Moab Red Hot 55k – 2012

This year’s Moab Red Hot 55k was the perfect way to kick off 2012. We had the most incredible weather in Moab this last weekend – the best since I first ran the race in 2008. The course was in great condition with fewer soft sandy stretches than I remember last year and the jeep road sections were really nicely packed, smooth, and fast. But as usual, the Moab Red Hot course delivered plenty of punishing technical slickrock and terrible course markings to make things interesting. This year’s course flagging was a pink and black striped pattern. The pink blended in nicely with the red rock background and in the right shadows, the black striping made the flags almost completely invisible.

Going into the race, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but hoped to break 4:30. So I figured I’d just go out, push hard, and see what happens.

From the start, Shannon took the lead and a chase pack of about half a dozen other guys fell in behind at a brisk pace. After a few miles, the pack thinned out and other than a couple words exchanged with Karl around mile 2, I pretty much ran the entire race solo. I was a little disappointed that Slush couldn’t make it out for the race this year – it’s always so much more fun to run these events with good friends to pace with.

Moab Red Hot 55k Start (Photo by Chris Hinds)

From the start my legs felt pretty weak on the climbs and my quads didn’t feel up to really hammering the downhills very hard. But I managed to catch up with Shannon on the ridge at the top of Metal Masher and pulled ahead on the next downhill into the second aid station. And none of the other guys from our starting pack looked like they were catching up.

The jeep road going back down on the back stretch of the first loop was much, much easier without the nasty headwinds that hit us last year so I made good time back to the base of Gold Bar. I figured Shannon or some of the other fast guys would catch back up but by the time I started the climb up onto the second section of slickrock, there wasn’t anyone in sight behind me.

I kept my momentum all the way up to the aid station at the top of Gold Bar. I caught up with Stephen on the way up the climb. He was having some bad muscle cramps and I gave him a spare S-cap and continued up the hill.

After the Gold Bar aid station, I started to fall apart. Last year I remember running this section of slickrock from mile 21 to 28 much better. I think the flagging may have been a bit more noticeable and last year I remember seeing more 33k runners spread out at convenient intervals to help spot the route. This year I ended up out on my own through most of this section and I kept losing sight of the flagging and had to come to a complete stop to look around about half a dozen times. My quads were already fried so it was really hard to keep stopping and starting and changing direction. I was pretty sure that someone would easily catch up with me before I made it back out of the slickrock. Looking back at my 2011 splits, I only ran this section 27 seconds slower so I guess I didn’t do quite as poorly as it felt.

Running across this slickrock is brutal but the scenery is incredible. (Photo by Laura Backus)

33k runners on the slick rock "trail" (Photo by Kristen Alvarez)

After I made it past the last aid station and out of the worst of the slickrock, my legs were completely trashed. For the last 5 miles, I just kept my focus cranking my legs over. I didn’t have any final finish kick left in me but I managed to hold on and grind out the last few miles to finish in 4:35. Good enough for 5th place and a new PR by 9 minutes and 13 seconds.

The final push to the finish line. (Photo by Chris Hinds)

While the end result turned out extremely well, I can’t say that this was my best run. Running fast and running well aren’t always the same. I managed to finish well and did the best I could with the training and preparation I had going into the race. So I don’t have any complaints or regrets. My speed on the flats was better than it’s ever been. And this was the first race I’ve run where I’ve been able to consistently get down a high volume of calories – 800 calories from start to finish. My friends over at Vi Endurance have developed a pretty good formula and I’m really happy to finally have something that I can run with that doesn’t make me want to vomit. I’m just a bit disappointed in my hill climbing and technical downhill running – it just wasn’t up to the level that I’m used to running. But it’s February and I have the next 3 months to get back in top shape for the Bighorn 100. So after this weekend, the rest of 2012 looks very promising.

It's always a good sign that you ran a hard race when gravel feels comfortable. (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)


The best part of the event - just a few of the FCTR's at the race. (Photo by Jennifer Swanson)



  • Rob

    February 21st, 2012

    Nice race Pete! I’m sure the climbing (and descending) legs will be more than ready by June. What an awesome day out there! Jealous.

  • Brian

    February 21st, 2012

    I can’t decide if it’s encouraging or discouraging that more experienced and faster guys have the same difficulty I do on that slanty slick rock.

    Good race, Pete, congrats on the PR.

  • Pete

    February 21st, 2012

    That’s the beauty of running. Any runner who puts 100% into a race can share the exact same experience regardless of what place they finish.

  • Ean

    February 22nd, 2012

    Excellent job out there, Pete! I think what impresses me more than your 5th place finish is how you stick around the finish line, cheering everyone else in…hours after you’ve finished. You are my hero!!

  • Pete

    February 22nd, 2012

    You give me too much credit Ean. There was FREE BEER available all afternoon at the finish line:-)

  • Brian

    February 24th, 2012

    Free beer or not, Pete, know that we appreciate it. Hearing the cheers as I come down the hill in Moab or come around the corner on to the track in Big Horn means a lot. It reinforces that we are indeed all part of the same group.

  • Mary

    February 24th, 2012

    Great write-up on a fun-fun event. We all know we wouldn’t be there without your encouragement and prodding.
    I am amazed how well you run with fried quads and trashed legs. Is that some secret chicken recipe 😉

  • Pete

    February 25th, 2012

    It’s the badger milk.

  • MikeH

    February 25th, 2012

    Congrats Pete, way to represent the Fort and thanks for sharing!

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