On our way up to Salt Lake City we browsed our race calendar and found the Red Mountain 50K & 30K. Looked like a nice race to cover, especially since we love St. George. It was great call; the race, the directors and day turned out to be very special.
As I mentioned in my other post about the Red Mountain Running, the race directors (Adriane, Jeremy & Phil) greeted us with open arms. This is exactly what you’ll find too if you make your way there next year.
It was the night before the race when we arrived and after my initial interviews it was off for some shuteye before the iPhone would play Mamba at 3:50am.
The plan was to ride up to the start lines with Phil at 5am. At 3:45am Phil calls to let me know he was leaving early to head to the start lines. My sleepy brain quickly made the decision to cover the packet pickup… where all hot stories would be of course.
His call did get me out of bed and I was able to traverse the 75 yards across the soccer field to the packet pick up area. Luckily, I connected with Adriane and she let me tag along with her to the 30K start.
Not thinking I would find much of interest at the packet pickup I was surprised to hear what the RD’s had done for a fallen runner. Thayne Hansen was scheduled to run the race with his close friend, Shane Stevens, but was tragically killed during the week. Shane and Thayne’s wife, Paula, were still coming for the race and Red Mountain Running put together a beautiful memorial to honor Thayne. Blue Balloons lined the final 50 yards the course, a very nice sign was made which the runners autographed and everyone wore blue ribbons during the race. This was such a kind gesture by Red Mountain Running and it shows how much they care for the people at their races.
Adriane & I had a really great conversation on our ride up to the 30k start and as we rode along my need for mileage and some racing kicked in. Once we parked near the start line, I suddenly stuffed my camera equipment and extra clothes into my backpack and I’m toeing the line. Well… you know ultras and trail races… toeing the line means hanging out and laughing while someone yells “GO!”. By the way, Phil started the race early so awesome job there.
The race itself (50k and 30k) is a point to point. Buses take runners up into the hills and they are launched for a ride with a net elevation decrease of 2000 feet for the 50k. There are a few rollers along the course but nothing to write home about.
The morning was fantastic. The sun was just starting to rise and the red cliffs were not only beautiful but blocked the direct sunlight; we’re running in the cool shadows of some of the most gorgeous red rock anywhere.
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I had a nice first 6 mile chat with Dave Anderson of South Bend Indiana (my old hometown). I’m a talker so needless to say the first 6 miles went really quickly for me… maybe not for Dave (sorry man). Dave let me go and I proceeded to pass a couple of other people and was trucking along fine until mile 12 when my ITBS decided it no longer enjoyed how fast I was running. The rest of the run wasn’t as much fun but I did walk/run with woman over the final 2 miles and we had a nice conversation. We had both decided we were satisfied with our race and had nothing to prove… translated… “It’s fine to walk”.
At the finish line I anxiously awaited the arrival of Shaun Martin, the Navajo ultra marathon speedster, who was gunning to break his own course record. Just minutes after I finished here comes Shaun soaring like an eagle down the final 50 yards, which were lined with the blue balloons on either side of him. It was something to see. His finishing time was 3:16, a new course record. After Shaun cooled off a bit I was able to get a few minutes with him.
Mark: How did you like the course Shaun?
Shaun: Sweet Course, the first 13 are a double track trail and really beautiful.
Mark: So where are you based?
Shaun: I’m Navajo and live on the Navajo Reservation near a small town call Chinle. It’s close to Canyon De Chelly. I’m a teacher as well as head track and cross country coach. Actually, I’ve got to get going soon, my track team is at a meet.
Mark: So where did you go to school?
Shaun: I went to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and ran there.
Mark: What kinds of races are you running this year.
Shaun: All ultras. I’m moving up to the 100 miler this year. I ran Way Too Cool earlier in the year and felt great at mile 25 but stopped being able to process energy and had to walk the last 2 miles. I was able to come in 4th in 3:36.
Later as I was meandering through the crowd I caught up with Shaun and RD Jeremy discussing the race. Shaun pulled the blue ribbon from his headband and asked Jeremy to give this to Thayne’s wife. “Wearing something in our headband is a very special thing for the Navajo people. I could definitely feel his spirit out there”.
I also got a chance to talk with Craig Lloyd who came in Second in the 40k (4:02). “I had zero expectations but did have a goal of 4:10, so I’m really happy with the 4:02. Heck I didn’t even know I was running this until last week; my mom signed me up and told me I’m running it” (He laughs). Craig’s mom was running the 30k. I asked him about the heat, “there was a head wind so the heat didn’t get to me”.
I asked Craig what’s in store for the rest of 2012, “I’m running the Wasatch 100 with a 24, 32 plan. I’ll go under 24 hours or blow up and finish under 32.” Craig also added that he’s attempting a double Zion crossing; the first ever known attempt. It’s the 48 mile Zion Traverse run back and forth. Craig’s attempt is scheduled for May 11th and 12th, same weekend as the Zion 100. He’s also planning to run the Pony Express 100.
Before I wrapped up my coverage I was able to talk with Shane and Paula about Thayne. Shane said, “It felt great to run today and felt him with me on the trails” Paula ran the last 6 miles with Shane. They were touched by the caring of the race directors and runners and both said there was something very therapeutic about running the race.