Masters Running


Moab Trail Marathon 2013 (Read 33 times)

Marathon Maniac #957

    Wildchild ran this marathon last year, and her description along with the pictures just made it look like an amazing adventure.  When she said she was going to do it again this year, I decided to take the challenge and join her.  I also managed to talk my local running friends, Renee and Tara, into joining me.


    The journey to Moab started out poorly.   We missed our connecting flight from Denver to Moab, even though we were sitting right there, not 20 feet from the gate.  We walked up and asked, they said they weren’t boarding, we walked up 15 minutes later, they said the plane had just left.  The next flight wasn’t until noon the next day.  I was ready to have a meltdown.  Luckily, Renee has an aunt who lives in Boulder, and Aunt Martha drove to the airport straightaway to rescue us, and she put us up for the night.  She also adopted Tara and I as “extra nieces.”  Thank you Aunt Martha!


    The next panic was when I called the car rental company the next morning at 6:30am and was told that our car rental had lapsed and that they were now sold out so there were no more cars to be had.  2 hours of scrabbling to find a rental car available somewhere in that tiny town, but then the Moab office opened, and the very nice lady there told me she had, in fact, saved our car for us.  Whew!


    So, we got to Moab after all, got checked in, picked up our packets, went for a sight-seeing drive, had dinner, and readied ourselves for the race the next morning.  Carolyn and Cindy (Wildchild and Mntnck1) were driving in from Denver with their husbands, but got caught in traffic so we decided to meet up the next day instead.


    The Race.  Here’s the elevation profile:





    I knew the race would be challenging and beautiful, and told myself I was NOT going to "race" it.  This was said to be one of the most beautiful marathons ever, and I was determined to relax and enjoy the views.  And the beauty was everything it was promised to be – the most amazing, incredible terrain – deep canyons, high canyon walls, magnificent rock formations, amazing vistas.  The air was so clear, the sunshine so brilliant, the colors so incredibly sharp.  It was breathtaking.


    I decided not to take my camera to the race, because it wouldn’t fit in my pouch with my gels and besides, Tara was taking hers and I thought I could get some of her pictures.  As it turned out, I got dunked up to my nose in a stream, so my camera would have been ruined, so it was for the best.  Cindy’s husband Doug was kind enough to let me have access to the pictures he took with his phone on the race, so most of these came from him.  (Tara has been busy, so has not yet downloaded hers.)


    At the beginning:






    This was the climb at mile 3.  There was a huge wall, and on top of that a giant rock formation that looked like a castle, and you could see a tiny line of people running along the top, which unfortunately I don't have a picture from that angle.







    There was deep red sand in several places.



    When I ran along this part, I could see, on that road far, far below, the lead runners with a car leading them.  I have no idea at what point this was or how many miles it would be before I ran on the road below as well.




    Somewhere around mile # 9, I looked up to see a man with a camera, smiled for the camera, then tripped and went flying, coming down hard on the rock and bloodying my knee. After rocking back and forth and groaning for a minute or two, I got up, tried my weight, and limped off. After a quarter mile or so it was fine, though, and didn’t really give me any problems for the rest of the race.



    There was a lot of going along narrow single-tracks that were quite close to steep drop-offs. A running foot could trip and tumble pretty easily, and most of these parts I walked, knowing my habit of tripping. My friend Renee was pretty freaked out about these sections, and she has never had trouble with heights before. I was not particularly fearful, but was not brave enough to run either.







    This is Tara on the big climb at mile 14.




    At the top of the big climb.




    There was quite a lot of running over rock like this, where the term “trail” was used very loosely, and your way was marked by chalk marks or the occasional orange streamer. There were many times where I had to stop and spin around in a circle to try to locate the next marking, and twice when someone behind me stopped me from heading off in the wrong direction, but mostly the way was pretty well marked if you kept your eyes open.

















    This race offered three options: the marathon, half-marathon, and a 5K obstacle course. The last 3 miles of the marathon were the 5K obstacle course. Who thought THAT was a good idea? Right at the beginning point of this, I came upon a creek, maybe 10-12 feet across, with a log maybe 8” in diameter. There was a volunteer offering ski poles to help you cross on the log, and there was a man poised, ready to cross. For some reason he was frozen, debating, and people were stacking up behind me. I was so tired by then, I said, “heck with this,” and barged into the creek. I didn’t realized that the water was hip-deep until I was in, and halfway across I tripped on an underground log, almost submerging, painfully twisting my other knee, and getting a mouthful of muddy water. Blech. The remaining three miles I was mostly limping because of that knee.


    We went up and down ladders, into and through culverts and caves, lowered ourselves down a steep embankment holding onto shrubs (later climbing back up), climbing down a small cliff face on a rope, later coming up a similar cliff face on a rope.






    Seriously?  NOW you want me to do this?






    So, finally through the obstacle course, I was able to limp for the finish line, and I was glad to be done – I was pooped!


    Carolyn found me at the finish, and asked how I liked it, and I said it was as beautiful as promised. She said, “I’m so glad you liked it! I was afraid you would say, “I hate you Carolyn!”  Big grin


    I will say that this race was TOUGH – much tougher even than the Equinox Marathon. While Equinox has some tough climbs and descents, the paths are mostly runnable. Moab is much more technical, and for those of us who don’t normally run this terrain, it was tricky. As I said before, there was lots of running along places that could be quite a deadly fall if you tripped, and even over the smoother rocky places the footing was so uneven it was often hard for me to run on it. Add to that the deep, soft red sand, which was also hard to run on. I found that whenever I wanted to look around at the views, I had to stop, because the footing was too tricky to be looking up while moving forward. And I spent a lot of time looking up, usually with my mouth hanging open. So it is no surprise that this is my slowest marathon EVER. 7:08:42 and 352/382 finishers. However, even if I had kept my eyes down and raced this marathon, I doubt that I would have done better than maybe 6:30. Wildchild is a sure-footed mountain racer, and she kicked my butt with a 5:40 finishing time, which was no surprise to me. What REALLY blew my mind is that the winner finished in something like 3:14, which is absolutely CRAZY on this course!


    This was a bittersweet day for my friends Renee and Tara, because the course had a time limit, and they did not make the cut-off. They finished something like 8:08, and there were quite a few who came in after them, but none got listed, either as finishers or DNFs. However, Renee had been in the hospital for diverticulitis the Monday before the race, had a low fever the morning of, and we weren’t sure she should even run. I was secretly hoping she turned off with the HMers, because I could see how tough it was for me, and I wasn’t sick. But Renee stuck it out, like the tough runner woman that she is, and Tara stayed with her, and they held strong through a very tough day. They were finishers to my thinking, even if they didn’t make the official list.


    Would I do it again? Heck yeah!


    ETA - best race photo ever, maybe..


    Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, "Bring it on, darlin', and don't be stingy with the jalapenos."

      Wow, that's amazing stuff!  Congrats for surviving this and being sane enough to enjoy the experience.  I didn't realize there literally was an obstacle course at the end!  I guess they're tough out west.

      MM #5616

        Great RR, Holly!   So glad you had fun at the race - it's one of my favorites, and I'll probably do it again next year, especially since it's in driving distance for me.


        Who else is in for 2014?  Smile

        I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.

        MM #6177

          Wow. Having never run a trail race of any sort before, I doubt I would ever try something like this any time soon. But the photos are simply amazing, and congratulations again Holly on a job well done! You too, Carolyn! Super!!

          MM #5616

            I thought I'd add a couple of my pictures:


            View from the high point - this is looking northwest, down at the Colorado River and out towards Canyonlands National Park:


            Running down the rocks at maybe mile 19-ish:

            I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.

              Recall the old joke, "It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."?


              Well, that is a stunningly beautiful area but I sure wouldn't want to run it.


              Great run Holly, and thanks for taking all those pictures along the way.

              And so it goes


                Oh my those pics are wonderful and great report.


                You're one tough cookie Holly.


                Thanks for sharing.

                "He conquers who endures" - Persius
                "Every workout should have a purpose. Every purpose should link back to achieving a training objective." - Spaniel


                MM #5615

                  Great report, Holly!  Quite an adventure...and you had some fun people to do it with.  I'm kind of glad I've already done Utah...that course would kill me...

                    Oh my Oh my Oh my,

                    such beauty!!!!


                    Why didn't they make the obstacle course the first 5K????


                    How did you and your friends that indeed DID FINISH, handle that relentless sun???  The sun is my weakness.  8 hours of that and I would be puking.


                    It appeared many of the pictures were taken by a leftie holding his/hand up high!  Interesting and beautiful shots!!!


                    You are one tough cookie.


                    Thanks for the gorgeous pictures.


                    I would love to do this race.

                    "During a marathon, I run about two-thirds of the time. That's plenty." - Margaret Davis, 85 Ed Whitlock regarding his 2:54:48 marathon at age 73, "That was a good day. It was never a struggle."

                    MM #5616

                      Why didn't they make the obstacle course the first 5K????



                      It would have been too congested - that part was all single track, and on the fixed ropes you had to go one at a time.  The race started on a rough 4WD road that had some room to pass people.     And it wasn't really an obstacle course - just two ladders and two fixed ropes, not really any harder than some of the rock scrambling on the rest of the course!

                      I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.

                      Marathon Maniac #957


                        It appeared many of the pictures were taken by a leftie holding his/hand up high!  Interesting and beautiful shots!!!



                        This was Cindy's husband Doug - super nice guy.  Gives the pictures an interesting angle, though.


                        As for the sun, I wore a hat AND sunglasses, which I don't usually do, and I was fine.  I hydrated A LOT the day before, and really worked to stay on top of it during the race.  High desert, they warn you about that.


                        Carolyn - I love those pictures, thank you.  I will add them to my album.

                        Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, "Bring it on, darlin', and don't be stingy with the jalapenos."

                          Fantastic report Holly and Beautiful photos!

                          Thanks for sharing this.


                            aawesome report and great pics - i'm happy to run vicariously through you and wildchild



                              Wow - I'm speechless. I was freaked out just looking at the pictures Shocked You guys must be part mountain goat! Congrats Holly - for someone not used to running this type of marathon, you did very well. And kudos to your friends for hanging in there and finishing. Stinks their times weren't included in the results.


                              Knowing you, you'll go back and run it again next year and get in under 5 hours. Nice job, girl!

                                enjoyed reading the report, great pics


                                looks like a difficult course. maybe I should

                                stop complaining about all those potholes in New York