February 14, 2014 Moab, Utah 8:00 am Start
I felt really good going into this 34 mile trail race. This run would be 8 miles longer than any other run I have ever done but I felt like my coach, Duncan Callahan, had me ready to take on the Moab Red Hot. Earlier in the year I had been battling a left knee injury, but felt it was a non-issue going into this race.
The plan was to wake up at 5:00 am, three hours before the start of the race. With my mind going 100 mph I was up at 3:00 am and simply couldn’t go back to sleep. I laid in bed and studied the course map and elevation profile. Finally, around 4:30 am I decided to get up and shower, do some stretching, mix up some Hammer Perpetuem and get my race vest ready to go.
Cheryl and I were at the trailhead near the starting line at 6:45. From the parking lot, it was about a half mile hike to the actual starting line. After checking in, I double checked everything and made sure everything was ready to go. Twenty minutes before the start, I did a quick warm up jog and was ready to go. Rather than fight the crowd of nearly 300 runners, I made sure I was at the very front of the line for the start. Duncan had set a goal time for me of 5 hrs 50 min for an average 10:18 min/miles. I felt I would need a very good run to accomplish this.
All of the nerves were gone as soon as the race started. As we began running, the elite runners shot out front and I eased into a comfortable 9:00 min/mile pace. It was a gradual uphill for the first 1 ½ miles before cresting and dropping down into a hidden valley. This slight descent was a fairly fast section as I averaged right around 7:30 min/miles for this section to the 4 mile mark. I was having a lot of fun during this point of the race. I felt extremely strong and I didn’t even slow down as I ran through the first aid station at mile 5.5 not even needing to top my water bottle off.
At mile 8, it was time to begin the first big climb up a jeep trail called Metal Masher. The climb would be a little over two miles in length and involved running over slickrock sections until it topped out on top of a rim at the 10 mile mark overlooking the starting line of the race. Several people had elected to begin walking the uphill in this section but I ran every step of it passing numerous people. At this point in the race, I had averaged less than 8:30 min/miles through the first 10 miles and felt unbelievably strong!
Dropping down from the rim it was a three mile descent into the second aid station. I had a guy top off my water as I ran through, but once again, I didn’t need to stop for anything. I continued running sub nine minute miles all the way into the third aid station at mile 17. Once again, I simply had my water topped off as I ran through the aid station without stopping. I completed the first half of the race in less than 2 ½ hours but I also knew that the second half of the race was going to be a LOT tougher!
At mile 19 I began the climb up Gold Bar Rim. As I was washing down a couple salt tablets with water, my foot caught on a rock and I went down hard, landing on my previously injured left knee. I immediately got up and resumed running. There was no blood but it hit hard and was scraped up. After the fall, the knee started to give me fits and I would end up battling with a knee that wanted to seize up on me through the remainder of the race.
The climbs kept getting steeper and I finally had to walk up a couple of the steeper sections with my hands on my knees. My pace ranged between 14:00-17:00 min/miles but I told myself “just keep moving.” As I topped out at the top of the rim, I came into the fourth aid station at mile 23. I decided to stop and eat a couple pieces of oranges. After 30 seconds I was on my way again. I left the aid station following two other runners. Rather than looking for the trail markings, I simply followed them. Next thing I knew they were stopped at the top of a rim looking around for trail markings. We got off course. After backtracking momentarily, we were back on course. Anyone who has ever ran this race knows how easy it is to get off course. Thankfully, this mistake only cost us about one minute.
The next six miles of this course were shear torture. Even though I wanted to run at a faster pace, I simply couldn’t. The best I could muster was 13:00–14:00 min/miles. My knee was really seizing up on me and it was tough to stay on course. You really needed to pay attention to the trail markings that were very hard to see at times. I ran the majority of this section by myself with the exception of a few runners that passed me. It was also this section that I ran out of water for the first time on the course. At mile 28 I was getting extremely thirsty and finally saw a sign that said the fifth aid station was one mile away. Let me tell you, that was one LONG mile. Once arriving at the aid station, I filled my water, ate a few pieces of oranges and was off for the final section of the race.
At mile 30, I began the final steep descent down towards the finish line way down below near the Colorado River. Even though it was downhill, it was tough running at a decent pace but at this point I knew that I was going to beat my goal time. The trail kept switchbacking back and forth and I didn’t think I was ever going to make it to the bottom.
As I rounded the last corner, I could finally see the finish line several hundred yards ahead. That instantly gave me a boost of energy as I ran across the finish line. As soon as I crossed the finish line they cut my chip off and I was greeted by my Cheryl and Ryan Guldan. After a short conversation with Ryan, Cheryl and I made our way to the beer garden…..man, did that beer ever taste good!
Official Time: 5 hrs 42 min 11 sec Place: 86 out of 301 runners