The Toughest Racer

By Gordon Wright

Could be a broken hand.  Maybe some ligament damage.  Definitely painful.  The swollen, throbbing right wing of Amber Monfort is jacked beyond belief – the collateral damage of a nasty fall on the back side of Hope Pass during Stage Two of the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run.

When Amber finished the stage, her knee was pouring blood from her shredded knee, so she staggered to a chair and sat down to catch her breath and sip water.  Moments later, she was on the ground, the race’s medical staff swarming over her, with an oxygen cannula up her nose.

It was a tad alarming, but the 32-year-old pretty much just shrugged it off.

“I was dizzy,” she explained later, “Lying down helped, or maybe the oxygen.  Or maybe the Percocet, I don’t know.”

She got the painkillers from a medical clinic in Leadville, where they X-rayed her knee, her hand, and, presumably, her head, because she simply has refused to quit the race.

Despite a level of pain that most women (and certainly every man) would consider incapacitating, Monfort gets up every morning, eats some breakfast, warms up a bit and then toes the starting line.  She runs with the hand swaddled in Ace bandages and a little plastic paddle for support.  She specifically declined stitches at the clinic because they would have prevented her from running.  Instead, she resorts to using the medical staff to Steristrip her gaping knee wound every day.

She’s a hero here at the race, but discomfort is Monfort’s game.  She’s a serious endurance racer – a member of Team Timex Multisport – and has decided to put her nursing career on hold to undertake an audacious multisport push: for three months, starting in September, she’ll move to Kona to race in a Holy Grail of multisport insanity.

First, she’ll race in the Ironman World Championships.  Then she’ll race in the XTerra World Championships.  Then, in November, she’ll tackle the absurdly difficult Ultraman.  In that event, she’ll swim for 6.2 miles and ride 90 miles on the first day.  The second day she’ll ride 170 miles.  On the third and last day, the day that “really hurts,” according to Monfort, she’ll run 53 miles.  It may sound insane, but she has the palmares to back it up:  she’s the defending women’s champion in the Canadian Ultraman challenge.

“If I can move and I’m not damaging myself, I’m going to finish this,” said the sweetly intense, dark-haired Tough Chick.  “They only gave me ten Percocet, so I have a nice little system going: half a pill after each stage, then a full one at night.  Because otherwise, you know, sleeping is a little tough.”

“I’m so glad I’m doing this race,” she concluded, contrary to every shred of evidence, “It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity, and such a cool race.”

The Gore-Tex TransRockies Run doesn’t award a medal to Toughest Competitor.  But in future years, if it does, it may well be named the Monfort Award for Courage.

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