The Moab 240 is one single continuous loop circumnavigating the Moab landscape. The Start is at the north end of town and makes its way west and south slightly before turning directly south up into the Abajo Mountain range, specifically Shay Mtn. The course starts to turn to the north and slightly east with a direct line of sight to the La Sal Mtn range. After nearly 170 miles, the route gains 9k ft in the next 25 miles. After all that, it is a continuous steady descend of 30 miles back to the Colorado River and the north end of town. That is it!
Start to mile 72:
|Justin and I at Amasa Back|
The start was cool and calm. I wanted to run as much as possible before the sun got too high and started its slow heating up of the canyons. These miles are done with limited crew access and was a great time to settle in with a few participants. I ran with Torrey and Jason and another guy- Pretty lighthearted miles until noon. Mark and LeAnne were Aid station captains at Amasa Back Aid at mile 17.8. It was a nice treat to have friends on course early. It was clear to me that it was going to get hot and water may become an issue. I quickly started to ration my precious commodity ensuring it was to last until the next available refill station. I slowed down in the heat intentionally trying to straddle the fine line of pace and energy output. Others in my line of sight were in the same predicament. The day passed and nightfall came. Eventually, I arrived at the Breaking Bad aid Station. Seth was working this aid station that crew was not able to access. Again, a welcomed treat to have friends out on course. It was a rough scene at Breaking Bad- There was a lot of carnage from the days heat. I stayed for an hour eating and drinking and getting my feet taped up. Mostly everyone overstayed their welcome. I spent the remainder of that night trying to drink as much fluid as possible trying to dig out of the hole of dehydration. I pushed on and headed for Indian Creek where I was to see my crew and aid station captain Michael McKnight. Mike wished me well and I climbed into the back of my car for a little rest, some food, resupply, foot care, and my first pacer!
|Leanne, Thomas, and Justin acting like its fun...|
Miles 72 to 102: Indian Creek- The
Island- Bridger Jack
~Wes and I were able to get out just before the pandemic lockdown and run these two sections in March. I recalled our spring adventure and hoped Wes was doing well in front of me- he was showing signs of dehydration earlier as well. In Spring, we had a great two days of scouting. His insight and knowledge were super helpful.
A little rest went a long way to feeling human once again. I bet I slept 40 minutes at Indian Creek. Thomas and I clipped along steadily and picked up Ryan. As a foursome (racers and pacers) we rolled into The Island aid station. We ate and refilled. Thomas and I had no plans to rest here and quickly moved on. The day was hot again and I made frequent stops in whatever shade was available. After the event I picked Thomas' brain for any significant happenings on this section and we both agreed that it was pretty cut and dry. We moved slowly, it was hot, and there were spots of wind that picked up sand. I did see a "mirage" of an aid station that I was certain of. As we approached, it was clear it was just another slab of sandstone. Thomas thought I was being weird-er. I do recall the crew car being a mile, mile and a half past the aid station which almost broke my spirit...
|The Always Strong Ryan McAfee|
Miles 102 to 121: Bridger Jack to Shay Mtn
This section was a mile, mile and a half shorter due to the car situation... I did a solo run on the sections from Bridger to Dry Valley just about three weeks before the event. It was nice to scout this section and was advised by Wes to check out Shay. Again, great advice as there were no surprises waiting ahead. Justin jumped in for his first pacer experience. He was new to the crew this year filling in last minute. He is young and full of energy. We made the tricky turn and descended into the valley following the riverbed for a way before climbing up 4,000 ft to Shay Mtn. It eventually became night and that might have helped- without the ability to see the top we just had to plod along until we reached Shay Aid Station. Back to the same routine of climbing in the back of the car, eating, resupply, and foot care. I believe I was out of there in 90 minutes time.
~Maryann Reynolds has been in a wheelchair for half of my life (I'm 46 this year). She does not complain about it. She does not expect anyone to do things for her. She navigates life just as you and I do. With her own challenges, which we all can relate to having. She plans and does research as to accessibility for herself to participate. Most recently she was at Niagara Falls, and was just a little bummed not to be able to go to the Canadian side, not because of inability but due to a pandemic. She has always supported me in my athletic pursuits, always wanting me to share the race pics and stories with her. Maryann is part of my "why". I do these athletic challenges for those who cannot, may not be able to. I do them to share with her in my experiences as she is sometimes more excited for me than I am of myself. As a parent I totally get that now. Thanks Mom.
Miles 121 to 140: Shay Mtn to Dry Valley
|Was Thomas working his magic... or revenge...?|
This section in training was fast and fun. Descending almost 3,000 ft made it runnable three weeks prior. Not the case after 120 miles though. I did try and run with Mark and we had a good time. Just before sunrise I was struggling to stay awake and took a 25-minute trail nap, in my space bag, right in the dirt off the side of the trail. It was the only real nap I took on course outside of the aid stations. The sun came up and we were in the Dry Valley Aid station by 9am. I think that makes it Sunday morning...?
Miles 140 to 167: Dry Valley- Wind Whistle- Rd46
This is where it gets ugly. And amazing. 30 minutes in and out of the Dry Valley aid station. Change my Topo Mtn Racers for MT3's. Refill the pack and Leanne and I are off down the "road thru hell"- we had previously named this section based off of previous racer accounts as neither of us had been on this road. We had no idea how true this would be for us this morning... We start off slowly moving when the wind starts picking up right into a headwind which turns into a sandstorm and then into a rain shower for the first 11 miles of this section. I am walking behind Leanne in an attempt to draft, yes- like NASCAR, off of her. That is how strong the wind is. This road is so exposed that you can see for 30+ miles in 360 degrees, basically just a large pile of sand. That did not do me in, but it sure helped to knock me down. The sky clears and we have a two mile road section to get to Wind Whistle aid station. That is what did me in. I was roughly 150 miles in and could not muster enough to walk two miles into the aid station. There was no shade available as the tall grass was only ankle high. How does that stuff even grow in sand...?
1:41pm Sunday Oct 11th. I’m far down this rabbit hole... Leanne is encouraging …but... she's also fading in and out... of my fog.. I can’t... I just can’t anymore... I have to sit- No- I must sit, lay down right here...Car slows to a stop- "Hi, (strong Texan Drawl) (awkward pause) ...is he alright??"
|Death by the side of the Road|
That was it- that was all I had. Leanne is standing over me on the road to ensure that cars do not run me over. I have the negative thoughts already working their way in.. you did a great 150 miles,.. shoulda trained harder... ask the sweet southern lady for a ride, your day is over... Once those thoughts are present, they are so hard to reverse. It felt like an hour, but Leanne would tell you that it was 8 minutes. I must keep moving and find another reserve- I must dig deeper. I get up and shuffle into the aid station. It takes me 1hr 10 minutes to cover the remaining 1.3 miles, but I get it done. Side note- Leanne and I both heard the wind actually whistle and thought the other was whistling... made for a well needed laugh. Still not having come clean to Leanne that I believe my day is over- I decide to try the race advice given at check in. Eat and sleep before making any decision to drop. And so, I do just that. I eat maybe 3,000 calories in a breakfast burrito before passing out in a horse blanket with all my clothes on still shivering in the 75-degree weather. I wake and eat even more in a spicy gumbo (who would thought?) and potato chips. I really need to get up and get to rd46 so I can drop. We push off for the next section and I am already anticipating the death march ahead. But... something happened... I started to move... better and better. Leanne reminds me that I have not put any music on- I did build a 15 hr playlist for just this moment...
6:36pm Sunday Oct 11th “ ...She feels like kicking out all the windows And setting fire to this life She could change everything about her Using colors bold and bright But all the colors mix together...!" - Grey Street- Dave Matthews Band. Singing with LeAnne while moving at a 12-minute mile...
…And just like that we are moving with the sun setting at our backs and the La Sal Mtns directly in front of us and the lower rim in full glow- we are clipping off miles and having a grand ole time! My spirit returns and there is no way I am not finishing this thing. It was all an experiment to this point- could I? - would my body hold up? - But not any longer- this is when I knew I was getting it done.
~Ultras marathons– and life- is just like that. In the ultras as time and distance pass the highs and lows start to cause waves starting gently and then growing from there. I was in some rough choppy waters at Wind Whistle aid station not sure I would stay afloat- but I held on and kept moving- even when my physical body did not want to anymore. And now, just 5 hrs later I am riding the crest of the wave and enjoying it. I sure am enjoying myself but slightly hesitant as to the possibility of another low…
Leanne and I shuffle on and pick up Ryan. Ryan McAfee is a fellow participant. We have been doing this ultra thing for a bit and happen to wind up at the same races and same time frames during those races. We have mutual friends in our home state. It was great to share miles with Ryan and his crew. Spoiler alert- Ryan Finishes!! We all head into Rd 46 aid station ready for some much-needed rest before the climbing sections ahead. Those hours spent with Leanne were the worst and best I would feel throughout the whole event.
~I have the four most important eyes watching every move I make. Those are the eyes of my two daughters. They are watching- learning- absorbing information- processing all that is in their line of sight. They understand quite a bit about ultrarunning- Example: while traveling to the 2019 Boston Marathon my then 7 years old asked, " Dad, will it take you all night to finish the Boston Marathon?" my reply, "I sure hope not..." It is very important to me for these girls to see that dad finishes what he starts. The life lessons of: hard work pays off- you give 110%- when faced with adversity try another way to achieve your goal- and anything is possible with the right mindset- are all lessons that I hope they are absorbing from this wonderful community and my example. I love you girls.
|Geyser Pass Aid Station|
Miles 167 to 201: Rd46- Pole Canyon- Geyser Pass
Mark joins back in for this grueling section of 34 miles with 9,000 ft of vertical gain and 4800 ft of descent. We team up with Ryan and Benji and have a great trip up to Pole Canyon. The four of us set off at midnight on Monday morning. Traversing the lower slopes and twisting around made me lose my sense of direction. At one point we are splitting a band of coyotes as they yip-howl to each other. Pretty powerful moments. We stay consistent and make great time to Pole Canyon. Ryan is set up for a crew change and we are not, so Mark and I push off after 45 minutes. It is now the coldest part of the day at the highest part of the course to be traveled in the next ten+ miles. It is 20 degrees and Mark is shivering- I got in Ryan’s truck for 15 minutes with the seat heat on- So I drive a quick pace to get us warmed up. And it felt good. So, I kept driving a solid pace through the climbs. I turned up another playlist and keep pushing through sunrise.
~In 2017, the inaugural year of this event, I reached out to Michael McKnight and offered to pace him. Initially he said he was all set but then a few days later he inquired about my offer. I paced Mike from Rd46 to Porcupine Rim- roughly 60 miles of this course. Mike went on to finish third that year behind Courtney and Sean. I was amazed how Mike just glided up those climbs and had it still all together after 160+ miles in his legs. I reflected on my own experiences this year peak bagging eleven 14,000 ft mountains in my home state for training. I tried to channel my inner Mike through those climbs and think I succeeded.
Later in this section as it warmed, and we packed
away the cold weather gear in our packs I fell- hard. Just a fleeting moment of
not paying perfect attention, one long slow blink, and my toe caught the root-
I had no reaction at all. By some crazy luck, I landed in some soft dirt with a
thud. Mark looked pretty concerned and did a full inspection of damages. Nothing
major and we were moving again. As we came into Geyser Pass aid station right
around 2 in the afternoon, we decided to take a solid break and start back at
dinner time, when the temps would cool. Geyser was the best aid station for me.
My girls and wife were there, crew made a nice tailgating spot and I just
enjoyed the late afternoon rest with my friends and family. All the pressure
was off, and it felt as though we were just having a picnic. The burger from
the aid station was bomber- thick cut onions were the ticket. I only slept
20-25 minutes and wanted to absorb all the energy from this group of friends
and my family that I could. They had made a ton of sacrifices to be here for me and they
probably still do not know how much that means to me. So, thank you again to
Mark and Leanne, Thomas, the new guy Justin, and of course my wife and girls. As
I sit here reflecting on those moments, I can see the color in the trees, the
warmth of the sun, and the fulness of my heart. These are the moments I will
Miles 201 to 223: Geyser to Porcupine Rim
It was hard to leave that aid station. I was truly enjoying the moment. Justin and I set off with Ryan and Benji again for this section. Within a few miles…
5:35pm Monday Oct 12th. "Hey! Is that a lake down there?!" Me, "it sure look like it..." Justin enthusiastically replies" I'm going in! I'll catch up to you!"
|Sunset on Sand Flats Road|
~The overwhelming support from friends and family both near and as far as Belgium(thanks Lionell!!) was incredible. The encouraging words throughout the week and messages at all hours of the event sure helped, more than you will ever know. It was in those darkest of moments that I was able to reach into my pocket and reconnect with your thoughtful messages. Sharing my tracker info was one of the best things I could have done. I will continue with that practice moving forward.
Miles 223 to 240.2, the Finish!
After experiencing the worst and best running of the entire event with Leanne, she is back for more. But I’m tired and the playlist isn’t working anymore for me… We bounce and shuffle down the rim and stay consistent in forward progress. I take frequent breaks and continue down in the dark. I have been on this trail on a bike and running in years past but tonight I am having trouble finding the line- the path of least resistance. Leanne takes the lead and I shuffle about 15 yards behind following her line. That work until…
4:04am Tuesday Oct. 13th " Lake County Dispatch- We just received a 911 hang up call from this number- Did you call 911?". "um..yes." "What's your current location sir". "I am on the Porcupine Rim Trail..."
Yup. I called 911. That happened… I was trying to shut the phone volume off due to its inability to motivate me and in turn called 911. The dispatcher was not impressed with my slurred speech and did not ask why I was in the middle of a popular mtn bike trail at 4 in the morning… Shortly thereafter we reach the last 5k of trail. A beautifully paved bike path back to the starting line. My phone is buzzing with messages from everyone. Leanne and I run in…
The crew is all at the park waiting- I can feel their excitement. We walk in together and that’s another one of those moments that never leaves- the last mile of Leadville will always hold fond memories and this walk with my team can be added to it. Penelope and I run in together and Anna gets to help pick the awarded belt buckle. That is it. We are in!~I set my goals for myself high. High enough that they seem -even to me- to be outrageous. I navigated a plan to deliver me to the start with the best possible outcome. I do the work. Even when the work gets stale, or tiring, and when life gets in the way. I make the time. Running for 4 days in Moab does not allow any excuses as to the best times to train- any time is the best time to train. I ran at 3,4,5am as well as 9,10,11pm into the night as well as well into the daytime hours. That is what it takes. That is what I did. I am proud of myself for sticking to the process, and not letting the negative self-talk creep in enough to spoil my plan. This has not always been the way things work for me, and I am learning and growing on each new challenge. Thanks for being a part of my journey. “What a long strange trip it’s been…”