Thursday, November 8, 2012

Moab Trail Marathon and The Time I Almost Drank Beer

(A big thank you goes to Galen Garrison for so kindly allowing me to use some of his photos in this post)

I signed up for the Moab Half Marathon earlier this Summer before I had run two different 50K trail runs.  I knew I liked running in the trails more than on the road and so it hit me that just doing the half marathon was not going to satisfy my love of being out there in the gorgeous landscape long enough.  So I emailed the Race Director and was able to upgrade to the full trail marathon for only $10 dollars more.  What a bargain!!  I have decided recently that I'm done trying to be a fast runner.  It's just not part of what I can do and one of the main reasons I'm running is to enjoy my surroundings and enjoy the people around me at races.
Here I am at the starting line feeling a little bit nervous (ok, a lot nervous-not sure why, other than I just don't want to be the very last person crossing the finish line) and trying to scan the crowd for any familiar faces.  A friend of mine that lives in my same area was going to be here and sadly I looked and looked for her but never did find her.  She later told me she got to the starting line just merely a few minutes before the start.
It was a very cool morning and I kept debating whether to shed my jacket and hand it over to Mark.  I decided to keep it and ended up wearing that blasted thing around my waist after about two miles into the race.  What a pain to have that extra weight flapping in the breeze for the next 24 miles.  I could have left it at an aid station but we were told they didn't know when it would get brought back to the starting line area.  I really love this jacket and I didn't want to risk losing it.  I need to learn to just be cold for a little bit because I do warm up quickly after running only a few minutes.
My husband there in the blue shirt has never been to the starting line of a race with me before and so this was kind of fun to have him there seeing and feeling the whole atmosphere.  He was able to see me off  heading into the trails.  He has been very accepting and kind in letting me sign up for and run so many races this year. 
The starting line area was up Kane Creek Canyon that followed the Colorado River and if the rocks and hills we were seeing here were any indication of the rest of the scenery we would be seeing then it was going to be a great day of sightseeing and running.
I was surprised to see this familiar face of another runner friend.  His name is Galen Garrison and I met him for the first time at the Corner Canyon Ultra Marathon this Summer, my first 50K.  He helped pace another runner friend for her first 50K there too.   We were both lined up in wave 2 and took off at 9:05 a.m.  I set into a nice slow comfortable run and set out to have a nice long, happy day out on the trails.
As the sun came up the jackets and gloves started coming off.
This race was sanctioned by the USA Track & Field and served as the Trail Marathon National Championship.  There were runners from far and wide here.  It was fun to hear many different languages being spoken as I listened to people chatting as they would pass me.  Oftentimes in a race I will see certain people by leap-frogging with them back and forth.  There were 2 girls in bright orange pants whom I saw many times throughout the day.  The bright orange certainly couldn't be missed in a crowd.
There were a number of hills and mountains to climb and this would be the first of a few of them.  It was fun to look up and see a few at the top.
After reaching the top myself I was grateful to be where I was and not back at the bottom.  Little did I know what really lay ahead of me further down the trails.
I considerable myself to be a fairly relaxed person and don't get upset too easily.  If somebody makes me mad or frustrated I can generally brush it off and move on. I took this photo of the guy in the orange shirt because he just made me so mad.  Of course I didn't say anything to him but I should have.  I heard him say to the lady he was running with that "All those wussies in NYC should have been here in Moab instead and then they would actually get to run a marathon"  I couldn't believe what he was saying?!!  It wasn't anybody's fault they couldn't run the New York City Marathon.  They didn't choose to NOT run it.  The decision was made for them that the race was to be cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy and I think it was a very wise decision.  It's just too bad that the decision was made as late as it was. Anyway, I just wished I had had enough nerve to say something to him but I didn't.  It continued to bug me though as I also unfortunately leap-frogged quite a long time with him and his wife through the day.  I should have just reached over and snapped his head band and that may have made me feel better.

Hill climbing at it's finest around mile 4 area

Scenery around mile 5 of the race.  I thought the pillar in the distance was a cool sight and I was happy to be over the first big climbing of the morning and now getting to enjoy a little downhill running, my favorite kind.
 A view of the pillar after running past it.
Aid Station #1 around mile 6 and such a glorious sight to behold.  Candy!  Ok, honestly I like any kind of treats that aid stations provide.  It's just fun to be out running and then get to stop and indulge in all kinds of goodies.  Who wouldn't love that?  I grabbed some chips, pretzels, water, heed, oranges, and probably somebody's leftover Halloween candy. (haha)  Can I just put a little plug in for heed. It's so much more pleasant to drink than gatorade and was the perfect taste to satiate my thirst. 
I moved out of the way of the crowd and sat down to do my first of many shoe shake-outs.  Little did I know how much sand I was going to be running in. I'm pretty sure nothing could have prevented the build up of sand my shoes filled up with.  I will admit that sand in your shoes adds a little extra element of cushioning.
Leaving the first aid station and continuing on the journey.  I still had a loooong way to go.
We made so many turns up and down different canyons I was so lost as to which way was where?.  It's such a weird feeling to me to not know which direction is North.  Even with the way the sun was casting shadows I was still confused because it was morning and I didn't know if that made a difference as to where the shadows were cast versus the sun being high overhead.  Anyway, let's just say I was so grateful I was on a very well-marked course.  There was no way to get lost out here with the orange flags tied to shrubbery.  The race director told us that if we traveled longer than 30 seconds and didn't see a marking then turn around and go back.  Well, I'm happy to say that never happened to me.  I just feel sorry for the person who has to go back and take them all down. 
At this point on the trail I stopped and looked down and noticed a trail way down at the bottom with people on it.  I couldn't believe (well, yes I could) how far ahead the lead runners were.  It would probably take me another hour to get to the point they were at now.
Around mile 8 we get to start a big descent down this hill.  There was one point where a volunteer was there to help in a tricky area.

Happy to have descended safely! 

While descending this section of the trail I could hear music playing and knew that the next aid station
was coming up.  The music was wafting up the canyon walls and echoing around me and it was so much fun to hear it and it certainly put a little pep in my step.  Sadly, when I got to the bottom they were packed up and gone.  I'm glad I could "borrow" this photo from a fellow runner.
Also at this aid station around mile 9 1/2 was to be where the full and half marathon parted ways. Sadly, this is also where the crowds dwindled drastically.  For the next 16+ miles seeing people around me all the time just wasn't going to be happening.  I was a little bit nervous about that but still grateful that the trail was marked so well.  
This aid station was fully stocked with plenty more of the same treats and additional ones as well.  I loaded up and basked in some more deliciousness.   It was at this aid station also that they were handing out free beer.  A little bit before we got to this aid station a sign was letting runners know "free beer ahead".  Well, since I'm not a beer drinker this didn't excite me at all.  I was enjoying my treats and had drank some water and some heed and then headed off to use the one and only port-a-potty on the whole trail.  When I came back (wasted about 10 precious minutes in a line-not fun) I decided to load up my hydration vest with water and I wanted to drink some more heed. As I went to reach for the heed I noticed it looked a little foamy and darker than when I had drank it before.  I picked up the cup and swirled it a little bit and nearly took a drink when I realized this was NOT heed, but beer!! Yikes!! What the heck?  I'm not sure why the beer was sitting right by the heed drinks but I promptly put it back and made sure I got the right stuff. I can just see the headlines now "Utah Woman Trail Runner Drunk While Running Marathon, From Her First Swallow of Beer"    
I then continued on the course following a dirt road for about a mile and a half to another aid station that informed us we needed to make a one mile trek up a canyon to make a punch in our bib for that turn around spot.
Along the way on this dirt road I turned and looked up some of the cliff walls to behold rock climbers way above me.  I stopped and took a more zoomed in photo.  I can adamantly say I will never be a rock climber.  No way, no how!
This was one of the turn around spots and place where we punched our bibs.  It was at this point as I came out of the canyon that I started counting how many people were behind me as they went into the canyon.  I knew I wasn't in last place and I wanted to keep it that way.
After I came out of this canyon I nibbled a few more treats and settled in to a slow jog up the dirt road again. We would be next running in a patchy area of trees and shrubbery and this would be the last section of shade for a very long time, although the temperatures were mellow and so I wasn't concerned about the sun. This area below is also right before we start the huge ascent lasting for 2 miles.
More Climbing
Looking back on where I had come from.  The greenery in the far distance was the spot where we experienced the last shade for awhile. I passed this man who had sat down to take a breather and asked him if he needed anything?  Salt tabs, snacks, anything?  He just looked at me funny and said "No".  OK then I'll keep moving on.  Maybe he was mad that he was getting passed by a girl. Haha.
It was also in this area that my phone finally was getting some service and so I texted some family and friends to help pass the time as I continued to climb. There was no way I was going to be doing any running up this massive beast of a hill!
Still climbing and wondering where the top of this mesa is??
If you follow down the middle of this valley where the greenery is then you know where the river is running.   Pretty awesome sight!
Another look back at where I had come from. Can you spot the vehicle down there somewhere? Or was it a barn?  Shoot, I can't remember.
I almost threw this photo into the delete pile and realized I could see a reflection of my arm in my glasses and my snot band on my wrist.  Yes, my nose is a constant faucet as I run and a wrist band is a great way to catch it. Haha! I bet you didn't want to know that?
Finally at the top and enjoying the panoramic views.
I was a little careless as I finally got to the top and was maneuvering under a rock overhang area.  I stood up a little too early and konked my head.  YOW!!  You could say I saw a few stars and a few tears welled up.  Then I was just mad at myself and let out a good cry for a few minutes.  Then it was time to suck it up and keep going. Nobody was going to baby me or kiss it better out here in the middle of nowhere.
Way off in the distance is an area called Potash that you will come to 16 miles after driving up the canyon from Moab on the regular road.
As I came to this area of the trail and rounded a corner I saw all these off-road vehicles up on the mountain.  I was so astonished at these people's bravery in being up here on wheels. One false move and they would be over the edge.  Even more scary was the number of small children with their parents.  Crazy!!
This little guy was holding on tight as his daddy was trying to get up over this section.
The guy got high-centered and stuck and I didn't stick around to see what happened.  I was too nervous already!
After another aid station or two and enjoying some real coke, (trust me, this is a real treat when you're out on the trails and not a soda drinker)  it was time to see the Colorado River and run along side it for a little ways
When we were back down in the valley we could see the starting/finishing line area but this was not to be the end yet.  We would at this point only be to mile 21.  We then had a 5 mile loop we had to make to finish the race.  This is also the aid station where I heard runners earlier on in the race saying that if you didn't make it by a certain time then you would be pulled from the race.  I must have made it because nobody stopped me.  We then had quite a few obstacles to get up, over and around.   
I had climbed big mesas, crossed small streams, ran in ankle deep sand, maneuvered in and around large boulders and now to climb a ladder just seemed a little out of my comfort zone.  There was a friendly volunteer there guiding me.  He said I could climb either ladder.  Was I a farmer or a painter?  Take my pick.  They were both bolted securely to the pipe so there was nothing to fear, other than falling off the ladder.
I came to a little cave and ran through that.
When I got to this ladder the crowds were super thinned out and I saw nobody around.  I would have to climb this thing alone. I was so grateful it was firmly fastened to the rock.  Who would have thought that climbing a ladder could feel so intimidating?
This part of the trail was a little bit scary.  I was grateful again for the kind volunteers who guided me and told me exactly what to do to get up this portion. 
The next area I caught up to and passed another runner who was struggling.  I offered snacks or water and was politely turned down again.  He said he was having stomach issues and so I encouraged him to eat something.  I've been there and done that and even though food is the last thing you want it really is what will help. He said he was just going to try to stay up with me, which he did.  We stayed pretty much together for the rest of the 4 ish miles left.  He ate and drank at the final aid station and he was feeling better afterwards.
This is looking down at the finish line area after I had passed it at mile 21.  I'm probably at about mile 22 here.
I was still confused about the shadows and which way was North.  I know I'm weird. It was also fun to see a very tall, slender me! (haha)  I wanted to take a photo with the white markings on the rocks as well.  Once again, there was no questioning which direction to go.
The orange flags were in abundance as well.
This section was another freaky moment for me.  I'm not comfortable relying on a rope to help me down some rocks.  The helper told me exactly where to put my feet and was very patient in helping me down.  After this it was one last final aid station then a short one mile run up a road to another out and back where we had to punch our bib again.
Then it was back to the aid station again we were just at and then a flat jaunt through a huge field and back through some trees and up a small hill to the finish line.
I crossed the finish line in 7 hours 45 minutes and 21 seconds.
It was truly a humbling, exhilarating, adventurous, thrilling day.  This was definitely a top favorite trail run and one I hope to be able to do again next year.
After heading back to the motel for my traditional ice bath and some chocolate milk, we headed off to dinner at a yummy little Mexican restaurant in Moab. I was grateful for a rounded booth to sit in where I could rest my legs up on the cushions while waiting for dinner to come.
My cute son Cooper came on the trip with us.  He's always fun to have around.


lisapenn said...

WOW! I can't even begin to imagine how beautiful that is in person. You asked me if I liked trail running or road. I have to say I have never been on a trail run. We definetely don't have trails like that here in the south!! If I ever come out west, I am going to have to do that race. That looks like SOO much fun! Congratulations Susette!

Unknown said...

I want to do the half marathon next year!! Those pictures were awesome! That's the kind of stuff we do every day here...only I'm not running most of the time. :)

"This is Living" said...

So beautiful! You really have me re-thinking this trail running stuff, I am just tired at trying to get faster on the road, and really (like you said) for me its about the experience the people and the beautiful scenery. Love that you are so adventurous

Brenda said...

What a great post! The pictures were a thrill to so. I love that part of the country. Congratulations!

Brenda said...

oops .... thrill to SEE.

Jerilee E. said...

Beautiful race, great pictures! Congrats on completing another race! I would love to do this someday- looks like a lot of fun.

Yo Momma Runs said...

Ok, just wow. That is an amazing course. And I love that you upgraded to the full because the half just wasn't quite enough trail for you. That makes me feel so excited for my trail 50K in February. I've actually felt kind of scared to do more than a half on trails because they are so hard to me. But I'm trying to think of it more as an adventure than a race. This post definitely helps me see the adventure in it.

Murph said...

A Marathon with ladders and ropes? Crazy! Good job on the finish.

Julia said...

i cant think of a more amazingly beautiful or adventurous place to run than Moab and you seriously got the best pictures ever! and dominated! great time Susette! i am so impressed and inspired by your trail running adventures:)

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

What a scenic race! You had to climb a ladder and run through a tunnel?! I'd love to run that marathon, but it looks tough! Congrats on finishing!

wendy said...

I need to pick up my jaw from the floor....THAT TRAIL. YOU RAN THAT.
What an endurance test.
The scenery was gorgeous though.

funny story about the beer.

Outdoorpartner said...

Thanks for posting all your pictures. I was about 20 minutes in front of you, but I would not have made the cut off if I took the time to take as many photos as you did!

This was my favorite marathon of all time; I really enjoyed the scenery. The obstacles were a fun diversion for the last 5 miles

Thanks to your post I can remember the race!

Heatherlyn said...

I am always so impressed that you document these runs so well AND make them interesting to read about. I think I laughed out loud at the thought of you smacking orange-shirt-guy (which, of course, you didn't do, but it was funny to imagine). The scenery was beautiful! And, I, too, would need a snot band. My nose often runs when I run or walk fast ... or if it's chilly. And you look totally beautiful!

Doran & Jody said...


Gina Horkey said...

I wish I lived in your area and could come on some of these adventurous runs with you! I love that you're not worried about being speedy and just really enjoy yourself. You must be in amazing shape to be able to do all of that climbing!

My Blog said...

I was searching for a scenic race to do on my 40th and signed up for this one for 2013. Then I found this blog and I'm even more excited about it. Thank you I loved your write up and pictures. Will you be doing it again this year? I'm flying in from Massachusetts.