This year’s Moab Red Hot 55k was a very personal race for me this year. I lost a very good friend and running partner to a battle with PTSD. The news of his passing came early Wed morning after trying to get a hold of him all day Tues to make sure he was ready to run this race with me. Bryce! Why didn't you answer the phone! The rest of the week was a blur and I was preparing to miss this race for a funeral. After hearing that the funeral had been postponed until the next week I decided to continue plans to race in the memory of my friend.
This was my 5th year running this race and I had some misgivings and apprehensions about this year’s race. There would be over 800 runners on the course running either the 33k or the 55k. This is such a remote and technical course that I wondered if the logistics could be pulled off, the race director also decided to not allow drop bags on the course for the 55k runners, So with temperatures predicted for 18 in the morning and 50 by afternoon I would be running with no room for error in clothing or nutrition.
This is my favorite race of the year for several reasons; one of them being that this race consistently brings in the top ultra-runners from across the country. This year was no different with several of the top names showing up to compete. The scenery is spectacular! And the race is short enough to have a lot of fun without a lot of suffering.
Race day was clear and cold, perfect conditions with very little snow on the course. I ended up doing a 3/4 mile warm up running into the start from the parking lot (new change). The start is fast and immediately climbs 400 feet in a mile. I tend to go out too fast being caught up in the excitement and this year was no different. I had to settle down mentally and run according to my plans. I have been playing with the heart rate monitor and planned to run this race completely by heart rate and not by pace. My goal was to keep my rate between 140 and 150.
The first section of the race is a loop of 18 miles, is the easiest part of the race, has several technical hard climbs but for the most part is runnable. I was able to keep a steady pace throughout this section keeping my heart rate for the most part at my goal. I started passing runners around mile 15 and one guy asked me if the hard part was over. I laughed and explained to him that it was the easy section; I think he was a little disheartened.
After aid station 3, the course runs down a jeep road through some sandy washes and then starts a series of brutal climbs up to the gold bar aid station at mile 22. It then has a series of descents and climbs for the next 8 miles. All on slick rock! Slick rock is not slick at all; Slick rock can be smooth easy running, but only in very short sections at a time. The rest of the time, you are stepping up onto it, stepping off of it, tripping in the grooves, leaping over crevasses, navigating the 45+ degree angles of the surface, and always watching your footing because like a dimpled, bumpy roller coaster for your feet, a very challenging, technical terrain, requiring a lot of route finding. During this section I felt soooo good! I really stepped it up passing many runners during this section.
The last 5 miles of this race have always been the hardest section for me, I usually walk, run and stumble, through this section even though it’s mostly on jeep road and straight forward. I went through the aid station grabbed 2 gels, water and 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich My legs felt good and I thought there was a good chance of a PR for the day. I didn't pass to many people the last 5 but ended up racing several of the same runners passing and getting passed up to the finish. I finished in 6:30:28 exactly 1 min slower than my PR of 2008. The difference is I felt great! I kept my heart rate at my goal, never red lined. I thought of my friend and the memories of the past. The perfect race.
Robert D. Longaker and Paula Garner had no idea what they were in for when Bryce Doriot Longaker graced the world on August 29, 1980, in Murray, UT. He was a feisty, funny, fearless child and was the youngest of 7 children. He would say they saved the best for last. Bryce was very good at three things in life: making you laugh, pissing you off, and saving your life… and he could do all three at once! If Bryce were writing this he might say, "Guess what, I beat you to the finish line, again! We always knew I was smarter, faster and better looking than you, but you made my race entertaining. Remember me riding my Harley, wearing sunglasses, tank top (optional), khaki shorts, flip flops with pink toenails and no helmet. To my military brothers and sisters, I love you, my tours with you