November 21, 2014

My Moab Trail Sub-Marathon.

The Moab marathon was a my mind’s rearview mirror. The whole thing was struggle but it was worth it. Wait, that’s a lie. The whole marathon wasn’t a struggle, only the first 23 miles. The last three miles were no problem because I dropped out with three miles to go. Why not just walk those last 3 miles and finish? Just because.
All smiles at the start. 

Because…I wake up at 4:30 am on the day before to drive to the St. Louis airport. Road constructions delays my drive but I get to the airport on time. My flight to Denver and to Salt Lake are uneventful except for the turbulence over the front range of the Rockies. Thrifty car rental upgrades me from a compact to a crossover only because I don’ think they really have any compact cars. I call mom on my way to Provo to pick up Erin. She’s in a good mood but does mention that Monday would be a good day to die. Her comment reminds me of Chief Dan George in Little Big Man. Note to self: watch Little Big Man again soon.

Erin's picture looking up Pritchett's canyon

Pritchett's Canyon with runners below and above.

Tom's photo of Bill, me and the rest of the ants

Tom snapped this of me. The trail was very well marked. 

Three Amingo with Hunter's Canyon in the background.
My favorite part of the run overlooking Hunter Canyon.

Erin is ready to go. We drive through Wendy’s for food and Dr. Peppers and head south to Moab. The drive is full of good conversation, bad drivers, and scenery much different from Illinois. We stop in Price to pick up essentials (more Dr. Pepper, bananas, and bagels) at the Walmart. We pull into Moab around 6:00 and meet Tom and Shelly at the race “expo” a Milt’s Stop and Eat. What Milt’s is is a walk up ice-cream and burger place and not a convention center. It’s all outdoors with no expo just race bid numbers, packets full of typical stuff, and an ugly T-shirt. If you think of the Chicago Marathon race expo at McCormick center and imagine the exact opposite, you have the Moab Trail Marathon non-expo at Milts. There’s good ice-cream, at Milt’s though. Well, that’s what I was told. I did eat there back in 1990 during my only other trip to Moab to try out my new Jamis mountain bike with Bill, Tom and Jim. Moab has changed sine 1990. 
Bill and me running down Tom.

After spending a total of 5 minutes at the “expo” we drive to the Hampton Inn and check into the room next to Tom and Shelly’s. Sensing I may not be up to driving back to Provo after the marathon, I ask if there are rooms available for the next night but they’ll full. So I reserve a room at the cheap and, I’m sure more super, Super 8 up the road. Bill drives in from his cabin rental  and we all go to Zax for pizza and a lot of laughter. “Did you just say, “Thank-you?”. We catch a little of the Aggie’s victory over the Cowboys in rainy Laramie but Saturday’s forecast for Moab is perfect running weather. 
Erin (aka E-ran) looking strong.

Because…I sleep well for a couple hours but after that I awake every hour until I finally just get up at 5:30. We don’t need to leave the hotel until 7:30 and the race doesn’t begin until 8:45. It’s a shame to leave all the sleep in a decent hotel bed. I’m too much like my mom. Maybe I have restless leg syndrome? Tom and Shelly eat waffles in the hotel lobby while Erin and I stick with DP, banana, bagel and I add a PowerBar. Bill arrives at the hotel all rested for a carpool trip to the start. We were told if we carpooled (three or more people) we could park near the start. However, we are directed to park with the non-carpoolers about a quarter mile from the start. Tom and Bill recount their 20 mile bike ride on part of the trail we are to run on and how Tom bonked real hard. Do I hear ominous music in the background? 
Tom running through the wall!

By the time we walk to the start and stop at the Port-a-potties it’s time for Bill, Tom, Erin and me gather in the start corral. Shelly decides to give us all a head start and begins in the following group. It’s chilly but I throw away my throw-away-shirt before we begin. We take a couple of selfies and we’re off! Sunny skies, crisps air, red sandstone and yellow autumn leaves. It couldn't be more beautiful and only a few things distract me from the dessert splendor. The first distraction was the number of runners. There were more than I expected so there’s the usual maneuvering in and around people up the first few miles of Pritchett Canyon. It’s a little more challenging being a trail marathon with limited places to pass or be passed. Erin hangs with us for first few mile but eventually, Bill and Tom’s pace separate us. However, we do we see her later on. The view at the top of the canyon is amazing, especially rearward down the canyon. It’s nearly impossible to not want to stop and take pictures so we and just about everyone else do just that. I’m motivated to move on knowing we have a downhill ahead of us. I buzz around a few of the slower pokes on the down hill and then we hit a nice flat portion which provides a great view of Pritchett’s Arch. Along the way, Bill chats with a lady from Long Island who is running her first marathon with her ultra marathon running friend until we arrive at the first aid station.
Bill after the turn around in Hunter's Canyon.

A little further on, more pictures are taken as we run above Hunter’s Canyon. I meet a guy from Kansas City who used to work for Sprint and shares my challenge of training for a mountainous, Utah, marathon in the Midwest. The next mile or two is the most enjoyable for me. The trail is mostly flat but winds up and down, over and around rocks all while looking out over Hunter Canyon. A this time I’m jealous of Molly because I want to look at the trail with one eye and the scenery with the other. But, my oscillating gazes comes to stop when we hit a traffic jam. A traffic jam? There’s no traffic jams in marathons! But we end up waiting in a line for 20-30 minutes waiting to descend through two large rock to the trail 8 feet below. Volunteers are helping the runners through, but it’s slow going. We look back and see Erin waiting in line a little ways behind us. This log jam is my second frustration but it gives me time to ponder; should I continue on with Tom and Bill and or wait for Erin and switch to the half marathon. It’s a tough call. My legs are already feeling like I’m at mile 19 but it’s only mile 9. As I’m pondering my future, out of the blue, Bill sings out, “Jitter bug” just like he was Georg Micahels from Wham. I thought Tom was going to roll down the mountain with laughter. One, it was so random and two, since when does Bill know a Wham song? Did Emmy Lou Harris cover Wake Me Up Before You Go Go? Still waiting in line, a short, 20 something girl behind Bill asks him if she can have a drink from one of his water bottles. It’s an odd request since we can see the next aid station in the canyon below. But, it’s also a scary request since with a long, green flow of snot coming out of one of her nostrils and a little bit a foam in each corner of her mouth. Bill reluctantly agrees and is relieve that the bottle didn’t touch her mouth but we’re all creeped out for the rest of our lives. We approached the bottle neck and scurry down and continue on. Eventually, a different volunteer arrives who knew something and showed runners a second route that speed things up by the time Shelly arrived.

Erin's view from the line.

This is what caused the traffic jam.

The annoying wait gave me a false sense of respite that tricked me into deciding I might as well finish what I started. Oh, boy. So with determination, or was it confusing, in my head and not much in my legs, I turned left instead of right towards miles 10 through 23. After a short jot down a dirt road we are required to run an out-and-back section in Hunter’s Canyon. Up to this point, Tom and Bill would run ahead of me take pictures while I leap frogged pass them and then catching back up to me. But towards the turn around point, I finally got out my phone and took a couple of pictures of Tim and Bill. The canyon was pretty but it was a single track trail with runners going up and down the trail with little room for passing. Frustration number three. Going up, I considered reversing course at the end of the out and back and joining the half marathoners. But, since we were almost to mile 14 I figured it won’t be that much shorter. Going left out of the canyon meant 13 more miles. Going right, 5 more miles. Now I’m no math major but but Bill in a math minor and he’s my brother so I know that’s an eight mile difference. Note to self: don’t try to do math while running. 
Looking up Burned Wall

Looking back down Burned Wall

View from the top. 

Sensing trouble, I down a Hammer Endurolytes at the mile 14 aid station but I should have taken two…or three…or four. We run through some tall willows or whatever and emerge to see a mile and a half ascent cut diagonally up Burned Wall. Looking up at what’s ahead a few bad words came into my head and likely out of my mouth. With no other option I push upward with Bill and Tom right behind me. The first quarter was okay, of course I walked the entire distance, as do most of the runners at this point. Did the leaders actually run up this entire section? They must have. Show offs. I reassure myself with the thought that after this accent i’s mostly downhill. That thought helps but then my calves began to cramp up. Angry calves with 11 miles to go? Great. Bill slips me a couple extra Endurolytes which help get me to the top. And, oh what a from there! Maybe not entirely worth the pain to get there but the view is amazing. And, I’m glad because Bill and Tom didn’t seem to mind taking a lot of pictures. The more pictures, the more rest for my legs. Tom even got cell reception so he sent a message to Shelly telling her how slow we, or I, were/was going but it never got to her. At this point, Shelly and Erin had already finished and were waiting for us at the finish line.
Erin crossing the finish line.

With over 10 miles to go we needed to move on so we head northeast towards the mile 17.5 aid station. It’s mostly flat here so my legs aren’t cramping and I felt better until about mile 16 when my calves balled up into tight little bundles. Bill and Tom waited for me, once again, and we snapped a few pics just before mile 17 aid station where were we greeted by a Sammy Hagar look-a-like and another volunteer. While we ate and drank the second volunteers told us the story about the race director, Danelle Ballengee, who, while out of a run, fell and broke her hip just above where we are. She crawled down into the ravine nearby for water but was too injured to crawl out. Fortunately, she was running with her dog, who eventually went one down the canyon and led the rescuers to her. It’s an amazing story. ( I would have enjoyed listening to more stores from these two volunteers but that would only prolong things. I jogged about a mile after the aid station, passed Bill and Tom talking to a biker, but then they caught up to me, pass me and continue onward up a slight incline. Meanwhile, my legs were done. I was done. Too bad because this part of the trail would was mostly on rock with the trail marked by white paint strips. 

My Heros.

Tom took this picture of Bill and me with Jackson Hole (not Wyoming) in the background.

Unknown runner getting through a tight spot near mile 17.

Bill is up there somewhere taking....

...this picture of Tom below heading to the mile 17.5 aid station.

The medial side of Bill’s knee is bothering him but he and Tom tap out a nice pace to the next aid station while I walk. Every attempt to jog causes an instant rebellion in my calves. Even my right chest muscle cramps a little bit and my left and right arms started to tingle. During this stretch a few mountain bikers passed me going the other way and each one told me “good job” or something similar. It’s nice of them to try and be encouraging but I new better. Just like a couple of faithful dogs, Bill and Tom are waiting for me at the mile 20 aid station. I thought they’d go ahead but Bill was chatting it up with one of the volunteers and Tom was eating orange slices that looked like lemons; no orange on them at all. They were completely yellow. But, they did taste like oranges and they were tasty oranges. 

Unknown runner with the LaSal Mountain's in the background.

All three of us left the aid station together but I told Bill and Tom that I was quitting at mile 23 when I got to the finish line. I was not going to the last 3 mile loop. With his bum knee, Bill said he’d do that same so Tom left us behind and charged onward to complete the full Monty, er marathon. Bill and I walked the last 2 miles above the Colorado river until we got to the finish area where we turned in our bibs, found Erin and Shelly, got some soup and waited for Tom. By this time, Erin and Shelly had been waiting four hours and Erin was a little sun burned. I felt bad they so long rather than driving back to the hotel to shower but how were they to know how darn slow I was going to be? I must have held Bill and Tom up by at least an hour or more. Runners are a loyal bread of human. Tom returned from the loop, made the steep ascent and crossed the finish line in 7:30. Well done, Dudley!
Tom climbing to the finish line that is just to the right of the picture.

We drove back to the Hampton where Bill showered and hit the road for home around 5:00 pm. Erin and I drove to the (not so super) Super 8, checked in, showered and met Tom and Shelly for dinner. I had a buffalo burger and sweet potato fries. Perfect. We wanted to buy a Moab T-shirt we would actually wear but all the stores were closed by the time were done eating. We did stop for some frozen yogurt before returning to the (still not so super) Super 8 and a super friendly front desk manager, I’ll call him Cam, who told us about  breakfast in the morning. “It’s Continental but it’s yummy.” When I stopped by later that evening to pick up an iron he responded, “Dressing up, eh?” None of your business, Mr. Yummy. I took a couple Tylenol PM and one more at 1:00 am and slept very well, thank-you very much.
Unknown runners. 

Because I turned left I saw beautiful scenery and learned my brothers are more mountain goats than I’ll ever be but they are very loyal goats. I learned Erin and Shelly were wise women to sign up for the half marathon. And they too, are very loyal wise women. I learned that on long runs, it’s important to run with someone who is loyal to you whether it be brothers, sisters, daughters, dogs or even goats. I also learned, or relearned, that sometimes you do thing for the ‘association’ and good association—in a car, in a restaurant, and particularly on the trail—can make rough times most enjoyable.


Lorie Emmett said...

Excellent report on an excellent day. Still impressed with the magnificent desert we ran through. I agree with you; Hunter Canyon rim was surreal. Great times. Thanks for some great pics since mine were not so good.

Tom said...

I agree it was a most excellent day with excellent association. I'm just ticked I wasn't eating the lemon like oranges at the other feed zones. Thanks for the good times kids.

emetski said...

You had me at "Monday would be a good day to die..." Great read. We'll done.