"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense."
- David Blaikie

Monday, March 30, 2009

2nd place at Moab 100!

Running 100 miles is hard. The End.

(report added 4/2)


I flew out to Utah this past weekend and got 2nd place in the Moab 100M in 21:58! I was hoping to break 20 hrs but the course was a lot harder than I expected (literally *harder*, lots of slickrock). Elevation gain was about equal to the Umstead 100 (~8,000 ft) and presented a mix of dirt roads, slickrock (~40%, which about killed me), and sections of deep sand referred to affectionately by the locals as "cat boxes". The course was 18 loops (!) and a short out and back to equal an even 100 miles. Clockwise, counterclockwise, rinse, repeat…

Long version... (unedited. seriously, you don't want to read all this.)
The Moab 100 was kind of a strange race choice for me. It was a long way to go from NC and a whirlwind trip for a lesser known 100 with no buckle. There was definitely some appeal in seeing a new place and the possibility of a course record if none of the ringers showed up (one did), but ...a loop course, hours away from the nearest airport? Something drew me there that I couldn't explain until the night before.

A couple days before the race I settled on 4 levels of goals. First goal is always to finish, then sub 24, course record 23:30, and sub 20. The race plan was for sub 20 by averaging 10 min miles the first 50 and then letting that drift up to 12 avg and try to sneak in under 20.

Fri 4:20 am: Alarm goes off, but it's a mistake because I only get up this early to run on Saturdays. Wait, I have a early flight. Get up, shower, pick up dad and drive to airport.

Fri 5:45 am: The 6 am flight to Chicago checks in full and no standby passengers get on. (my Dad and I are flying standby using his tickets [he was an United pilot, but would want me to say he did 3 tours in 'Nam flying F4s and that napalm is, like, the coolest thing ever. My mom has WHOLE different perspective on this.]).

Fri 8:15 am: The 8:30 flight to Chicago also checks in full. This is reminding me of the family trip we took to Hawaii when I was a 8 where we were flying standby and ended up camping out in our Winnebago on an Air Force base in So Cal for 3 days instead of going to Hawaii. I got a really cool face mask and flippers out of the deal, so, there. (What the hell kind of race report is this?) Luckily I'm 38 instead of 8 and I've got a real job and 75k frequent flier miles on American to show for it, so I haul my priority status over to the American counter and hoped a 9:30 flight through DFW [seriously, when I die, if there is a heaven, and I don't think there is {we're all worm food}, I fully expect my soul would need to go through DFW to get there).

Fri 9:25 am: Before the doors close I quickly book a room at the Moab Days Inn since Dad was supposed to bring the tent and other misc camping stuff for us to camp at the Race Start and he's obviously not going to make it.

Fri 5:15 pm: Pick up rental car in Salt Lake City, set GPS coordinates for Moab. Garmin: "that's 4:15 mins drive time." Me: "I can do it in 3:30 you sissy."

Fri 6:00: Oh, there's a Wal*Mart... Styrofoam cooler, ice, nutter butters, 2x8 packs of mini Gator-Aid bottles, bananas, Turkey sandwich, Pringles, chocolate chip granola bars, 6 pack of mini-cokes (saved life later), Subway foot long cold cut combo. Pack everything up in the cooler in the trunk which miraculously stays upright, wedged between two rollerboards while I drive fast and swervy the next 200 miles.

Fri 7:05 pm: Crap, I was thinking about the run and missed my turn 16 miles ago. U-turn.

Fri 8:00 pm: Crap, forgot sunblock and a plastic bin to stash my extra clothes and misc. drop-bag stuff. Ok, there's a K-Mart...

Fri 8:20: AM 700 briefly mentions that Carolina is leading Gonzaga but doesn't mention anything else about it during the next hour as they fade to static.

Fri 9:00ish: I'm tense and have a real what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here moment as I make my way toward this Moab place. This is my free time. Why am I doing this? I'm tired already. Is this supposed to be fun? The best I come up with is that, no it's not fun, it's something different, something more meaningful. It's an expression of free will in a life that sometimes feels like a long line of dominoes someone else has set up. I try to relax a little and enjoy that part of the experience, but it's still hard. It's supposed to be. The idea that tomorrow will be a competition diminishes the moment and seems out of place and oversimplified. The competitive part is easier to grasp though and a little comforting at some base level. There's something about chasing and fleeing that is a deep seated and immutable part of the human experience. It holds some of the same inveterate appeal that a good fire has.

Fri 10:00 pm: Sheesus, the Days Inn is a total dump. Dad calls to say Carolina beat Gonzaga. All is right in the world.

Fri 11ish: I should probably sleep.

Sat 6:00 am: Find race start and check in. "Oh, you're the guy from Carolina?" Yup.

6:50 am: Race Briefing.... 18 loops alternating directions and then a 3 mile out and back for anyone still standing. Someone else in the crowd asks, "What's the capitol of Belgium?" That was random, I think. Brussels, right?

7:03 ish am: Sun comes up. So... Moab is in a desert. I wonder if there are snakes. Where did all these people come from? 3, 2, 1... Go! Start running.

7:04: Wait, where's my water bottle? Crap, not again. At least it wasn't locked in my car like at Bighorn 100 last year. I turn around and pick it up and join the back of the pack (which was a little like a leper colony). Spend next 5 minutes weezyling through the crowd to settle in with a really nice guy named Stan about 5 back. Stan reminds me that I need to book a room in Silverton for Hardrock if it's not too late.

7:25 am: Cruising up behind someone who is moving really well down the first
section of slickrock. Me: This is going to suck at mile 80, eh?. Other guy (Duncan Callahan): Ha ha. Yeah it is! Which event are you doing? (there is a 24 hr, 12 hr, and several team competitions going on all at the same time, same course. I never really figured out how to tell who was doing what but the solo 100 milers all had red numbers in the 300s). Me: The solo 100. How about you? Duncan: Me too. Me: Got a time in mind? Duncan: Well I'd love to hold 10 minute miles, we'll see. (I thought he was kidding) How about you? Me: Well, I've got a noon flight out of Salt Lake (basically I better be under the course record to make the flight). Duncan laughs and there's a brief moment where he reminds me of Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday... "I'm your Huckleberry". More banter ensues over next 20 miles, during which time it becomes obvious that A) Duncan is one heck of a nice guy, and B) He's going to crush this course. He asks his crew to hook me up with whatever I need the rest of the day and they diligently check on me every loop. Awesome! During the course of our conversation Duncan mentions that he ran Leadville last year.... I looked him up in the results when I got home... oh jeez, he won it!! I totally should have gotten an autograph!

Okay, switching from timeline to looptime. Some splits for the first half (5.37 mi loops + the aid station time all according to my watch)...
1) 48:58
2) 48:32
3) 47:46
4) 51:44
5) 54:13
6) 59:26
7) 59:44
8) 1:00:00
9) 1:00:04

8:10 at the 48+ mi, 10 min mile average, but slowing.

Loop 10: 1:18:56 (including a long pit stop before starting the 2nd half). Coming into the turnaround I see some people cheering for me... 3 dogs... all labs. Brown, Black, Yellow. RINGO?! Yes, my friends Ringo and Cari show up out of the blue. They're like real world Guardian Angels. Cari crews like an absolute pro. Of course she does... her ultra crewing resume is as distinguished as Ringo's ultra running resume (Ringo is aka Geoff Scott, has run something like 15 of the hardest 100s including Wasatch and MMT last year and after turning 60 this year completed the New Zealand Ironman).

Loop 11: 58:01 Behold the power of Coca-Cola and CEP compression socks! (NFI)

Loop 12: 1:06:46 Still feeling good. Ringo remembers that I liked grilled cheese sandwiches while pacing him at Wasatch and he offers to pick some up for me in town. He and Cari braved the Moab Dennys to get the grilled cheese. Cari was amused by someone with a mullet.

Loop 13: 1:11:03 Sun sets and out come the headlamps and warmer clothes. Lows were somewhere in the mid 30s with some weird patches that are much colder than others.

Loop 14: 1:15:26 75 miles in 14 hrs... about 11 min mile average. The pace really slows from here. This is the end of the real running phase. The downhills are all slickrock which is harder than concrete and uneven. It would be very easy to tumble and I'm seriously feeling it in the knees. It's freaking dark too . There is the tiniest sliver of a moon I've ever seen that winks out behind the canyon wall.

Loop 15: 1:25:02 Running down the slickrock starts to really bother my port side knee. I don’t want to lose any training time recovering from an injury with Hardrock on the horizon. I start walking down sections I bounded down earlier.

Loop 16: 1:39:26 Ringo jumps in to pace! Me: I'm going to take it slow. Ringo: Fine by me! We have a nice walk and I learn about the potential of the economy rebounding in 2009 and the intricacies of Hardrock, Barkley, and how the Telluride real estate market is tanking the town's budget (Ringo is not only an endurance badass, he’s a brilliant private investor). The Stars are absolutely amazing. At the end of the loop I say goodbye to Ringo and Cari who begin their 3 hr drive back to Telluride. 2 more loops? Sure, why not? It's a beautiful night.

Loop 17: 1:44:04 Blech, that's about as slow as I thought it could be done. Slower than my first two loops put together! But walking those downhills is safer and I suck up my pride. I do some star gazing and wander around feeling increasingly content and tired.

Loop 18: don't know the split because the stopwatch function on my Nike Bowerman Series watch doesn't go beyond 19:59:59. This lap was slow. I saw Duncan heading to the finish when I was beginning this loop and congratulated him. What a run!

Bonus 3 miles: I sit down to empty the sand out of my shoes and find total enlightenment. The stars are poignant... was the last thing I remember thinking before nodding off. Someone wakes me up as they pass by and I forget the meaning of life and decide to finish this thing up.

Sun 5:02 am: The Finish! Me: "Number 423. I'm done." (No fanfare, no cheering... RD
(later found out this person was not the RD) (enters the time and goes back to sleep.)

Sun 5:25 am: After packing the car I said my goodbyes and thanked the volunteers that are still awake. Woke the RD
(actually, not the RD) to check on my finish time ("ugh, you finished at 5:02, ugh, one, two...in second place. Cool."). Told them I had a flight to catch and would miss the awards ceremony ("ugh, okay"). Grabbed a cup of coffee and got back on the highway heading north to Salt Lake City International Airport wondering if I dreamed it all…. no buckle, no medal, the t-shirt says something about 24 hr runs in Laramie, Moab and somewhere else... but the coffee is great and I’m feeling pretty good about going the distance again. (update 4/4: Apparently I didn't dream the whole thing! I got a nice note from the RD, Reid Delman, congratulating me on the run. He was not the person wrapped up in the sleeping bag keeping track of the results and offered to send me the medal! What a guy!).

Sun 6:30 - 7:00 am: Coffee wears off and I pull over for short nap.

Sun 9:00 ish am: Pulled off the highway and dumped a gallon of water over my head and tried to pretty up for the flight home. This had the effect of waking me up, but did little to pretty me up. I’m still wearing the compression socks at this point. No, I don’t have a financial interest in them!

Sun 9:00 pm: Home at last and I finally take the compression socks off and take the best hot shower of my life.

Okay, that's it. The End. I told you not to read all that crap


Adam said...

You took some great pics - the top of your head and a tiny spec that could be anybody - oh wait there's the "socks". May change you name to "Sockguy". You get no love huh? Still great performance. That is what trail running is all about right? No buckles, flashbulbs, hoo-rahs - just trail and you. See you out there.

Davy said...

Way to go Joe. You guys were just a blur on the course. Good strong running. Hope you enjoyed your Utah visit. Thanks for coming out and making the competition better this year.