Moab Trail Half Marathon 2016

I have literally been writing this post for a week and a half.  My apologies if it seems a little jumbled.

It's fine, I only blog about my races anymore, it's fine.

My radio silence around here (brought to you by homework) has prevented me from even mentioning that I was training for another race.  I've been taking it relatively easy since the last half marathon I ran back in April because my joints needed a break.   I was still running every other day and working on improving my mile time in short increments instead of my usual long runs.  But around the same weekend I ran the RedBull 400, I realized that I really wanted to run another half.  So I googled, "Utah races coming up" and saw the Moab Trail Half Marathon.  I'd heard good things about the Moab Marathon (spoiler alert: not the same race) and that it was relatively easy in that a lot of it was downhill or flat ground.  It was in 6 weeks and I figured I could jump into my usual training program at the halfway point since I was already conditioned up to that point.  Still, 6 weeks felt like a absurdly short amount of time to train (based on my experience) and I decided to refer to it as "Deathbed Repentance."

Even though I didn't realize this race was different from the other Moab marathon, I did at least pay attention to the fact that it was a trail run.  I devoted my Saturday mornings to long runs in the mountains.  A few weeks into Deathbed Repentance, my co-worker and I were talking about it and I said I had heard it was fairly easy, to which he replied that there were a few different Moab runs and he asked if I had looked up the coarse map.  I hadn't and thought it would be a  good idea to do that just to get a better idea of what I signed up for.  The results were definitely not what I was expecting.  The vertical feet shot up and down frantically and as I scanned the elevation changes, I realized I was absolutely not running an easy race.  Thankfully, my runs in the mountains had a decent climb to them and I felt like I was still preparing well for it.  Looking back, I think I could have incorporated some steeper, but shorter hill training sessions, overall though, I wasn't completely unprepared.  By the time the race ended, I had climbed a combined 2,214 feet.  Even on the decent, there were still steep hills.  I don't know what Moab race I had heard about before that was mostly downhill or flat, but this was not it.

So, Moab is about 3 1/2 hours from our house in Midway.  We had to go north Friday night to get some exams out of the way, but we left our house bright and early Saturday morning and got down there before noon.  I didn't think to check what time check-in was at our hotel, though, so when we got to the front desk, they were like, "Oh- yeah, check-in isn't until 3:30."  Landon and I laughed and were like, "That's cool.  We'll go get some lunch and go for a hike and come back in a few hours."  They gave us directions to the Visitor's Center where we could get more information on hikes and other activities.

I didn't realize that Arches National Park was right across the street from where we were staying, so after we got some lunch we decided we should go see Delicate Arch- the arch that is on the Utah license plate and one of the most famous attractions in the state.  We have both lived in Utah our whole lives, but never seen it.

As we were driving through the park, we stopped at Balanced Rock.  It's exactly what its name says it is- a massive boulder balancing on a column of rock.  It's so large, it looks like it could roll off at any second.  But did that stop us from climbing all over it? No. Of course not.  We had our fun there for 15 minutes or so, but were quickly back on our way to Delicate Arch.

The trailhead was a few miles up the road and the hike was a little strenuous for the first mile or so. But after the initial climb, it was just walking around on slick rock; it wasn't a hard hike by any means.  It was gorgeous though.  I can't get enough of that red rock.  There wasn't really a trail to follow for most of the hike, it was wide open slick rock with frequent arrows pointing us in the direction we wanted to go, up until the last half mile or so when we walked up a natural path that reminded me of Pride Rock.  We were just around the bend when we saw a hole in the rock that was the perfect window to Delicate Arch.
We climbed up it and got to enjoy a nice little preview of the whole thing before we were surrounded by the crowds.  I've seen these kinds of arches all over Utah.  Heck, remember Rainbow Bridge at Powell?  But even seeing so many, I'm never not blown away at what wind, water and a little time (billions of years) can do.
Once we had finished our hike and got back into town, we were able to check into our little motel and get cleaned up.  We had gotten a small glimpse of downtown Moab when we had gotten lunch earlier, but I wanted to go walk around and shop and get some dinner.  We walked all around trying to find a place that didn't have an hour long wait and after walking all the way up and back down main street (in heels) we settled on the bar and grill directly next to where we parked our car an hour before.  I got a chicken quesadilla that I pretended was the large, cheesy pasta dish Landon ordered.  Landon knows how to carb load far better than I do.

After dinner, we went back to the motel because Landon had some homework he had to get submitted that night.  I fell asleep immediately (cause that's how I do) and when Landon finally came to bed, it woke me up and I experienced the most intense WHERE AM I?! feeling of my life.  The panic attack lasted all of three seconds before I was completely unconscious again.

The race didn't start until 8 am Sunday morning, which is the latest start time of all the races I've done so far, AND we were only a 10 minute drive from the starting line compared to the usual hour long drive I've made for races in the past.  So I got plenty of sleep, especially because day light savings landed on that day.  I know all of my mommy friends hate day light savings, but I'll be honest, this year was definitely a perk for me.

I woke up at 6:30, braided my hair and went down to grab some continental breakfast for Landon and me.  I'm sure I was a sight to see trying to take a stack of toast and Eggo waffles in one hand, a glass of orange juice in the other, and yogurt, syrup and butter in my arms as I scurried across the parking lot before the food got cold.  We ate our breakfast of champions in bed while we watched the news and then headed out to go pick up my packet with all my race goodies.
It was a beautiful morning, the sun hadn't come up over the red rocks yet, but the sky was light blue and the air was crisp.  We followed the Colorado River up the canyon and found a parking spot right next to the starting line.  I ran to pick up my things and Landon came over to walk around the area with me.  

Now, I've only done three half marathons before this one, so I my experience is somewhat limited, but the races I've done in the past have felt different than this one did.  There is usually a lot more booths promoting their products, more advertisements, and just, a lot more noise.  This race was very different. The venue- if you could call it that- was just a bunch of tables with food, some fire pits scattered around, and a band with a trumpet, trombone, tuba, and a drum playing their hearts out at the starting line.  Honestly, the vibe was so chill and friendly I could have hung out all day.  And the food?  The food was different too, usually it's all oranges and bananas and that energy goo (that I hate), but here they had home made chili and bread, pb&j sandwiches, candy bars, chips, coke, along with the oranges, bananas, and energy goo.  I didn't eat any of it, because I had just slammed a mini stack of Eggos, but I really appreciated the spread they had out for us.  It was so real and down to earth, and the vibe of it all was so comfortable.  Usually before races, I get a nervous jitters and can't shake the I-have-to-pee feeling no matter how many times I hit the porta-potty, but not this time.  I was there to have a great time, and the band and the people with their dogs and everything else just made it feel like we were at a party in the desert.
The race began promptly at 8:00, but I was in the 4th wave so I didn't go until about 8:20.  Once we were off, I knew immediately that it was going to be the hardest race I'd done, but I also knew it was going to be my favorite.  The first few miles were all uphill, and not uphill like the Zion race where it was barely an incline, but uphill like the hike we had done the day before the Delicate Arch that had us huffing and puffing.  And from time to time our entire path would be boulders and rocks that we had to climb up and over and hop from one to another.  My legs were on fire, and my lungs burned as I pushed through the pain and climbed up steps in the slick rock that were waist high to me.  In the first four and half miles, we had climbed well over 1,000 feet in elevation; 200+ feet more than the entire 13.1 miles of the Zion Half I did back in March.
Once we had climbed to the highest point in the race, we had came back down through the rocks and into a wash that we followed for the another mile.  This wash was full of soft, deep sand and it was like we were running on the beach.  I don't know if any of you have ran on the beach, but it is NOT EASY.  Your core is a lot more engaged because it's harder to balance in, so while climbing over boulders and up strenuous hills was tough, the run in the sand was by no means a break.
About 5 miles in, we came to our first aid station.  Usually at aid stations, they have the water, fruit and goo, and it's run by a bunch of volunteers that you can tell are immersed in the running community.  But the men who were running this station were in their middle ages, a couple had beer bellies, and they had driven their jeeps in on Friday and had been camping there for the past three days.  They were sitting in their camping chairs at the tables that had more coca cola, with potato chips, M&Ms, and licorice.  They had the normal gatorade and goo, but they also had those little to-go packages of apple sauce.  I slurped down one of those bad boys after two cups of water and two cups of gatorade and I put another in my camelbak for the road.  I thanked them profusely for staying out there and having the best aid station of any race I had been in.  They were so kind and happy, I wouldn't have minded hanging out longer and shooting the breeze with them.

And that applesauce? Pure genius. Way better than goo.

Following that aid station, there was a couple more miles of sand with the occasional rocky section.  The trail went up and down and eventually led to the road up a very long, steep hill.  This part, was probably the most boring out of the entire race and it was still incredible.  It was strenuous, for sure, but the cliff that surround the road were majestic in ever sense of the word; we even saw some petroglyphs along the way.

Once we reached the top of that hill, the trail turned off the road and wound through more boulders until the trail was hardly a trail at all.  It was a single track that wove through cracks and crevices in the rock until we were standing on the edge of a gorge that, in some places, had a 300 foot drop to the bottom.  The trail ran right along the edge and continued up and over boulders, this was probably the slowest part of the race because everyone was taking extra caution over the obstacles.
There was one section that had volunteers stationed to help you had to climb down the slick rock.  I sat on my butt and slid down it and took their hands on the rest of the section.  Once we past that, we had to basically crawl under these over hangs, all while still on the edge of this gorge.  It definitely got the adrenaline pumping because you were one small misstep from a deadly fall.
Once past that death trap, we followed the trail down into the gorge.  By this point it felt pretty normal to be climbing and hopping from boulder to boulder, under trees and through the sand.  This entire race was marked with little orange ribbons about every 10 feet to show you where to go, and at the beginning of the race they told us if you go more than 20 feet without seeing a ribbon to turn around and go back until you do.  Well, this happened to me and a few others on our way down the gorge.  I was pretty close to the guy in front of me so I was just following him as we wove through the terrain, but the trail progressively headed into thick brush and sticker bushes.  Soon the trail started to fade away altogether, as I slowed to a walk.  The guy in front of me ran a few more feet, until he slowed down and turned back to look at me.  I asked him if he had seen any orange ribbons in awhile and he told me he hadn't.  I turned around to see that about three other people had followed us off the trail.  We called out to them that we were off track to to turn around until we could find the ribbons again.  It took a few minutes, but we got back on the trail and were on our way again.  I'm glad they had the ribbons though, I hadn't realized that I had been relying on them as much as I had.

The second aid station was at the bottom of the gorge, but I only stopped for one cup of water and kept on my way trying to make up for the time I had spent exercising caution on the edge.  I had been warned by a runner at the continental breakfast back at the motel that there was a creek you had to run through at mile 11.  I completely forgot about it until we were in it.  It looked shallow, but the man in front of me proved that it might be deeper than we thought when he took his first step and FELL ON HIS FACE when the ground wasn't where he anticipated.  This was the same guy I followed off the trail, but I wasn't about to follow his lead on that.  The water ended up being just past my knees, so like, pretty deep for a creek.  We only had to run through it for about 50 feet, but my shoes were full of water, mud and small rocks for the remaining two miles of the race, which didn't feel great, if I'm being totally honest.  And I didn't initially laugh at the guy who went swimming in the creek on accident, but I visualized it later and had a good laugh.  Karma got me for that, though.  There was another creek we had to cross, and as I tried to ease my way down the bank, I slipped in the mud and fell on my butt.

We followed the bottom of the gorge for about another mile and a half before it spit us back out on the road, and as we came around the corner, I could see the tops of the porta-potties that were at the finish line! I immediately felt that rush of adrenaline as I neared the end of the race.  It was a cruel trick though, right before we ran into the venue, the trail took a hard left and spit us back down into the river bed.  My watch told me I was almost at 13 miles, so I was a little confused, until I remembered my our little set back with losing the ribbons.  There was still about a half mile left to the race.  The trail ran alongside the venue and I could hear the band playing at the finish line.  There were still a lot of small but steep uphills we had to climb to get back up to there, but the trail was lined with the spectators who were ringing cow bells and cheering us on.  I scrambled up the last hill and ran to cross the finish line.  When I registered for this race, at the end of the registration, it said to write something about yourself for the announcer to read as you crossed the line.  So when I stepped over, the announcer said, "Whitney Street from Midway, Utah.  She likes to party!" (Where are my Hot Rod fans at?!) I thought I was so funny when I submitted that, and I thought I was equally as funny when he read it out loud as they handed me my medal.  I finished the race in 2:39:00 flat.  This was longer than most of my other races, but I credit that to all the variations of the terrain and also getting lost for a couple minutes.  I actually felt really awesome about finishing in that time, I was anticipating the earliest I would finish was 2:45.

Landon was there at the finish line and scooped me up in a big hug, telling me how proud of me he was.  We walked back out to all tables.  The chili was gone, but they had pots full of chicken noodle soup and plates full of quesadillas.  There was cocoa and coffee and more soda; it was just like a big cookout.  We got our fill of food and took our last looks around before we drove back to the motel so I could shower and get ready before we checked out.  I had to take my shoes and socks off and put  them in a plastic bag before I could get in the car because they were so dirty.  And Landon had me sit on his jackets since my butt still had mud all over it.  I was a mess and I was so grateful that the motel let us have an extra late checkout so I could get cleaned up.

We left the motel around 12:30 and decided we'd go back up into Arches National Park to hike around some more before we went home.  My feet were killing me, though, so we figured it would be best to keep it limited to the "nature walk" kind of hikes rather than a day hike.  We got to look at The Fiery Furnace, but you need a hiking permit to actually go in it, and then we walked around the Devil's Garden for an hour or so.  It was still the most beautiful day without a cloud in the sky.  I wish we would have had more time down there to explore because we barely scratched the surface in the 20 hours we were there.  We will definitely be back soon!
Around 2:30 we decided we better get going since so we wouldn't be rolling into our house too late.  We stopped at Landon's mom's to get Josh, but we didn't stay long.  It had been a crazy weekend and we were in need of some zzz's before work the next morning.

I look back on this race and am kind of blown away at how fast it all happened.  From the moment I decided to sign up for it, through Deathbed Repentance and then the actual race itself.  It was the hardest race I've done yet and it took me longer than a normal run would, but it flew by.  I had the time of my life and I will always think of these last few weeks with fondness.  And now that I know what to expect, I'll be switching up my training program for next year.  Because you better believe I'm going back for seconds.

There was an error in this gadget