18 June 2011


Day 6
Today would bring the conclusion to what has been an amazing week. The final stage of the 2011 Desert RATS 148 Mile stage race, the "Marathon Stage", would take us along a tough course, starting with 6 miles of climbing on an asphalt road until we would reach the first aid station and check point. Richard and I decided during the first mile of this stage that we would both go our on pace on this final stage. I knew that I wouldn't have to run after today, so I figured "screw the blisters and see what you can do today". While Sean was out of sight pretty quickly, I maintained sight of the remaining front of the pack, never losing them completely over the 6 mile climb.

Once I reached the first aid station at the top of the 6 mile climb just before entering the dirt trail, the field of runners had stretched quite a bit. After refueling, I started to run my own race, trying to crash the downhills while speed hiking all uphills. As a result, I was able to maintain a steady pace, keeping my overall pace per mile for the first 13 miles at under 12 minutes. This included the 6 mile climb at the start as well as a 5 minute wait at one of the trail intersections that stomped me. Before I would venture down the wrong pass, I figured I'd wait for the next runner to point the way. While it did cost me 5 minutes, it did save me from taking a wrong and potentially race ending turn.

Just after leaving the first aid station, I practiced my good deed for the day. Mike, the runner just ahead of me, had completely missed the turnoff to the trail right after the aid station and continued to run down the road. I started to whistle quite loudly and consistently, but to no avail. Mike just would not turn around. However, the aid station crew must have heard me and one of the jumped in a car to see what was going on. After seeing me and me gesturing that someone had gone on in the wrong direction, they quickly caught up to Mike and sent him on his proper way. And how did he pay me back? By passing me 20 minutes later;-)

I turned right onto Sand Flats Road around mile 10, heading for a mostly downhill run towards aid station 2 at mile 15. This aid station was located at the entrance to the major challenge of the day, a 5 mile out and back section up and down Porcupine Rim trail, where runners would have to retrieve a numbered rock at the turnaround point before heading back down to the aid station. Because I was running stronger today, I actually saw the race leader Sean exiting Porcupine Rim just as I entered it. Wow, he was already 5 miles ahead of me, bummer. As I made my way up Porcupine Rim, quite a technical trail I might add, I continued to see the remaining field of front runners pass my on their way back down. THis was probably the most fun I had during the race as I finally got to see all of the runners during the stage. Normally, you would see each other at the start and the finish, but not really during the race.

I ended up running almost even splits for both halves of the total 26.5 mile distance. I actually made up some spots on this last stage finishing 15th for the day and 16th for the week out of a total of 31 runners. While my goal was to run sub 5 hour for the day, I ended up with 5 hours 12 minutes. After exiting Porcupine Rim and heading to the last 7 miles to the finish, I started to slow down just a little, walking a couple of times when I could've possibly run. I was almost kept from finishing this stage altogether. About 4 miles from the finish a cowboy (seriously!) on horseback started unloading a large herd of cattle right in front of me with nowhere to go but through the herd. Of course, even though I slowed down to a walk, I spooked several cows and a bull, sending them charging back to their owner. I just kept my fingers crossed that he wouldn't pull out his revolver to put me down where I was standing;-)

When I finally spotted the finish line, the runners and crew were once again at hand to cheer me on and will me across the finish line. It was absolutely awesome. And to top it all off, none other than the winner of this even, Sean Meissner, took off my pack after I crossed the finish line, sent me to a chair and filled up my bottle with ice water. What a class act this guy is!

Final comments
Finally, I would like to thank all of the runners that I met during this journey (yes, I am calling it a journey as this was so much more than just a race). You all have been inspiring and wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much without you. A special thanks goes to Reid and all of his crew members and volunteers. An extra special thanks goes to the kitchen crew for the week. Every morning and every evening, they whipped up the most amazing food in the middle of nowhere. I might have actually gained a little bit of weight, which was really hard to imagine after a week like this. But it just shows how excellent the food really was. The aid, the food and the overall hospitality we received during this event was absolutely amazing. I truly hope to be able to participate in this event again in the future. It is an extremely challenging event in one truly beautiful place.

And now I'm ready for a shower!

You can find the final results for the 2011 Desert RATS 148 Mile multiday stage race here.

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