Well let me just start with this, Tamsin has given me full permission to post the rest of the nosebleed pics! Since I think they shouldn't be missed here they are:
If you look closely you can see that the pillow, the tent, and the grass are all completely covered in blood! This first occurred at the end of stage two, it repeated itself after stage three, and by stage four Tamsin was instructed to jam as much Vaseline up her nose as was humanely possible, and at regular intervals. This seemed to help the issue at hand with each successive nosebleed lessening in severity, although it made the entire situation that much funnier to be a part of...considering it wasn't me who was suffering through all of it of course! Actually it wouldn't be fair of me not to include that she somehow managed to laugh her way throughout most of the process. Her positive attitude is indisputable and it certainly made the week seem a whole lot less painful than it actually was!
Stage 4: Nova Guides - Red Cliff
Distance: 14 miles / 23km
Climbing: 3009 feet
Descending: 3580 feet
Low/High Elevation: 8650/11668
Stage four seemed to mimic stage two. A massive climb to a huge elevation with a super steep descent. Short and sweet...depending on who you talk to!
When Tamsin first opened the tent at 5:45am all I heard was a crackling sound.
"What's that noise?"
"Umm, the tents frozen!"
"WHAT!" Mind you I could certainly tell it was cold enough for this to happen.
"Yup, the entire tent is covered in frost and ice!"
"I'm staying in my sleeping bag!"
Then to myself 'Cmon bladder, cmon bladder, cmon bladder..."DAMMIT, look out I gotta pee!"
You could certainly detect upon peoples faces that the early starts and repetitive miles were starting to catch up to them. The difference by this point in the race is that you had now gotten to know an entirely new group of people,
"Morning Leslie, morning Keith, morning Doone, morning Tim, morning Peter, morning Julie, morning Trev, morning Blaine, morning Deb, morning Steve, morning Thomas, morning Monica"...and this was just while running to the bathroom!
The entire atmosphere had started to shift and we seemed to be more of a massive extended family than a bunch of individual strangers from different corners of the globe. The MAJOR difference with a race like this one is that instead of just meeting a few new people in a single day you end up spending an entire week together, in a fairly confined and generally remote area. True and everlasting friendships are forged and the emotional bonds are perhaps one of the greatest benefits of such an event that can go unmentioned. Everyone, even those in the most heated of battles, were getting to know each other better and supporting each others efforts. This alone was one of the absolute highlights of the entire experience for me!
(the photographers getting a head start on the field)
The race was scheduled to start at 8am and Tamsin and I lined up in our newly acquired running tops...that of the RED open-mixed leaders jerseys!! When the race began we felt a certain onus to honor those jerseys and we set out early to gap our nearest rivals.
The run started with a slightly flat fire road before quickly turning into a steep climb. Initially Tamsin and I commented on how it rivaled a local run we do up a fire road called 'Mountain Highway', but no sooner had those words left our lips than the trail escalated into a Mtn Hwy monster! Sections were completely un-runnable and demanded a huge effort to even sustain a decent hiking pace. Over the course of the first half of the week, Taz and I, to our own surprise, had shown ourselves to be some of the better climbers in the field. With that in mind we pushed hard up the slope and for the first time in the overall race we found Tamsin to be the leading female, and with a slight gap over the nearest women. Who of course were Kami-Nikki-Devon-Caitlin.
I was actually feeling really strong over the terrain and with the tow rope attached we made great time to the first aid station which was just beyond our high point of 11,668ft on the day. We made a quick pit stop and were into the lengthy descent that followed before we knew it.
(photo credit Dan Hudson)
Unfortunately Tamsin can sometimes suffer from a swollen knee and although it was never discussed until after the race, I thought the downhill might be bothering her. Three teams, including the four ladies, all passed and dropped us. This descent wasn't the nice plush singletrack kind of trail which she can specialize in, but more so an extended gravel road with an average pitch just a few degrees too steep to allow for any recovery time. Our pace slowed a bit because of this, but we both knew that we were ahead of our divisional rivals and that Tamsin could and would turn it on if that situation were challenged.
After about 40min I'm sure I heard a sigh of relief out of her as we hit the final 2.5 miles of flat running to the end of the stage. We crossed the line in a time of 2h21m28s, 2min behind the ladies who ran hand in hand to the finish, and more importantly 1.5min ahead of Peter and Julie from Nike/Gore-Tex. It was another successful day and we celebrated it by sitting in the coldest frikkin river I've ever set my 'boys' into willingly!! Runners are a funny bunch and throughout the week I kept saying,
"This is only normal amongst these people! As soon as we leave here we're total weirdos again!"
Here's a perfect example of just what I mean:
With stage four in the books and a 24min lead over second place we vowed not to discuss the big 'W' word or the possible prize $$ that accompanied it! We both felt strong as we'd run a smart race so far, and barring injury...or major nosebleed, we knew we could hold onto what we had.