Monday, August 22, 2011

Stage One Recap - What Really Went Down

My friends know two things about me: 1) I have zero natural navigational skills, and 2) I am about as klutzy as they come. And while I didn't get us lost on yesterday's course, I did manage to catch a toe on some (real or imagined) obstacle, and eat some sand. I emerged from the tumble unscathed (plenty of practice) but Paul, who was directly behind me, leapt to the side to avoid stepping on me, and rolled an already weakened ankle. I was on the ground congratulating myself for not trashing my legs when I heard the painful groan (followed by #bleeeeep#) behind me. We were only eight miles into a 120 mile race, and I had managed to take out my partner.


The stage one course was 20.8 miles of sun-exposed, sandy trail, feeling a bit more like northern Arizona than Colorado. The sand was almost beach-like through some long stretches, which reduced Paul to an agonizing walk. It was a tough day for Paul physically, and for both of us mentally. He was focused on 'mind over matter', just tying to make it through the remaining twelve miles, and I was feeling terrible about causing his injury.

Which brings me to the essence of the GORE-TEX TransRockies: regardless of how well-prepared you are for racing, any number of things can go wrong. Unless you are vying for podium, your goal is essentially to make it through healthy. In a 6-day race, the focus becomes conservation (not pushing so hard that you can't recover overnight) and self-preservation (doing everything in your power to avoid an accident). Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to pass people on the trail who have 'assumed the position', which is spread feet, hands on the knees, bent over barfing. The altitude can hit someone out of nowhere, one minute they are cruising along and the next they are so dizzy they pass out on the ground, partner waving for a medic. Sometimes it's a poor foot placement on a downhill that sends your ankle left and your body right. Or maybe it's a clumsy partner that takes a dive right in front of you.

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