Buzz Burrell, Boulder endurance athlete who ran the Project Athena Moab Trail Marathon today, said afterwards: “it’s a race for the ages! Incomparable! People all over the World are going to want to run this in the future!”

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to run this race ever again in the hour after I finished, but now I know I will, someday. I have to give myself another chance when I know what to expect. This was the toughest, most technical trail race I have ever run. I didn’t wear shoes fit for surviving this trail. I chose a lightweight racing flat and this led to pain every step, after about 6 miles. Reduced to a  hobble by mile twenty I let out a laugh, thinking “no way my marathon begins at mile 20 today!”

I ended up 4th. It was disappointing, as I had high expectations and hoped to be in contention for the win.

This course humbled me. I became so humbled by the pain as I tried to fly on descents over slickrock, as the sand I kicked into my shoes during the first six miles grated on the skin of my toes creating blisters, that I was challenged to take in the immense beauty of the desert.

One one-mile section of road proved to be the only “real running” I could do, as the footing on this course changed just about every 20 seconds. I negotiated boulders-loose ans stationary, weaved around cacti, sharp bushes and rocky outcroppings, ran through creeks and loose, deep sand and over small pebbles which I slipped probably one-hundred times during the three hours and fourty-three minutes.

Winner Kari Lyons, second place finisher Megan Kimmel and third place Michele Sushek have something special to be able to race the way they did on this terrain.

I look forward to coming back someday, aware of what I’m in for. When Race Director Danelle Ballengee emailed two weeks ago, she made a gentle warning about the difficulty of this race in saying “…happy training, or, ummm, TAPERING!”

I am quite sure that if I tapered more and wore substantial shoes, I would have had a much different day. When I woke at 4am to pee today and lay back down to go to sleep, I felt my heart racing in my chest. I checked my pulse and it was well over 60 bpm,quite high for me, for a resting HR. I wondered if I were simply not recovered. During the race, I could not get a full, satisfying breath in, all the way down to the bottom of my lungs. At times I was running very slowly yet my heart rate was so high it felt as if I were doing a Vo2 max interval. The quality of my experience int he moment is so intimately tied to the quality of my breath. It was an unusual feeling to not be able to breathe rhythmically, calmly. I ran back to the car before the start of the race, to get my sunglasses, after thinking I would not need them. Remembering the nightmare of the 2000 Olympic trials marathon in South Carolina, when I succumbed to the heat and humidity, and most runners except for me had a hat, sunglasses, or both, I did learn from that lesson and took care of myself by going to get them. They came in very handy during stretches where we were staring into the sun. I wish I had had as much concern for my poor feet! I did bring my Brooks Pure Project True Grit trail shoe, but, as at the World Mountain Running Championships this summer in Italy, I wanted to wear the lighter shoe. Not a great idea in the harsh desert!

My magical year of running is coming to a close. Before it is over, I will enjoy writing down my stories from the races, starting back in January with the “Oatmeal Festival 5k” in Lafayette, Colorado. I found my racing legs again in 2012 and look forward to seeing how fast I can go, again. Today was not a day to do that, but it was a humble reminder of my vulnerabilities. Oh, another life lesson!!

Barkin' Dawgs

Sore feet after a tough outing at the Athena Project Trail Marathon in Moab, Utah.