Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Best Laid Plans of Mad Dogs and Dirty Girls: The 24 Hours of Moab Race Report, Part One

It's sort of impossible to give this weekend justice in the form of written word and some pictures. I'll do my best, though, rather than what I did this fall with no blogging or sharing about great people and places that were part of a somewhat magical racing season. If anything, it'll be another tribute to Moab, and to the wonderful people who were my teammates last weekend. I'm also splitting the whole thing into two parts. There's a lot I'd like to share, and as I've been writing, something that happened in one of the later laps has gone from being a seemingly minor concern to something that has more serious ramifications than I first thought.

The day finally came when the six members of our team-me, Jen, Sara, Julie, Nick, and Shannon-were all due to convene 16 miles north of Moab for our 7am Saturday to 7am Sunday running relay adventure. Nick, coming the furthest (from Wyoming) had successfully made it to Grand Junction the day prior, and I'd already gotten to run with him at the Tabeguache for the Striders Thursday evening group run. He was coughing up a lung and not sounding healthy at all, but excited and ready to go nonetheless. Nick planned to caravan down with Jen and I, but when Jen ran a little behind schedule to my house, he decided to go ahead and scout out the staging area where we'd be camping. Jen showed up right after Nick hit the road, so about two hours later we did make it down uneventfully. All of the teammates but Shannon were there, along with Julie's husband Mike who was running for our "sister team" (brother team? other team?), the Mad Dogs, in the Extreme Team or 3-5 person division.

We got our camp pieced together little by little, and soon we had our home sweet home for the weekend set up. Runners bring all kinds of stuff along to races, and the variety seemed to be times ten for a weekend-long relay. This was one of my two personal favorites: Julie, modeling the product, Kick Ass Sinus, says it really is advertised, too. I will have to remember that the next time I get a sinus infection. Once everyone who was coming Friday night had arrived (Shannon would be arriving early Saturday morning), we visited Eddie McStiff's in town for a nice meal and an adult beverage or two. After that, it was a quick trip to City Market for a few supplies, and back to camp, which was surprisingly quiet even though it wasn't all that late. The quiet along with the clear, starry night skies made it feel like we were on sacred, hallowed ground, and I think maybe we were this night.
After a very cold night during which I did not really sleep, but did have good quiet rest time, it was time to get the party started. We settled on a running order (I would run fifth, with Nick and Julie at #4 and #6 in the rotation, and awaited the arrival of Shannon. Shortly before the 7am start, a large camper van parted the crowd and I comment that it would be funny if that was Shannon. Oh, wait....it is! With all teammates now present and accounted for, and the start time approaching, we gathered near the aid tent/station/check-in point. It was pretty well stocked with coffee, cocoa, and hot water for tea along with some other munchies. Runners and crew milled about nervously, building mojo for a big day ahead. Soon, the moment arrived when our first Mad Dog, Mike, and Dirty Girl, Sara, were officially up on deck and toeing the line to kick off the 24 Hours of Moab. Along with relay teams ranging from three to ten members, there were also individual and duo 6, 12, and 24 hour competitors, and individual 100-mile competitors, who had 30 hours to get it done. And here they are...first on deck:

On your mark...get set...GO!

They got off to a brisk start, with Sara already near the front of the pack of the first lap from the get-go. This did not surprise me...she'd kind done the playing down "I'm not an ultrarunner" thing, but I'd heard about her Imogene Pass times, and how strong and fast she was. With that, there was now nothing to do but hang out-and hang out we did, back at our campsite and around the grounds.

As we made our way through the first rotation, Sara flew through lickety-split for anyone, let alone someone with a knee issue like she had. Moving on to Shannon (we'd nominated her to go first in her absence, but wound up putting Sara first so there was time to settle in and get ready), things kept moving along swimmingly. Jen was third in the rotation, and even though she's been sick a lot in the past year, she was one of our healthiest today and cranked out a great first lap. Then, Nick set off on his lap and I thought I had his finish time guesstimated pretty well. He was sick as a dog but still pretty speedy-so speedy, in fact, that I was at my tent applying sunscreen when I heard "Karah?" Whoops. Talk about a jump start to your first lap.

I grabbed the baton and bolted accross the lot. We probably lost three minutes with my being MIA, so I really tried to haul buns once I was officially on the course. Laps on the trail were to alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise, and I would be moving around the clock once I reached the end of the stick on this lollipop course. Once off the dirt road, I meandered over sand, more dirt, and then up a steep section of slick rock. The views were just amazing. I've been down here a million times but the beauty of this place gets me every time. I practiced my POSE running uphill, and then had to switch into downhill form at about 2.5 miles in. This is probably the hardest part of POSE to me but I think I did okay. Doing it right kind of leaves you feeling like you're going to pitch forward onto your face all the time, but I never did, thankfully. After moving down slickrock for another mile or so, I moved onto a dirt trail, meandered for awhile and climbed upward to the dirt road that would take me back home. My first 5.37 mile lap was finished in roughly 50:10. Not terrible for dropping the ball and just not being prepared when Nick came in. I passed off to Julie, and she went out to do her thing, completing her lap solidly. For being kind of the Bad News Bears newbie hodge-podge crew, we rocked the first rotation even with a bad handoff or two.

Now there was nothing to do but hang out and kill time again. This was actually kind of nice-when do you ever get to just sit around and hang out without any obligations or responsibilities? There were a lot of random stories told, and it sure seemed like we did a lot of diving into the food and snacks. Okay...maybe that was just me. At least I also did some hopping around and being silly in addition to the running to burn it off. We had a ton, though, as did the race, and I just wasn't saying no to any of it.

At some point, the race director announced that current standings were posted by the tent. A few of us wandered over, and lo and behold, the 5 woman, 1 man Dirty Girls were just a little bit behind a team called Monkey Love that was made up of 10 runners and a 50/50 gender split. One of them looked at the standings next to me, and said quite seriously, "Last year some whippersnapper snuck in and beat us for first. NOT THIS YEAR!" Um, okay, then. Beyond that, there was another team in third that was already a good 20 minutes back from us, with all the other teams a lap behind or more. That's how standings are figured-total number of laps, and if it comes down to a tie in the end-the team that reached the end of a lap the earliest. It's all-or-nothing, too...if you don't complete the lap in its entirety, or don't make it through by the ending of the race, it does not count. OR....should I say-is not supposed to count. More on that in part two. We were pleasantly surprised at where we stood, considering that we came in to run with friends, and not with "kill kill kill-win win win!" Going in to the second rotation, this was great motivation to kick it up a notch and run hard. More of the race report and ensuing fun coming up soon.

TO BE CONTINUED.....(there....now I have to finish what I started rather than never getting it going.)


Elizabeth said...

That's really awesome. I have never done anything like this and probably never will, so it's great you got such good photos and captured the experience so well! Sounds like a ton of fun!

TiredMamaRunning said...

It really exceeded all expectations, Elizabeth. Wound up being the default photog for the teams. Will have more for part 2 of the race report, and will probably just link up the album with all the photos (I think I have close to 100). I'd highly recommend a team relay if you ever get a chance-it was a totally different experience from racing as an individual.