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The TransRockies: So Much More Than I Expected

In my 38 years as an athlete, I have participated, competed in and completed some pretty awesome events, but after my last race the bar has been raised much higher.

When I decided to participate in the TransRockies 6-Day Run in August, I had realistic expectations that running on top of the Rocky Mountains would provide both a beautiful and challenging course.

Well … was I ever wrong.

Any expectation I had was nothing compared to what became a reality from the first day I lined up at the starting line in Buena Vista to the last day when I crossed the finish line in Beaver Creek.

Beautiful Course
I’ve been in Colorado before, and we all know how beautiful it is from pictures — but each day when I lined up at the start line and thought I had seen the most beautiful landscapes on the previous day, the days just got better and better. It was like the race course organizers went out of their way to “wow us” each and every day, each mile and every step.

We climbed mountains, we descended steep hills, we ran in rivers, we ran through tunnels and flower-covered landscapes, high grass and rocky terrain, muddy roads, sandy road, dry roads, flat lands and everything in between. And all of it — regardless of running in oxygen debt for most of the time and the sore muscles and just being totally tired — it all was so worth it just to experience the beauty of the Colorado mountains.

I tell you, the beauty of the race course alone is a good enough reason to participate in this event.

Challenging
I knew and expected the course to be somehow challenging, but the one major unknown factor was how much the altitude would affect me. The other unknown was how long and steep these Colorado hills would be. So:

  • The altitude definitely was a factor, but I have to admit that it didn’t affect me as much as I expected. That was a pleasant surprise.
  • The hills, well … that was the real surprise! I got my “reality check” on the second day when, as we were making our way up to Hope Pass, I looked at my GPS and saw a 41-degree grade for many parts of the climb. I came to Colorado ready for hills but what a great surprise my calf muscles got! I actually think they (my calf muscles) have not forgiven me yet.

Yes the course was so awesome, and to conquer it I had to hmmm suffer a bit. I had to dig deeper than thought I would, I breathed hard and fast, my quads burned, my calves screamed, my knees seemed to pop out on the steep downhills. And yet, somehow every day I loved every single stride I took — not because I am a masochist or anything like that — but because it all made me feel so alive.

There I was in this amazing place with my running mates for the week going through this unique experience, testing ourselves to the limit. Those are the days I know I’ll remember for years.

I am not here to say that this is an event for everyone. I’d definitely advise having a decent fitness level and some experience in trail running. But if you do have a solid endurance background and are looking for an unique challenge, I highly recommended it. I guarantee you a great challenge.

My Running Mates
I got the opportunity to share six days with what I thought was the race director’s “hand-picked most awesome group of athletes.” The camaraderie before, during and after each day was something that added even more value to this event.

Experiencing the unconditional support for each other, the fun moments, the crazy hard moments, the laughing at the steepness of each hill, sharing the amazing views and listening to each other breathing as we pushed to conquer the next uphill — all that made the world perfect for six whole days.

While running is an individual sport, in this particular event you couldn’t help but feel that everyone around you was cheering for you to be successful at reaching the finish line on that sixth day. We all knew we weren’t competing against each other but against ourselves and those beautiful mountains. I know we all felt lucky to be there.

A Little Story
Just want to share a story:
You should know that there were some pretty amazing athletes in attendance at this event — from the top trail runners in the country to an former U.S. Olympic marathoner.

On the third day as most of the participants had already completed the day, we were having dinner when the speakers announced that the last runner for the day was approaching the finish line. She was a 71-year from Florida who had been out there for over 9 hours. At that precise moment the whole lot of people — and I mean EVERYBODY — in the dining area raced to the finish line to receive this woman as she covered the last .l3 miles. It was the loudest cheers, noise and applause I have heard in a long time.

Understanding what this lady was accomplishing and respecting her efforts regardless of speed — that’s what it’s all about. The effort each of us needed to invest each day to conquer the finish line.

My Race
I made the decision early on to enjoy the event, and I’m so glad that was my decision instead of trying get to the finish thinking about what the watch said.

I truly believe I don’t think I could have enjoyed the race more than I did. I made sure I spoke to as many teammates as possible, I made sure to take plenty of pictures, and of course I made sure to look around as often as I could to enjoy that blanket of beautiful outdoors surrounding me. I can’t recall how many times I stopped to just look around and take a breath.

I think the biggest challenge was getting up each morning tired and sore from all the running and from lack of proper sleep in my tent. But each morning, just when I thought my legs wouldn’t be able to put in the work despite an even more challenging day than the one before — somehow this old body of mine handled it pretty well. I was surprised that each day I felt better and better.

Performance-wise I could have gone faster, pushed more, tried to get a faster time — but that would have meant that I couldn’t have stopped to enjoy the surroundings, or stopped on top of the continental divide and appreciated the green immense rocky area, or spoken to all those great teammates and heard their stories.

As far as I know, I put the right amount of effort for my legs, lungs and heart to feel the challenge of the event, and I still managed to enjoy the beauty of it all.

Favorite Moment, Favorite Race
One of my favorite moments of every day was the starting line theme song: “Highway to Hell.” Do I need to say more???!!

In my 38 years as an athlete, I have participated in great events, but I can honestly say the TransRockies 6-Day Run is by far the best experience I’ve ever had in my athletic life.

Organization
Do you want to be part of a race where they treat you like a super star? This is it!

The amount of logistics for this race is unbelievable; so many details, so many pieces to the puzzle, and somehow everything was just perfect. Somehow the race organizers went above and beyond to make sure we had a great experience and that they were there for us.

Wooww
Why you should do it?

If you want to do a “race,” you can stick to your local races, your destination marathons, your typical local trail races. But if you want a truly unique experience, I guarantee you the TransRockies Run will give you all that you want and so much more.

So … what are you waiting for?? Registration for the 10th anniversary of this event is now open!

**Save the Date: If you’re inspired by Ramon’s experience at TransRockies, join us for an info meeting/trail running panel discussion on Thursday, November 5, at Finish Line PT! Race director Kevin McDonald will be in New York to answer your questions and share more info about the race.**

VIEW MORE OF RAMON’S PHOTOS

Coach Ramon Bermo has been an athlete for 37 years and a coach for 17. He has completed more than 60 marathons, 13 Ironman triathlons and multiple ultra marathons in addition to hundreds of other races varying in distances. Ramon is the founder and coach of Tri2B and currently works as the Senior Director and Head Coach for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation program. Through the years, he has coached thousands of athletes in achieving their athletic dreams through such programs as NYU running club, Niketown, Team in Training, DetermiNation and Tri2B. Without a doubt, his favorite coaching moment was watching his 12-year-old daughter complete her first triathlon.