Battling the heat, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach podiums in 50k mountain race
When David Norris crossed the finish line for second place in the 50-kilometer Nakawé race in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Saturday, he thought it was the greatest challenge he faced in his life.
The race began in the dark at 6 a.m. and took runners from the beach of the city, through a jungle landscape and up and around rocky, mountainous terrain before returning to the seashore on a steep downhill track.
Norris, a cross country ski coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said the final 20 kilometers was the most challenging part of the race. He began to get goosebumps and cramp up from early minor symptoms of heat exhaustion. Before long he struggled to hold his drink and gels down and started to vomit, but he kept chugging along to the finish.
“Last week I was skiing up on Rabbit Ears with the ski team and then I get to Mexico and it was 90 degrees and super humid,” Norris said. “That was kind of a tough transition as well.”
Norris reached flat ground with five kilometers left and when he saw the finish line in the distance he was relieved he had pulled off what he thought was a race victory. In the final stretch, Norris heard fans cheering behind him and realized the race would come down to a sprint to the finish.
Hobbling as fast as he could while his legs continued to cramp, Norris was passed by the race winner, Juan Belman Ortiz, in the final few steps. The gap between the two runners was just three seconds.
“The person who beat me, he caught me with 10 meters to the finish line,” Norris said. “Around the 30k mark, I had about a 30-minute lead on him but I died and he finished really strong and caught me.”
Norris completed his run in an impressive 5 hours, 6 minutes, 41 seconds. He led nearly the entire race, but said competing in his first career 50k taught him how to approach these types of races in the future.
His purpose for competing in Puerto Vallarta was because it counts as a qualifying race for the OCC 50-kilometer race in Chamonix, France in August. The OCC is the 50k category final for the UTMB World Series circuit.
Earning a podium in Mexico granted Norris an automatic qualifying bid for the race in France this summer. He said that was his mission and he accomplished it.
Despite the pain and distress he felt in his race in Mexico, Norris said it just made him more excited for future runs where he plans to be even stronger and faster than he was this weekend.
“It was one of those crazy things where it was probably the toughest race experience I have had to try and continue running,” Norris said. “At the same time, I didn’t hate any point of it. I finished and realized it was the hardest thing I have ever done but I want to do another one now. It made me hungry to perfect it.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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