Gecko's Epic Mountain Challenge in Pagosa Springs turned out to be an amazing even with an overwhelming amount of support and organization. But the real story is the amount of muscle that showed up to compete for the $60,000.
This event is a 2 day stage race combining 4 races. Day 1 is a half marathon trail run in the morning and a 20 mile mountain bike in the afternoon. Day 2 is a 10k road run followed a few hours later by a 4k mountain bike hill climb. I only completed day one. 2 days of racing with Xterra Worlds just 3 weeks away probably was not the best training. So I told myself if I was in the running for top 5 I would keep racing day 2 otherwise I would call it early.
Lining up for the start of the half marathon was a small group of maybe 60 or 70 runners but 50 of them felt like they belonged in the front row. And when Morgan started us off I realized immediately that they all did. It was like racing a 400 up the first hill. The entire front end of the group was flying. I stayed back and tried to keep a steadier pace. After about a mile I started passing a few people and after 3 or 4 settled in with 2 other solo racers, Kyle Leto and Ben Allen. We went back and forth for a while, Ben and I railing the ups and downs while Kyle would just real us back in on the flats. Some of the downhills were very loose and steep along with some of the uphills. But the course was a good mix of hills and flats. Unfortunately the scenery wasn't there but I was staring at the ground for the entire 94 minutes anyways. On the final techie decent and climb Ben and I dropped Kyle until about a half mile left and we see Kyle flying through the switchbacks to run us down. We both put in that final kick to finish Me, Ben, Kyle only about 7 seconds between each of us. Such a great time racing with 2 guys at the same level. Josh Merrick, Jason Donald, Josiah Middaugh, Howard Grotts, Brian Smith was the order of solo men 1-5. I came in 8th. There were 3 duo guys ahead of all top 5 solo men. These guys were crazy fast.
After the run Alexis and I took Edgar for a walk and then headed to Farrago's for lunch (so good we went back for dinner, even better for dinner!). I used every bit of fortitude I had to not eat the entire basket of sweet potato fries that came with my panini. Then we headed back to the hotel to put the legs up and read for an hour. 2 o'clock came and I was out the door pedaling around trying to loosen up the legs the best I could. I put in a few short hard efforts only because I was worried about getting stuck behind a crowd by the first single track. The start line was the same as the run. One small group all gunning for the front. Morgan started us off again and same as before it was a sprint up the hill. I managed to tuck in behind Greg Krause and Brian Smith which left a nice wake for me to cruze up the hill in. I hit the single track in a good spot but still got stuck behind some guys on the first two descents. The 2 lap course only had 2 techie downhills and couple of tough steep climbs per lap. The rest was a flat power course on single track. The first lap I had absolutely nothing. My legs were as flat as could be. I struggled on every uphill and flat. But about a 1/4 the way through lap two I suddenly felt amazing. I was standing on every hill, I road away from the guys I was with on lap one. Passed a few spread out guys and finished with way too much left in the tank. Not sure how that works but I obviously did something wrong between the two events. Howard Grotts, Dan Hugo, Josiah Middaugh, Brian Smith, Thomas Spannring was the order 1-5. I was 12th. Believe it or not there were 2 duo guys ahead of Howard Grotts. Sorry, no individual names only team names listed.
We ended up leaving early Sunday morning because of a family issue, but I had told myself that if I did not have a shot at the money by the end of day one I would cruze through day 2. I had Xterra Worlds coming up in 3 weeks and I didn't think it was wise to race 4 events in 2 days just for fun. 1 day was great anyways. My run was fantastic and my bike felt strong. It gave me great motivation for Maui.
After I left day 2 went on but the results did not change much. It was a battle for first place with Josiah Middaugh 2 minutes ahead of Howard Grotts, followed by Brian Smith, Jason Donald, Bradley Weiss, Josh Merrick, Dan Hugo, Travis Macy, Kyle Leto, Ben Allen and 12 more guys. I didn't mention it mostly because this is already a long post but the women's field was just as impressive with Emma Garrard putting in a dominating performance. What an insanely competitive field. My hats off To Morgan, Mike, and the rest of the Gecko crew who managed to pull off such a unique and AMAZING event. I'm in for next year 100%!