Monday, September 17, 2012

Moab's Alpine To Slickrock 50 Miler - DNF

On Saturday morning I found myself surrounded by scenery that took my breath away (unless that was the altitude). I was running Moab's Alpine To Slickrock 50 miler, and didn't realize at the time that my day wouldn't have a very happy ending.

We met at the Slickrock Trail bright and early in the morning to take shuttles to the starting line. Moab is one of the most amazing places in the world.....even in the dark.

It was chilly at 5:30am as we waited for the race to start. I stood at the starting line with 30 other runners nervous and anxious. We all pushed to the back of the pack. Nobody wanted to take the lead.

Within three miles the excitement had started. We were climbing up the first of what would be many huge mountains. And then we saw runners heading back down. Some course markings got sabotaged so the trail we were on came to a dead end. As a group we held a tribal council (we didn't vote anyone off the island) and decided to follow the ribbons showing the wrong way to go. (The Wrong Way ribbons ended up being the right way.) We only got a few bonus miles.

A quote from the race website says this is "an ultra that will leave even the most seasoned runner wishing he had trained harder!" (Note to self: they weren't lying.)

One area I loved was a long stretch of rocks just begging to twist an ankle, but well worth the risk to enjoy the scenery.

Not surprisingly, the pace around these parts was not too speedy.

One of the things I enjoyed most was being able to run the whole time with my friend Jared Thorley. Jared is optimistic, funny, and can tackle steep, technical downhills like a bushy haired mountain goat.

The timing of Moab's Alpine to Slickrock (MAS 50) could not have been better. The aspen leaves were changing and the hills looked like they were on fire.

We knew the first half of the race would be grueling so we planned to be conservative and save our legs for the second half. We kept a steady pace, but with the relentless steep climbing, the energy slowly seeped out of our legs and was replaced with cement.

After seven or eight hours my stomach wasn't feeling tremendously awesome. With each Gu packet I ate, I was sure it would bring on barf. I was also a tad concerned about my heart rate. My heart had been pounding the whole time. It was that heart pounding that you can feel in your head. Jared mentioned that he was feeling the same. All the while, the scenery was nothing less than spectacular.

The mountains were intense. In the first thirty one miles of the course we climbed 14,778 feet! To put this in perspective, the Javelina Jundred climbs 5,200 feet over one hundred miles. This race climbs 14,778 feet in thirty one miles!

Despite stomachs not feeling good, hearts pounding in our heads, and legs full of cement, I noticed that there was never any complaining. Only optimism and gratitude to be where we were in that moment.

Along with plenty of steep uphills, we also had our share of steep downhills. At one point my foot caught a rock and I ended up pretending to be Superman flying through the air. Except my landing was much less graceful and resulted in a mouth full of dirt (plus a great view looking up).

Our climb from mile 28 to 30 ended up being the nail in the coffin. We climbed almost 1,500 feet and one of those miles took 46 minutes. Nope. Not a typo. We had a 46 minute mile which included sitting on the side of the trail after realizing that we couldn't make the cut-off. It was discouraging to realize that today would be my first ever Did Not Finish.

We finally reached the aid station after 11 hours and 31 miles at 5:00pm. We had exactly 30 minutes to be at the next aid station around 9 miles away or else we would miss the deadline and be pulled from the course. Our day was done. Then we had the dreaded drive of shame to get back to the finish line. 16 runners made it to the finish line.

Moab's Alpine to Slickrock was every bit as grueling and epic as it is billed to be. The course will put you through the meat grinder and make you thankful that you bought life insurance. And the aid station workers will be incredible. And the course will be very well marked. And you will be surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery your peepers may ever see.

And what about that DNF I have next to my name? Well, that sucks. I hate those three dumb letters. But I'm at peace knowing I gave 100% and did the very best I could. It's humbling to know that sometimes your 100% won't get you exactly where you hoped. Sometimes everything doesn't go according to script. Sometimes you will fly through the air like Superman, and end up chewing dirt while you stare at the sky. Sometimes life will remind you that the journey is more important than the destination. And what an awesome journey it was!

39 comments:

  1. Great race, great attitude, great experience, and I think you guys did terrific! Who cares about the DNF? It looks like you guys had a lot of fun and got to enjoy incredible nature for 12 hours. I call it a success! That course looked ridiculously hard, and there's no way that I could get anywhere close to where you guys did. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Inevitably if you do enough of these races, a DNF will likely catch up with you sometime, and this was my time. After having a few days to sit on it, I feel like it was a success too. Thanks Mr. Smith!

      Delete
  2. What an incredible race to not finish! It looks like a beast and the fact that you were able to even go 31 miles is awesome. The scenery is great and the pictures as usual rock. At least you don't have a DNS by your name. It is better to have tried and failed then to never have tried at all!

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is a big bummer about the DNF, but at least it wasn't because you were hurt or sick. Congrats on getting as far as you did - you should be proud! Only 30 runners were even brave enough to give it a go, so that says a lot.

    I cannot imagine the climbing involved in that race. I did my first trail 50k on Saturday and some of the 200-300 ft climbs had me gasping for air.

    I also flew like Superman at not even 3 miles into the race. I don't think I was as graceful as Superman though. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true, those 200-300 ft climbs are always enough to get my attention. I'm looking forward to reading your race report, congrats on 50k!

      Delete
  4. I'm just glad that you DNFed due to time and not injury (that's what I feared when you mentioned the fall!)

    Those are some crazy climbs and I'm impressed that anyone finished that race in the time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My thoughts exactly. Very thankful that our slug-like pace wasn't due to injury.

      Delete
  5. It just makes me sad that there has to be cut-off times. Why can't they just let you do your thing and let everyone finish?

    I can't imagine anything being worse than widowmaker hill but it certainly sounds like these hills had that one beat to a pulp.

    And HELLO SCENERY!! That is some pretty gorgeous surroundings you got to enjoy. Glad you made it out alive and raring to go on the next big adventure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On a course like this I think it was wise to have cut-offs, otherwise our finish time may be nine days later.

      Toward the end of our run I was PRAYING that the hills would be as small as Widowmaker. Nothing like some ruthless Mother Nature to put you in your place.

      Delete
  6. I'm sorry you had a DNF, I know that's disappointing! But on the flip side it looks like it was an amazing adventure and you got some fantastic photos to add to your collection! That climb sounds insanely grueling!! I can't even imagine trying something like that! You are AMAZING!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really like Jess's comment... so true. 16/30 for a finish... sounds like a longer time allotment is need. What a course to tackle Cory.

    - That second photo is my favorite... love the stars.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have a few DNF's and don't feel bad about any of them. I know there is not one where I could have finished even if I became non-human. They are all great experiences and part of life a a runner. DNF's build strong characters.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sweet write-up. It does help a bit to see that 15/31 starters DNFed (emphasis on the Fed). The DNF definitely sucks, but I'm glad this wasn't a huge goal race for either of us. I'm also grateful that we were stopped by the clock. I think without the cut-off we would have been out there until midnight, staggering off that darn mountain. If he keeps this race going, we'll have to go back and exercise some of those demons. Good times, until the next adventure.
    p.s. I'm missing the abandoned cabin, spring mattress pic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a blast running with you! I'm not sure I realized how epic that adventure was when I was right in the middle of it. I realize it now.

      Delete
  10. Your pictures are so amazingly beautiful. Totally worth the torture and DNF...especially because I can sit here and look at them without enduring anything except for a slight lag in internet speed today. :)

    I've been disqualified once for missing the time cut-off and got a DNF at Dirty Kanza in June, and I wouldn't miss either of those experiences for anything. I'd rather dream big and come up short than only do races I KNOW I can finish...I mean, where's the suspense in that? Well done, Corey, no matter what those three letters make you think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I felt that same way during the whole race. As hard as it was, I had absolutely no regrets about doing the race because the scenery was so incredible. It was worth the punishment.

      Delete
  11. DNF>DNS -- at least you had some amazing scenery and company for the run!

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a great post, beautiful and inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Absolutely worth the amazing pictures! Wow what a crazy adventure Cory.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Did you know that my heaven looks like Moab?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and me both! I think if I could live anywhere in the world Moab would be in the top three choices.

      Delete
  15. Distance running is a competition sport between your body and your will. Sometimes, no matter how strongly your will plays, your body ekes out a win. Best to just smile, shake hands and say, "Good game... Next time you're mine."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is so funny.....and SO, SO true. You need to make this into a poster! I'll buy the first one.

      Delete
  16. I meet you at aid station number three. I did the race sweep from aid station three to five and it was a killer course. You ran to the top of the second tallest mountain range in Utah down the other side and then back over. It is just a crazy accomplishment that you made it as far as you did. I think I might be crazy enough to sign up for the race next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for help at the aid station and doing the sweep. I'm sure that sweep took forever with all those ribons.

      Delete
  17. Wow those pictures are amazing. That is too bad about the DNF. But you had the courage to try and so really you won anyway. I am constantly amazed by your ability to tackle

    ReplyDelete
  18. high mileage and technical courses.

    ReplyDelete
  19. In my book a DNF means I gave everything that I could. It sounds like a really tough course. But those views! And the colours! Absolutely spectacular.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Looks like a gorgeous course. Great pics. Sounds like a grueling adventure, but one I'm sure you will never forget or regret.... Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Looks like a gorgeous course. Great pics. Sounds like a grueling adventure, but one I'm sure you will never forget or regret.... Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Gorgeous pictures and story recap as always. I can't imagine how you feel but look how far you have come. Look at where you were a few years ago doing your first marathon and the trials falls barfs and tribulations you went through. We get life and races and events thrown at us that make us stop in our tracks and wonder how am I going to do this. You learn you adapt and try again. Today you are smarter about this race for having experienced over half of it already. You and Jared ebbed out countless who never stepped up to try. Do you think all those successful ultra folks always finished? Nope. You have a wonderful wife and two kids to come home to and they need you in one functioning peice. Keep on trekking and don't give up. Love the journey not the clock or destination and live it up.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh man! Sorry about the DNF (I KNOW how much that sucks) BUT you did a great job and gave it your all, which is all you can do. You still totally rock. :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Love the race report! You are a winner in every sense of the word in my books. Determination, drive, pure grit, and amazing photography skills! Thank-you for being real. You Inspire me to keep dreaming, to keep training, and to keep racing.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wow. I just read all of your kind comments and got chills. Very humbling, that means a lot to me. I really appreciate all your support and encouragement. Live to run another day!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow!! Those pictures are AMAZING!! I'm so sorry you DNF'd but so did a lot of other people, I mean only 16 people finished. That is so crazy! And hey, at least you tried it. If I had heard horror stories about a race I think I would steer clear of it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. It's hard to imagine you having anything but a positive experience in whatever challenge you choose to undertake. DNF, DNSchmef.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wow, what a tough course! I'm so impressed that you made it as far as you did. Those rocks looked like the ones around my house. YUCK. And I'd rather have a DNF next to my name any day rather than not trying to begin with. On a side note: I got to run with your sister on Saturday. We were thinking of you and I even did a face plant like you did. That picture of the stars is INCREDIBLE! Well, all your pictures are, but wow. Great job! I want to be like you someday!

    ReplyDelete
  29. That course looks insanely tough! The pictures are just absolutely beautiful. Going back again?

    ReplyDelete