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24 Miles in MOAB!!!

First off, let me just say Moab, UT is so, so, so, so beautiful! And after trail running through it, I can't think of a better way to see the area. The area is filled with awesome canyons, mesas, cliffs, gorgeous views and LOTS of rock. I know already that this blog is not going to do its beauty justice.

So, I started off on my little journey to Moab with some crazy car mates. I was kind of a tagalong on a trip organized by Beth. My guess is when she invited me along, she never thought I would take her up on it, but little did she know... :)

Here we are being total tourists and stopping about every 5 minutes for pictures, the closer we got.

This is where I got the first couple of glances at the kind of terrain I would be running on the following day.
Around 3:30, we finally got into Moab after many stops for gas (twice in same town- where is that darn Shell station?), coffee, potty, lunch, to see a friend, to see another friend, and our site-seeing tour at the end. Note: Avg time to Moab = 6 hrs. Our time = 8.5 hours.

After settling in, we met up with more of the group.
Beth had organized about 20 runners + friends, spouses, etc. We appropriately deemed ourselves the FOBs (friend of Beth's) since we were all from different places in her life. Since Beth is adamant about running with a "very cool" bandana at all times, Ken and his family had purchased, washed and brought along bandanas for us all. Most of the runners were signed up for the 10 miler (which really was a 12.5 miler) and a few for the 20 miler (which really is a 24-miler), but it turned out I was the only one planning on running the 50k... This fact played with my mind a little bit and I started to doubt that I could do the distance, especially in this rough terrain.

That night we headed off to town, picked up our race numbers, had some grub and went back to the hotel to get all settled and get some sleep.

The next morning, we were all up and ready to go. I filled my Nathan (water backpack) and stuffed it full of things to eat on the run and was good to go.
We had a lot of fun at the start line posing for pictures with the race map...

...and on the podium......all sporting the FOB bandanas.
(Can you find the cool, black and white camo bandanas on us all?)

At a route debriefing, we were informed that the run would have a variety of everything-- sand, rock, hills, canyons, slick rock, exposed area-- basically any and everything you could think of. And it did.

I really don't know what to write about the run. It was gorgeous and challenging. There was lots of uphill, downhill and everything in between.

So, here is how it started,us running through a nice, rocky canyon that was a mixture of up and down

(but mostly up).

Until we got to about mile 4.5,
where it was all up.

There were parts where you were literally rock climbing up, down and around boulders. Like this climb.

But it was always worth it at the top.

Here we are on the top of another cliff.

Here we are trying to get down from that cliff.

When they mentioned "exposed" area in the debriefing, I had no idea what to expect, but I quickly found out that meant running alongside the mountain, one misstep and you are falling off. They were probably referring to some times like this:

As you can see, the group took many pictures along the way (the majority of these pictures are not from me, but friends in the group-- thank you!).
Us about to run into (I think) Hunter Canyon

Us in (what I think is) Hunter Canyon.

And, here is where the group divides. Mile 10 aid station where the 10-milers turn off to run the last 2.5 miles of their run.

At this point, I was getting used to trail running and the rough terrain. I had formed some blisters on my feet and put some bandaids on them, but that didn't help much. In a way, I think it helped when I turned away from the group and continued on, as I could just focus on myself, but subconsciencely I think I was doubting my ability to do the distance over the rough terrain. Because of that, I continued running super slow even when I knew I could run faster. Somehow my feet weren't listening to my head and, at the time, I didn't really care. I was running through some GORGEOUS terrain that I wouldn't have been able to view in this fashion otherwise.

I continued and miles 11-14 were in a canyon which, although beautiful, I HATED. I was at a nutritional low point and needed some water, but only had a protein drink with me. On top of that, running side to side through the canyon was grating on my blisters.

The one good thing that did come out of that canyon was Andrea. I found her part way through and she gave me some water. As we exited the canyon, she caught up with me and we started running together.

We continued to mile 15 where we saw it. The mesa. 2 miles of climbing. Straight up. When we ended this climb, we would be on top of it. I had been warned about this and Andrea had known about it from last year. We walked the whole thing. We separated about halfway through, but I found Andrea later.

The views from the top were worth it.
And here is proof that I made it:
From there, it was a mixture of maneuvering over rock faces and running/walking, but mostly descending. I was at mile 17 and had 7 miles to go.

There were some crazy parts on this part of the journey as well. Like a little crevasse to squeeze through. (I barely fit, with the walls squeezing my backpack.)And other fun stuff. I think at this point, too, we were done with the picture taking. Time to just get home. And we did. One foot after another.

I don't know what to say at this point. I had set out to do the 50k, but it looked like I wouldn't make the time cutoff to continue past the 24 mile mark.

I came to Moab believing I could do the distance and the terrain and, somewhere along my journey, I doubted myself and my abilities. During the run, I felt like I could run faster, but for some reason, my body wasn't allowing it. It was very reminiscent of my first marathon experience. I was afraid I would run out of energy at the end of the race and not finish, so I compensated by running a much slower pace and finished with a 5:15. My second marathon, I went out confident I could do the distance, ran my regular pace and finished in a 4:10.

Andrea and I finished 2 minutes past the cutoff time for me to be able to continue to the next leg. I felt like I had another 7 miles in me, but in a way I was relieved and happy to finish when and where I did.

While I wasn't able to go on and complete the 50k, I did have a rocking time on some pretty gorgeous terrain. I got to see views I wouldn't have otherwise, learn a lot about the mental state of racing (not to mention nutrition), do a challenging trail run, meet some wicked-fun people, drink some "Polygamy Porter", and have an AWESOME time.