Darn Tough Runners Take On the Gore-Tex Transrockies Run: Stage 2

Stage 2: Vicksburg To Twin Lakes Dam (Hope Pass)

Stats:  13.5 miles/3,617 ft climbing

“I HOPE THIS PASSES”

After our first night of camping we woke up to cooler temperatures and partially cloudy skies. The news of possible severe weather excited Chad and I as we see nasty conditions as an advantage for us. Due to the variable conditions, we were required to carry mandatory gear which included jackets, winter hats, gloves, first-aid kits and emergency blankets. Once again, the energy was intense in the start area. When the music stopped and the gun sounded, the leaders set a fast pace as we headed up a dirt road for approximately two miles before starting the 3 mile climb up Hope Pass.

Chad and I had planned to speed hike the trail and run little segments as our energy levels permitted. Since Chad has a longer stride and is a faster/stronger hiker we set up a tow line off the back of his hydration pack which I could easily access and clip to the front of my pack. We quickly warmed up and found a pace that was “comfortable.”  We noticed we were falling behind our competitors as we could keep track of them on the switchbacks. We both reassured each other that we could make up ground on the downhill as we are both comfortable with descending technical terrain. At the top of the pass I unclipped the tow, hopped in front of Chad, and took a quick look around to take in the astonishing views. We had completed the 3,500 ft climb up above the tree line to the summit and we were ready to rock the downhill. Unfortunately, I found myself very lightheaded. The plan was for me to run in front on the downhills and I warned Chad that I had to ease back up to the pace to try to regain my equilibrium.  As we worked our way down the rocky switchbacks, my speed and confidence increased. We dropped back into the woods and I felt like we were running down the Long Trail in Vermont. Still no teams in sight, but we continued to push the pace as much as we could. As we reached the bottom of the pass we caught a glimpse of Twin Lakes and knew that we had three miles to the finish.

As our feet struck flat and uphill terrain it felt like we had concrete pillars for legs. The skies had now cleared and the sun was back out in full force. We continued to traverse our way around the lake and then realized that we were about a minute back from Chris Purslow and Brian Tinder. Since we were running on single track I knew we could quietly make up ground on them without them realizing it. We slowly hunted them down and honestly took them by surprise as we passed them about a mile from the finish. After passing them we increased our pace and popped out onto a gravel dirt road. We had a small climb up the road before making a sweeping left-hand turn downhill to the finish. Chad and I both opened up our stride eager to secure our 4th place finish for the day.

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