Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's A Beautiful Day: The Moab RedHot 2015

The heart is a bloom 
Shoots up through the stony ground 
There's no room 
No space to rent in this town 

There's a little race in Moab in the spring that isn't so small anymore, but is still a favorite of mine. My friend Jen put this on my radar six years ago, and we ran the 33K together along with our third amigo Nick that year in snow and cold. I cursed the one-step-forward, two-slides-back in the snow on the slickrock. Then, I looked around at those gorgeous views, and that was it. People pay money to come here from all over the world. They jeep, they mountain bike, but I think there is truly no better way to see Moab than on foot.

  After that first go 'round, I returned to run my first ultra a year later. It had been an annual yearly event, but something that was not in budget this year. I'd volunteered with my good friend Tom at the final aid station of another race Behind The Rocks, though, and had a complimentary entry into the RedHot for that gig. Signing up ages ago, I was excited to have earned a ticket back. 

Training for long distances, though, has been slim. On the flip side, I've finally found the flow of where and when to squeeze in the runs in a post-divorce life. There were plenty of regular runs leading up to the RedHot, but none of them were very long. I did have a good run at our local fatass, the Bangs Canyon 30K, which has a long, steep climb to end the second half. Honestly, I knew that I was probably looking at my slowest time ever. I came down to the race with a certain amount of happiness...giddiness at where I am right now, and all the good things taking place. 

I don't have a dream job but it pays the bills, and I get to utilize my talents reasonably well. I really love my little rental house, located on the edge of our local university, and in close proximity to all three schools my kids attend. My post-divorce dog who wound up being a cat. I would call him Awesome Cat, but he already came with the name of Schmink/Shpink. Being with my kids in a cozy space. And I (re)met someone, Andy, a barely-acquaintance from 18 years ago who came out (back) to Colorado from Oregon, and would then head over to Utah with me for this race weekend.  Sometimes life unfolds in ways that could never be predicted, and it's just a pleasant surprise. It was truly exciting to take a race I love on my own, and get to share that experience. 

Getting into Moab, it was clear that this was going to be one hot mofo. Everything felt very lowkey, though. I knew I'd be a back-of-the-packer. I embraced my well-restedness, though, and was relishing the knowledge that it was going to be a beautiful day by Moab standards out there. Andy and I picked up my packet from Jen on the way to the start, and it was almost anticlimatic when the start occurred. He was going to meet me out at aid station 1/3 when I returned to it at 17 miles. I'd slogged up that first hill in wind, rain, snow, and other conditions, but it was perfect out there today. Climbing the first hill, I took a good look around before riding the wave downhill and on to the split where the 33K and 55K divide took place. In my head, I realized I hadn't told Andy that when hiking, he needed to turn RIGHT to get to aid station 1 and 3. And, that the signs would probably be adjusted by the time he hiked through to direct 55K runners on to the remainder of the course. Damn, not much to do about that now.

You're on the road 
But you've got no destination 
You're in the mud 
In the maze of her imagination 

You love this town 
Even if that doesn't ring true 
You've been all over 
And it's been all over you 

I had no Garmin, and no measurement of distance other than my own personal experience on the course. This was as good as gold; I wasn't worried about spotting flags at all on the first half of the course. I knew the loop, and to where we'd return. There was no haste in my step, and I turned around every so often to take in the view. Climbing to aid station number two, I did that fun "look down to the cars" and felt that satisfaction of climbing on my own two feet. Slower than molasses but it didn't matter. I'd managed to have a signal out there, and I got two brief calls out to Andy while climbing to let him know that I was on track, near the back of the pack where I expected to be, and trucking along right on schedule. I'd been a little concerned about not making the one and only time cutoff but was still easily ahead of that mark. Given that this was not going to be a PR kind of day, I was invigorated to feel this good.

Trotting down to aid station three, I was somehow smiling. Andy met up with me there, and he'd had a bit of an adventure already, taking a left turn at the fork, which had an arrow pointing that way for the 55K runners at that point (the 33K runners go the same way, and had already come and gone). He reached an aid station where they told him, nope, you need to go back and up that hill. I laughed/groaned at that, realizing only after I'd started running that I should've remembered and told him about the sign flipperoni, He was no worse for the wear, though, and it was the best thing ever to just talk and chat down that bigass hill, and reach the cutoff where I'd head on for the second half of the course. We said good-bye and I headed off to do my thing.

Last year, there was someone who took great delight in celebrating/laughing at what we like to do out here on the trails. There was a sign at the top of a long stretch of slickrock that said "You are NOT almost there. HA! HA! HA!" He or she drew a few swear words and rave reviews for the signage. This year, they'd upped the game. This is what greeted me before the most difficult part of the race course. Truly the most inspirational and motivational steaming pile of poo I've ever encountered trailside.

What you don't have you don't need it now 
What you don't know you can feel it somehow 
What you don't have you don't need it now 
Don't need it now 
Was a beautiful day

There's not much to say about the second half. The slickrock was a challenge, as always. I was surrounded by first-timers, and I spent the entire second half of the race moving along with a fella who just wanted to finish. We barely said two sentences to one another the entire time but we kept our eyes peeled for the pink and black flags in the areas on the course where they became a little challenging to track, and waved the other onward if one of us didn't spot the flag right away. After beginning the gazillionth slick rock climb, I exclaimed "I LOVE climbing slick rock. I LOVE IT!" He laughed at my jackassery and we kept plugging away. Sign Person kept it going with his/her passive-aggressive support and taunts.

They'd once again run out of my favorite race treat, Coke, by the time I hit aid station four. I just didn't have it in me to be care, and I guzzled the Sprite they still had available with great satisfaction. Then it was onward to aid station five, and the finish. I wasn't going to make it in by the time awards took place-something that happened only once before. My right IT band started twinging a bit around mile 30, but I found that hiking eliminated that twinge.  In full Honey Badger mode, I truly didn't give a damn; there was never a point in the race when I thought I couldn't do it. This was a concern ahead of time, given my lack of long runs. I felt very light...not fast...but the steps weren't hard this year. Finishing the race multiple times prior, plus the Silver Rush 50 last summer, and my DNF at Leadville...this was progress to be able to just go out and run this sucker without thinking of 34 miles as something I could not complete. It wasn't the monstrously long thing I'd built it up to be in my head the first time around. It was just fun. 

I made it in about 45 minutes slower than previous slowest effort, and almost 90 minutes slower than my best effort. Time didn't matter today. It was beautiful out there, with people who all shared the same interest in doing this shiznit, and enjoy moving from point to point on foot in beautiful country. I was all smiles, "enjoying the course," as the expression goes. I enjoyed that hug from Andy at the finish-he'd had his own fun hiking around, and a bit of an exciting wildlife encounter (key words are "bobcat" and "cave" and "growling") while I was running. I entered that post-race state of "Must.Eat.NOW," and off we went for the post-race stuffing of the face. It was a beautiful day; it eventually came to an end with me being too tired to consider the post-race festivities at Eddie McStiffs. I was well-intentioned but sound asleep at a ridiculously early hour. Sleep has been challenging for a long time, but running for a long time helps me to right those cycles as much as anything. 

It's a week post-race and everything in the body feels pretty good. Oh, and I got into Leadville again. Taken a bit by surprise, expecting the race would be full with better and faster runners, I know I have to take my second chance at the 100 and go for it. That, too, will be a beautiful day; but for now I've got this one.