I Headed out to Moab this past weekend and finished my first trail race (excluding races on snow) in about 27 months! If you haven't run the Moab Red Hot before I highly recommend checking it out next year. One of the best events I've ever been a part of for sure. If you don't want to wait until next year to run a great trail race in Moab be sure to check out the other upcoming races from the folks who put on this race: GrassRoots Events . I've explored the trails around Moab quite a bit over the years, and I can only imagine that their other races are also top notch in terms of organization, scenery, and overall experience.
Anyway, the race went more or less as planned for me. I had no intention of going there and trying to push myself at too high of a level. I'm still a long ways from feeling fully recovered from whatever has been ailing me for these last 18 months, and the last thing I wanted to do was to suffer any significant set backs from pushing myself too hard.
I started out really mellow and was planning to run the first 10 miles really mellow and then maybe push myself a bit if I was feeling well. A few miles in though, I realized that there was pretty much no way I was going to feel that great after 10 miles. After 4 miles I was already feeling like I had run quite a long way, and I realized that there was just no way that I was going to feel good in the second half of a 20 mile race (no matter how slow I ran) when my average week of running for the last several months has been less than 20 miles. At this point I decided that I would push myself hard for several miles in the middle part of the race and then just find a way to get myself to the finish. At least this way I would have the satisfaction of pushing a decent bit for part of the race, because it was very obvious that no matter how slow I ran early on I wasn't going to have much left in the tank to push hard late in the race.
Just after the first aid station the 'short course' (I was running the 33k, not the 55k) begins what is by far the most enjoyable and challenging part of the course. This was the perfect time to push a little harder for awhile. I wasn't at all focused on the competition, but I do know that I began passing a lot of people in this stretch.
Eventually I found my way to a group of folks that I didn't really pull away from as I passed them and ended up running the rest of the race at a more mellow effort, staying more or less in that same position. By the time I got to the last few miles I was moving pretty slow, but was still feeling pretty decent. I just didn't really have it in my legs to go any faster, but I was pretty happy with the pace I was moving. In the end I finished at least 15 minutes faster than I would have expected for the effort I put in. This combined with feeling pretty good after the race definitely has me even more excited about my potential return to 'normal' health than I have been at any point in a long time.
It felt really nice to get out on the trails in this capacity again, but one of my takeaways from this race is that I'm not going to continue to run races to get back in shape. I do want to race again. I might even race again by this coming summer, but racing when I'm as out of shape as I am right now is just kind of silly (especially considering that racing too much is likely what got me into this health mess in the first place). If my health continues to improve I want to spend the next several months trying to get myself back into legitimate shape such that the next time I line up for a race I have the possibility of pushing myself hard for the entire distance. It's hard to say when this will be, but certainly I do have an event or two in mind later in the year that I would like to take a stab at if my body cooperates. Time will tell.