Darn Tough guest blogger Chad Denning recently came home from the Gore-Tex Transrockies run with 120 miles of high-elevation running under his belt. Perhaps just as impressive is that Chad came home with not a single blister on his feet! In part 1 of 6, Chad’s teammate Aliza LaPierre, recalls the highs and lows of the first day. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Stage 1: Buena Vista To Railroad Bridge Campground
Stats: 20.6 miles/2721 feet of climbing
The energy was high as all the runners packed into the corral for the start of the Gore-Tex Transrockies Run. I was very nervous not knowing where we would fit into the mix of those around us. Chad remained calm and excited to explore everything that the course had to offer. With not a cloud in the sky, we knew that the 20.6-mile route through high desert would be hot. Going into the day of running we were naive to the conditions we would face along with the terrain; they were unlike anything back home in New England.
Foot problems can be one of the biggest threats in these races. Just a few blisters can make each stride unbearable. But we weren’t worried; we were confident in our training and our equipment. Chad has been running in Darn Tough Vermont socks exclusively and raves about how comfortable they are, even when running miles and miles over rugged terrain. We found ourselves running on converted railbed, sandy moto trails, tight single track and dirt roads with ease – aside from the scorching-hot sun beating down on us the whole time.
The gun sounded and the pace was solid from the start. Chad and I had discussed strategy in the days before the race and even before we left New England. I would be the one to determine the pace and Chad would run in front on climbs. On flats, I would run off his back shoulder and I would lead on single track and descents. After reaching the top of the first climb we worked to find a pace that was sustainable for the conditions and the course. Other teams were passing us and this was frustrating to me. I had to remain calm and patient and understand that due to the elevation I wouldn’t be able to run at the same pace/intensity as I do at sea level.
As the miles ticked away I found myself struggling to find my stride and to settle in, but Chad remained solid and confident as we continued to work together. As we got closer to the finish, we were very exposed to the elements on open dirt road and it was getting the best of us. We saw what we thought as the finish on the horizon so we pushed ahead a little faster. A few minutes later we realized that we had sighted a bridge and not the finish area. Mentally, I was shot. My Vermont skin was sunburned and my spirits and energy fading. Looking ahead Chad spotted the team of Krissy Moehl and Bryon Dayton in front of us. This was reassuring, as they are both phenomenal runners. As we increased our intensity they responded and continued to maintain their lead. Then, without warning, Krissy pulled over and we took the opportunity to pass. To our surprise we finished the day in second place for the Mixed Open division! After congratulating our fellow competitors we darted down to the creek to soak our legs and begin the recovery process. The starting gun for stage two will sound in just a few hours.