Monday, March 31, 2014

The Inaugural Behind The Rocks 50K & 50 Mile

A few months ago Chris Martinez and Justin Ricks, the race directors of Grass Roots Events, hinted that they were putting on a new race in Moab, Utah.  This inaugural event would be in addition to their already wildly successful Red Hot 55K/33K, Alpine to Slickrock 50 Mile, and Amasa Back 6, 9 & 14 Mile.  They didn't have to nudge me too hard, I immediately added The Behind the Rocks 50K to my racing calendar.  The new course would navigate runners around Behind The Rocks (the race's namesake), a Wilderness Study Area south of Moab known for its sandstone fins, cliffs, and arches.  It was an area I frequented when I lived in Moab a decade ago and I looked forward to getting back to those lonely trails, deep canyons, and wide open views of the snow-covered La Sals and Abajos, the two prominent mountain ranges in southeastern Utah.

The 50K course weighed in with 3,500 feet of elevation gain over its 32 mile distance.  The deep sand running and technicality of the slickrock also added dimensions of difficulty.  As promised, the race did "...highlight Moab's last hidden gem."  50 mile racers were in for a longer day as the race covered ~56 miles of rugged Utah red rock, washes, and climbs.

Thank you to GrassRoots Events and all their volunteers for laying out an event that is certain to grow in the coming years.

Thanks also to Emily Harrison, Brandon Stapanowich, and Karah Levely-Rinaldi for some of these photos you'll see below.

The view as the sunsets from the Behind The Rocks start/finish line.

Co-race director Chris Martinez gives a last minute course briefing.

The start of the 50K.

The very technical single-track on the Hunter Rim Trail (mile 14).

Looking over the edge and down to the canyon bottom where we'd eventually end up (mile 15).

Arriving at the Gatherer Canyon aid station (mile ~16).

Looking back up at the Gatherer Canyon ascent.  Yes, there is a trail here among the rocks and ledges (hands necessary).

Aid station #3 for the 50K'ers and #7 for the 50 mile runners.

Descending on Kane Creek Rim Road, seven miles from the finish.

Done and done.

180 ultras later and still able to collect a tally mark in the "W" column.  
I'm happy that it was Martinez there to congratulate me on my finish. 

A view from Jacob's Ladder at the Jackson Hole aid station on the 50 mile course.

Kane Creek Road, also part of the 50 mile course.

Prostitute Butte, the beacon indicating that we were very near the finish line.

Your Moment of Zen

Are you looking for a summer ultra adventure that'll blow your mind?  May I suggest the Moab's Alpine to Slickrock (MAS) 50 Mile on July 5th, 2014.  It's a little-known, low-key, and well organized contest that highlights both the 12,000+ La Sal Mountains and the Moab slickrock desert.  It's the perfect preparatory event for those fall mountain 100-mile races.  It has it all: running at dark, heat, and altitude.  Check out this new video about the MAS50.

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