Dead Horse Ultra Race Report
So… our first 50K has been achieved and we made the cut offs and weren’t DFL (although it was a close thing)…
This is my Dead Horse Race Report from November 17th 2018:
For the TLDR; visitors:
Everything I liked –
- Course was well laid out and marked. If you’re paying attention at all it’s impossible to get off course. Follow the blue strips and the painted on markers and you’re golden.
- Course was gorgeous and ‘postcard’ worthy 95% of the trail. Everywhere you looked, unless you didn’t like rocks, was a great view of Mother Nature in all her rocky glory.
- Support was good, aid stations were well staffed and stocked with all the things that non-restricted diet ultra runners might need. If you’re LCHF / Keto / Vegan then you should probably plan for that head of time although there was fresh cooked bacon at two of the aid stations.
- Moab was a fun little town with some good restaurants and hotels.
- If you have the time and the extra cash then there are a ton of adventure type places where you can rent bikes, motorcycles, quads, jeeps and hummers to go out and about in the desert either pre or post race.
- While we didn’t get to do it, there’s a ton of local natural points of interest in the area that could add a lot of value for a lot of folks.
- They had a medal! #jewelrycollector
Things were not all gumdrops and puppies –
- I hate to be even slightly critical of the wonderful folks that volunteer at aid stations, giving up hours of their days for typically nothing in return but smiles and thanks. But don’t be afraid to jump out there and grab bottles from folks, especially the front packers, that minute or two saved while they get food or hit the bathroom.
- More portapotties at the aid stations. I know it seems silly when you’re in a massive desert and you could just go pee anywhere but in this particular instance when they request you do not leave the trail for any reason to avoid damaging the environment more than 1 porta-potty for a set of ultras with 900 runners even with staggered start times causes a backlog on the outbound trip.
- This isn’t a negative about the race or the support or anything but just be aware that mile upon mile of slick rock is very hard on the body. If you haven’t trained on road much you’re going to be hurting when you’re done because that rock was….some hard stuff.
- Paying for race photos. This is just a pet peeve of mine, I appreciate the cost for the race organizers of hiring a photographer to camp out in the desert for the day taking photos of strangers stumbling by and making this part of the swag. I get it. I also though won’t pay $15 for a jpg file or $20 for printed photo. That’s my personal thing and others I’m sure feel differently.
For those visitors who like long rambling first person reports:
We arrived on Friday morning and the scenery was both gorgeous and a little intimidating. We passed the staging area on the way from the tiny little airport that services Moab and the area and they had a lot of it already set up, the starting lane, overhead, some tents and etc and there were a fair number of folks working on the rest. That was a good omen for us.
We spent the day in Moab, shopping for groceries (beets, honey nut cheerios, bananas, chocolate milk, regular milk, sugar Coke etc) and meandering around the place while we waited for our rooms to be ready.
We got into our rooms and unpacked and just had a short wait before we walked over to the arts center where they were doing packet pickup. We picked up our bibs, timing chips (new thing for us), t-shirts and hat without much fuss.
Dinner was at Eddie McStiff’s restaurant, a cobb salad for me and a feta salad with grilled salmon for her. The salads were good, service was great, prices were in line with a tourist town restaurant on the main drag.
Back to the hotel we split up to re-organize our gear, we had to undo our careful packing to comply with certain TSA regulations which in the end they completely ignored and just waved us through on our outbound trip. Don’t get me started.
We went to sleep early, with limited success on both our parts and were up at 4 the next morning but it was only 5 our body time so it wasn’t as bad as it could be. This might be a reason to always look West for ultra’s since we get to take advantage of the time zone difference in a good way.
Upon arrival at the race we were happy to see a long line of porta-potty’s, the day before there were only 4 which left us a little concerned about lines.
Our ‘pirate’ outfits immediately drew comments of “I found Waldo…” from folks. So much for being pirates.
Our gear bags were dropped off in the truck and we waited for the race start. The race briefing before the race was about the same as every trail race we’ve done, what to do, what not to do, what markings to look for etc. It was competently done.
Right at 7:00 a.m. the race started and we eased out behind most people. Our plan called for a half K walk to warm up. I’ve found this helps me mentally and physically on LSD run days to get into the spirit of a really long run. I’m not sure it’s needed for a race though.
The course from the start had a bit of an hill trek to it…
On our first part of the trip we got to talk with a few people briefly and everyone seemed to enjoy our
Waldo pirate outfits. The first mile+ was uphill at a fair clip and then we traveled through a canyon on a dirt/sand road for another mile maybe and then we hooked right off the road and onto the desert rock proper. We almost missed the turn, not through bad markings but just not paying attention. A lady behind us who ended up passing us right at the end and finishing ahead of us (bright salmon colored shirt/jacket) kept us from heading off into the distance.
Until the first aid station we were trending uphill and running on a mix of hard packed dirt (like concrete) and desert slick rock (which felt harder than any road I’ve ever run on). The whole way was nothing but one postcard moment after another. At any given time there was a gorgeous view in at least 180 degrees around you. Sometimes there was a hill to your left or right that kept you from seeing what was over there.
Leaving the first aid station we moseyed on to the second. It was a much larger set up complete with one porta-potty. Unfortunately the line for said porta-potty was 15 minutes long. A fair number of folks hadn’t been able to move things along before the race and were having to do it now after 7.5 miles of jostling their insides around.
After finally being able to make room for more water we headed out to the turn around. This terrain was just more uphill with photo-ops everywhere. How the lead runners were able to average a 6 minute pace for 50K is beyond me, they had to be literally flying on the back half. But then I can’t average a 6 minute pace for more than a few hundred yards so maybe it’s just not a big deal for them.
We were getting to the 15 mile turn around right as the first 50 milers were coming through. They had a 10 mile out and back (20 total) from our turn around, other than that they ran the same course. So yes, the front pack ran 35 miles with an hours head start in the time it took use to run 15.
We swapped out some gear from our drop bags here. I dropped my stocking cap and long sleeve shirt as I was getting warm. I filled up on bacon, cheese quesadillas, coke and cider while waiting for the RW to get ready. It was about this time that my left knee started having a hissy fit. We also spent another 15 minutes+ here.
Getting into and out of aid stations is something we’re going to have to work on, we probably spent a good 45-55 minutes total scattered over 5 aid stations.
Because of my foot injuries I was favoring my right leg which pushed my left leg harder and my knee took the brunt of it. Over the course of the next 15 miles to the finish I would start having more and more difficulty in running and any incline but especially uphill inclines would cause me significant jolts of pain.
On the way back the trail takes you next to the edge of several great drop offs, like a if you fall you not only die but you make a Rorschach pattern when you hit kind of drop off. The vertigo was real a couple of times edging up to look over.
The back trail while it trended downhill obviously, it had a fair bit more up and down baby inclines which did my knee no good at all. The distance between aid stations back was also different, I got hit with some bad quad cramps so I was focused on getting by but from what I do remember it was a great section.
Back at aid station 2/4 I was getting worried about my lack of a need to urinate given how much water I was taking in and luckily the one porta-potty was free so I fruitlessly wasted some time in it without any satisfaction so more time added to the clock.
The distance back to aid station 1/5 was deceptively long and I made the assumption it was the same distance as going out so I only had one water bottle. Bad choice. Lesson learned, note the distances between AS’s both ways and carry water accordingly. Things are really starting to fall apart now. Cramps, swollen feet leading to toe jam forcing me to take my socks off to make some room and knee screaming at me and I was at my limit for pain killer.
RW was a champ though, she got my shoes and socks off and my shoes back on when there was literally no way I’d of been able to do it. Another 7-8 minutes wasted on this maneuver.
We finally hit a dirt albeit sand road and were off the oh so hard slick rock which lead us to the last aid station. There a very nice set of volunteers had our bottles filled and us on our way in no time at all leaving us with about 3.5 miles of all uphill followed by all downhill back to the finish line.
This part I won’t lie was torture. Since it was almost all up or down inclines my knee was being the loudest of the dwarfs Screamy. I’d “run” a bit till it wouldn’t go any further and then walk. And by bit I mean maybe 100 yards.
We got through the beautiful canyon section and up on the face of the cliff on the left (on the way back) and the finish line was about 2 miles (best guess) in the distance about equally split between downhill (#ouchmferouch) and a gravel road.
In the videos of this section there will be a fair bit of bleeping to make the video kid friendly. I sack up and run the last half mile, trying to smile at the folks out watching the 50 miler mid pack start to come through, oh and us and hopefully succeeding although my running form was more a Frankensteinian lurch at this point. Which some would say it always is.
Crossing the finish line without much fanfare we got de-chipped and our medals, picked up our drop bags which were waiting for us and to the car where we enjoyed a bottle of Promised Land full fat chocolate milk and a full sugar Coke that I had to open with the key of the rental car because it was in the old style bottles with a pry off lid.
On the way back to our hotel rooms we started a new segment quite by accident that we’ll calling Runners in Cars After Races or something like that. I think in a few years when we watch it again we’ll think it’s either hilarious or the most stupid thing in the world to bother video taping.
Afterwards, albeit after a significant PTSD event that was a first for me, we went down to the Moab Diner and split an order of pancakes, eggs, ham, bacon cheeseburger and fries with a side of onion rings. It was delish.
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