That's what happened to me on that race. From the start, I knew it was going to be a tough one. Those mountains looked mighty big and despite the name "Mesquite Canyon", I couldn't see any break in the skyline that didn't involve significant climbing. Reality is, we would climb pretty much to the top.
We ran somewhere close to those antennas in the background. Maybe a bit lower.
All of a sudden, the course goes from flat-ish to straight up. Between km 9 and 15, we climbed over 1700 feet mostly very technical footing. Really. I really thought I was in better shape than I actually was, I guess. I got passed a bit. Mostly by the 50km leaders who were on a different course, but also by a few 30k racers. That depressed me a bit. You could see the trail far in the distance, up, up always up, with little people climbing.
The climb was relentless and very steep. Because there was no way of driving up that friggin' trail, there were no aid stations either for 9 miles. I have to admit that I questioned my manhood a few times going up that trail. Someone mentioned that the name wasn't Goat Hill (or something like that) for nothin'. I got a bit of a side stitch and it took quite a while to get rid of it. Once you got to the top, the trail became a bit less technical for a while but you could not take your eye off the trail without risking falling off a cliff or at least a really painful fall.
I kept drinking and eating as much as I thought I could. I got a bit of a surge of energy once we started going down. Even passed a couple of people. The trail was technical but runnable. At some point though, it became ridiculous and I started tripping everywhere. My quads were shot, the trail was steep and there was basically no stable footing half the time.
Finally, I get to the bottom and horror, there's an uphill section. Lots of hiking and shuffling. The last few kilometers were quite painful. I had nothing left. I knew I did, somewhere, but I just could make myself care. I was hot. I knew I would come in under 4 hours, which was my goal. I would start running and then after a couple of minutes just stop, I had never experienced something like that in a short distance like that. Anyway I did finish in 3:53. Within my goal, which was based on nothing, but more tired than I had expected.
The winner ran the course in 2:18. That's an average of 4:35/km. Someone explain that to me. Between the climbing and the footing and the death if you make a mistake, there's something I don't understand. Un-friggin'-believable.
So that's my experience of my first race involving a real climb. It was a humbling experience. It really kicked me in the nuts both physically and mentally. I kept thinking the following: Hope Pass is over 3000 feet on the way out. That's almost twice as high, possibly steeper and all that between 9,000 and 12,000 feet.
Lots of training to do. I better stop whining.