Sunday, July 12, 2015

Capitol Reef ULTRA Adventure

The view from the very top of our first big hike up.... a couple thousand feet.
A few weeks ago I decided I was going to sign up for the Capitol Reef 50k. I've been plagued by a series of SUPER annoying running injuries, the worst and stupidest being plantar fasciitis. It's been a long, good while since I've pushed my body to run over 20 some miles, and running long distance is truly my therapy. And when my therapy is halted, my mind goes a bit wonky and my moods get a bit dicey. So, I was weighing my options like... hmmm.. go run 32 miles and risk mucking up my feet even worse... or going crazy (literally.. )

I decided to run.

I know that my races take a large toll on my family. They require some finagling of pet sitting, kid wrangling, lodging, driving, and waiting -- that's on my husband's end of things. I truly appreciate my family's willingness to come along and be my support system. I'm sure it's not easy. But, it affords us the chance to see some really truly magnificent sights.

I can say without any doubts -- the capitol reef ultra has been one of the most rewarding races I have run to date. I did not think that anything could surpass the Monument Valley 50 miler.. but I gotta say, this one takes the cake.. er.. the honey stinger waffle .. because DANG ........ yeh.. awesomeness.

climbing up to the top of the Aquarius Plateau, the highest plateau in North America
We drove to right outside Torrey, UT (about 3.5 hours from Kanab) and stayed at the Red River Ranch which conveniently was the start and finish of the race. SWEET!!

Our kinda crazy, but cool room

why can't I ever just get a normal photo with my children?

Our awesome race director, Matt, making some last minute things happen. Matt rules!

A very smug Nacho is ready to get this party started

Our race staging area. PRETTY SWEET!
The day of the race I found out that this really amazing kid named Abe was going to be running the 50k. Abe is 13. THIRTEEN. I snapped this pic at the start. I wanted to make sure that when he's a famous ultrarunner one day that I can say I have a photo of us at his first ultra :)

Abe Gunn -- 13 year old ultra runner
So we all load into this big bus to get shuttled to the start. We have to drive UP for a while and this bus is going about 1 mile per hour. I start to panic. I almost thought I was gonna puke as this bus drudged on. I could see the houses getting very tiny and the lakes off to my lower left getting smaller and smaller. We were getting pretty close to the clouds now.

The bus stops and we unload. We're at around 8,500 ft or so and I know from looking at the course map that we reach over 11,000 ft by mile 6 or 7. I really do feel panicky. I have never run at that high of altitude. I heard that a bunch of 100 milers got sick from altitude and had to drop. Crap. OK. Well, there's no turning back now.

I had some familiar faces with me. A bunch of Kanab's finest were in town running, too! I had friends running the half marathon -- Mandy, Josh, Megan, Jana, and Alan.

Kanab's finest!
And then there was Sam, Mike, and Tara, and Lorilie running with me in the 50k. edit: my brain was seriously fried last night so I inadvertently posted Lorilie as running the half. She finished the 50k with us! She is so inspiring to me!!!!!!!!!

The race started and I hung w/ Sam and Mike. Sam is running the Grand to Grand Ultra with me in September. And Mike ran the G2G last year. I felt solid with these guys. Once we started moving, talking and taking in the scenery, I felt so much better. We started to gain elevation almost immediately. We would spend nearly 90% of the race in the forest. Fine by me! It was lovely :)

ominous forest trail with looming clouds overhead. Nothing to worry about. Nope!

Sure was pretty running through this aspen grove

Mike and Sam -- 2 of Kanab's finest!
As the elevation got higher, the air was a bit thinner but honestly, I did not notice it all that much. I would have to say that the altitude did not affect me. Maybe it's because I already live at a higher elevation in Kanab. I don't know. But I'm glad that I was feeling good.

After the toughest, steepest climb. High a top the Aquarius Plateau

Running with G2G veteran Mike McTeer was a treat. I learned so much from this guy!!
After we reached the top of our big climb, we were ready to traverse this magnificent plateau.. and let me tell you.. the sights took my breath away. Truly. This is one awesome world we live in!

One of many awesome lakes.
One of the most difficult parts of this race, in my opinion, was the terrain. You just could not get a good pace. Either you were tripping over boulders (I guess I now know why it's called Boulder Mountain LOL) or slogging through wet, spongy meadows. But, that's also kinda what made it great. It was tough. No doubt. It was THE TOUGHEST race I've ever run. I bit it so many times on those rocks.. and logs (fell face first into the creek.. then got up and biffed it again within a few steps -- not my finest moment). But I remember thinking to myself how lucky I am to be out there and doing this -- seeing these awesome forests and lakes and vistas.

Climbed down through this creek. REALLY fun and pretty.

Treated to a giant waterfall.
I had absolutely NO expectations before this race. I had no clue what sorts of scenery or landscape I'd be running in. Usually I have at least an inkling. I was blown away by this course. We ran through fields, bushwhacked through jungles (ha! -- if you ran the race you know what I mean!), meadows of wild flowers (literally thousands of colors!!) huffed down steep rocky volcanic mountainsides, through creeks, over logs, under burnt out tree limbs, around huge lakes and on desert trails next to towering red rocks.



I think at this moment I'm thinking "SERIOUSLY.. we gotta hike down this? COME ON."




love these blue bells!
Then around mile 17 or so.. I get to the aid station and I see Abe, the 13 year old kid I told you about earlier. He was sitting in the tent and I thought that maybe he had dropped out earlier and was just hanging out now. UM NO. Turns out he was just "resting" and he had gotten there a few minutes earlier. I couldn't believe it. He asks if he can tag along with me for a while so off we went. I spent the next couple of hours chatting about 8th grade, and things that 13 year olds like.. and running (of course!!) and just how completely inspired I am by his determination. He said something funny like "yeh, I dunno... I lack motivation" or I don't even know.. but um.. hello.. you are 13 and running 50 k. I asked him if his friends were impressed or if they thought he was crazy. He said that they called him a wimp for not doing 50 miles. HA! Love this kid!!

Me and Abe somewhere around mile 24, ready to get this done.
At the last Aid Station I say bye to my buddy and plugged in some tunes for the last bunch of miles. I felt pretty good. I wanted to rock this finish.

With about 1 mile to go, I saw the race director Matt running towards me (to meet up with his son, Abe) and he told me I was in 4th place. I was happy about that, but I kicked up the pace and could see the third place female down the road. Something in me said GO GET THIS and I think I was going about 7.5 min. mile and was on the hunt. I caught up and blew by -- snagging third place with about quarter mile to spare. MAN! That was seriously awesome.

MY FINISH!!!

Snagged my second tomahawk :) third place finisher! whooot
Successfully completed my 6th ultra. Ask me tomorrow how I feel. I'm on a runner's high. My foot hurts like hell :( But, it was worth it :)

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