Darn Tough Runners Take on the Gore-Tex Transrockies Run: Stage 5

Stage 5: Red Cliff to Vail

Stats: 22.8 (okay lets be honest it was 23.98 miles)/5,500 ft climbing


Chad and I woke up and chatted about how hard it was becoming to get out of the tent even though the sleeping wasn’t too comfortable. Another challenging day of running awaited us and our muscles were starting to feel like they were ready to quit. The temperatures were again sub 40 degrees, so I opted to start in arm warmers and mittens.

Our goal today was to keep our competitors in sight during the 10-mile climb up Shrine Pass. But, we quickly lost sight of the Canadian duo of Mark Nelson and Care Wakely, though we had Bryon and Krissy in sight as we climbed the dirt road. As the course veered off the dirt road and onto single track, Chad and I were in front of Krissy and Bryon but we allowed them to pass. I was struggling; my stomach wasn’t cooperating and every time I ate I got sharp pains in my abdomen. I continued to do what I could so we wouldn’t lose too much time. We would run and then walk and then run some more.

Chad trotting over some smooth singletrack.

As we began to plateau everything for me began to crumble and become painful. Chad was running in front of me and I got sick. I dropped to all fours while grabbing my stomach and vomited again. Chad finally stopped and looked at me and started walking back towards me. He admittedly didn’t know what to do, nor did I. I think telepathically we both knew the options, which were to get up and walk or to get up and run. We were in the middle of no-man’s land with nothing or no one around. I got up while complaining about my frustration and pain.

As we walked around the next corner Chad spotted a cameraman and told me I should at least run until we passed him. I agreed and we took off running. As we continued to press on we noticed that we weren’t far behind Chris and Brian and this proved as motivation for both Chad and I. My stomach was empty and painful, but I tried to eat one shot block at a time. That plan backfired as it came back up faster than it went down.  But I pressed on, focusing on not losing ground on the team in front of us.

As we finally made it to the top of Vail Pass we pulled into the aid station to restock on GU, electrolytes and water. Now for the fun part, 3,000 feet of downhill running on service dirt roads and single track! Despite not feeling well I was in heaven. I opened up my stride and took off eager to catch Chris and Brian. About 2 miles into the descent, Chad and I had them in our sights and overtook them. We continued to push the pace and as the miles ticked away I got more and more eager to be done. A few miles from the finish I attempted to eat a GU and thought it was going to stay put, but without warning projectile vomited while running. As disgusting as it was, I think all I could do was laugh. Chad and I crossed the finish line and were pleased with our 3rd place finish given the trying times that we had encountered during the stage.

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