But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for. ~ Paulo Coelho
Jammed out to Moab Friday morning. Aside from spending what felt like a large portion of the drive on the phone, it went quickly and was fairly uneventful. Crazy roads around Copper were really the only distraction and I rolled into town with plenty of time to get checked into my hotel (La Quinta, which was perfect), go for a quick run (on which I felt awesome) and gather my race packet and some grub. For a tourist destination, Moab is seriously devoid of vegetarian fare so I ended up at La Hacienda. Nothing special here but it was food, I suppose, which was what I needed. Headed back to the hotel to get prepped for the race and relax and hit the sack around 9:30.
I did employ a few new techniques to try to keep myself fresh during- and post-drive that seemed to work. First, I wore compression stockings, which I got when I had knee surgery a few years ago. They seem to help and I recommend picking up a pair to help keep one’s legs feeling fresh – especially when traveling. I also stopped frequently (about every 1.5 hours) along the way to walk around and stretch. This seems like a major pain (and honestly, it is) but I do feel that it is the way to go to save your legs from getting too mucked up during longer drives. Once I arrived at the hotel, I stretched, flushed my legs by grabbing around my ankles and pulling upwards toward my thighs and resting near a wall with my legs up at about an 80° angle for a bit. Post-run, I also soaked in an ice bath for 10 minutes then followed that with a hot soak. Seemed to work.
I got up early on race day to get all my stuff together, stretch and compose myself before the event. Carpooled out to the start with a past work colleague Michele Delman. She and her husband, Reid, run a series of adventure races throughout the year. It was good to be able to catch up with Michele and have someone to hang with prior to the start.
It was chilly at the start so I warmed up in my puffy jacket and tights then stripped down to shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, vest, visor and gloves for the start. Did a few quick surges to get the blood flowing then, with little ceremony, someone gave a whistle and we were off!
The course heads generally south, paralleling the highway, and climbs steadily from the start. Moab has seen some snow this year and the first few miles of the course were on snowpacked dirt roads. I started out fairly quickly as I didn’t want to get caught up in the mess of people walking the first hill and felt pretty well on the first climb. Then I settled into a steady pace as the course moved on to frozen dirt and intermittent snow as it wound its way toward the first aid station.
I arrived at Aid 1 (~6 miles) way ahead of schedule and actually felt it to be a bit sooner than expected. I refueled, got more water, ditched my vest and kept moving up along the course to the big loop the 50K runners were to accomplish. The second 7 miles of the course were pretty brutal due to deep breakable crust conditions and unpackable sugar snow underneath. This portion of the course saw me lose any gains I had made during the first 6 miles and really made my abs angry. Beautiful terrain, I am sure, when dry, this portion of the course climbed steadily to a section that ran along a cliff band then dropped back down to Aid 2. I rolled into the second station still in decent shape time-wise (still a few minutes ahead of my projected “medium” finish pace) but starting to feel the effects of some wicked conditions.
Shortly after Aid 2 (~13 miles), I slipped on some black ice and almost ate it. This aggravated my already grumpy abs and made for a relatively unhappy return to Aid 3 (shared station with Aid 1). This section was mostly snowpacked and muddy and rolled generally downhill through open fields with amazing views of the La Sals and unique red sandstone monuments of the Moab valley. Definitely spectacular views when I was able to look up long enough to enjoy them.
Quickly, I made it to Aid 3 (~17 miles), gathered some fuel and headed out. I was still on pace for a decent finish at this point but during the next section things started to fall apart. This section of the course wound back down the course in reverse for a mile or so then turned south. Conditions were fairly mixed with lots of mud, snow and some slick rock to keep things interesting. I was starting to realize the effects of a couple of mistakes that compounded one another during this section and that would plague me for the remainder of the day. First, I was grossly over-optimistic about my ability to traverse this type of terrain in an efficient manner and so under-estimated the time it would take me to move from station to station. This left me in a bit of a lurch with hydration and I suffered horribly. Second, I was hoping to test-drive some different nutrition techniques during this race but the cold temps early on and my mixing the fuel too-thickly, made getting the right amount of calories down a real challenge. This also tapped into my water supply and I fought nausea most of the day.
I rolled into Aid 4 (~21 miles) well behind schedule, queasy, and starting to lose the hydration battle. I should have stayed at Aid 4 a bit longer to suck down more fluids but, feeling a bit delirious, didn’t make the connection between how I was feeling and poor hydration. I left Aid 4 with a full bottle and hopes of getting moving again to make good time to Aid 5 (~28 miles).
Normally, I would be able to cover 7 miles in no time but given my condition, this was not the case. I walked. A lot. Not only was this disheartening but it also probably doubled the amount of time it took me to get to the final aid station. I ran out of water very early and just walked. It was embarrassing, frankly, but I didn’t have many options. I would walk for a bit. Stop. Try to keep from throwing up whatever liquids I did happen to have in my system. Walk some more. Pathetic. I bummed a little water from a cameraman who was shooting the race and then he informed me that the 5th aid station had been moved even farther down the course because they were unable to make it to the prescribed spot (should have been ~mile 28 but moved to ~30). Ugh. I finally hooked up with some very friendly mountain bikers who gave me a full bottle that then enabled me to move a bit faster and finally make it to the final station.
I stopped for a bit to get some liquids down, which enabled me to suck down some more fuel and then tackle the final 2.5 miles of the course. I seriously considered just dropping out but my spirits were buoyed by the short distance left to travel and the desire to just finish. I walked out of Aid 5 and just tried to keep a steady pace along the final 2.5 miles. After about a half mile, I decided to try running 50 paces and walking 50 paces. This seemed to work pretty well and quickly the run portion was extended to 60, 70, 100 to 50 walking then I was running again and feeling MUCH better. I ran the final 1.5 miles or so and finished in 7:07. Pretty poor showing but that’s racing, I suppose. I think I was 36th in my age group and was about 50 minutes off my slow-target pace. Oh well.
Apparently the conditions didn’t put too much of a damper on the front-runners’ efforts as Karl Meltzer won again in 4:19 or something. Way to go Karl! Anita Ortiz stomped the women’s field in 4:44. I am pretty sure I ran next to her briefly at the start. Sweet!
Post-race, I grabbed a little food, hung out with Reid for a bit then headed back to the start to collect my car. The road was so crappy at this point that the van dropped us off about a mile from the cars and so I walked and jogged back to the Subaru (thanks, Rach!) and then headed back to the finish to collect my drop bag items which I had forgotten to pick up. Michele finished just before I arrived so it was great to talk with her about her day. Similar experience to mine. I then headed back to Moab to grab a shower at Poison Spider bike shop (even though they were very close to closing time, the young guy working there let me sneak in a quick shower), grabbed some snacks at the grocery store, and headed back home.
The drive home was a bit sketchy with poor road conditions starting around Glenwood Springs and one really wacky moment where a car was half-way in the ditch and half-way in the left-hand lane with its lights out as I was passing another car! The driver was using a flashlight to signal people so, after passing the wreck, I called the Highway Patrol to report it. Hopefully that turned out okay.
I got home around 11:15 making it a long day. Honestly, I didn’t feel particularly wrecked after the event nor am I very sore or messed up today. This leads me to believe that most of my problems were hydration/nutrition-based and not due to a lack of fitness per se. That is the theory on which I am going, at least. I do know that I under-estimated the difficulty of the course and over-estimated my ability to move across such varied terrain efficiently. All in all, it was a good experience.