2018 Moab Red Hot Kicks Off Race Season
Super-fast finishes defined the race that many consider the kick-off to trail-racing season.
Megan Janssen February 20th, 2018
Keeping It Real
We file into a community center in downtown Moab on the evening of February 17, 2018, shortly after the final runners had completed the Red Hot 55K and 33K. The room is simple, with Christmas lights haphazardly tacked to the walls and the sweet smell of home-cooked food and IPAs wafting throughout. People are stinky; hair is disheveled; smiles are big. This is why we love this sport. Even after a record-breaking day and stacked fields, everyone is happy to throw on a jacket and head to the community center. No showers needed.
Athletes and spectators are gathering for a presentation by Joe Grant on his latest unsupported and epic feat—an all human-powered, self-supported, 31-day linkup of Colorado’s 54 14ers. Joe’s message is simple yet universal. He speaks of being humble, of being vulnerable, of pushing forward despite being unsure of himself. “No great personal transformation can happen without a little struggle,” he says to nods in the room.
Cat Bradley Does It Again
Earlier in the day, Cat Bradley, champion of the 2017 Western States and FKT holder of the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, was apprehensive. “I was more nervous than I’d been in a long time,” she said. “I hadn’t toed the line with other women [since 2017 Western States].”
Bradley, 26, of Boulder, Colorado, had been road training for the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California (though she didn’t wind up running it), and was happy to be back in the dirt. “I like doing road workouts but there’s a big difference between training for a road race and a trail race.”
Not arriving to the start line of the 55K until five minutes before the gun, Bradley was feeling anxious and knew she needeed to go out hard. The Moab Red Hot caters to fast runners and she was keenly aware of her competition. “I’d heard [Emily Hawgood] was super fast so I wanted to make a decisive move. So I bolted,” she said. She had a healthy lead until mile nine, when she got lost while looking down, trying to open a gel. After about 10 minutes, a kind group of runners went off course to find her, hearing her yells.
Hawgood was in the pack of runners and lit Bradley’s fire. “That was important,” she said, “because it made it a race.” Even though she was out of trail practice, she kept telling herself it would be over soon and she went for it.
Bradley broke away around mile 22 and finished in first place at 4:54:40.
Planning to run Western States again this year, Bradley is most excited about the feeling surrounding the event. “It’s really like a festival,” she said. “You see people you don’t get to see that often. That camaraderie—it’s really unique and special.”
Marathons to Moab
Men’s 55K champion Anthony Costales was lonely on the course. Hailing from a marathon background, he’s new to trail racing. Costales qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon; his marathon PR is 2:13:12. Nervous about the meandering route, he studied the splits from a friend’s Strava from a prior year and wrote them on his arm the morning of the race. “That way, I could be like, ‘Mile 12, get ready,’ and when the hill came I was like, ‘OK, it’s battle time.'”
Costales, 29, originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, made short order of the competition and utilized his road training for the road sections of the course. He didn’t stop at aid stations and only had company a couple times when friends on an ATV found him along the course. “It was pretty lonely out there,” he said. Costales set a new record for the 55K course at 3:37:06.
To train for the trail race, Costales went to a bark-chip manicured trail at a local park in Park City to do workouts and longer runs. “Out there [on the trail], you’re constantly using stabilizer muscles. It was crazy; I’d be at a 6:30 pace going uphill totally struggling and then a 5:30 pace going down, just feeling like I was floating.”
The blend of road and trail seems to be working for Costales. “With road, it’s like a metronome. You keep doing the same thing over and over. Trails have a lot more variation. Even if you’re in a rough spot, you know it’s going to change.”
The track may be next for Costales because he hopes to break 14 minutes for the 5K and feels his chance is now or never. He’s been a conference 5K champion four times and his PR 14:02. “I want to give it one more shot,” he said. Costales has more trail runs lined up for the future as well. “I’m still mixing it up on the road and trail,” he said. “But I have more trail stuff online right now.”
Buzz Burrell, the 66-year old trail running legend from Boulder, Colorado, sums up the whole day nicely. “Super fast this year!” he said, noting the two new course records (the other was the 33K champion, Tyler McCandless, who beat the course record by 11 minutes, coming in at 1:56:21). Of the 33K (which doesn’t have as much road on the course as the 55K), he said, “It cranks up on the Gold Bar Rim and runs up and down spectacular slickrock before dropping back down the Poison Spider trail. It is truly world class; there’s nothing like it.”
Asked about his take on Joe Grant’s message at his post-race presentation on his 14ers linkup? “Everyone appreciates Joe’s sensitive and self aware take on what we do, which may appear to outsiders as just stupidly arduous and pointless physical undertakings.”