2022 Behind the Rocks 50k Race Report
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tl;dr I finished the 2022 Behind the Rocks Ultra 50k in 4 hours and 55 minutes, good for 8th place. It was a hot day with a course dominated by deep sand. It was an emotional roller coaster (injury, stress, DNS??) for me but I persevered!
Triple Crown of Moab
The Behind the Rocks Ultra 50k race is the final race of the Moab Triple Crown in 2022, which also includes the Dead Horse Ultra, Arches Ultra, and Moab Red Hot Ultra. (I actually ran all four!) To qualify for the longer version of the Triple Crown, I completed one as 50 miler (Dead Horse) and the rest in the 50 km distance.
This was probably my worst week and morning leading up to a race. I was truly 50/50 on whether I was going to run when I woke up at 4:30 am. I kept thinking about a recent podcast episode of Some Work All Play and DNFs.
New SWAP podcast! @Meg_Runs_Happy and I talked about some wildly cool studies on speed training science, how simple training changes can improve performance for most athletes, caffeine, and the power of DNFs in racing and in life. Thank you all! WOOHOO! https://t.co/akvofpc7cE— David Roche (@MountainRoche) March 16, 2022
This was the first race where I took a pain killer, Tylenol (never take NSAIDs). It all started when I randomly had a spasm in the medial head of the Gastrocnemius (upper calf muscle) getting out of bed the weekend before the race. Yes really, I was in bed when it happened after two easy recovery days. The “Charley Horse” was so intense that it led to muscle tear and significant DOMS.
Once the immediate soreness retreated and the muscles gained back some mobility, I still had some significant pain related to other muscles having to compensate. The Soleus was extremely tight and everything was completely out of balance. I basically hobbled a few 5ks this week just to keep things moving. It was my lowest mileage in a couple months. Forced me to taper, but the injury definitely cost me more than the minimal benefit from tapering.
This was day 80 or so of my run streak, so I might only have myself to blame?! I do take rest days in my run streak in the form of easy 5ks.
Yeah, not going to say much here but it makes it difficult to focus, especially when the Friday business carries into the weekend. My own fault though.
No prerace poop
I’m not sure how this happened and is really not common for me; normally some hot tea and caffeine does the trick. I have been adjusting my day before patterns to not have a large meal after lunch.
Spoiler: I only made it to mile 20 before needing to do some business.
The race started at 7 am on a cool morning with about 200 racers in the 50k. It was warm enough that I had no extra layers and left my gloves behind. By this time, I had committed and was loaded up on caffeine.
About the course
SAND! There was so much deep sand along the course and if I wasn’t in sand, I was navigating the undulating slick rock and large rock steps. Almost the entire course is on Jeep roads with a mile or two of single track with some parts of this requiring all climbing boulders to get up and down. This was at the midpoint and was even more sketchy as runners were moving in both directions.
At mile 17, I started to feel the sun for the first time as the runners were heading back up out of the canyon. As I made the climb up to mile 23 or so, it started to get hot and got increasingly unbearable until the finish! This was my first hot run of the year and I was struggling.
Do not underestimate how difficult it is running on slick rock and in loose sand!
Overlapping course with other distances
Although, I hardly changed places throughout the race (± 3-4 spots), there were so many other runners on the course for the other distances. This kept the race feeling more lively and less of the solitary experience of some other races I have run; although, the pace differences are just too great to really have a conversation with the back half of the runners in these other distances. While it feels great passing other runners, I can’t help but think it is probably a little demotivating for them as they are passed by me when they had an hour head start (50 milers) or were 10 miles less into their race.
My total time in aid states was probably less than a minute total. I started with a 100 fl oz bladder and two bottles in my vest front pockets. Here is what I did at each aid station.
- Behind the Rocks Aid Station- mile 6.1
- Did not stop
- Gatherer Canyon Aid Station - mile 16.2
- < 10 seconds, gained considerable time on others
- Refilled 500ml bottle with sports drink
- Kane Creek Trail Aid Station - mile 25.3
- Drank full 500ml bottle
- Refilled 500ml bottle with sports drink
- Unknown - mile 27
- Drank full 500ml bottle water
- Refilled 500ml bottle with water
Unfortunately, I did have an unplanned bathroom stop around mile 20 that cost me nearly 5 minutes. 💩
My quick turnarounds in aid stations, especially Gatherer Canyon made a substantial difference. It also seems the front of the pack struggled later in the race.
Compared to the other Moab races
This was probably my least favorite course of the Triple Crown. The most Jeep roads, limited single track, and the sand. Even with the sand and heat, this was my fastest of the bunch.
- Dead Horse 50 mile (November) - 7:59
- Arches 50k (January) - 5:12
- Red Hot 50k (February) - 5:29
- Behind the Rocks 50k (March) - 4:55
If I had my current fitness in January, I would probably been fastest on the Arches 50k course. The Moab Red Hot is probably my favorite of the bunch, especially the old point to point course.
- Distance: 31.94 miles
- Duration: 4:55 (unofficial)
- Pace: 9:16/mile
- Elevation: 3488 ft
Even with the range of emotions I felt through the duration of the race, I did find some motivation once I started moving; maybe not the first couple miles though! (I’ve never thought about quitting so early in the race as I did today.)
Definitely lacked a little kick in my right leg, but I pushed hard and gave a strong effort. 💯
❗ Update: Read more about my injury, extertional compartment syndrome.
As always, whenever I finish a race in Moab, I vow to never run another one due to the slickrock and sand. Lucky for me, I have a short memory when it comes to racing and can’t pass up these off season races!
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