I run in Moab frequently enough that people know me. By people, I'm mostly referring to hotel clerks and bartenders. Which makes sense, because after breaking down my monthly operating expenses, these are two areas that always blow the budget. One more than the other.
Deciding to run the Amasa Trail Race made perfect sense because it was neatly nestled on a weekend in between the American River 50 miler and the Zion 100 miler. When I signed up for Amasa, it was a 14.5 mile trail race, which works out well between the two ultras on my race calendar. It's a distance that won't overwork my body, yet it will help my legs remember what to do when we run up and down the mountains. At some point, shorty before the race, the Race Director realized it was actually a 15.5 mile race! I considered making a big deal about this by whining about my training plans and having to cover the unexpected distance...but then I remembered I'm a trail runner and we don't whine about an extra mile here or there.
I was also happy to have Jo joining me during this race. It seems she's usually crewing for me during an ultra, or running a shorter distance during the same event. But in this race, she was lining up for the same distance, thereby, becoming a direct competitor. She too would have to be crushed by me! I love her dearly, but it's race day!
Bib number 145? Random...
I won't lie. Let me rephrase that...I WILL lie, but not about this. I had big plans for this race. BIG PLANS! I know it seems counterintuitive, because it's a weekend between two big ultras, but this is a race that I had planned to do really well at. It weighed heavily on me as the race grew nearer and nearer. I had studied the entire field, researched race results, evaluated the course conditions, checked weather forecasts, and trained for a solid race. I had ever reason to expect a podium spot.
Failure is healthy.
Me and my bride before the race
I would never advertise that I wanted to place in the top 2 or 3 of a race, and I never shared my plans with anybody except Jo. I kept my plans quiet as I toiled away with my little secret.
My plans failed to account for one fact. A fact that should be burned DEEP into my brain by now. The fact that I do some stupid stuff sometimes. In fact, the use of the word "sometimes" is being too kind. I do stupid stuff with an alarming amount of frequency.
Securing a position in the very front of the start. One of many mistakes today.
This race features three distances, 6.5 miles, 9.5 miles and 15.5 miles. We all start at the same time and follow the same course for the first several miles.
If I was smart, I would lay back until the shorter distances peel off, then I would get serious about my day. My ADD and OCD would never allow such a thing, so I ended up racing every runner in the field.
The first few miles of the race were a gradual incline on Jeep roads. A mixture of slick rock and sandy roads. Very typical terrain for races in Moab and I fell right into a rythym that I'm familiar with. I don't wear a GPS when I race, but I knew I was running a bit faster than I should, so I slowed a bit around mile 3.
Heading to the top of the first ascent
Jo, memoralizing her feeling about the first climb!
There is only one aid station on this course and the runners in my race hit it twice. This is also the point in the race where the 3 distances part ways. As we got to the aid station, I passed without stopping and made the turn onto my trail. I was the ONLY runner heading that way. I didn't know if I was leading the race or if I was dead last, but I was suddenly alone.
This section of the course is a lollipop loop that takes us around and over a large rock formation before returning us to the lonesome aid station we had just passed through. The terrain varied wildly. This is the toughest part of the course.
After some meandering, rolling terrain, we started a rapid and ridiculous descent off the mesa.
View prior to litterally dropping off the cliffs
The trail sort of ends at a chute that takes us down a boulder strewn cliff. After some internal debate about the viability of the course markings, I descended this nasty little hill.
We go down THIS!
Jo's friend Angie, debating the implications of the descent.
View from halfway down
After coming off the mesa, assuming you're in one piece and can still move, we ran along a sand laden jeep trail. This was loose, red rock dust that bogged us down like dry beach sand. Not fun...not fun at all.
View of the course through the valley
After circumnavigating the rock formation, we had to head right back up that ridiculous rock chute that we had recently, run/ slid/ fallen down. Not an appealing situation.
Back up from where we came!
After finishing this loop, we returned to the (only) aid station on the course. I stopped and topped off my bottle with HEED and headed right back out.
The rest of the course details are sketchy because I rarely found myself on the actual course.
Somehow, between the final aid station and the finish, I got lost 3 times. I'm pretty well known for getting off trail and wandering around, so it came as no surprise to me at all. There are no course markings that could prevent this from happening. It just happens. Like lemmings rushing into the sea, or whales migrating south, or DC electing a crack smoking mayor...it's just something that I can't explain.
The first two times I got lost, it was relatively minor and I recovered within a reasonable amount of time. The third time I got lost, I seemed to have perfected it because it stuck. I ascended all the way to the top of the adjacent mesa (slowly) before realizing I was WAY off course. I had suspected my mistake early on, but my brain failed to take the situation seriously and we continued to amble through the desert like Moses trying to free his people.
In all, I calculated 45 minutes of diversion. A huge mistake for a guy that had planned to do some damage at this race. But in all seriousness, who cares? I was out running, having fun and I was in Moab.
This was me for at least 45 minutes
(Thanks JC. You were dead on!)
I eventually rounded the mesa and could see the river below, and I knew the river led to the finish line. AND...I knew this was going to be a lot of technical downhill running, which I love!
Peering down at the Colorado River
After getting lost, I had resigned myself to something less than a great finish. I was a little irritated at first, but quickly got over it. I made the best of the situation by bombing down the cliffs toward the finish.
I sailed down the mesa, cruised along the last flat section and hammered the final hill to the finish.
I was greeted by Chris Martinez, the Race Director. We exchanged greetings and I lunged into the details about my day and why I had taken so long to finish. He was clearly worried when he learned I got lost so many times, but I assured him it was due to my own dumb ass. He seemed to accept this easily enough.
As I started to head to the truck to grab a drink, Chris stopped me and handed me an award for 3rd Male Overall. I was stunned, expecting to be WAY out of the awards after being lost for so long, but I'll take an award any day!
I settled down, relaxed and waited for Jo to finish her race. While exchanging war stories with other runners, I saw Jo WAY off in the distance, coming off the mesa. She was still running and looked good on the technical downhill.
Jo coming to the last short climb to the finish!
Jo finishing the race!
When Jo finished, Chris awarded her the trophy for 3rd Masters Female! We're both leaving with HARDWARE!
Finisher's medals and awards!
Last week, after running the American River 50, I featured a hydration pack from Gregory Packs that I had used during the race. Gregory was kind enough to send me a sampling of their full line of running gear, and I am kind enough to use it and comment on it in return.
This weekend, I used their handheld bottle during the race. Let's face facts, when you buy a handheld, you're really buying the carrier and maybe the lid. Nobody cares about the bottle.
The carrier fits very well and I like the Velcro adjustment for the strap. Most other bottles use a buckle and it tends to loosen up during the run. This bottle carrier cures that problem. But I do not like the very limited storage in the carrier. It's smaller than every brand I've used and would be a problem during a 50 or 100 miler due to a lack of storage. I also really dislike the zipper on the storage pocket. It zips from the bottom to the top, which means you're opening the BOTTOM of the pocket while running. If you have a few items in there, they can slip right out onto the trail.
I also wouldn't use the lid again. It evidently has a pressure release feature and my Endurolyte Fizz creates pressure in the bottle. As a result, the bottle would randomly release a full stream of my drink like OLD FAITHFUL! I sprayed Fizz on at least 3 people and I shot myself in the eye twice.
I do really like the way the carrier releases from the bottle. It has a small buckle that unsnaps and the carrier slides right off.
For the most part, Gregory is doing good stuff in the realm of hydration for trail runners. It's definitely worth checking out on your own.
While the weekend wasn't everything we had hoped for, it was still a weekend in Moab and that's pretty tough to beat. If I could run anywhere, I think this place would be at the top and I always have fun here.
The next week will be focused on resting up for the Zion 100. I'm not planning a fast 100 miler, but I do have some lofty goals for that race and want to be fully prepared to meet them. But as you can see from this race, stuff doesn't always work out!
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you all out on the trails soon!