TransRockies run at Beaver Creek: Running at the speed of life | VailDaily.com

TransRockies run at Beaver Creek: Running at the speed of life

Courtney Robinson and her partner Audrey Weber CHECKING SPELLING finished the six-day TransRockies Run Friday in Beaver Creek. Robinson suffers from cystic fibrosis. The race started Sunday in Buena Vista and covered 113 miles of Colorado back country, with more than 18,000 feet in elevation gain. Randy Wyrick photo

BEAVER CREEK – Courtney Robinson runs at the speed of life.

The Vail Valley native finished this week’s TransRockies Run, covering 113 miles of Colorado backcountry over six days, with elevation gains that surpasses climbing Mount McKinley.

It’s a lifetime accomplishment even for someone who doesn’t suffer from cystic fibrosis, which Robinson does.

Robinson runs because she can, and because she loves it. As she and partner Audrey Weber crossed the finish line Friday in Beaver Creek, Robinson was laughing and smiling the smile of the completely alive.

Hopeful on Hope Pass

Earlier this week, the hundreds of runners crested Hope Pass between Leadville and Camp Hale, possibly the most poorly named stretch of real estate on God’s green earth. Even elite ultra marathoners like Dean Karnazes, when asked if they needed anything, replied that an extra lung would be nice.

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Hope Pass was Robinson’s favorite part.

“She’s a great climber,” Weber said.

Weber and Robinson both finished Dartmouth in 2009. After they finished Friday they rested their tired young selves in Beaver Creek.

Through the six-day ordeal, they asked each other the obvious question, “How do you feel?”

“We placed it on a scale of 1-5,” Robinson said, resting in the cool, cascading creek waters. “Usually it was a 2, and that’s about right. You don’t want to be too high for an ultramarathon.”

Cystic capacity

Robinson, 25, says she has about 90 percent of an average person’s lung capacity. Of course, a TransRockies runner’s lung capacity is about the size of the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Eisenhower.

“But it’s not my lungs as much as it is my legs,” Robinson said, pointing out that her decreased lung capacity limited the amount of oxygen moving to her legs, which carried her to the finish line.

Salt intake is a problem for Robinson. Cystic fibrosis sweats the salt from her system two- to four-times faster than the other runners.

Paramedics tested her blood so often it seems she was in some high elevation vampire movie.

Still, she and Weber ran every step, up and down – mostly up. Friday as they crossed into the finish corral, paramedics followed her with a gurney, just in case.

It’s good they were there. A couple other runners needed them, but Robinson did not. She didn’t even notice them.

She was running at the speed of life.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States, 70,000 worldwide. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. It also stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond. There is no cure, but treatments are improving.

Those afflicted tend to have salty-tasting skin, persistent coughing, frequent lung infections, and wheezing or shortness of breath.