Part 3: The experience of a lifetime and counting down to the finish
Leg numero 9: the middle/median leg. We were half way there, with only half way to go (like driving through Tennessee on the way to Disney Land). As mentioned before, a very good case could be made for this leg being the most challenging of the entire race (or a close second to leg 4). While a bit shorter (‘only’ 17.84km), it requires runners to ascend 385m to the top of North Mountain before descending back to sea level in a very short period of time (the downhills on this leg are severe enough to make your quads quiver). Then, if that weren’t bad enough, it’s still another 5 or so k over rolling hills to the finish at Pleasant Bay. But regardless whether we can agree it’s the toughest leg of the race, I would say it is hands down the most beautiful. The leg begins at dusk just before 8pm and by the time it finishes the sun is setting over the Cape Breton Highlights National Park and the combined views and lighting make this leg sensually and aesthetically appealing in every way.
|Ah, the smell of brake fluid in the evening. The descent from North Mountain at dusk during leg 9|
|An artists rendition of what Tom may have felt like while descenting leg 9.|
|Tom Hesch gave everything he had (and then some) during his battle on leg 9. Hopefully he will live to run another day.|
|A rough elevation profile of MacKenzie Mountain. Note: It's uphill.|
|Above and below: Sorta what/how I imagine seeing/feeling during my late evening jaunt through Leg 10.|
Obviously I was travelling quite quickly and soon there came a time when I began to anticipate the end. Again I checked my watch only once and only to see the distance which notified me that I had just less than 3k to go. Those last k’s required some extra effort and focus and I was only too happy to see the 1k to go marker. I really had no idea what my time or pace was like but figured I was giving a very honest and hard effort. I saw the line of cars parked along the road and as the final few hundred metres grew closer, I gave everything I had left. I crossed the road to see the illuminated finish area and caught a glimpse of the time clock with read 57:xx. I had come in well under an hour (my primary goal) and would soon realize that my time of 57:41 (3:56/k) was also good enough to average under 4:00/k (my secondary goal) and placed me second (behind a guy who set a new course record. Leg 10 results. I was so thrilled with the result and also just totally relieved to be done that I did some cheesy gunshot thing with my hands that came out of nowhere. It was uber lame but was done in the heat of the moment.
|Sadly, no one captured my gun slinging glory moment so this photo from the finish will have to do instead.|
|A wicked run by Warren. A close second place and within a minute of the record.|
|For rather obvious reasons (a lack of illumination), there are few good photos from the night legs (10-14), but I can assure you we were all busy running and driving around the Cabot Trail. We didn't just have a nap and say we ran!|
|Because he was running at night, we had Davey identify himself during the day so we could locate him in case he got lost during his second leg. That's him there with his hand in the air.|
|Roger and Darren celebrating the end of leg 14 and a job well done.|
|This is a photo of Gerardo.|
|This is a photo of Gerardo running leg 15.|
|This is a photo of Gerardo finishing leg 15.|
Warren had admitted to feeling a little banged up before his double which is only fair given that he had flung himself precariously down a massive hill on leg 11 a mere 7hrs earlier. We wished him luck as he departed on this 15.35km leg that is considered among the ‘easier’ legs given its fewer hills but knew that he would have a tough road ahead regardless. We finally left the starting area after almost a half hour and raced ahead to support out Ringler. His hypnotic compact form and fluent stride suggested he was running comfortably but he was also clearly showing signs of being worse for wear and was doing his absolute best to simply get this one done and mail it in. With Doyle on board and a trek to get him to the start of leg 17, we sadly had to leave Warren alone and wasn’t there to see him finish (no wonder he likes to run alone). He fared well in the end coming in at 58:44 (3:50/k) and 4th overall just one spot ahead of Cardio’s Brooke Brown who had completed the Texas Ironman just one week before in an amazing time of 9:45. Leg 16 results.
|Warren Ringler wondering where the hell his teammates are to support him on leg 16.|
|The whole team waiting in unifrom on the streets of Baddeck for Doyle to finish leg 17.|
|'Happy Doyle' finishing leg 17.|
|The grand finale and finish of leg 17 for the Black Lungs at the 2012 Cabot Trail Relay.|
|The 2012 Black Lungs. Back from left: Doyle, David Hiddleston, Darren, Rob Campbell, Davey, the Belge. |
Bottom from right: Gerardo, Tom Hesch, yours truly and Warren Ringler. Missing but not forgotten: Guy Smith.