Saturday, February 23, 2013

Moab's Red Hot 55K

Last weekend, Tarah and I took advantage of a semi-long weekend (no classes on Monday, but parent/teacher conferences) to head up to Moab for some racing and hiking. We would have preferred to be in sunny Florida or Nicaragua for the weekend, but Moab was still a great escape.
We made the four and a half hour drive on Friday after school and got to our super nice hotel (no really) about 9:00. The race didn't begin until 8:00 the next morning, but I needed to pick up my packet closer to 6:45 so we were up early by most people's standards, but for us it meant sleeping in about an hour later than normal. So after a delicious hot breakfast at the hotel we headed to the trailhead and race start just outside of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
While we were waiting around for the start we met a couple from Colorado and chatted them up for a bit and Tarah ended up hiking with the Maggie in Arches while us guys "raced" (well, Daniel raced to seventh place, I survived). 
The race started and I had again positioned myself way too far back in the pack. As we started our ascent up the the mesa I quickly passed people and settled into a nice pace. The weather was perfect and the course was beautiful. I cruised along the trails at a nice clip until the second aid station at around 13 miles. I hit the half marathon point in a little over 2 hours, shooting for a sub-six finishing time and then my race fell apart.
My shin/IT band/knee hadn't been feeling great leading up to the race, but I had rested and I felt great for the first third of the race, but the last 20+ miles were horrible. Every other step was excruciating, it felt like someone was putting a knife in my knee. On any terrain that was flat or downhill I couldn't manage much more than a hobbling shuffle, however anytime the course went up hill my leg didn't bother me and I could climb like a champ. At the first onset of the pain I tried some yoga breathing to try and alleviate the discomfort and that seemed to help, though it may have just been that I focusing so much on my controlled breathing that I wasn't focussing as much on the pain. I stopped a few times to massage my calf and shin and do some stretching (I'm sure some runners were shocked to come around a corner and see me standing on one foot hugging my leg into my chest), but it was all to no avail.
I contemplated dropping, but I didn't have anything better to do than hike in a truly incredible setting, so I soldiered on. At about a marathon, we hit a rolling section of trail and I yo-yoed with few runners blowing past them on the climbs and getting passed on the descents. Every time someone huffed and puffed past me I wanted to shout "But I'm not even tired, and my legs feel great, I just can't bend my knee." It was really frustrating to be passed by runners that I knew I was better than, but I knew it wasn't meant to be that day. Perhaps February just isn't my month for ultras.
With about a mile to go I finished the final climb of the day and a course marshall, trying to be optimistic, told me it was all downhill to the finish and I cringed. I ended up passing at least one other runner in that section and was meet by Tarah a few hundred feet from the finish line. About seven and half hours after I started I crossed the finish line.
We hung out at the finish for awards, I ate some soup, drank some cola, and talked to Dakota a bit about the race he's directing in the San Juan Mountains. We caught a shuttle to the car, went back to the hotel to clean up a bit, ate delicious pizza and calzones at Eddie McStiff's, and then relaxed in the hot tub with about ten barely supervised kiddos.
The next day I ate a huge breakfast (eggs, gourmet salsa, hash browns, sausage gravy, bacon, sausage, french toast,  and hot chocolate - seriously, when in Moab stay at Aarchway Inn), Tarah ate a good breakfast and we headed to Arches National Park for a little hiking. The area around Gallup is pretty beautiful, but Moab is absolutely gorgeous. We hiked around in Devil's Garden and I decided to do my hiking barefoot, despite the freezing temperatures and snowy/icy trails. Other than a few areas of sharp, crusty ice the walk was great, and the expressions on people's faces and their comments when they thought we were out of earshot were awesome. We ended up taking the primitive trail back from Double O Arch and Tarah got her cardio workout in on some fear-inducing sections. On one particularly sketchy spot that Tarah had thankfully already traversed, I did a semi-controlled fall/slide on the slick rock down to the trail about twenty below. If Tarah had been behind me, we probably would have had to call in a helicopter to get us since we had another super sketchy section behind us. I came out unscathed and we finished our adventure as the trails were starting to fill up.
We're looking forward to getting back to Moab during the first part of our spring break in April before heading to the mountains outside of ABQ for another ultra.

The view at the start

Finishing up

Trailhead and trail guardians

Barefootin' it

Probably the second most famous arch in the park - Landscape Arch

Fair warning

Feeling great going up
At Black Arch overlook

The primitive trail

Heading back to the car

1 comment:

Matt said...

You crazy crazy man. Glad for the end survival result! Looks like all's well out west.