TransRockies endurance race is underway, heading to Eagle County on Thursday | VailDaily.com

TransRockies endurance race is underway, heading to Eagle County on Thursday

This photo from the TransRockies race guide shows competitors in the stage 4 section of the 120-mile race, between Camp Hale and Red Cliff in Eagle County. The 2017 TransRockies run begins today in Buena Vista.

VAIL — The 11th annual TransRockies run hits Eagle County this week, a three and six-stage race where the main competition occurs versus oneself.

Runners will take on 120 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing in the six-day event, which has become a bucket list item of sorts for endurance athletes across the country.

In 2012, the race was in the entertainment news spotlight as "Bachelorette" winner and recent "American Ninja Warrior" competitor Ryan Sutter completed the event in an effort to raise money for charity.

"Three of my toenails are about to fall off, I've got blisters, and my knee feels like somebody is hitting my tibia with a ball-peen hammer every time I take a step," he said after finishing.

The TransRockies run begins Tuesday in Buena Vista, with runners departing Main Street at 8:30 a.m. and finishing up for the day 20.8 miles later at the Railroad Bridge Campground.

From there, the competition heads up to Leadville and the Vicksburg area near the site of another famous endurance run, the Leadville Trail 100. Wednesday's 13.3 mile climb makes it the shortest stage, but in that half marathon distance lies 3,200 feet of climbing, most of it at elevations of over 10,000 feet. The stage tops out at 12,536 feet.

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four EAGLE COUNTY STAGES

On Thursday, the runners head into Eagle County, where they will remain for the rest of the event. Thursday's stage begins in Leadville and finishes at Nova Guides near Camp Hale, which runners will reach by jogging through Cooper ski resort and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trial. The finish at Camp Hale will be a great opportunity for spectators to cheer on the athletes as they will be wrapping up their longest stage at 24.5 miles, and one of their greatest tests of mettle as the stage ends with 3 miles on a flat gravel surface. The first finishers are expected to arrive around 11 a.m., with runners trickling in all day after that until about 4 p.m. Spectators can also catch the athletes at Tennessee Pass where they will cross Highway 24 en route to the Continental Divide.

Friday and Saturday will prove to be two of the biggest days on the annual event calendar for the town of Red Cliff, Eagle County's smallest incorporated city which is known fondly for having no street lights, no cell phone service, and no hustle-bustle attitude from the locals.

Friday's Nova Guides to Camp Hale stage will begin at 8 a.m. at Nova Guides, and the first finishers are expected to jog into Red Cliff at about 10:30 a.m. Come cheer them on, but don't park in front of the post office. As part of race tradition, many participants will enjoy fish tacos and margaritas at Mango's, Red Cliff's main attraction, following the completion of Stage 4. You're welcome to join them for lunch at Mango's, and cheer them on again on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. as they begin their 24 mile run down to Vail.

The first athletes on Saturday's Red Cliff to Vail stage are expected to arrive at the finish line at the Vail Athletic Fields at approximately 11 a.m., and finishers will continue to head into town all day until about 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. at the Vail Athletic Fields, there will be a leaders jersey presentation leading up to Sunday's sixth and final stage.

NORTH TRAIL SECTION

The sixth and final stage in the TransRockies run has an interesting feature in the fact that it's the only competitive event to take place on Vail's popular hiking trail, the North Trail. After departing Vail Village at 8 a.m., the runners will use the North Trail to access the singletrack that climbs through the aspen trees of the Buffehr Creek Trail, and will take it to its intersection at the Red and White Mountain trail. A long descent down the shaded Buck Creek trail will bring runners into Avon before the final climb into Beaver Creek, and a short downhill to the ultimate finish line in Beaver Creek Village at the base of the mountain. The winner is expected to cross at about 11 a.m., and spectators are welcome and encouraged to cheer on the runners as they finish the 22.4 mile stage from Vail to Beaver Creek.