Mountain RATS
Eagle, CO
September 23rd, 2017

Mountain RATS

Come celebrate fall in the mountains with a trail running challenge! An exciting day of festival fun and adventure on the trails near Eagle, Colorado. With the start/finish line right in the heart of Eagle’s new fall festival, Septemberfest, friends and family can enjoy themselves while you push yourself in the rugged mountain race. After testing yourself on the trails relax with a beer, hot meal, or just sit and listen to live music. Racers can choose from a Half Marathon, Trail Marathon or 50K.

The host hotel for the weekend will be the AmericInn in Eagle, be sure to mention the race to receive a special rate. Our packet pickup and start/finish area will be well provided for by our awesome sponsors – Color Coffee Roasters and Bonfire Brewing.

We’re also now accepting volunteers for the event. Earn a free entry for you or a friend to a Gemini race! Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

Check out the website for courses and registration!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 09:30

Training – Post Workout Recovery

Training – Post Workout Recovery

Mountain RATSMojo Trails will be at Mountain RATS 2017! Lea Stenerson, MS is the founder and head coach and has been working with a group of trail athletes to train for this year’s races. They’ll also stick around for the Septemberfest fun. Lea is an extremely well qualified and experienced coach and shared an article on post workout recovery:

As many of us eagerly anticipate the Mountain RATS race this September, we are strategically preparing by logging miles and topping out our training load. At this point of the season, when run duration and intensity are high, we glean an enormous physical, psychological and emotional boost as we successfully complete our longest and hardest training sessions. Unless, of course, we aren’t able to complete them due to an injury! This can be a frustrating “bump in the road”. In an effort to avoid these bumps the best we can, please keep the following in mind in regards to injuries, and more specifically, getting on top of any pain quickly:

Typically, pain that is in a joint is not “good” pain, but is more likely an injury. Muscle pain is a little more difficult to distinguish. When we do an activity that our muscles are not specifically conditioned to do (hills, extra speed, extra distance, a new movement, etc) the muscles undergo micro-tearing, which can cause soreness that may not show up for up to 48 hours post workout. This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). There will also be some lactate build up in the muscles adding the feeling of pain and discomfort. The whole process is generally adaptive and the muscles will build themselves back up (if given adequate recovery), eventually becoming stronger and allowing us to tolerate the specific activity better.

Since an “injury” (especially an overuse injury) can start off as a sore muscle it can be difficult to tell initially if it is more serious or “just soreness” that will resolve. For example, after an initial (or harder) hill workout, it is more or less expected to experience sore calves, hamstrings, gluts and possibly hip flexors too. This may show up in one side more than another due to terrain, muscle imbalances and our individual running biomechanics – not always as symmetric as we’d like to think! This is normal and is from stressing these muscles with the extra resistance (hills). It will typically feel like tightness with a little tenderness and will go away within a few days after it starts. More intense, throbbing and/or shooting pain is a warning sign and will require more rest. However, any pain/soreness gone unchecked can turn into something more serious and debilitating. Additionally, you may need to look at your shoes, core strength/weakness, warm-up/cool-down routines, etc.

Following are some things to keep in mind, and do as soon as possible, to avoid letting a sore muscle or mild pain go too far. Light recovery running/walking/cycling/swimming (ie 20-30′ easy) will help increase blood circulation to the muscles, and thus encourage recovery. This adds to the importance of an “active recovery” workout and keeping it “easy”.

After hard workouts, it’s a good idea to ICE massage. This is accomplished by freezing water in a dixie cup and, when frozen, peeling off the top of the cup then continually moving the ice over any sore muscles or painful areas for 10-12 minutes. Regular ice cubes in a bag (or frozen peas/corn/blueberries/cranberries) placed on the area for 12-15 minutes followed by light massaging will also work. LIGHT stretching and using a foam roller is generally helpful as well. Ibuprofen (600mg) will assist not only with pain but also with inflammation and has been suggested by some after tough workouts. In general, the rule is to ice acute injuries (especially after workouts), with light massage and stretching. After approximately 72 hours, you can start using contrast (heat 5 minutes, ice 5 minutes, then repeat 2-3x), or just heat for 15-20 minutes as long as the inflammation is mostly subsided. If pain continues, more rest will be required. And, finally, but very importantly, seek medical advice from your doctor whenever in doubt!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 09:29

On the Trail – Colorado Trail

On the Trail
The Colorado Trail

We have a new Gemini Adventures crew member and he definitely has an adventurous spirit. Ryan’s an avid skiier, runner, and biker and has been on adventures all over the world. He recently returned from completing the Colorado Trail and has a shared a little bit of his experience. Say hello when you see him on the course (or at the festival!) this September at Mountain RATS and look for a profile in a coming newsletter.

CT Travel 2017- Denver to Durango
Two weeks ago, I rode my bike the length of the the Colorado Trail from Denver across 550+ miles to Durango. This has always been a dream of mine. I grew up on sections of this truly spectacular network of linked trail across Colorado, and after years of talking about doing the whole thing, I finally put a plan in place and set out.

The Trip:
The Colorado Trail in its entirety (with mandatory Wilderness detours)
The Goal:
12 days with one day in Salida to regroup with society + give some T.L.C. to our backpacking bikes (aka bikepacking)
The Deal:
Take the time to stop, enjoy, and love what we were doing. Adventure by bike with a focus on seeing the Colorado beauty with no restrictions.
The Team:
Fez & Trail Bear

In the end this turned out to be an amazing ride across pretty much every zone CO has to offer. We received all the elements you’d expect for spending 8-12hrs on the bike every day. We returned nature’s gestures in kind with a great deal of smiles and the occasional frown. We stuck to our plan but allowed for a great deal of flexibility to remain in good spirits and not forget why we were out there. The rigid adventurer becomes a sour adventurer very quickly.

I learned that no matter where I was, I was always right there, on the trail moving one mile closer to Durango. The rhythm and routine became ingrained in our every move, thought, and action. We slowly transformed into creatures designed to ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Our primordial sides arose, and we were the elusive nomads in spandex.

The bike has always been a big part of my world, and I wanted to devise a multi-day adventure to honor that and test myself in the process. It was magical, and I would do it again…just not anytime soon!

What’s Next:
Great Divide Route
Teeth to the Wind,

2017 Desert RATS Kokopelli 150

Day2/3 – K-Ray
Day 2 is a long story, but im still in the game. I will share more with you when I get home.
Day 3 was a short 9 mile run. I finished! The temps are crazy!!! I made it back to basecamp, hopped in the river and got a massage. Im going to toe the line in the morning. I am going to give it my all, take no risks. Fingers crossed we have a nice breeze and some cloud coverage. Thanks again for following my week in the desert. Im having a blast and making new friends. xx

Day 2 & 3
Excuse the typos, I am writing this without my glasses lol
Day 2 was hard. My goal for the day was to hold a good steady effort I could maintain throughout the hot part of the day. The morning that meant running slow. I took that opportunity to take a few shots, including spoting climbing route (thanks Bob for that lol). The last runner passed me early and I didn’t start catching up to the back of the pack until a few hours in. Once I did caught up I steadily passed runners throughout the day. With a good feel on effort I found a good pace for the afternoon. I filled 2 20OZ bottles as my personal watering agents (RunStrong crew you will know what I mean here) then carried a 3rd 20oz bottle for extra electrolites then my 3L bladder. I barely could pulled my pack on my back lol I never experienced low points in day 2. Every time I wanted to stop I kept remembering to stay positive and that I am in charge on my brain not the other way around. It was just a tough tough day on the trail. I was pushing harder, running faster. The last few miles I experienced the worst discomfort. My vision started to blur the very last miles but I came in happy and safely into the finish.

dAY 3 I loaded up on water for day 3 despite it being only 9 miles. There was no aid station. The trail was gently rolling with a few technincal section. The run part was over early. We are spending our afternoon chilling at base camp (in the shade) and cooling off in the river. Wendie I miss you guys and had a lot of time to think about you this afternoon.

Day 2 & 3 – Chris
Yesterday was tough. It took a lot more than I expected. The heat was unbelievable, and it was hard to keep your core temp down. At 34 miles I was struggling a bit, but was able to walk the last 5 miles. Just over twelve hours. Honestly, wasn’t sure I’d be able to go again today. Never fun when you are cramping up as you more around in bed. 🙂 But today went well, 9 miles, and we were finished before noon. So an afternoon, soaking at the boat ramp at Dewey Bridge campground. Really great people here doing the race, and the race crew has been fantastic. Hope the fam is doing well, and enjoying the hut trip. We can exchange stories on our return. Tomorrow is 43 miles, and since I’ve never gone that far, I have no idea what to expect. Keep your fingers crossed. Till tomorrow night. Love you.

Day 2 & 3 – Ulla
Day 2, 39 miles, hot, long day! Fortunately some clouds showed up around 5:30 and that helped with the heat. It’s beautiful out here!
Day 3, only 9 miles, walking. This afternoon we soaked in the river, took some naps, eat, rehydrate, and just trying to recover as best as possible. Tomorrow is another long day

Day 2 and 3- Tara

Day two ended up being a very hot almost 39 mile day. Reports of temps between 106-110 degrees, and at one point a staff measuring the temp on the road at 121 degrees. I kept a very even pace, and was able to stay steady in the heat with a stratagy to get into the finish between 7-8pm. My stratagy was working well and I was able to stay cool enough by alternating drinking Normalyte (ORS salts) and water, and carrying extra water just to wet the cooling headwear and tanktop. I even brought extra to spare because I am sensitive to heat and sun and was overly prepared.

I ended up being fine by keeping on top of my tempuature control and hydration, but was glad in the end I Was over prepared. Around mile 21.5 I caught up with KayRay and Mikey whom I had been leapfroging since mile 13. We all cooled down under the bridge, and continued to leapfrog toward the aid station at mile 28.5. Around mile 24.5 I had just past the two girls again and I came upon Hans, who appeared to be convulsing on the side of the trail in the direct sunlight. By that time I believe the temps were close to 110 degrees and there was still 4 miles left to the next aid station.

After trying to talk to him I realized he was not coharently speaking, and he could not stand up on his own. He was limp as I tried on my own to figure out how to lift him over a small berm to the nearest shade. He was lucky to have colapsed right next to a larger tree, as shade is spares on that section of the course.

While I was trying to move him, I grabbed one of my extra water bottles in my pack, unscrewed the lid, and poured the whole bottle over Han’s shirt and head. As I was pouring, Kayray and Mikey came around the corner and I alerted them. With their help we were able to quickly cary him to the shade and started removing extra clothing from him and we all took off our cooing clothing and started trying to cool him down. For the first 20 minutes he was tachycardic with a weak and irratic pulse, and he was not oriented to person, time, or place. He kept slipping in and out of conciousness.

As his body started to cool, and his heartrate became more regular and slower he came around and between 20-25 minutes he was more alert. We tried to call out to Reids number, and tried calling 911 and could not get an emergency call out, but he appeared to be stabilizing and so we decided the best action was for us all to remain put as a group until a race official came by. About 50 minutes after I initially discovered Han’s, a medical team member finally came by and he had ice water and was able to continue cooling Han’s. About 20-30 minutes after that Tyler came by and the three of us were able to continue.

The experience was a bit traumatic for all of us who were helping Han’s because all of us were afraid he would not make it as evidenced by his appearece when we first found him. We decided the three of us needed to stay together and help eachother out to make sure all of us could stay cool enough and make it safely.

I think the shock from the experience made us a bit slower for the next few miles as we emotionally recovered, and we were greatful first and foremost that Han’s was going to be OK, but also that Ried allowed us to finish the stage and lifted our time limit. We came into camp around 10:30 PM. We were all physically and emotionally drained.

We ate dinner and then headed to bed. I had a terrible night of sleep because I had given up all my Ors salts to make sure Han’s was OK and to help Keyray, who was struggling in the heat and became a bit salt depleted the last 10 miles. I was able to catch up by taking Scaps throughout the night but only got about 2.5 hours of sleep and was not mentally ready to do the 9 miles today.

Luckily it was only 9 miles. I was dragging for the frist 3, but then I started feeling a bit better.

After completing stage three and cooling off in the river, eating all day long, and drinking probably 1-2 gallons of water today, I feel better, and I believe I will sleep well tonight and be ready for the Expedition Stage tomorrow.



Sue H – days 2/3

I came here sincerely not sure if I could do this or how I’d cope in the heat, but for whatever random reason of genetic luck I seem to be tolerating the heat better than a lot of people. I’d like to claim some sort of mental persistence or genius training but it was neither. I just kept sipping Tailwind every minute or two and pouring water down my dress, front and back. My butt provided an effective 37-inch circumference swamp cooler and I never felt uncomfortably hot. I was just delighted to be in this beautiful place without any serious foot pain, and chose my pace by what felt comfortable. I actually *won* the second and third stages which is crazy because there are much stronger and more experienced runners here who were doing all the “right” things too. I didn’t come here to compete and it felt strange to pass the leader just a couple miles from the finish line as she sat by the side of the road being attended to by the staff. There were quite a few DNFs on day 2 and some people who were potentially in serious situations. The staff here is great, very professional and attentive but as Tara wrote above sometimes it’s other runners who have to step up. The support among the runners is a beautiful thing; it’s the last people who come in every day who get the most cheering.

p.s.I joined the blister club! But the blister expert takes good care of me.

Day 1 – Sue H.

So, this is kind of a crazy sport, and it’s definitely a fair question to ask why anybody would want to run this many miles in this kind of heat. We’ve been told we WILL be miserable, we WILL have blisters like we’ve never had before… and that’s part of the point, the whole overcoming obstacles and seeing what you’re capable of thing.For me I think it’s replacing what I had in my earlier life as a young aspiring musician, taking auditions, being rejected, and immediately looking for the next audition. There’s something very stimulating and satisfying about setting a goal a couple weeks or months away, feeling like there’s no way you’ll be able to do this, and then working incrementally toward that goal. Once I finally hit the jackpot with the professional music thing, the goal was to actually *enjoy* it — and again so many parallels in long distance running. Trust your training, don’t compete with anyone but yourself, and try to actually enjoy it while it’s happening. (People assume it must be so wonderful to do art for your job but it’s so steeped in perfectionism, anxiety, your personal emotional stew, that it’s not inevitably a fun experience.)

Anyway so, this is like that. I texted my running guru at 3:30 AM on the way to the airport yesterday to tell her I thought there was about a zero percent chance I could do this. She talked me down as she always does… I also mentioned that I had just said the same to my husband Bill who said, “does it matter if you can’t do this?” A similar accepting comment to the one he gives me when I say “I am SO screwed” about some upcoming performance — he always says “I know you are. But you’re actually not.”

He’s on the trip with me, doing it on his bike since he’s not a runner. Today was actually harder for him because there was a lot of rocky steep single track where he was hauling his very heavy bike uphill. He says he had some spectacular wipeouts.

As for the run… so far I have not been miserable and I don’t have any blisters but there’s plenty of time for that in the next few days. The mental gymnastics are exactly like the music thing. You can feel miserable, or you can be grateful for this experience. Much better the second way.

Just now as I was typing this a couple who had struggled a bit (there was definitely vomiting today by several runners) walked through the finish line hand in hand. It was lovely to see and everyone was applauding, cheering them on. I literally teared up. I really think this kind of experience teaches you a lot about yourself.

Day 1 – K-Ray
Hello friends and family! I survived day one and it was HOT! HOT like Dan Goodwin at Blackburns wedding HOT, but I finished before the cutoff. I am going to try and double the distance tomorrow with a little more heat. Slow and steady will be my gameplan. If any of you are sitting on your porch, drink a cold one for me. Monie, I’m not sure you will ever read this, but I am wearing the necklace you gifted me at Christmas. It reminds me of my sole sister. Love you girls. Love my spin class cheering for me, my friends family and especially you Andy Ray! xo

Day 1 – Ulla
20 miles, it was hot again. Tried to cool off at mile 11 by the Colorado river, splashing water all over me, but the mosquitos found me and chased me up the strenous hill to aid station 2. Feeling good, after a delicious meal and sitting in the shade drinking ice cold water. Life is good!

Day 1 – Jean-Michel
Well made it thru day 1. Some are in it to win it, others just to survive it. I am definitly one of the latter. My goal for today was to come in at the finish with plenty of energy and legs left, which I did, so today was a good run. I think tomorrow will be much harder, but I am mentally prepared for it. No blisters or any major trauma for day one either. It was hot today. I am carrying a little thermometer. It was 105F at one point and didn’t drop under 100 until later in the afternoon. But we were also gifted with a nice breeze so that helped a lot. I jump in the river about mid run. That was rad! Wendie baby your banana oat bars were awesome, melting in my mouth at the high of the heat today. I am living la stage race vida loca, complete with “expedition cuisine”. I feel I am in the middle of one of these Nat Geo documentaries. Hello Matt & Michelle, best vacation ever. Wendie please rub your belly and tell Mina I miss her little kicks. A kiss for you Wendie, wish you were there <3 <3. Day 1 - Hsin A great "welcome to the desert" start! Happy to finish without fanfare. Desert sun is relentless as advertised, though the 0% humidity is a treat coming from mother Houston's humid summers. The climb up to the second aid station was a test on morale, and I briefly questioned tomorrow's run which is double the distance...good thing is doubt disppears whenever a climb ends! Got an encouraging note from my coach for tomorrow, and to "listen to the Pee Police! Most important!". Medics here are great, so Mom and Dad don't worry we are all in good hands. Angela, let's do this together one day! Day 1 - Chris Hot! Great start to a long week. The ending was tough, but glad to get in for the first day. Nice to sit around and visit with everyone. Tomorrow will be long 🙂 Day 1- Tara I started out the trek today slowly because I was a bit concerned about the heat, but after a couple of miles was feeling warmed up and was able to start picking up my speed. I took the first half of the course at a conservative pace which seemed to pay off. As I climbed out of the salt creek basin and hit the second aid station the tempurature seemed to soar. But I had been very careful to hydrate and take in plenty of ORS fluid, plus keep my cooling clothing wet. The combination paid off, as I hit the last 6.5 miles the tempuratures were high, and I was able to keep moving at a reasonable pace as the temp neared 100 degrees. I came into the finish in just over 6 hours, which was a little slower than 2 years ago, but I felt OK about because it was a lot hotter today than it was in 2015, and I was feeling fine when I got into camp. After cooling down, washingup, and a change of clothing, I was able to relax and play the Guitalele for a while, La Cateral is coming along nicely and I'm glad I brought it out here. Music helps to bring my biorhythems back to normal, and I feel more ready for the next day. I'm going to bed early, hopping to be ready to face the heat tomorrow.

Gemini News Desert RATS Kokopelli 150 Race Report by Jeff Knakal

We sat exhausted on the finish line. Reid (the race director) asked us to stand up to film us. “Say your name, your favorite part of the race, and say ‘I’m a Desert Rat’”.  I was caught off guard. I hadn’t thought about my “favorite” part. With my over analytical personality, it may be months before I decide on my favorite part. “Technically, I DNF’d. Can I say I’m a Desert Rat?”, I protested. “Say what you like”, he smiled.  I mumbled something about the scenery on the last day.

Day 1 (20 miles)

We gathered at the Gonzo Inn in Moab, waited around a while, had a harrowing van ride to the start area in Fruita, and waited some more. I was a little worried about the waits causing us to run in the heat of the day. But we eventually got going. Some ran, some started walking, we (Theresa and I) settled into our own easy training pace we had practiced. We were soon, unusually, ahead of most of the group.

The course starts along a rim above the Colorado River. Great scenery and easy running. We came into the first aid station shortly after Ryan left, grabbed a snack and refilled our bottles. The trail continued generally along the bluff. There was a confusing spot that crossed a washout, then a split in the trail that stopped us to check the GPS. It wasn’t clear and we continued right. After a quarter mile, I rechecked the GPS and it was clear we went the wrong way. Damn. We doubled back and apparently hadn’t been passed. The trail went down, down and crossed a bridge at a creek. We turned away from the river and started a long, hot climb. Really long, really hot. I think a lot of people had problems here. We had to sit for a rest at one point, but eventually pulled into the next aid station for a longer rest and recovery. The trail leveled out to some easier running, but we had to alternate walking, just because of the heat. We came into camp in good shape. Our clothes were stiff, caked with salt.

Day 2 (39 miles)

Marathon training is all about planning and preparing so nothing goes wrong. Ultra-marathons are all about how you react when things go wrong.

Sometimes, things go really, really wrong.

We were told because we were some of the faster runners from day 1, we would start half an hour after the first group. I argued we weren’t that fast, especially on the longer runs. I was worried about running further into the heat of the day.  Reid wasn’t budging. It’s all how you react…  We started slow, 12 minute miles, and watched Ryan and Katie take off at 9 minute miles. We were soon alone at the back of the pack.

We ran along a dirt road that was criss-crossed by trails that surprisingly confused us. The GPS didn’t really help, and the touch screen was starting to act wonky in the heat. We did take one wrong turn and cut across a field to get back to the trail, breaking rule #1 (stay on the trail). Rules number 2 and 3 were also Stay On The Trail, so it’s probably pretty important.  We came into Aid 1 and were told Katie just left, so we didn’t feel too bad. We ran through a box canyon area and passed Castle Rocks. There were a few views from the rim, and then the trail made a turn to a dry open area. We saw a Mesa in the distance. Is that where we’re headed? It looks far. Half an hour later, it still looks far. It’s hot. Eventually we started the climb we were promised. It felt long and very hot. It’s the first time I recall feeling annoyed. The aid station eventually found us and, was it my imagination, or was it a little cooler here? The trail leveled off, there were some trees and it was generally down to the next aid station. We passed 3 women running together; they didn’t seem to be going much slower than us.

The next aid station felt hotter. We were told they were extending the cutoff time by an hour because of the extreme heat. We rested quite a while and started off on a 4 mile section on a road. Even though it was down, we had trouble running in the heat. We stopped briefly in the shade of a railroad bridge at the bottom of the road and walked over to a water drop that was in the sun. I thought that if I had some tea bags, that water would be useful. We pondered it briefly and decided we didn’t need more hot water.

We started along a dirt road that paralled the railroad tracks. One of the support cars pulled up and mentioned their thermometer read 114 degrees. We couldn’t run without overheating, so we settled for walking as fast as we could. Relentless forward progress. The trail turned away from the tracks and entered an amazing desert scene where you can see telephone poles stretching to the horizon. It looks like it will never end. I always tell people not to worry about the finish line. It will come to you. You worry about the next step you can take. Did I mention it was hot?

A support car pulled up and offered us some water. We were getting low and I didn’t know how close the aid station was, so we took some. They told us the cutoff had been waived for today. “Just make it in and you will still be in the race”.  Eventually the aid station found us and we spent some recovery time in the shade eating ice. We continued down the road and it started to cool a little as the sun got lower in the sky. If I moved too slow, I was starting to get cramps, so I tried to keep moving at a brisk walk. We came into the last aid station and I collapsed into a chair. My hamstrings started cramping right away, so I didn’t sit long. Theresa took a little detour to take a dip in the river and I started walking slowly. She caught up shortly (it was too far to the river for that dip) and we mostly walked the last 4 miles. We came into camp in the dark with our flashlights and they had dinner waiting for us.

I ate quite a bit, happy that I could hold food down. I didn’t feel too bad. I found our tent and laid down exhausted. But as I tried to sleep, my back started cramping, then my hamstrings (that is the worst!) Then my neck, and hamstrings again. Then my abs started to cramp and I tried to stand up to straighten out and get them to release. I started having trouble breathing and then started to get dizzy. I heard yelling around me. I was looking at the floor of the tent thinking I was going to fall. I felt a wave of panic.

I remember feeling really, really good. Blissful almost. I was dreaming, but I don’t remember what. Then I came crashing back into reality. I woke up with ice under my neck and legs raised. The doctor said, “Ok, let’s get him up into a chair. I thought, that’s silly, I can get up myself. But I had 3 or 4 people lift me up and drop me in a chair. “Drink 4 glasses of water and you can go back to bed”.  I did and tried to lie back down. My hamstrings would still give me some trouble, but I did manage to get some sleep.

Day 3  My first DNF

I didn’t understand what happened to me last night. The doctors called it vaso vagle syncope. It’s a fancy way of saying I fainted. It seemed more violent to me, but they didn’t seem too concerned. I asked Dr. Riley what she would do if someone came into her office after an event like this. “Take it easy for a day and resume normal activities”. Hmmm. Does 9 miles count as “easy”? Is 41 miles tomorrow “normal activities”? Theresa was having her own problems (she couldn’t hold food down) We both decided we weren’t up to running.

We made a feeble attempt at helping to tear down the camp. The support crew was amazing. Very organized and they seemed to be having a great time. I knew it. While we were suffering, they were having fun! Everyone pitched in. The doctors, aid station folks, RDs. It was actually fun to watch. We hung out at the finish line where the trail crossed a road and tried to rest in the heat. It didn’t feel much easier than running. When everyone was in, we had a short car ride to camp and the chance to sit in the wonderfully cold Colorado river.

Day 4 Negotiating skill required

Since we were officially out of the race, my new goal became reconnaissance. I wanted to see as much of the course as possible. Neither of us felt up to 41 miles. I asked if we could start at the 17 mile aid station and run to the end. That would give us the biggest climb of the race, and the highest elevation. Reid was still pressing us to do the whole course. I suggested if we dropped out at 17 miles, they would have to get us out, but if they started us at 17, we would run the 24 miles to the end and they wouldn’t have to worry about us. We got a ride with the medical staff, and after a delay for a car problem (a critter had chewed through a wire bundle, but that’s a story for another time), we enjoyed a ride up a spectacular valley to mile 17. The leader Ryan came into the aid station just as we were starting out. He caught us a mile later and I paced behind him for a bit. 9 minute miles. Maybe he is human. Maybe.

Then it got weird.

In a couple miles, we came to a long down-hill. She wanted to walk, I wanted to run. “I’ll stop at the bottom to take out my poles and wait for you.” A little way down, I decided to stop for a bathroom break and left my pack at the side of the trail for her to see. I came back out and waited. And waited. I called up the trail. No answer. What if she passed me? I ran down to the bottom of the hill. No sign of her. About 10 minutes went by and I decided she must have passed me. There was a chance I wouldn’t catch her before the next aid station. We were warned about this being the most remote section of trail.

I ran like hell and blew my whistle, but the sound seemed muffled in the vastness. After a while, I heard a car coming up the road. Maybe they could verify Theresa was not behind me. I saw the dust cloud getting closer and the noise got louder. As it crested the rise behind me, I realized it wasn’t a car. It was a dust devil. It was big. I instinctively started running, all the while thinking it was silly, because… how fast does a dust devil go? It dissipated quickly and I started walking and laughing. I heard the noise again and turned to see it coming up the road. This time I thought, let’s see what happens. I started getting hit by marble sized rocks, and just like that it stopped. It was the craziest thing. No, really. It happened.

I tracked 2 sets of footprints on the trail. It’s interesting what you can figure out if you pay attention. Ryan was mostly running, Theresa was mostly walking. I found the spot she sat to rest under a tree. There were some amazing views. I heard some thunder and hoped the rain might shower me.

Theresa was sitting at the aid station when I arrived. She was just a few minutes ahead of me. I had left the last aid station with over 140 oz of water. More than a gallon. I arrived here with a sip left in one bottle. That was a long, hot, remote section! We compared stories of the separation and rested a little longer. Races are much more relaxed when you aren’t actually racing. Theresa hinted at stopping. We decided to “go to the next aid station”, a tactic that worked at each aid station to the end. (Eat the elephant one bite at a time). Somehow, we hung out at the next aid station long enough to figure out that John and I had both gone to the University of Rochester. Eventually we got moving. We had a 17 mile head start on the remaining racers and really didn’t want to get caught.

There were more great views on this section. I was very happy we decided to do this part and had regained the strength to have fun with it. We ran into camp with some daylight left and enjoyed dinner while we cheered the other racers in.

Day 5 was a rest day.

We hung out in a park near Moab on the Colorado River. It was wonderfully cold. In camp, we organized our gear and compared our terrible blisters. The med staff gave us and each other lessons on how to tape blisters. Somehow, they had kept everyone on their feet all week.

Day 6. It’s “just a marathon”

The marathon starts with a 5 mile mostly uphill run to the first aid station. We started in the first wave, with Katie 8 minutes back and the rest 30 minutes back. Katie and Vivian were sent out in a Rabbit Race start, so the first to cross the finish would be the women’s winner. Our first goal was to hold off Ryan to the first aid station with our 30 minute head start. (we did… but just barely!)

After that climb, the course continued along a ridge with great views of the valley. Spectacular.  Ryan soon caught and passed us with a smile and encouraging words (as always). Another half hour and Katie caught us and ran with us for a while. The trail came out on a forest service road and started dropping altitude. As the terrain changed from trees to desert rock again, we came to the next aid station. This started a 4 mile out-and-back section where we would see some of the other runners. The “out” was uphill and surprisingly difficult. We mostly walked on the slick rock, not really sure if we were on the trail. We passed Ryan on his way out and came to some mountain bikers walking their bikes. They said they saw our turn-around and it was really, really far away. It couldn’t be more than a mile, we thought. These guys have a different definition of far. We caught up to Katie. She was frustrated because she couldn’t find the turn-around. We checked the GPS which was now useless because of the heat and the touch screen. We insisted we were on the right course and found the bucket of rocks about 100 yards up a short hill. (We had to return with the rock with our bib number on it to prove we made the turn-around). Running back down the slick rock was fast (well, relatively) and fun.

At the aid station, I ate what must have been half a watermelon. It was sooooo good. We took off at a steady pace toward the slick rock area of Moab. The large rock formations were a welcome distraction from the returning heat. We crossed the finish line and collapsed into chairs. The awesome support crew brought us whatever we wanted. (Pickles and ginger ale seemed to be the favorites). It felt strange to think we didn’t need to immediately start preparing for another run tomorrow.

So back to the question of my favorite part. Maybe a better question would be, what surprised you about this event? In Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe, he writes about how westerners in the 1800’s would often leave ‘civilized’ society to live with the Indians, but the opposite was never true. Why would anyone give up an easy life in cities for the arguably more difficult life in the wilderness? I think we found a hint of that in the desert. We lived for a week in a mobile camp. Everyone had a job. Some were runners, some were cooks, others were in charge of shelter, medical, support. Surprisingly, there was very little talk of what we did in the ‘civilized’ world. It didn’t matter. Other things that didn’t matter were gender differences, class, politics…anything. All that mattered was the tribe and survival and the desert. It was wonderful and amazing.

People ask me why I’m going back. Why would anyone submit themselves to that kind of suffering? I love that I found something I can’t do. All the more reason to try again. And the scenery. Running takes me to places most people never get to see.   But mostly, I want to find the tribe again. I want to understand why that happens. Or not, and just enjoy it.

So that, Reid, is my favorite part. And yes, emphatically, I am a Desert Rat.

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