Sorry for the interlude there, I attended a wedding on Sat night, that of none other than my Primal Quest Utah teammate Aimee Dunn! Big congrats to Aimee and Layne, and thanks so much for having us, twas a great evening in a beautiful setting!
Then after work on Monday I drove to Mt. Hood, Oregon with Montrail teammate Ryne Melcher, arriving around 1am. Five hours later we were packing up camp and donning our running gear. We joined a group who were organized by Columbia to do a circumnavigation of Mt. Hood, a 40m / 65km journey. At 8pm that night we turned around and drove home, arriving here at 4am. I'm still wiping the sleep outta my eyes! Here are just two quick pics and a full recap will follow eventually, as it was quite simply an INCREDIBLE day of playing out in the mountains!
BUT FOR NOW, ONTO THE RACE REPORT!!
Stage 3: Leadville - Nova Guides
Distance: 24 miles / 39 km
Climbing: 2930 feet
Descending: 3833 feet
Low/High Elevation: 9200/10945
(Side note, after stage two we found ourselves in second place in the G.C.((general classification))for the open mixed category)
As was becoming the theme, the mornings were bitterly cold. We had slight rains the day before but certainly nothing worth complaining about..."DAMN T.R. let it rain on us out there!"...and the first hour of the day was always the toughest. If not for my bladder controlling my being I would surely have lay in the tent an hour longer. I'm pretty sure Tamsin and I were some of the final people each day to finally step into our actual running gear and embrace the chill of the morning.
As was always the case, the race started on time and to the second! We were off and running up the main street of Leadville where we would eventually follow the highway out of town for a few kms. After about twenty minutes we veered onto the trails that would lead us through our longest distance day and all the way to Nova Guides.
Each stage's start was the same for Tamsin and I, it felt like it took us forever to get our breathing under control and to fall into a rhythm. During the first two stages we were running amongst the same group as we allowed our bodies to accept what our minds were telling them to do. On this stage however it just seemed like we were going out a bit slower...or was everyone else just leading it out faster on stage three?
Sticking To The Race Plan
Taz and I had a lengthy discussion as we watched most of our 'regular running pals' run on ahead of us. I was wearing my GPS and our pace was not faltering, this was the longest stage in the entire race, and the sun was now shining bright above us and it appeared that it could once again play a role in the race today. As it turned out, I would later learn that Keri Nelson of the lead open-mixed team had bolted to the front of the pack right from the start of the day! She lead the ENTIRE RACE for the first 5km, and the reciprocal effect of this was that the entire pack we getting strung out early. Me to Tamsin,
"I'm sure we're good right now. Let's just keep doing what we've been doing over the first two stages. I promise you if we just stick to our race plan we'll make out just fine again today!"
Those words were repeated numerous times in the first ninety minutes of the race as we watched many of our immediate competitors disappear into the forest ahead of us.
The first aid station was just 8.5km/5.2m into the stage, and up until that point Tamsin's stomach was bugging her and she could not get any food down. I wasn't feeling great myself but after downing a bit of watermelon and some fluids we both started to come around. That coupled with being able to peer a full km down the road to our right and see clearly that the teams we were so worried about were only 'just up ahead' allowed our confidence to return. We threw on the tow rope, put our heads down, and got to work on what lay ahead!
Within an hour we had caught back up to and passed many of the 'regulars' we'd been seeing throughout the first two stages and we knew we were once again racing smart. We eventually caught up to and positioned ourselves right behind Kami and Nikki and went about getting to know our new acquaintances that much better.
Start Slow-Finish Strong!
Although we found ourselves right where we wanted to be, the third place open mixed team had made a move early and had been out of sight for over an hour. As mentioned, we knew Keri and Jason of the lead mixed team would have to falter on their own for us to catch them, so we simply focused on sustaining position and keeping those now behind us, behind us for good. The highlight of the day for me was when Tamsin asked me what I thought about the third place team being gone from sight for so long. I paused and thought about our pace, their pace, and how the first few days had unfolded.
"I'm willing to bet they're less than two minutes ahead of us right now Tamsin."
Not twenty seconds later we came into an open section of trail with one switchback off in the distance. We just saw Peter and Julie of Team Nike/Gore-Tex exiting on the opposite side and I timed it off at being 1m45s. All was good, we were now 14m/22.5km in, there was still over 10m/16km to the finish, and we were feeling strong.
We blew through the aid station at Cooper Ski Area and since Kami and Nikki were chasing their own 'ghosts' of Devon and Caitlin we all started pushing on the descent down to CP3. It felt great to lock into a groove and follow their lead over this terrain and I knew we were making time on our competitors up ahead. About thirty minutes later, and as if we were all racing in teams of four co-ed, we converged. Kami and Nikki shot to the front and we eventually followed suit. There was but 6m/10k to the finish of stage three, and for the first time all day we were all within sight of each other. Game On!
We just managed a slight enough gap on Peter and Julie before hitting the final aid station with but 4m/6.5k to the line. Realizing this we limited our stop to about five seconds and pushed hard to stay out of sight before they arrived. Just one mile later we departed the nicest extended single track running we had yet seen in our three days of racing and we plopped down onto a painfully flat fire road that would take us to the end of the longest run on sentence in the 09 version of Trans Rockies, err longest stage in the 09 version of TR!
The world 100k road champ Kami Semick with teammate Nikki Kimball, were locked into a three mile sprint finish verses the 4th place world 100k finisher Devon Crosby-Helms and her partner Caitlin Smith. Tamsin and I fell just off pace and simply ensured we were going to make up time on our closest competitors.
You're In First! No We Are In Second...
With but a single mile to the finish of stage three, Bryon Powell of iRunFar came running towards us, video camera in hand.
"Nice work Gary, you guys are the first place open-mixed team!"
"No we're second, but thanks Bryon!"
"NO YOU'RE FIRST. The lead team dropped out at the second aid station!"
I had no idea of the circumstances and simply assumed they had blown up or been overcome by injury. Either way the excitement of now leading this race got the best of me and with Tamsin on tow I very literally started sprinting for the line!
"Gaaarrrry, slooow the hellll doownn!!"
"Sorry Tamsin. WOOOOOO WHOOOOOO!!"
"SLOW DOWN BEFORE YOU KILL ME!"
"I'm trying, I'm trying. Sorry, I have absolutely no control over myself right now!"
We ended up crossing the line a minute behind Kami and Nikki who were a minute behind Devon and Caitlin, but most importantly we'd gained another three minutes over the third place...no second place team since we were now in FIRST PLACE, WOOOOO WHOOOOO!!!
The only damper that was put on our celebration was when we later learned exactly what had transpired up ahead. Keri had a death in the family just a few days before the race began. Unfortunately for all, because she truly was/is an inspiring and incredibly talented runner, she made the tough call to head home and be with her family. I briefly spoke of this later in the evening and I meant what I said. I sincerely hope she decides to return to the race again in 2010 because along with her partner Jason they were shining examples of what elite runners can accomplish over such challenging terrain!
Back at camp that night Tamsin and I had our own, albeit much more insignificant troubles to deal with. I didn't mention this in the stage two report because I ran out of time before heading to work, but 'The Nose Bleed Kid Tamsin' was now having serious issues with the elevation. I won't post the pic of Tamsin herself because I think she'd kill me, but here's a visual reference as to how severe we're talking about, and in all honesty this pales in comparison to a few of the pics I have. The medic was actually in shock and said he'd never seen anything like it. It was truly like someone had turned on a faucet and forgotten about it for fifteen full minutes. I kept telling her it was no big deal, but in all honesty, now that it was happening on the second straight day it was totally freaking me out. If she happened to get one during a stage we'd drop right off the map while simply waiting for it to stop gushing! We did our best to pretend it simply wasn't happening and that there wasn't an apparent liter of blood on the grass, on back to back days already! If we didn't talk about it then it couldn't be serious!!