Check out Salomon Independence Run and Hike Race team member Brian Passenti‘s awesome race report from the Desert RATS Stage Race.  Spoiler Alert; he won!!

My feet are raw, really raw. Specifically my heals. I have hardened callus skin on most of my toes. Basically dried out blisters. I am sure I will lose two of the toe nails. My calf is tight, the right one. My left is much worse. My quads are literally peeling, sunburnt. My shoulders too. I’m driving eastbound. I was in this same spot a week ago, but westbound. I can see sections of the course. I have a much greater respect for the trail seven days later.

Seven days before.
Strawberry Shortcut 10k
I awake and slip out the door without disturbing any of the relatives visiting for the annual Strawberry Days Festival. With coffee in hand I drive to town for the locals foot race. This year will be a little different as I have a new team kit to sport. I’m in town for the annual 10k  foot race. A little locals race of about 100 athletes. I heard a rumor of a new course and that was true. Pretty standard meet and greet around the makeshift start line and then we’re off! I accomplish my goals, but my mind is already wandering…, wondering…, with anticipation… for the week to come…

start at Loma

Six days before.
Stage 1- Salt Creek
This stage was pretty familiar for me as I have trained and raced on the first 12 miles of this 19 mile stage. Mary’s, Lions loop, Troy built, all really flow-y single track fun. Crossing the Salt creek on the pedestrian bridge to the finish was all new terrain for me. I floated in the creek to cool the core temp and it was really helpful. The climb out of  Salt Creek was obnoxious. I was pleased to see the aid station at the crown and the two track road to the finish of the stage.

Five days prior
Stage 2-
“If pain is weakness leaving the body, then this can only make me stronger.”
The days mantra for me was pivotal in the work being done. Two-track roads and some pavement sections were in order for the 38 mile stage. This day proved to be the warmest of the week. I struggled in the heat and was unsure if it was actually hot, or if my issues were with the cumulative miles of three days of consecutive racing. John confirmed for me that it was indeed hot! I owned my mantra through my rough times and worked them out. I thought about our soldiers who have braved warmer climates with much more than some silly stage race on the line. My day was successful, but many others did not have the same results. Our incredible medical team had recorded temps of 121 degrees on the pavement. I kept a steady constant pace as best as possible but the third day of racing was taking its toll. We all eventually made it back to camp safe and tired. I heard stories of great teamwork, camaraderie, and looking out for each other. They all played into the days events. This ultra community is simply amazing.

Four days earlier
Stage 3- Sprint stage
This is the shortest of the stages at 9 miles. No one, including myself, wanted to sprint. We all took the short stage to recover and just survive to day 4. The route has spectacular views of the Colorado River and had a little more climbing than I would have expected, but still less than 1,000 ft. After the few hours of running, we all enjoyed the river at Dewey Bridge. The participants were relaxed and the work crew was flawless, like a well oiled machine. The sites and sounds made me think of a traveling circus, a good one, if there is such a thing. We were becoming a tribe.

Three days ago
Stage 4- Expedition Stage
“It’s going to be OK.”
This stage was the pinnacle of the week. The 7,750 ft of gain over the 42 miles was enough to get my attention. I carried extra water, lights, as well as a shell… you never know… This was my day. The best day I was to have on the trail. I stuck to my nutrition plan and actually enjoyed the run. This section was the most scenic of all the days, and it did not disappoint. A grey fox was spotted playing on the rocks near the start and that was the just the beginning. It got hot, but I kept my cool about me. When the course topped out at 8300 ft. I had a bit of a break down, a good one. I enjoyed the view.I thought about the opportunities that I have been given and that I have created for myself. I thought about my family and my friends sending all those positive vibes from afar. I enjoyed the open trail and one of my favorite albums, singing most of the way down. I did fry my quads pretty good and needed to walk backwards down Castle Valley Boulevard in the steepest of descends.

Two days prior
Rest day
Ahhh, the well needed, well deserved rest day. AKA, the calorie and hydration game!! It was an amazing day of relaxing on Sandy beach and eating, and eating… It was nice to be able to clean up and take care of our bodies. A hidden waterfall off camp was so nice and refreshing.

Stage 5- The Marathon
” I am the only one who can bring me down. No one else has that power”
I was able to do my homework for this stage on the rest day. It starts out with a 10k climb before falling to the finish 20 miles later. There is an out and back section on the famous Porcupine Rim Trail that climbs 750 ft in the 2.5 miles. Pick up your stone and return to the aid station and then your home free- sounds simple-ish, right? Nothing ever is…
Destroyed myself on the climb, because…, that’s my thing. I like to climb. I wanted to cruise the down and get ‘er done, but I had a feeling about the stone. Man, was I right. Upon my arrival, my stone seamed out of place, larger you might say than the others. I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t think twice. I accepted the challenge and moved on, moved through it. ” No one but me…” I owned that stone.

Its MY rock!!

After leaving my rock at the aid station, there was only a rolling descend to the Slick Rock parking lot. That 10k was bittersweet. I thought about the week, these people, this tribe. I thought about how I didn’t want it to end, the circus. I thought about the challenges we all accepted to push ourselves, push our comfort levels. I thought about my own journey to this moment. I thought about my girls at the finish, waiting for me. I put on my music and start to sing…

My feet are raw, really raw. Specifically my heals. I have hardened callus skin on most of my toes. I roll the windows down and find my album. I think about my girls. I put on my music and start to sing…
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