Monday, October 10, 2011

Slickrock 50/Moab The good, the Bad and the Beautiful!

Slickrock course picture

When I first found the webpage for the Slickrock race-  I was enchanted by the course pictures.  Since I am married to a trail runner who is even nuttier than I am it was easy to get him to agree to the race.  He signed up for the 100 miler along with a running buddy of ours, Mark Hellenthal.  I registered for the 50 miler.  As the race day came close and our excitement increased it was mixed with a splash of concern due to the rainy weather the Moab area was getting.  We planned accordingly and on Friday set out for our adventure.

The packet pick up and pre race meeting were scheduled for 5 pm on Friday evening.  It is a bit late for us because we like to eat very early and get into bed early as well on the eve before a race.  We had planned on picking up our bibs and ditching out before the meeting.  As we picked up our numbers and t shirts we were told that important changes that affected our drop bags would be discussed at the pre race we stayed. 

As Aaron, the race director started the race meeting it was apparent that he had been lacking some serious sleep and was noticeably concerned about what he was about to say.  Come to find out the day before he was out checking course flags (markings) and his jeep go sunk up to the windows in quick sand!  As he tried to get out of the vehicle he too was caught and only quick thinking and a small branch saved him from a muddy death.   As he started his 15 mile walk back to his RV he also crossed through a creek that was chest the almost freezing temperatures.   The rain had caused havoc on our race course.  With less than 36 hours until the start of the race all courses had to be changed to avoid that area.  This would mean that drop bags, crew, and aid stations  all would be adjusted as well.  Not to mention water only aid stations that would now be for the most part removed because of vandals.  Now there would be longer stretches with no aid.  Those who do not run or run ultras may not think of all of the ramifications this has but one such ramification is lighting.  As the evening falls over the desert course you must pick up your flashlight or head lamp from a drop bag.....where should that drop bag be now?  The course is changed, 5000 feet of elevation added so that would have to be taken into consideration as well.  But we were still very excited because the area was just amazing. 

Race day morning the sky was falling....or perhaps it was rain :)  Michael and Mark had to start at the original start spot but my start had been changed which meant me being dropped off early to allow them to get to their start.  Because of the rain Michael did not want to ditch me at an unmanned trail head but thankfully a very nice couple were waiting as well in their warm car and let me sit and wait with them.  Even with all of the changes and confusion the race started just 8 minutes late and we were off into the awesomeness! 

The rain made for some challenges with the rock already being slick but a slower pace and plenty of fast hiking kept me safe.  I was feeling pretty good until about mile 20.  Because of the cold (it was 39 degrees at start time) I had decided last minute to wear 2 pairs of socks.  I was also wearing my waterproof Hoka One One-Mufates.  The combination made my feet warm and cause excessive friction.  I could feel the hotspots on both big toes and pinkie toes.  I had also taken a small fall and landed on the top of one of my feet.  By about mile 24 I was in pretty bad pain.  Thankfully I had found another runner who was about my same pace and he kept me company and our chatting kept my mind off the pain.  When we got to mile 27 aid station I asked the medic for some blister care and took off my shoe.  Both socks were a blood mess.  Mark Hellenthal came by the aid station about then and I showed off my sock of toughness to him.  An incredibly nice medic taped up my toes and sent me on my way.  My feet felt so much better!  The next 7 miles or so were easy and on a very flat paved road (again a change of course-normally I am a trail girl and would prefer the trail but with the earlier conditions which included rain, jumping across crevasses and navigating areas where vandals removed flags the paved area was a welcome break.  Then came the climb.  It was about the time that dusk was creeping in and as I climbed I would occasionally stop to look back.  When I did it reminded me exactly why I was there.  Not many people get to see such incredible views, I am blessed indeed. 

Dusk turned to dark and the running buddy I had met (also a Michael) and I continued our trek.  It was difficult in the dark to find the flags and again some flags had been removed.  We had a couple of miles added due to getting off track but kept going.  The evening brought back the cold weather and I was feeling desperate to get to the finish.  At the final aid station there was some hot soup and some hot cocoa.  I got my second pair of gloves out of my pack and put on a disposable rain slicker just to add an additional layer of warmth.  We probably stayed too long eating and getting warm under the tent-weak spot of mine as I get tired.  We set off on what would be our last 10 miles (we expected less but the new course ran 5 miles long plus we had our almost 2 miles of being lost).  Hubby, Michael passed us again about 5 miles into this leg.  He was looking strong and solid!  Seeing him gave me a boost that I needed, that lasted about a mile....then I was beginning to feel desperation, cold and exhaustion set in.  I wanted to sit down near a bush and just ball up and rest.  I knew that was a very bad idea and trudged forward.  The Michael I was running with was very tired as well and was feeling the same way.  We just kept pushing each other to continue.  The additional miles mentally messed with me.  I was so done!   But this 50 miler (almost 57 miler) came with a finishers buckle so I pushed on :)  As I crossed the finish line I felt great.  My third 50 miler for the year completed.  My second buckle in my hand.  A warm sleeping bag in the back seat of the truck waiting for me and stories to tell.  It was a race I will never forget, views that will fill my dreams and some of the smiles that cross my face at random times will be memories from this event.  Awesomeness!

My husband Michael and Mark both finished the 100 miles.  Two incredible trail runners with plenty of stories to tell as well.  Michael took 4th place overall!  My man is bad!!!  Mark got a great prize for most determination (or something like that)-he got quite lost and put in a half marathon of extra miles but still finished the race! 

So the good.....all the people I met and were part of my experience.  The couple that let me sit in their car, the running buddies I ran with Michael and for a while Justin, the medic that taped my toes, the views, the aid station volunteers, the race director and his wife that made the race happen despite the conditions and changes they had to make, seeing my husband twice during the race, seeing Mark.........the list goes on.  The bad-me.....I think that was pretty "bad" of me to be able to complete this race-it was TOUGH and the beautiful....Moab.  Run Moab...... look for the Slickrock race next year, it is an experience you will never forget.

This is not nail polish....