Pros and Amateurs Weigh In: 5 Tips on Running the 120-Mile PepsiCo TransRockies Run

From August 12 to August 17, 2014, runners from around the world will run 120-miles over a six day period during the PepsiCo 2014 TransRockies Run. They’ll hoof it through the heart of the Colorado Rockies, spending 97 percent of their time over 8,000 feet and gaining over 20,000 feet of elevation throughout the week. The field is plush with competitive pros and ambitious amateurs.

Ibex is proud to sponsor our own super-mega-team of elite distance runner, Kara Henry, and professional climber/amateur runner, Joe Mills. You may remember Kara and Joe from their jaunt around the Austrian Alps last year? Well, apparently 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) in the Alps wasn’t enough for this couple. So on to 120 miles of Rocky Mountain bliss, it is.

We asked Kara and Joe to share some training and racing tips for long, hard events like TransRockies. And just so you know you’re not alone in your apprehension/excitement/concern/thrill, we’ve asked them to rate their emotional responses for dealing with different elements of the event. Even as the most talented athletes that push their bodies, their hearts and heads may be struggling to keep up the enthusiasm (just like ours!). So, stay human and run on.

Ibex: Have you ever raced the TransRockies Run?

Kara, the elite runner: This is my first multi-day event, but I’ve done a couple of 100 milers that feel like they’ve taken multiple days off of my life… does that count? [Ed. Note: Yes. That most certainly counts.] I love the level of ‘busted’ you can get to in long events like this. It’s pretty rare for the average person to feel as completely wrecked as we’re going to get. Then we’ll look back on it and pretend it was fun!

Joe, the casual runner: I have never run TransRockies, or really raced at all for that matter. So far I have jogged a 10K and a half marathon as fun runs, but that’s it. I’d say the closest thing is free climbing missions on El Cap – the last one was six days and you are working hard every day. I’d say it’s pretty close, but at least with the running all you have to worry about is putting one foot in front of the other.

Ibex: Let’s get to your tips. Also, on each topic, we’d like to do a verbal Rorschach test of sorts. We’ll throw out the experience, and we want you to come back with the first thing that comes to mind – at least with regard to your general state of enthusiasm.

Topic # 1: Covering long distances… day after day after day.

Kara’s (the elite) excitement level: Questionable.

Joe’s (the casual) excitement level: Psyched!

Kara’s training tips for covering long distances day after day: Putting in big mileage weeks in training is key, but understanding how your body is going to react to racing day after day is a mystery. I have a sneaky feeling I’m going to want to throw myself off a mountain by day four.

Joe’s training tips for covering long distances day after day: Run a lot of mileage. They don’t need to be fast miles; it’s just about getting your body used to moving for extended periods of time. The goal is to be able to throw down a long run and not be crushed afterwards.

Topic #2: Feeding yourself and staying hydrated on long runs.

Kara’s (the elite) excitement level: Meh.

Joe’s (the casual) excitement level: Gummy bears!

Kara’s training tips for food and water: Because each day is only 25 miles or less, I’ll stick to gels and water. I prefer being able to eat real food on long runs, but we’ll be moving too quickly (hopefully) to be able to digest the pizza I would rather be eating.

Joe’s training tips for food and water: I eat a lot when I run, others eat less. For me it’s very important that I never crash because it’s very hard for me to come back from that. Long runs are really just an excuse for me to plod along and eat fistfuls of gummy bears.

Topic #3: Evening recovery. 

Kara’s (the elite) excitement level: Ecstatic!

Joe’s (the casual) excitement level: Vacation!

Kara’s training tips for recovering at night: All I want to do is eat a lot of food and drink too much beer. This is not good recovery. Don’t listen to my advice.

Joe’s training tips for recovering at night: Do some brief dynamic stretching after the run, but mainly focus on self-massage of all the problem areas you may have. For me, it’s IT bands and calf muscles. Foam rollers work great for this, or a Nalgene bottle if you can’t pack a roller.

Topic #4: Pushing through – or what to do when you’re hitting the wall.

Kara’s (the elite) excitement level: Un-psyched.

Joe’s (the casual) excitement level: Bummed.

Kara’s training tips for when that wall’s a-coming: I don’t want to be around, or talk to, anyone when I hit the wall. I think it’s best to recognize what is happening to you and remember that things WILL turn around. I like to fake positivity when I’m hurting… but if someone else tries to cheerlead me, it will get ugly. Sorry in advance, Joe.

Joe’s training tips for when that wall’s a-coming: It’s cliché, but just stay positive. For most people, at some point on any huge run they are going to feel like shit and hit a low point, but just believe that it will get better because it usually does. When that happens just have something on hand that you know will lift your spirits through that low-point – whether it’s Taylor Swift, or for me, a fistful of gummy bears.

Topic #5: Weird things/tips you’ve learned from running really, really far.

Kara’s (the elite) excitement level: Weeeeeeeeee!

Joe’s (the casual) excitement level: Daydream.

Kara: Hallucination is real! When you look back on it, it’s hilarious but at that moment in time, it’s not so funny. Also, your bodily functions become the go-to topic of conversation and you really believe they’re interesting… but they’re not.

Joe: Being out running for five hours or more can be pretty boring for a lot of people, and it can be easy to focus on the miles left or how ‘over it’ you are… and then it just drags on. You just have to have the mindset that you’re going to be out there a long time. Enjoy the scenery and some time alone with your thoughts and stop checking your watch every mile.

Good luck, Kara and Joe! Thanks for the straight talk and the tips. Here’s to safe, swift (of both the speed and, perhaps, the Taylor variety) and fun miles. You most certainly will be earning your beer and gummy bears next week.

– Ibex