I've got 5 new races to report on, but I'll just tackle two in this post and the others next week (hopefully). I ran the Zion Half Marathon again this year. I tried something novel this time. I tried running the whole thing without walking. Okay, I did stop and walk for a moment to take my jacket off and one moment to refill my water bottle at mile 5. But other than those two tiny moments, I ran the whole thing! And guess what. My time was SLOWER than last year's where I let myself take walk breaks. Lesson learned.
|Photo courtesy of Jamie Eckles.|
|Mitten Butte, right outside my cabin door.|
|White corn flour being used for the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Scott M. Stringham.|
Race morning dawned and we headed to the start line for the sunrise prayer ceremony and the start of the 50K. Scott was running in the half marathon that started an hour later, but he came with me to the start of my race to see me off. After getting me on my way, he was able to wait for his race start in a hogan to stay warm.
|Sunrise with the Mitten Buttes, just before the start.|
|A view of the Three Sisters formation.|
I should have put more water in my pack at the second aid stop, because I ran out of water around mile 17 and had to go another 30 minutes without anything to drink. By the time I made it back to the aid station, it felt like my tongue was how it is in the cartoons where the character sticks out their tongue and there's a cow skull and cactus on it.
I spent quite a bit of time at the aid station, getting rehydrated and fueling up. I think I overdid it a bit because my stomach was a little unhappy for a couple of miles as I headed out on the last loop, the blue loop. The blue loop started with a hard packed dirt road that turned off into a sandy single track trail. MORE SAND. I was starting to develop Post Traumatic Sand Disorder.
|Oh sure, it looks innocent. But try running 20 or so miles in it and then decide.|
The climb up the mesa was a very narrow trail, strewn with big rocks that liked to move around when you stepped on them. There were runners coming up and going down, so it made for a lot of stopping and stepping off to the side to let people pass.
|A view from the climb up.|
When I got to the top, the views were breathtaking. It was totally worth it. Also at the top, the trail was incredibly runnable. Nice soft single track, not sand.
|There's the finish line! Somewhere in that speck of civilization.|
Coming back down was actually just as difficult as going up, due to the steepness and all of the giant rocks. You couldn't just bomb down the trail because too many of the rocks would slide out from under you. Plus with the other runners coming up, it was just too dangerous to go crazy on the way down. I made it down without too many scary slips of the feet and made some good time back on the dirt road. The only problem with the white loop is that is wasn't really a loop, it was an out and back, so I had to go through that damn sandy single track again. I had hit the end of my sand tolerance and just trudged through it until I hit the road back to the aid station.
I just grabbed a cup of Coke with ice on my way through and asked how far it was to the finish. I couldn't remember if the race was a long 50K or closer to the standard distance. I was ecstatic to hear that there were only 3 more miles to go until the finish. I knew I was going to come in well under the cut off time, and it was all dirt road back to the finish line.
I took off down the road at a decent pace and was able to hold it pretty steady until some of the steeper bits. I hiked up the steep parts, ran the downs and flats, and was in pretty good spirits for that last chunk of the race. Scott and my mom were waiting at the finish line. He had a great race in the half, finishing in the top 10%.
|Scott finishing his race, looking strong!|
|Excited to have finished a tough race!|
|I finished! It was tough and beautiful and can we come back next year?!|
|Hanging out by the hogans.|
|I love the ceramic mug!|
I promise to try and write about the other 3 races very shortly and get back on track with regular reports. But until then, happy running!