Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Fun Day at the Beach! (sort of)

Wow!  I now know what running in deep deep sand is all about!  Holy smokes!

The 23rd 100 by 100 Antelope Canyon 55K Ultramarathon is now in the books.  It was held in Page, Arizona on February 20, 2016.  I tell ya, my good friend Joey Schrichte and I ran this race and we totally earned the accolades just for finishing!  Absolutely stunning views the entire way - either going through deep sand or on rock reefs that were made for mountain goats to travel over!  It was a true adventure and we loved every moment of it!  This race is what ultra running is all about!

Joey and I met at the Lake Powell Resort on Friday, February 19 and checked into our hotel.  Since he moved to Durango, CO. we had much to talk about!  It was fantastic catching up with everything and it continued the entire time we were together for the weekend.  It was just a fantastic time, that's all I can say!  When we picked up our race packets a little while later there were a LOT of cars in the parking lot.  I really couldn't believe it.  Turns out that there were 222 runners just in the 55K!  There was also a 1/2 marathon and a 50 miler.  Anyway,  the race area was full of people.  A little unusual for some of the ultra marathons I've done in the past.

So next up, we needed to pre-load with a big meal and decided on some place called the Big Budda, or something.  It turns out that this place is a great Thai and Sushi restaurant and had everything we wanted.  We stocked up on everything we could manage to stuff down ourselves.  It was a one tasty meal!  Then we went back to the hotel and prepared for our next day.  I had lots of things to do.  Joey, being 30 years younger, had a few things, but not much.  Joeys biggest decision probably was which shoes he was going to be wearing the next day!  For being such an unreal fast ultra runner, he exists off very little.  It's unreal.  Oh, how I'd love to be young again!  Oh my!  Next up, sleep.

I wake up at exactly 2 minutes before my alarm should go off (4:45am) and it is time!  I begin my usual ultra ritual of making coffee, tea, cream of wheat, all the while eating bananas, blueberries, and had boiled eggs.  Joey continues to sleep and avoids all light possible.  (When Joey finally gets up, he has probably a banana and calls it good)  HMMMMMM!!!  Anyway, we head off to the race a little over 6 am and get there at about 6:25 am.  We get to the race area and we are greeted with a native "ring dance" by a native of the Navajo tribe.  It was really quite amazing, actually!  Joey sees some running buddies he knows, introduces me, then they are off.  We are off and running.  I see Joey and his buddy leading in the front pack immediately and yell, "Go Joey" cause I know that will be the last I see of him for the next 8 hours or so.  So, I settle into my usual slow rhythm and smile and enjoy the day.

Taking my iPhone with me was a good choice because I immediately wanted to start taking photos.  I did take many during the day, which probably costed me maybe 10 minutes or so, no biggie for me though!  I'm glad I did take a lot because I got some good ones.  The first 5 miles or so was pretty sandy.  I said to myself, well, this is probably only bad this part, no big deal, I can deal with this!  Well, if you ever try running in deep sand uphill, you are in for a treat.  It is massively slow.  I immediately knew I was going to be walking up most uphills in deep sand.  It just takes too much effort to actually run in it.  So, now I knew that this was going to be a long day - just in the first 5 miles of this 34 mile adventure!  Call it good and go with it!  Yeah!

The sunrise is happening and the desert takes on a beautiful color.  We hit the first aid station and I take off my extra clothes I start with and pack them in my bag I have stored and I'm off!  We head to Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River.  This is an amazing site.  The view is stunning and the area where we are running is right along the cliffs for miles and miles and miles.  But, no sand!  Yeah!
It was wonderful, but you did have to look out where you were going for sure!  Amazing views surrounded you at every moment while you were running.  I had a hard time at NOT wanting to photograph, but knew that I couldn't take everything I wanted and just tried to take what was necessary.  The day was finally warming up a tad and it was going to be a beautiful one!  We headed into a kind of "no mans land" a little bit on top of the bend and  then we starting heading into Waterholes Canyon.  Ok, just getting down this steep canyon was just great!  (Hiking now starts here!)  Views of this ancient water filled canyon was remarkable, to say the very least!  Deep sand was everywhere.  Ladders were provided in areas where you had to hike up and continue into the canyon.  I loved every second of this!

After we got out of the canyon, we had to go up this hill, full of deep, deep sand.  This was a slow hike for me and I finally felt some twinging going on in my legs, so I decided to take real slow deliberate steps up the hill.  Stretch it out, stop, take some more electrolytes, no prob.  Next up, a long gradual downhill full with more (what?) deep sand.  Oh, yeah, deep sand......  Even though it was downhill, I still, amazingly, had to walk in a few areas believe it or not!  It was really deep.  I'm not kidding here.  I arrive at the previous aid station (mile 18) and I just have to take off my shoes and empty the sand from my shoes and socks.  The sand has now started to get on my last nerve!  After a brief mother nature call in a small tent they have provided, I'm off running back to the start area - but only after running up a hill through (what?) , again, deep sand.  Oh well......

Passing the start area we now had around a 13 mile loop around Page, AZ. on the Page Rim Trail, which to me, was the most runnable, and most enjoyable to run on.  The views were endless.  It seemed like I could look right into Monument Valley!  The red rock monuments were so never ending 360 degrees!  This Rim Trail was right up my alley because this is what I usually have trained on.  A bit of sand, lots of hard dirt, and rock ledges.  I loved this part, and quite honestly I held a decent gradual pace through these 13 miles - mostly running, with fits of a little bit of fast hiking.  Perfect!  Just as I thought the miles should be ending, they didn't.  I started to be a chore but quickly remembered that my daughter, Della, was running a Conference Meet 3000 M run at exactly the same time I was running this trail!  So, just thinking of that held off my thoughts of wanting to end my race for the day.  If she can finish, so can I!

After a very brief short hike down an rocky ledge,  I could hear people shouting at runners finishing their race.  I had a brief moment of "thanks to God and my Mom looking up in the sunlight", got a little chocked up, and sucked it up for the finish.  I didn't stop until I crossed.  And there was Joey taking my picture at the end.  Again, the feeling finishing of an Ultra Marathon is just astounding.  I will always cherish it - especially with friend.

Joey ran his race with blisters all over his feet and still finished 12th overall!  Out of 222 runners!  His time was like 5:35!  Mark my words, you will see Joey at the top of many leaderboards in the future!  I finished in the middle of the pack at 8:44.  The rest of the night was a celebration of true friendship over a couple of beers and a big dinner at the resort.  We were asleep by 9:15 pm.  What an outstanding day!  Perfect.

Here are some pics!

$100.00  donated to ALZ on 2/23/16