BIG ONE IN THE BOOKS…
June 15, 2012
What an amazing day on so many levels. The Long March is usually a mental chessmatch with a multitude of highs/lows and this one was no different. Day started off with a 2 hour bus ride to the starting line so we would begin the stage closer to the host town of Kashgar. While we all hated the idea of a mid-race busride earlier in the week it was a welcome opportunity to get some zzzzss outside our increasingly cold and smelly tent. Things kicked off at 10am local time with 75kms staring us in the face. My approach to this day never changes...break it down checkpoint by checkpoint (there were eight of them today) keep running keep running keep running and eventually youll get there.
Again like the past three days I couldnt keep up with the pace upfront. Legs totally thrashed and in dire need of four or five days rest. But Ive felt very strong physically. So I just plodded. And grinded. Between CP 1 and 2 we had more rollers with some steep climbs and feeling good and knowing the terrain was preventing a fast pace I used this opportunity to gain on the pack. I spotted Justus, Anne Marie, Phillipe and John Ross out in the distance walking up a long hill. So I started stalking them. Seeing competitors in the distance walking can give you such a mental pick-me-up...just as seeing a competitor run away from you has the opposite effect. I pursued hard and finally passed all four to pull into third place. I tried hard to bury them Prefontaine style but they stayed on my heels and passed me back about ten minutes later. Within 30 minutes they were out of site.
From CP3 to CP4 it was real struggle with more running through rocky riverbeds that took a major toll on the ankle. I struggled and lost a few more places. Again...gutcheck time. For what seems like the 100th time this week. Always just try to chop it out when feeling bad and wait for it to pass. Once we got to the top of another long climb we started descending and would be running generally downhill for the final 30k. I opened it up and started feeling good. So I pressed hard. The fact that we were starting to countdown the mileage instead of up helped as well. Had a stretch of about ten miles that felt simply amazing. Got the confidence back that I could maybe turn in a good day. Then immediately after CP6 the weather got nasty, winds starting ripping and a real-life sandstorm took hold. It was so crazy running directly into it. Sand was getting into my eyes, mouth, ears, pretty much everywhere. Got some incredible footage though. At this point I was just walking with my hands up trying to get through it. Gave the legs a nice breather.
When I got to CP7 I was told we had 8.5km to the finish and two competitors were 12 minutes ahead of me. I also knew if I could lay this distance down in 46 minutes Id have a shot of breaking nine hours. So I went out really hard. Within ten minutes I spotted the two competitors in the distance run/walking. That got me fired up. I kept picking up the pace faster and faster as this five mile stretch could define my race. I passed both of them with two miles to go and sprinted all the way across the finish screaming like a total lunatic and letting out UofT warcry after warcry. Havent seen the final times yet but I missed breaking nine hours by less than a minute. But the stretch run did get me into fifth for the day and I believe back into sixth overall for the event. Couldnt be happier about it and I owe so much of it to each of you!!!
I was thinking about this during the run but I think what I love most about these races (and ultrarunning/endurance racing in general) is that its the only sport I can think of (at least now in a state of total exhaustion) where professionals, amateurs and average dudes like me all take the field of battle together. And bc theres no prize money involved, more so just a sense of comraderie, self-discovery and accomplishment, that while many ultrarunners are firecely competitive they are also equally supportive. I think back to the five races Ive run now and to all the winners - Paolo Barghini, Ryan Sandes, Salvo Redondo, Anders Jensen, and now Vicente - Ive honestly never met more humble collection of champions in my life. All great guys. All supportive of everyone who participates in this sport. Makes me very proud to be a part of it all.
Thats it for now on this end. We have a day to chill in camp tomorrow, rest and take in the beautiful scenery as the final competitors finish through the night and into the morning. Saturday we have 15km left to the finish and then let the celebration begin. What a special week. Not much more to say.
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