Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eric Blake's thoughts on this year's Trophy Race

The thought of medaling as a team at the World Mountain Running Trophy didn’t really start till 2004 for me. A few of the USA team members were enjoying the pizza and wine in a small Italian restaurant in the mountain town of Sauze d'Oulx Italy after an eighth place team finish. Simon Gutierrez remarked that we were really not too far away from medaling and after looking at the results we were in striking distance for next year.

A year later in New Zealand we finished 6th. Again we were close but couldn’t get the medal. Then 2006 rolled around and the team travelled to Bursa, Turkey. I had my best trophy race I could have hoped for but going to the awards ceremony I was just a spectator as our team finished 5th. But something special happened ….we had the privilege to watch the USA Women’s team accept their gold medals for winning the team title. 2007 came and went without a men’s team medal so as the 2008 mountain season began the goal of a first men’s team medal was still there.
As the 2008 WMRT took off, five teammates and I took off from the town of Sierra and ended the race at Crans-Montana. The course had all different terrain that included paved roads, dirt roads, and muddy single-track trails. It also had steep short climbs, steep long climbs, stairs, down hills and what makes any Trophy race great, loud and crazy fans lined the course. The USA team got a good start and I got out well too. After the first climb Rick Gates and Joe Gray passed me and both looked strong. I was suffering a little bit but then my spirits were boosted when Zac Freudenberg and Simon, A.K.A. “El Capitan”, passed me as I knew the USA Team was in a good position. I made a commitment to stick with them as we entered some of the muddy single-track trail. With about two miles left my rough patches were over and I started to move back up. As in countless other races Simon and I teamed up knowing that the team was running well. As I crossed the line I was first disappointed with my individual finish but happy to see Ricky and Joe already in the finish area. When Matt Byrne and Zac finished we were the first team to have all six runners finish. When the results of the USA Team bronze medal were announced any negative thoughts of my individual race were erased. Now that the men’s team has won a medal I’m pretty sure the team will be headed back for more.


GZ said...

Eric - et. al. Awesome accomplishment. Well done! That is something no one can ever take away!

tim barnes said...

To everyone involved with USMRT, CONGRATULATIONS!! Amazing effort on all fronts- the selection races, team exposure, training, racing, training and more racing, blogging, representing, and most of all . . . being relentless.
If anyone locates any video or more pics from the race, please send word. Thanks for the perspective, Eric. Any words from "El Capitan"?