Stage 6: Vail To Beaver Creek
Stats: 20.6 miles / 4,780 ft climbing
“THE FINAL FINISH”
After a rough night of interrupted sleep, Chad and I were only motivated by the fact that the day meant the final day of running. I had been telling myself, “just 16 miles of running and then I’m done,” but then my bubble was burst when I found out it was 21 miles of running with significant climbs. I could do it; we could do it! I told myself that with each step we took we would be that much closer to the finish and returning home to our families.
Knowing that I was struggling both mentally and with stomach issues, Chad suggested that I wear my iPod to help me zone out. The final leg of the race began in the village of Vail. We were paced out of town by mountain bikers until we reached the single track that marked the start of our first significant climb of the day. Once again the skies were clear and the sun was intense. We focused on not falling far behind the three teams that surged in front of us. Ever so often I would take my headphones off to check in with Chad to see how he was feeling. For the first 10 miles my stomach was touch-and-go as I felt like I could only push as hard as it would allow me to, and luckily Chad was feeling strong.
After running 12-plus miles on road, buffed-out single track, and double track we were treated some tighter, more technical single track. At this point Chad requested that I ditch the tunes, as we run better in technical situations when we can communicate freely. As usual, my speed increased until I almost went flying heard-first down the hill! Knowing my tendencies, Chad reined me in.
Eventually Chad and I caught Chris and Brian, and after exchanging encouraging words, we pressed on down the trail. About 1.5 miles later the single track abruptly ended and we found ourselves descending down a paved hill into the center of Avon. As we flew through intersections, tunnels, and over roundabouts and tunnels, I again, without notice, threw up. I could only imagine what motorists/pedestrians must have thought. Chad and I both knew just four miles remained, but so did a killer climb. I clipped on the tow rope and off we went.
As we arrived at the final aid station I grabbed a few GU’s and decided not to fill my hydration pack. We were maintaining our small lead over Chris and Brian, but they were within sight. They were so close that Brian continued to wave to us as we made our way up the switchbacks. As we worked our way up we both began to feel the heat. Chad made the call when to walk and when to run, but we both knew that we had to run more sections than our bodies really wanted to. We leveled out and I unclipped and took the lead as we started to go down. Within two minutes we both realized that in actuality we were not done climbing. Surprise! We could now see the top but still had several sweeping switchbacks to climb before plummeting to the finish. I lead the way and just before cresting the final section I took a sip of Chad’s water, because I was all out.
Down we went on dirt road, then single track and then more dirt road. First, we could hear the cowbells of the women who hiked a mile up every day to cheer runners in. Then, we could hear the announcer at the finish! I peered over my shoulder to see if we needed to sprint the finish but there was nothing behind us but open road. We crossed the finish line in 3rd place for the stage and secured a 3rd place finish for the week.