Sunday, March 25, 2012

Moab 100 (Race Recap)

Moab, UT
Saturday, March 24 to Sunday, March 25
Ultra Marathon #3
Weather - HOT during the day, breezy early afternoon, chilly and moon-less at night


Almost immediately after finishing the Bear Chase in September, I was on the mission for more. I couldn't talk anyone else into joining me for a distance past 50 miles, but November came and I located a 100 mile training plan and decided to go for it. I picked the Moab 100 (24 Hours of Utah) race, put on by Gemini Adventures for a few reasons. I liked it because it was close(ish), a loop (I could drop out if I needed to AND could access my stuff every 5.37 miles).

Up until the week of the race, I was pretty sure I was 100% alone. Luckily, my dad realized I was a). Crazy and b). Would not be able to drive back alone after running. So on Friday afternoon around 1:30, my dad picked me up and we headed west to Moab. The drive was pretty uneventful, and we stopped in Grand Junction for my favorite pre-race dinner, Applebee's. This time I got pretty much the same thing, but blackened chicken (and spinach) instead of just the three cheese/chicken. It was tasty.


I was super glad my dad was with me and that he is familiar with the Moab area. I am pretty sure I would NOT have seen the turnoff for the base camp. We arrived around 8:15, and while he was setting up the tent, I wandered over to the party I was invited to on Facebook. A guy running the 24 hour segment was throwing a party for his wife's birthday - and he had brought his whole family with him. What a friendly/supportive family he has! After harassing him for a few minutes for course details and devouring a piece of cake, I headed over to help my dad. He had forgotten tent spikes, so we had to wander around finding rocks to hold the tent in place. I decided to lie down around 9:15, hoping I would be able to sleep. Being in Moab and the nerves were setting in!

Race Day

I woke up about an hour before my alarm went off. I stayed in my sleeping bag for about a half hour, then decided I might as well get ready. Good thing I was up early, everything took longer than expected. It felt chilly early on, but I knew it was going to heat up later - forecasts for low 80s!


Even though I had pre-packed my drop bag, I found myself digging around making sure I had everything ready to go. At 6:30 I headed over to get my packet and use the bathroom.

Base camp/Aid station
Mandatory race meeting at 6:45, where we got detailed course instructions. The most complicated was going to be remembering to alternate loops. First loop (odd loops) were clockwise, even loops counterclockwise. This would be nice later because even though I was getting lapped, it took a while before people were ACTUALLY running right past me.

I lined up toward the back, and at 7:01, we were off. I took most of  my pictures in the first lap. With the sun coming up, the rocks were beautiful, and I knew I would not appreciate the scenery as much in the later laps, and I wanted some cool shots.

This is sand, not dirt
One of the only sections of just "trail"


East side of the slick rock
Fellow runner offered to take my picture!
Probably my favorite course picture

Oh look... more sand!

Multiple creek crossings. Not deep, but sometimes I misstepped and got my feet damp and socks muddy
Oh, look! I'm still smiling!
West side of slick rock - see that white line? That's how course was marked during the day on the rock
MORE slick rock
Balancing rock
Another sandy trail (cars could drive on this section)
I had every intention of "jogging" this race. Start out in the back, not overexert myself, saving energy for later when I was REALLY tired. So I ran the flats, downhills, and slight inclines. Walked the sections that seemed "hard." This worked really well for me the first three or so laps. Then the heat kicked in.

Wow, with the winter in the recent past, I had forgotten what it was like to run in the heat. I quickly had to fill the bladder in my hydration vest - probably before we were even 16 miles in. There was only one aid station ON the course, about halfway in, an unmanned water station. At the base camp, there was the bathrooms, sunscreen, medical, drinking water, and snacks. I had brought some of my own fuel, and never needed it. There was plenty of stuff provided.

I started to slow down by about the fourth loop. The hills were feeling steeper and steeper. The heat was making me tired. I lost the running buddies I was chasing. I started to get lapped. On this course, there were not just the 100 milers, there was a 24 hour division (both solo, team, and relay), and a 12 hour relay. The 12 hour runners SMOKED me. I must have gotten passed 3-4 times by the faster runners.

Sometime in the early afternoon, the breeze picked up and it wasn't nearly as hot. SO nice. And by mid afternoon, the clouds came out, which made the temperature a LOT more bearable. When I headed out for my last lap before dark, I put on my long sleeve shirt since I knew it would get cold real fast when the sun dropped.

Razzy Roo headband, YMX top - Somewhere around 45 miles in
The sand hill. Hard to tell, but this felt like a 15% grade. Ooof.
Sunset
Course marked with glow sticks for night (with reflective tape on rocks)
Sunset - heading North towards base camp
I was allowed to have a pacer after 8:00. My dad had said he would be back by then and would do a loop with me.  I had an AWESOME loop miles 42ish to 47ish. I told my dad to save the loop until morning because I felt like I would still be able to get some running in and wanted to bank as much time as possible. By the halfway point I was a). Doing a dance only Liz Lemon could rival and dance/running and b). Was feeling so good I wasn't even considering I would not finish, unless I broke a bone or a limb fell off.

How quick things change. The sun went down, and the headlamp went on. Did you know that in the middle of the dessert with no moon it is RIDICULOUSLY dark?? Especially since my light wasn't very bright, I was running by myself, and the 12 hour runners were done. Very few people were on the course, and the glowsticks marking the course were few and far between. This is seriously what my light put out.
What it looked like at night with my headlamp
When people DID come up on me, they zoomed past me. My light was dim and I kept having to stop and adjust my light to look for the reflective tape/course markers. At this point, I began to feel concerned. I was texting with Heather and telling her how dark it was and how much I was starting to struggle. I suffered through a partial loop, that took about a half hour longer than any other loop I had done. I kept going, and the next one wasn't much better. I just didn't feel like I could safely run with it being so dark. On the slick rock I was never quite sure that I was headed in the right direction, and the trail sections were hard to run with the sand, and the only dirt sections had lots of loose rocks and drop offs. I considered dropping at the end of loop 11, but Heather convinced me to change my socks/shoes, eat more, then head back out.

I had the most awesome grilled cheese sandwich in the world at base camp, put on my capris and a fleece jacket and headed out for loop 12. It was the most awful experience. Ever. By now it was after midnight, and there was pretty much NO ONE out there. I was starting to hallucinate (they really WERE just twigs, NOT snakes), and I was feeling sorta lightheaded and couldn't seem to walk straight. My socks were hurting and the bottom of my feet ached. My shoes were NOT comfortable. My legs, however, felt great. I kept plugging along, and my inevitable drop of the race occurred when I missed a turn because the glow sticks leading up to it had died. After wandering around in pitch black for a good 10 minutes while I looked for the course, I knew I needed to stop before I got hurt. Or lost. The last two or so miles literally went on FOREVER. I was moving SO slow and that made the cold night air even colder. If I hadn't put on the extra clothes, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten hypothermia (or just been REALLY REALLY cold).

I knew the course pretty well by now, but I didn't seem to be making any progress. I was on the verge of hysterics when I thankfully saw the gate entrance to the road. I made it back to base camp and officially called it when I checked in at the end of my loop. I was informed that all the other 100 mile women had already dropped, and there was only one female left out on the course.

It's hard to explain how I was feeling. I probably could have suffered through more miles. However, with the last 16.11 miles taking me just over 6 hours, that meant I would have had to have resumed my earlier pace of roughly 1:15 per loop just to make the cutoff. With another 4 hours of darkness, I knew I didn't have it in me. I trained for this race for four months, and believe me, I really never considered "what if" I didn't make it. I sat down by the heater next to the snack table, almost in shock. There were some relay runners waiting to head out, and they all tried to convince me that I was amazing for doing what I had done. However, I felt like a failure and a quitter.

What did I actually complete? 12 loops, for a total of 64.44 miles. This course had approximately 110 feet of elevation gain PER MILE. The challenging terrain of sand dunes, slick rock, dirt trails, and creek crossing made for proably the hardest course I have ever encountered. I believe my time was about 19:45, but I didn't wear a watch and official results aren't up yet.

Edit: Results added


Loop 1 (5.37 miles) - 8:17 am
Loop 2 (10.74 miles) - 9:32 am
Loop 3 (16.11 miles) - 10:48 am
Loop 4 (21.48 miles) - 12:13 pm
Loop 5 (26.85 miles) - 1:38 pm
Loop 6 (32.22 miles) - 3:16 pm
Loop 7 (37.59 miles) - 4:50 pm
Loop 8 (42.96 miles) - 6:28 pm
Loop 9 (48.33 miles) - 8:12 pm
Loop 10 (53.70 miles) - 10:03 pm
Loop 11 (59.07 miles) - 12:06 pm
Loop 12 (64.44 miles) - 2:43 am
Total Time - 19 hours, 43 minutes

After eating a bit more and chatting with the other runners, it was all of a sudden almost 4:00 am. I decided to put more clothes on and sit in the car until the sun came up. I made it about 10 minutes, then decided a few hours of sleep was better than none at all. I was obviously exhausted and fell asleep in minutes.

In the morning, I headed over to base camp to see how the other runners had fared while I had been sleeping. The other woman runner had only done one more lap before also dropping - so no female finishers at all. She had been a loop ahead of me during the day, so she finished overall 10.78 miles more than me. She also had a boyfriend/friend that she was running with, which I'm sure helped. With 5 hours until the course was closed, I was informed that only one person had finished, and only a total of three runners were likely to finish the full distance.

The friend from Facebook had run 75ish miles and stopped at 1:00 am. His loops awarded him a second place finish in the 24 hour division. The winner of the 24 hours was a female, who finished 91ish miles (WOW!!).

After learning all this, I can feel a teeny tiny bit better about my failure, but not much. First time I have ever not finished something I started. I felt especially crappy because I wasn't injured, I just got tired and discouraged and gave up. I even kept all toenails and didn't get any blisters!


So. Overall? What worked and what didn't?

Worked:

  • YMX tops. Long enough that they didn't ride up. Comfortable, and they BREATHE.
  • Zensah sports bra - NO CHAFING. 'Nuff said.
  • Lululemon "shorty shorts" under my skirt. I had actually NEVER run in these before, but all compression shorts tend to ride up on me. These never BUDGED. I ran in them all laps until the last one. BEST PURCHASE OF MY LIFE.
  • Running Skirts triathlon skirt. Cute, and functional. Liked having the pockets for my trash until I got back to base camp.
  • Extra clothes for when it got cold. Instead of just a straight running skirt, going with the shorts & triathlon skirt made it easy to change into capris when it got cold without mooning the volunteers.
  • Nathan hydration vest. It was ridiculously hot out, and I am pretty sure that one 10 oz bottle off my belt would not have been enough fluid for me. I did, however, see lots of people with just a handheld, and some people (must have been relayers), didn't carry anything at all!
    • I am proud to say I remembered to drink early and often. Might not have done that if I was "rationing" water.
    • Related - I made sure to take one gel (Hammer gel on all loops after the first one) every single loop. Of note, this was one of the first times I haven't had a bathroom emergency/stomach ache during a race. Wonder if it is the switch from GU to Hammer gel?
    • Made sure to eat a handful of snacks after EVERY SINGLE LOOP. M&M's, chips, little PB&J on tortillas. I think I fueled well.
    • Coke or heed sports drink (or both) every loop.
    • Electrolyte capsules - took one every other loop
  • My hat. I typically don't wear one, but wow, I was glad to have it. Bright, and hot, it was nice to have the extra shade - plus now I don't have a sunburned scalp.
  • iPod shuffle - battery life is 17 hours. Awesome.
  • Chapstick. SO GLAD I REMEMBERED THIS. I must have used it a BILLION times.
Didn't work:
  • My deoderant. I smelled SO awful after about 4 hours I could hardly stand it. Next time, I'll put some in my drop bag, just for my own comfort. Blech.
  • Newton trail shoes. SO UNCOMFORTABLE after the first 16.11 miles. Felt like no cushioning whatsoever. Bottoms of my feet were angry. For last loop, changed into my other Newtons. Those were even worse because since they weren't trail shoes I must've gotten half the dunes in my shoes. Brought gaiters, but (I will admit this) couldn't figure out how to use them and was too embarrassed to ask. Note to self - FIGURE IT OUT NEXT TIME.
  • CEP compression socks. Fine for my calves, but since I have small feet, the padding around the toes kept bunching up around the ball of my foot. SO UNCOMFORTABLE.
  • Headlamp. I didn't really realize there were different levels of headlamps. Mine had two angles and two levels of brightness, and neither one seemed to work well. Next time around, a brighter headlamp, and also a handheld lamp.
  • Forgetting my gum on THREE loops made me crazy. It did, however, give me something to think about for 5.37 miles.
  • Forgetting to put Body Glide in my drop bag. About halfway through, I could have used some for around the straps of my vest. No major chafing, not a big deal.
  • Forgetting to take off my capris before bed. They bunched around the back of my knee - closest thing to chafing of the day. Ouch.
Thoughts on the race/distance:
  • Volunteers literally there before the race started, and still there until everyone is done. That was awesome.
    • However, there were some loops where I could have used some help, and they weren't all that eager to actually HELP (filling bladder, cup of coke, etc).
  • 8 potties at the start - plenty for a race this size (and their families).
  • AWESOME shirt (but I don't feel I can wear it, since I didn't earn it)
  • The course was not marked well enough for night. Bigger/more reflective tape markings for night.
  • A bit more information about the race/course on their website might have changed my mind about picking this one. I was NOT the only runner surprised with how tough the course was.
    • With that in mind. Before I even got back to Denver, I was already considering how "next time, I might just sign up for the 24 hour division"
  • This does NOT have a high completion rate.  What that means, is it is a significantly challenging course. It is well organized, and honestly, I will probably do it again.
  • 100 miles. I believe I had the mental capacity to do it. On an "easier" course. However, I don't think I'll attempt the distance again without someone to join me. It did get lonely out there in the middle of the night.
  • 100 miles is FREAKING FAR. I was surprised at how 50 miles didn't seem "that bad" - but pretty much as soon as I passed it, it was all downhill from there.
  • Ultra runners are the BEST. They are encouraging and friendly. I wish I knew more local runners, they made me feel right at home even though I was obviously WAY out of my league. They say hi, they wave, they tell you that you look great. Awesome. Just awesome.

It was a really good thing my dad was there. I would NOT have been able to drive back, I slept almost the entire way. I can barely walk, but I actually think I am in less pain than after my 50 mile race. Helping with that are my magic compression pants - Aspaeris Pivot shorts! And lookie what J got for me:


I would just like to thank all my virtual friends (Twitter, Facebook, Dailymile, Blogger) for all the support. It really meant/means a lot to me. Especially in those hard hours, the texts and encouragement (especially from Heather, Lesley, L and J), really made a BIG difference to me. Not to be sappy, but I love you guys :)

Until next time... what an adventure.

35 comments:

  1. What an incredible adventure! You did an awesome job.

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  2. So amazing. I am awe-struck. Congrats on giving it such a powerful effort :)

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  3. Wow, you are amazing. Total inspiration. Now get some rest! :)

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  4. Great race report. I think you are awesome. Being lost in the dark mist have been horrible. I know you must feel a huge disappointment, but you should be incredibly proud of yourself.

    I really appreciate your candor. Your report was thoughtful and honest.

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  5. This is still so inspiring. I can't even fathom running in the desert in the dark... there's no way I could keep my sanity out there. What you've done is amazing, and I really hope you are as proud of youself as we all are of you.

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  6. Oh-my goodness, what a story! You are amazing!! I was nearly in tears by the end of your recount. I know you feel disappointed, but really... you are incredible!! WoW! I can't even imagine running out there at night with no one! You are a brave and amazing woman! You should be very proud of those 66 miles! Congrats

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  7. Loved reading this! I think it is amazing that you attempted it and doing it alone made things even more challenging.

    I'm sorry that it didn't turn out the way you wanted but you learned so many things this time around that you will know better how to handle things on your next attempt. I've chatted with a lot of experienced ultrarunners and almost no one who has completed multiple 100s has not experience at least one "failed" 100.

    I'm planning to attempt the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama in Nov. I am *already* making plans to assemble a crew because I know I can't handle running alone in the woods at night. If you are ready to attempt one again, come down South and check it out. I think I can run your pace. :)

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  8. You rock. What a challenge and you did a great job. Just starting is amazing!

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  9. WOW!!!! This is still impressive. I am a wuss in the dark - and would have quit much sooner. Great job - now you know what to do next time to get your revenge for course training. Sometimes when you feel down about a race - you learn more from those experiences!

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  10. Considering how much you accomplished, completely alone and especially knowing what the finisher rate was, you should still be very happy with your performance. It was still an amazing amount of time and distance you covered and lasting that long in the dark was amazing. Great job!

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  11. Wow, that's amazing. I really enjoyed reading this. I can't believe you were able to keep going in the dark without more light than you had from the headlamp. I can't wait to see which 100 mile race you pick out to do next!

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  12. Wow just wow! And yes you did earn that shirt and should wear it proudly. I know it is disappointing to not finish but you did really well on what looks to be a super difficult course and had the courage to sign up for a race of this distance. I have no doubt the next ultra you sign up for will be a breeze for you.

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  13. I think that this is amazing! You are amazing for tackling this and going so far!!

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  14. I can't even comtemplate the idea of registering for something like this. I hope after it settles the disappointment disapates and the sense of accomplishment is what sits with you. Congrats on doing so well in such a tough environment! Absolutely amazing!

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  15. You are a rockstar! Believe it! You earned every thread on that shirt!

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  16. I understand your frustration, but you must consider that you were attempting something that 99.99% of the country couldn't do. And the distance you did 99.98% couldn't do! It sounds like you might have had a chance at finishing it if it were flatter, and lighter!

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  17. You are extraordinary! Nice recap! I actually read the entire thing because I just could not believe that little ol' you was out there running so many miles all by yourself. I can only live vicariously but you did such a good job with your descriptions that it was so exciting to follow along with your journey. You are amazing!!

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  18. Great job!!! 64.44 is a helluva accomplishment :)

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  19. A-maz-ing. You are so f***ing badass and you don't even realize it. You definitely deserve to wear that shirt. SO PROUD OF YOU!!

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  20. I am so impressed by your committment and effort. I think running in the desert in the dark would've had me on the verge of panic on my best of days. You should not feel disappointed. You completed more than 100K, you earned that Moab 100 t-shirt!! Wear it loud and proud :)

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  21. i know i’ve said it on several different social media things-but again, so incredibly proud of you and inspired. I don’t know if i would even have the balls to attempt it. and i have the shorty shorts too! they don’t budge-i think because they are so skin tight on me :):)

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  22. Awesome, awesome, awesome job! You are such an inspiration! That course sounds so hard!

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  23. You are absolutely amazing Rebecca. I can't imagine how tough it was once the sun went down. Like you I would have thought "yay, cooler temps" but not being able to see is frightening. Way to power through. I am not worthy :)

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  24. like i need to tell you again, but great job. I would have been terrified in the dark too. now that you know about headlamps and different brightness, i'd recommend another one for your ragnar coming up ;)

    again, simply amazing

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  25. I totally think you deserve to wear your race shirt - even 64 miles is a lot! And I totally understand not feeling comfortable running in the dark. I think that's the thing I'd struggle with the most, besides running that far. ;)

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  26. You're AWESOME! You're AMAZING! You're an ULTRAMARATHON RUNNER! 64.44 miles is unbelievable...besides, if you ran 100, then next time you'd have to run more!

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  27. WOW! nice job! the dark, the sand, so many obsticals such strong will!

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  28. You had the courage to start, that's an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. But I can understand why you're disappointed. It's hard when we set out to do something and don't meet up to our expectations. But celebrate your successes. Look in to the Javelina Jundred in Phoenix. They schedule it to coincide with a full moon so it can be pretty bright out at night. I volunteered at the event in 2011 and was really impressed with the organizer, their support for the runners, and the participants themselves!!!

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  29. You ran so many miles with lots of hills and at elevation! Impressive work! And the fact that no female finished should make you feel better about having to call it. Gotta be tough if only 3 people finished.

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  30. Wow. You are incredible, girl. Love how your dad supported you at the last minute - so awesome.

    I really felt your pain in the lost - I would have been scared/nervous, too.

    I really enjoyed reading the race report. Thanks for sharing.

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  31. Wow, wow, wow. I cannot imagine going over 30 miles, let alone more than double it! What an experience! I can understand your disappointment, but you did amazing!

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  32. WOW! I have to say I thought you had done lost your mind when you registered for Moab. Haha. But now that I see the pictures, I totally get it. This one will be hard to top! You should be so proud of yourself.

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