Here’s a view of the tool shed I stay in while in Moab. It’s in the back yard of the 3 Dogs & a Moose cottages, near the hot tub. I’ve yet to stay in a standard motel in Moab; I always go to one of these unique home rentals that pervade this town. You can easily get a group to rent out an entire yard of cottages, or choose to socialize in a communal living fashion. My bed is so comfy I nearly oversleep this morning. I do still have time though for a coffee and banana from the Red Rock Bakery and Net Cafe. I go here every trip for coffee. No matter how late you are, there is always time for a coffee.
I talk to a guy on the bus ride up the canyon from Cortez – the Four Corners area. West of Durango. He has ten years on me so we talk as much about planning for retirement as we do running. I am wearing warm fleece but barely need it. It is quick to take off and stores easily in my gear bag. I throw that into the gear truck on the quarter mile walk up to the starting line. I keep a ten dollar bill and my drivers license in my blue North Face shorts back pocket. It isn’t a twenty because I anticipate two free beers post-race. I also sport the baby blue, short sleeve, cotton race jersey that came with my registration. Along with the official race running hat. Might be my first Moab without tights.
Abbie and I run into each other lining up. We’re both targeting 1:45. We try to line up in that pace group but runners are packed into the street tighter than any race I’ve ever been in and we can’t even reach the 2:20 pace sign. I find out over drinks later that the Paris/Hotshot Team is running in front of us and much of the rest of Jabe’s team is running directly behind us. Still, this is the closest to the starting line I have ever been in Moab. I don’t normally try to get up front but I’m looking to push myself today for a faster start. I’m hoping to average an 8 minute pace and do so evenly each mile. My first mile is exactly 8 minutes.
In case you glossed over this, Jen, Kelly, Steve and Keith all started ahead of me. Susan and the rest were barely behind me. And this is as near as I’ve ever been to the front. That means only one thing. Everyone I know in this race is out to get me. This is going to be a race.
While together, Abbie talks to me about being a child’s advocate lawyer during immigration hearings. I ask her if she could tell me any heart-wrenching stories. We don’t have much time. No sooner than did she say yes and start to open up, I lose sight of Abbie and come upon Jen around mile 2. My two running sirens. The sirens are tempting to run with but I accelerate. Mile two is in 7:24. Nice. With that under pace, I determine I will keep score based on over or under my 8 minute per mile goal. And to keep from being overwhelmed by the pure math of it, I record by 30 second blocks. So at this point I am under by 30.
I know of course this event starts largely downhill and I could possibly be in pursuit of oxygen debt. But I don’t think so enough to slow down. This pace feels right. I’m certain I can hold this for the first 6 miles. I do that and then I just need to maintain 8:30 per mile for the second half. This is what I call strategerizing on the fly, an essential skill that only comes with experience. Mile 3 comes in at 7:22, mile 4 at 7:20, mile 5 at 7:23 ( some hills around here if you think I slowed down but I can tell you I was thinking about having just run 4 consecutive miles between 7:20 and 7:24) and mile 6 comes in at 7:07. I’m in good shape for making my time now.
It’s also about now that my focus begins to drift from the race. I go back to thinking about putting so many separate buildings into a single yard. Why am I intrigued by this area’s architecture?. It works out for me and I’m currently in a shed in the backyard with another running party who took the rest of this space. No way my HOA would let me construct little apartments throughout my backyard. But before I can finish my thought on why this should be wrong, I realize I support this residential zoning freedom. There is something about the Southwest and having multiple buildings for specific tasks. I’m certain I saw this last spring in the Yucatan. The kitchen is a separate building. Bedrooms are separate buildings. But everything is enclosed within a courtyard. This is classic Spanish architecture that embraces outdoor living. I don’t see this in the buildings themselves but rather in the manner that Moab allows home owners to commercialize their properties in a style reminiscent of the old Southwest. I owe Abbie $280 for my shed.
I’m not surprised when my 7th mile comes in at 7:16 and 8th at 7:19. I was two and a half minutes under my target pace after 6, and my start to the second half is faster than the start to my first half. By a lot. I stop tracking my under. The 9th mile has a noticeable hill and my legs feel it. I’d imagined mile 9 as a critical point to make a move and here it is. But I don’t need to make a move. I need to hang on. Per the plan I put together by mile two, I simply need to maintain pace – which is officially 8:00. The hill in mile 9 is followed by a downhill. Mile 9 comes in at 7:22.
Around this time I get passed by the first runner in my entire race. I heard the noise behind me of someone slapping their feet way too loudly, hence hard, against the pavement. This sounds so bad I consider advising the person about to pass me on their running form. He pulls up beside me and to my surprise is wearing flip flops. Seriously. So we start a conversation. I forget the brand but these sandals are in fact designed for running. This is the farthest he’s ever run in them but besides a potential toe blister, he feels good. He then leaves me in pursuit of the 1:40 pace sign.
I think I might have caught him back; I see him later in the finishers shoot. I pass the drums. Then I pass the 1:40 pace sign. I continue to run strong with mile 10 in 7:25 and mile 11 in 7:24. It’s not just the unusual speed that has my confidence soaring. It’s the consistency of the times. Running like this is magical. At this point I don’t care what happens, I could walk in from here and feel great about the day. Mile 12 comes in at 7:30.
Then tragedy strikes. Nearing the final corner with less than a half mile remaining, my stomach begins to heave. To the point I stop and bend over. There’s nothing in my stomach so it’s dry heaves, but painful and a real clock stopper. I lose 30 seconds, the 1:40 pace sign passes me, and I can’t reach them before the finish line with a final mile time of 8:08 and total race time of 1:38:38. Hells yeah!
This is just behind my time for the Austin Half last January where I had a 15 mph wind at my back on a downhill sea level course. Moab has always been tough for me. It’s as technical as pavement can possibly be. This bests my previous time here by 11 minutes. Despite the unfortunate dry heaves a few minutes prior, I feel like I just ran the perfect race. I get water, my finishing medal and a picture. Then I wait for my neighbors to quickly pile up. Abbie, followed closely (chip time) by Kelly, and soon after Keith. We take medal pictures together.
I move aggressively through the food farm to the gear bag pick-up. I eat an orange section and grab a banana. I down the two free beers, meeting up with Kelly, Keith and Steve in the beer garden. I miss a turn and end up back on Main Street while walking back to my shed. Only a block out of my way really but this takes me past the Moab Spa. Nice. I walk in and wait for the receptionist to finish her call. Based on her conversation, her next opening for that person is at 7pm. I think he hung up on her. She proceeds to tell me that 7 is the soonest, unless I am ready in 40 minutes for a 2:00 appointment. That’s exactly what I was going to ask for. Sold. I spring back to the shed to shower and promptly return. Breann at the Moab Spa is a runner too. She knows what I need and gives me one of the best massages in the history of the world. Perspective.
From there I go to the post-race party for drinks and dinner – catered by Pasta Jays. I think I arrived late. Anyone there ahead of me is surely ahead of me in the consumption of libations too. Ever a quick study, I ask Steve to make me some Gin and Tonics to help me reach par. This works well and Steve now has another satisfied customer. Funniest commentary of the night? Seemingly sober, Jabe tells Eve, “I’m thinking of getting hair extensions.” Quick and matter-of-factly, Eve responds, “They don’t come in gray.” This is followed by all sorts of humor inappropriate for the adult kids stunned by their parent’s ribald display. I retire to my shed after a soak in the hot tub. Fast times, good day.