Climbing :: 3009 ft.
At the start line this morning, I heard people talking about how the tents froze last night. Another woman tried applying Neosporin but it was frozen in the tube. Kevin and I could not have been happier with our decision to get a good night’s sleep in a warm bed. We brought our coffee and hot breakfast back to our cabin and enjoyed it in the comfort of our cabin before heading to the start line just 150 yards from our front door.
The chute at the start line is full of energy each day. The music is blasting as the race announcer counts down the clock and makes his final announcements. We had a different race strategy today. We had a relatively flat 2-mile start before climbing 2500 ft. over the next three miles. After taking the first mile easy with Kevin, I took the second mile fairly fast in order to get a head start up the climb. I thought Kevin would catch me halfway up the climb at around 10,500 ft.
As it turned out, Kevin was putting a big effort into today’s stage. He wanted to push it a bit while his leg felt reasonably good. He caught me before we even reached 10,000 ft. But then the death march started. This climb up Hornsilver Mountain is harder than the climb to Hope Pass. At least Hope Pass had switchbacks that allowed us to negotiate the climb. Hornsilver is basically straight up with nowhere to rest. How steep is it? Think of the steepest climb you have ever done. This one is probably harder. Kevin and I have never seen anything like it.
Here’s the Jeep that was carrying the supplies to the first aid station. The steep pitch blew out the driveshaft and sent the Jeep hurtling 50 yards down the mountain. The driver told me later there was 30 seconds of panic as they attempted to stop the vehicle from careening off the mountain. They are actually very lucky to have stopped the Jeep at all on the trail. An ATV was sent to get the stranded supplies to the first checkpoint and managed to have an aid station ready just ten minutes before the lead runners came through.
Kevin beat me to the top by 2 – 3 minutes. After exchanging some expletives about the insane climb we had just completed, we continued along the ridge where we stopped several times just to take in the magnificent views. The view from the top is beyond breathtaking.
Unfortunately for Kevin, the descent over the next four miles was a rocky ATV trail with uneven footing, forcing Kevin to twist and turn his leg in ways that only made the pain worse. He continued to use my poles and I grew accustomed to listening for the clacking of the poles to gauge my speed so I wouldn’t have to look back all the time. It was a slow descent as we were passed by many runners. We are both fiercely competitive and can’t help but feel the bite when someone passes us, knowing there is nothing we can do. Someone aptly advised us to “replace the Time Devil with the Finishing Angel.” Easier said than done.
Another defining characteristic of this stage was the river running. Less than four miles from the finish, we are forced to run in a river bed for nearly a half mile. Naturally, this slowed everyone down but it made for some very fun running.
From the second and last checkpoint, we followed the dirt road into Red Cliff. By this point, Kevin’s leg was on the edge of disaster again, so we just did what we could and crossed the finish line in exactly four hours, which will be the shortest time of any stage this week. We weren’t tired or spent—we just couldn’t run any harder. So we headed into Mango’s for the recommended fish tacos and a tall Guinness.
Back at camp, Kevin and I made our way to the massage tent where Mary Jo gave me another incredible massage. I asked for 30 minutes again today. An hour and fifteen minutes later Mary Jo was done. Not sure I could get through the week without the massages. I am not sore, tired or trashed. It’s amazing what you can do when all you have to do each day is run. After my massage, I found Kevin under the Salomon tent where there was free beer all week long. It’s also a great place to hang out and meet people. Kevin was chatting it up with Anita Ortiz and Helen Cospolitch.
There is no cell phone or internet service in Camp Hale so we haven’t been able to check in with family and friends. I’ll admit it has been fantastic to be disconnected from the rest of the world. Tomorrow we are back to civilization as we stay in Vail. We still don’t know what to expect from one day to the next with Kevin’s injury, but very pleased to have made it this far.