Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moab Red Hot, Time to Run on Some Dirt

Well, I suppose I should write a race recap from Moab, so here it is.
I raced, I ran, I came in 131st out of 299 runners that finished.  Probably about 350 started.  My time was 6:19:43, not my fastest, not my slowest here.  Ok, I'm done.  Oh, I was 8th in my age group (50-59) out of 22.  I felt pretty good the entire day.
Ok, here's more.
This is the third time I've made the trek to Moab in Feb. to run the Moab Red Hot 55K.  This is a super early season race that draws a lot of people, mostly from the Salt Lake area, but also a large contingent comes over from Colorado and quite a few from Idaho as well.  I think all of us want to get away from the snow for a few days and run on some dirt.
This year did not disappoint in the dirt department.
Karen and I took off Friday afternoon from the smoggy skies of the Salt Lake area and as we went further and further south, the air got clearer and clearer.  It was wonderful.  Not only that, but there was less and less snow, also wonderful since we've had a foot or more on the ground at our house since before Christmas.  I remarked as we were driving that I should do some dirt angels once we got down there.
The weather looked to be pretty much ideal, low around 25 on race day and warming up to around 50 with clear skies and no wind.
We got down to Moab while it was still light and in time to check in at Eddie McStiff's.  While my plan was to get in and check in, I always see friends and have to stop and chat.  I always get introduced by friends as "the RD for the Buffalo Run" to people I don't know.  We had a hotel room at the Best Western across the street from McStiff's, awesome.  We also had a Groupon deal for the hotel and got a king room for $55/night, double awesome.  Then we found out that a bunch of the HUMR crowd was at Jake's Place for dinner.  That's right next door to the hotel.  Triple play.  It was going to be a good weekend.
After dinner with the crew, we went back to the hotel and hit the hay.  Sleep was kind of hard to come by, the mattress wasn't that comfortable and we were both kind of cold all night.  Plus I could hear someone snoring in the room next door.  Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes.
We got up around 6am and headed upstairs for the free breakfast.  There were already a bunch of other runners up there, imagine that.
Karen and I made it to the start at about 7:30 and met up with the rest of the Ogden crowd.  The temp was a bit on the cool side, around 25, but there wasn't a wind blowing and I had on my wool coat.  Glad Karen was there to cart it back to the car for me.  I had thought about wearing stretchy pants, but opted for just running shorts, a couple of long sleeve t's, gloves, and a beanie.  A little cool just standing there but once we got started it was fine.
Chris started us just a couple of minutes past 8am and about 400 of us started up the hill.  For those that don't know the course, it starts out going uphill, then drops down into a drainage.  The course itself follows several different jeep trails over the sand, slickrock, washes, etc. just north of Moab.  At about mile 2, I met up with Andrea Martinez.  She's a friend from the Salt Lake area and we hung out together for the vast majority of the race.  We were running about the same pace, she's actually faster, so it made me work a bit to keep up.  it was fun to chat the miles away and before we knew it we were at the first aid station ( mile 6).  I looked at my Garmin and we were maintaining around a 9 minute pace.  I thought this was way fast for me, but I felt good and it wasn't too much work.  By about mile 9 we were up on the top of the mesa and could look down about 800 feet to the starting line and the cars below.  Yeah, the trail takes you right to the edge of the cliff.  Lots of other runners, had stopped as well to enjoy the view, take pictures, and ooh and ahh.  The view was spectacular, the La Sal mountains off to the SE, crystal clear air, sunshine, in a word gorgeous.
meanwhile we kept on clicking off the miles.  We saw a few other HUMR's along the way. At about mile 8 we caught up to Shawn.  She was having a bit of a rough time but doing well.  At about mile 17 we passed Debbie's husband's truck.  Lane was there along with Pam cheering on everyone.  We rounded a corner and came up on both Aric and Jared.  Both were having a bit of a rough patch as well.  Jared later caught up and ran the rest of the race with us.  We ran with Cory for a few miles.  The course was in great shape, pretty much dry.  A few muddy spots and a couple of icy spots as well.  There was a bit of snow in the shadows, and sometimes negotiating these areas got a bit dicey, but it's all part of the game.  Before we knew it we had hit the last aid station and knew we had about four miles to go.  At this point, the course was on a dirt road with a slight downhill to it.  We started pushing a bit just to see if we still could.  Jared and Andrea eventually pulled ahead of me a bit and ended up finishing a couple of minutes before me.  It's always fun to come down that last stretch knowing the finish line is just around the corner.  I crossed the finish line in 6:19:23.  I was kind of hoping for a sub 6 hour time, but knew I probably didn't have the training in needed for that.  Still, I was happy with my time.
I felt great the entire time.  My ankles got sore, but that's from all of the slickrock, and off camber running you do in this race.  The legs held up fine, very little soreness the next day
The best part of the weekend was the post race HUMR party.  There must have been around 30 people in the condo eating drinking and having a good time.
The next day Karen and I decided to go to Arches National Park.  I had never been there and she hadn't been since she was a kid.  We saw plenty of other Moab runners out there since that's the place to go the next day.  We made the hike out to delicate arch, probably the most photographed arch there.  It's much bigger than I thought it would be.  When we got back to the car, Karen noticed a large puddle of oil underneath the car.  Not a good sign as it was transmission fluid.  We got in and hoped  we would make it back to town, let alone back to home.  We stopped in town and bought a couple of quarts of transmission fluid thinking that we could get home on that.  After I poured it in, I looked under the car and watched it drain out on the ground.  Now I knew that we probably wouldn't be able to make it home.  Thank goodness we found a parts store that was also a U-Haul rental place.  We ended up renting a truck and trailer to tow the car home with.  Yeah, not a good way to end the weekend, but at least we didn't need to stay an extra night and wonder how we were going to get home with a busted car.
Ended up that some sort of plastic tube going out of the transmission had basically disintegrated.  I got that replaced, had the tranny flushed and serviced and wasn't out too much money.  It could have been a whole lot worse.  So, the car is good for another 100K miles :-)
All in all, not a bad weekend.  It was good to get away from the snow, run on some real dirt and see lots of friends.

Kind of political post time

Normally I would post something about my running adventures, but I really haven’t had any lately.  I’ve spent most of January indoors on the treadmill.  Yeah, I’m a cold weather weenie at heart.  Instead I thought I post a little something for people to think about.  Maybe get a little dialog going.
Meanwhile, here are my running numbers for the month. 
Miles ran – 173, not as many as last year (200), but given the weather, not too bad.
Ahhh, the lovely inversion we had a couple of weeks ago is now gone, but another one is building.  Hopefully this one won’t be as bad.
One of the things I’ve noticed with this inversion is the great hue and cry throughout the local area for Governor Herbert to “do something about this smog”.   So my question is, what the hell is the Governor going to do?  Let’s see, he could ask everyone to ride mass transit.  Yeah, that’ll work.  He could ban cars from downtown SLC.  Yeah, that’ll work just about as well. 
Arguably, cars are the largest single point source of pollution here in the Salt Lake Valley (57%).  I did a little research and wasn’t able to come up with hard figures for everything, but here goes.  The combined population of Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties is 2.13 million (2012 est.).  I couldn’t find out how many cars are registered by county in the state, so I’m estimating that there is one vehicle per person here.  That makes 2.13 million vehicles trolling the highways and byways most every day.  Most of these cars emit much less pollution than cars of even 5-10 years ago.  Still, 2.13 million clean running vehicles still will emit a lot of dirty air, especially when concentrated in an area 15 miles wide by 75 miles long.
So, disregarding the relevant politics of this fair state, what are some options for reducing the number of vehicles on the roads by an amount significant enough to make the air clearer.  By the way, I have no idea how many cars that would be, but for the sake of argument, let’s say one third.  So reduce the number of cars on the roads by 700,000 on a daily basis.
How do we get all of these people out of their cars.  I know, let’s have the Governor tell everyone to not drive and take mass transit.  Nope, that ain’t gonna happen.
What I have found and learned over the years is that people will respond in a big way to money incentives.  Either negative (hits you in the wallet), or positive (puts money in your wallet).  Look at what happened when the price of gas hit $4.50 a couple years ago.  Ridership on Frontrunner and buses went way up.  When gas prices came back down, ridership went down.  If the economic incentive is great enough, people will put up with the inconvenience of riding mass transit.
I can only use myself as an example, but a previous employer of mine purchased premium UTA passes for every employee then sold them to the employees for a whopping $100/year.  These passes were good on Frontrunner, express buses, local buses, TRAX, anything UTA had on wheels.  Now it costs me a lot more than $100/year to drive my car back and forth to work.  I track it and on average, my car costs me $155.00 a month in gas alone.  Couple that with car insurance (maybe $60/month, I’m a safe driver), plus oil changes, repairs etc. at about $100/month, and you have over $300/ to operate my car.  Now I really can’t include costs other than gas, because I would still own a car regardless.  So, gas costs are my driving factor to decide whether I switch to mass transit.
Now I did buy one of those passes, and I used it pretty religiously.  I discoverd that I could walk to the bus stop .3 miles from my house, catch the bus, it would take me to the train station, I would climb on the train for the 15 minute ride from Ogden to Clearfield, get off, then take the bus from the train station that went through the Freeport Center.  Actually, it was pretty convenient as far as mass transit goes.  However, it would take me about 45 minutes to get to work every day.  If I decided to run to the train station, then to work, then reverse, we’re talking about 90 minutes each way (added bonus, I got a 13 mile run in by doing that).  Contrast that with the 20 minute commute in my car.
Once the company quit buying the passes, I quit riding the train unless I wanted to get a 13 mile run in.  Why?  Because a regular monthly pass would cost me $189.  So, would I pay $189/month for the privilege of at least doubling my commute time?  Nope, not worth it to me, and I would imagine that most people feel the same way.  Besides, I can’t do errands on the way home when I ride the train or bus.  Additionally, traffic on the freeway at 6:30am through the Ogden area isn’t bad at all.  Moves right along at the speed limit.
So, what are some economic incentives that might get a significant number of people to use mass transit.
Motor fuel tax – Currently the state collects $0.245 for every gallon sold in the state.  This tax pays not only for mass transit, but upkeep on the roads as well.  This tax generated $252.5 million in 2012, or about $88/person, young or old.  Let’s jack it up to $1/gallon.  Would that get you out of your car?  What about people in very remote parts of the state that need to drive long distances to even get to a store?  What about poor people that can barely afford gas for their cars now?  Jacking the motor fuel tax up that high would generate an additional $750 million a year that could be allocated for mass transit, purchasing more buses, building more train tracks, etc.  Guess what, it wouldn’t generate that much because a certain percentage of the population would migrate to mass transit as a way to avoid that.  But that’s what we want.  Then there’s the politics in this state.  Do you think someone living in say, Boulder, Utah wants to see their gas tax go up just so us idiots in SLC won’t drive as much?  Yeah, didn’t think so.
Sales tax – Currently Utah (0.8%), Salt Lake (0.8%), Davis (0.5%), and Weber (0.75%) collect a sales tax that is directly used for public transportation.  I have no idea how much this generates, but I can make a somewhat educated guess.  The state sales tax (4.7%)  generated $1.601 billion in 2012.  That works out to $556 for every man, woman, and child in the state.  My math (weird though it may be) says that’s $118.30 per percentage point per person.  So, doing the math says that the good people of Utah and Salt Lake counties paid $94.64/person for mass transit, Davis county residents paid a paltry $59.50 per person, and Weber county folks paid $88.73 each.  Keep in mind this is per person.  So Mom and Dad paid up for their brood of six or seven kids ($94.64 x 8 = $757.12, that’s some more serious coin).  All told, my math shows that the 2.13 million people living along the Wasatch Front generated roughly $188.9 million in 2012 to be used for mass transit purposes.  Sounds like a crapload of money.
So, in order to be fair, let’s increase the mass transit sales tax only in these counties.  What should we jack it up to?  Let’s say a straight 1.5%.  That would generate around $378 million annually for mass transit.  Hopefully.
So, with all that extra money, what will it get us?  Well, a new CNG powered bus (don’t want a diesel one, they really throw out the stink) costs roughly $330 thousand.  It costs roughly $125/hour to operate.  Figure 16 hours a day, seven days a week (yeah, we want people out of their cars then too) and you have a cool $730 thousand a year to operate….per bus.  So, an extra $189 million would get us an extra 258 buses on the road.  And that doesn’t include the cost of the buses.  We’ll let the feds pay for those.  Oh wait, now our federal taxes will go up.  Not so many now.  I don’t know how many buses UTA operates, but I’m sure it’s well over 258 buses, so we won’t even double the number of buses on the road, let alone increase the number and frequency of routes.  Now the number would probably be higher, since fares will offset some of this operating costs.   But we haven’t even talked about fares yet.
You can do the math, but the point is, would increasing the sales tax by roughly 0.8% to get more buses and trains out there get you out of your car?  No?  What about increasing it to 2%?  3%?  Probably wouldn’t get me out of my car but then I don’t have kids at home anymore and I can afford the extra and still drive my car.  At what point would it hurt someone like me enough to get me out of my car one third of the time?  I don’t know, but it would certainly be more than the good citizens of this state are willing to put up with.  Let alone the having the legislature even entertain the idea.  Why increasing the sales tax that much would hurt all sorts of people.  Poor people, car salespeople, retail people.  Think of all the coffee that wouldn’t get sold at Maverick or 7-11 every morning.  Rest assured, we would buy less of everything, but at least we’d be riding mass transit.

Next blog post, I’ll talk about some more options and the pros and cons of those.  Actually, the next post should probably be my Moab Red Hot race report.  Especially since I have most of it written.