Moab 240 2022 – DNF and Lessons Learned
I participated in the Moab 240 from October 7th to October 11th. The race is a singular 239-mile loop in a continuous format. Runners have 113 hours to finish the race, with aid stations along the way including food, water, sleep cots, and medical. The race also climbs and descends to the elevation of Mt. Everest (29,000 ft). The race is known for its extreme temperature fluctuations, with this year being as hot as 90 degrees F in the canyons and down to the 20s in the La Sal mountain range.
For me personally, the race was going according to plan until about Mile 87, when solid nutrition in the form of burgers and burritos started to fail me. Anything I ate that was solid in the dry Utah heat made me dizzy. I could not eat much of anything but liquids and dry snacks for most of the 2nd day of the race. As I ascended to Bridger Jack (mile 102), the altitude started to take its toll on me.
As the weather cooled down, I hoped to be able to eat solid food better, so I packed a burger to go and ate some pancakes. However, the next section involved significant climbing. I tried to eat the burger as I was approaching a deficit in calories. The burger made me puke the rest of the way to mile 120.
To remedy this issue, I switched to noodles, candy, chips, broth, and more tailwind sports drinks. However, none of those items carried enough calories to sustain ongoing effort and make up for the deficit I was already in. I continued to alternate cycles of bonking and energy, slowing down significantly over time. This lead to me having to run 3-4 miles to chase a mile 200 cutoff.
The sprinting I did caused aggravation of my left hip, which would give out on me at mile 220 on a slickrock-heavy section. I fought as hard as I could, but my speed put me up against the cutoff. With a blown-out hip, I pushed with everything I had to make the final cutoff, ultimately being unable to walk the last 4 miles to the finish.
Although I am satisfied now with my 235-mile effort, I realize I was a few nutritional tweaks away from putting myself in the situation of chasing a cutoff, which created my hip injury. So my takeaway from all this is several things:
- Nutrition is important in long-distance ultras; you need way more than you think. I was carrying a 15 lb pack and did 29,000 ft of elevation gain and loss. Let’s not forget the fact that my body had to regulate temperatures for extreme fluctuations. All that combined meant more than my base intake. I should have been trying to take closer to 400 calories/hour and not 200.
- Everything compounds over time in a long ultra. If you don’t resolve issues early and swiftly, your race is basically dying a slow death. You can get away with that in a shorter ultra, but not a long one, especially if you want to have a strong performance.
- The dry Utah heat made me struggle with solid foods. It’s always good to have several alternatives for foods you can eat under any conditions. Sometimes even your favorites won’t work, so the more options, the better. As a plant-based athlete, this is definitely a puzzle piece I’m constantly working on. I plan to test different kinds of liquid nutrition in preparation for my next 200.