Moab Red Hot 55K
(Plus important thanks to some of my team, and a teaser)
This is the fifth (and next to last) in a series of occasional training blogs recording my training progress toward my goal of completing the Zion 100 on April 8-9, 2016, in support of the College of Law’s 100-100 initiative. The first blog recorded a Mt. Timpanogos Run on October 4. The second recorded the 9th annual “Trans-Wasatch” Run on October 25th, an informal group run starting somewhere on the Salt Lake side of the Wasatch Range and ending at an appropriate place for refreshments in Summit County. The third described my completion of the Antelope Island Fall 50K on November 14. The fourth described my Mt. Mt. Kilimanjaro hike with my family, hardly a serious “training run,” but at 19,341 feet above sea level, the highest peak in Africa, and the mountain with the fourth largest base to summit gain in the world, still a reasonably good test of fitness and endurance.
After this, my last remaining interim goal, which I will describe in my final training blog, is the Buffalo Run 50-mile race on March 19. The “teaser” referenced above is that I think I will have some fun surprise announcements in my next blog!
The Moab Red Hot trail race is a perennial favorite event, because quite a few trail running friends and families all go down and enjoy the long President’s Day weekend together. I ran the 55K race (my GPS watch actually clocked in at exactly 33 miles, which is 53K, but who’s counting?), having run the 33K the past two years. It was excellent “event-specific training” for Zion because the terrain and trails are similar in many ways – a combination of dirt roads, single-track dirt trails, and red rock with a lot of climbing and descending up and down mesas. The main difference was that we had a small amount of ice, snow, slush and mud in addition to dirt, sand and rock. I hope the Zion course will be dry (it certainly won’t have any snow or ice in April!), but trail runners learn to deal with the unexpected. I once ran a race in Southern Idaho on Memorial Day weekend that was canceled mid-way through for safety reasons due to a freak, unpredicted blizzard.
The Moab race went just about perfectly from my perspective. Conditions were wonderful. It started just a bit chilly (around 30) but never got too hot, and we had nice cloud cover much of the time. It is among the most beautiful courses I have ever run, and Trail Runner magazine called it one of the most scenic races in the country. You see a combination of beautiful close-up red rock cliffs, wide open terrain, the unique and iconic formations of Arches in the mid-ground, the La Sal Mountains sparkling in the distance, and some glimpses of the Colorado River. (The course ends down at the river at the Poison Spider trailhead).
My plan was to run the first two thirds of the race moderately hard, and then to push a bit harder for the final third. I paced myself well enough to do so. I ended up tired but not exhausted, running a much faster pace than I plan to or need to run at Zion. (My goal time was 7 hours, and I finished in 6:45, good enough for a 10-minute age group victory. OK, there were only four of us in the male-over-60 group, but I’ll still take it!) I do not, by contrast, plan to run my last pre-Zion event as a “race”. The Buffalo Run 50-miler is just three weeks before Zion, so running hard would take too much out of my legs that close to the race and be counter-productive. I plan to use it to train myself in the right pacing for a 100-miler (slow and steady).
Shout-Outs to some of my team: Some people are good enough to run 100-mile races with little or no support. I am not one of them. I train with a close group of running friends, and we all help each other in various ways as we prepare for, and make it through, events like this. I have mentioned many of them in previous blogs. At the race itself, I will have a crew and pacers, who I will discuss more in my next and last training blog. This month, I want to thank two people in particular who have helped me to get and keep my aging body in shape for this adventure. My massage therapist Jenny Winkel of Salt Lake Body Works has been an absolute marvel at diagnosing the kinks and muscle problems one encounters in distance running, particularly when training on snowy and icy winter trails. A trainer my wife and I use, Allison Beatty, uses the Functional Movement Systems method and has helped to improve my leg strength, core strength, fitness and especially flexibility quite dramatically. She knows exactly what to work on, when, and how, and analyzes her clients individually rather than using a rote, one-size-fits-all method. Together, Jenny and Allison diagnosed the source of, and helped me address, some IT band soreness I was experiencing. If anyone is interested in working with either of them, let me know and I will put you in touch with them if they have openings in their schedules.
Progress toward the Zion 100 goal: The Zion 100 mile run is now less than six weeks away, which seems awful close! But I continue to make steady progress and I think I will be ready. Total mileage and elevation at Moab were both about 1/3 of what there will be at Zion, so the elevation gain per mile was similar. I ran it about 50% faster than my expected pace at Zion (12 minutes per mile average versus somewhere around 18). During weekday runs I am concentrating on intensity for purposes of fitness, and the next several weeks, including the Buffalo Run 50, I need slow, well-paced distance. Then, I will be as ready as I will be, and it becomes as much of a mental as a physical game.