About two miles from the finish, I caught back up to Martina, who was having difficulty negotiating a jeep track that had been surfaced with unpleasantly large and loose lava rocks. Honestly, it was a bad enough that I had a hard time imagining any vehicle driving that track without popping a tire; but between my trekking poles and cushy Hoka Mafates, I felt more than adequately equipped to handle such brutal terrain, and I was running again. I ran with Martina on the steep descent toward the Thingvallavatn Lake, and we finished the stage together, 27.2 miles in 6:40.
I have my reasons for the deep enjoyment I draw from racing, and for the most part I don't feel the need to apologize for them anymore. Although I'll always be a hiker and bicycle tourist at heart, I appreciate these opportunities to break out of my comfort zone, push my limits, and occasionally chase pre-set parameters so outrageous that I'd never have the notion or courage to pursue them on my own. Reaching these limits and pushing beyond them is immensely satisfying. But every so often, honestly, I do just want to sit back and smell the roses. Or sulphur, in this case.
Stage four registered 25.1 miles in 7:18 on the race clock, although my GPS recorded 8:28 overall with a moving time of 6:01, so I'm not exactly sure how the math worked out on this day. No matter how we measured it, though, it was my favorite stage; I still felt healthy and strong and stoked about the possibilities of the final full stage of the event, "The Long March."