Skimo star Grace Staberg dominates the TransRockies 120-mile, six-day trail race
FRISCO — Grace Staberg ran away to a dominant victory in the TransRockies Run, a 120-mile, six-day trail running race last week.
The endurance athlete and U.S. ski mountaineer won all six stages on the journey that featured high-Alpine running to start in Buena Vista and Twin Lakes. Runners then took a multiday journey to the finish, from Leadville through Camp Hale, to Red Cliff and Vail, ultimately to a finish in Beaver Creek.
Staberg finished with a total six-day time of 18 hours, 35 minutes and 3.5 seconds on course. The time was more than an hour-and-a-half faster than runner-up Tracy Kovaleski (20:10:35.3). Kovaleski herself ran a time more than two-and-a-half hours faster than third-place finisher Johanna Ohm of California (22:51:49.2).
“It was definitely a really fun one,” Staberg, a 2020 Summit High School graduate, said. “It was fun to run up with the guys most of the days. It was a blast to be racing every day. I haven’t done a stage race before. The atmosphere of the race is pretty laid back. Honestly I didn’t have many expectations. I was excited for the race and it was a nice surprise to come away with the win.”
Staberg took the lead among the women’s pack the first day and ran toward the front along with the top men’s racers. Staberg said she typically settled in behind eventual men’s champion Cody Reed of Mammoth Lakes, California (15:59:23.4), as throughout the week she kept a close pace with the likes of runner-up Cody Goodwin of Freeport, Florida (17:25:45.2); third-place finisher Matthew Cavanaugh of Manitou Springs (17:56:42.0); and fourth-place finisher Nicolas Santos of Bogota, Colombia (18:30:45.8).
Staberg’s resounding winning time in the women’s race was faster than 85% of the 47 men’s racers who took on the six-day challenge, a commanding victory not lost on race operator Kevin “Houda” McDonald.
“It’s definitely up there (historically) with the past winners,” he said. “It’s an impressive feat. That time was very strong, and she’s a very strong athlete.”
It was Staberg’s first time competing in the race, which McDonald described as a “moving circus” with 500 people camping each night on a route that stayed between 7,400 and 12,600 feet above sea level. Staberg said though she looked forward to sleeping in a proper bed this past Saturday for the first time in a week, it wasn’t hard to rest in the tents thanks to all the exertion she and other runners put out each day.
McDonald said the event, which was canceled in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is special in both its physical demand and the unique overnight setting where competitors naturally become a community.
“Adventurous runners want to do this race,” he said. “People who want a life changing experience are people who sign up for this race. The vibe was awesome, a very positive vibe for the whole week. People need connection again. After we’ve been locked down it’s good to have human connection.”
Staberg said she entered the race in ideal fitness for the multiday challenge, which features 21,800 vertical feet of elevation gain total — an average of 3,633 feet per day.
Staberg said Wednesday’s 25-mile third stage from Leadville to Camp Hale — the longest of the week — was the most difficult for her. Though she won the stage in 3:46:01.9, 10 minutes ahead of her nearest competitor, it was a midweek slump thanks to a head cold she battled all week.
Staberg ground through it and continued to extend her commanding lead she ran out to on the week’s first day, all the way to the race’s exclamation point. The sixth and final stage featured the most elevation gain — 5,300 feet — of any day. Staberg completed the stage in 3:41:05.9, 10 minutes faster than Brianna Sacks of Denver.
Staberg said Saturday was her favorite stage, but it was Friday’s run from a start in the historic remote town of Red Cliff to ultimately climbing up to the open meadows on the back of Vail Mountain that provided the best views.
Staberg — who podiumed at multiple races as the lone American on the ski mountaineering World Cup circuit in Europe last winter — said the stage race was similar to training races she’s run this summer.
Staberg said with an overall focus on ski mountaineering — a sport that last month was officially added to the 2026 Italian Winter Olympic docket — she’ll ramp up for winter with three more endurance running events. She said she plans to race in Big Sky, Montana, and the Lake Tahoe region of California before gearing up for snow.
Two Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteer projects are scheduled to assist with finish work, rock armoring and seeding of disturbed areas, according Ted O’Brien, manager of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Resource and Trails. The events will be led in collaboration with Open Space and Trails and the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.