Alpine to Slickrock 50M - Moab, Utah

Max Elevation:  11,000'     Elevation Gain:  11,000'
July 5, 2014 -  This one had been on my list of races to do for quite a few years.
Billed as a mini-Hardrock, it - at the least - had me very curious.  Arriving the day
before to pick up my number and shirt I immediately found a campsite about 20
miles from Moab in the La Sal National Forest to escape the penetrating near-
one-hundred degree heat of the Valley.  I had a perfect view of the exposed
slopes I would be traversing as I drifted off to a peaceful night under the stars.

Rousing at about 2 a.m., I decided to drive to the finish at Slickrock where I 
would be shuttled along with everyone else to the start at Pack Creek at 4 a.m.,
from where we would begin at 0500.  The temperatures at Slickrock that early in the
morning were still above 80 degrees and would return to near 100 by the end of
the race.  The start at Pack Creek was 68 degrees, enough to begin with just a
light shirt, even though we would be climbing 4000 feet to cooler temps in the first
nine miles.

The first 4.5 miles ascend a rocky jeep trail south of Pack Creek.  For me there
was not much running room, so I got right into power walking with intermittent
spurts of running where the road leveled.  The road was rocky enough that 
walking was better anyway.  There was significant cloud cover which was good
as far as I was concerned, knowing it would keep the race cooler for longer.  But
the cloud cover delayed the dawn which seemed to take forever to lighten the
trail enough to see well.  Starting without a headlamp I had to depend on the 
light of others for the first twnety minutes or so.

The trail climbed steadily through eco zones, from pinyon/juniper forests finally
into the aspens.  My energy was good and I felt I was moving well.  We had been
advised to be on the alert for a very active bear population.  While I did not see
a bear, at least a half dozen others did see everything from large adults to cubs
along the way.  As the jeep road turned to single track for another 3.5 miles there
was more bear scat on the climb along Pack Creek than I had ever seen before.
I stopped counting piles after a couple dozen, as the trail kept climbing toward the
first aid station.  

We finally topped La Sal Pass and had a reprieve in the terrain as we were able to
glide across some open meadows with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains
and eventually look out over the valley of red rocks below.  Things heated up as we
emerged from the aspens to run in full sunshine.  The trail markings were not as
clear as perhaps they could have been and many of us, including many of the leaders,
found themselves lost for two to six miles.  It was a bit frustrating, and took a
concerted effort to find ribbons that would set us back on course.  I got off course
during the first fifteen miles twice and was confused, along with others with me,
more than once.




The course undulated toward the second aid station at Oowah Lake at 8800 feet
before it shot up again for most of two thousand feet over four miles to Geyser Pass
aid station.  My Achilles had taken a hammering on an extended rocky downhill section
and was talking to me on both descents and climbs by this time.  When my energy 
level took a nose dive after Oowah I was reduced to walking much of the climb to
Geyser as I watched those I had been running with disappear.  I had been eating
Clif Bloks copiously and should have felt perky, but I was flat - perhaps from the
two thousand mile drive I just did to get here.





So I sat down at the Geyser Pass aid station and never got up, enjoying the energy
and company of the two volunteers there - Bret and Sarah.  The course was very
challenging and beautiful, but I would have to say spending time there, chatting,
helping them break down the station at the end when the weather turned to rain
and light corn snow, and finally riding back to the finish with them, had to be one of
the highlights of my adventure in Moab.   Even though I could have continued with
the pain in my Achilles, I likely would have stopped further on after a lot more walking.
I felt no compulsion to continue, but was happy as punch to bide my time and hang out
with these two race volunteers.

Upon returning to the finish I hung out with Kelly Agnew and his wife to await the
finish of the first runners, before heading down to Moab to clean up at a local hostel.
I had been running with Kelly when we got lost and found he had cut his day short
as well rather than continue on playing catch up.  After a shower I returned to the
finish line and hung out until 8:30 when the last runner finished, grabbed my drop bag, 
and headed back to my perch in the La Sal's to enjoy another night under the shadow of
some beautiful scenery.

I didn't miss running on the hot road to the finish at the Slickrock Bike trailhead.  The
road surface must have been 120 to 130 degrees on top of at least 97 degrees of
air temperature.  It took its toll on many a finisher.  The finishers trinket didn't seem
worth a slow time and inevitable carnage.  I thoroughly enjoyed being there to help
finishers and engage in conversation with many of them.  The atmosphere was just
nice and a fitting end to my day.

Perhaps I am doing too many of these.  They are all beginning to blend together.  I
can't say one thing about this course that made it notable as harder than any of the
others I've done this year and previous years.  There is always climbing and rocky
descents, outstanding views, and cameraderie.  Aid station support is always 
commendable and you can conclude that race organizers busted their butts to make it
special.  But they are beginning to be ALL THE SAME, nonetheless.  So.... I am losing
my interest from a motivation and anticipation perspective.  I need some time off to 
heal, certainly, but I need something novel to perk my attitude if I am going to continue
in this sport.  If there is one thing I am coming away with - it is this - I am nearing the
end of my involvement in this type of running where I pay extreme amounts in the way of
entry fees to engage in such entertainment.  This is likely my final year where you will
find my name in a posted result.  There will be exceptions, likely, but I am looking 
forward to exciting wilderness challenges with great views and cameraderie in the 
times ahead.

For now, I rest, for I will need it to engage the balance of my calendar.
I aim to see through the scheduled racing that I have set for myself this year.
Next year, things will be different.