saw Michelle Barton (the first TransRockies overall winner), Vanessa Runs (author of the Summit Seeker) and a slew of faces I had seen at other races.

We picked up our duffel bags, race packet, coordinated our return transportation to Buena Vista, and set out for the race briefing. This meeting overlooked the Arkansas River and was to serve as our starting chute the next morning. All 300-plus runners listened intently to the instructions. To summarize, TransRockies is a six-day (or three-day) point-to-point, single-track stage race. It begins in Buena Vista and traverses the Rocky Mountain chain north to Beaver Creek. Unlike the Racing the Planet or Grand to Grand races, TransRockies is a fully supported race, meaning a camp is provided with food, tents, showers and your gear is transported by trucks (not carried on your back).

Stage #2, at 12,500 feet on top of Hope Pass.

Stage #2, at 12,500 feet on top of Hope Pass.

The next morning, Kristine, Claudia (our friend from Texas) and I lined up to begin Stage #1. We had 8.5 hours to run 21 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. The trails themselves were already at 7,500 feet above sea level. To a flatlander from Texas or the Carolina coast, that meant thin air and a fair amount of difficulty during the climbs.

Nothing on day one was actually difficult — it just felt harder due to the reduced oxygen availability. Kristine really got hit hard that first day. We shuffled into the finish chute at the Railroad Bridge, and were shuttled to Camp Arrowhead to shower, eat and collapse.

Stage #2 was easily the hardest day of the TransRockies, with the elevation going from 9,000 to 12,500 feet as we moved from Vicksburg to Leadville via Hope Pass. The distance was only 13 miles, but we were given the same amount of time as the previous day’s 21 miles. Most of the route lay on the Leadville 100-mile course. This was my bad day, as altitude sickness came a-calling about halfway up the gap between Quail Mountain and Mount Hope. My head began hurting and my sinuses could feel my heartbeat throbbing within them. I felt nauseated for five of the eight hours. Kristine wasn’t much better, but she led us up and over the 12,500 feet and into Camp #2, in historic Leadville.

Stage #1, near Camp Arrowhead.

Stage #1, near Camp Arrowhead.

I awoke feeling much better. Stage #3 led us out of Leadville and towards Camp Hale, the original home of my Army Infantry Unit — the 10th Mountain Division. I perked up at the amount of historic markers and the gigantic stone memorial dedicated to the soldiers of the 10th. The daily distance was 24.4 miles with 2,700 feet of gain, but even the rain and dropping temps did little do bring me down. Kristine, however, announced that she was done. The combination of elevation, blisters and fatigue had been weighing on her. The cold rain pushed her over the top. She was dropping to the three day and would be a volunteer for the remainder of the trek.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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