Moab’s Red Hot 55K
I awoke to the sound of a jetliner flying overhead.
And immediately my mind started racing. Have I trained enough? Will my food plan work? Are my shoes too new? Will the weather hold? Why am I doing this to myself…again?
The roar of another jetliner brought me back to the moment.
“Wait. Another jetliner? No jetliners fly that low over Moab. What the…”
WIND! Incessant. Ever loving WIND.
Not gonna be a fun day. Nope.
The weather wasn’t going to hold. We’d been watching the forecast closely for the previous 10 days, our spirits falling with each passing day as it went from “50s and sun” to “30s and snow”. But Kevin Freaking Eubank never said ANYTHING about wind!
Dread is a powerful emotion. I began envisioning only worst case scenarios. We’d spend the day soaked to the bone, shivering uncontrollably, running with 5 extra pounds of mud stuck to each shoe, and ultimately we’d all die from exposure somewhere on the bluffs of Moab.
After cowering under the blankets – suffering through an hour of mental anguish – I willed myself out of bed and into the shower to wash off the bad mojo.
15 minutes later, I summoned the courage to go outside and see what we were in for. I planted my feet firmly as I opened the door expecting the arctic blast to blow me across the room. Then, as I slowly opened the door…not so much. Windy yes, but also baaaaaallllmy. It was like 45 degrees under partly cloudy skies. Now we’re talkin.
Sam, Adam (Sam’s brother) and I grabbed some grub, packed up and headed out for the adventure. 34 miles of running across the Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, and Poison Spider trails.
It didn’t take long for the rain to start, but we were on our way and focused on the task at hand.
The First 17 Miles
It was a pretty mucky start as we ran up the Gemini Bridges road and eventually into Little Canyon. The climb was somewhat steep, icy, and wet with some exposure to the left. I started to worry about theWife and Holly trying to climb this in the Soob and Murano as they made their way to the first aid station. Surely, they would see how icy and technical the climb would be for their two less-than-monster-trucks and turn back.
Photo of the lead pack on the first climb thanks to Todd Olsen at ShotU.net
Wouldn’t you know it – about three miles into the canyon, here they came, rolling up the canyon. Holly and Cic climbed the first pitch like it was nothing and were cruising to the first aid station. When I asked Cic if she was nervous on the climb, she responded “not really, it’s just what we do for you guys on race day.” Once again, I was amazed at how much seeing her smiling face can improve any rainy, dreary situation.
But about a mile later, that all changed as I helplessly watched my life flashed before my eyes.
There was another steep climb that included some steps – no problem for a jeep with clearance, but for a Subaru? Whole nother story.
I was running up a pretty technical section on the climb as Holly rolled up and over it with reckless abandon (she was driving a company car so no worries, right?), but when Cic tried it in the Subaru she got stuck halfway up the step. And then started to go BACKWARDS! I felt helpless watching my wife, two kids, and one of Sam’s kids going the WRONG DIRECTION down a sandstone cliff (Cic would later say she was TOTALLY in control of the situation). mmm hmm.
When the car came to a stop all I could see through the windshield was a giant white toothy grin and the emphatic waving of her hand gesturing me to “just keep running, don’t worry about us.” I paused. How would I explain THAT to her parents? That I just sorta left. You know…to finish the race as their daughter and grandchildren careened off a 10,000 foot cliff.
theWife assured me they were good and told me to keep going. Reluctantly, I did so (looking back I clearly see this as a husband fail). The next half mile was agonizing as I kept looking back to see if they were coming around the bend. I caught up with Holly and was about to tell her about me being the worst husband on earth having left his wife and children (and her child as well) to die in a barren wasteland of sand and sage. Then just before I broke the news to her…around the corner came the Soob! They were ALIVE!
Okay then. On with the run.
In all the races I’ve done, I have yet to figure out the perfect race day diet. At the Park City P2P I fertilized the trail at about the halfway point. I suffered through the rumble down under at the Squaw Peak 50. And during my second attempt of the Wasatch 100, I’d decided at mile 30 that fasting was the best way to settle my stomach – that one definitely didn’t work as I abandoned the race at mile 62, whimpering in the fetal position.
So, for 3 months I’d considered a measured, all-liquid race day diet. I’ve been a fan of the 90 calorie CarboRocket for a little over a year, but had yet to try the new 333 calorie “half evil” version on any run longer than two hours.
I thought I would be running for about 10 hours this day and did some research to learn that the bodies of endurance athletes (I only loosely apply that term to myself) can typically only digest between 250 and 300 calories an hour during a race. Basically, the carnage and destruction that occurs during the event places too much stress on the body to efficiently process many more calories than that. Which explained why my previous races have been fraught with gastro-intestinal malfeasance.
So I measured out my stash and kept an eye out for the DEA.
Long story short. I had just about the best race day stomach ever. I chugged half a bottle of CR333 about every 30 minutes and consumed just over 6 bottles of the stuff.
Bottom line, I am hooked and highly recommend CarboRocket 333.
That said, I have a load of Shot Rock Turds, Gu Chomps, Shot Blocks, and Hammer Gels available if anyone wants them.
The Next 17 Miles
After suffering through dead legs on the long, straight, forever dirt road that drops off the Gold Bar Rim I started again to feel pretty good. I’d seen the crew at the mid-point aid station which sufficiently buoyed my spirits and I was finally running downhill – the presence of “downhills” on the earth truly strengthens my testimony of a divine creator.
About this time, I came into my favorite part of any endurance race. That point where nothing hurts so badly that the pain completely occupies your mind. The noise of life is left on the side of the trail miles ago and everything becomes centered in the quiet serenity of now. For me, these are the “golden windows” of every race. The thump, thump, thump of music from my iPod is replaced with the sounds of a heartbeat in my ears; the rapid, but rhythmic inhale/exhale of air from my lungs; and the labored, but lifting crunch, crunch, crunch made by the soles of my feet as they work their way down the trail.
That mixed with the surroundings is the opium of the endeavor.
Photo from race day thanks to Greg Norrander
Now to be sure, the hangover is a real doozie. But very much worth it.
The euphoric high soon faded as I came upon this broken down heap at about mile 20 and thought to myself matter-of-factly: “you know something? my left leg kind of feels like that too.”
Photo from the race thanks to Greg Norrander
At the suggestion of my in-laws, I bought me a pair of magic shoes for Christmas. This was the first real distance event I’d worn them in and I am convinced, they ARE magic shoes. Ridiculously light. Ridiculously cushioned. And yes, ridiculously expensive. But worthy of every dollar (all 170 of them even – ouch).
The best part of these shoes? They make you haul ass on the downhills. There is so much padding on the bottom you can’t feel a thing you are stepping on. All rocks, sticks, and Hobbits get absorbed in the squish of each footstep. After 30 miles of suffer, you can just open it up on the descents because your aching feet don’t feel a single poke, prod, or jolt from any terrestrial troublemakers.
Surprisingly stable too.
I made up some good time on the descents in these babies, cause I basically said “whatever” and let er’ rip!
Here’s another shot of the Waffle Stompers in action. Kind of like wearing Donald Duck’s moon boots.
Not sure exactly what my hands are doing in this shot, at first glance I wondered if I was adjusting my cup, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t worn that thing since high school baseball. At any rate, it is what it is. Whatever it is.
I didn’t do a whole lot of running in preparation for this event. I know, shocking right? But, I’ve tried to shed the egg nog flab over the last two months with some strength training, yoga, and hamster runs on the treadmill. But still don’t think I put much more than 75 miles on the legs since the half marathon I ran back in September.
I was a little worried about it, but over the years I’ve become pretty adept at my patented “under train, then suffer” race strategy. But today was different. I think it was a combination of the CR333, the shoes, the strength training, and finally being out in the church of the blue dome after a long winter hibernation that pushed me pretty hard throughout the day.
I certainly had some bad moments. Had my first ever bout with race day cramping during the last twelve miles. All of it in my calves. The first twinge I felt while climbing a steep slick rock face – it kind of wigged me out. It felt like someone from behind pinched my left calf. I actually jumped a little, stopped, and turned around to see who was mucking with my leg. Then the cramp set in – whooooooweee, those things hurt. It’s like somebody has locked you into a really long titty twister.
I was attacked again, both calves this time while climbing this hill:
Photo from the race thanks to Greg Norrander
The cramps hit simultaneously and so hard I stopped mid climb, bent over, grabbed both calves and just howled like a coyote.
Despite the cramping, there were many times during the day I marveled at the capacity and stamina of the human body and mind. The longest run I’d completed this year was 13 miles in early February. And yet, I was clicking off miles 25, 26, 27, 30…and didn’t feel that much worse for the wear. Don’t get me wrong, I was hurting, but felt like I could just keep on keepin on.
I thought a lot about a saying J Dub often uses with respect to endurance events: “no matter how good or bad you feel right this moment, don’t worry about it – cause it’s gonna change”.
Kind of a metaphor for life really. But fascinating that our minds and bodies can just keep going, despite the wear and tear of distance and time.
The finish came quicker than I had anticipated. Partly because I’d listened to Sam who said the last 12 miles was all downhill and as I had yet to experience much of anything “all downhill” I thought I still had a ways to go.
Cic and Holly told me I was only about 10 minutes behind Sam and Adam at the halfway point so I just kept telling myself “go catch those Crazy Ass Clark Boys” and looked for them around every turn.
And I did. Catch them that is…7 minutes after they crossed the finish line. Dammit.
34 miles. 6 hours and 51 minutes.
A pretty solid day for me considering the lack of miles I’d put in. An encouraging sign for a long 10 months of racing ahead. Can’t wait for the next one (or maybe I can – looking at the Moab 100 trail run next month – that one is gonna hurt. I’m talking like whimpering in the fetal position kind of hurt).
Here’s the data for the day:
Racing wouldn’t be as much fun without the awesome Draper Wives as crew. It was a smaller group of wives this time, but supported by a large group of Draper Kids. I think it’s safe to say they all had a great race – collectively they likely covered 100 times the miles that Sam, Adam, and I did just scampering around the wild. If I had a tenth of the energy these kids have I’d have won that race in like 2 hours and 6 minutes.
On a side note.
As I was going through the pics from the race I couldn’t help but notice a few things in the next photo:
Attentive. Focused. Smiling.
Umm…not so much.
Oh and if anyone was ever curious about why my kids are always sporting their galoshes – this picture pretty much solves that mystery. Love you Cic!
Remember earlier how I was talking about how fascinating the human body is? Well sometimes bodies have the odds stacked against them.
I spent a good part of the race last Saturday and much of the past few months thinking about my Aunt Karen – she’s kind of like my Other Mother. She and Uncle Galen introduced Cic and I to some of our very most favorite parts of the world and her zest for life has been intoxicating.
So Karen’s body has been up against it since October – battling cancer in her kidney and now on her brain. This woman has just about hiked across the entire planet, climbing some of the most challenging peaks in the world. Now she’s working to get over probably the most difficult mountain yet. There aren’t many who read this blog, but those who do – maybe send some positive vibes down Tucson way to my Aunt Karen. I know she would appreciate them.
Keep going Aunt Karen. We love you so dang much (you too Galen)!