Friday, February 21, 2014

Red Hot 55k

It was late 2009 when I ventured into the ultramarathon world for the first time by signing up for the Moab Red Hot 55k in February 2010.

Needless to say, road training didn't do much to my horrific performance back in 2010. I learned a lot from that experience and decided ultra and trail running was just not for me. I moved on to other things like triathlons, including Ironman, and road marathons. The road was nice to me.

Shortly after finishing my second Ironman, I signed up for my 2nd ultramarathon. It's as if by 2012 I had completely forgotten of the nightmare that Red Hot was back in 2010. Regardless, I was cautious and picked a course that seemed "easy" despite the fact that there's nothing really easy about running 50k. I had a great day. That encouraged me to really research the races I'm committing to... I learned that was the only way to be successful.

After a great year of races in 2013, I found myself going back to Moab to run Red Hot last week. What had I gotten myself into? While dealing with an injury the 3 weeks before the race, I didn't really have time to focus on the race, but rather, I was focused on getting better. All of a sudden, it was go-time. I told Kev and Court how hard this course was although apparently I didn't emphasize. The thing is, I wasn't sure if I had just had a horrible day and was incredibly unprepared or it was indeed a hard course... so I may have said it lightly once or twice.

Saturday morning we drove to the start line bright and early only to find Anton Krupicka and Joe Grant along with Jenn Shelton; not intimidating at all. Gee.. I was running alongside some serious rockstars. Geoff Roes was there to run the 33k.

At the start line
I had decided on racing conservatively since I didn't want to mess with my back injury again. Obviously my hubby and Court took off. Kev and I stayed back going up the first mile slow, but steady. He got ahead of me a mile in when the course started going downhill. This is when I sat back and  relaxed. I had a long way to go. I had somewhat memorized the elevation profile from Woody's post from a few years back, so knew exactly what to expect and when. That made for a pretty good first 20 miles and was able to maintain a pretty good average pace. I was content.

Views from mile 10. Cool to see how much we've climbed (Yeah, start line was by the road way down there)
So, to give you a visual, the first part of the course, is a loop on the north end... some slickrock, but mostly dirt roads. Once you move on to the second half where you go straight south towards Moab then it's ALL slick rock. If you don't normally run on slick rock, my opinion is that it's hard on your body. First of all, it's all rock so definitely not the softness of the trails that I usually run on. And also, it's not even like pavement. It's uneven like trails. So if you put together the "cons" of both pavement and trail you'll get slick rock.

The second half is when I started getting flashbacks from 2010. Luckily, I was in great shape this time around. I made the 22-mile aid station. The highest point on the course and took a second to catch my breath and realize how much I've improved over the years. I continued on. "It's all downhill from here" was something I heard often, and it was a big lie. It was mostly downhill, but on slick rock. And there were some big obstacles here and there.

Small obstacles on slick rock: steep hills. 
My IT band was hurting... and my downhill running skills were compromised. But I pushed on. I made the 28-mile aid and was ready to be done. "It's all downhill from here". Yeah, yeah. Well, apart from ONE small hill, it was all downhill from there. And the best part... it was mostly on dirt single-track or jeep roads. Those last 5 miles were bliss. With my IT band pain I wasn't really able to pick up the pace that much more, but I was finally able to find a rhythm, which seemed to be a challenge while running on slick rock.

Just like that, I found the finish line. Surprisingly 1h51m faster than in 2010. And this is without much training due to my injury. So... while my words in 2010 were: "Never again", now I wonder "What if I train better?" My plans post-TransRockies are a bit up in the air... and there are some things factoring in on my race to-do list, but if we're still a family of 3 (dog included), and no one else is on the way, you may just find me toeing the start line one more time...

And this is for Lindsay- "She never gave up". Literally.

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