Monday, November 10, 2014

The Moab Trail (Half) Marathon

This past weekend Brandon and I adventured down to Moab for a change of scene. We left mid-day on Friday and drove through central Utah towards Moab. The scenery on the way down is beautiful, but strange - like another planet. In fact, I'm fairly certain that they shoot a lot of movies that are set on other planets in that region.

We arrived in Moab, checked in at our hotel (all of six days in operation - so, very clean and fresh), and then went straight to Milt's Stop & Eat to pick up my packet and eat dinner. Everything we ate at Milt's was delicious, but especially their shakes. Back at the hotel we spent a good while in the hot tub outside, chatting with a few of our fellow hotel guests. The one downside we discovered to the newness of the hotel was that some of the kinks, such as consistently hot bath water, hadn't quite been sorted out yet.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and got ready, had breakfast, and packed our stuff up before checking out. Relative to many of the races I've done before, this one started fairly later in the morning, with several waves ranging from 8:30 AM to about 9:00 AM. So, while we got up early-ish, it wasn't a particularly painful time.

The drive to the race start wasn't bad, just a meandering little road between the red rocks and river. We got to the race start, I ditched most of the extra layers I'd planned on wearing (long sleeve shirt, jacket, and gloves), as well as my small backpack I'd planned on taking, and then I was pretty much off! Even though the race starts were staggered, we didn't have a lot of time to hang around before my wave started. 

The Race Camp/Start/Finish.

Loading up my pockets with the necessary items. 

Almost all of the races I'd done until this weekend were road races. There were a handful of trail 5Ks, and the Spartan this last summer, but flat or downhill road races is where I'm generally most comfortable. This race was definitely not flat. With total elevation changes of over 1000 feet (not all at once, thankfully), it definitely brought some challenges. And of course, the footwork was the kind where you had to constantly be watching for the next rock ledge to jump up. So, where a normal half might take me about two hours, this one took me four. 

Beautiful views!

Fantastic day!

Some of the more unexpected parts included the following,

-Only two pit stops with food and water, at about miles six and ten - I very quickly regretted not bringing my pack, just for the fluid. However, each stop was very well stocked with water, heed (a disgusting electrolyte drink), coke (random unusual drink for a race like this), cut bananas, cut oranges, cookies, fruit snacks, and energy gels. I stopped both times and ate, drank, and rested until I was ready to continue.

One of the steeper climbs (though it
doesn't look to bad here). 
-Near the second pit stop (almost mile ten), as I rounded a ledge to begin descending into the crevice leading out, the path was suddenly blocked with a long line of runners. Apparently, up ahead, there was a small choke point where everyone had to individually jump down. As a result of this, I waited in line for at least thirty minutes - a ridiculous thing to have to do in a race like this. While it's nice to take a break, a long break like that results in cold muscles that have to be reawakened, and right when everyone has really hit their stride. 

View of the ledge I'm about to follow. 

View of the line ahead. 

View of the line behind. 

-I'd known there would be some of this, but the last two miles or so of the run was mostly down in the riverbed, literally in the water. Off and on we waded through the thigh deep water and ran across the mud. And while I didn't really want to get wet, I didn't mind so much. My legs and knees were really feeling it at this point and the shock of the cold water felt good. 

Coming out of one of the water sections of the river bank.

Just about the end of mile twelve we had a brief jaunt along the road before heading back into the riverbed. As I was nearing the ascent to the road I heard Brandon call my name! He'd been sitting up the hill along the bank waiting for me. I'd originally thought it would take me between two to three and a half hours, but he'd come back to the finish line (from reading and walking around) around two hours in. Noting that I wasn't there, he found that spot on the bank and waited there. As I came up to the road he walked/ran with me until I went back down and then met me at the finish line. 

The last stretch of road. 
Handsome brief running companion!

I'm a huge fan of sprinting at the end, but not until right at the finish did we come up out of the riverbed, so I had a very short distance to sprint.

Done! We grabbed a little food (soda, quesadilla, soup, cookies, chips, fruit snacks, etc.) and then headed back to town. Since we couldn't think of anywhere else to go on short noticed and had enjoyed Milt's so much the evening before, we went back there for lunch. We'd considered walking around town, perhaps going to the local Celtic Festival, or seeing a movie in town, but by the time we finished lunch we just decided to head home - good decision as I was too exhausted to be good for much else. 

Finisher Mug!

It was a long and challenging run, but going to Moab, seeing the deep red rock of the area and running across the landscape - all definitely worth it.

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