Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mountain RATS 1st - 10.56

Three weeks ago I completed the race of my life at Hard Rock. I gave it everything I had and knew that the recovery process would be slow. Unfortunately I didn't have time before my next race - Mtn RATS stage race in Steamboat Springs, CO. In fact, one week before the race I went out for a 16 mile run that ended very poorly and contemplated dropping out. I came to the conclusion that this race would be a great training week leading up to Leadville thus I would do it as "training" not racing. Besides Derek Griffiths from Colorado Runner Magazine sponsored Brian Fisher and myself so we felt obligated to give a good race report in return.

There was only one problem as using this race as a "training" week: Allen Belshaw! Allen and I battled it out at Desert RATS in June and I knew that he was going to be fast, not to mention he trains on this course everyday. I decided to let my body be the guide, if I didn't have it then don't compete. I still didn't know even as the shuttle dropped us off at the start line; I never know how my run is gonna go until I start.

DAY 1 - 7.8 myles 2200 ft of climbing

The horn sounded and Allen sprinted off the line! SPRINTED! Some people laughed, some hooted, others groaned, I simply smiled not taking him serious.

At Desert RATS in June Allen and I had worked out a strategy to help each other up to a certain point and who ever had it in the end - had it. On one of the short stages we agreed to run together and not take it out on each other to preserve for the long day as not much time couldn't be gained on this stage. At the beginning of that day I sprinted out and everyone laughed as I dropped back and ran with Allen.

Back to Mtn RATS: during the pre-race I had asked Allen how the first stage was, "all uphill on a dirt road". And again, short enough that the extra effort was for minimal gain. So that is why I smiled and laughed as Allen sprinted.... the only problem was that he was serious and was not slowing down. He had felt the weight of my pack as I did his. His pack was extremely light and mine a ton, comparatively speaking. Allen is no dummy!

Having complete respect for Allen's running ability even a 30 second lead could be insurmountable in the end. I decided to catch him and run with him as long as I could. I soon realized I was anaerobic and could not hold on - Allen was cookin' - I had no choice but to try and keep him in sight. In the end, Allen finished in 1.13:42 with me in tow 20 seconds behind. The only difference at this point is that I was trashed and Allen seemed fresh. This could turn into a training run after all.

DAY 2 - 24.4 myles 3900 ft climbing, 5300 ft downhill

From the beginning Allen and I took off with Brian Fisher in tow. We immediately climbed to 10,300 ft running along the CDT for 7 myles, we must of been clocking 7:30 min/mile. I was feeling much better this day and decided to hang on for as long as I could. This time Allen dropped me going down a steep 3 mile rocky decent and I really lost hope at that point. Somehow I caught Allen by the next aid station, in a hurry he left w/o filling up with water. I didn't know it at the time but he was completely out of water and began to slow. I sped up descending to the next aid - looked behind - Allen was not in sight. At that point I realized I could make up 20 seconds and make it a race again. Little did I know it was uphill for the final 5 myles and I suffered. I limped in just under 3.33, Allen 2 minutes behind. Again I was trashed and didn't think I could keep it up. The trick to these stage races is quick recovery and the only way to do that is fluids, recovery drink, calories, and rest. With us having to carry all of our food and equipment on our back - these things would be limited.

DAY 3 - 24.4 myles 5300 ft climbing, 3900 ft downhill

Back the way we came. That meant 5 myles of downhill right away and since Allen had taken off so quickly the two previous days I thought the same for this day. I had warmed up pretty good in anticipation. To my surprise (again), Allen started off much slower and even more of a surprise was my legs felt good. I took a huge risk and took the pace out pretty fast for the first 6 myles, at which point I had a one minute lead. I had no idea what was in store for me thus had many questions but I took that chance. Believe it or not, I only got stronger as the day went on. Maybe it was the simple fact that I was running scared knowing that Allen is much tougher than I am; he has proved it many times before in longer races. The adrenaline fed my legs and carried me to the finish in 3.39, 16 minutes before Allen.

DAY 4 - 17.5 myles 2600 ft climbing, 3800 ft downhill

Even with an 18 minute lead I was extremely nervous all night. Allen had said the night before in any event that he believes he can win, even if it's virtually impossible to do so. I think that's a great attitude to have, which makes me only respect him more. To top things off, the last day the leader is sent out like a rabbit and the rest to chase. Great! Anything can happen and all I need to do is take one wrong turn and all is washed away. Allen was great explaining all the turn offs to me, ensuring I didn't get lost. In the end I finished the last day in 2.30 and didn't take any wrong turns. Ryan Cooper, Brian Fisher, and Allen soon followed. It was close battle for 3rd place as well between Ryan and Brian - results here.

So this "training" week turned out to be a "racing" week and can only hope this will help me run better at Leadville in two weeks. I recommend this race to anyone who is looking for an adventure, an experiment, spectacular scenery, camaraderie, or anyone who just likes to camp and can handle a few myles.

TOTAL - 74.1 myles 14,000 ft climbing, 13,000 ft downhill
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