Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moab 33k Sweep

Race #5 of 2013 
The Moab Red Hot 55K/33K.  How can I sum this up in a short explanation?  Well, honestly I can't.  If you've read my blog long enough you know I can get a bit talkative about my adventures and the great fun that I have, especially out on the trails.  So here goes!

I got onto Facebook on a early, Saturday morning to discover the race director for this event was asking for helpers in sweeping the course.  I was immediately interested and asked for more details.  He replied back with a few instructions of what it required to sweep a course and I knew instantly I wanted to do this.  I just had to ask my hubby, but I knew what his answer would be.  He loves to get out of town just as much as me and so this was a no-brainer.  He's such a good guy!

There would also be another sweeper working along side me because the RD likes there to be two people out there working together.  I'll admit I was a bit nervous about this because I'm not the fastest runner, and I just knew this was going to be some young, slender, fast, little gal.  Sure enough!  She was all that.  But more than that she was just as sweet and wonderful as could be.  Her name was Erin and she came all the way up from Flagstaff, Arizona.  The thing that worked so well was that we had to stay at the very tail end and couldn't pass the slowest runners out there.  Or basically we would be taking down their trail markings and then they would be lost wandering in the wilderness. 

The assignment was simple.  Be at the very end of the pack, don't pass the last runners, and clean all the plastic flagging off of the trees, bushes, rocks, dead wood etc. and deposit it at the next aid station.  I would get to enjoy the beauty of an organized trail run, complete with aid stations and other people out there running too.  To me there's nothing worse than running alone in unknown territory, or even known territory.  I much prefer to run with others.  I just plainly feel more safe.   
The race started at 8:00 a.m. for the 55K course and 8:30 a.m. for the 33K course.  Because of the way the course was marked we only had to clean the 33K course and we had to get to the first aid station and wait until all the 55K people had come through. They had a cut-off time of 12:30 p.m. and so I didn't need to start running until about 11:15 a.m. to get to the first aid station about 4 1/2 miles in.  It's a little confusing but by the time I got there, there were still 55K people coming in from a large loop they had to do.  The aid station I went to would be about mile 18 for them.  I waited and cheered in the runners and visited with the other volunteers there.  You can see here behind me the starting line and not a single soul in sight. That felt a little weird to start a run with everybody long gone for hours already into the race.  I wasn't concerned though.  Erin showed up at the starting line soon after and we started our journey.  She passed me very early and I knew I would see her hanging out at the first aid station waiting for the cut-off time too.
This is a picture of the very first hill we had to climb.  It was a bit slippery but fortunately was the worst part of the whole run and only lasted about a mile. Once we were up and over this ridge the snow and ice was all melted for pretty much the rest of the way.
Arriving at aid station #1 about 4.4 miles in and with about 15-20 minutes to spare. (Mile 18 for the 55K)  Erin was there and a few runners and the volunteers.  They quickly gave us a bright orange vest we would have to wear for the remainder of the day, and also a radio that I stashed away in my pack to use only if we had an emergency.  (Which we kind of did later on and then didn't know how in the world to use it!)  We waited until 12:30 p.m. and for the final 55K runner and then we began our journey together.  We started pulling the bright pink and black striped flagging off of everything it was tied to as we ran along.  Sometimes it came off easy and sometimes it took some more fidgeting with.  I got a few scratches and pokes along the way but nothing critical.  
I have read so many times about trail runners and the issue of "It's not IF you fall but when".  Well, I always thought to myself "Whatever.  I'm so slow and careful, that will never happen to me."  Well,  today was my turn for that to happen.  I hit a slick rock that had a little too much sand on it and down I went.  I gouged a nice piece of skin off of the palm of my hand and scraped up my knee.  I was grateful for the long pants I had on for that protection.  Now after a few days the hand is healing nicely and the bruising is going down.  Falling is no fun and I hope it never happens again, but I'm sure it will.  Shoot!

Getting to aid station #2 had so many rewarding views.  The climbs were a little challenging but it just felt so great being outside running again.  I have been cooped up indoors on the treadmill all Winter up North where I am.  I loved being South in Moab and enjoying the sunshine, blue skies, and perfect weather!! (about 50 degrees)
There were many times I had to just stop and search for the next flagging.  I'm grateful Erin had young eyes because she usually saw them before me.  I can't imagine how anyone could find their way back to civilization if they were lost wandering out here.  It was a bit comforting knowing we had something to guide us along the way.  Hmmm......there could be so many metaphors for life used with this concept.
Getting to aid station #2 was at about 8.1 miles into the course.  We were treated with delicious foods and treats and friendly volunteers.  There were also a few runners straggling about and when they saw us they knew there was no more dawdling.  They knew we were the final people and that they better get a move on if they didn't want us running on their heels.  It was actually kind of funny when we would come upon some people.  They emphatically let us know they didn't like us being so close by. "Nooooo.......stay back!" one woman in particular would say each time she saw us.  We would try to maintain some distance and would run back down the trail, or run side to side on the trail to keep a distance.  Erin was a super strong runner and would even disappear for a long time in the opposite direction so that she could get a lot of miles in for the day.  I tried that too for awhile but didn't quite have her stamina and strength.  When we got to the top of the mountain near aid station #2 we took a few photos to let the runners gain some ground before we started in on them again.  This is looking down on highway 191 that leads right into Moab to the South.
I like to maintain some distance from ledges.  That's a scary place to be.  It was cool to look down and see where we had come from though.
This is my cute little partner, Erin.  We chatted about families, running, interests, and life in general.  I loved that she was just so peaceful to be around.  There was a certain point in our run when we came upon somebody REALLY, REALLY sick.  He was just sitting down drinking a red bull and trying to get some energy.  Erin just kept her cool, and I tried to maintain some distance so I didn't get splashed on.  I was really grossed out though and had to keep from being vocal.  The poor guy was just wasted and should have ended his journey at aid station #3.  We really thought he would when we got there but he loaded up on food and drink and continued on.  He was determined to finish this.   We were starting to get a little irritated because he was slowing up our assignment drastically.  Up to this point we had seen other runners and even got to run with them and visit and laugh and have a good time as we pulled the flagging off.  But this poor guy was clearly not going anywhere fast by any means.  We saw no other runners for the remainder of the course. (about 5 miles) They were long gone as we waited for this guy to try and feel better, but it just never happened. I kept asking him if he needed anything.  I had plenty of fuel in my bag and pretzels but he kept telling me no.
The sun was heading down in the Western sky and I was starting to get a little bit nervous about getting to the finish line before dark.  Aid station #3 was mile 15 and we still had 5 miles to go.  I just didn't see how this guy was going to go 5 more miles in his condition.  We had to keep encouraging him to pick up the speed and that we weren't going to make it before dark.  He didn't act concerned and kept saying, "I'm glad there's not a closing course time"  Well, we finally had to tell him there was and that we didn't have lights and we needed to hurry.  This race was supposed to be over at 6:00 p.m.
You can see the sun in my glasses is on the horizon and once it goes down I knew we only had a little over a half hour until we were in the dark.  The RD told us that if we get near the end and there are stragglers then we could just pass them and finish.  So Erin and I felt like we needed to just continue without this guy.  He was only walking now and showed no interest in running at all.  We told him goodbye and he said "Please don't send any jeeps up here after me, I want to finish". We had to give him credit for his determination.  So we left and continued taking flagging down.  There were a few times I felt a little nervous leaving him out there to find his way and so Erin was so good to run back to find him and he would just be sitting down on a rock resting!! What??? Didn't he realize the predicament he was putting us and him in??  Gahhh!!! By now we were so frustrated.  She made him come with her and caught back up to where I was waiting and we continued trying to hurry him along.  Finally with about 2 miles left we knew he would be ok and that we were nearing the end.  It was at this point that I pulled out the radio they had supplied us with at aid station #1 and I tried to use it to get some advice or help with what to do with this guy.  I talked and talked into that thing but got no response.  I doubt I was even using it correctly. What a lot of good that did to haul all over a mountain for 22 miles and not even know how to use it huh?  We were just so nervous about leaving him alone and being in the dark with no lights.  He kept insisting that he would be alright and that we could go on.  He said he had done 5 ultras and that this one was by far the hardest.   He still insisted on finishing and not getting any help, so on we went.

We could look way down from a high mesa we were on and see the finish line area and even a couple of people were coming up the trail.  The sun was completely down and it was definitely dusky outside.  We crossed the finish line area about 6:10 p.m. and when I looked up the results on the webpage I learned that the guy we left behind finished around 6:25 p.m. I was pretty worn out and didn't wait to see him come through.  There were plenty of people at the finish line to do that.  I'm just grateful he made it down off that mountain.
This was taken around mile 16 with 4 miles left to go and less than an hour before the sun would be gone!

So, you may ask, did I love this assignment of sweeping the course?  Most definitely!  I would do this in a heartbeat again.  I felt bad for that poor sick runner, but clearly, he should have called it quits at the last aid station.  It was just an odd predicament he put us in trying to make a decision of getting off the mountain before dark and leaving him alone, or staying with him and being completely in the dark and possibly getting lost ourselves.  It all worked out in the end and I had a superb time regardless.  

Because I did this assignment of sweeping the course the RD is now giving me a free race of my choice.  He has a few different events throughout the year but this Red Hot Run is looking the most appealing right now.  You just may see me back here again in 2014 running the full 55K!


Amy @ Run Mom Run said...

Great job! I'm sure you were fantastic! It's hard to balance people's determination against safety, but I'm super glad it all worked out in the end! Have fun picking your free race!

Jerilee E. said...

I'm glad you made it in before dark! It would be scary to be stuck in the desert after the sun went down.
Still, sweeping a course sounds like fun!

Stacey Runs and Eats said...

I agree, what a predicament he put you guys in. Glad to hear that you had a good time regardless!

Cory Reese said...

Your pictures are amazing. I think Moab is one of the coolest places on Earth. It would be fun to be involved in a race like that but not have all the pressure. Well done!

Jess's Journey to the Land Of Skinny said...

I want to be with you in 2014 running that 55k! Sounds fantastic. Congrats on being a half marathon pacer.

I can't wait till we run together!

susette said...

Jess!!!! Yes please run it with me!!! That would be the coolest!!