Steamboat’s Emily Hines takes on 120-mile, 6-day challenge
In less than a week, Steamboat Springs resident Emily Hines will start a six-day, 120-mile run through the Rocky Mountains.
She’ll be participating in the TransRockies Run from Aug. 2-7, while fundraising for First Descents, a nonprofit that provides free outdoor experiences for young adults who are diagnosed with cancer or other serious conditions.
The TransRockies Run consists of six stages, ranging from 13-25 miles per day, trekking from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek over six days.
“In the back of my head, it’s knowing I’m doing it and hoping people will support me because they know this is going to be very hard,” Hines said. “I am not an ultra athlete. I am not experienced in anything crazy like this. Just knowing I would have support and the reason I’m doing it is for a bigger cause. It’s the thing that’s kept me motivated, even though I’m a little nervous and a little scared I won’t be able to do it all.”
When Hines elected to participate in the race ahead of 2020, she had tons of time to train and was hoping to run the distances. When the 2020 event was canceled, she wasn’t sure what her status was for the 2021 race. Six weeks ago, she started training, again.
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“She’s not just doing it for herself but is fundraising for another organization that can benefit from her doing this race,” said Alexis Wolf, Hines’ co-worker. “First Descents is important to her and close to her heart. … There’s nothing forcing her to do it other than her own perseverance and drive, and I love that about her.”
She’s hoping to start each day in the ‘Dawn Patrol,’ starting two hours ahead of everyone else. She expects to hike much of the distances so the early starts will help her finish each stage in the allotted time.
The course is brutal to say the least. Not only do participants log double-digit miles for six days straight, but they are doing so at elevation. Fifty-five percent of the course is between 9,000 and 11,000 feet above sea level, and 70% of the course is on dirt and gravel roads or singletrack and doubletrack trails.
7,000 to 8,000 feet: 3%
8,000 to 9,000 feet: 31%
9,000 to 10,000 feet: 28%
10,000 to 11,000 feet: 27%
11,000 to 12,000 feet: 10%
12,000 to 13,000 feet: 1%
Dirt and Gravel Roads: 37%
Nonmotorized Single and Double Trails: 33%
4-Wheel Drive and Motorized Trails: 18%
Paved Roads and Pathways: 12%
In between stages, participants camp at a designated site and have food, shelter, massages and more provided to keep them comfortable until the next morning, when they hit the trail again.
In her crunch time training calendar, Hines has been spending most of her time hiking rather than running, getting her muscles and lungs ready for the challenge.
“I’m obviously a little nervous because I don’t feel like I’m really prepared from a physical standpoint,” Hines said. “However, I am very excited and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s done it or just seeing the things that are being posted, it looks like fun.”
Hines first came across First Descents in 2017, shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer. A friend from college who underwent cancer treatment the year before told Hines that she would enjoy what First Descents offered. So, Hines went to Estes Park for a week with the nonprofit and did hiking, climbing, kayaking, taking advantage of one of the many free, nationwide opportunities First Descents provide for young adults.
Hines feels lucky that her experience with cancer was brief and relatively easy. She was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2017, underwent surgery to remove a tumor and sat through another major neck surgery in which her lymph nodes were removed for testing. She also battled through 30 tough days of radiation.
Her cancer had not spread, and she’s been cancer free for four years, but her body hasn’t been the same. The radiation diminished how well her thyroid functions, which affects her emotions, energy level and weight. She has chronic tightness in her neck, and the discs in her neck are slowly deteriorating from the radiation.
She could always choose to stop pushing her physical limits and decide it was too difficult to battle her body, which fights her desire to stay fit.
“That would definitely be the easier thing to do,” Hines said. “For me, it’s partly stubbornness. I’m going to do all the things I did before this. I’m not going to let this silly little disease define me or change me, but also, I’m happier when I’m outside and moving.”
First Descents is a beneficiary of the TransRockies Run, which aligns with First Descents’ dual meaning motto, “Out living it.” First Descents provided Hines a community of people her age with cancer and serious diseases. Not only did she get to meet people with whom she had a shared experience and bond, but she got to meet them while adventuring.
There is so much research in pediatric cancers, it’s more “normal” for an older adult to get cancer. Young adults aren’t the pictured demographic for people with cancer or other serious conditions. “With approximately 70,000 new diagnoses annually, young adults comprise the fastest-growing and most underserved oncology age demographic,” according to the First Descents website.
“The population we serve are people who have had some pretty challenging experiences in their life,” said Andrew Coulter, Out Living It project manager with First Descents. “Just being outside and reconnecting with your body through movement and adventure can give yourself purpose.”
In exchange for free entry into the TransRockie Run, Hines is fundraising for First Descents. She has nearly reached her individual goal of $3,500 raised, but First Descents hasn’t met its grand goal of $20,000.
People can contribute through Hines’ fundraising page at Support.FirstDescents.org/fundraiser/2601275. About a fifth of the nonprofits funding comes from fundraisers like this one.
“First Descents has grown. We’re a pretty established nonprofit now,” Coulter said. “We have all kinds of different funding sources: major donors, foundations, grants we receive. But, a lot of our fundraising comes from events like this that’s just grassroots fundraising. It’s people who are passionate about our cause, getting outside and doing awesome stuff.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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