09 October 2011

Slickrock 50k (65k) Race Report

Short race = short report (wrong).

I never did find anyone to let my dog out of the car while I ran the 100 miler, so I was sort of on the fence about running it when I arrived at Jug Rock (just NW of Moab UT).  There was a large turnout for the Slickrock event and the campground (basically a huge dirt/sand field) was full of runners and their friends and family.  It was chilly, in the 40s with overcast skies.  I checked in and then we had the pre-race meeting where the Race Director, Aaron, advised that the 100 and 50 mile courses were being changed due to washout and quicksand from the recent heavy rains.  I felt bad for him for having to deal with it and know, first hand, how hard it is putting a race on, especially when dealing with circumstances outside your control with a couple hundred people counting on you to do things correctly.

Two things I don't like:
1. 100 mile substantial last minute course changes
2.  Repeated loops of any course (which is what the 100 course was changed to).

There was a hesitation in the description of the course with aid stations changing or disappearing all together (e.g. my only drop bag with lights and night clothes was due to be at an aid station that no longer exists at mile 62).  I was uneasy about the changes but decided I'd give it a go anyway.  I, personally, need to be absorbed in focus to run these 100s.  Unless it's bantering with Brownie telling me to move my ass, I don't even like to talk during 100s.  I was worried about everything except the race, so I didn't feel good about running it but figured I should.  I set up the back of the car and settled in with Pippit and read for a bit before sacking out.

At 4:30am it started raining.  I listened to it for an hour, then two hours, all the while thinking that doing the 100 would be foolish.  My mind wasn't into it, I wouldn't be able to leave the windows of the car open for Pippit, and just didn't have the focus I'd need to be sure I'd push through those miserable times that emerge during every 100.  I decided to switch races to the 50k.  Based on the course description, I felt certain a 4 hour finish would be possible and actually felt a rush of relief and eagerness at the prospect of running a short race for a change.  I also figured that, being the undercard event, I'd surely win the thing (if you want to do well in races, run the shorter distances of bigger events).  Of course, I had no way of knowing Bryan and Corey would be running it too.  Both of whom are speedy guys.

We lined up in the slippery mud with rain still lightly falling and were off.  The 50k and 100 milers started together; the 50 milers were now starting somewhere out on the course.  From the start, Ben Hian and Bryan Goding were running a ridiculous pace down the 4 mile dirt road.  I started giving chase, then eased back into a more reasonable 7 min pace and was now alone just 50-75 meters behind the two in front and quite a ways in front of the rest of the group.  In the dim light and misting rain I wasn't certain who was in front and actually assumed it was Hian and Glen Redpath.

We turned out onto the highway where Corey Hansen caught up to me and we ran together to the trailhead.  I slowed to eat on a short, steep climb and Corey pulled away.  I like running alone, so didn't mind.  At this point I assumed Corey was now leading the 50k and I was a close 2nd.  I kept him in view until we got into some tight boulder/slickrock trails.  Eventually, I reached the aid station where I assumed the turn around should be (50k was an out and back design).  I had run over 16 miles in 2:15 but was confused that Corey hadn't come back by me yet on his return trip.

Me:  "Isn't this the turn around?"
Aid station lady:  "No."
Me:  "How much further?"
Her:  "4-5 miles."
Me:  "I've already run at least 16 miles.  Are you sure?"
Her:  "Yeah, 4-5 miles to the turn around."
Me:  "You realize that will make the 50k a 40-41 mile race?"
Her:   [Shrugs her shoulders]

I had a bad feeling and was about to just turn around and take a DQ if I was wrong, but I kept going.  After about 25 mins Bryan Goding and Corey Hansen were trotting towards me.  There was no turn around, or, I should say, it was at the last aid station where the aid lady insisted it wasn't.

I had tagged on over 5 miles in addition to the long 35.4 mi course.  We got back to the real turn around where RD, Aaron was standing.  Of course, the problem of mis-direction was corrected after I had gone through.  Only one guy had just reached the turn around, so we had a 45 minute lead over everyone at the half way point.  Bryan said, "Let's start racing at the top of this climb."  I wasn't in the mood to race and was in a lot of pain, too much for just 22 miles.  The confusion, constant drizzle, cold temps, and general lack of organization (and weak aid stations) was having an effect on my mental state.  I came here prepared to run a 100 miler and was now jogging around in some sort of long fun run that I drove 800 miles to do.  I didn't budge when Bryan and Corey started to pick up the pace.

Corey must have had similar feelings because I kept noticing that he wasn't putting distance on me and I was just trotting along.  At the only other and last aid station with 11 miles to the finish, I caught up to Corey and eased away from him (he clearly wasn't feeling like racing, or even being out there anymore). I started feeling better just by running faster, so I focused on trying to catch the one guy who ran the correct course.  I knew Bryan would be impossible to catch at this point (he's faster than I am at shorter races and was having a good day on top of it).  I didn't see the other guy until I got onto the dirt road with 3 miles to the finish.  I was probably 7 mins behind him but figured I'd run as fast as possible in case he was moving slowly, as happens to many people at these races.  I could only manage to close the gap by about 3 minutes and no more.  I finally backed off when he reached the turn to the finish and I just jogged it in.

400 cals of clif bloks
300 cals of Hammer gels
100 cals mini clif bar
40 ounces water
No additional salt intake
Had even energy for the most part and probably should've taken in another 20 ounces of water, since I'm guessing the body pain/aches was compounded by a bit of dehydration.

Bryan had DQ'd himself for going off-course on the way to the finish, so I ended up 2nd in something like 5:40 for 65k, good enough to win a pair of Salomon shoes and a signed copy of Marshal Ulrich's Running On Empty, which I've read, so I gave it to the 3rd place finisher, Roger from Australia.  I met and chatted with the event photographer, Michael Lebowitz (Long Run Pictures), changed clothes and drove 400 miles home.

It was nice to run fast for a change.  Having not run a 50k since February, I'm not in shape for them.  My body is clearly telling me it needs to recover a bit.  Nothing really stood out like an outright injury but I had sharp aches down to the bone in both legs, my left IT band was humming and locked up a couple times (from the fast bounding over the undulating slickrock) and acute pain that would come and go in different parts of my calves, like someone was jamming a screwdriver into them.  So, the plan now is to run no further than 7 miles for the next four weeks (per run, not over the entire four weeks ;-), get consistent, and then start training hard when I get into Hardrock in the December 1st lottery (faith).

I love racing but am racing at about 75% right now and am just feeling stale.  I wanted to run at least five 100s this year.  Having done that, I'd like to work my speed back up and hit a couple of 50ks and 50 milers competitively.  Of course, all that can change.  I'm not breaking any records, so if running another 100 in a month sounds like fun, then I'll go with "fun".


  1. Good writeup -- attrition rate in the 100(?? -- nobody really knows the actual distance) had to have been 80%. Very poor organizational effort on race staff.

    Yeah it's an inaugural event and he was dealt a bad hand with the weather -- but zero communication to racers and volunteers about what the hell was going on?? Negligent and dangerous.

    I don't think the SR100 was received too well and wil be surprised if Grand County issues him another event permit in the near future.

  2. Hey Brendan, you turned onto the hwy (in your car) at the same time I did at the start of the race I was running alone in a red jacket behind the two guys in front.

    I agree on the organization. I had zero interest in running the 100 after the changes were made; felt really uncomfortable with the explanations and descriptions The aid stations were abysmal (at least the one at Gold bar rd). Ben Hian (leader) was long lost just 20 miles into the race. I don't even know what happened to him but would be surprized if he continued to finish. I talked to a 50k guy who dropped with 11 miles to go and he'd already run 25 miles (while running the correct course!) It was his first 50k and wasn't ready to run 36 miles (mentally).

    It's a tough call but, if I were Aaron, I would've cancelled the 100 and just ran the 50mi and 50k events.

  3. Kudos to you guys who even decided to tough it out and start the darn thing. Not sure I would've had it in me with the crap weather and all the uncertainty going on.

    Hope we can toe a race line together sometime, Tim. Also -- wish I could've taken care of your dog for you during the run -- wouldn't have been a problem!



  4. Ben Hian finished and won the race. Glen Redpath and I led by 30 mins to 1 hour for 80+ miles (after a 6 mile detour early on with Ben). They made the course up as we went, thus rerouting us back toward the start/finish for another quick loop to add distance. Glen and I hit the last aid before the s/f and was instructed by aid staff on how to proceed. We proceeded as such and got incredibly lost coming to a stop 9+ miles off route and staring into a 1000' canyon. Several hours without food and inadequate clothing forced the drop. Managed 91+ miles. My first DNF. Fun stuff. Awesome day out there with Mr. Redpath. What an honor.

  5. Hey Jeremy, tough day. Sorry for the dnf. I'm so thankful I switched to the 65k, er, 50k.
    Did Glen drop with you? I need to write a wrap of the race and need the top three men and women (if that many people finished). What a mess.

  6. Ouch all the way round. Maybe you should do another race (any distance) to get that off the books.

  7. Yeah, we dropped together. No brainer. I believe a woman finished second- I think her name is Rhonda?

  8. That's a bummer man. Very frustrating for people to invest that time and money and have it go off the rails. But hey, great long run workout.

    Sounds like UTMB talked to Slickrock recently about a wacky new idea for how to make races more exciting. Last-minute changes!

  9. Not that the results will be very accurate, but Corey Hanson was actually third in the 50k. Definitely a tough weekend.

  10. Anon, You're absolutely right. Jenna (co-race director and Aaron's wife) announced to Roger (Austrailian guy) that he was third while I was standing there. Now I remember that I saw Corey come in while I was changing clothes at my car (before I went back to the finish and saw Justin come in). Yet another F-up on their part. In my mind, the true "50k" results should be: Bryan Goding Me Corey Hanson

  11. What a shit-show. Significant course changes at the last minute (Fri) with no useful maps, printouts, or altered aid information. I went into the race with a 'take it as it comes' attitude but was quickly discouraged by poor (often none at all) course marking, weak aid stations (~50 degree rain and all we get is cold fruit, clif bars and pb&j?!?!?!) and a general sense of the event snowballing into a massive clusterf*ck. I am so glad I dropped when I did, mile 29 (actually 35)rather than stumbling around lost in the desert for an indefinite amount of time. We ought to petition for a refund. After driving down from Bozeman,MT paying for gas, food, etc. it'd be nice to get the $180 registration fee back.

  12. shit, really? 4th? Daaaaaaamn. 4th is like a fast 11th. : )
    Oh well - still pretty sweet, seeing as I thought I was racing for 5th. Kind of sucks that anyone got DQed for shortening the course considering most of us ran at least an extra 6 miles, but I hope that the bathwater is carefully eliminated without the dumping of any babies.
    The RDs need to look at the rookie errors made on the weekend and make sure they troubleshoot the hell out of them and run a perfect event next year.
    Bummer to hear that you drove so far for what must - relatively - have been a pisser. But I'd like to add a [Like] button on MtnRunner2's comments, and I'd also like to say thanks heaps Tim for the Ulrich book. Been too smashed crossing dateline's to have a look at it yet, but thanks to Slick Rock I did manage my first decent sleep in a tiny airplane seat in 12 days.
    Still, loved the crew and the run.

  13. I don't quite understand why people had trouble with the course changes. This isn't a road race and I think the RD did absolutely the right thing by rerouting runners out of harm's way. I also agree with not repeating the gold bar trail section at night which would have been a challenge for many even on a well marked course.

    Other than that I found the first turn where a lot of people got lost well enough marked - a huge group got lost because they followed the people ahead or didn't pay enough attention (additional chalk/flower arrows would surely have been better but I don't know if they're allowed to do that). It's always a mistake to follow those ahead blindly ... Could it have been marked better - probably. Is it the worst marked course I've seen - definitely not. As for the other issues - you shouldn't blame the RD for assholes taking down ribbons either. It has happened in many races - all with the same sad result.

    Definitely there is room for improvement and it wasn't perfect (I also wished for better aid and especially more warmup possibilities), but a lot was really hard to anticipate, so give the guys some slack. I know it sucks to plunk down money for race and travel and then not get what you expected, but the RD could also have canceled the race and sent us home without refund - which is btw common policy for allmost all those events! Also the RD offered beforehand to refund you the money if you didn't want to run. You always take a higher risk when you go to inaugural events, keep that in mind. I for one thought it was incredibly beautiful ... Loved it.

  14. You should have just run Zion with us. Well marked, we hardly got lost, and we had PBR at all the aid stations.

  15. Good call on going for the short race Tim - not like you needed to prove anything out there or run around in frustration for 24+ just to get a 100 "finish" in. I'm quite certain Pippit approved as well....

  16. I agree with Beat. In life and in ultrarunning you have to roll with the punches and make the best of things. So much of what happened was outside the control of the RD. No need to get one's panties all up in a bunch. Danni

  17. OK, I'm starting a new policy: never discuss politics, religion or race direction in comments sections. It's a no-win proposition.

    How about that scenery, Tim?

  18. Yeah, I know, jeff. Apparently you can't have opinions on race events.

  19. Tim, Cory, Brian and you did an awesome job and were setting an amazing pace. The biggest confusion at the 50K turn around was that you three were all still wearing your 100 Miler bibs and no one knew that you 3 had changed your minds. I told them not to turn around any 100 Milers at that point. She knew she was not supposed to turn around anyone with the bibs you had on and she guessed that it must be the next aid station. Sorry that you had to go an extra 10K, hope you will forgive us and maybe try us again in the future. Actually, over all we have had very positive feedback, we will take it all in stride for next year. If people don't give new ultras a chance and the ability to learn from the first year, we will all be dealing with corporate races, high fees, early sellouts and lotteries

  20. Thanks Aaron. I actually did have a 50k bib number (#266), which Jenna gave me when I switched. I specifically told the aid station that I was in the 50k. I personally enjoyed the run. I have no problem giving events a chance; I ran Grand Mesa 100 this year even though it was a total mess in it's first year.

    Like I said, I developed and organized events for a living and know how tough it is. There has to be clarity and correct expectations set before the race. There was a bit of a breakdown in those things, along with the lack of communication here. Like I told the nice guys at Grand Mesa, I'd be happy to help you iron out much of the problems you had for next year.

  21. That is a problem then because we still had you in the books under your original number, It also might be my fault because I had mentioned before I left the aid Station that I had seen Tim and Corey and how you guys were almost there and that you were smoking for a 100 mile pace.
    If you or other runners are serious about wanting to help out for next year we would be honored to have your input for a 4 day weekend camping trip out to the Start/Finish next Spring a weekend of brainstorming and problem solving. We need to keep this sport open to everyone. I fear it may change forever when a certain movie is released next year about a certain book.
    Email runmoab@yahoo.com to get involved!

    The last minute changes really screwed us up, the quick sand and the coarse marking vandalism, caused the last minute changes that resulted in a bit of a breakdown in communications. Many runners did finish with little interference and said that it was one of the best races they have had, we plan to make it even better. The county was actually impressed at the changes we made for safety and we will be having the race 2012! Maybe the next blog you post should be about solutions to marking vandalism. We measured 8 miles of vandalism and sign manipulation. This happened during the race and we were able to correct it during the race. This is why some runners had little problems and some had major ones.

  22. Hi. I'm still laughing about the woman shrugging her shoulders as you questioned the length of the course. Funny stuff. . . .

    I have a question, why would anyone want to vandalize a course during the run? Sounds mean-spirited and f-ed up! Nonetheless, sorry to hear that your race was longer than expected. I'm thinking about running it next year, so I hope the race is fine-tuned by then. In the mean time, rest well.