Distance: 21.2 miles (34.1 km)
Total Elevation Gain: 4,623 feet
I woke up the morning of Stage 6 pretty relieved this was the last day. Man I was sore and was pretty excited for this evening with my first night in almost 2 weeks sleeping in a real bed! Oh and I was going to really enjoy some well deserved beer later. I only had to get through 34km of running with 4,623 feet of total elevation gain first! Sigh...
I was surprised and relieved to find my heel not so bad this morning. I could still feel all of the vaseline the medic put on there and it was wrapped up really good so I just left it alone. I was hobbling around a bit trying not to put any pressure on it all morning until I had to start running!
Remember when Steve said I could walk all of stage 6 if we got on the podium yesterday in Stage 5? Clearly he wasn't serious but we didn't plan on killing ourselves today. We were currently sitting in 3rd place in the GC with 20 mins on the 4th place team and about 40 mins or so on the 5th place team. All we wanted to do today was keep our 3rd place and not let those 2 teams get in any time on us.
Now that's not to say that I planned on taking it easy and not racing...I had every intention to race. My body however had different ideas. Remember how Steve felt on Day 1? Well I didn't feel quite that bad...well probably not even as close to feeling that bad...but boy did I feel like ass. And my legs were done from the start. They had a mind of their own and basically told me to screw off and that 5 days of racing was enough. I kept waiting for that feeling to go away like it had done after a few km every other day but it never happened. My head got frustrated with the rest of me and I felt emotional. There were mixed teams passing us in the beginning that never passed us before and it was playing tricks with my head.
I don't know if I felt good once the entire day. I hurt so much that I didn't even get to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me and there really was some fabulous single track that ran through the forest for something like the first 10 miles or so. I almost wish I could go back and run it again as a fun training run and get to enjoy that part.
I kept telling myself it's ok, as long as we keep our lead over the Spanish team - Team Helly Hansen who were 20 mins behind us overall, then I would be happy. Well once we finished the first big climb of the race, we turned and began the downhill which was probably the worst part of the entire 6 stages for me. It was mostly overgrown singletrack trail with most of it running through tall grass up to your waist. You could barely see the ground and there were big rocks everywhere to trip you up...I don't even know how I didn't bail in there. For whatever reason I decide to look back and see if anyone was there and of course it was Helly Hansen coming out of nowhere. These two are good at descending and they caught me pretty quick, passed and were gone before I knew it. Shit!!! Now I was worried. If they were having a really good day could they put in 20 mins on us now in the 8 or so miles we had left? There was no way I was about to let that happen so it definitely did cause me to start running a lot faster so I could catch them.
I think Steve was a little frustrated with my shitty slow running but if he was I definitely didn't know it. He still remained super optimistic and kept telling me that they weren't too far ahead and we'd catch them on the next climb we had to do. Finally we got down to the town of Avon and had some flat running to do on the streets through there and to the next aid station that was right before the last big climb. I stopped to fuel up and pour a ton of water on my head..it was mid day and super hot out there. While stopped at the aid station Helly Hansen was not too far away so I started to relax a bit. We had just under 5 miles to go with a really gross 1000 ft climb looming ahead but I knew we were the better climbers.
We caught them pretty quick and I ran whatever I could but there was a great deal of walking in here for me. This climb was gross, I can't even describe how much I hated it. I wouldn't have thought twice about using a tow rope that day if we had one and would have welcomed Steve as my own "personal sherpa"! As someone said recently...he's a friggin mountain goat...and the dude literally pushed me and power hiked my ass all the way up the climb (not to mention the many other times throughout the day).
Finally finally finally we were done with climbing and had 2 miles of single track left to go taking us down into Beaver Creek. We crossed the line in 5th place for the day in 3:57:05 and managed to keep our 3rd place overall. Fewf. What a battle.
Steve and I finishing up Stage 6 in Beaver Creek!
Top 5 Mixed teams on the podium ( From Left to Right....2nd Place - Team Nike/Gore-Tex, Peter Courogen Julie and Leasure, 3rd Place - Team Pine Line!!, 4th Place - Team Helly Hansen, Francisco Perez and Eva Braa, 1st Place - Team Montrail NSA, Tamsin Anstey and Gary Robbins, 5th Place - Crasian, Don Sims and Erika Mastny)