Moab Red Hot 55k Thought and Ramblings
I’m not quite sure how to write a real race report, so I thought I’d just put some of my random thoughts down, and maybe expound on a few of them. This may get long.
Prep and fuel. I chose to wear my UltraSpire Omega vest. I used water in the bladder, and had two 10 bottles in the front pockets, one with Clif Shots gel, the other with Hammer Perpeteum. I learned that it is very hard to mix perpeteum on the run, especially when you don’t leave any space for water in the bottle. Shoe choice was Brooks Cascadia 7’s, Smartwool Socks, Inov8 Gaiters, and lots of bag balm slathered over problem areas on my feet. Prep in the morning consisted of Breakfast (two PB&J sandwiches and quadruple checking the pack. Oh, I kind of forgot sunscreen. That would be a mistake.
Pre-Race. I got to the parking area with plenty of time to listen to the pre-race briefing. The start line struck me as really disorganized as a whole, but everyone was trying really hard. I don’t think they've had a crowd this size (800 registered runners) before. Weather was a little cool, but the sun was coming out, and warming things up. I made small talk with some random people. Coolest part of the morning was meeting the race directors for the Black Hills 100. They were really nice.
The Race! Short version- Lots of ups, not many downs. But I finished.
Long version- The course is a mixture of sand, sandstone, and dirt roads. There was probably 9-10 miles of dirt roads. Of those 5 miles is what I would consider a “maintained” quality. The rest was pretty washed out and rough. I made decent time on these sections, all things considered.
Sand is Sand. Nothing really to report, other than I don’t care for sand.
Running on the slickrock sandstone was brutal. You’re feet are in off-camber positions the whole way. It was harder than concrete. The way the sandstone has formed over the millennium causes it to almost roll through the landscape. Where it’s not rolling, it’s stepped like a giant staircase. Some of the steps we climbed were 4-5 feet high.
Uphill vs. Downhill. The course is a net downhill course. I underestimated the difficulty of the uphill’s and downhill’s. I should note, I don’t care for running downhill. It makes my right knee hurt, and I tend to take it really slow and easy. I would rather go up the whole way.
You start the race with as 10+ mile climb. Then you get 7 miles of downhill. Then it gets rough. You've got a brutal 3.5 mile climb to aid station 4. I can’t see how anyone could run that, my hat’s off to those who can. The RD said in the pre-race meeting that “It’s downhill from aid station 4”. He’s right, it’s a net downhill from there to the finish line. What he doesn't tell you is that it’s more of an up down section than anything. For every 25 feet we went down, we then had to climb 20 feet. That’s what it was like. 25 down, 20 up, 50 down, 40 up, 100 down, 80 up, for 8+ miles. It was hard. You finally got to A.S. 5, and then it got a little better. I was struggling a bit, but I told myself I would run from A.S. 5 to the finish, no matter how bad it hurt. I ran, it hurt, but I finished. I didn't get passed by anyone in the last 8 miles of the race. In the last 5 miles, I passed 6 people. That made me happy.
Course Flagging: Left a little to be desired. For example, there was a turn in the course. It as marked by a ribbon 30 yards before the turn, and there was another flag 15 yards after the turn. There happened to be a tree right at the apex of the turn that was (in my opinion) the perfect spot for another flag, only there wasn't one on that tree. There was a group in front of me that missed the turn. I saw it and hollered at them and they backtracked to the turn. They weren't thrilled. That seemed pretty typical of the flagging overall especially on the last half of the course.
Aid Station: Ultra Aid stations are awesome. The volunteers are great. I set a goal to not spend more than 5 minutes at any one aid station. I’m happy to report I achieved my goal. I stopped at A.S. 2 to tape some hot spots, and then stopped again at A.S. 4 to change socks. I ate half a PB&J and lots of potato chips at the stations.
Mistakes made: Well, I shouldn't have forgotten sunscreen. I also failed to refill my water at the final aid station, thinking I had enough to make it to the end. I ran out 4 miles from the finish. Luckily there was a volunteer two miles from the end who let me have one of his water bottles. Thanks guy’s in the lifted white Toyota Tundra. I forgot my sweat bag at the finish line. I didn't realize I'd forgotten it until the shuttle was halfway back to the cars at the start line. Hopefully they'll donate my coat and arm warmers to goodwill.
Overall impressions: In hindsight, I’m pretty happy with my performance. I didn't hit my time goal, But looking back, it was a really ambitious goal for me. My goal for the race was to “Focus on 5’s” meaning, average 5 MPH and spend no more than 5 minutes per aid station. The aid station part was easy. Total time at aid stations was probably 15 minutes. The 5 mph average turned out to be a little out of reach. I did finish the last 5 miles in an hour though. The race clock said 8:01x when I crossed the finish line. I think when I factor in starting dead last (yes dead last) with 400 other runners, I’m pretty sure my chip time would have been barely under 8 hours. My goal was 7:30:00. I've thought about it a lot over the last day or so, and I feel good knowing I didn't have that extra half hour in me.
Goals for next time: I’m going to work on my base quite a bit over the next few months, trying to get to 6 hours running a week. My other focal point is going to be hills, specifically downhill running.
Anyway, that’s it. Yeah it was long, and there weren't any pics.
Trail and Ultra Running User Group
Thanks for the RR-- great read!
Nice job, Birdwell. Thanks for the RR. I've never run on slickrock, but as you said, I hear it's worse than concrete. I know many runners wear Hokas for the extra cushion on slickrock.
Le professeur de trail
Thanks for sharing. I am trying to imagine the terrain but for those of us easterners (that have not been out that way at least to run) it's hard to imagine a similar surface here.
The great things about these races (amoung other things) is how much you learn about yourself and your abilities.
The incarnation of peacefulness and patience
Thanks for sharing and job well done. I've MT Biked SlickRock but never ran it. I can image it takes it's toll on the feet.
04/21/18 Mendoncino 50k CA wait List
05/12/18 Smith Rock Ascent 50K OR
07/14/18 MT Hood 50 OR
Thread killer ..
Great report !
I liked the report. One of the best races I have ever run was quite a ways off my goal pace. Of course, I had no idea what a good time was for that distance. And what I thought I could do was a little more ambitious than I was able to do under the conditions. However, I try to look at a race holistically, which I think you did. Sometimes people put too much focus on the time. It sounds like you had a great race. Congratulations.
final results are posted.
I came in with a time of 8:01:33 good enough for 267th place out of 299 finishers.
I beat my goal of placing better than my bib number (302)!!!!!!
congrats birdwell on a well run race and well written report. thanks for sharing your experience with those of us not lucky enough to be there.
Faster Than Your Couch!
Congratulations, sounds like you had a tough day, but managed it well. Great race, especially considering that you ran it on only about 6 hrs/week?? Wow.
Run for fun.
running under the BigSky
congrats! I plan on running this next year, I'm sure I'll be bugging you a bunch