Wow! It was another gorgeous (if brutally tough) day of running in the Rockies! Wings of Glory continues to run well and move up in the standings every day. If TRR was a baseball game and WoG was a baseball team, it would be the bottom of the 6th and our starter would still be throwing 12-6 curves that would leave future hall-of-famers shaking their heads as they walk back to the dugout.
I can’t put into words how well paired up Martin and I are. Just four days into the 2008 Gore-Tex TransRockies Run we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, how to communicate effectively, and how to work together. Our strategies are also in synch and they are proving quite effective.
As with my stage 3 post I haven’t had a chance to post photos or a Picasa album yet. For your outcome oriented folks, go on and have a look see at the official results. [Sorry, I didn’t have time to proof read this! I’ll do that later, too!]
Despite an extra of clothes and an extra blanket last night I woke up due to the cold a couple of times through night. When I woke up or the final time, I was cold and damp… and then I stepped out of my tent to see frost all over the ground, my bag, and atop my tent.
The cold air this morning also provided beautiful views over the pond that I soaked in yesterday. Blah blah blah. Go!
Today’s course began with a bit of flat road. Just as with the early road section on Stage 2, I didn’t get out of the gate quickly. Not wanting to put in any extra miles, Wings of Glory does not do any warm up. This means we warm up on the course and unlike on Day 2, I didn’t worry that I was starting out slow… over the first mile or so we gradually picked up the pace until we had our heart rate pegged at where I wanted it.
The first two miles of today’s climb were nice and gradual, so Martin and I settled into a sustained effort. Unlike most of the earlier stages, places were pretty much set from the start of the climb until the top of the climb.
However, not long after we started heading up the steeper pitch of 2 miles and approximately 1,300′ climb up to 11,750′, Team Gore-Tex La Sportiva with the super strong Keri Nelson caught us. We hung for a minute or two before settling back into our own pace. Martin and I were working hard up this climb and were just 100 back at the first Control Point (5.2 miles) atop the ridge.
There was much chatter about the finish area that today’s climb was as difficult as the ascent to Hope Pass, if not more so! The climb wasn’t as visually spectacular, but we climbed ~2,400 in just under 4 miles. That’s almost 600′ per mile at between 9,200′ and 11,700′ in elevation. In case you didn’t know, that kinda climb will put a real hurting on you!
After Control Point we were treated to the sweetest 1.5 miles of ridge running. [I need to take a break to note that Matt Hart just brought half a cookie to me as I sit outside the awards ceremony in Red Cliff so I can write this post. That’s what kinda week this is and kinda people who are here. Thanks Matt!] The trail was a graded dirt road that ran mostly through open meadows so we were treated to awesome panoramic views.
After our wonderful time atop the mountain, Martin and I got a chance to open our stride. Today’s descent was even bigger than the climb and played into what appears to be Wings of Glory’s greatest strength – long technical descents. Case in point, today’s drop of 2,500′ in 4.5 miles (~550′ of drop per mile) with a mix of technical trails, long switch backs on roads, and brief respites of nicely groomed road or flatter terrain.
About midway down the descent we caught Team Gore-Tex/La Sportiva and felt pretty good about it. However, what seemed like only moments later I took a hard fall as we rounded yet another big switchback on a steep and technical section road. It was one of those super slow-motion falls. During the 5 or 6 seconds it felt like I was falling, I managed to lay our horizontally to the side to disperse the impact. I still hit the ground really hard.
After laying on the ground for just a few seconds, I got up and started running again. Within 15 or 20 seconds we were close to full stride on down the mountain. We did not relent until we hit the bottom of the hill just before Control Point 2. Here we hit a very different section of trail.
It was here that we had two stream crossings and then encountered a unique section of trail. Here a stream bed became the trail for a few hundred meters. The water was brutally cold and our feet quickly numbed. This was problematic as the stream bed consisted entirely of small, ankle-turning rocks and when you can’t feel your feet, you can’t react to the rocks. No fun for Bryon here.
Control Station 2 signaled the start of 2.5 miles (4km) on roads to finish out the stage. Martin and I decided that we were going to finish controlled and strong, just as on the previous stages. We ended up setting a steady effort (HRave 164 bpm) over these final flatter miles (only 400′ loss in 2.5 miles). We ended up averaging 6:59/mile (4:20/km), which was actually quite a bit faster than our average pace on the huge descent (7:43/mile).
At the beginning of today’s stage we trailed both Team Montrail and Team Salt Stick by about 6 minutes. After today’s stage we’re 4 or 5 minutes behind Team Montrail and 40 or so seconds ahead of Team Salt Stick. At the finish line, I chatted with Team Montrail and Team Salt Stick and members of both squads agreed that it was awesome that the three teams were so close after four stages and so many miles of racing. We all prefer it to being separated from other teams by a quarter or half an hour.
Not much later it was time for a soak and let me tell you, the river was cold today. Much colder than after stage 1. How cold was it? The word that came to mind was “innie”. In my previous soak sessions I was in the water for 15 minutes at a time. Today, I made the call not to be in the water for more than 5 minutes at a time. I did three 5 minutes in, 5 minutes out. While I was out of the water, I massaged my leg muscles with my water bottle. It felt pretty darn good. After my final soak, I hit the hot shower to clean up and flush the toxins out of my legs.
Today, I’m sitting around camp hoping that I can sneak in a massage. Mission accomplished.
The massage was followed by a margarita, two fish tacos (yes, I ate fish), and fried mac & cheese at Mango’s. I was in heaven. During my first hour there, I got to speak with many of the folks I’ve come to know over the past few days and some who I’ve known for longer. I then gave an impromptu photo presentation for at least an hour. It was long enough that it necessitated an intermission! Perhaps I didn’t need to take 20 pictures of yesterday’s awesome sunset or another 20 photos of this morning’s fog-on-pond … however the duckie photos was necessary (long story).
After my hours in the bar, I headed back to a second soak session. Even the first 5 minute session wasn’t bad. During my first break, I discovered I had headphones and I set off to my second soak with my iPhone on shuffle. The next 10 minutes were sublime. The songs – Beck’s Girl and Counting Crow’s Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby were not only exactly what I needed to get through my soak, but perfect for the day. The second soak wasn’t painful at all, the rock behind me
rocked as need to give me variable back support, I had a towel for a pillow, it was all right. I totally rocked out! It was 10 minutes that I need to remember as perfect, simple contentedness.