I had such an amazing time at Capital Reef! I don’t really know where to begin.
In March I asked Steve if he’d like to go on a road trip during the summer. We haven’t traveled without the boys since before they were born, 24 years ago! He was up for it so I began to plan. I wanted to see Glacier for sure. I also wanted to see a hoodoo. We decided we’d travel to Montana, stay at Glacier for 4-5 days, head to California to see the Redwoods, then to Utah to see the hoodoos. As we tightened up our plans we decided California would be it’s own trip during another adventure.
After we decided on the Minnesota to Montana to Utah adventure I decided to look for a race. Well, I found a 50K just outside the Capital Reef National Park. I hadn’t heard of Capital Reef so did some research and pretty soon we decided this was going to be our destination. Good decision!
I entered the race and then I began to look for race reports, the race description, checked out Ultrasignup. I was perplexed that Ultrasignup forecast me finishing in 9:15 hours! My 50K time is usually 6-7 hours. Oh boy.
Soon thereafter I learned that the race is held at 11,700 feet elevation! OK, this 9:15 hour finish time was beginning to make some sense.
Steve and I drove to packet pickup the night before the race. We learned that one of the aid stations would no longer be. An UTV lost its tire while trying to get out there. He became stuck and would have to be towed out. They were trying to figure out how to get it out of there. The aid stations were very remote. There was no crew/pacer access except at one aid station and to get to this station you had to be UTV’d to it. Because of one less aid station this section would be 9 miles long. I vowed to myself that I would fill my bladder at every aid station.
Steve was planning on meeting me at the aid station with UTV access. He would hike to the ranger station, they would then shuttle him to the station. Hopefully I would be able to figure out a rough estimate time that I would be out there.
A few weeks prior to the race Jenny contacted me stating they would be on vacation at the same time and that she entered the race as well! I was so excited to learn I was going to have a running buddy on the course!
Steve and I picked up Jenny for the race start. We swung by their campground, gave kisses to the dogs, said Hi to Paul and buzzed to the start. We were ready!
This race is 100% eco friendly. The toilets at the start / at aid stations were composted, they washed and rinsed glasses at the aid stations, no paper cups, no garbage was tolerated. Fruit rinds and peels were thrown into one bin for compost, wrappers into another. Very cool.
As we were listening to the RD before starting, Jenny pointed to a woman with whiskey hanging off of her waist! We later learned from another runner that she had back surgery and this whiskey was to minimize the pain. Not a good idea.
(Let's go! Jenny, Me)
The RD said to GO so off we went! We started climbing right from the start. The race began at 7500 feet, just out of the Utah desert up on the Aquarious Plateau. When it was 99F a few miles away in the desert, it was 60F up on the Plateau at 11,500 feet. We were so thankful we were on the plateau!
We began following a jeep type trail, through the woods, through the meadows, then up a steep, rocky, shale like mountain. We would jog for a mile, then have to take a walk break, even if we weren’t climbing at the time. The air was THIN! I was gasping for air. Seriously.
After a mile or so we veered from the jeep trail and followed a narrow trail, straight up the mountain. It was steep. We just plugged on, trying to keep up a conversation was difficult. Jenny kept on pointing out bear scat. It freaked me out. We talked about what we would do if we came upon a bear. This was a few weeks after the bear attacked a man at Glacier. We had just left Glacier.
As we were moving up this gargantuan mountain, Jenny stopped. She looked off to our right and had a look of concern on her face. I was immediately concerned. I knew it was a fricken bear. We saw all of this dark fur. Upon further assessment, we realized it was a group of 4 very, very large cows, staring down at us. Oh thank god! There were cow all over the place, free range Angus cattle. I was still freaked out.
We moved along, taking pictures as we went. We weren’t in any great rush. We were doing what we could, moving forward, taking photos along the way. This was an adventure, a training run, laid back fun day. As we found a great photo op with beautiful views, a woman came upon us. She commented that we seemed to have a lot of fun while climbing the steep mountain. She said she could hear us laughing and she thought we’d be fun to hang along with. Her name was Virginia, from Denver, and she hung with us to the finish! We made some new awesome friends along the way.
(We just met Virginia, she took this pic)
The first aid station was only 2.5 miles out. We ran in and learned that we were number 44 and 45! There were only 55 runners or so. This was surprising, that we were nearly last. We were also the only Midwesterners. This did make a difference. I used their bug spray, the mosquitoes were bad at this point, but I don’t think I noticed them after. Guess the spray worked! I had a piece of watermelon, filled up my bladder and we moved on, across the meadow.
We ran through the grass, surrounded by alpine lakes, boulders and the remains of big dead animals. Bones, fur…it made me wonder..
As we entered a mountain of boulders, we couldn’t see a trail, just rock. We climbed and climbed. The views were amazing. The air wasn’t. Gasp.
(Boulder Trail. I'm picking my way down)
Our conversation was varied. I shared some recent personal ongoings which caused much laughter. We shared our ailments. We passed around around lip balm, foot potion, salt tabs. We shared a wonderful time and a fabulous race.
This is the most technical race I have ever run. Yes, much more technical than Superior. Between the logs, rocks, roots, it was amazing. The plateau, the alpine lakes, the mountain meadow, this was truly sensory overload.
The Great Western trail up on the plateau is not very frequently traveled. The trail was difficult to pick up a times. We could see flags every so often up in the distance, showing the way, although we couldn’t see a trail.
I was looking forward to the third aid station. I knew that Steve was going to try to get up there. He would have to hike a few miles, then ride an UTV to the station. As I was running in, sure enough, there he was. He had a good ride. Was cheerful, enjoying his day. Seeing him there was a big lift.
(Steve took this at the aid station)
We left him and circled around the alpine lake, dotted with a few kayakers. As we ran along Arnulfo Quimare of Born to Run passed us.
A long section was coming up. We knew that there would be no aid for 9 miles. We filled up and moved out. At one point we saw again saw something black and still ahead. I made no bones about it, I’d turn around and go back to the aid station, a few miles prior, before I’d chance running into a bear. I asked if I should blow the whistle on my pack. Yes, yes, Virginia and Jenny responded. I blew, nothing moved. Virginia began to creep ahead. Eventually she realized it was a piece of black burned out tree or something. We laughed and moved on.
We were climbing through a dense forest. There was no trail that we could see, only ribbons, telling us where we should go. It was crazy. Pretty soon we came upon a rose bush field-deep rose fragrance, prickly bushes. They had grown in after a burn. I’ve never seen so many roses.
(Alpine lakes, streams, waterfalls, amazing views)
(Eco friendly aid stations)
Another woman joined our merry band. Lori was from Phoenix, she ran with us to the finish.
We moved along and came off of the plateau. We climbed down from 11,5000 feet to 9000. I could breath more easily. We came into a section of river. There was a man who ran out of water and was filling his bottle from the river. I was thankful I still had at least half of my pack full. I was carrying an 80 ounce bladder. It was getting HOT as we came off of the plateau. The high in Torrey was 99F. Ugh. We had been running in probably 65-70F on the plateau all day. Pretty awesome.
Eventually the girls all ran out of water. My bladder was larger than theirs so I still had some available. I shared my water with them, asked if they needed any gels or blocks. I had a ton. Jenny shared her chap stick. Virginia shared more sunscreen. We were warm and burning.
We came into the aid station. Oh, happy day! The volunteers were excited to see us, enthusiastic and willing to care for us. I drank a couple glasses of coke, had some watermelon and just wanted to get out of there and on my way. I and Laurie headed off while Jenny and Virginia took care of their needs.
The elevation continued downward. We were able to see some of the red rocks of the canyon in the distance. We were closing in on the finish.
What a most excellent day! To be able to run in such an environment, to be strong and healthy, to run with old friends and to meet new friends, what a blessing! I feel so lucky.
( On the jeep path. Lori, Jenny and Virginia. Closing in on the finish. We can see the canyon, the red rocks, feel the heat. It's coming.)
Jenny and Virginia caught up, we all continued through the red rock, the hot canyon, anxious to see the paved road which would signal we were a mile out from the finish. We were running down, down, down a jeep type path which was red sand. The big red cliffs and buttes were all around us. We were out of the plateau and into the hot hot canyon area. Jenny was crossing over to the side of the path in front of me, she jumped over a little branch. I decided to do the same. I didn’t clear the branch! Boom! I fell onto my front, sprawled out and banged the side of my head..on the sand. This was the second time that I had fallen today. Both times I fell upon sand. Crazy.
There it was! We began to run faster, down the trail, across the road, up the driveway to the Resort. Whew! What an adventure!! 10:43 hours of adventure!! Wow!
The finish line was laid back, Jenny’s family was able to make it, Steve was there. We weren’t hungry. We hugged, congratulated Virginia and Lori, and headed back to end the day. I had no aches, no pains, no blisters, no problems. I was in my happy place. I had so much fun. I was really thankful to have run the whole race with Jenny and to have met Virginia and Lori along the course. Old friends and new.
This race was very challenging, but oh so much fun! Matt Gunn, the Race Director was really great. The volunteers were amazing. I'd run this again. I'd like to run more of Matt's races. For finishing we received a Tshirt, hat and hand made mug.
What an amazing day. I’m still smiling! Next up: Voyager 50 Mile.