2011: stage six & seven

I feel kinda bad blogging about today's stage when it wasn't a very good day for me and I haven't had time to blog about the other amazing days, however I am rollin' out with the report on the current day while it is fresh.

Yesterday's stage (6) Sarah and I had a really strong day.  The temperatures and profile were in our favor.  Plus some of the teams were hurting from the previous days hill sprint so we took advantage of it and pushed and pushed and pushed ourselves to gain a 6th place finish in the woman's category.  It was awesome!  Probably the most beautiful stage of all we have seen so far too.

After the stage yesterday my body was done.  I had a hot bath, did some cold contrast, laid in bed and then off to the pasta party.  I was falling asleep at the table.  I was concerned that I may have just left it all out there and that I could pay for it on Stage 7 and sure enough I did pay today.  Deeply.

I went to buy new poles before the race started and the pole expo was packed up.  Luckily Trent found someone to lend me some because mine were either left or stolen at the hill sprint day.  We got to start in B gate for the first time (Sarah was super excited) but unfortunately, my legs weren't up for the fast runners of that gate.  In fact, after 1.5hrs my legs were still not there and I was run/walking everything.  Walking ups, downs, I felt so tired and my legs had nothing in them.  It was a very hard place to be in for such a long and hard stage ahead of me.  over 7000 feet and 37km.  Trent and Carter met us at the first aid station and as I came around the corner, i pulled off the trail and knelt down behind the fence and started to cry a bit.  Yes, very embarrassing to admit.. but I was exhausted and suffering already so much i really wasn't sure if I could get through the day.  Trent gave me a wee pep talk and I carried on, only to feel much the same until aid 2.  I tried so hard to just put one foot in front of the other and not think too far ahead.  With 3000 feet behind us and a 4000 foot straight up 5km at the 2nd aid it was all I could do to march up the 2 track road.  Trent again, reminded me of how important my goal of finishing this race is and how hard I have worked.  Carter gave me some gel and Sarah and I hunkered up what would be the 'death march' of the day. 

This climb was unreal.  It would take us to the highest point of the race, over 10,000 feet.  With my fatigue being what it was it made for a very difficult and exhausting summit.  Beautiful, it was - but the terrain was relentless, rocky, sandy and so steep!  The cool part was there was a tuba player and drummer playing music as we neared the top.

It took us almost 4hrs to get to this point of the race.  As we started to descend, the sun came out and it very quickly got HOT.  We had a 16k descent with a mix of single track, double track and roads.  I rolled my right ankle going into the last aid and ran out of water.  My suffering just got worse and it really was the hardest thing to keep going past this point.  And to top it off, it only got worse.  The heat was starting to upset my stomach and part way down the double track, I had to pull over cause I had the scoots.  Well, when I finished (2 female teams passed us during this time) I started to run down to catch up to Sarah and realized I forgot my poles where I went to the washroom.  So back UP I had to go.  It was demoralizing... I actually looked up and thought about leaving the poles there, but they weren't mine!  If mentally I wasn't low enough at this point, with 4km to go, I rolled my other ankle.  This one hurt much more and it was right before 3km of loose rocky dirt road.  Did I mention it was hot?  I had the scoots?  Both ankles hurt?  I was basically a melt down waiting to happen and it literally took everything in me to keep going.  We passed one of the women's teams and had 2 other teams in our sights running into the finish, but I couldn't even run the little hills leading through town.  I felt terrible, like I let Sarah down today and coming into the finish, I just kept going until I was a block away.

I turned down a street, fell on some grass, under a sprinkler and cried.  I was exhausted, embarrassed, frustrated, tired, really tired, hot and there was this part of me that thought "I can't finish this.  I can't run tomorrow if it is going to be as awful as today... I just can't do it again."  Just for the record, I debated sharing this in my blog... it is embarrassing and it was a very low experience for me.  But it was my day.  And now for the first time I am somewhat afraid of running tomorrow.  I don't know what I will do if I am faced with the same experience on the last day.  finishing today was the hardest running accomplishment of my life.  We did still salvage 11th place and moved up to 8th overall... but I paid for it again.  Having said that today marked another day where lots of teams dropped out.

We started this journey with the goal to finish... even if it meant we walked.  So I will dress up tomorrow, say a little prayer and just do the best I can to get the job done.