You don't have to be a professional athlete to accomplish something extraordinary. SNEWS journalist Ana Trujillo successfully ran the grueling GORE-TEX TransRockies earlier this month, a trail race that sees 6 straight days of almost marathon distances for 120 miles and 20,000 feet of altitude gain through some of the most scenic parts of Colorado. Below, you will find an interview about her experience that will hopefully inspire you to get out there and be extraordinary yourself.
What made you decide to run the TransRockies?
Last year, Kelly Blake, now of Verde PR, planted the seed in my mind by inviting me to run the event a few weeks prior. While I wasn’t ready then, I told her to please keep me in mind for the following year as it seemed like a great challenge and a good time.
How did you choose your race partner?
My brother was the one who got me into running in the first place and who’s motivated me in all my athletic pursuits in life, so he was the natural choice. When I was in high school and college, our family would travel around the country watching him run marathons all over from San Diego to Boston. It was always such a fun, positive experience watching those races, and I knew after my first time watching him cross the finish line at a marathon that it was something I wanted to do. He ran with me when I first started the Couch-to-5K and has done so ever since, even though he’s much faster than I am. For me, it was my way to create a lifelong memory with one of my best friends.
Was this your first trail race? How did you find it compared to road running?
This was my first trail race and I admit though I trained on trail some of the time, most of my training was on pavement. What I noticed was that it pretty much kicked road running’s ass. While it’s so much harder during the actually running, the payoff is much greater. The views are spectacular, the vibe of the trial racing crowd is so much more laid back and accepting, and it feels easier for your body to recover. I wrote for SNEWS that it was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life, and it really was. There is no way I could have a 120-mile road running week without taking some significant recovery time, and I’m already back out there.
What sort of training plan did you follow?
I used an old GORE-TEX TransRockies Run finisher plan that varied anywhere from 45-60 miles per week.
What was the course experience like?
The TransRockies Run was one of the best races I’ve ever run in terms of support and organization. The course markings were excellent, which came in handy during a few times on the trail when I was all alone, the aid stations were close to one another and had everything we needed from water to medical supplies to ibuprofen. They took care of us in every way possible. They fed us, set up our tents, and transported our huge duffel bags from campsite to campsite.
There was terrain of all kinds: dirt roads, steep verticals, technical descents, and rocky areas where we needed to scramble. We definitely didn’t run the whole time. There were sections that for a mere mortal like me were simply un-runnable but those often were some of the best times because even though it was physically demanding, it gave me the opportunity to slow down and drink in the beauty of my home state. The time we were out on the trail varied anywhere from 4 to 7 hours.
What did you eat to keep you going throughout the day?
They always had a hearty breakfast for us every morning, so I’d usually have a few pancakes, sausage links and a boiled egg. I’d eat Honey Stinger waffles and a PowerBar throughout the run, and watermelon and (surprisingly) Coke at the aid stations. I never knew Coke could be such an energy booster! Dinner was always a treat, too, and they fed us all kinds of deliciousness from tacos to prime rib.
What were the highs and lows of the event?
Oh my. There were so many highs it would take so long to list them all. Some of the greatest moments were crossing the finish line every day, laughing with my brother on the trail (where we created a ton of new inside jokes and even wrote a few crazy songs), and making new awesome friends that I’m pretty sure I’ll stay in touch with forever. Also, gathering every night for dinner, listening to GORE’s Cynthia Amon’s daily story (Cynthia is really quite funny and charismatic), and watching the slide show of photos throughout the day was always a great time.
More highs were meeting a lot of people I’ve interviewed for work but have yet to meet in person, like Backcountry.com’s Marit Fischer, Cynthia Amon, and GORE Running Wear’s Kevin King. I always love that aspect of industry events.
One of the biggest lows of the event was during Stage 3 when I just felt like I couldn’t go anymore about five miles in. I told my brother that we should just give up after that particular stage, get our Run3 medal and just chill out the rest of the week. But I got into a groove somewhere around mile 10 and the inclination to quit just went away. Cynthia Amon would always tell people at the finish line, when they said this would be their last day, not to decide right then. Wait a while, have some dinner, watch the slide show and sleep on it. If they woke up the next day and still felt they couldn’t go on, then they could stop. I always kept this advice with me and it really did help me get motivated for the remaining stages.
What gear did you have with you each day? Any tips on what worked and what didn’t?
I trained with the CamelBak Ultra LR and didn’t like it, so swapped it out before the race with the CamelBak Luxe 100. Even though it’s a mountain biking pack, I didn’t care, and it worked beautifully all six days of the run. I wanted to be able to fit everything we were required to take and then more water than I needed. This came in handy when my brother, who actually ran with the Ultra LR, ran out of water on a particularly horrible Stage 6, when the aid stations were far apart. I loved the Luxe 100. It was perfect for me and held everything I wanted and needed to take with me.
Another must is Injinji Trail socks, Point6’s soon-to-be-released trail socks with Celliant, and Injinji’s Compression socks. I also carried duct tape with me to tape up any hot spots along the trek before they became a problem and finished the race blister free. Do not, however, take any sort of thinner running socks as they just don’t work well on the trail. I wrote a wrap-up on the shoes, socks, and apparel I wore for the trek.
Any advice for anyone looking to run the TransRockies possibly for the first time?
Just have fun with the training – don’t take it too seriously. Enjoy every moment of the the run because it will be one of those experiences you’ll miss as soon as it’s over. Push past any inclination to give up because when you cross that finish line on Stage 6, it’s worth every moment of pain. Also, pack make-up and cute clothes if you want to fit in with all the pretty girls. You never know what beautiful runner you might meet.
Do you plan on running again next year?
I would love to run again next year. My sister, Andrea, said she has dibs on being my partner next year, but I’m sure Mike’s not going to give up that spot without a fight. Now if the three of us could just get our oldest sister interested we could ALL participate next year!