This past week, Paige and I made the trip west to see the Salt Lake Crew. We flew in on Thursday morning so that we could use a free ticket and get there in plenty of time to drive down to Moab for the Red Hot 55K on Saturday. All went smooth with our flights and Rob and Rina were there to pick us up from the airport. After a loving greeting from Lucy, we were off to get some lunch at Pago, what a great way to start a visit. We spent a lazy afternoon catching up and ended the day in Park City at the High West Distillery – absolutely delicious! Friday morning, we got an early start down to Moab, we had decided to rent a car so we could get down there early enough to do a hike in Arches National Park – it turned out to be a great decision. We arrived at the park shortly after noon and had the place to ourselves. We covered several trails in the first half of the park with Delicate Arch being our final destination. This was my second time seeing the great arch but it was Paige’s first and, despite the missing sun and blue skies this area is known for, it was glorious! The hike in was fun and, like the rest of the park, it was empty with the exception of a couple of people who overlapped briefly with us. We were getting hungry and looking forward to meeting up with the LEWIS crew at the condos we had rented for the weekend so we wrapped up our hike and headed into town. We stopped at the Moab Brewery for a most awesome chicken burrito and an equally delicious oatmeal stout. Then after picking up our race packets and a quick grocery store stop, we were on our way to our weekend home. The condos were amazing, especially when you consider the price per person – what a steal! We said hello to everyone already there including LEWIS himself and got ourselves settled in. The first condo was full so we ventured over to the second one and found it empty, we naturally took the master suite and the accompanying guilt too. The rest of the crew trickled in – first the Vukins, then Bethany, then Zoe and Billy, and finally Rob and Rina. It felt good being there, especially with such a great group. We talked race strategy, and generally enjoyed each others’ company. Soon the crowd started to dwindle as people went to bed so we did the same.
The next morning was windy and wet despite moderate temperatures. We loaded six of us into the Prius and drove to the starting line. It was a big group forming but we quickly found several familiar faces including Krissy Moehl and Bryon Powell and starting chatting it up. Paige and I planned to run together and take it easy, so we were quite relaxed. The forecast was spot on and the race started in the same wet and windy conditions they predicted. The first mile was uphill and we settled in to a gentle pace but somewhere toward the top of the climb, Paige took off and it was all I could do to keep up – she does this from time to time. We were moving pretty quick for the next several miles and rolled into the first aid station (AS) feeling pretty good after passing quite a few runners. The next section was pretty exposed and uphill again, we were both feeling pretty good but eventually, a small crack appeared in my mood – nothing too serious but the wind/rain combo was wearing on me. The second and third aid stations came and went and the first half of the course was behind us, now we began the second and more challenging half. Immediately the red rock exerted itself on us… we fought back. We climbed and almost scrambled at times but pressed on. We were now in a group of runners that we would pass and then they would pass us, back and forth. Eventually we made it to the highest AS on the course where runners were dropping like flies. We made a quick stop and thanked the crew for their help but then moved on, Paige even quicker than me. We began a relatively steep decent on the hard rock this area is known for and, if you’re not careful, it can really beat up the legs. We took our time but still found that we descended faster than most. The course is beautiful but this section is extra gorgeous, even on a gray day. I was feeling reasonably good at this point and we were moving along fine though very comfortably.
After a lot of ups and downs, we made it to the final AS and did one final refueling before heading into the last section which was pretty runable relative to what we had just crossed. We started passing runners and fell into a nice rhythm. After spending several hours in the wind/rain, we were looking forward to being done. As we approached the final stretch, I could hear my name being called from below, it was Rob and Ben waiting for us near the finish. The last mile is all downhill and we made good time. We finished the race 12 minutes faster than the last time I ran this course which made me happy. We soon learned that Ben had placed 10th overall and Bethany had finished second woman, both in the 55K race. Others in our group also finished well in the 33K race. We got some soup and hung around for the awards – what a fun day! I am so thankful that Paige and I can do these things together, she is a most amazing running partner (not to mention that she will soon be my wife)! Back at the condo, we showered and ordered some pizza. That night we all hung out, eating, drinking, talking and swapping tales from the day – it was fantastic and the pizza… out of this world!
After a yummy breakfast at the condo on Sunday morning, people began parting ways – some were going cross country skiing, others heading back to Salt Lake City, and we were heading back to Arches. Having explored several areas in the first half of the park, we headed to the Devils Garden. With our cameras and a snack, we began our hike. With each passing minute, our surroundings got more and more gorgeous which is saying a lot because the whole area is amazing!
After several jumpers and a few hours of hiking, we were back on the road to Salt Lake City. During the ride back, both Paige and my legs got stiff and sore – I’m sure it was a combination of the race and all the jumper’s we did but never-the-less, we were both walking a little gingerly. That night, we hit up a Salt Lake classic, Red Iguana which is always a Mexican treat! Monday we took Lucy for a short run around Liberty Park before having brunch at the LEWIS household. What a great bunch they make with their newest addition, Ada, who is a complete joy – thanks for a fun day! Tuesday, we finally got to ski – Paige and Rina opted for cross country while Rob and I went downhill skiing at Park City Mountain Resort. The parking lot was full but once we got up a little higher, we had the place to ourselves. We skied most of the east side of the resort but the highlight was definitely the Jupiter bowl which had great snow and was completely empty. We went hard and probably got close to 20 runs in before the day came to an end. Dinner was quick as we had tickets to the Banff Film Festival that night. Rob put together a great concoction of left overs that was healthy and tasted quite yummy! Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting in the theater waiting for the festival to begin. There were three nights to the festival but I have to believe we saw the best one, it was awesome! My favorite was called The Longest Way which documented a walk across China in time lapse photography. Wednesday, we had a relaxed morning at R&R’s place before packing our stuff and trying to squeeze in one more hike before catching a plane home. We ended up at Red Butte with sunny skies and warm temps. With a hike under our belts, we grabbed a quick sandwich at Caputo’s Deli which really hit the spot! Unbelievably, we found ourselves back at the airport. Thank you to the entire Salt Lake Crew but especially to Rob and Rina for hosting us for the week. I can never get enough of you guys or Utah.