Running, Part III

It’s been a month since the race but I feel like I need to finish the story.  Which is kind of weird, because only about 3 people in the world even know about this blog, and one of them ran the race with me.   For purposes of continuity alone.

We were off with a bang.  It was a little jarring to be honest, all of the races I used to run in NYC would start with a lot of hemming and hawing by the race director and usually some famous runner they coax out of retirement for the occasion.  There was no ceremony at this start, just a gunshot and we were off, into the crisp red morning.

Everything in Moab is red.  The rocks are red, the buttes towering overhead, the dust that cakes on your hiking boots, sometimes even the Colorado River looks red.  The start of the race is right along the river, winding through the canyon, only a stone’s throw across.  The sun had mostly come up by this time, though every once in a while we would come around a bend in the river and see the sun just breaking over a butte, hitting the canyon walls and making them glow.

It is mercifully flat.  I noticed we were passing people, and grumbled to myself about beaters who don’t know how to self-seed.  It is one of my bigger race pet peeves.  I must interrupt this waxing poetic to discuss.  Seriously, if you run a 13 minute mile you should not start at the 9 minute mile sign.  You are just creating a traffic jam.  And even if you think you might one day run a 9 minute mile, you should probably start at 10, just to be safe.  I certainly never start at the 6 minute mile sign.  I’d like to be able to run one, but it’s just not going to happen.  I start at the appropriate mile pace sign and am inevitably passing people the first 3 or 4 miles.  It takes an incredible amount of energy.

Anyways.  J and I kept passing people, left and right and everywhere.  We ran up the inside shoulder for awhile but even there we were passing people.  I had busted the band on my trusty Nike Imara watch a few weeks earlier so I had to dig it out of a pocket.  When I finally looked at it, around mile 3, I realized we were running 8:30 pace.  Faster than we had planned, but we were both feeling good so we decided to keep it up.  Unfortunately, soon after J felt a twinge in his knee.  He has had IT band issues for months, and for awhile it looked like he wouldn’t even be able to race.  But he is nothing if not determined, so we kept running on and played it by ear.  Or knee, I suppose.

Around mile 6 the mother of all hills starts.  You can see the elevation map of the course here.  As you can see, the first six miles are delightfully flat, maybe a few rolls here and there but nothing major.  According to the race website, “miles 8-12 contain some short hills.”  They are liars.  It starts slow and gradual, but by mile marker 7 you are going straight up a small mountain.  And it never ends.  It is straight up for a full mile and then some.  At that point J and I were playing a cat and mouse game.  He would speed up a little, I’d run to catch up and keep up the faster pace, and then he’d speed up again.  It was brutal.  And questionable judgement considering we still had more than 5 miles to go.  Luckily there was a nice long downhill before we headed up again.

At mile 10 I lost J.  His knee buckled just before the aid station and he stopped to walk.  I was a terrible girlfriend and kept going.  Don’t worry, I turned back to make sure he was okay, but at that point I was on a roll.  I still felt fresh and energized.  I sucked a couple more Clif Shot bloks and dug in.

There was an older woman who was pretty close to me the whole time.  She was wearing a super cute running skort (I want one!), and was thin and toned and kicking my ass.  She was at least my mom’s age, mid-50s or more.  I really, really wanted to beat her.  The last few miles passed in a blur.  I kept picking up the pace, especially once I hit the 12 mile mark.  I knew I still had plenty of juice left in me so I just let fly.  There’s a nice leisurely downhill before you turn into the ranch, and I just let my legs roll.  When I hit the ranch I started picking other runners off one by one until I was full on sprinting.  I kicked a little early and a couple of girls passed me right at the end, but I blazed through the finish.  I haven’t finished that strong in ages.

At the finish I went up to the older lady and told her what an inspiration she was, and how I’d just been trying to keep her in my sights the whole race.  I think I made her day.  I hope so anyways.

Only a couple of minutes later, J limped through the finisher corral.  As promised, he had gutted it out and finished strong.  The knee had not separated itself from his leg as feared but it was not in good shape.  We got some ice from the first aid station and he collapsed in the grass.  I was sad he didn’t get to experience the joy of the finisher tent, with its orange slices and gatorade and other deliciousness.

I think the reason I was so compelled to write about the race is it restored my love of running, and especially running races.  I had gotten so burnt out from injury and trying to hit time goals that I forgot the joy of just running.  I hope I can keep that.  Maybe that’s why I had to finish this post.

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