Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Moab Trail Marathon: Beautiful Brutality

After a couple of tough 100 mile trail races in October, mixed with a lot of travel, moving to Utah and squeezing in a beastly trail marathon in Moab, Honey Badger was feeling less than amused and was actually starting to care. He's looking forward to some time off.

Tapping his fingernails...losing his sense of humor about it all

I won't lie or try to hide my enthusiasm about it. I had a great race at the Javelina Jundred after finishing in 8th place overall with a sub 20 hour time. It was my last 100 miler of the year and I'm glad that string of races ended on such a high note. It will provide a focal point heading into 2013 and I can feel good about my running through a tough 2012 schedule. I'm pretty stoked about it all.

After wrapping things up after Javelina, Jo and I went on an exciting trek through the Southwest, hiking and trail running our way toward Moab for the Moab Trail Marathon. It was a trip of a lifetime and was nothing short of epic. Before getting onto my race report, I want to share a few highlights from the adventure.

After leaving Fountain Hills on Monday, we headed to Sedona, Arizona for hiking and running in Brins Mesa. Sedona is a beautiful place for enjoying the trails and very few people take advantage of them. Most people seem to enjoy the views from the inside of their cars. This is just fine by me!

Hiking to the top of the mesa 

Testing my legs with a bit of uphill running!

On Tuesday, we drove to Chinle, Arizona to hike Canyon De Chelly. This is a stunning canyon filled with ancient Indian ruins. We hiked to the White House ruin and visited all the overlooks on the south rim. It was amazing.

Sidenote...If you visit the canyon, make it a day trip. Staying the night in the Navajo Nation can leave you wanting for simple amenities, such as internet, decent food, and drinkable water. 

View of Canyon De Chelly before the hike to the bottom

White House Ruins

Wednesday took us to Cortez, Colorado to explore the Canyon of the Ancients. This canyon has more than 6000 ruins and is a beautiful hike. We loved it so much, we went back the following morning so I could run the entire length of the canyon. Jo dropped me off on the North side then drove around to the other end and hiked in to meet me on the south end of the canyon. It was a magical run. Loved this spot!

Jo and I in the Canyon of the Ancients

View in the canyon

After my trail run on Thursday morning, we drove to Moab for a few days of fun and racing. As soon as we arrived, we hiked to the Corona and Bow Tie arches outside Moab.

On Friday, we opted for the longest and most challenging hike in Arches National Park. This found us on the primitive trails in Devils Garden. We left before sunrise and had the entire technical section to ourselves. We saw several amazing arches and views along the way and had a great time together. I can't properly explain how amazing this hike was. It was stunning and very challenging.

Inside Arches National Park

In awe of it all

Hiking down a "fin"

Technical slickrock. Bad footing = long fall

We logged a lot of miles in epic surroundings and it was probably our best vacation ever. Life is all about adventure and we're all well served by going out and finding it. We found enough this week to keep us smiling for a while.

Thanks for indulging me! Now onto the race!!!

The Moab Trail Marathon is hard. I know I say that about a lot of my races, but I really mean it this time!

The Moab Trail Marathon is set on a series of steep, rocky, technical trails on the west side of town. This time of year, Moab has sweeping temperature changes. We were just above freezing at the start of the race and the temps rose into the 70's before we were done running. Altitude is also an issue for some runners as we work our way higher out of the canyons to the top of the mesas. All of these variables result in a tough day on the trail.

We were joined by my coworker and our good friend, Shasta Moore for this race. Shasta is becoming a very strong and talented distance runner and she takes this stuff seriously. No matter how hard I try to convince her otherwise.

The race started at 9:00 AM and we headed out on jeep roads and double track trail. All of which was rocky and rolling. The first 4 miles were very runnable, but tough. I settled into a comfortable pace and just rolled into the race while I assessed my physical abilities. Things seemed to be working right, so I ran accordingly.

At the 4 mile mark, we began a long, technical climb over slickrock and uneven trail. The race started to suck a little. After topping out, we were treated to a nice technical downhill section. I ran this section like a bit of an idiot, but made it all the way down without seriously hurting myself. Bonus!

Just before the 10 mile mark, the half marathon runners peeled off and headed out on their own adventure. Jo was among this group.

After some narrow single track trail and a bit of gravel road, we hit the big hill. Every race seems to have one of these and the Race Directors seem to put them in the most inconvenient locations. This one was placed just after the mid point and right after a nice section of reasonably flat and fast running. As if it were to say "WHOA...now I'm gonna hurt you". And it proceeded to do exactly that.

This uphill section is a bit longer than 2 miles and climbs more than 1200 feet. As a bonus, it's fully exposed to the sun and hotter than hell all the way to the top. It's rocky, nasty, technical and has a life threatening drop on one side. Welcome to Moab!

Starting up the big hill

It was a bit rocky

View near the top. Not AT the top...NEAR the top!

After cresting the top, I was hoping for an amazing downhill run to help make up for the long hike to the top. I was treated by some downhill, but not enough. There's never enough downhill. Never.

We ran through the sloping valley and then some rolling, rocky trails.

Have I mentioned the sand? The fine, powdery sand that seems impossible to gain traction in? Yeah...there was a lot of that too.

Loved this section of trail. It's too narrow to run though, so I did a cartwheel through it. Unfortunately, there was nobody there to take a picture of it. It was awesome.

We eventually made our way to the downhill I was wishing for. Except it wasn't what I wished for at all. It was too steep. Far too steep and much too rocky. This was not my happy trail that had I envisioned.

View of the Colorado River on my way down

We approached the finish line and I could hear the crowd from a mile a way. But it was a tease. Another common Race Director trick. We ran right passed the finish line for a final 5 mile loop through the worst part of the race before getting to the end of the torture and mind games.

Me passing right by Jo at the finish. "Hi Babe. Yeah...gonna run more. Yes...it sucks as bad as it looks. See you soon? I hope. "

This 5 mile loop had it all. Ladders, running through culverts, running though a cave, and two technical sections that required ropes and spotters. It was no joke!

Coming to a vertical cliff that required a rope assisted climb

I finally made it through all the tough stuff and hit the road headed to the finish.

I ran with this dude for a few miles and didn't know he was a genius until I saw this picture that Jo took. He stopped by his drop bag and retrieved a beer right before the finish. Only in trail running!

Like any good race, the Moab Trail Marathon finishes with a brutal uphill scramble. More punishment for good measure!

Running the last hill

Headed to the finish!!!

Knowing the course and the terrain, and given my physical condition, I was hoping for a sub 5 hour finish. I crossed the line in 5:02:24. This put me in the top 30% of finishers and higher if you count the starters that never made it. I can live with that.

After looking over my shoulder during the entire race, waiting on Shasta to pass me, the first time I saw her was at the finish. She's becoming a tough, talented runner and considering my tired legs, she had me running scared all day. I would never hear the end of it if she beat me. Ever!

Shasta taking the last hill to the finish!

Jo finished her race in 3:15:40 and had an amazing time. The half marathon course was just as challenging and brutal. Jo did a great job and I'm super proud of her. After the post race briefing, it seems that she enjoyed it more than I did and she'll be keeping an eye out for the 2013 registration to open. She's an enabler!

Me, Jo and Shasta after the finish

I think it goes without saying that the Moab Trail Marathon is an epic adventure in itself. But when coupled with a week of hiking the Southwest and running a fantastic 100 miler the previous weekend, this was a week that we'll never forget.

We saw places that will leave a lasting impression on us and we certainly accomplished things that we'll be proud of and will provide inspiration for more amazing adventures.

We have a couple of easy weeks before we travel to the east coast for the 50th running of the JFK 50 miler. I'm sure that will prove to be an amazing adventure as well!

Hope to see some of you on the trails soon!


  1. Hi Kelly, congrats on an awesome performance at the JJ100! Thank you for the report on the Moab Trail Marathon. I ran it this year; it was my 2nd marathon ever. Thanks for the validation that it was bloody brutal! My partner and I ran it in 5:50, which felt like a freakin' accomplishment. Torture and mind games, indeed. Ciao, and keep on just taking what you want in the house of bees.


    1. Laurel-
      Thanks for reading the report. It certainly was a brutal race and I'm happy to hear that you made it through the insanity! Congratulations on selecting a ridiculously challenging marathon for your second attempt and finishing it! Thanks for the kind comments.

      The house of bees doesn't stand a chance!