Also, in an attempt to score added sympathy points, I want to mention that I injured my foot a month ago at the Arizona Rock n Roll marathon, so my training has been spotty at best. I did 10 miles 2 weeks ago after I thought it was better. It wasn't, and I barely ran the last 2 weeks. Consequently, my expectations were very low for this race.
RED HOT 50K+ on Feb 14th, 2009 Valentine's Day
The Red Hot 50K+ plus is an approx. 34 mile race outside Moab, in the Arches National Park area. It’s a point to point race, starting at the Gemini Bridges trailhead and finishing at Poison Spider along the Colorado River. The race is run on red dirt trails, sand, and a lot of slickrock. Elevation begins at 4650 feet and peaks at 5700 feet, with tons of up and down in between. Today’s low was 22, with a high of 44 degrees. We had very minor snow flurries and some wind. Overall, pretty good conditions.
I slept like crap. Up every 10-15 minutes all night long. All my dreams were about oversleeping, getting injured, getting lost, or forgetting something important. Up at 6:15 to shower and dress. Drove 10 miles north of Moab to the trailhead by 7:00. Added my drop bag to the 1&3 aid station pile—we hit it twice.
This is the only photo where I could spot myself. I'm the dude on the right without the goofy smile. Back turned, gray beanie. Yep, that's me.
It’s freezing cold out, and I basically pace for an hour waiting for the race to start at 8:00. I’m wearing my New Balance 903’s. Decided to go with what’s comfortable rather than a trail shoe. I have my running shorts underneath some workout pants, a long sleeve T, a short sleeve T. and a jacket. I’ve got a beanie on, gloves, headphones, and my large fuel belt, but with the bottles only filled halfway.
I didn’t do any real warm-up or stretching, as there will be plenty of time for warming up on the first leg. My plan is to take it slow, and hopefully finish before the 6:00 pm cutoff. The thought of being on my feet for 10 hours is not appealing. The race starts right at 8:00, and as usual, I disregard all my prior plans. I just can’t help myself. I’m going slow, but not even close to as slow as I should be going.
We go into a climb quite soon, making our way to the top of the canyon. I’m in the middle of the pack and chugging along. No pain so far. On the other side of the canyon, we follow a sandy trail, which causes you to use twice as much energy to go the same distance. Lots more climbing too.
It takes me 1 hour to reach the first aid station, 5 ½ miles from the start. I find my drop bag and strip off my pants, jacket, beanie, and gloves. I put on ear warmers though. Take 3 ibuprofen. I snack on saltines and dried fruit before moving on. My foot is starting to hurt where I injured it. I try not to think about it.
The next aid station is 7 ½ miles away, at mile 13. After running through valley trails, we hit the slickrock and begin a series of tough climbs. Slickrock is petrified sandstone that you see all over Arches and Zions. It’s unforgiving on the feet and will cause severe abrasions if you eat it. Most of the surface is uneven, so when going up, it’s like climbing a massive staircase. It’s not fun when your legs are tight and sore.
Once at the top, the view is unreal. You can see rock formations and canyons for miles. The scenery out here is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Simply beautiful. We follow the ridgeline for awhile before a killer descent. I know from past experiences what happens when I throw caution to the wind and let myself go—sore quads and knees that haunt me later in the race.
These gals are much braver than me. I kept my distance from the edge. I hate heights. In fact, my stomach turns just looking at the this picture.
I throw caution to the wind anyway and fly down the slickrock and trails. I pass a dozen or more people in the next 1-2 miles. Most people aren't dumb enough to speed down with reckless abandon, but I absolutely love it. I have a talent for staying on my feet on difficult terrain, and I like to use it.
Feeling pretty good considering at aid station 2. Ate more chips, saltines, a Clif bar, and a couple GU’s. Staying away from the Coke for fear of having to deal with #2 problems. The next four miles were tough on me. All very runnable trail, which works against me, since my race pace isn’t very fast. I excel on the technical trails, where most others have to slow down. My foot, and now both knees, are really sore.
These "trails" are normally reserved for bikes or vehicles like the Hummer below.
Aid station 3, which is the same as 1, is at mile 17. The halfway point. I go straight to my drop bag where I focus on the 3 things I’ve been saying over and over in my head for the last mile: Sunscreen, Drugs, and Trash. I coat my head and face, pop 4 more ibuprofen, and empty my pockets of GU and energy bar wrappers. Wolf down some PB&J, dried fruit, crackers, and another bar. It’s like 11:00 or so. I really try not to think about being only halfway.
The next 6 miles are tough. Almost all entirely on slickrock. Both of my feet are throbbing, my knees ache, and my hip flexors are screaming. We go up, up, up to the top of the canyon once again. There’s no consistent trail, just pink ribbons tied to random shrubs and rocks on top of the sandstone. Once at the top though, it’s a continuous up and down. Even though it hurts like mad, I take full advantage of the downhill sections and pass a lot of dudes. It’s blowing my mind that my foot hasn’t failed me completely and I’m still able to run.
Aid station 4 is at mile 23. I’m hungry and eat everything in sight. I’m in a groove now, so I move on quickly, but soon all that food catches up to me and I feel nauseous. The next 6 miles are entirely on slickrock. My legs, especially my knees, are shot. I still run the downhill fast, but it hurts really bad. I continue to pass people, amazed that I’m doing this well and knowing I’ll probably finish the race.
The views are stunning. I can see the Colorado River glistening in the distance. At the same time, I find myself appreciating them less and less as I grow more and more fatigued. It’s 6 miles to aid station 5, and it feels like it will never come. The good news is my feet are so hammered by this point that I’m numb to any pain. It’s my knees that have moved into the spotlight. What I’d give for some spongy asphalt or cement.
Aid station 5 is at mile 29. You have to climb the several of the steepest rock faces of the course to get to it. I’m experiencing a second wind of sorts, and scramble up, sometimes on all fours, with speed I didn’t know I had. I haven’t eaten in awhile and still feel sick to my stomach. Too much sugar I think. I stop drinking the CytoMax energy drink and begin downing water to flush out my system.
The last 5 miles are brutal. Lots of downhill, which I don’t appreciate anymore. I move from grimacing to audibly grunting in pain on the bigger drop offs. I’m still passing people for 2 ½ miles, but then at around 31.5 miles, I hit a wall. I have to mentally fight to keep running, and when I am, it’s just a slow jog. I get passed by half a dozen people who conserved their energy better than me. Everything hurts.
The final mile is a series of switchbacks down to the river. I check my watch and see I can come in under 7 hours if I hustle. I give it everything I have left and painfully pick up the pace. I’ve never been so happy to see a finish line, which I cross, according to my watch, just under 7 hours.
Later I find out my official time was 7:02:21. Oh well. From my count, 181 runners finished the race before the cutoff. It looks like I was 107th overall. I was just elated to be able to finish.
I hobble over to where they are serving up steaming bread bowls of soup and hurriedly consume two. They hand out awards. I think the first place guy came in just under 4 hours, which is mind blowing. Hopped on a shuttle back to the start to pick up my car and beeline for my hotel. Spend nearly an hour in the shower under the hot water. It would have been 2 if I’d had a chair to sit on.
I took pictures of my toes following the race, but I just made an executive decision not to post them. I have a hard enough time getting dates as it is, without more gruesome photos of my toes floating around the net.