Moab 55k has been on my radar for a few years – the photos and reports were alluring. The timing was right to try a new winter race, and boyfriend Mark was on board for running the accompanying 33k. It was a good 4-day weekend get away and we looked forward to seeing parts of Nevada and Utah new to us.
We arrived in Moab Friday afternoon, picked up our numbers and joined other runners at a local pasta place. I found it interesting to see a different community of runners, recognizing no one, but recognizing why we were all here.
Saturday morning we were up early, eating breakfast with again, unknown runners, silently picking away at our breakfasts, hoping that what we ingested would serve us well. Mark and I drove to the race start early enough for good parking, then kept the car running to keep warm in the sub-40 degree weather. The start was a good 10 minute walk from the parking. We arrived early enough for the pre race briefing, hung close with Jamie Frink, and then finally shed my sweats and assigned Mark with bringing them back as his race started 30 minutes later.
I warmed up a bit out the start, and finally saw more familiar faces – Jim Walmsley, Joe Grant, and Karl Meltzer all warming up. At 8:00 we were off. Per usual, there were a lot of quick starters. I focused on staying in control, reminding myself I was going to be out there for 5 hours. At the same time I was a little concerned about the number of women who bolted ahead of me – I’ll admit I did some ultra signup stalking and found the women’s field not too deep – but now I was faced with a bunch of females ahead at the start and pulling away on the first climb. I did my best to put the blinders on and pay attention to my heart rate – until I realized I couldn’t really read it. So I just let everyone go, kept within what I thought I could maintain for 5 hours, and focused on taking care of myself. In order to break 5 hours I needed to average 8:50 pace, so I did have the running average on my watch to keep me either encouraged or discouraged.
Old acquaintance and accomplished runner Helen Cospolich caught me early on, and we chatted a bit. Back and forth we went – me pulling ahead on the downs, she on the ups, and finally she pulled away. I was still trying to find my rhythm for at least 10 miles. There was a good amount of mud and snow, making for slow progress. When I remembered to, or was encouraged to, I looked up to see the views – mostly of the La Salle mountain range – regal in snow, tall and majestic.
As we finished our first loop of 17 miles of a mix of undulating double track service road, slick rock, and snow, I began to feel my groove. I was catching a few women, feeling strong, and generally back in the game. I had felt fairly discouraged on the climbs that I wasn’t on pace to break 5, but was stunned to see that my pace was still about 8:30. At that point I thought – wow, I’m rocking it!
The terrain in the second half was different from anything I had run on – hard slick rock – aka sand stone – that was never flat. There were large boulders to jump up onto and down from, a lot of slow grinding climbs, and zig zagging route finding downhills. I ran with different groups of men, and would here comments alluding that I was in the top women’s field. Since we had joined the 33k runners on the course, I really didn’t know what my placement was, but I was genuinely having fun – especially jumping off of boulders. It had been months since I had felt this good in a race, and I attributed it to being healthy, being trained, and running for weeks with a heavy pack while training for Marathon des Sables.
We reached the second to last aid station – I figured I had moved up to 4th or 5th female. Mileage on my watch was further than than the 22 the AS reported – but I just attributed it to different measurement methods. There was still several miles of slick rock route finding, and I was in good company of runners all trying to find our way. The sun was shining, the runners were happy and encouraging, the air was crisp – life was good.
I followed runners into a narrow canyon, and was stopped by some shouts of “have you seen any markers?” I hadn’t for a bit, so turned around and soon saw that we had gone out of our way a minute or two. I shouted back to come this way, and hoped they could hear me.
According to my average pace, I was still on track to break 5 hours. I worked hard those last couple of miles, mingled in with 33k runners, and finally hitting the finish line. I saw two clocks – one said 5:21, the other 4:51. Well, I liked the 4:51 and decided that was my time, since I wasn’t quite sure what my watch said, other than my average pace. Mark greeted me with his generous smile and hug, congratulating me on my finish. I told Mark and Meghan Hicks that I ran 4:51. Meghan went looking for my place, asked me again what my time was, and finally we realized the 5:21 was my time. 4:51 was for the 33k which had started 30 minutes after the 55k. I had to laugh at myself for choosing the time I wanted. I was still confused by my watch’s average pace calculation and it took me a full day to realize that the GPS had never turned on, and was using the accelerometer to measure my distance.
It was hard knowing right away what place I came in with the 2 races going on simultaneously, but I eventually found that I had placed 4th female, and 1st master.
Many thanks to the volunteers at the pre-race, aid stations, and post race activities. It was a very festive event with good food and socializing afterward. Thanks to Altra Running and Injinji socks for supporting my endeavors!