Race Report: Moab Trail Marathon
The Moab Trail Marathon is a really amazing course with beautiful views, a mix of trail types and a challenging second half. I cannot endorse this race enough.
- What: Moab Trail Marathon
- When: November 5, 2016 (My 30th birthday)
- Weather: 50 - 60 degrees, drizzly rain
- Goal: 5:00:00
- Result: 5:02:29 (39th percentile in men 30-39)
I was really nervous for this one. This was my first race where I had a time-based goal. I didn’t sleep well, and my stomach was churning the morning of. My breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese was probably too big relative to my training breakfasts and probably caused some discomfort throughout the race.
Miles 1 - 6: Pritchett Canyon
This section is in a dry creekbed leading to a steep climb up to a summit. It is mostly nontechnical and has a bit over 1000 ft of ascent. The soft sand was hardened by the rain, making the trail easier to grip. After starting in the frontish of the second wave, I let most of the wave pass me while keeping a good 10:30 pace. The arches of my feet started hurting as I summited, and continued until mile 16ish. Other than that pain, I was feeling pretty good about the start, making it to the aid station around 1:00. At the mile 6 aid station, I took a shot of coke and took off for the more technical singletrack ahead.
Miles 7 - 10: Hunter Canyon Rim
This is exposed technical mixed-surface singletrack, about 500 feet descent, with a single class 2 move toward the end. It gets to be single file at some point, with little chance to pass. I took my position in the single-file with some 10:00 pacers. That speed felt relatively fast on the rocky terrain, which I was happy to be feeling fast after holding back on the first 6 miles. Due to the rain, the rocks were slippery, which increased the danger of quickly moving through this terrain.
On the last big technical move, merely 30 yards away from the mile 10 aid station, I slipped off the rock and jammed my landing (left) foot into another rock, breaking my third toe and bruising my second toe. I limped into the aid station and inspected the damage: No immediate bruising and the toes could still hold weight. I briefly considered DNF, but quickly decided to continue. I took a shot of PBR and took off.
Miles 11 - 14: Hunter Canyon
This section is two miles of technical mixed-surface singletrack, surrounded by two miles of hard dirt road; all of it mostly flat. With the recent toe injury, I decided to take it easy, walking for a few minutes while eating some Skratch gummies (soooooo good). I jogged slowly to the mile 10.7 aid station, and turned up onto the Hunter Canyon singletrack. This is a small out-and-back with tight spaces, which made it slow going passing all the other runners. The hot-spots on my arches started to be more painful than my toes and I was able to pick up the pace on the back portion. I kept it up on Kane Creek Road and made it to mile 14 aid station by 2:15, 15 minutes early from my estimates. I swallowed down a GU Razz flavor (ugh!), drank some coke, and started off.
Miles 15 - 16: The Big Climb
This is a 1000+ ft climb over 2 miles. I power-hiked most of it with short jogging sections. I ended up passing about 20 people. I felt great and my foot pain started receding. I was able to complete the climb in 30 minutes, pushing my lead over personal estimates to 20 minutes. The summit of this climb had the best view of the entire race, giving you a beautiful landscape view of Jackson Hole and Kane Creek Canyon.
Miles 17 - 21: Cliff Hangar Trail
This is a hilly hard-surface technical multi-use trail. I completely underestimated this section. The hard slickrock on my feet really started to slow me down. I was reluctant to land hard on my left foot (the one with the broken toe). My stomach started acting up after the mile 17 aid station, and I was forced to slow my pace to keep my stomach in order. Thinking back on the trail, I think it would be really fun to run. Alas, it was not fun to run at the time. My toe and my stomach combined to make these the least enjoyable 5 miles of the day. By the time I got to the mile 21 aid station, my lead over my estimates had completely vanished.
Miles 22 - 23: Jackson Trail Descent
After the exposed hard Cliff Hangar trail, the Jackson Trail’s 500 ft descent on singletrack with beautiful views of the Colorado River was magical. My training on the mountains of Colorado’s Front Range prepared me for these kind of fast, sometimes painful, downhills. I passed 10 more runners as I sped down the two miles back to the finish party. After the slog of the past few miles, my brain was completely shut down as I just ran and enjoyed the flow.
Miles 24 - 26: 5K Fun Run
The Moab Trail Marathon’s 5K Fun Run is a really cool course. Its got a cave, two culverts, two ladders, a mile of boulder-jumping trail, a class 3 rope-assisted climb, and a class 3 rope-assisted descent. As the last 3 miles of a marathon, it’s HARD! After the rope-assisted climb, I found my 8th gear and pushed through the boulder-jumping mile, passing more runners in clear pain. In the last mile, I simply could not run any faster than 10:00, despite my brain’s efforts to push. I got to the final 10 ft climb, merely 20 ft from the finish, sped past a few people stacked at the top and finished two and half minutes past my goal.
Even though I didn’t beat my goal, I hit it to within 1%. I believe that if I hadn’t broken my toe, I would have beaten it easily. It really held me back on miles 17-21. In recovery now, I can tell my right leg is far more sore than my left, clearly showing that I was favoring my good foot. Overall, I’m proud of my effort and looking forward to pushing harder and possibly farther the next time.