Sunday, 1 October 2017

Stage 5 & 6

I'm finished and sitting in a lovely double bed with clean sheets while typing this report.  A bit different from sitting is a sandy tent in deliberately small seats with a 15 minute time limit to post a message and a queue of people behind me, while my muscles as crying for a rest!
Stage 5
It was the last marathon and having finished strong yesterday I was looking forward to this one.  I decided to run again with Richard as having a running partner is really important for a few reasons.  One to make sure you don't get lost and the other to get you through the inevitable dark times.  When you are running through dried river beds your head is inevitably down trying not to trip on rocks, or stand on a cactus or even worse a snake, you can miss the tiny pink flags planted in the ground of the pink ribbon tied to a bush showing you the route.  Everyone got lost at some stage.
We headed off fast trying to take advantage of the cooler weather at 8am and also we knew we'd be going through some canyons that involved a ladder and a rope climb so we didn't want to get caught up on the rush.  My bag was probably down to about 19 pounds now so feeling "light" and not causing me so much pain.
The scenery was once again stunning and you had to take time to take it in.  Anyone who just kept there head down was in the wrong type of event and it did help with the pain.  This became the hottest day of the race and it took it's toll, especially on some of the climbs.  Richard struggled with the descents due to his leg injury and I was amazed how he persevered.  I don't know how he managed to get through the slot canyons as there was a lot of clambering required.  At one stage I must have dragged myself along withou saying a word for an hour on a long hot never ending dusty road and Richard was there just making sure I kept hydrating myself and staying a few feet ahead to encourage me - that's when you need a partner.
There was a video posted of us finishing the stage with me trying to hold onto him as we got to the finish line - we were in bits when we crossed it.  He went straight to the medical tent and I checked to see if my pinkie toe had actually come off - painful little bugger but fortunately no infection and the drugs helped.  Got weighed and had lost 10 pounds (project get the weight back on has started!).
Stage 6
Battered and bruised we got up for a staggered start with only 12km to do in the last day.  Effectively the race was over unless you were competing for places.  The slowest runners went ant 7, I was in the 8am group and the fast boys went at 9.  Richard and I decided to run together and went out as fast as we could.  I knew the terrain started off with a slight incline but would then get "silly steep" and we were doing well for the first half.  The second half was a walk with the altitude over 6,000 ft and as we weren't competing for places we took in the best views of the week - the pink cliffs of the Grand Staircase, something we'd been staring at for a week in the distance.
Even at this late stage we had to encourage each other to make it up the steep parts.  Just short of the finish line the winner came flying past us shortly followed by the 2nd place runner.  We could hear up ahead the crowd going mental and the cowbells ringing so we forgot our pain and ran it in.  A huge group of supporters and athletes were waiting going nuts and at the finish line was Fiona.  That thought had been in my head every day and to see her was very emotional.  The organisers gave us a hug and presented me with my Grand to Grand buckle which I will ware with pride.  I didn't waste any time in tucking into the pizza, coke, apples and bananas just behind the finish line.
This event isn't about positions and my next post will explain what it's really all about - there are some many heroic stories to share with you.  But for those interested, I was sitting overall 46th at the end of day 5 from a starting line up of 119 - with 26 DNFs.  I will have lost a few places on the last day but top half is always something I aim for in any event.  This is beyond my wildest dreams when in reality I was lucky to even make the startline.  Thanks for following my journey.  My next blog is going to give you a real flavour for the event before it all merges into one.  But first some R&R time with my number one supporter - Fiona.

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