A 240 mile endurance challenge...what could go wrong?
I don't remember when and how I first learned about this race, but somehow I ended up registering for it. I was initially on the waitlist because the race was full with the allotted 200 entries. Just as every other race had been canceled due to the pandemic, I assumed this one would be too. I was pretty surprised when I received an email in September letting me know the race was happening and inviting me to participate. I had 48 hours to decide whether or not to take part in this 240 mile race with 30,000 feet of elevation and a cutoff time of 112 hours (about 4.5 days). I really had my doubts on this one and I took all 48 hours before deciding to give it a shot because, you know, YOLO.
I drove out to Moab a couple of days before the race because I had to check in the day before as well as drop off all of my gear that would be waiting for me at the various aid stations. Many participants have "crews" that meet them at aid stations with their gear, etc. Many participants also have "pacers" to complete segments of the course with them. In my case, I wouldn't have either, so I made sure to over prepare as far as gear was concerned.
I found a great donut (and chicken!) spot in Moab - Doughbird. I stopped there before heading over to check in and pick up my packet. The donut was fantastic!
Due to COVID, there were changes to both the race and the check-in procedures. Normally, all entrants start at the same time - 7am. This year, we started in groups of 40 runners, every 15 minutes, the slowest 40 starting at 6am and the fastest 40 starting at 7am. Race check-in was staggered too, with each runner receiving a time range to check in. Mine was 1pm-2pm the day before. I arrived a bit early for my check in, so I checked out Lions Park across the street. Later I would learn that the race actually finished on the paved path that goes through Lion's Park. Before I headed over to check in, I saw another racer who had already checked in and was taking some photos. I began to talk with him and, wouldn't you know it, he was from Reno, Nevada! Small world. His name was Elliot Rueb. Although he ultimately started the race after me, he passed me about an hour or so in. He ended up finishing the race in just over 104 hours.
Here are some photos from Lions Park, featuring the Colorado River:
In years past, you could select your bib number. This year, due to the staggered start times, the bib numbers were assigned based on your predicted finish time, with bib 1 being the fastest. I predicted a finish time of 100 hours, which was nothing more than a guess. I ended up with bib 137 out of approximately 200. My start time would be 6:30am. Check in went well. What stood out to me was my conversation with the medical director. He asked me if I had ever run a race this long before. I told him no. He said that hallucinating was sometimes cool and fun, but also scary and that it would probably happen during the race. His advice was to sleep, noting that even 10 minutes could go a long way in getting you back on track. This would be a race unlike any other I had ever done.
My bib and official pre-race mugshot:
We would be starting and finishing at the Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground.
Here were my thoughts as I finished race check and the immensity of the task ahead of me started to truly sink in.
Leading up to the race, we had a very active Facebook group where past participants shared great tips and information about the race and what to expect. One participant made this really awesome cheat sheet that gave a rundown of the course and all the pertinent details in one graphic. I saved this on my phone so I could easily find it when I needed it.
I also took photos of the segment elevation and distance profiles from the runner's manual and put these on my phone as well. As you can see, this race was the real deal, both in terms of length and elevation.
Before I headed out to Moab, I planned out all of my outfit changes. Here was what I would wear for the start of the race. The legendary Lululemon race shorts were a must, of course. I paired them with an awesome donut shirt that my brother, Brian, got me. And the Hoka Evo Speedgoats as well as the injinji trail socks would be crucial as well. If you haven't tried them, the Hoka Evo Speedgoats are legit and, thankfully, I heard they are going to re-release them again in the near future.
For this race, you were required to carry certain items in your pack at all times, such as winter gear for the cold mountain segments, as well as an emergency blanket or bivvy and emergency calories. Here was my pack and everything that I stuffed into it. It ended up weighing around 12-15 pounds when it was full of water. I came to realize later that I should have trained with the pack. The fact that this race was the first time I would use a 15 pound pack was a mistake.
I set my alarm for 4:30am on race morning. I woke up before my alarm, as I almost always do when it comes to races. I took down some coffee and a light breakfast, packed my gear, checked out of my hotel, and headed to the RV park. You could pay a small fee to leave your car at a hotel about 1/2 mile away from the RV park. That made a lot more sense to me than booking a hotel for 4 nights when I wouldn't be staying there. In videos I had seen of the start of the race from the year before, participants were dressed in cold weather gear, but this year it was much warmer at the start. I was comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt, as were most of the other participants. Here is the video I took from my car before I walked the 1/2 mile to the race start line.
As you can see, it was still dark when I arrived at the starting line. I picked up my spot tracker so that the race director and friends/family could track me along the course. I arrived in time to see the 6:15am starting group off. Here is a video of that:
I waited in anticipation for my start time, wishing I had an earlier starting time so I would already be out there racing. Sometimes, the waiting is in fact the hardest part.
And next thing you know, we were off! The first 4-5 miles were actually on a paved bike path. I was surprised at how fast some of the folks took off. I was jogging at about 12 minute mile pace and was quickly at the back of the pack. I had put my cell phone in one of the front pockets of my new pack and somehow it made an emergency call. Although I hung up, the 911 dispatcher called me back to make sure everything was okay. I profusely apologized, but perhaps that was a sign that things were not going to go my way in this race.
A few miles in, I took my first video update. I knew I would have cell phone service for at least a few miles, so I wanted to let friends and family know that I had started the race and was okay so far. My mother and my wife were very worried about me!
It wasn't long before we left the paved bike path and headed up into the mountains as the sun began to rise. Here are some photos:
Some of you reading this blog know who David Goggins is. If you don't, click here to learn more about him. He has been an inspiration to me and it turns out that he was running this race as well. The year prior, he had been in second place when he took a wrong turn and ended up several miles off course. When informed how far off course he was, he decided to stay in the race rather than drop out. That required him to run several miles back to the trail. By that point, he had fallen to something like 90th place. He began to pick off runners and reached about 10th place before he had to drop out for medical reasons around mile 200. He was back to redeem himself this year. Here was his pre-race mugshot photo for this race, all business:
I knew Goggins would be starting at 7am. I predicted he would catch up to me and pass me around 8am. I wasn't too far off, as I saw him approaching around 8:15am. I had to get a video as he passed me. I thanked him and he said "thank you" though you can't really hear that on the video I took:
And I never saw him again after that. Ultimately, Goggins finished in second place with a time of 62 hours, 21 minutes and 29 seconds. Michele Graglia won in a time of 60 hours, 43 minutes, 15 seconds. Third place was a full nine hours behind Goggins!
The temperature began to rise as I continued to climb and tried to settled in to something approaching an appropriate pace:
Another video update about the many compliments I was getting on my outfit:
Another video update as I approached the first aid station, Hidden Valley, about 9 miles into the race. My feet and legs were already starting to hurt, which was my first indication that I might not have been fully recovered from my 58k/36 mile run the week before.
I arrived at the Hidden Valley Aid Station at 8:52am and only spent 9 minutes there, just enough time to eat a snack and fill up my water. As I left Hidden Valley, we really began to climb up into the mountains and leave civilization behind. Some photos:
This video will give you a sense of the climb out of the aid station:
After the climb, we finally reached a flat part of the course, where I could start to run again. It was now obvious that the temperature would keep rising and that it was going to be a warm one as there wouldn't be much protection from the sun out in these canyons.
The views were stunning:
More photos of what was shaping up to be a beautiful day:
At some point, the trail gave way to slick rock and we were really just running over the tops of large boulders. It wasn't my favorite part of the course because it was difficult to know if you were going the right way and you had to be careful with your footing. By this point, I no longer had cell phone service, but, as required, I had the course map downloaded on my phone so that it could be accessed via GPS using the Gaia app, so I checked every so often to make sure I wasn't lost. And there were still other runners in the vicinity, so that helped.
Some more photos:
The views were spectacular:
As we turned the corner, the Colorado river came into view and it was breathtaking:
The next aid station was Amasa Back at nearly 18 miles in. I arrived there at 11:48am, well ahead of the 2pm cutoff time. I heard one of the volunteers say there were only 7 or so runners behind me. This surprised me as it seemed like there would be more but, then again, a lot of runners had passed me already.
Amasa Back was the first aid station where I could have a drop bag waiting for me. I prepared a small Ziploc drop bag for this one, as I figured I wouldn't really need too much at this point in the race. I took the opportunity to change my shirt and mix up some of my favorite electrolyte formula, Sword. It was really stating to get hot out, so I sat in the shade for awhile. I filled up my water, ate some food, and headed back out about 30 minutes after I had arrived.
The next segment was about 15 miles, but it was getting very warm out and I was advised that there would be some "bouldering" in the next segment. I wasn't sure what that was going to entail, but I didn't like the sound of it.
I caught up with a couple other runners, Charn McAllister and Chris Caravello, and we traversed the next several miles together. They both had Florida roots and I assumed they knew each other prior to the race, but I later learned that wasn't true At one point, the three of us passed another runner who was down and out from heat exhaustion. He didn't look good. Charn gave him some of his water, which was a very kind thing to do given the heat and his own hydration needs. I later learned that the guy we saw was ultimately flown out to a nearby hospital due to heat issues and potential kidney failure. Yikes!
The views continued to be absolutely stunning:
We finally made it to the top of the ridge:
Several miles back, another runner had asked me if I knew when we would be approaching Jacob's Ladder. I was too embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what she was talking about, so I told her I wasn't sure. Well, sure enough, we reached it and it was pretty damn intense! I couldn't believe we actually had to find a way down it, as there did not appear to be any kind of defined trail and it seemed quite treacherous, especially for someone who is already nervous on the rocky descents. This was a solid indication that I might be in over my head in this race. Here we are taking in the view before heading down:
Here is a video I took midway down:
Honestly, I'm just smiling in the photo because I was still alive and, if I died on the way down, I wanted a good last photo in my phone:
This video from the bottom gives you a sense of how far we descended:
More amazing views at the bottom, when the course finally flattened out a bit:
About 5 miles from the next aid station, something very unexpected happened. I ran out of water! I had been carrying close to 3 liters of water but, on second thought, I wasn't sure I completely filled up my pack at the last aid station. I was shocked that I had run out. And I was a little freaked out because it was hot and I still had a ways to go. At the rate I was moving, it would take me 90 minutes or so to make the next aid station. I was very thirsty and, to make matters worse, I had lost my only tube of chapstick somewhere along the way. My lips were dry and chapped. It was going to be a long stretch. I slowed down to conserve energy and hopefully limit my ever-increasing thirst.
I had a Lifestraw in my pack and was prepared to use it the first time I found a source of water, but I never found one. My two friends, Charn and Chris, had pulled ahead of me because they were much faster on the Jacob's Ladder descent than I was, but I again had passed them as they stopped for a break. About a quarter mile later, I started to feel way overheated and I just sat down, really fell down, on the middle of the dirt trail, as I could no longer keep going. I thought my race might be over, but I just sat there until I regained some strength. About five minutes later, I got up and started moving again.
About a mile later, I again started feeling overheated. I stopped to sit on a rock and tried to get any last drop of water out of my pack to quench my thirst. At this point, an angel appeared. It was Charn. He asked me if I was okay. When I told him I ran out of water, he offered me some of his. I felt bad about taking it, but I knew I desperately needed it. He filled my portable cup about halfway up and I savored that water for a good 5 minutes, taking small sips and swishing it around my mouth before swallowing. It was a super nice thing of him to do given how hot it was and it probably saved my race. It gave me the strength I needed and I pressed on towards the aid station. I later learned that it was close to 100 degrees in the canyon! That was a far cry from the year before where I think 80 was the hottest it ever got. Anyway, this Charn fellow is one heck of a guy and an accomplished ultra runner. You can learn about him by clicking here.
Here is a video I took as I approached the Base Camp Aid Station, very much doubting my life choices:
I arrived at the Base Camp Aid Station at 5:35pm, well ahead of the 8pm cutoff time. I was determined to drink a lot of water there and I did just that. I drank to my heart's content. I might have consumed a gallon or more. All told, I spent an hour at that aid station and made sure my water was completely full before I left. I also ate some food. I was surprised to see a gigantic desert tortoise had taken up residence there.
Video of the fearless desert tortoise going after a dog:
At the Base Camp Aid Station, I learned that the next segment was 25 miles! I'm not sure how I missed that in the materials I reviewed, as that seemed like a long way. The good news is that there was an unattended water station 5 miles out. Running out of water again was at the top of my mind, so it would be nice to be able to fill up there. As I headed out, the sun was starting to set and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to pull out my headlamp and navigate at night. Truthfully, I wasn't looking forward to that and I waited as long as possible before turning on my headlamp.
Here were my thoughts as I left Base Camp Aid Station:
The sunset was utterly amazing!
Video of the sunset:
Once it got dark, navigating became much more difficult. My headlamp was suprisingly dim. Although I had an extra headlamp and extra batteries in my pack, I just didn't feel like digging around for them at the moment, so I decided I would make due for the time being. But it was difficult to see the course markings and it was also difficult to see the ground and avoid the rocks, especially on the rolling ascents and descents. In addition, the wind started to kick up, which meant that a lot of dust was blowing around, making it hard to see and to breathe.
As it got dark, I spotted some ATVs up on a ridge and they started heading my way. I was very careful to get off the main path, as I was pretty sure they couldn't see me. I wasn't thrilled about the dust they kicked up on the way out, but I enjoyed the solitude of the night once they had disappeared from my sight.
I finally made it to the 5 mile water stop and, as advertised, it was really just a large table with huge jugs of water. There was a runner resting on the side of the trail there and I spoke with him for a few minutes, filled up my water, and headed on my way. Just 20 more miles to go!
As the hours passed, I became aware of two things. One, it wasn't really cooling down much at all. Two, it was very dark out with almost no ambient light. I was having a hard time navigating, continually checking the map on my phone to make sure I was on course. Thankfully, I caught up with another runner who was also having some navigation challenges. He, however, had a really bright headlamp as well as a waist light. I was instantly jealous and began kicking myself for not being better prepared. I had contemplated buying a waist light, but opted not to because they were about $180, which was more than I wanted to spend. The other runner's name was Scott McNulty and he was gracious enough to let me tag along with him for several miles as he led the way. I learned that he was from Florida and, that at 60 years old, he was inspired to do this race after being out in Moab the year before and seeing people out on the course at night. His curiosity got the best of him and next thing he knew, he was signing up. As usual, he was faster on the tricky descents than I was, so I eventually fell behind and he went on his way. I later learned that he completed the race in 106 hours and 50 minutes! But, for the time being, I was alone again.
I stopped to rest and to swap out my headlamp and that was a game changer, as the batteries in the other one were fully charged and my line of sight greatly improved so that I could actually see the reflective course markings in the distance. I was getting annoyed by how hot it was and I ultimately took my shirt off to try to cool down. It didn't work all that well. I was also hungry, but I only had a few gel packs on me so I decided to eat one every couple of hours. I began stopping more frequently to rest. My pace definitely slowed, as I was probably doing 25 minute miles and that did not include the frequent rest breaks. I kept looking at map on my phone and I didn't seem to be getting any closer to the aid station. It was going to be a long night.
I began to see a lot of runners sleeping on the side of the trail. It was tempting for sure, but I was worried about how slow my pace had become and I didn't want to miss the cutoff. I had also seen a few mice running across the trail and I didn't relish having them climb on me if I tried to sleep. At one point, I found a very large rock about the size of a twin sized mattress. It was relatively flat. I decided to rest for awhile and laid down on the rock, using my winter hat as a pillow. The rock felt cool on my back. I turned my headlamp off and saw what seemed like millions of stars above me. It was so quiet and peaceful. Although I only rested on the rock for 5-10 minutes, it was one of the highlights of the race for me. The only other time I saw that many stars was during the nighttime portions of my recent Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim hike.
I soon learned that the batteries for my headlamp only lasted about 3 hours on the highest setting. I had 12 extra batteries in my pack, but it was clear to me that 12 would not be enough to get me through 4 more long nights. And I again was really wishing I had splurged for that waist lamp.
As I continued on, I began to think. The more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that I would not be able to finish this race. I was moving very slowly and would be lucky to make the 6am cutoff at the next aid station. And, even if I made that, I would not have any time to sleep. That was a problem because I was starting to feel quite exhausted and at least one more very warm day awaited me. There is no way I could go four and a half days with no sleep and not completely lose my mind. Then there was the issue about having to navigate three more nights with poor equipment. If I continued on, I would have to navigate the mountain sections at night. I didn't feel that was safe and I knew it would be even more unsafe the more tired I became. And, although it might seem trivial, losing my Chapstick was a big deal for me. I always have Chapstick on me. My lips were so chapped that they were burning. I had some Neosporin with me and I started using that on my lips, but it just wasn't the same and the taste was pretty terrible but desperate times calls for desperate measures, right?
As we approached 5am, I knew I had a chance to make the cutoff, but I had to keep moving. That is exactly what I did, passing even more people sleeping on the trail. As the next aid station, Breaking Bad, came into view, I debated whether I should just stop for awhile and intentionally miss the cutoff time. I had already decided that I was going to drop out of the race at that aid station anyhow. Enough of this insanity. If I missed the cutoff, then it would be a done deal. I debated this strategy in my mind for quite some time before deciding this was not the way I wanted to go out. I would do my best to make it by the cutoff time and then just drop there. But I wouldn't intentionally sabotage the race. Here is a video I took around midnight that gives you a sense of how I was feeling out there:
I think I heard the Breaking Bad Aid Station before I actually saw it. I heard music coming from the canyon and then I saw lights in the distance, but I was still up on a ridge, so I wasn't entirely sure how I would get down to it. Turns out I had to make a very wide loop and then descend into the canyon. Great, more descending in darkness. Here is a photo of the Breaking Bad Aid Station. It was pretty wild to see this literally in the middle of nowhere.
So I strolled into the Breaking Bad Aid Station at 5:50am, just 10 minutes before the cutoff. There were a few volunteers working the station and they clapped and cheered me on as I approached. That was nice! One guy immediately told me to sit down and asked me what I needed and got to filling up my water. I told him I was starving and the young lady working the portable grill started whipping up a breakfast burrito for me as they handed me a large plate of bacon and a giant pickle! The guy there congratulated me for making the cutoff and I told him I was dropping out anyhow. He told me I wasn't and said that I had to be up and and moving in 10 minutes, the official cutoff time for that aid station.
I complained about how brutal the last segment was and he told me everybody, even the race leaders, had said the same thing. I again told him I was going to drop. He told me if I dropped, I would have to wait upwards of six hours or so for a transport due to how far this aid station was from civilization. I asked about all the people behind me who weren't going to make the cutoff. He told me they would have no choice but to wait for a transport, but I could go on and that I would probably make it to the next aid station by the time the transport came anyway. He assured me that the next segment wasn't as difficult as the one I had just finished. It was a total of about 15 miles, with a water station at around the halfway point.
Right about that time, another runner arrived at the Breaking Bad Aid Station, just 6 minutes before the cutoff. He sat down next to me and told the volunteers he was going to quit. As they were giving him a pep talk, he threw up all over the place. The volunteer looked at me and said: "I think you are on your own for this next segment." I'll say.
At 5:59am, they told me to get up and they put my pack on my back. The handed me a paper plate with a breakfast burrito and as much food as they could find, including Nutella wraps, Oreos, and M&Ms. They sent me on my way, back into the darkness. I really didn't want to continue, but sitting there for 9 minutes and eating some food rejuvenated me somewhat. About 1/2 mile from the aid station, I sat down on a rock and devoured a very delicious breakfast burrito and nearly everything else on the plate. Shortly thereafter, I recorded this video, though it was too dark to actually see me:
I was now in last place of the runners who remained in the race. But I was pretty excited that the sun would rise soon. Although the sun would certainly mean the return of the heat, it would also mean I no longer had to navigate in the darkness. The tradeoff seemed worth it to me.
Here is a video of the sun rising:
More photos from along the way:
And...the hallucinations began soon after the sun rose. I began to see things that weren't really there. I saw other runners resting on rocks. But they weren't there when I got closer. I saw random animals. They weren't there either. I saw signs and course markings that were just mirages. I knew things were getting bad when I realized that I had been conversing with my shadow for a few minutes. My mind convinced me that my shadow was another runner. Except it wasn't. I started to get worried because I knew I was in desperate need of sleep. I tried to rest my eyes for a few minutes on a rock that looked especially inviting because it was in the shade:
As I moved onward, the views continued to be amazing:
The path that I was on was definitely flatter than the prior segment, but it started to get hot again as soon as the sun came out.
Panoramic video view of the terrain:
I finally made it to the water station about 8 miles in. I filled up my water and kept moving on what seemed like a never ending dirt trail.
As I got closer to the aid station, the transport vehicle with all of those who missed the cutoff at the last aid station passed me. All the folks in the back of the pickup cheered for me and that lifted my spirits. In retrospect, I should have inquired if any of them had extra chapstick or a waist lamp they were willing to part with. You live and learn.
I finally caught up to another runner. His name was Aaron Tolman and we talked for awhile. He was struggling with the heat and asked me about the cutoff time. I advised him that we were doing well as far as the cutoff time and that he should be sure to find some shade and cool down. Better to be safe than sorry. We also talked about how hard this race was. He said the furthest he had ever run was a marathon some 10 years earlier. Talk about guts! In any case, we both said we had wanted to drop out at the last aid station, but were talked out of it. I'm glad it wasn't just me. And we both agreed that we were definitely dropping out at the next aid station. As he rested, I kept moving. I was now in second to last place of those who remained.
Here is the last video I took on the course before reaching the Indian Creek Aid Station around mile 72:
I finally arrived at the Indian Creek Aid Station at 12:45pm, an hour and 15 minutes before the cutoff time. I had made up some time on that segment. Mike McKnight, who won this race the year before in a course record time for men (59 hour, 30 minutes, 12 seconds), was actually volunteering at the aid station, which was very cool. It was really great to talk with him. Super nice guy.
There were three other runners there who had already decided to drop and I informed the volunteers that I would be dropping too. They, of course, tried to talk me out of it, but I was resolute in deciding that I was going to cut my losses rather than endure another night segment. I had promised my wife and my mother that I wouldn't do anything stupid and that I would pull the plug if I needed to. So I did. Keep your promises. Live to fight another day. I was a little wistful when they removed my spot tracker, officially ending my race, but I knew I had made the right call. Yet I also knew I would later regret it.
About 30 minutes after I arrived at the aid station, the fellow I had passed along the way, Aaron, arrived. We all cheered him on, as he was final runner to make it to that aid station. He immediately went to the medical tent to have his feet worked on. I went over to talk with him and, much to my surprise, he said he had a change of heart and was going to continue on. Although I hardly knew him, it made me immensely proud. I was even prouder to later find out that he made it over 100 miles before he finally dropped out. What a warrior!
The Indian Creek Aid Station was designated as a "sleep station." In years past, the race organizers provided communal tents and sleeping mats for runners at the sleep stations. With COVID, they could not do that, but they gave you the option of preparing a larger drop bag for the sleep stations that would be transported to all four of them: Indian Creek, Shay Mountain (121.6 miles in), Road 46 (167.3 miles in), and Geyser Pass (201.4 miles in). I had packed a giant bag with all kinds of stuff that I ultimately didn't need. I felt somewhat embarrassed by how big and heavy my bag was. Best I could tell, it was the biggest one there by a hefty margin. Here is a photo of what I packed and how big the bag was once packed. I had a one person tent, a blow up sleeping mat, a sleeping bag, a pillow and multiple changes of clothing, as well as a bunch of other stuff, as you can see.
When at the aid station, I felt kind of foolish looking at everything that I didn't need. If I ever do this race again, I would scrap at least half of what I packed. Unless you are well ahead of the cutoff time, I can't imagine actually taking the time to set up a tent. When you are at the aid stations, you are worried about drinking and eating and taking care of your feet. Sleeping is not really something that is at the top of your priority list. Sleeping on the side of the trail seemed like an easier and more convenient option unless you had a crew with a vehicle where you could just sleep in a car without much trouble. That was more ideal.
And here were the three drop bags that I packed for later aid stations that I never made it to. So much time, attention, and care wen into packing these. Made me sad that I didn't make it far enough to take advantage of them. If nothing else, I was looking forward to photos of me wearing different gear along the way.
One of the aid station volunteers drove me and two of the other runners back to our cars. It took a good 90 minutes to get there and, as you might imagine, I had a very hard time staying awake on the drive. I apologized profusely for being such a bad passenger, but she was very understanding. And I noticed that one of the other runners in the back seat was sawing logs.
So all and all, here is what my watch told me about my effort. I think the mileage was a little off, as I believe the Indian Creek Aid Station was between 72 and 73 miles in. The total time was a bit off too, as I had to use a portable charger to recharge my watch along the way, which requires you to pause the segment. I did that while I was resting out on the course or at aid stations. My total time on the course was more like 30 hours and 15 minutes.
When I got back to my car, I had a bit of a dilemma. I did not have a hotel room booked because I intended to be out on the course for a few more days. I searched for available hotel rooms, but they were all prohibitively expensive. So I decided to just drive back to Las Vegas, about a 7 hour drive. Though, in this case, it probably took me closer to 9 or 10 hours because I kept stopping to take quick naps and rest. It was hard to stay awake and I was on the edge of hallucination. But I eventually made it home safely. Here is what my shoes and socks looked like once I took them off:
One downside of dropping out of the race as early as I did was that my drop bags were still out at the aid stations that I never made it to. If I wanted them, I could either drive to the various aid stations to get them, which would take hours, or I would have to come back to Moab and pick them up the day after the race.
I already had a couple of nights at a hotel booked for after the race, so I decided to head back to Moab on October 13th. I was tracking Charn and saw that he was still in the race and would likely finish close to the cutoff time, which was 11pm local time. Chris had dropped out of the race due to injury somewhere around mile 150, but I learned from our Moab Facebook group that he was going back to the final aid station to help bring Chris in. Charn, however, was unaware of this. I knew this would be special and I wanted to be there when the two of them finished up.
I parked my car close to the finish line around 9pm and started walking up the same path at Lyon's Park that I had walked on the day before the race. It was really dark out there and I needed to use my cell phone light to see anything. It was so cool to see headlamps emerge from the darkness as the last few runners completed the end of their journey, most with pacers, some without. I cheered each one on and kept checking my phone to see if Charn and Chris were approaching. Soon enough, they emerged from the darkness and I said hello. They were definitely surprised to see me. I asked if I could walk in with them the last mile or so. They graciously agreed and told me stories from their race, which included Chris encountering a mountain lion at one point!
Charn was remarkably lucid for going on 112 hours. He had only slept about 4 hours along the way. Chris was visibly limping, but he wanted to be sure his friend finished strong. Charn told me there was no way he would have finished without Chris due to the difficulty of navigating the last segment at night. It was a wonderful moment to walk with Charn across the finish line. He had done it, finishing in 111 hours, 57 minutes, and 16 seconds! What an amazing accomplishment.
Although I was still sore and tired, I wanted to check out some of the last part of the course the next morning. So that is what I did, heading out about 5.5 miles from the finish before turning around and heading back. I immediately appreciated what Charn had said about the difficulty of navigating Porcupine Rim. It was difficult for me to figure out the course, even in the daytime. I couldn't imagine doing it at night. Here are the stats from my run:
The views, of course, continued to be amazing. Here is a video from along the way:
And another one:
Cesare Rotundo, from Foster City, CA, has run in all four Moab 240 races. He makes amazing videos of his epic runs and shares them online with the world. As he passed me on the course about an hour in, I told him how much I appreciated his videos. Well, he made one for this race, which he finished in just over 88 hours, good for 29th place. The video is about an hour long, but gives you a really good sense of what the course is like, including Jacob's ladder. And Cesare runs with infectious joy. Feel free to watch it here if you have some spare time:
Here is another one of my favorite videos of the race, from Wes Plate, who completed the race in 2019 on his first attempt, in just over 98 hours. He very effectively uses Google Earth to show you exactly where the course goes.
So, what did I learn on this epic adventure that I thought would last 240 miles, but only lasted 72 or so for me?
Would I attempt it again? Well, here is the video I took on my final run in Moab:
Thanks for reading!
Steve Yeager is an ultra runner who rarely turns down a challenge. When he is not out putting miles on his shoes, he practices law and serves as the Speaker in the Nevada State Legislature. Steve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his very understanding and patient wife, Bita.