Wednesday, 11 July 2012 07:24

Race Report: Desert R.A.T.S. Stage Race 2012 By Elise Maguire

Desert RATS (Race Across The Sand): A 235km footrace in the desert of Utah with a 13 pounds backpack – the perfect challenge for a crossfitter/ultra-runner. 2012 was the second hottest year since the race was created in 2006.

Day1 (32km): 27 starters, the race started at 1:30pm in the heat of the day. I was strong for the first 22km, but then we had to fight a violent wind for the last 10km. I decided to save up my energy for the rest of the race and slow down. 26 finishers, my time was 4h42.

Day2 (63km): I ran the first 20km, but then the heat kicked in. The temperature on the pavement was 58C. I really got dehydrated and started acting drunk. Coming to the first aid station, I was in bad shape and really wanted to quit. I couldn’t handle the heat. A 20yr old med student started yelling at me: “Drink, Eat, and get out there to FINISH!”. I could not believe I was getting yelled at by a kid, but it did the trick. I kept moving, but very slowly. I didn’t think I could make the 8pm cutoff, but decided to give everything I got. It was HARD! I crossed the finishing line at 7:15pm, limping because of the blisters. The medical team took my pulse, put me on a bed and took care of me. I was 8 pounds lighter. I felt terrible and was ashamed of my time. The record holder of the race, an elite runner from Arizona who actually quit that day because the conditions were so bad, started to talk me. He said: “You were out there all alone baking in the heat for almost 12hrs and you didn’t quit. I have a huge amount of respect for you”. That meant a lot to me. 17 finishers, my time was 11h42.

Day3 (15km): That morning, I literally could not put on my shoes because of the blisters. I started the race limping and I was in pain. After 3km, I suddenly felt better and ran until the end. 17 finishers, my time was 2h10.

Day4 (84km): Today, we are going up and up and up. The climb was just never ending. The backpack was heavier that day because we had to carry our night gear. I was pretty strong for the first 45km, but then I started to have a heat rash. It was so bad that I came to a point that I could no longer move. Desperate time, desperate measure. At 4:30pm, the sun was still really strong. I changed for my night gear, which was a warm rain jacket and my black skins. It was so hot, but at least I could move. When the sun came down, I still had 13km to go. My energy level was still high, but the blisters on my feet were really bad at that point and I could no longer run. I decided to walk until the finishing line. I was all alone in the desert looking at the stars. Suddenly, right before midnight, I started to hear a LOT of noise: people screaming, cars honking, cow bells, whistle, etc. I didn’t get it. A volunteer came to find me and I asked: “What is going on”? He answered: “Elise, people are waiting for you. You still have 800m to go. RUN!” It was an amazing feeling, I could not believe everyone was still up to cheer me up. The same story happened for runners coming in at 1am and 2am. 15 finishers, my time was 16h38.

Day5: REST! Whichwas a good timing, we got a sand storm!

Day6 (42km): At that point, my feet were in pretty bad shape. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried a couple of times while I was going uphill in the first 10km. I then had the genius idea to take a couple of Advils. It did the trick and could run again. I wanted to finish this race so badly, I started to speed up and actually passed 6 runners in the last 10km. And then, finally, the last finishing line. What a relief! 15 finishers, my time was 6h35.

Overall, we were 27 runners to begin with and only 15 runners made it to the finishing line. My final time was 41h47. I ranked 13th, which is not great, but given I’ve only been running ultras for a year, I’m very happy I finished one of the toughest race in North America. This year, I survived to Desert RATS. I’m already signed up for 2013 and next year, I want to compete!!!! More than once during this race I thought “Pain is temporary, quitting last forever”.