Peak(s):  Moab Red Hot 55K - 5725
Date Posted:  02/21/2012
Date Climbed:   02/18/2012
Author:  12ersRule
 Moab Red Hot 55K from the back of the pack   

Anatomy of a plan/Training

You ever have a great workout or a great week of workouts and think you're indestructible? I had a week or so like that in September. All of the sudden, on September 15, I got this email that registration for the Moab Red Hot 55K+ showed up from the Ft Collins Trail Runners yahoo group. The tone of the message was "you better sign up now if you want to run it because it's going to sell out quickly". Well, this race had been on my radar for a long time as a first ultra and I was on a serious roll! I've gotta act now! Indeed, this years edition sold out in 28 hours. I was really doing it, fulfilling a dream! A couple days later, reality hit. I haven't run over 10 miles in over 6 months, and I don't really run much on dirt trails. How am I gonna finish a 55K (34 miles) with approximately 4300 feet of climbing?

The answer? Well, since a montage


is not an option is real life, the only option was to train like I've never trained before. In the late September/October timeframe, I ramped up my mileage significantly, ramping up slowly to about 40 mile weeks. When November 1 hit, I aimed to follow this training program for a 50 miler that I found on Runners World's website.

Training in November and December, training went incredibly. I was doing 50-70 mile weeks and while it was exhausting, I never felt better. Ran a 22 mile informal race in Ft Collins called "El Chubbo" in mid-December. It was a huge confidence boost in that it was more vertical (5500 feet) than Moab.

Training hits a serious snag

January 8, 2012, had a sweet 5 hour run in Eagles Nest Open Space and some of the peaks beyond. Next day, my achilles tendon on my right leg started screaming at me. Not good. I gave it a week off and decided just to run on flat ground the next weekend. Nope, no good! Achilles is still barking at me.

Tried to stay positive about training. Scrapped running completely and just biked a lot for a couple of weeks. The achilles felt slightly better, and I learned that I was able to do the stairmill without suffering any repercussions.

All in all, I only ran a 4 miles between January 14 and February 18. That was a depressing 4 miler too, I felt like I couldn't even push off very much with my right leg.

Still, I was pretty encouraged by how well biking and stairmilling was going, I tried to stay positive.

Pre-race jitters

The week leading up to the race was pretty nerve-racking. I knew that I wasn't going to go into the race 100%. I was seriously worried about the rocky nature of the course (which had been described to me as "technical") and not having run for a month.

The day before, my wife and I decided to check out Dead Horse State Park, about 30 miles away from Moab. Did an easy 3 mile hike on top of a mesa there. There were some fabulous views down 2000 feet to the Colorado River there. You could also had some amazing views of the "Island in the Sky" part of Canyonlands National Park. The hike didn't calm my nerves at all. I was very aware of the achilles the entire hike.

One thing that was a major relief, though, was the lack of any hint of snow in Moab. The trails were 100% dry. 2010, the race course was covered with snow. Knowing what I know about the course now, I'm in awe of the 2010 finishers.

Friday night, we had to pick up pre-race packets at a bar/restaurant in Moab called "Eddie McStiffs". Everyone at Eddie McStiffs looked like a serious competitor. Scared the sh!t out of me. I knew I was destined to finish DFL. Maybe on 2 good legs I'd fit in, but not in my current state.

Race Day, finally!

Drove out to the starting line and got there about 40 minutes before it began. Such a nice change from mega-road races where you have to stand around for 90 minutes beforehand.

The race director told us that we had 4 1/2 hours to make it to the 18 mile mark. If we failed to do that, we were cut. He also emphasized that the terrain beyond the 18 mile mark can be pretty gnarly if you get off-route, and that if you decided to continue after you were cut, you would never be eligible to run the Moab Red Hot ever again. I thought to myself "No problem there! If I miss the cutoff, I'm probably having such a crappy day that I'd gladly hang it up for the day.

Here's a picture of the starting line. Try to see if you can find me in this crowd. Hint: everyone else looks really excited to be there except for me:

What Am I doing here?

Here's what I was looking forward to, the race profile:

The first steps of the race felt a little weird. The legs were wondering what was going on, they hadn't experienced movement like this in a while. After a couple of minutes, I realized that I actually felt pretty good and had a shot at this. Mile 1 was up a jeep road and gained 400 feet in elevation. I was pretty amazed at the starting pace. I was misinformed that trail runs started pretty slowly. Most of the crowd ahead of me seriously took off! I ran pretty conservatively and did a 12 minute first mile. I was pleasantly surprised that the first hill was easier than the stuff I trained on, and was fairly smooth.

Here are a couple of pics of the beginning miles.

Starting to head up the hill

Back of the pack, I'm here somewhere

Another pack of the pack fhoto

Miles 1 to the first aid station at 5.5 miles were pretty easy. There was a few hundred feet of climbing between mile 4 and 5.5, but it was smooth and fast. I got to the first aid station in about an hour or so. I was starting to get some confidence.

Miles 5.5 to mile 10 was a pretty steady uphill section of about 800 feet to the race highpoint of 5725 feet (the starting line was around 4700 feet or so).

Miles 8 to 10, the terrain started to get a little bit rockier and steeper. I paced myself with a number of seasoned trail runners. Pretty much all of them were older than me (I'm 42 right now), and it seemed like all of them had run several ultras before.

Not knowing what I was doing, I generally tried to walk when they walked and ran when they did. The terrain from about mile 8.5 to mile 10 had a lot of walking sections. Here's some
pics of that terrain:

Heading up one of the bigger hills around mile 9

Another one around mile 9

At mile 10, we finally hit a highpoint. My time at this point was just under 2 hours. I felt the hill a little bit, but overall, thought it was going to be a very good day.

The views from this vantage point were outstanding. Here's a few:

Fabulous views at the course highpoint, 5725 feet

Another view from Mile 10, La Sals in the background

Looking north from mile 10

Looking East from mile 10

Miles 10-12 was a pretty steep downhill portion. I was a little disappointing in myself that I couldn't crank down this part. Couldn't really let go and go for it. A lot of people passed me in this portion.

Miles 12-18, I started to gain ground and confidence. The road was smooth and predominantly gradual downhill, perfect for cranking out some fast miles.

My hamstring was barking at me a little bit around mile 17, but otherwise, things were going really good. Passed 18.4 miles in 3:32, about an hour ahead of the cutoff time! I didn't get cut, I was likely gonna finish this thing. Life is good!

I was really mentally prepared for miles 18.4-22. I knew that there was 800 feet of climbing to do from looking at the elevation profile of this race from various sources. I pretty much opted to walk most of miles 20-22 to save my energy for the stretch. Surprisingly, everyone else was doing the same thing. I was actually gaining ground on most people. I think the stairmill and the biking training over the last 6 weeks really came in handy on this stretch.

Looking up just before mile 22:

One of the bigger climbs on the course

I was on a high when I reached mile 22 aid station in 4:30 or so. It was gonna be easy from here, or so I thought!

Looking down from mile 22:

Looking down from mile 22 "summit"

Only 12 miles to go, but little did I know that I was gonna be out there for over 3 more hours.
After a healthy downhill, the jeep trail started heading uphill, very steeply. WTH, I don't remember this from my research. Also, the trail was pretty much all slickrock with these huge steps at times. It was exhausting!

I groaned out loud when I saw a nice 200 foot climb ahead of me. One of the guys I had been running close to for several miles exclaimed, it's like this for another 4.5 miles. I thought to myself "oh no!"

At least, the scenery was amazing though. One viewpoint around mile 24, in particular, motivated me to get the phone out and grab some more pics.

Great views at mile 24

Southeast from mile 24

After this viewpoint, the race was very much downhill, with only about 50-60 foot uphills that I can recall. Even going downhill was severely taking a toll on me. Some of the more technical downhill sections, I had to walk. Also, I was making sure to always lead with the left foot on the bigger drops to minimize the toll on the right ankle.

Was definitely in survival mode after mile 25. Passing the 26.2 mark was definitely a huge lift psychologically though. After that point, my mantra became, every step I take is a new PR, distance-wise.

Miles 27-29, the terrain finally eased up a little bit. It was actually kind of fun running on these sandstone hills. I'm thinking that they may have been petrified dunes of some sort. I regret not taking a picture of them, because they were very cool looking.

Managed to hit the last aid station at mile 29 at the 6:34 mark. It took me 2 hours and a couple of minutes to cover 7 miles.

I confirmed with the aid station attendants that I only had about 5 miles to go. I was going to make it! To be eligible to finish, all you had to do was finish under 10 hours. I had almost 3 1/2 hours to cover 5 miles. No problem.

The next 2.5 miles or so was super easy. It was pretty flat and smooth for the most part. I actually was running 5mph or faster in parts. The last 2.5 miles had some pretty rocky parts but for someone with a morsel of energy left in their body, it wouldn't have posed too much of a challenge. I was in total survival mode at this point. I got passed by 10-12 people over the last 2 miles. They were all very nice though and most gave me encouragement as they zipped on by.

Eventually, I crossed the finish in 7 hours 47 minutes. It was such a relief to be done with that thing.


After grabbing a beer, I walked over and talked to a few people in the Ft Collins trailrunners group. I haven't done a whole heckuva lot of runs with them before, but I went over and introduced myself anyway. My wife was hanging out at the house we rented for the weekend because I told her I probably wouldn't be finished until 5pm at the earliest. I had hoped to call her when I finished, but the finish at Poison Spider TH was completely surrounded by tall rocks that a call had no chance to get through.

I started walking the 4 miles or so back to the main road to Moab when I got a ride from a family that had just finished the race.

Here's a picture of the general area of the finish line that I took while staggering down the road.

After the race was over

I got dropped off at a road just north of town. Called my wife and just enjoyed the awesome late afternoon views of the area and reflected on an amazing day.

What's next

Recovery, recovery, recovery. It's been a few days, but I'm still dreading walking down stairs. The achilles is definitely sore, but doesn't appear to be too shredded. Hopefully, I dodged a bullet. I knew going in that it was really freaking stupid to go into an event like this in less than optimal condition. Feel like I lucked out royally just to finish.

Really looking forward to trying to build off of my current base, and get ready for summer hiking season!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Comments or Questions
02/21/2012 21:04
That's great to hear you finished, and that you stuck with it while also listening to your body. I'm doing the Leadville Marathon in June and have been dealing with a knee issue, it has been difficult to hold back from training but I feel like it's a wise decision. Great job!

Good Work
02/21/2012 22:36
Amazing accomplishment to have achieved. I'm glad your running injuries didn't stop you from being able to push through. It's amazing the mental hindrance they can have on you, your a hoss for pushing past both.

Nice job, Dave!
02/21/2012 23:02
My feet hurt just thinking about a run like that.

02/21/2012 23:31
Wow, what a great accomplishment! I've never done a running ultra and I'm in awe. Good story too, I could tell an injury probably was in the offing but I admire your perseverance.

New PR!
02/21/2012 23:45
Incredible accomplishment, Dave!
Way to keep your mind in the game and push through.
Impressive persistence.

Ridge runner
Way to go!
02/22/2012 05:51
It was great to meet you, Dave. And congrats on finishing a race that's pretty technical, especially with a bum achilles. I took a similar shot as your picture #14 overlooking the Superfund site and the Colorado River. I don't think we could have asked for better weather. Hope to see you out on the trails!

02/22/2012 20:23
Ass!!! From one die hard 49er fan to another this is pretty awesome.

Brian C
Rock on!!!
02/22/2012 20:25
Nice work Dave!! You'll have to come to the next beer event and tell me about it.

Thanks for sharing
02/25/2012 05:10
Great job to you! I will be looking at this race for the future thanks to you!!

emcee smith
Great Job
02/25/2012 13:33
thanks for posting; the pictures were nice. See you on the trails again.

Nice Dave
03/04/2012 17:32
Congrats on your first ultra finish!

07/29/2013 18:29
For all the great comments!

RJansen77, good luck in Leadville. With the elevation, that seems like a huge challenge. Let me know how it goes.

Andymcp1, thanks! The injury wasn't too much of a hinderance in the race, endorphins or whatever kicked in.

Phil, I don't think this race is any more of a grind that LB's SW Ridge.

Tom, I'm in awe of your pursuit of all the class 5 peaks!

Nancy, yeah, new PR, definitely a great way of looking at it.

Stephanie, great meeting you as well! Very nice work out there!

Kushrocks - go Niners, definitely! That NFC championship was a crusher, but I think they have a bright future.

Brian, see you Friday at Odells! Thanks!

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