Sunday, May 22, 2011

Red Rock Relay Moab - Solo Run

(Race was 5-14-2011)

This race sort of came out of the blue for me. The word came my way that Matt Ward, the race director for Red Rock Relay Moab, would let anyone in the race for free if they did it solo. The only catch would be that I would need to provide my own crew since there would be no aid stations.

I put out my feelers and was able to get a crew together. Two of my brothers volunteered, Brian and Kevin Dickey and a co-worker of mine, Colin Anderson. I felt humbled that they offered so much so freely. Colin had crewed before, but Brian and Kevin were new to the ordeal. But I knew they would come through and had nothing but confidence in them.

Another one of my co-workers came up with a "team" name for me, "Bon Solo". A word play off the Hoka Bondi B's and Hon Solo. I had originally planned on running the race in the Bondi B's, but I was able to get a new Hoka shoe to try out for the race instead, called the Stinson aka The Combo XT's, a trail/road hybrid shoe. I brought my Bondi B's along for the ride just in case though, because I knew they worked for me.

I was slated to start the race with the slower teams at 6:00am. As usual, the early morning always come early. I got my breakfast shake and banana in me and felt ready to go. I felt fresh and energized. For the first time this season, I felt ready to race. I guess the only worry I had was the potential heat and how my legs would hold up too about 65 miles of roads.

I was the only solo racer in the field, it was kind of odd not really having anyone specific to compete against but myself. It was actually just what I needed, it was all on me, no excuses. I did want to beat as many teams as I could and starting as early as I was, I wanted to be the first "team" across the finish line. I knew the faster teams would be starting later in the day so they would have to really work to get me.

The gun went off and I was on my way. I had some company the first 5 miles or so of the course, after that I was pretty much on my own, leaving the slower teams behind. The scenery was quite amazing for the first 15 miles. The red rock cliffs were glowing along the Colorado River as the sun rose. My pace was decent. I wasn't really feeling great, but didn't feel terrible either.My crew met up with me about every 30 minutes or so, which was great. I started to see the benefits of a crew quickly (this was my first crewed race). My brothers were doing a great job. Colin was to meet up with us around mile 20 in his own car. His wife was with him so he let her sleep in a bit before he came along.

The first 15 miles of the course were pretty uneventful. Just found my rhythm and took care of my nutrition. At about mile 16 my hamstrings started to tighten up some. I ran a 50k 3 weeks prior and they were extremely tight after that race. I was getting worried they would do the same for this race, I had a long ways to go for this to start happening.

Around mile 20 I turned south into Castle Valley and started to head up towards the La Sal Mountains.

This valley consisted of basically long straight stretches of road that were gradually climbing. I was starting to realize I was feeling strong. Still staying a bit conservative, I held my effort. From mile 20-26 I climbed 2000 feet. During this time, oddly enough, the tightness in my hamstrings disappeared, the change in terrain was turning out to be a good thing. Legs began to feel nice and lose.

Around mile 26 my brother Brian joined me (running barefoot) just in time for the more serious climbs of the course. It was nice to get some constant company. I also started to dump water on me on a regular basis to keep my body core temperature down, as a precaution. We brought plenty of water to do this. The day was starting to warm, but as we started to get up in altitude, the temperatures didn't get that hot.

I eased my pace on the hills, jogging/walking my way up. As I started to climb higher, clouds started to roll in and it got rather comfortable up there, almost chilly. The race just started to clip by. For the first time of my short ultra running experiences, I felt in total control. But I also knew I had to be patient and just maintain what I was doing, staying hydrated and fueled.

I crossed first 50k in around 4:22, just a bit under halfway. I was surprised how easy it felt to get to this point that fast. I actually thought I might have gone out too fast, but my body felt strong and I didn't feel like I had over extended my efforts at all. But the next 15 miles would be over 7000 feet in elevation and elevation tends to change how I feel. The views were spectacular though and worth the work getting up there. It's pretty unique seeing the alpine peaks cover in snow and the orange sandstone terrain down below.

Around 40 my other brother Kevin, started to run with me, Brian did his part and did it well. At about 41, the last big climb was before me. It was now time to recover as I ran downhill for a bit starting to feel the altitude somewhat, I haven't been over 5000 feet since March, but all in all it wasn't too hard on me. I took my time on the last climb, knowing I would have plenty of downhill to make up time.

After we crested the hill I stopped a bit at my vehicle to re-supply. One of the other team vehicles was kind of playing hop scotch with us for the last little bit, which meant they were catching up. They had stopped by our vehicle and I looked over and recognized one of the runners. Mike Strauss, we ran against each other in High School and College. We chatted a bit before I moved on. Funny who your run into while running :)

A couple miles later he comes flying by me. Damn, one of the relay teams caught me. It took about 45 miles for that to happen. I felt good about that. There was no way I could keep up though and all I could was watch Mike tear down the mountain. At this point I was able to relax more get my legs stretched out and moving in a good rythym , I was able to get down to 7 min mile pace. I did stop and walk on some of the steeper down hills sections, more as a precaution, they would be murder on the quads and probably not worth the effort.

I continued down the mountain and could feel the extra oxygen becoming available. At mile 49, something happened that I won't ever forget. I felt unbelievable. I hit mile 50 with a 6:37 mile (ran 7 hours, 14 minutes or so through 50 miles), followed by a 6:28, 6:20, and finally a 6:16... wtf. They were downhill miles, but it wasn't that steep. How was I moving my legs like this after 50 miles? It sure felt great though. I decided at this point I better be careful, it was starting to get warm so I backed off a bit. I could see the team that passed me earlier quickly coming back to me. At around mile 56 I caught the team that had passed me and left them behind. I guess their runner after Mike wasn't as fast. I wouldn't see any other teams the rest of the way.

The course then started to head back into Moab. I started dumping water on me every 15 minutes as the temperatures started to rise, but I never really did feel overwhelmed by it. I just continued my way into town, knowing I was running a great race for me. At mile 60, Kevin tore off and Brian jumped in for the last few miles.

I came through 100k in 8:44! I just ran my second 50k in the same time as my first. That was a best case scenario time for me, things were just going great. I started smiling inside from ear to ear inside. The end was near.

Before I knew it, the finish was in sight and I crossed it 9:03.23 for 64.60 miles and 6000 feet of climbing, I was the first "team" to cross the line for the day and I ended up taking 6th place overall out of 150 relay teams.

Thanks to my crew Colin (and his wife), Brian and Kevin. I wouldn't have been able to run like I did without you guys there, you hit it out of the park for me. You can crew for me any time. (we forgot to get a group shot)

Thanks to Matt Ward, the Red Rock Relay Race Director, for letting me run this event. It's a pretty sweet course, but also very challenging.

Also thanks to Hoka for letting me use their new shoe, it just might be their best one yet.


peter said...

Impressive. Really impressive. If my math is correct, right around 9 min/mile, with 6,000 vertical ascent. Time for a 100 mile race Scott.

matt ward said...

Scott thanks for running the race. it was amazing to watch you. You set the bar pretty freaking high. hopefully we will have a bigger solo field next year

matt ward

Doggie B said...

Pretty amazing, inspirational, and a little crazy! Great job!

Supercords said...

Great race report. Helps us all to get motivated. Nice use of photos to break up the text.


jun said...

I had no idea about the run solo run free thing. I would have done that, for sure. Maybe I'll try it next year. Congrats on a great time and feeling really well.

marisa said...

Wow that is amazing!!! Great job. I was on one of the many teams you beat!

Darrin said...

That is outstanding. I was a member of one of the slow teams that started out with you at 6:00. I am in awe of your accomplishment because the 2 legs I ran was about all I had in me. Thanks for the writeup and the inspiration

MoabUtah said...

I just have to share this race description, Ate it up, every word.

TonyaC said...

Truly amazing! I enjoyed reading this. I too was one of the many teams you beat. I heard at around our 8th leg that you had crossed the finish line. I could not believe it. You are an inspiration.

Scott said...

Thanks everyone.

Matt, I have may have set the bar too high for me to match it. It's pretty rare when everything goes that well. Thanks again for the opportunity, I had a blast and the course is awesome. I am sure there will be more people next year. I may do it again myself.

Peter, according to my watch, it was a 8:23 avg, of course the watch probably wasn't 100% accurate as far as the distance goes, but it was definitely under 9 avg.

A 100 miler is in my future, but probably not till next spring. I am on the slow track of progression ;) I am feeling more and more ready to give it a go though.

Cory Reese said...

This. Is. Awesome! Great report, and great pictures. The rear view mirror pic is definitely my favorite. Way to go!

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Bri!!! said...

I don't even know you, but this write up was AWESOME! Way to go! This is very inspirational. I am not a runner at all, but we do the long distance cycling and absolutely love it. Ultra runners have my respect. I honestly don't know how you do it! Loved that you beat most the teams!