I’m back in rainy Dunsmuir after traveling to Moab for a mini racecation last weekend. The weather was perfect . Behind the Rocks wasn’t officially my first race of 2019, but it felt like it for so many reasons.
Moab is a beautiful and magical place that I was happy to re-visit, but to be completely honest, it took more effort just to get to the starting line of this race than to complete the distance on foot.
Part of that is because I treated the 30k as a training run. After a long, dark, and very snowy winter full of treadmill miles at the gym, I wasn’t exactly in peak shape. In fact, I haven’t run more than 11 miles since Headwaters 30k back in September.
On top of that, I’ve developed some foot problems that I believe were exacerbated by poorly fitting ski boots the week leading up to race day.
There’s nothing more nerve-raking than foot pain before a trail race.
Unless, of course, you need to fly to said race and aren’t allowed on the plane. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
I was on the verge of tears as I watched the plane I was supposed to be on slowly pull away from the gate. I didn’t show up late to the airport. On the contrary, I had been there for hours.
The original 6am Delta flight I had booked from Medford, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah was oversold. When they asked for volunteers to take a later flight, I told the Delta agent I had some flexibility as long as she assured me I would make it SLC with enough time to drive to Moab and sleep before the race.
She promised me she’d get me on an Alaska Airline flight that would land in SLC by 3pm. Good deal.
BUT someone messed up the ticket transfer. I had a seat reserved, but no actual boarding pass. So, the Alaska flight took off with at least one empty seat, meant for me.
Long story short- I spent more than six hours at the Medford airport, went through security three times, bounced back and forth between two airlines, fought back many tears, and ultimately made it out of that cesspool with a first class ticket to SLC and an $1800 gift card.
Sure, I had to go through hell, but at least I got paid $300 an hour for it.
When I landed in SLC, the car rental agent upgraded me to a Subaru, which I would say is absolutely necessary if you plan to do this race. Some less-rugged vehicles really struggled on the dirt road to the start/finish area.
The AWD Subaru also came in handy on the drive from SLC to Moab. The trip was four hours long and sketchy as hell. The road was twisted, slick, and quite perilous due to a heavy sleet storm.
But I made it to Moab alive, hungry, and very dehydrated, by 9pm.
The day before a race, I typically do an easy shakeout run, rest hard, and focus on hydration. I’m so grateful I wasn’t approaching this race competitively, because NONE of those things happened before Behind the Rocks.
My pre-race dinner was a grab n’ go kale salad with hummus and a microwave burrito from the grocery store. I felt like I had to move around a bit before going to bed, so I put on my Spotify ®unning playlist and danced around my hotel room.
At some point, I realized the people in the room below me probably didn’t appreciate my late-night jump squats and finally laid down to rest.
The next morning was equally hectic. I was wiped out and stayed in bed until the last possible moment. This, in turn, led to everything else getting held off until the last possible moment.
I picked up my race bib and swag two minutes before check-in for the 30k closed.
The closest thing I got to a warmup was the jog from my car to the porta potties. When I exited aforementioned potty, I heard the one-minute to go time announcement.
As I joined the pack of runners, I thought, “my body is going to hate me and it’s all my fault.”
But, I took it slow and actually felt pretty okay throughout the race and the rest of the weekend.
At one point during the race, I was very tempted to turn onto the 50k course. At around mile 8, there was a sign that pointed the 30k runners to the left and 50k/50M runners to the right.
I stood by that sign for a good 20 seconds, gazing longingly at the superior scenery offered by the longer race distances.
Even though the 50k had started an hour earlier, I assumed I was within cutoff. I had just passed a 50k runner who was moving very slowly, wearing two knee braces and using trail crutches (trekking poles).
When someone asked him if he needed help sliding down a slippery section of slick rock, he replied, “oh no, I’m fine… just taking a nice, leisurely, 32-mile nature hike.”
I love ultrarunners.
Ultimately, I made the right call in sticking with the 30k. Even though I felt good at the time, 8 miles is only 1/4 of the way through a 50k.
Besides, by the time I finished mile 12, I didn’t feel so keen on running anymore. At mile 17, I was thanking god it was almost over.
By the time I hit the finish, I felt like I’d run a 50k.
My body was tired and unaccustomed to that distance. Pins and needles shot up my left foot every time it contacted the ground.
The 30k race course was mostly on wide dirt roads with areas of loose sand and hard slick rock peppered throughout.
We lucked out with perfect weather- the sun stayed mostly hidden behind the clouds. I can imagine that race is far more challenging beneath a blazing sun.
I didn’t even care as other runners pushed past me just before the finish. I finished in 3:45. I just realized that’s actually the same time I had for Headwaters, so I guess the lack of preparedness didn’t hurt my performance all that much. (Though Headwaters is a much tougher race.)
I also approached both races with the same focus on enjoying every step as much as possible.
There were gorgeous, breathtaking views in every direction, relatively easy terrain, and very comfortable running temperatures.
After I finished, I met up with southern Oregon runners Chad Bowen and Kyle Carson, both of whom had run the 50k race. We hung out to watch Courtney Dauwalter win the 50 mile race and set a new course record in her basketball shorts, then headed out to enjoy all the bountiful splendor and watered-down beer that Moab has to offer.
I should mention that this trip was the first time I had a drink since my honeymoon last fall, so Mormon beer was actually perfect. (I totally had a glass of Prosecco on my first-class flight, too. I DESERVED IT!)
We spent the next day exploring Arches National Park, which was even more beautiful than the race course. Then, I was back off to SLC at 5:30am Monday morning.
If I did this again, I would definitely fly into Grand Junction, Colorado instead of SLC and travel on Thursday instead of Friday.
But the bottom line was good. I had tons of fun and feel motivated to get out for some longer training runs.
Thanks so much to Mad Moose Events for putting this race on, Hammer Nutrition for sponsoring me (and Behind the Rocks Ultra), and to Chad and Kyle for being hilarious adventure buddies.
I just want to note that this post contains 100% authentic content and wasn’t sponsored by anyone.
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.