Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 Moab 50k+ Race Report

When I registered for this race back in December it was my intention to actually "race", but that notion disappeared as quickly as the trails did in the month of January. With near record snow coming down more of my training miles ended up being on the road than I like and my normal Sunday run was replaced with family ski days at Solitude. The only part I'm complaining about is the high amount of road miles, the skiing has been incredible.
The family decided to stay behind on this trip so I was able to hitch a ride with my friend Greg, his wife Marge and their sweet dog Isabelle. On the way down Greg and I nervously watched as the snow finally gave way to bare ground after we were south of I-70.
The starting group for the 50k was at least double the size of last year and there were plenty of fast guys in the bunch. I was able to catch up with many friends as we waited for 8am start including Sam who was attempting his first official ultra. I also saw my friend Scott Jaime from Colorado and Liz Irvine who was nursing a cold. The buzz at the start was mostly about how excited everyone was to be in shorts and feel dry dirt under their shoes. Obviously not a big surprise since 90% of the field was from Utah and Colorado. Before I knew 8 am arrived and just as the sun started to warm the cool morning air (35 deg) we were off.
I started with a pretty conservative pace and picked my way through the pack until I had some breathing room. I decided that a fast race for me would be a sub-5 hour time but I knew 5:30 was more likely. Within a couple of minutes we started the first climb and I was bit surprised to find a fair amount of snow and ice through this section. Not a big deal though, because it disappeared as soon as we started the descent. At this point I noticed Storheim up ahead so I increased my pace bit to catch up. We chatted for a few minutes and remarked about the quick pace that the front runners we setting, including Kyle Skaggs, Tony Krupicka, Karl Meltzer, Ian Torrence, and my friend Scott among others. Storheim has one of those cool new GPS watches that does everything except actually run and it was telling him that we were holding a 6 min/per mile pace on the flat desert canyon road. It was about that same time we backed off a bit and we were soon caught by Darcy Africa. We ran as a group for a few miles before Storheim took off, it would be the last I would see of him until the finish line. Just past the first aid station at mile 6, Darcy, another guy, and myself caught up to Jared Campbell. I was about 5 minutes ahead of my 5 hour pace but still felt comfortable. The four of us then took turns setting the pace all the way up the first long climb to the rim above the starting area. By now the temperature was 'soaring' in to the 40's and it was time to shed some clothing. It was at this same point last year while I was running with Ian Torrence when he motioned over to the rim and said something to the effect of "the view is too good to pass up", so we left the trail for a minute or so and soaked in the incredible scene. I made sure I did the same this year and spent some time on the edge taking in the view of Arches National Park and the La Sal mountains in the distance, it was incredible. I hit the trail with renewed energy and bounded down the descent to aid station 2 at mile 13. I didn't bother to stop as I still had enough fluid left in my bottles but made a conscious effort to make sure they were gone by aid station 3 at mile 17. I made a mental note that the aid station mileage was slightly off, being closer to 14 miles instead of 13 so that still put me ahead of pace by 5 minutes or so. It was through this stretch that Helen Cospolich caught up to me and we ran together for a few miles on our way to aid station 3. I made a quick stop, filled my bottles and grabbed a piece of banana before heading off to the second big climb of the day.
This next section was where I went off course last year with Storheim and Brian Beckstead, getting in some bonus miles, 3 in all, but who's counting. I passed the familiar spot in the road where we went right instead of left and chuckled to myself. At this point I was feeling good as I started the climb, but then something happened, I lost focus and I didn't care anymore. My legs were feeling slightly weak from the lack of climbing in my training and now that the temperature had risen to nearly 50 degrees I was feeling hot. My mind started to drift as I thought about skiing the next day with the family and the cold six pack of moose drool sitting in my fridge at home. I had set a goal time of 3hrs 5mins to this next aid station at mile 21 and as I watched 3:05:00 tick by I lost a little bit more of my motivation. I eventually made it to aid station 4 in 3:17 so I was only 10 to 15 minutes behind schedule but my mood continued continued the downward trend as I set off on the slickrock portion of the run.
On this section last year I remembered standing around looking for flags, unsure about whether I should head up, down or across the slickrock. This year I was prepared as I had loaded a breadcrumb trail of waypoints on to my GPS. Now all I had to do was look down at my wrist when I was unsure about the direction I should take. I also believe that the course marking was slightly better this year however the rock was still as unforgiving as ever. This seven mile section looks like a saw blade on the profile. The terrain not only undulates up and down but much of it is off camber, kind of like running on the edge of highly crowned road. I was happy to see the last aid station come in to view with the snow packed La Sal mountains as a backdrop and almost instantly my mood improved. I sucked down some flat coke, filled my bottle and took off for the finish line. I knew well before this that sub 5 was out of the question but as I glanced at my watch I noticed it read 4:41 as I left the last aid station. I quickly realized I could make my realistic goal of 5:30 if I pushed a bit harder and that's what I decided to do. Gradually I picked up my pace as the coke took effect and I felt like I was cruising the last six miles even though my pace was relatively slow at 8 min/per mile. I hit the last steep downhill section, anxious to be done and crossed the line in 5:32. I had bettered my time from last year by nearly 10 minutes but I had spent nearly 25 minutes off course last year. So overall I was a bit slower this go around but I felt comfortable with my effort, never pushing that hard and not truly trashing my legs.
It was nice to sit around the finish area and hear all the stories from the day and cheer on other finishers as I enjoyed some tasty potato soup. Sam rolled in just a few minutes after me grinning from ear to ear. Storheim had already showered and taken a nap by the time I came in, smoking the course in 4:47. As proof to just how fast the race was this year, Karl Meltzer ran the same time he did last year (which was good for 1st) and took 7th this year. My time of 5:41 from last year was good enough for 19th, while 5:32 this time around put me in 33rd. Kyle Skaggs and Tony Krupicka crossed the line together in 4:03! Check out the rest of the results on the Moab 50K+ site. Overall I had a great time running around on the dirt (and rock) enjoying the warm sunshine. Thanks to Chris Martinez and Greg Poettgen for their excellent organization and all the volunteers that made it possible.
Lessons learned from this Ultra:
  1. Road miles cannot be substituted for trails.
  2. Time on your feet in the mud and snow is still better than the road.
  3. Races can be used as training as long as you keep a lid on it.
Now, time to get back on the trails...

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