Antelope Canyon Ultras in Page AZ did not disappoint. I am still in awe of the landscape I experienced.
The 50 mile race started at 5:45 am and it was windy but not too cold, maybe about 40 degrees. The course crossed a road and began to climb slick rock within the first .15 mile. The race director let runners through in a few waves, as it bottlenecks very quickly. I was in wave two.
As it was very dark, the trail of headlamps floating along in front helped light the way. We followed pink ribbons with some reflectivity stuck in crevices and tied to scrub brush in the slick rock and climbed and scrambled over the rock. My first mile was a 20 min mile, slow because of all the people, but also because of the scrambling. Once we got to the top of the slickrock hill we came to a sandy wash and ran straight into the wind for a couple of miles. We then turned on a sandy trail and finally dropped down onto a sandy road and again ran straight into the wind toward the famous Antelope Canyon. I stopped very quickly at the aid station and grabbed a couple of orange slices and continued on, finally reaching the canyon. It was incredible! Even though it was not very light out, the carved walls and intricate shapes blew me away. I loved how you could hear other runners commenting on the beauty and in amazement. We all felt incredibly blessed to be here.
The course made a little lollipop back through a more open air canyon back to the road and then the aid station. I had some coke and continued on. By this time I had fallen into a steady rhythm and found myself running with another woman around my pace. We chatted and decided to run together until one of us felt like either going ahead or slowing way down. Karrie definitely helped me keep going when I felt like slowing way down or even walking, so she was a huge blessing to me.
Horseshoe Bend was a 7 mile stretch of beauty! I am afraid of heights so I didn’t get too close to the edge, but wow oh wow. This section was hard – more scrambling, sliding down on my butt, climbing up over rocks, and trying to keep those darn pink ribbons in sight. It took me much longer than I expected to get through this section. But I probably could have cut at least 10 minutes off that time if I hadn’t taken so many pictures.
We finally got to Waterhole Aid Station and I refilled my bladder, stocked up on more gels, had watermelon and coke and some potato with salt. Delicious.
Waterhole Canyon was also quite amazing! Here you climb down steps to get into the canyon. The walls get really close together in some spots so it’s fun to weave in and around. You climb one big ladder to get out and then back to the sand!
I continued on with Karrie and we had some good conversations which made the time go by faster without any trouble. She helped me keep my mind off the fact that I was getting tired. I hope I did the same for her. We are running towards Page Rim Aid Station, the final portion of the race. We are almost done! But then we really hit the sand. And a giant hill. It was truly brutal to get up that hill in the sand. She was meeting her husband here, who would pace her the final 12 miles. I met Derreck, my husband here also. But he ran the half marathon that morning and would not be pacing me!
By now I was feeling slightly nauseous and new I needed to keep eating. All I could manage was gels, I knew if I could just get them down, however slowly, I would feel better. I may have gotten behind on nutrition already, and perhaps that is why I felt sick in the first place. I am still learning.
The Page Rim Trail is the runnable part of the race. It’s about 10 miles on single track, not much elevation gain or loss and really is quite beautiful as well. Karrie was also feeling sick and started to walk, so I kept running. I averaged about 12-13 min miles along this section. I kept wanting to slow down even more or just walk, but I told myself that as long as I could run, I should run, even if it’s slow. That loop seemed to take forever, but now I was by myself. I managed to pass a few people, so that helped my mood. I also started seeing some of the hundred milers coming. That was exciting to see, and so inspiring.
I got back to Page Rim aid station, took what I needed from my drop bag and put it in the return pile and down the sandy hill I went towards the finish! I couldn’t believe I was almost done. The course takes you scrambling up a small hill right at the end, and then between two giant rock walls and into the finish line shoot. I heard my name announced as I crossed the timing mats with a huge smile on my face.
Big Thanks to Vacation Races for putting on an outstanding race. Also thankful for all the volunteers to help things go smoothly and provide food at the aid stations. I am extremely grateful to the Navajo Nation for letting us run through your sacred land and sharing your culture with us. I am also so thankful to Derreck, for joining me on my crazy adventures and supporting me in my training. I know it takes time away from our family, and I appreciate you never complaining. Also thanks to Donna and Melody, for sharing the training miles and the journey in Antelope Canyon.
Things I learned: I need to strengthen my core more. My low back was tired and sore after 10 hours. It’s still sore 3 days later. I also need to train my stomach more. Though I managed okay with my fuel it certainly could have been better. Also still need to get in and out of aid stations more efficiently.
My Gear: New Balance Summit Unknown Trail Shoes, XOToes socks, gaiters made by yours truly (and had no sand in my shoes!!), XOSkin mid compression 4″ shorts, The North Face BTN shirt, Brooks Uplift Crossback Bra, Nathan Vapor Airess 2.0 Hydration Pack. I used Gu and Honey Stinger gels and Skratch Labs hydration mix. I had no chafing or blisters, EXCEPT, I stepped on my own toe because I lost balance. That toenail got bruised and I will lose it. Oh well.