Friday, February 22, 2013

Red Hot 55K Report

When Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer made an appearance, I knew things weren't going well.  Now, to be clear, I didn't actually see Rudolph....I wasn't quite that delusional.  But at some point in the final miles of the Red Hot 55K this past Saturday, I realized that the song, along with that other Christmas classic "Rockin Round the Christmas Tree" had been playing on a constant loop in my head for quite some time.  Why those songs? Who knows?  On the bright side, at least I wasn't singing them out loud (as far as I know).

So, yeah, as far as the race goes, it was basically an exercise in doing everything wrong that you can possibly do wrong.  Underestimate the course? Check.  Go out too fast? Check. Don't eat enough? Check. Don't drink enough? Check.  Excusable for a rookie, I guess, but not for someone who's done this before. All of that combined to turn a hoped-for 5:30 finish into a painfully slow 6:51.  But yet I had fun, in a sick and twisted kind of way, which just helps to prove that ultra runners really are batshit crazy....and that we're totally cool with that.

If nothing else, the trip to Moab made it all worthwhile.  Moab is just a cool place.  I love the mountains and I will always want to live in (or very near) them, but that doesn't mean the desert canyonlands aren't cool as hell.  And, really, February might be the time to go, before it's gets blazing hot.  We made the trip down in a couple of days, staying in Grand Junction, CO on the way, which put us in Moab fairly early on Friday morning and gave us a chance to scout out the course a little and just check out the sights in general.

The race day weather was about as perfect as it can get, with highs in the mid-40s.  Thanks to similar weather in the couple of weeks leading up to the race, the course itself was also in fine form and the RD, Chris Martinez, made the prophetic claim just before the race started that it would be a good day for course records to fall.  I lined up somewhere in the middle of the pack and before I knew it (literally, I didn't hear a countdown or "ready, set" or anything) we were off.

I actually felt really good at first, which may actually have worked against me in the end.  Rather than try to reign it in and plan ahead for the long haul, I decided to just go with it.  Up the first climb and onto the lollipop loop that encompasses the first half or so of the race, my legs felt strong and there never really seemed to be any reason to slow down or walk, other than on a few very short but also very steep pitches of slickrock.  The course basically has two high points; the first in the middle of the initial lollipop loop and the second afterwards along the Gold Bar Rim, after the 55K merges back into the 33K route.

During that first loop, I felt like I was drinking plenty and ate 4 or 5 gels, so I got off to a good start there.  But at some point just after we started climbing up to Gold Bar Rim, I started to fade.  My legs were suddenly more tired than they should be given the pace I was going and my stomach was starting to abandon me, which threw me into the negative loop of not wanting to eat or drink, even though doing so would've helped in the long run (no pun intended).  After passing multitudes of people on the lollipop, they started going right past me in a seemingly neverending Conga line as I trudged up the slickrock.  At this point, it seemed fairly apparent that 5:30 was out of the question, but I held onto the uber-optimistic thought that once the course turned back downhill I would be able to salvage a sub-6.  Wrong.

By the time I reached the aid station just below Gold Bar Rim, and the start of the infamous Golden Spike trail, I was toast.  It just felt like I had absolutely nothing left in the tank.  Still hopeful that I could catch a second (or third) wind heading down Golden Spike, I trudged on.  And then I found out just what makes the infamous Golden Spike so damn infamous.  I knew ahead of time that we'd spend a lot of time running on the slickrock, but what I didn't realize was just how technical the slickrock would be.  Cracks, holes, and 2 or 3 foot drop-offs keep you on your toes and prevented me from being able to fall into any kind of rhythm whatsoever.  Also, I didn't expect as many ups during the downhill as there were.  We did ultimately lose a lot of elevation along Golden Spike, but not before running down and then back up steep sections of slickrock along the way.  By the time I finally got off Golden Spike, I was in all-out death march mode, Christmas songs blaring in my head as I dreamed of the relatively plush single-track forest trails back home.
I did manage some running once we hit the Poison Spider road closer to the finish, which probably salvaged a sub-7 out of the mess.

So, chalk that one up to experience.  All in all, it's a great event....the fact that I sucked it up big time there doesn't change that.  It's definitely worth checking out sometime.  On the bright side, putting forth such a crappy performance is a good motivator to not do it of the first things I did when I got back home was to sit down and start formulating my training plan for Quad Rock and Leadville.  Hopefully, I've learned from my mistakes.

Me, Ryan and Paul

Almost Done


*All photos are courtesy Katie Anderson, who should receive special recognition for putting up with three stinky runner dudes for the entire weekend (albeit one of them was her husband).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The 2013 Race Schedule

It occurs to me now that I never wrote a "2012 in review" kind of post, but now that we're into February of 2013, it seems a little late for that.  Here it is in a nutshell: ran a few thousand miles, finished the Bighorn 100, no injuries to speak of, generally had fun.

On to 2013.  I hinted at the race schedule in an earlier post, but here is the confirmed list of "big" races I'll be doing this year (i.e., I've shelled out the registration money, so I'm running them come hell or high water (or injury)).

Moab's Red Hot 55K, February 16th - The idea of running this race was first put in my head by Sundance Trail Run RD Paul Anderson.  A couple of years ago, Paul, Ryan, Nathan and myself took a road trip down to Buena Vista, CO for the Collegiate Peaks 50.  Sometime this past summer, Paul suggested we do it again with Moab as the destination.  I promptly forgot until a couple of days after registration had opened.  Lucky for me, they added entries this year and I was able to get in (I think it sold out pretty fast last year).  The idea was to enjoy a warmish (but not too warm) desert run early in the season, but from the way it's looking Moab is just as cold as South Dakota right now and might actually have more snow.  Oh well, a road trip is a road trip.

Quad Rock 50, May 11th - Last year, Ryan, Andy and myself took a road trip down to Ft. Collins for the inaugural QR50.  We had a blast hanging out with the FoCo trail runners and checking out their stomping grounds.  So, Ryan and I are going back for sure.  Not sure if anyone else is going with us, but we've got car space if anyone's interested.

Bighorn 30K, June 15th - After finishing the Bighorn 100 last year, running "just" the 30K might seem like I'm sandbagging it a bit.  But, out of the four race distances offered at Bighorn (30K, 50K, 50M and 100M), the 30K is the only one I haven't done, so I figured it's time to complete the Bighorn Slam.  Ryan is going too....he won back to back Bighorn 30Ks a few years a go and is going back for one more shot at the course record.  I have less lofty goals, but a top 5 finish isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility.

Leadville 100, August 17th - I've had the idea of Leadville bouncing around my skull for a couple of years now.  I'm intrigued by it's legendary status among 100s, but I also have concerns about the spectacle that it has become under the management of Lifetime.  But not concerned enough to not give it a shot.  Besides that, I've heard from several Black Hills 100 participants that our course is harder than Leadville.  On paper, just comparing the courses side by side, you could probably make that argument.  Black Hills does have about 4000 feet more elevation gain.  But then you have to factor in that little thing called "altitude".  Leadville's high point is over twice as high as Black Hills'.  Ouch.  As with anything, the only way to find out for sure is to experience it yourself, so that's what I'm going to do.  And I want a big buckle.

There she is.  Toss in the 5th Annual Black Hills Trail Running Series, co-directing the Black Hills 100, and maybe running a road race here and there, and it's looking to be a busy year.