13 February 2021


It all started innocently enough. I received a call from my buddy Vic on the westcoast, "Hey man, go to Ultrasignup and search for Moab Red Hot 55K and sign up right now. we're all going to go, the whole crew." The whole crew refers to a group of friends from around the US. So I did what every reasonable person with an ultrarunning problem would do, I signed up. I had the furthest to travel, but since it's been nearly a year of any real travel, I still decided to take the camper van instead of booking a flight to travel to Moab, Utah. And since the race took place in February, I chose to travel the southern route through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas rather than the more winter weather succeptable northern route through Kansas and Colorado. Oh boy was I wrong with that assumption. What was supposed to be a scenic drive turned into a battle with an ice storm on the way out west and a battle with a snow storm on the way back east. All in all, I traveled more than 4000 miles and visited 10 states, 3 national parks and monuments and 1 state park in less than 10 days, but that's for another adventure post to follow in the next couple of weeks.
It had been more than 8 years since I last traveled to Moab, Utah. The last time, I was still fairly new to ultrarunning. I participated in the Desert RATS 148 Mile Stage Race that included a couple of ultra distances stages. As I rolled into town this time around, I still remembered the places we stopped at back then. It was good to be back. I arrived Thursday night and located the King's Bottom BLM campground less than a mile outside of town and right on the Colorado River inside a beautiful canyon. Luckily, there were just a couple of other campers when I arrived as this was a first come first serve type of BLM campground. Since I owned an annual National Parks pass it only cost me $10 per night. I stayed 5 nights, working and exploring in this beautiful landscape. 
On Friday morning, I explored Canyonlands and Arches NP before picking up my race packet drive thru style at a local hotel parking lot. I headed back to my campground, layed out my gear, pinned my bib on my running shorts, fixed some rice and beans and went to sleep.
I basically slept in the next morning as the socially distanced race start in waves wasn't scheduled to kick off until 8AM, a rather late start for an ultra. However, I was thankful for the extra hours of sleep and a chance for the day to warm up a bit. Race day called for temps in the 40s all day with a 100% chance of rain starting at 10AM. I chose my usual race kit, but wore a Patagonia houdini and thin gloves for the race start as well as a race vest to carry my camera and nutrition. I would normally just wear a singlet and shorts with a handheld for a 50K, but I was and still am dealing with a nagging peroneal tendonitis injury and had been training at MAF HR zone. My goal was to run within that zone for this race as well, a challenge for sure. A challenge which I failed pretty much from the start as the higher elevation in Moab (which I had failed to account for in my prep) caused my baseline heartrare to be 10 beats higher than normal, therefore making it impossible to have any chance at keeping that goal. However, I did try to keep it low by only running the flats and downhill sections, which made for a longer day for sure, but it kept me as close to my training goal for this race as possible. Unfortunately, moving and working at a much lower race HR than usual also meant that I would be significantly colder than expected. As a result, I kept wearing both my windbreaker and my gloves for the entire durarion of the race.
I had loaded my vest with a total of 6 Spring Energy gels, half of them Canaberry and the other half my new favorite Awesome Sauce. I also carried two pouches of the Pina Colada flavor hydration drink mix. Aside from grabbing a single banana and water from the aid stations, I relied solely on my own nutrition. I've been doing this for quite a while as I follow a very strict whole foods plant based (and now nearly salt, oil and sugar free) diet. There are health reasons for this personal choice of mine, but it has definitely helped with my recovery and performance. 
My wave started at 8:04AM. Out of 10 runners in our wave, we were wittled down to 6 already, likely due to Covid and the general uncertainty and unease for some to travel. Thankfully, I had overcome my own battle with Covid-19 and had the antibodies to prove it, at least for another couple of months. I trotted across the timing mat at the start and less than a minute later, my heartrate was above the goal threshold. Oh well, let's just keep going and stay as relaxed as possible.
I kept my GoPro at hand and took lots of footge early on, until the rain and cold became too much, both for me and the camera. Let's just say red hot did not apply to the race this year. The course had been changed due to Covid restrictions, but it didn't matter to me since I'd never ran this race before anyway. There were a couple of out and back sections and loops, but overall I never really had the feeling of running anything repeatedly. There were beautiful canyons and desert landscapes, but when the rain started to fall and temperatures stayed low, my hands stopped to cooperate. Then my camera followed, first by throwing errors then shutting down completely.

I was able to enjoy most of the course for the first 20+ MILES, but by the time I arrived at the aid station at the highest point of the course, winds also had picked up and I had lost all feeling and control in my hands. I refilled my bottles and started to push the pace. It may not show in my splits, but I had to get the heartrate going to try to get warm. By the time I finally made it off the rim, I started to get the feeling back ever so slightly. I continued to push to keep warm. The rain continued, but with the wind having died down below the rim conditions became more bearable. 
I continued to run, now even on some of the climbs to make sure to stay warm. When I started to final decent to the finish, I was feeling much better. I crossed the finish line somewhere in the bottom of the front third of the field, but my finishing time was not important today. My ankle held up, while not being any better or worse than before and I felt good crossing the finish line. Final note, this race was both extremely well organized and run and the race swag was fantastic. While I probably won't run this race again (I prefer lost of single track trails), I will be back to this area for sure, as soon as later this year...#Moab240 :-)

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