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Rock/Creek Race Team Takes Third in Men’s and Women’s at TransRockies Run

Josh Wheeler and Nick Selbo- TransRockies RunThe GORETEX TransRockies Run has been described as one of the “world’s hardest trail runs.” Locally-owned outdoor retailer Rock/Creek sent teams that placed third overall in both the Men’s and Women’s Open Divisions, impressing skeptical Western runners and representing Tennessee at the highest level of trail running competition.
The race is set apart from other traditional trail races in that it is not simply an individual competition. Rather, the TransRockies Run (TRR) adds a new race didactic, a team aspect. Completing the six-day-long endurance trail run of over 120 miles would be hard in and of itself. However, the added team component not only ensures safety for both runners but also adds difficulty, for each team is only as strong as the weakest runner.
The Racers
Rock/Creek partnered with Salomon to send a team to compete against the nation’s best trail runners in the open men’s category. Nick Selbo and Josh Wheeler represented the Chattanooga-based outdoor retailer with support from Salomon, one of the shop’s strongest trail running vendors.
Rock/Creek Race Team members Jaclyn Greenhill, 32, an ER Nurse, and Roxanne Zobava, 35, a hair stylist at Chattanooga’s Hair-a-go-go, made up the Women’s Open Division team.
The competition drew runners of all disciplines, from novice to Olympic-caliber. Competitors included teams sponsored by Timex, ESPN, Montrail, GORETEX, Gu, The North Face and Hammer Nutrition. Rock/Creek co-owner and team manager, Dawson Wheeler, said prior to the start of the race that “on paper our [Rock/Creek/Salomon] teams did not bring the same level of results or pedigree. What we did bring was heart, strong fitness and a never-say-die attitude.”
Whatever they brought to the race, the runners’ attitude served them well as they endured six grueling, high-mountain stages ranging in length from 14 miles to 24 miles along the Colorado Rockies. Each day the racers ran above timberline. They faced extreme exposure, weather, thin mountain air, alpine sun and technical ascents and descents.
stage1-2The men’s runners, Josh Wheeler and Nick Selbo, come from two very different walks of life. Josh, son of Dawson Wheeler, grew up in Signal Mountain and attended McCallie high school. Josh currently works at Duke Medical University in molecular genetics. Quietly intense, Josh is the perfect complement to his partner Nick’s self proclaimed “bubbly” personality.
Selbo, a Chinese teacher and track coach at Soddy Daisy High School, embodies the humility and patience common to many great athletes. On the starting line, he appears unassuming upon first glance; however, as soon as the gun goes off, Nick effortlessly gallops to the front of most races he enters.
Having only run against each other in previous Rock/Creek Trail Series races (all individual events), Wheeler and Selbo put their competitive differences aside and joined forces to show the trail running community what the Southeast has to offer.
On the women’s side, Jaclyn Greenhill has been a member of the Rock/Creek Race Team for a few years, while Roxanne Zobava recently joined the team. Zobava and Greenhill both have posted impressive times in races around the country, but they had never met before competing together at TRR. With no previous experience together as a team, the accomplishment of these two ladies is a testimony to the strong bonds and fast friendships typical of the Southeast’s trail running community. Both women have proven themselves talented long distance runners. Also, Greenhill’s experience from 2008’s Costal Challenge Stage Race in Costa Rica proved valuable. She placed second overall in 2009, winning four individual stages. She also finished second female in Rock/Creek’s 2009 StumpJump 50k.
Rock/Creek's Racers at GORE-TEX TransRockies RunBoth teams worked very well together and posted strong results day after day. Selbo recaps the mental highs and lows and speaks of the teamwork between them: “Josh and I complemented each other perfectly. He is an amazing climber and totally saved us on the mountain runs. We were able to talk each other through trouble spots. Also, we were always checking on each other’s food and water intake.”
The Course
Each day presented unique challenges and beautiful Colorado scenery. Here we offer a day-by-day account as recalled by Dawson Wheeler and dictated by Selbo and Josh Wheeler:
The TRR began in picturesque Buena Vista, Colorado on August 22nd. Although these runners may have been accustomed to the heat from running in Tennessee, running in a high-mountain desert brings not only heat but also a combination of altitude and dehydration. These elements took a toll on Josh and Nick both, resulting in only a distant third place finish.
However, they were able to rebound on stage two, ascending Hope Pass (elevation 12,600 feet) with the lead group of runners and finishing a strong third at the finish line at Twin Lakes some 14 miles away.
Leaving from historical Leadville, CO, stage three brought its own set of challenges as the runners were asked to run roughly 25 miles at an average elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level. Catering to Nick’s strengths, the longer stage played well to both runners, once again resulting in a podium finish.
As Josh recalled the stage: “Nick did a great job setting pace. I normally set the pace on the climbs, allowing him to save energy and take the lead when tempo running in the rolling mountain trails. At the first checkpoint we came in with fourth and fifth place all together, and they were pressing us and even passing us for a short period. But once we grabbed third place back, we surged and gapped them. We again arrived third into Camp Hale which would be our home for the next two stages.”
Rock/Creek's Racers at GORE-TEX TransRockies RunStage four started at the finish line of stage three (Camp Hale) and finished in the tiny town of Red Cliff, Colorado. Although their podium finish was in jeopardy from numerous teams, Selbo and Wheeler were able to descend the miles of trails through Aspen groves and mile-long creek crossings to defend their position going into the second-to-last stage of the race.
Stage five began what ultra-running legend Dean Karnazes calls the “hardest day of running in the country.” Traditionally referred to as the Queen Stage, this day marked the low point for the two male competitors as the racers started out with an eleven-mile ascent followed by a rolling twelve-mile high-mountain traverse into Vail, CO.
Missing the first aid station resulted in the team crawling their way to the second aid station completely dehydrated. Unable to recover in enough time, the men limped home to the finish line in what Nick Selbo referred to as “the most pain I have ever endured.”
When interviewed after the stage, team manager Dawson Wheeler explained: “At this altitude and such a key point in the race, you cannot afford to miss a feed station. Nutrition is vital in a race like this. These two athletes are professionals, but even professionals can get caught up in the competition and have a lapse in judgment.”
Rock/Creek's Racers at GORE-TEX TransRockies RunFinishing outside the podium and losing important time on their rivals, the runners went to sleep with the final stage weighing heavily on their minds. Although this marked the low point in the race, both were able to recover overnight thanks in large part to the constant bombardment of filled water bottles from Dawson Wheeler.
Stage six could not have been more dramatically different from the previous day. The final stage of the race marked the high point for both racers. Before the race Josh outlined a strategy: “If we can make it to aid station two and stay in contact with the other teams, we stand a good chance of finishing on the podium tonight.”
Following that strategy successfully, Nick and Josh were able to not only reach the second aid station with the leaders, but also actually increased their lead on the other teams by the end of the race.
“Stage five was the hardest I have ever had to run. I was nervous about my recovery coming into the final stage as it is no promenade; however, I felt my strongest today,” said Nick Selbo following the race.
After six tough days of running against the best trail runners in the world, Nick Selbo and Josh Wheeler took Third Place in the Men’s Open Division, with a total time of 17:28:37.
Rock/Creek's Racers at GORE-TEX TransRockies RunJosh Wheeler offers some reflection on the teamwork required by the race: “Often it is easy to get caught up in the individual aspect of trail running, but trail running is more than that. It is a community of athletes who simply share a passion for running in the outdoors. I think neither one of us wanted to let the other one down which drove each of us to run harder.”
Jaclyn Greenhill and Roxanne Zobava took Third Place Overall in the Women’s Division with a total time of 21:59:12. They showed steady and consistent performance every day, holding onto third despite heavy competition. We’ll have a full report from them in the coming days.
For more details on the Rock/Creek Race Team at the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run, as well as future races, visit: http://blog.rockcreek.com/
About Rock/Creek
Rock/Creek is an independent specialty outdoor retailer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee with over 20 years of brick and mortar experience. With a dedicated staff of outdoor enthusiasts and gear experts, Rock Creek offers only the very best outdoor apparel and equipment from top brands like Marmot, Patagonia, Arc’Teryx, The North Face, Chaco Sandals, Montrail, and others to ensure that customers are comfortable and safe in the outdoors.
We provide quality gear for a host of outdoor sports including kayaking, rock climbing, camping, hiking, trail running, and adventure travel. As a leader in the outdoor industry and in the larger community, we use outdoor retail as a platform to encourage outdoor recreation and stewardship and to improve access to the backcountry. Rock/Creek hosts the annual StumpJump 50K Trail Race, attracting top competitors from across the nation, and is a major sponsor of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series.
As part of this mission, Rock/Creek is a proud member of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, a group of independent outdoor shops dedicated to the sustainability of the specialty outdoor channel and the quality of the outdoor enthusiast’s experience. We stand together to help facilitate a market for performance-oriented, revolutionary products, create a unified marketing presence for high quality, local outdoor specialists, and help protect and sustain the quality and access to the environment on a local, national and global level.