Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Red Hot 33k

Hey everybody! It's been a while since I raced, hasn't it!? I've had a really fun summer, getting more into trail running and pretty much just doing whatever I want without having a training plan. 

As nice as that was, there's always that call to race, isn't there? My running buddy, Sue, talked me into signing up for the Red Hot 33k (that's 19 miles for my fellow non-metric system using Americans) in Moab. I knew it would be nice to go down there in winter and it sounded like a fun race so we started training loosely following a training plan, and just tried to keep having fun and not stress out about it. I think this worked great because I did have a lot of fun on all our training runs!

Sue and I drove down on Friday, stopping at Ray's Tavern for an early dinner.

Ummm.... Carb loading?

When we got to Moab, we picked up our packets and checked in at our hotel. Check out the sweet trucker hats we got in our packet!

My friend Shannon got there later that night, and we made plans to grab breakfast, then drive over to the start together.

We got to the start, which was the Gemini Bridges trail head, just in time for Shannon to pick up her packet, take our turns at the port-o-potties (which we knew would be the last ones we'd see until the finish), and see the early morning sun shine on the beautiful snow-covered red rocks!

We were feeling excited and ready to go do something crazy!

The race director spoke to us all before the race started, and he let us know that the Jeep club guys were able to wench their jeeps up "the waterfall" so there would be a second aid station after all. Nice! He went on to tell us to be very careful between the 3rd and 4th (or was it 2nd and 3rd?) aid stations, because if something happened, "it would be very hard to get to you." He said they would have to bring in a search and rescue helicopter so don't get hurt! We all look at each other like, "great..."

We also took a look at the course map, as if it meant anything to me! But I took a picture just in case I did get lost and it could maybe help me.

We started at 8:30 - half an hour after the 55kers, and this is what it looked like starting out! Shannon took off right away, and I hoped she would have a fun time even though she hadn't trained on many trails! The snow was hard packed, but hard to run on so I was hoping it wouldn't be like this the whole way. I started walking pretty quickly on this steep first mile, telling Sue that I wasn't in a hurry, so she went ahead too. I knew I needed to save my energy for the end!

After reaching the top of that first climb, we went around a bend, and suddenly we were in a different world!

We ran on this dirt road for a while, and I made sure to enjoy running down the hill!

The scenery was just so unbelievable. It really was hard to not stop and take pictures constantly! This was along the dirt road. It was at about this point, maybe about mile 5, that I heard a guy say, "I'm doing this race every day of my life until I die!" as he stopped to take a picture. I loved that so much!

Then we turned onto the sandstone and it got so much harder, but so much more fun!

I remember seeing someone stop to take a picture and saying to them, "This is so cool!" Even though we were all hiking at this point, totally sweating and breathing hard, I was just enjoying it and trying to take it all in.

Up, up up!

I swear we were hiking up steep sandstone from like mile 5 or 6 to mile 8, but I just kept thinking, "So rad."

Here are the Jeeps and what we had to climb up to get to the second aid station (mile 8). I could see why they weren't sure if they'd get up there or not!

I grabbed some mini candy bars and a hammer gel along with some water here and stopped for a minute to catch my breath and enjoy the view. I told myself I could listen to music once I got to mile 8 so I put my earbuds in. Then I got to run down that sandstone! It was so much fun and I just felt SO happy in that moment! It was awesome.

It wasn't all down from here, though, we went down a little, then up some more, then down, then up, and, well you get the picture.

I pretty much walked the uphills, taking those opportunities to drink water and eat my candy bars. Then we would turn down and I would pick up the pace and feel like a mountain goat on the downhills.  It was so much fun running around the sandstone, jumping over rocks and crevasses. All the while, this amazing scenery surrounding us. I felt like a kid, just out there playing.

The snow-topped La Sal Mountains, looking beautiful in the distance.

From this spot, at maybe mile 9, you can see Arches National Park in the distance, and the snow area down below that we had started from. Pretty amazing.

More slickrock to run around on!


I couldn't get enough of the red rock with the snow on it. Not what I'm used to seeing. It was so pretty, and such a pretty, perfect day for a run!

Finally I got to the point where I had to just focus on moving forward so I stopped taking pictures. Unfortuantly, the happy euphoria didn't last the entire run. I started to get tired and my legs started to hurt so I took my Excedrine at the mile 15 aid station, along with quarter of a PB&J sandwich and some Coke. The volunteers cheered us on, telling us, "Only 4 more miles!" so I got to work to get those miles done.

But it was not just a straight-forward run to the finish. There was a lot of sand, and now some snow, and a few slippery spots to get over, along with the rocks to continue dodging.

At one point, the course went up this really steep, snowy hill. It was almost a cliff and when it came into view there were 5 or 6 people struggling up it, and someone was helping a girl up who had fallen. I was thinking, "Um, that's not safe. I'm not going up that," when the 2 people in front of me just turned and went around a different way that totally made more sense than that steep hill. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn't think the poor girl who was struggleing would appreciate having her picture taken in that moment.

One of the women who was part-way up when I got there actually came down and followed us around the other way. At one point she said to me, "I've just got to get my heart rate down now!" and I said, "I can't believe they were having people go up that!"

There was one more slippery spot where the girl in front of me was practically sliding down the whole thing, and I commented that it looked like a waterslide. I think I had better traction than her, and didn't slip, but there were just a lot of things like that where it was really hard to just run.

I had been kind of planning on finishing at around 4 hours (though I don't know what that was based on), so when I hit mile 17 and noticed that I was also about to hit the 4 hour mark, I was a little dissapointed and discouraged that I still had 2 miles to go. But we were on a dirt road now, so I was mostly able to run and I tried to keep it up. I'm so sad my Garmin data didn't get saved so I don't know what my mile splits are or anything.

Finaly I started to notice spectators so I knew we must be getting close. I was excited that "Out of the Woods" came on my iPod. Could there be a more perfect song for sprinting to the finsh?! Then I saw Sue's husband and daughter out cheering. We didn't know they were coming, so that was a nice suprize! I ran around one more corner and there was the finish line! It sure felt good to run though that!

At the finish line they were handing out these pint glasses instead of medals, and I love that! I'd much rather have a momento that I can use. It also came with a beer ticket so Shannon and I went and got them filled up. I had never had beer at a finish line before so I wasn't sure how that would go over after a hard race, but it was really good! I was, maybe, a little thirsty, though.

Shannon is amazing, and had finished almost an hour ahead of me so it was nice of her to wait around for me at the fnish line! Great job, Shannon!!

Sue also finished before me, by about half an hour! She did a great job, getting the same time as last time she ran this! I'm so glad she had the idea and pretty much planned this whole trip for us. It was amazing!

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