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!


Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Moab Red Hot 55k: The Impossible DNF

Have you ever had one of those days when everything just fell into place perfectly? When the running Gods were smiling down on you and you were having the best race ever? I have. But this wasn't one of those days. 

Crap. Nothing more. Just CRAP.

Due to some untimely changes in my daily routine, I had been feeling pretty rough lately. I've been eating at odd times and losing sleep. Both were taking a toll. I woke up on race day feeling terrible, but committed to getting this thing done.

Pre-Race with Good Friends

I've run the Moab Red Hot 55k before, so I knew exactly what was waiting for me on the course. Pain mostly. And maybe some variable, and probably annoying weather.

I love this race because it brings out a great crowd of ultra runners. The field is usually stacked with a lot of talent, as this is the "Spring Opener" for a lot of runners. It's definitely not a race that will allow me to be competitive, but it's still a pretty awesome experience. I intended to run it as a training run and my only goal was to have fun and hopefully finish faster than the previous year.


The course has variable terrain. Some loose sand, packed sand, gravel, boulders, and of course, plenty of slick rock. The entire race is run on Jeep trails, so just imagine where you would take a borrowed Jeep and that's pretty much it.

After some pre-race mingling, the Race Director, Chris Martinez, sent us on our way.

We're Off!

The first climb is almost instant. It's not a terrible ascent, but it's long and crowded. I ran behind Jenn Shelton for a while, wondering what kind of day she would have. My good friend, Ryan Lauck was running by my side and we were making short work of the climb together. That first hill does a great job of sorting the field out. It forces runners to find their place in a hurry.

Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography 

Ryan started to pull ahead of me and I didn't even attempt to keep pace with him. I knew he had a grand plan for the day, and I certainly did not.

 Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography 

I eventually fell in with Kendall Wimmer, a good friend that I seem to share trail with whenever we're running the same race. I met Kendall at the Bear 100 last year and I credit him with saving several minutes on my finish time because he practically drug me the last three miles, refusing to allow me to walk. I only complied because Kendall is a lot bigger than I am.

"Running" with Kendall Wimmer 

 Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography 

We came to the first aid station and passed right on through without slowing down. We were all chatting and enjoying the run. At least superficially. I was already having trouble but was hoping it would pass.

My stomach felt bloated and it was painful to run. I tried to ignore it, hoping it would work itself out.

It didn't.

We were eventually joined by a couple of other northern Utah runners, one of which was Jen. Jen is a newly sponsored Hammer Nutrition runner, so I'm somewhat partial to her in a race. She's a very tough athlete and an amazing person to know. I was really enjoying our time on the trail, but it wasn't enough to take my mind off the pain brewing in my guts.

I was beginning to worry about it at mile 9.

Photo by Kendall Wimmer

For the sake of complete disclosure, I really had to crap. There's just not a nice, flowery way to say it. I can sugarcoat it all day long, but at the end of the day, there's no way to put a good spin on it.

Part of my brain tried to convince me it was just gas, but I wasn't about to rely on it just yet.

Every runner knows this....NEVER Trust a Fart

I took a big shot of Hammer peanut butter gel around mile 10. This was my first calorie intake of the run, but I had been sipping some water and Endurolyte Fizz from my hydration pack. The gel and water seemed to be compounding the bloating. I needed to get this fixed fast.

Photo by Kendall Wimmer

Photo by Kendall Wimmer

I began to fade as the pain grew more intense. I stopped to relieve some pressure on my bladder, hoping that would help, but when I stopped running, the pain in my stomach intensified.

Slowly. Grinding. To. A. Halt...
Photo by Kendall Wimmer

Photo by Kendall Wimmer

I had finally had enough! I pulled off the trail, totally unprepared for a pit stop of this "nature", but I didn't care. I would improvise. Like the Marines. But I bet they keep toilet paper handy. So I'll improvise like a bear in the woods instead.

To my utter astonishment, I found the perfect spot waiting for me. Seriously, this couldn't have been planned any better. Just off the trail, behind a large juniper, I found a downed log and a plant with large, soft leaves. It was natures perfect toilet. I was impressed.

I quickly wrapped up my business and hopped back on the trail. I made a quick stop to pull a few cactus needles out of my left foot (VERY normal thing for me), then I resumed my run.

Things were going well for the first 6 or 7 feet. Then suddenly, the recently vacated area in my body was inundated with a new resident. A bigger, more eager resident.

I plodded along, now seriously annoyed and in pain.

Photo by Kendall Wimmer

I reached the aid station and stopped long enough to tear about 150 feet of paper towel from a roll sitting on the table. As I ran down the trail, the stream of paper towel in my wake must have been a beautiful site.

I was scanning the desert for another PERFECT spot to take a pit stop. This section of the course has very sparse vegetation and I wasn't having any luck finding a place to pull over. I don't think there was enough cover to provide privacy to a Jackalope, let alone an almost full grown man.

I eventually found a spot that would suffice and I hurried through the process. Well...I tried to hurry. The new arrival in my lower GI was evidently reluctant to vacate. I begged and pleaded but faced a lot of unnecessary resistance. After a considerable amount of time, there was some concession on the part of Mr. Hanky, but not nearly enough to improve my situation much. I reluctantly went on my way.

I had lost so much time by this point, that I found myself running among unfamiliar faces. I could tell I was deep in the pack now and still in pain. My chances of improving my position weren't looking good.

Over the next few miles, I stopped 4 more times to try to relieve the pain and I had almost no luck.

My only solace was the natural beauty of Moab. This race course is a beautiful place to run and I tried to focus on the beauty, reminding myself that a bad day on a Moab trail still beats most every other day.

I was still unable to eat and I was only able to drink small amounts of fluid. This only compounded my problems.

When I finally made it to the mile 22 aid station, I had already decided to DNF. There was no way to talk me out of it. My mind was made up. I was DONE.

Or I thought so anyway. Here's the conversation that ensued:

Me: I'm not going to finish. How do I get out of here.
Volunteer: Just head the way your going and you'll find the finish line.
Me: How far?
Volunteer: 12 miles.
Me: Do you know what DNF means?
Volunteer: That's the only way out of here.
Me: How about I drop over the cliff right behind you?
Volunteer: You better have a parachute in that hydration pack!
Me: You're new to this, aren't you?

With the devastating news that I couldn't get off the course, I started walking toward the finish line, trying to scan for a way down and onto a road. It seemed hopeless. I kept heading to the edge of the cliff, hoping to find a gentle way to the bottom. Nothing.

I hunted for ways to DNF but none became apparent. I pondered the expense of an airlift, but decided against it.

Who makes a course that it SO resistant to DNF'ing?? Frustrating.

I began getting passed by a lot of runners. It appears that many of them knew who I was and several were surprised to see me. I got tired of hearing, "HEY! You're Kelly Agnew. (long pause) You must be having a bad day!"

Really? I wanted to hide.

If there had been sufficient building materials on hand, I would have constructed a new house and sent for my things. I didn't want to go another step. But I did.

I knew I had friends WITH A VEHICLE at mile 31. I planned to climb in and get a ride the rest of the way. That's right! I was fully prepared to drop at mile 31. Nothing sounded more appealing to me.

Then I met up with another runner and we began to talk. Before long, mile 31, and my friends came into view. Through the course of our conversation, I realized I was being foolish. I decided to suck it up, endure the pain and finish the race.

The last 3 miles really sucked.

I finished, barely getting in under 7 hours. This is a tough course, but not a 7 hour course. But at that point, I was beyond caring about my finish time. I was just happy to be done.

Sharing the Gory Details with my Bride
 Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography 

Beer Makes Everything Better. And so do Good Friends.

Luke Nelson. A truly Great Guy. 

 Hammer Nutrition Athlete, John Fitzgerald, Top 10 Finisher
 Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography 

 Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer Photography 

After a couple of cold beers and some camaraderie, I began to feel much better. The pain faded, my smile returned and things were back in perspective. 

I had planned this as a training run. Albeit, a much faster, more entertaining training run. But I definitely learned some things and I'm happy to have struggled in training so I can maybe avoid it during a goal race. And I had to remind myself that shit happens. and sometimes it doesn't, no matter how hard you try.

During the course of the 34 miles, I only managed to get one gel down and approximately 35 ounces of fluid. Not an ideal fuel strategy for a tough race.

Me and Myke Hermsmeyer. My Hammer Nutrition Sponsor Coordinator.

I'll live to run another day and in retrospect, it wasn't all bad. I enjoyed the company of a lot of really great runners, I enjoyed the beauty of the Moab desert and got to run on bare ground. Things could have been much worse.

I want to thank Hammer Nutrition and Myke Hermsmeyer Photography. Myke is a great guy, an excellent photographer and an amazing partner at Hammer Nutrition. Those guys do a lot to support me in my racing and it's greatly appreciated.

Jo and I will be traveling to Arizona next weekend, where I will hopefully have a much better day! I hope to see many of you out on the trail very soon.


  1. Fantastic! One of the greatest reports all-time. You're such a bad-ass, you can't even properly DNF!

    1. Thanks, Kendall. Once again, you were the highlight of my race. It was really great sharing some miles with you. You're an inspiration to me and many others.

  2. Oh, Kelly, so many great lines, so many laughs (by me reading this, that is)! I'm sorry you had such a bad day, but in the end (no pun intended) it was a beautiful day down in Moab no matter the outcome (again, no pun intended). Great report!

    1. Thanks, Jen. I'm glad you could appreciate the humor. Sometimes, all we can do is laugh and move on to the next thing. Keep up the great work.

  3. Haha. Great report Kelly. We've all been there, luckily I don't get recognized when I completely implode. Way to get to the end and laugh about it.

    1. Thanks, BJ. A funny story makes it all worth it.

  4. well, crap! sorry to hear about the experience. I'm sure next race you'll be much more in the flow, so to speak.

  5. Thanks, Benedict. My next race can't really get much worse.