This was a first for me. I have raced a marathon, and I have done some trail running, but I have never signed up for an ultra. I used to think the people who did were nutzo nutzo. I used to think a marathon was not so sane. Boy have my feelings changed. Since this was the inaugural year for this race, there wasn't much information on it. The race director seemed very competent but there are only so many things a RD can get done prior to the first running of a race. The night before at packet pickup was the first time anyone saw a map of the course. I wasn't very familiar with the terrain (I had been in the area some years back mostly as a tourist and light hiker). The map was HUGE (like 10 feet by 5 feet) and the race director took the time to completely explain the course to small groups of racers in front of the map. He answered all of my questions and I think all of us left excited for what the day would bring.
The race morning began gloriously. The race started at 8:30, and for me, that was wonderful. I woke at 6:30 with just a tiny amount of nerves. It felt great to actually have time in the morning to get to the race site without a rush. It was about a 5 minute drive to the race parking lot, right next to the Colorado River. I love that river. Troy and I took a rafting trip from Moab to Lake Powell some years ago so this brought back some memories.
The race started on a wide jeep road. Everyone was excited. I tried to go out very mellow and Beth and I started together. After 2 minutes I stopped when I saw the race director to verify that iPods were legal, he said yes. After about 5 minutes Beth and I stopped for a potty break. Lots of stops. We were pretty much in the back of the pack at that point but the first 5.5 miles were on a gnarly jeep road so plenty of space to pass. We soon found Anthony and Steve and I joined in with them. Beth hung back at that point and little did I know that would be the last we would run together for the day. Coming into the first checkpoint at 5.5 miles I was a little ahead of Steve and Anthony and I didn't stop at the aid station. About 2 minutes after the CP I stopped to adjust my race number and right when I finished they were right there. So we joined up together. We had also been running with a guy from Quebec named Nicholas. He was super cool and stayed with us for 10 miles or so.
I could tell we were all ready to get going and we started to quicken the pace. We slowly passed runners one by one, with our little group of four sticking together. We were shedding layers as it was warming up, and there were 1,000 ft drop offs on our left. The course was IMPECCABLY marked. It was OBVIOUSLY marked, there was ZERO chance of getting lost, even though we weren't on an actual trail. We were winding our way down this canyon, slipping between boulders, zig zagging all over the place. It was rad.
We landed down on the road at 8.8 miles and our next aid station. They had bags here where you could drop clothing and they would return it to you at the finish. It was a nice perk, I didn't need to use it, but it was an awesome perk. The aid station was great with a campfire, chips, potatoes, HEED, water, goo, bars. All you would need. Very well done! We were now off for a little jaunt down the dirt road. I got to see Troy here and Annie threw a total fit when I ran by. I looked back and she was running after me with her arms outstretched, crying. Talk about "break a mamas heart". I almost quit right there.
We then headed into an out an back section that was up a sandy ravine. It was pretty technical running, no real trail, but well marked. This was when I started to see how many ladies were ahead of me. I was in the top 10, but it really didn't matter. I was surprised at that because I felt like we went out very slow, but I didn't put much further thought towards it, this is all Ironman training. At the end of the out and back was an orienteering punch. We punched our bibs to verify that we were there and headed back. There was much more traffic on the way back and a few near collisions. But, everyone was still in great spirits so it was fun. We saw Sandy, she looked fabulous. We saw Beth, she looked like she was chillin'. Right when we got back to the road we saw Andrea and Doreen. Pretty cool that we got to see the whole clan!
Back on the road for a little section. Then some crazy ravine running. That was neato. We then headed up the side of the mesa. Insane. You would never think you could go where we went. It was like a secret passageway. It was also up up up. I lead this section and tried to stay tough. We passed a lot of people here. We stopped and took some silly pictures too.
On top of the mesa was amazing. The view was like nothing I have ever seen. We ran together, the three of us, and took turns leading off and on. We were running well together and we were all in a good place. The next aid station was supposed to be at 13.7 miles, but the miles rolled on by. We finally rolled into the aid station and Steve's garmin said 18 miles. This was THE BEST aid station. It was run by the search and rescue, they had a big truck up there (and we are in the MIDDLE of NOWHERE, not easy to get into, right where Danelle Balengee took her notorious fall). They had everything we could have asked for. We made a quick stop and pushed on. 2.2 FAST miles later was another aid station. I was feeling EXCEPTIONAL at this point. Like really really good. I felt like I could pick it up.
I did pick it up and this is a part of the race I really want to explain. After this aid station we had what was about 4 miles into the 20 mile station which was the end of the 20 mile race, and the same location as the starting line. This section was all extreme downhill. There was a huge drop on one side where a tumble would send you to your death in the Colorado River. It was technical descending, but also the kind that you could haul tail. Add to that the fact that I felt great, and that I was leading. Well, I pushed. Looking back on it I have love/hate feelings. It was my favorite part of the course. I felt very complete with my life and my place in this world. Lots of warm fuzzy feelings. The effects that this had on the rest of the race...I don't feel so warm and fuzzy about.
We rolled into mile 20 fast. We had access to our personal bags here. I downed a mix1, grabbed some more goos, gave Troy a kiss, and waited for the boys to get going again. We booked out of the station with lots of cheers from all the spectators. The next obstacle was this awesome ladder to get up a mini cliff and then a roped up section to shimmy around. Then lots and lots of sand running. About a mile later we were back on the road for a mile and then up the very famous Moab Rim trail. This is when the effects of my over exuberant downhill escapade stared surfacing. Tony fell behind on this climb, Steve forged ahead. I tried to stay with Steve. I was starting to hurt. The course was obviously long and we were past the 24 mile mark on everyones Garmins. I turned up my iPod, found my "happy place" and stuck to Steve like glue. I ran for miles that way. There was a loop that we had to complete on top of the mesa, Tony caught back up to us. I just stuck to Steve. He was running so strong, and he was so with it. He was having an amazing day.
Around towards the end of the loop we lost Anthony. I felt like the speedy descent was part to blame. I stuck to Steve as well as I could. He asked if I was okay and I mumbled something about needing to "tune out" for awhile and just run. I couldn't "think" about what I was doing, I just had to keep doing it. I stuck to him like glue. Two little Practical Coaching jerseys, out there in the middle of the dessert. It was pretty awesome, in a really painful way. Coming back down the moab rim trail was EVIL, it's a technical, slickrock, very steep descent. Having already run 30+ miles, your legs aren't very happy about this sort of terrain. Coming down this I started to feel waves of nausea. I kept "planning" where I was going to throw up. It actually kept me busy, thinking "how about there?", "ohh, noo, over there would be good". I never did puke, but I wanted to. Steve was checking in with me every couple minutes. I was grunting back at him with an occasional whimper. He was so on his game and he had nothing but awesome words to say to me. At the bottom I filled my bottles with water and off we went. Back through the road and the sandy section. Then we arrived at the rope section. Suddenly there were competitors EVERYWHERE. We had been alone for some time (passing the occasional person), but now there was a guy right on our tail, one on the ropes and one just off the ropes. There is only about 1/4 mile after the ropes to the finish and you could FEEL the tension. As we got off the ropes Steve hit the ladder first and you could tell the guys around us were going to race us. I hit the ground off the ladder and Steve and I started booking. We had not been passed the entire day by a single person and we weren't about to change that. Sure enough, we engaged in a full out, knock down, drag out, race to the finish. It looked like we were finishing a 5K. And it hurt so very very very badly.
Then just like that it was over. I sat down for a long time. I really had a tough time after this race. I'll spare you the details because I did eventually recover and I'm good as new now, but boy, I was a hurtin' unit for awhile! A nurse who was volunteering said I looked like I just gave birth. Pretty odd, being that three years ago to the day I had just birthed Annie.
I am really happy with the race and the experience. If you get a chance to race this race, you should, it is AWESOME and the race director did a phenomenal job. I would put this race on my "top 3" list of all time favorites! I really can't thank Steve and Anthony enough for keeping me company the entire day. It was quite the feat and I feel blessed that I have such great training (and now racing) partners.
Stat's 5th woman Steve and I were 18th and 19th overall 6 hours 41 minutes 34 miles by the Garmin
OKAY! Are you ready for the video? It's about 10 minutes long and I am really happy with how it turned out. It's my first real attempt at putting something together with iMovie and although I am still learning, I'm pretty happy with the finished product.