Distance: 20.8 miles (33.5km)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,721 ft
Race morning arrives and I wake up thinking the same things I think every race morning...I'm tired, I don't want to do this, maybe i'll bail? Ok well I didn't exactly have thoughts on bailing for this race but was definitely thinking uh oh, what have I gotten myself into. I always wake up so cranky on race morning...it never fails. But when I finally drag myself out of bed and get dressed things start to get better.
Steve and I drove into Buena Vista back to the school where breakfast was provided for us. There was tons of food...cereal, fruit, bagels, bacon, eggs, pancakes, you name it! I don't know about you but there's not a whole lot I can stomach on race morning so I stuck with my usual...bagel w/ PB and a banana. It's always done me well in the past so why mess with a good thing? I was in awe of the runners that had gigantic breakfasts with bacon & eggs...all the good stuff! It made me a little queasy just thinking about eating that before a race. If I did it would definitely come back later to haunt me for sure!
We drove back to the campground to get ready, pick up Kira & Julia, and then head back downtown for the late 10am race start. We cranked the tunes on the way to get us pumped...my favorite pre-race song being "There's an Arc" by Hey Rosetta...it starts off slow but it picks up pretty quick and is total kick ass! If you ever get to see them live DO IT...you will not be disappointed...i've seen them twice now and they're freakin phenomenal. But...I digress. I'm not sure why the race started so late the first day and was dreading it as the clouds slowly moved away and the sun came out in full glory about 20 mins before the race was to start. Damn! It had been mid 80s all week and I was not looking forward to this. Generally I don't run well in heat but Steve was training in high heat all summer in the Okanagan so it didn't worry him at all.
While we waited for the start, we ran into some Albertans I knew. I met Doone and Tim Watson at Powderface 42 a couple of months ago. It was great to see some friendly familiar faces! And they were with Leslie & Keith from Banff! I was so pumped to finally meet them and have been reading Leslie's blog forever! They know all the best spots to run with the mountains literally in their backyard...I can't wait to come visit them in Banff and run!!
That picture was taken very shortly before the race started. We quickly seeded ourselves around midpack I guess and got ready to go! The race started with a quick jaunt down one of the streets leading us across the Arkansas River and immediately onto some single track trail that climbed for a couple of kilometres. Unknowingly, Steve and I had actually run part of this same trail on thursday. He guessed that this was where Stage 1 was going to go and he was right! So the first little bit of it was pretty familiar to me.
Unfortunately I pretty quickly started to feel like garbage. I'm not a fan of starting a race with immediate climbing and it takes me a while to get used to it. The heat and altitude was not helping and I quickly found myself breathing super heavily. I kept forcing myself to drink nuun more than I ordinarily might and I finally started to feel better about 4 or 5km in. Steve was feeling like a rockstar and I had to tell him to hold back a bit so I could get my heart rate down some...it had skyrocketed pretty quick.
Once that was under control we were running along pretty good till around the 10km mark. What seemed like all of a sudden to me...Steve says he's not feeling well and that he was having stomach issues. I had a feeling he was dehydrated as well as he hadn't been drinking as much as I had in the beginning. I was actually shocked when Steve said he needed to stop and walk for a bit...this is something he never does. I figured once we got to aid station 1 and pumped him full of saltstick, fruit, water etc things would be good again. It seemed to help a bit but he had a hard time getting stuff down. He would go through big waves of feeling awful and feeling shitty as the day went on...i don't know which was better? And I felt bad cuz I was actually feeling pretty decent and didn't know what to do for him. I was fine with slowing our pace or walking or whatever we had to do to get this bloody day overwith. It felt like we were running the entire day. What ran through my mind was oh shit...this is supposed to be the easiest of the 6 stages.
The day didn't get any better with our mix of running flats and downhills and having to walk up even the easiest hills. It was disappointing for us both as we knew normally we could run the entire thing without any walking. I was hot but always left the aid station feeling like a star after dumping water on my head and eating some banana and watermelon. It was definitely a combination of altitude, hot dry heat with little wind, and some dehydration that plagued Steve all day and he was unable to recover and get his heartrate to go back down.
We knew that the route eventually went back down to the river towards the end and Steve said to me if he sees the river soon he might have to stop and go for a dip to cool down his core. I kind of just wanted the day to end at this point but knew he was hurting huge so I agreed it would be a good idea. I would say with about 7 or so km to go I see Steve veer off sharply to the left out of the corner of my eye. I was like ohhhh shit, he's passing out and is going down!! I was wrong! I look over and he's running down this little enbankment to this stream and dunks his head and hat in. I have no idea how he saw it...but I almost laughed in relief and went down to dunk my hat as well.
Steve seemed to feel better after this and soon we were at the last checkpoint with about 6 km to go on a flat road. While we're stopped here and getting some food, a ton of mixed teams come out of nowhere, stop quickly at the station and then pass us. I'm bummed, where the heck did they all come from? We leave and follow them down to the road. I'm pretty happy that the rest of the race is completely flat for 6km and just concentrate on getting this thing overwith. Steve is not doing well and we have to walk run walk run the entire way. I felt sooo bad.
The funny thing is that the road to the finish was so long and straight that you could see all the teams infront of you doing the same thing. Clearly we were not the only ones feeling this way and I guess the heat and altitude really affected a lot of teams that day. When we were actually running we managed to go at a fairly good pace and passed a bunch of mixed teams at the end so I was pretty happy about that. We ended with a time of 3:44:14 and in 9th spot in our division. Despite such an awful day for us I was surprised and pleased that we still managed to be in the top 10.