Monday, February 25, 2013

Moab Red Hot 55K 2013


Like everyone else who lives in Northern Utah, and who runs and trains through Winter, I have been running on nothing but snow for, it seems, a long time. A freezing spell had settled into the state through January and into February. I am talking about single-digit morning temperatures. If I had not entered the Red Hot Moab 55K, I likely wouldn't have bothered to get up at 5 am moring after moring to run up the canyon before work. But I did, and I enjoyed those frozen morning runs over snow-packed dirt road and foothill trails. Then race weekend approached.

We made an extened Presidents Day weekend of my race, my family and I. My parents booked a room in the same Moab hotel. In their old age my parents still have joy in watching their children take on new challenges. They, along with my wife and boys, provided moral support to me, an intangible but real thing I could carry with me as I attempted to run 33 miles through the desert above Moab, Utah.

Moab Red Hot 55K is a point-to-point race. Runners start at the Gemini Bridges trailhead, up the street and across the highway from the entrance to Arches National Park. The course begins on a jeep road, then runners make one large loop up through rugged redrock Jeep trails to the top of Metal Masher mesa. At the top is a stunning view down to the highway. Next comes some techinical downhill where runners can break up the routine to jump around and over the rugged terrain to make up lost time. Back on a wide Jeep road runners close the loop, then begin a second ascent up and Gold Bar and finally Poison Spider Mesa. This section is 7 miles of wild Utah desert. The word flat has no place in the description. Slick, rugged, undulating, slanted, hot, rocky - those words are there. At the last the course descends to the Colorado river and the finish area, a dozen miles outside the town of Moab.

In the morning I had the option of getting dropped off at the start line but I chose to walk the 3/4 mile from the parking area. It was cold but everyone could see it would be a perfect, clear day. Up ahead I could see the crowd concentrated around some portable shelters. There was a blockbuster line for the porta Johns. I had to wiz but there was not enough time to stand for that nonsense. I walked up the road a piece and did a quickie over some desert vegetation. I love being a man.

MVH, in red, twelve from the left

Martinez, the race director, lifted his loudspeaker and shouted "Five minutes!" I knew that five minutes may as well mean 30 seconds so I strolled over to the front of the line, a place I have no business occupying. I saw Kendall there. I hadn't seen him since Wasatch. We chatted for a minute. Both of us were visibly nervous. In fact I saw virtually all of the people I know, who run these things, there at the start line. Everybody, it seems, except the other Refuse To Quit crew dudes. Maybe next year, guys?

At go I followed the front down the road, then up the road. Then, the road descends and there is about a mile or two of flat over very nice dirt. It seemed very nice. I hadn't seen or run on the stuff in a long time, it seemed. I was running fast. Too fast. I looked at my watch, which read my pace somewhere in the high 5s. I ran under a 7 minute pace, it seems, that entire first 3 miles after that first uphill. Too fast. The first major hill came at about 3 miles. I was wearing a long-sleeve techincal and a knit cap. They were now obsolete. I removed the shirt and tied it around my waist. The hat tucked into my shorts. At the first aid station, five miles up, I handed them to a volunteer and kept moving. Soon after, a shadow appeared on my right. Without turining, I knew who it was. The bouncing hair, the funny running gait. It was Speedy Bob Mueller. I was wondering when he would show up. I pulled out my earphone and said "Hi Bob". We ran together for several miles up toward the top of Metal Masher. I had been fading after my quick start, and was getting passed by all sort of runners. Bob's pace was quick, so his appearance was a fortunate pick-me-up. We passed a bunch of people again, chatting about races and other things. But I couldn't sustain his pace. I had to let him go. I knew he would have a very good race. Later in the day, he finished 39 minutes before me. Impressive.

At the the top of MM, it was apparent from the sting in my legs that I had already and really blown my quads, those large muscles on the top of the legs. This didn't kill my chances of finishing, but it certainly slowed me. From there my legs ached the remainder of the day. There was nothing I could do about it. Yep. I went out to quickly. I had been training uphill for several weeks, so why were my legs acting like they had never had to work on hills?

We were back on Jeep road again. Those who could go fast took advantage. I tried not to look back much. I knew they were all back there. I was passed by several runners. The plan was to just keep moving forward; run. I did not walk. On the ascent to Gold Bar I got into a run uphill/walk uphill routine. With fully functioning quads I could have run the entire uphill of this and enjoyed it. But I had to save it. There were still dozens of miles to go, and it would be getting warmer. Route-finding became a full-time occupation for this segmnent. Pink and black striped ribbons marked the way. They were dangling from trees branches, stacked under rocks, tied to deadwood. The color of the ribbons reminded me of the cute running skirts worn by attractive running women I know. That's it. Think of sex. Get the mind off those aching legs.

Admittedly it was a challenge to know I had 5 miles to grind through this part of the course. It got warm but not hot. There was a breeze blowing down from somewhere that kept me cool. An aid station appeared out of nowhere - a Jeep parked on what seemed at the time the edge of a moon crater. A quick stop to top off my bottles and I continued. I had only fueled with water and gels the entire race. I did pop a few salt pills, and dropped some fizzies in the water. I like to believe those actions kept my calves from cramping.

Runners in the 33K appeared along the route. Well, they usually were not running. They looked like hikers out for exploration. What gave them away was the ultra-running gear they wore. Occasionally I passed true hikers. They were the ones wearing long REI pants, carrying walking sticks and wearing large packs. I even saw one dudes ass as he just finished dropping a deuce under a tree. That's not my style man. I would go where nobody could see my ass.

Super runner Rob Krar, 55K course record 3hr44m

Out of the Gold Bar, the route became sandy. There were a couple of steep, short climbs up and over sandstone. Petrified dunes, probably. I enjoyed that more than the Jeep trail. The last 7 miles I like to believe I picked up the pace, even passing a dude who had passed me an hour and a half earlier. At the last aid station, situated on an incline, I did not stop. I had enough water to get me to the finish. At one turn I could see the Colorado ahead and below. I could smell the finish. No, really I could smell the finish - There was food down there, and the pleasant savor of grilled something wafted up the canyon from below. When I started to see people on mountain bikes, and others perched on boulders, people cheering the tired runners, I knew I was really close. Then I saw my mother. She shouted. Then I saw one of my sons run at me from the left. Then I stopped running and was letting race officials check me in. I was tired but not destroyed. I was fatigued but not sick. All my systems recovered nicely and quickly. But the quads ached for days after.

My first 10 miles was fast, for me. An hour and 23 minutes. My first 20 miles was also fast, for me: 2 hours and 53 minutes. I remember when I ran last year on flat Antelope Island trails, getting to 18 miles in 3 hours. Yes, there had been improvement, and that is why Moab was a success for me. It means that training through freezing Winter, waking at 5 am, running on and through snow, has yielded some dividends. My finish time was just under 5 hours 19 minutes. Although my goal had been sub 5 hours, I feel good about this one. Next year will be even better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Running the Wedge

By MattW

With Presidents Day fast approaching, it reminded me that it was on Presidents Day last year that a small group of us had run "The Wedge" - officially known as the Good Water Rim Trail of the Little Grand Canyon in central Utah. This recollection brought back fond memories of last years run, and I was determined to see if we could get a crew to make it an annual trip and going again. I tossed the invite out to the universe, and by Saturday morning we had a crew of 7 piling into the "ultravan" at 5am and heading south.

The main appeal of this trip was the hope that with all of the cold temps, snow and inversion that we had been experiencing in the Salt Lake Valley, that this run might provide us with some sunshine, fresh air and hopefully...dirt. Yes dirt. It's incredible how much your feet miss the sound (or lack thereof) and feel of nice firm ground beneath them. Even with the heavier winter storms we'd had this year, we still maintained hope that the trail would be clear and free of all the white stuff.

As we got closer and closer however,  the snow on the ground did not seem to diminish (unlike our hopes). Gratefully though, the sun was shining, the view at the start was still spectacular as ever; we were not to be deterred. After dropping some food at the cache, we suited up, snapped some photos, and headed out!

Davy, Craig, Aaron, Matt, Rob, Sam - Photo by Scott
The first mile or so is on the dirt road, which was just great. It wasn't long though, before we were crunching through crusty, deep snow. We still had fun messing around and taking in the views, but after 4 or 5 miles of slogging through the snow, we decided to loop back towards the road and try for some dry stuff.

Heading for dry ground

In a matter of only a few miles, we were at our turnaround point at what should have been mile 15.5. Taking the road we were at about mile 8. The ground was dry just along the ridge, so we ran on that as far as we could, having a grand ol' time running on the rocks, jumping the cracks and enjoying the day.

We ran some more down the road, until there wasn't any more of it, and then went back the way we came, stopping at our cache at mile 18 for a lunch stop.

Lunchtime! Scott had quite the picnic basket.
Sam, Rob, Matt, Craig, Scott - Photo by Aaron
After our quick lunch we headed up the hill and back to the car, hitting just shy of mile 20. We ran west now along the ridge for a couple more miles, until we again ran out of trail, and then back it was to the car. From there it was back on the road, with Scott, Rob and Sam planning to run it straight out until 31, and a few of us ran down the road, planning to turn back (Craig was really itching to set up a high line). Davy hung around on the rim and ran a meandering loop route. 
Aaron and I ran together down the hill, he was now past is longest run ever, and wanted to get over a marathon before calling it a day, so we ran until we'd hit that mark and turned around to run back up the hill towards the car. Craig was running back at the same time, so I ran back to the car with him, then the three of us ran the half mile or so out the the overlook and back, and called it good!

Scott and Rob getting it done
Aaron and Craig went about setting up the high line, while I hopped in the ultravan and headed out to pick up the rest of the boys. I caught them with a mile to go, and was able to watch them finish their 50K strong. Back at the wedge Craig and Aaron had the high line set up and Craig was finishing his first walk - not bad for just having run 30 miles! Craig made a couple more trips across and we decided to head on out, wrapping up another unexpected, but totally successful day of running!

MattVH was busy crushing the Red Hot 50K in Moab and wasn't able to join us this time around. Looking forward to his race review here.

Hanging out after a good day of running
Craig, Sam, Matt, Rob, Scott

Aaron doing some 'Hanging'

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekly Review

By Scott Wesemann

This winter has been harsh. With long stretches of cold, treacherous storms and several weeks of gunky inversion, it wasn't a surprise to find out that January was the coldest month on record in Utah since 1949. For some runners winter is a time to relax, take it easy and recover from nagging injuries, but I've been inspired watching my fellow Refuse2quit homies get out repeatedly at odd hours, often 7 days a week regardless of the weather and last week was no exception.

MattW and AaronW in Farmington Canyon

Matt Van Horn hit it hard running every day of the week and had some impressive totals: 76 miles, 2 peaks and over 17,000 feet of vertical gain or as he would say vertical smile. He has been spending a lot of time running up Farmington Canyon aka his treadmill, and who can blame him? The canyon is in great shape right now with a nicely groomed track, that allows you to get some mountain vert and miles on a trail that is 100% runnable.
Craig sporting his blaze orange on Lake Mountain

Craig also ran every day last week, netting 65.5 miles and almost 11,000 feet of vertical gain. The most impressive run of the week was a 3am wakeup call to meet MattW at the City Creek Canyon trailhead to run 21 miles on the downtown BST before work. Maybe the most impressive thing about Craig's week though was that he was coming off the previous week where he ran every single day as well and netted 58 miles and 13K vert. Awesome!

MattW and Craig did a 21 miler on the BST

MattW had another killer week (He's been racking them up lately) running 44 miles with 9500 feet of vert. He's been hitting Farmington Canyon with the local Davis County crew at least a few days per week as well as tagging peaks and doing long runs with the Refuse2quit crew.

Scott doing a summit jump on Lake Mountain

My week wasn't quite as impressive as the other guys, but I still hit 3 peaks, ran 35 miles and had 7600 feet of vert. I ran Lake Mountain with MVH on Sunday and then again with Craig on Wednesday. I also got up the Ave Twins with MVH on Friday, just beating the storm that rolled in later in the day.

Collectively we have certainly hit it hard this winter, but we are all ready to trade in our tights and jackets for shorty shorts. I have heard each of the guys recently say how much they miss running on the dirt. We're all ready for spring, but in the meantime we will keep getting up early and often to hit the trails regardless of the weather. I like to think that getting out running regardless of the cold and grizzly elements is in a way figuratively flipping this winter the bird. We will keep on doing that.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Olympus Mucho Extendomudo

Remixed version of our hike/run up Mt Olympus last week. I love this version.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week Ending Feb 2nd

by Craig

I get to write this week's review, not because I may have had the most miles of any of us, but likely because I ran all 7 days this past week and was along for just about everyone's individual adventures, minus one or two.

It was a decent week for everyone, I think. The weather finally took a turn for the better following a storm the weekend prior. I was coming off a tiring four days at the Winter Outdoor Retailer Trade Show and was looking forward to getting back into a good training rhythm. On Sunday, Scott and I hoped the trail up to Lake Mountain would be tracked out. Surprisingly, it wasn't bad and we had a nice, if not slow, trudge up to the summit.If you haven't been up Lake Mountain, I would highly suggest it as it offers some of the best views around.

Running along the ridge.

Tuesday the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers - in this case me, Matt W, Scott, and Jennilyn - tried our hand at the Avenue Twins. We knew it would be a slog with all the new snow, but we didn't care. The trail was surprisingly good as we ran in a full snowstorm up the BST. Then we hit the ridge to the Twins and were now breaking trail. We did hit both peaks though, no wussing out this time. On the way back I did a full-on face plant right in front of four uphill skiers. That was a good time. It was a scary drive back to the office, but a fun day of running overall.

Yes, it was as bad as it looks in this pic

Ugh, Thursday. What a mess that day was. While MVH was smart enough to run on the roads and Matt W with his work crew on the BST, Scott and I thought we'd try out hand at Wire Peak. That was a horrible idea. Once off the BST the trail disappeared and we post-holed all the way to the summit. At times it was up to our thighs. I even took to crawling at one point because it was the only way I could move across the snow without punching through. As horrible and miserable as it was we always walk away with a smile and look back now and laugh.

Crawling to the towers. It finally got runnable 20 ft later.

Friday, while the other boys were sleeping, working, or smoking weed (ok, none of them smokes weed) I ran the Gully all the way up to Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir. I was in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. How awesome is that. Scott and Brent did join me for the first bunch of miles, but I finished out the rest alone. They had to get back to work a little sooner than me, otherwise they would have been with me the whole time. Perfect day.

Finally, on Saturday, the whole Wasatch Mountain Wranglers crew made a mad dash up Mt Olympus. We had to break trail from before the saddle. There was a whole dang bunch of antics going on, many of which can't even be explained. Much of it was caught on video though and here is a preview. The full length version will be posted in the next day or two. No one tell my wife I did a flip out of a tree. And I know some of her nurse friends read this blog. I'm not a smart man.

Here's to another great week of playing in the beautiful Wasatch Front. It's only Monday and I can already tell you that the boys have been going off! Fun week ahead.