Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The Red Hot 55K in Moab Utah
(The gang before the start)
Trying to rap my arms around the idea of running an ultra marathon distance event before I raced a marathon was different and for me it worked. Last year I accomplished a 24 mile Moab Utah trail run and I had a blast doing it. A good mix of fun friends, radical challenge and wonderful scenery made it something that I for sure wanted to do again and improve on. The idea was thrown out at a party and the idea caught on and this weekend 13 friends competed in the Moab Red Hot 55K and 33K trail race.
The training during the winter was different for me since it was the first year I really had any goal to work towards in the off season. The other major bonus was that Anne was going to run with me. Long runs on Wednesday mornings, Red Rocks and the 4 big runs that we did made the training a journey that I was really able to enjoy. I wanted to see if I could adapt to long runs and get good results from them.
Race week was fun watching the weather change from blowing snow to rain to really cold back to snow. We loaded everything we would use for all conditions and headed down to Moab. The kids were excited to be on a trip again and after finding out that the condo we rented had a hot tub they were super excited to get on the road. Liz, Tyler, Sam and Jonah with a late arrival of my Dad made the stay really fun. I however came down with a pretty bad head cold a few days earlier so I was not as perky as I usually would like to be the day before the event.
Race morning started with the sound of rain outside our window and a body that just wanted to stay in bed. I talked to Anne the night before we went to sleep and I decided that I would feel bad staying in bed or at the condo just like I would feel bad running so I would try to run regardless of how I felt and just deal with it. I even put a plan together at 18 miles to turn back if it got too bad. Plus I wanted to see if I really could last in bad weather, sick and not on a prime day and today was defiantly that day. I put my clothes on and my Garmin HR monitor and watched it settle at 15 BPM’s above normal. Here we go!
The start and pre-race Ultra style is really chillin and relaxed. People are talking and being social and not a lot of drama is going on around us. We took a few group pictures and cheered to rally those around us and to our surprise it worked. The race started and off we went running straight up a mountain.
A picture of the start as we rounded the corner to start climbing
We were in the back and at the first picture spot were second to last. I was running with John, Keith and Beth and we had a plan to take it out slowly and build and have a good second half to make the whole day a sucess. As we finished the first climb I looked at Beth and realized she did not mean that slow and so we settled into a good “working” pace for the next few hours.
(A picuture of Beth, John and Keith at the first climb)
(Its hard to see but you can see the cars from the start and the trail way, way below)
Aid station number #1 was out of water by the time we arrived and I worked hard not to worry and relax. I have been working on taking the right mix of nutrition and did not have any water left when we arrived. Keith gave me one if his 20 oz bottles and I made that last for the next 5 miles until aid station #2. We really did well as a group and keep each other motivated and after about 7 miles started to pick people off and enjoy the day rain, wind or whatever the weather ended up being for the moment. We found Beth’s friend Laurie and the two of them keep us entertained for the next 2 hours. We had a great rendition of “Mandy” and some other Barry M hits. The only thing is the pace kept creeping up and after 18 miles I let the group know that we had made it to the point where anyone could take off and have the day they wanted. A few minutes later Beth and Laurie were off the front and John, Keith and I were happy to let them go. We had a huge slick rock climb and spent the next 30 minutes walking straight up hill. The three boys separated about 50-100 feet from one another and had our own quite time.
John and Keith on the huge climb of the day doing our alone time!
I was feeling ok at this point and really was pleased with how the day was turning out. I was good on my water intake and my nutrition was also working for me. I passed my bailout spot and kept going and was proud of the decision. I took my Garmin off my wrist and put it on my backpack to avoid looking at it and decided the day was going to be what I made it regardless.
To this point it had rained on us, the wind was really aggressive and so when we reached the cliff top of the first climb I wanted to take pictures of us all we had some in the group very concerned about being so close to the side with the wind blowing so aggressively. This day was also different because 30 minutes after we started Anne, Jewels and Nancy started the 33K. My wife was running a race at the same time that I was which was a Walton first. It was fun to pass the 5 hour mark thinking that they would be close to finishing. I hoped that Anne had a good experience and later that day I learned that she rocked the race course and everyone did really well in her group.
(Nancy, Anne and Jewles)
I kept my head down and kept trucking up the hill and just a bit later I could see the top of the climb with a much needed aid station. 22 miles done and a shirt change was in order along with some treats. The wind was blowing something fierce and so I did not stay long and told Keith and John that I was going to start going down. I wanted to have some more alone time and decided to put in my Ipod and see if I could get through the next two hours without hurting too bad.
(Me on top of the huge climb with the Colorado river in the background)
I started the decent and had Keith close and so I told him I was plugging in and would be on my own for a bit. He was working a blister and we did not see John so it was ok and I took off. I started to run down hill and realized I felt good. I mean that I really felt good like I have never felt this way after 5 hours of running before. I did not know what to do except just let it go. I started to lengthen my stride and pick up pace. I would walk the hills and run the flats and downhill’s and for the next 5 miles I mostly had downhill’s. I found I felt good, the best I had felt all day and so I did just what my heart told me to do and I ran, FAST. Just 3 songs later I saw what looked like Beth and Laurie with a few others and by the end of my 4th song I was right behind them. I did not slow down but had a funny exchange and keep running. Beth and Laurie were on my heels just a few seconds after I appeared and the 3 of us were running fast as a group. Beth warned me that it would not last and I should slow down but I did not care and just wanted to keep going. I kept myself plugged in and for the next 5 songs felt awesome, then slowly reality started to show up and by the time I hit the aid station at 29 miles was out of magic dust and my tank was empty. The volunteer at the last aid station said one more mile of climbing, one mile flat and three downhill to the finish. At the top of the climb Beth and Laurie agreed that we would finish together but the pace kept rising and by the time we were done with the flats I started to cramp. I asked them to finish and I would come in at my own pace.
(Our fearless leader pointing the direction to go!)
I walked and drank and walked and drank for the next 15 minutes and then started to feel better. A few minutes later I could hear the sound of cheers and I felt close to the finish line. I looked back to see Keith just above my one turn and yelled for him to catch up so we could finish together. He started to say I needed to go because he was so tired and just as he finished that comment we rounded the corner and saw the finish line and ran in together. Beth and Laurie had come in 10 minutes earlier and Anne and my Dad had not made it to the finish line so for me it was a buzz kill. It was not about the finish but the journey and today I had quite a journey, one that I will never forget. 55K (33-34 miles) 6700 ft of elevation gain and a full and happy heart, I get why people do this sport.
The day was great, when I got back to the condo I was greeted with the sounds of laughter in the back yard. I passed in a very limping manner the front door and walked to the back yard and as I turned the corner I saw my 3 kids splashing and having a blast in the hot tub. They stopped just long enough to ask how the race went and then were back to playing what ever made up game they were playing before.
I wanted to see if I could do a long distance event and have good time and perform well and I felt that I did. I now feel like I can do long distance events and look towards the future for the next epic journey. I have a plan that required a good result in Moab this weekend and with all the challenge with health and weather and still getting it done was a big huge success. Remember I pay to do this, I came home with a tee shirt, pictures, LOTS of stories and a burning fire to keep going. Bucket list caliber of weekend for sure.
Beth, John, Keith, Nancy, Jewles, Heidi, Andrea, Steve, Randy, Anne, Andy, Jackson, Josh, Lexi, Jane, and others thanks for being a part of this journey with me. I loved the training days and the end result. My Dad told Anne and the girls that because the weather was bad he would wait for a bit in case they wanted to turn around….When the fire is burning within it really does not matter what conditions you are in you just keep going one step at a time, collecting memories that will last forever.
I love you Anne you are my sunshine!