Course Description: Stage 4 is a climbers dream. It's a shorter stage, but what it doesn't have in distance, it makes up for in steepness. The course starts in Camp Hale where you run about 2miles to the base of the toughest, steepest climb of the week. The climb is about 3miles long and you gain nearly 3,000ft.. topping out at around 11,700ft. From there, you run on the top, which is a rolling net gain trail that lasts about 2.5 miles. Then you drop straight down for several miles.. running through a half mile long ice cold river whose bottom is rocky and ridiculous... but fun. The last several miles into Red Cliff are a slight grade and make for some very fast running.
What Happened: Coming out of Stage 3 and some of the drama throughout the subsequent day and evening, Mike and I were ready to race... and race fast. As the gun went off, we forced ourselves to take the first several miles somewhat subdued. The pace was set by Mario Mendoza, whose partner dropped out the day before. Apparently, he was on fire too, because the first few miles were sub6min pace. Pretty aggressive considering that we are charging towards a wicked climb. The biggest difference from today and the previous days was that Team Bend was starting out behind us. I wasn't sure if it was strategic or if after yesterday's super-human effort they were fatigued.. honestly, I hoped for the latter.
As we made our way to the climb, Mike and I quickly hopped to the front and started pressing the climb. Within a mile, the only teams visible were the Inov-8 Boys and Team Bend. As we continued to fire our way up the steeper grades, we began to put more space between us and the rest of the field. We committed to pressing the pace even more as we didn't want a repeat of Stage 2 where we got caught on the downhill and flat sections. By the time we hit the first ridge and closed out the final uphill portion, we had quite a bit of breathing room. Now it was time to crush the rolling section to ensure we had some space on the downhill.
We dug deep on the top and averaged 6min miles for the rolling, high altitude section. Now time for the descent. No holding back this time. Quads be damned.. we decided. We are NOT going to get caught this time.
Smashing our way down the backside, we both started literally screaming at the top of our lungs. All of the negative garbage from the night before was surfacing and now flying out of us via yells. Undoubtedly we looked and sounded insane, but honestly, it felt good and help to propel us down the mountain.
We made quick work of the river portion and made it through without so much as a slip. We then focused on turnover and hammered the final few miles into Red Cliff at a swift 5:20/mile pace.... crossing the finish line in an amazing 1hr 44min 33sec . Team Inov8 Finished 2nd in 1hr 47min 55sec .. Team Salomon finished third in 1hr 48min 00sec .. while Team Bend was fourth in 1hr 50min 16sec... For a point of reference on how fast all the teams ran, the winning time last year was1hr 58min 5sec
After finishing, we found out that Ryan Bak, suffering from a bit of a tight hamstring developed in Stage 3, had a tough time with some of the technical terrain and fell several times... He eventually needed stitches and damaged his toe pretty seriously... being a tough guy, he committed to finishing the event.
After today's effort, we regained the lead by a very slim margin of a little over 1min ahead of Team Bend. Day 5 was set to be another battle, but we were ready.
Inteview at the end of Stage 4 (nice look on my face to start the inteview):