Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Race Report - 2011 Desert RATS 148 Mile Race (Stage 2)

Day 2

Me and my "roomies" Doug, Alex and Rich at the start of day 2.
Simply put, this one was extremely taxing on me, mentally and physically. This stage, "Milt's Stage" had been adjusted slightly to "only" 35 miles due to some flooding along the Colorado River. This stage was aptly named after Milt's restaurant, which would be catering the dinner following this stage. I heard buffalo burgers would be on the menu, which would be awesome. This stage was on the lowest section of the Kokopelli Trail, which meant extreme heat, 95 degrees in the shade, 125 on the ground in the sun. Humidity was a bit higher than yesterday, but it was negligible.

123 degrees ground temp + 2% humidity = insanity!
After two miles, we ran through McDonald Creek Canyon. We had to descend toward Bitter Creek around mile 8 and would climb again to the mesa top before getting to our first aid station and check point at mile 13. While the expedition journal called for an aid station at mile 5, we wouldn't have access to water and aid until mile 13, and in this heat, it was tough.

During the stage prior to the first aid station, we also had our first scary encounter. We had been warned about scorpions and rattle snakes at the pre-race briefing, but as usual, I didn't pay too close attention to what was said, other than "there is no need to suck on the wound if you are bitten". I didn't think it mattered anyway since we wouldn't encounter any dangerous wildlife. Well, I was wrong, but only a little. About 10 miles into today's stage, I was running ahead along the left edge of an ascending trail and Richard was following closely. I thought I'd heard a hissing noise but I paid no attention, until Richard's uttering of "Wow" or something like that made me turn around just in time to see him jump to the right side of the trail asking if I saw that. "Saw what?" I proclaimed, "the rattle snake that hissed at you" Rich responded. Oh crap, now I was glad I didn't actually see it. By the time I had turned around, the rattler had crawled under a rock. Aside from that briefly scary moment, some of the landscape early on this course was quite amazing.
Another beautiful section of trail disappearing on the horizon.
While there was a water drop at mile 21 which was not just helpful but essential on this really hot day, the second aid station would not be available until mile 28. This was obviously part of the challenge and a challenge it was. The staff had reduced the combined number of water drops and aid stations due to the shortened course for the day. This reduced access to water took its toll on us, especially on Richard. He really struggled to stay cool and overheating continued to be his biggest challenge. As we were making our way down a blacktop road from aid station 1 towards the water drop at mile 21, Richard finally told me to go ahead.
Spectacular view from mesa top.
He planned to continue to go very slow until his stomach felt better. The picture below shows Rich and I still running together earlier in the day. Unbeknownst to me, he initially decided to call it quits under the railroad bridge at mile 22. When one of the crew docs approached, he stated as much, not wanting to go on. However, the experience of the doc showed, when he suggested Richard wait about 20 minutes while he went ahead to the aid station. The doc would return in 20 minutes and if Rich still wanted to quit, he would take him. However, if Rich was gone, all the better. Luckily for Rich, Maya, Marilena came by to dowse him with water, which allowed him to finally cool off. They were followed by Alex, who informed him that he still had plenty of time to make it under the cutoff to the next aid station. That's all Rich needed to get going again, thank goodness.

Rich and I running strong early in the stage.
The section after the water drop mostly consisted of a trail similar to a jeep road that ran alongside railroad tracks for some time. After we turned away from the railroad tracks, the trail started winding its way towards the horizon alongside some power lines and not much else to see other than endlessly flat desert terrain with no finish line in sight. My only goal was to make it to the next aid station at mile 28. I figured, from there I would only have to go another 6 miles and I could walk those if I needed to. My blisters had not gotten any better and I just wanted to get off my feet. However, there were still quite a few miles between me and my sleeping pad.

For a moment, I thought we were in the African Savanna.
I made it to the second aid station about 1 or 2 hours under the cutoff, so there really had been no reason for me to be worried about it. But I was getting really tired. The last 6 miles of this course were as "challenging" as the previous 6 miles. Long, flat sections of trail with no end at the horizon. Little to no wind and high temps did the rest, slowing me down to mostly walking. When I finally spotted the finish line, I was ecstatic. I knew that tomorrow's stage would consist of only 11 miles. For that reason, the RD called it the "sprint stage" while we runners considered it a rest day;-)

I did much better with fluids and electrolytes today vs. yesterday, but this stage finally destroyed my feet (blisters) and wrecked my body (exhausted). It is way too early to be getting blisters, ya'll.

Just the first of many memorable battle wounds;-)
When Rich finally made it to the finish line, he too got his well deserved rest. Luckily, he did not quit during this stage. It would have been one lonely adventure for me;-)

Richard resting comfortably in our new home.
There was one serious climb on this section of the course, but I actually enjoyed that part. Mostly, we ran through desert terrain with no wind or shade. While the scenery wasn't quite as breathtaking, it was desert terrain. I started to push a little after I left Richard, but that burst of energy didn't last. The last 6 miles consisted of me walking it to the finish line. This was the toughest stage to date. Luckily, this was also the first campsite during this race that was located just 100 yards from the Colorado River, allowing us runners to cool our legs nicely before the rigors of the next stage. And while we were told that there would be no cell coverage along this section of the trail, Rich and I managed to climb a hill right next to our camp site, giving us just enough bars for a quick call home.

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