As the dust settled on the leg number 22 that everyone wanted to forget about, it was time for the race to carry on in earnest. It was 2:30 in the morning, and 125 miles of the 208 miles had been covered. Charlotte were now just over 5 minutes ahead, the largest lead of the race so far and almost a mile for these speedsters! An angry Asheville team was in hot pursuit, adrenaline pumping, and Charlotte were going to have to respond if their lead wasn’t going to disappear quickly.
Status quo on the next leg but that was not unexpected. Josh and David, who ended up being two of the fastest runners in the race, were separated by just 2 seconds over their three legs when the race was over! David won their first head to head by 3 seconds, Josh this one by 2 seconds and David the 3rd leg later by 1 second. They ended up running 16.1 miles in 1:33:26 and 1:33:28 (5:48 pace). Unbelievable stuff.
Leg 24 saw the first stirrings of a comeback though. In spite of covering his 3.2 mile leg in 16:14, Rocky ended up losing a minute of the lead on this leg with Jubbs covering the same ground in an unbelievable 15:15 (this leg was longer than a 5k remember- at 3am!). Both vans had now run twice, 4 minutes was the gap.
With their second legs out of the way it was time for van 2 to think about grabbing some sleep while van 1 got back to work and finished off their races. As such we were unable to provide the support that we had previously been giving to van 1 while they ran. We drove ahead to exchange zone 30/31 where I would next be taking the wristband up the notorious mountain goat stage.
I navigated our van to the changeover spot, so had had literally no sleep since the start of the race. I didn't feel that tired anyway as I was buzzing off all the adrenaline from the race. It was 4:30 am and I was due to run at about 6 so I figured it would probably be a good idea to try and get some sleep. I headed into the hall that people were sleeping in, set my alarm for 5:30 and laid myself out on the floor. My legs were sore from the previous two stages and I generally just felt pretty crappy but it was nice to be able to stretch out on the floor and rest my eyes. Needless to say I didn't get any sleep at all, I just tossed and turned and stretched for an hour, constantly checking my watch to see what time it was.
At 5:30 I headed back to the van and rooted around in the dark for my third running outfit of the race and all the other required night time paraphenalia. Everyone else was still dozing. Behind me down the road I figured Mike was probably finishing off leg 29 and Greg would be getting ready to tackle leg 30. We had no idea at this stage what had been happening in the race the past couple of hours. I tried to jog up and down the street a few times to loosen up my legs and get ready for the task ahead but must admit I wasn't feeling great at this point. My legs were sore, my body was tired and I knew what lay in store, having tackled this leg the year before. The prospect of running 5 miles straight up a mountain was not exactly enticing. I was cursing to myself (and Ben!) thinking I never want to do this thing again! I had to get my shit together though. The team needed me to do a job and I couldn't let them down, everyone else was giving 110% and I needed to do the same.
Josh woke at this point and immediately tried to get in contact with Ben to get an update on proceedings. Well apparently we had missed out on some pretty exciting stuff! Richard had lost a bit of time, John had caught it back and added some to the lead (no surprises there) but on leg 27 Asheville had made their first significant move on the longest stage of the night, 9 miles. In spite of a great run from Billy who covered the leg in 57 minutes, Kevin Lisska had taken nearly 3 minutes out of the lead. As Billy handed over to the captain the lead was down to 2 minutes. Daniel set off after Ben in earnest and was soon cutting into the lead. Yet more drama though as his curse of the calf struck again to slow him downand Ben was able to regain the time that had been whittled away. The gap was still 2 minutes as the captain finished off his legs. A great effort indeed by Ben, who two weeks earlier wasn't even sure he was going to run!!
Then, it happened. After 28 legs, 159 miles and 15 hours of racing, Asheville grabbed the lead for the first time in the race. A relentless 7.5 mile charge at 5:39 pace (his third run in 15 hours remember!) from Seth had seen him pass Mike and hand over to Dave with just over a 1 minute lead. CRC weren't done yet though and with Greg up next against an opponent that he had just had the edge over so far, anything could happen!
So Josh communicated the news that Asheville had taken the lead and that the 2 guys were about 15 minutes away. I made my way over to the starting area and reacquainted myself with Scott. We both confessed that this was all getting far too stressful and nervously took it in turns to do some cursory strides while we waited. The latest news was that Greg had gained the time lost back and was running neck and neck with Dave. The Mountain Goat leg awaited....