Thursday, 27 August 2009

Day 4: The hardest stage, some say

We’re in the little town of RedCliff now, which is where the stage finished. Last night, and tonight, we are at Nova Guides, which is in the valley where the 10th Mountain Division trained (ski) for their WWII efforts. WiFi reception is negligible, even here in town. Devon is kindly uploading content for me at night; images will have to wait until tomorrow because we just can’t get them through.

We went to bed last night with the rain beating down on our tent and awoke to frozen droplets on the flysheet – yes, frozen! It was cold last night and this morning we made the most of our Windstopper scarves and ear warmers (we got the ear warmers last night from Gore-Tex – more swag!). Once the sun came out it started to warm up quite quickly. Lisa and I both went for _ tights. I put on a long sleeved top again; she went for a tee with a light shell. Both worked well for us.

I overheard one of the runners, who did this race last year, saying that today’s stage is the hardest, although it is the second shortest at 14-miles. Once we were out there it was evident why…

After a gentle beginning, the dirt road climbs and climbs. We didn’t climb as much as Day 2, like 500ft less, but goodness gracious it felt a lot worse. I took some photos in the forest on the steep ascents, but they don’t really do the gradient justice.

Up at the first aid station the view was fantastic. Sun shining, multiple shades of green shimmering after the night’s rain and high mountains across the valley, their tops speckled with snow. We continued up for some way, before starting the BIG descent.

Lisa has been battling a sore knee today. No problems yesterday – it flared up first thing this morning, right in the middle of her right kneecap. As with most types of inflammation like this, it really plays up on the downs, so we took it quite easy from the top to the stream at the bottom. The down was as steep as the up – serious gradient, which is hard on the legs, knees, ankles and feet.

One of the fun sections today included a few creek crossings when we hit the bottom of the valley. The first was refreshing on our hard-working feet and calves. The second was cool and the third – or fourth? – was like an ice-cream headache! The trail after these crossings was like a streambed – river rocks with water running down them. Last night we were told, “If it feels like you’re running in a river, you’re in the right place”. And so it was. After the last aid station we ran the last 4km swiftly, making the most of the gentle downhill.

Our friends Matt and Kyle had a mixed day. Over the first three stages Matt wasn’t well. On Day 1 he couldn’t keep much down and so he had to recover and just get through stages 2 and 3. Kyle had been strong and we’d find him on the trail waiting for Matt. Today their roles were reversed. Matt waxed the stage while Kyle suffered up the hill and with the high elevation. Hey, this is pretty typical of staged racing. Hopefully both are at full strength tomorrow.

Right now I’m back at Camp Hale, where we stayed last night. The sun is shining and my rinsed clothing is drying on the roof of our tent (probably blown on to the ground by now). Lisa stayed in ‘town’ – RedCliff – for a bit to catch up on emails on her phone and to post to this blog. She should be back soon.

The showers in camp are really decent. They’re on one of those big trucks and there must be 6 or 7 showers each in the ladies and gents. There’s plenty of hot water and outside they have chairs so if there is a queue you can sit and socialise. Quite fun.

I’m sitting in the Nova Guides lodge to type this posting. They have stuffed antelope and pelts on the walls. There’s a bobcat pelt behind me and last night I saw some mink furs, with feet, hanging on another wall. Nasty. I took a photo of a jack-a-lope (jack-rabbit with antlers), which Matt says is an endangered species, native to the mountains of the western US – very hard to find. “One would consider oneself very lucky to see one in the high alpine areas.” Kinda like seeing a leprechaun eh? Hahaha – enjoy the photo.

Devon will try to upload this content tonight. We’ll catch up on photos from Vail tomorrow where we’ll have proper internet signal again.

Four days down and only two to go. These past few days have been awesome.

P.S. We didn’t win the photo competition yesterday; Matt and Kyle did. Matt and I have just completed a submission for today’s theme “Happy Feet”. Yay!

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