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).

THE BREAKDOWN:

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 bestfriends.org 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

6 comments:

  1. AMAZING, JILL! You truly are! Love your blog pics and commentary :) You make us so very proud .... Love .. MOM & DAD

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  2. Great report , beautiful pictures and thanks for taking care of Grant LOL!

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  3. Congratulations!! This is so inspiring to read! I'm hoping to do this next year. Re the gaiters, did you have the velcro sewn on or did you glue them?

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    1. Thank you so much :) For the gaiters -- I used "shoe goo" to glue them on. Would have been MUCH better to sew the velcro - but there's no cobbler near me :( That was the only downside.. $35 and only to use 1 time.

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  4. Thanks so much for responding! I live by the beach so that's how I'm planning to train for the sand - not sure how I'll train for the terrifying looking sheer dropoffs.. ;P Thanks again for the great writeup and photos!

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  5. Congratulations! Grant is great company on the trails for sure!! A few of us can agree on that. Nice work out there, both of you.

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