The Moab 240 ultra-marathon was created in 2017 in honor of distance runner Stephen Jones, with a course that goes through the desert, canyons, slick rock, and two mountain ranges surrounded by Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.
Denise Bourassa never considered this race since she always loved the 100-mile distance such as the HURT 100 or the Brazos Bend 100. However, with the cancellation of the UTMB due to COVID-19, her goals quickly changed to participating in the Moab 240, a race that was still set to occur. Training-wise, Denise quickly pivoted and increased her mileage with four weeks of 100-mile weeks, lots of time on her feet with a weighted vest, and two weeks of 130-mile weeks. Her crew and pacers included her husband, two sisters and two friends who live in Moab.
The race did not start easily; it consisted of high temperatures and a 24-mile section without any aid stations. Even though Denise was carried 2 liters of water, she ran out and got dehydrated, which put her in a low and fatigued her body. Luckily at mile 57, with the help of her crew, rehydrating and eating, she was able to crawl out of her hole, enjoy the scenery, and get back to racing.
On days two and three, Denise held third place for females, but again hit a low on the third night from fatigue, lack of sleep, and being at 10k elevation in the cold. She took 5-minute power naps along the trail, struggled through the sandy sections, but powered through for a 4th place female finish in 85 hours and 49 minutes.
Although Denise did not end up on the podium, she had a powerful race where nutrition was on point, experienced all the beauty of Moab, and met new runners along the way. For her, as is for all marathon runners, every race is a learning experience. For Denise, her main takeaways from this event are to carry more water in the longer sections, take caffeine supplements during the nighttime parts, and to get in and out of the aid stations quicker.
After the Moab 240, Denise is pumped for this longer distance and the challenge that it gives her. She is now looking at the Tahoe 200 for 2021 and will be focusing on getting stronger and fitter. With the length of these races, she says, “Patience is key. You have plenty of time to run it. You will go through highs and lows like a roller coaster. Just be patient and use your mental strength to get through it. Your body will let you do it. You just need to convince your mind.”