Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Antelope Canyon 50: Third times a charm!

Literally on the edge :)
I ran my first 50 mile race 2 years ago, almost exactly. And it was this race, the Antelope Canyon 50. It was this race that hurled me, full throttle, into a new obsession -- running far, and farther. It was this race that made me feel so much pain and happiness, all at once.

And so this past weekend, I ran it for the third time. (You can read my race report from last year here. I didn't have a blog in 2014 but if I did it would have said something like "why. WHY! whyyyy" followed by "never again." and then "I can't wait for my next race.")

Mentally I break this race down into 4 equally brutal parts (important for all of you planning to run this one next year).


Part 1: Antelope Canyon -- most photographed slot in the world

Part 2: Horseshoe bend. Do NOT, repeat, NOT trip.

Part 3: Waterholes Canyon. Wow HELLO! watch your head.

Part 4: Page Rim Trail. Views for miles and miles.
For some reason I was SUPER nervous this year. I almost thought I might puke. But I also could not wait. I really missed my runner friends and the Ultra Adventures crew.

I can't say enough about Ultra Adventures, a racing "family" that I admire for so many reasons (First and foremost being that the peeps who put on these races are just honestly the nicest, most caring and genuinely awesome people I know!) The courses are brutally challenging but breathtakingly scenic.

I spent a couple of hours at race check-in, soaking in the enthusiasm and pre-race jitters of literally everyone who was running in the morning (and petting all the ultra-dogs -- one of my favorite sights to see. Which reminds me... if you are looking for a running buddy, head over to and find a new furry best friend today).

I was able to get a good night's sleep and was ready to go when my alarm woke me up at 4:30 am. Let's do this.

Part 1: Antelope Canyon: The most photographed slot canyon in the world.

I don't think I could have wished for a better morning. The temps were in the mid 40s to start, no wind, just perfect! The day started with a traditional Navajo morning prayer, releasing white corn pollen into the fresh morning air and facing the sunrise to the east.

Then we were off. I kept a good steady pace for the first 4 miles. I had so many thoughts running through my head... "crap, someone is passing me." "Where can i pee? I better go now while it's still dark." "I wonder if I'll make any friends?" "What if my Achilles starts to act up?" "I'm scared." "What am I doing???" "WHY? Why Jill, Why?"

The sun started to come up and at at mile 4 you enter your first small slot section of the run. It's a shallow, windy canyon of pink and beige. I start to ease up a bit and everything feels familiar. I hit the first aid station and don't stop. I want to get to Antelope (at mile 7) with enough time to enjoy it.

I arrive at Antelope Canyon making decent time and take my time weaving through the dark and twisty slot.

One day I gotta go through here with my real camera!

Part 1 was done. I was onto Part 2: Horseshoe Bend

I was feeling pretty good. The weather was perfect.  My new gaiters were kicking ass and keeping out ALL the sand (rough country gaiters -- highly recommend -- go here to buy -- and trust me, your dirty girls won't make the cut for this race).

I started chatting with another runner from Canada. Little did I know at this time that my new friend, Grant, would completely change this race for me -- keep me going and finishing stronger than I ever had in this race. At first I thought I'd run a while with this guy and then I'd probably pop in my ipod and keep on going. But Grant (who was turning 60 and in killer shape) was a wealth of knowledge in ultrarunning. We started talking about fueling, and staying mentally alert, and how to prepare for a 100 miler (for me coming up in 2 months!!). It's funny the relationships you make during these grueling races -- you never forget them, you always learn from them, and they become some of the most endearing friendships.

By now, the miles were flying by and we become this team. I felt bad because seriously I was sooo much slower than Grant but he was very kind to slow down for me and keep me on pace. We totally kicked Horseshoe's ass! This part of the race had always been my downfall. I never completed this section without crying.

Grant hurrying to get out of this precarious situation

there's this giant ditch right next to me

So exciting! I met a future G2G'er, Susan, out on the course!

And just like that I had conquered Horseshoe Bend, without a single teardrop. :)

Part 3: Waterholes Canyon

I love this slot canyon! It's long and winding and chilly and pretty. If you are ever thinking of heading out to Page, AZ, go get a permit (required) and head down into this scenic slot canyon.

Lucky me. I get to run here!

This is the first time I've ever been smiling at this exact spot.

ya gots to climb up some ladders and stuff :)
After all the pretty stuff, you get to run on more sand (UGH) for a bunch of miles which basically sucks a whole lot. But then finally you are back at the Horseshoe Bend Aid Station and onto the last 16 miles.

Part 4: Page Rim Trail

I'm going to skip over the part where I whine about more sand -- because basically you deal with it and then have 10 miles to the finish -- 10 miles on nice hard packed dirt and pretty pretty views.

Scenes from the Page Rim Trail
I could probably take like 10000 pictures of this very pretty trail, but the truth is I was so freaking tired and ready to be done. I just wanted to be done.

Grant was doing a nice job of keeping me from crumbling, telling god awful jokes and single horrible horrible songs (that's what friends are for).

FINALLY we rounded the corner to the final aid station. We had 1 mile to go!!

As I zoomed down the final hill towards the finish, I saw my friend Tim (who just killed it on the 55 k) and he told me that Steve and the boys were just up ahead waiting for me. And then I saw them. All three! All three happy smiling faces. I was so happy to see those faces!!

Helpin' mom to the finish

ha. seriously, they are trying to race me! what?

JJ is winning.
I finished in a respectable 11:25 and some change. A new PR on this crazy sandy beast of a run. Oh, and by the way, not ONE spec of sand got into my shoes (I'm tellin' ya -- go buy those gaiters!).

Me and Grant at the finish

My gaiters.. kinda beat up but they did last 50 long miles. So yay!

My biggest fans

Happy :)
Three years of Antelope Canyon Ultra ADVENTURES!

 Thanks for reading :) xoxo

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jughandle Arch and Center of the Universe

Disclaimer: The hike to jughandle arch requires steep climbing on loose rocks. Although the route is relatively short (4-5 miles round trip for jughandle and center of the universe), there is no shade and the steep climbs will wear you out.

We're gettin' to the top of that thing!
Valentine's Day usually conjures up images of romance and chocolate. Neither of those were on the agenda for our outing. Unless you take into account my profound love affair with Zion National Park. We had a kid sitter for the day and Steve and I were geared up to do a more "challenging" hike. The criteria was as follows:

1.) Hard (nothing we would typically do w/ the kids)... I wanted to get a good workout in.
2.) Remote... just in case we did want to throw in some "romance" ha.. :)
3.) Scenic

My friend Matt, who always has perfect suggestions for supremely awesome hikes, suggested jughandle arch and center of the universe. The hike would take us to the top of a notable arch in Zion's east canyon and to Center of the Universe (a crazy cool-looking expanse on the hike out. Bonus).

The hike really got your heart pumpin'

It took about an hour to get to this point. Now, how to get on top!

Closer up of arch

I love it! Sun, snow, tank top, bliss!
To reach the top of the arch, we had to do some back-tracking. You can not simply climb up to it from underneath (not easily or without risking death. I am not a fan of death.)

So back down we went, into the wash to the right (west) and through a lot of scrub and bushes filling the valley below. Meandering our way to the back of the valley, heading north towards a rockfall that would be our route to the top.

Steve looking down at the valley below

I gotta admit, I was a little nervous looking up (and up, and up) and the boulders and rocks we'd be climbing on. It's always a little intimidating because rocks can fall. And people do die. I don't want to die.

But as we started going up, it seemed doable and not quite as terrifying. After about 20 leg burning and butt sculpting minutes, we had arrived at the top of the plateau. YAY!

Final pitch to the top

Yay we made it :)

Views for miles and miles

My heaven
Now we had reached the top, but we had to find the TOP of the ARCH! We headed east about 1/4 mile and found an out-cropping that I was sure had to be the arch (hard to tell from up top!) Sure enough, we scooted around the rim a bit farther and could see the opening below that let us know this was the jughandle. I carefullyyyyy jumped over rocks to stand directly in the middle of the jughandle arch. Exhilarating!

On top of  a scary craggy arch

meditating :) ha ha not really
OK phew. That was fun. So now back down -- and to find the Center of the Universe (obviously).

The Center of the Universe route would require us to go back down that crazy rock slide, back into the bush whacky valley, around some snow, up some steep slick rock and then...

We were there!

That little dot in the middle right is me :)

If you like remote, wonderful wilderness, this is the place for you!

Always looking for a trail to run on

My 2016 Valentines: Steve and Zion National Park. Both get a gold star for making my heart race and making me weak in the knees. Awwww cheeze.. xoxo

Here are the directions we followed. This guy has a really awesome website! Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Petroglyphs, dino tracks, and a sweet fort. #sundayfunday

I got this problem.. it's called I Can't Sit Still. I know it drives my family insane some days, but the weather was killer (65 and bluest skies in the west). Living in Kanab has it perks, but when the nearest Target is 3 hours round trip, a quick shopping trip is not ever part of the agenda. It's an all-day affair. I couldn't imagine spending all day in a car or store, so I planned a little detour (sneaky mom grin).

On the way we hit up 3 awesome sites that included dino tracks, an old mormon fort, and some sweeet petroglyphs.

Warner Valley dinosaur tracks

Frickin' sweet panel (didn't expect to see this!!)

Fort Pearce
Good stuff! And all (reasonably) on the way to Costco :) ha

I was really surprised that I hadn't heard of this cool little valley before. It's called Warner Valley and it's somewhere between Hurricane, UT and St. George (throw in a little off-roading).

My friend Matt had told me about this life size pictograph in the area. Unfortunately we didn't find it on this trip (maybe next weekend?) but we did find some really REALLY cool surprises.

1.) Dinosaur tracks!

See the big track in the foreground. And skippy in the background.

JJ for size
2.) FORT

According to the BLM: "The Fort Pierce Historic Site is one of only three remaining stone guard posts built during Utah’s Black Hawk War. This ‘war’ was actually a period of intermittent raiding between 1865 and 1870, during which the Ute Tribe, led by Chief Black Hawk (Antonga), and other Native Americans allies attempted to drive the Mormons from the Ute traditional homelands... More than 100 Native Americans and at least 70 Mormons were killed during the raiding,"

JJ's fort

Fort Pearce
 3.) Unexpected crazy cool petroglyph panels

We started to follow this tiny trail, looking for the Red Man petroglyph, but instead found a bunch of really interesting rock art high in the alcoves of the rocky mountainside.

necklace rock

cowboy glyphs

sweet swirls

I love this very old cowboy glyph. In the 1800's, this route was traveled by mormons heading to the newly-completed St. George Temple to get married. Fort Pearce was a common camping/resting spot and many transcribed their names on these "walls". honeymoon trail and that is why there is so many names. 

upside down man

Harry making mom nervous

ET and grill

 It was a pretty great trip to Target :)