“Life is a bitch, his dark companion said–and then you die. Not so cried Henry! Life is a glorious shining and splendid adventure, and then you die.” ~Edward Abbey
This run gets classified as a total WOW, OMG, AMAZEBALLS, cannot wait to do this again, OVERSTOKE, I LOVE RUNNING, I think my head just exploded, yayyyyyyyyy!
For once in my life, I actually focused on running a race and took no photos which is now so sad because there were so many beautiful moments – the way the sun lit up the first climb, long stretches of red dirt, the ICE HILL of DEATH, so many fantastic smiling people, and the fantastic finish. Thank you instagram and less hurried runners and brave selfie taking folk.
I set a goal for the Moab Red Hot 55K and I went for it and FAILED and learned a lot and had a blast.
The air in Salt Lake was suffocating so I made the trip down to Moab earlier than planned and crashed in the back of Ruby3 Thursday evening waking early to watch the sunrise over the Colorado. I made coffee and just sat beside the river enjoying the solo desert time and thinking about all the times I had woken up in the same exact spot and wondering if I will ever get to old to call it a night in the back of my car.
I couldn’t contain my dog’s energy any longer so we headed across the street and hiked the short trail to Corona Arch where Roo close to lost his mind with all the snow and sand and sticks and views stretching for miles to miles, a desert dog at heart. The temp went from two puffy jackets to tank top in about 20 minutes so I basked on a rock in the sun for at least an hour before hiking back to the car and into town for breakfast at one of my Moab happy places, the Love Muffin.
Little dog, big arch.
I wandered around the streets of Moab popping into all of my favorite shops, picking up a used copy of Desert Solitaire in French at Back of Beyond Books and treats for Roo at the Moab Barkery before heading up Millcreek Canyon to laze away the rest of the afternoon reading on a rock while crazy rolled in the snow and sand for hours.
Having had the most glorious of days, I had almost forgotten I had come here to race. I picked up my race packet and checked into the super comfortable, dog-friendly, and cheap Moab Motel 6 (for reals!) and then made some ravioli in the parking lot (happy to hang on to some of my dirtbag roots) and then tried to stay awake for Roo sitter Fritz’s arrival.
Proof. And proof that I spend way to much time with my dog.
So about the actual race…
This is the first time in the history of ever that I wasn’t a total anxious basket case the week before a race. I would have even described myself as calm and just plain excited to run. Most of my training had involved trudging through knee dip snow so the idea of actually running rather than post-holing had me excited. I had set a rather overzealous goal for myself of finishing under 6 hours, but realistically I knew I could come in under 6 hours and 30 minutes.
I arrived at the race start with 2 minutes to spare and then we were off. I had planned on starting conservatively and then picking it up after mile 22, but running felt so good (and it was so beautiful out!) that I averaged under 10 minute pace for the first 10 miles. In hindsight this may have cost me, but then again these were the easiest miles of the whole course and I was running at an easy pace so maybe I should have done these faster.
I came in at the halfway point under three hours and thought oh my goodness I could actually make it in under 6 hours and was so psyched. I was feeling great (high off of caffeine GU) and hit the next 3-4 miles under 10 minute pace and then BAM a hill, a big hill. At mile 22, I stopped to walk for the first time of the day. I knew this hill was there, and I mistakenly thought I just had to get to the top where the aid station was and it would be all downhill from there. Well at least that is how I remembered it, but I hadn’t run the race since 2011.
Meltdown. I only slowed long enough to grab a Hammer Gel at the aid station and was off bounding down the hill with the aid station volunteer cheering and encouraging, “It’s all downhill from here!” IT WAS NOT ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE.
This was the toughest part of the course and I honestly didn’t remember any of it. The course went down, but then it turned back up and then it went down again and then up again times like one hundred. There was no one I could see ahead of me and the sun was in my eyes and I had a hard time seeing the next course marking so I had to keep stopping to search for the next course marking and I got off course no less than a dozen times.
I was running low on gels so I took my first ever Hammer Gel, chocolate peanut butter flavored, bad idea. I instantly felt sick and had to slow because I thought I was going to hurl. I almost wanted to make myself puke because I thought I would feel better. I remember saying “low point” out loud to myself because I knew it would pass and I thought by acknowledging it I could hurry it up.
At this point I turned to my emergency music, which fired me up and pretty much got me to the finish. There were these giant ice knolls at mile 29 to 30 or so that were absolutely hilarious! I slipped and fell a few times and had to crawl on my hands and knees to get up them. After ice knoll #2, I got lazy and started following someone and was led off course and backtracking a few minutes sapped the last of my stoke so I started yelling at myself that following course markings was my responsibility!
Finally it actually was all downhill from here and I tried to rally on down to the finish… finishing at 6:09:34 a two hour plus improvement from when I ran the course in 2011 (amazing what three hip surgeries and a whole lot of stoke can do 🙂
What I learned:
- This course is hard! I greatly underestimated the difficulty and was not mentally prepared for the climbs after mile 22, which caused serious, but not too serious meltdown.
- The downhill is especially hard! Running down steep slickrock hurts. More downhill preparation is needed.
- That 33.5 miles is long, but not too long 🙂
- People are amazing, and I am way stronger than I thought.
- To not taste test new gels during a race!
- That trail running is way easier than SkiMO Racing and that I would rather run for 6 hours than do the Crowbar ever again 🙂
All in all a great day and I am super happy with how everything went and I didn’t get a single blister thank goodness so I’ll be able to ski this week! I also felt good enough to do some more desert exploring the next day!