- The time of year
- The reasonable running temperatures (average of mid 60s for high, to 30's at night)
- A place I had travelled to before 12 years ago on part of our honeymoon trip.
THE WEEK BEFORE
I tried to trust in my training that I was ready for Bryce 100. I was starting to feel like I should have done more. My friends reached out and assured me I was ready and well trained. I was so busy at work with our biggest sale of the year that I got plenty of good sleep that week.
I got up at 3am after a restless night feeling way to nervous. I got in some calories, a bagel, banana and I was lucky enough to get some things 'cleared out'
ON THE WAY
The temperature gauge in the car read 34 degrees but it was a calm, still morning. Harry claims he saw 28 degrees as the temperatures continued to drop that morning. I took some warm layers I could drop off at the start to be taken back to the finish. I assured Caroline Williams that I wasn't going to run in my fleece pants as we huddled around the fire can. The director Matt Gunn called us over for a quick talk, he mentioned there was some obvious trail vandalism to our markers but they fixed those up. It was time to strip down to my shorts and t-shirt and we were soon on our way. All tensions and worries eased as we began to move.
0-10.6 THUNDER MOUNTAIN AID
We begin on the Coyote Hollow Trail which seems more tailored to bikes, we wound in and out and up and down gentle rolling hills. We begin at 8000ft, mostly walking as we waited for the runners to spread out. I was patient and enjoyed the nice easy start. Soon people where taking out there cameras snapping pictures of the views.
I ran gently downhills so as not to 'blowout' my quads early in the race. These ended up being some of the easiest miles of the course. I spotted a horny lizard as the temperatures began to warm and the sun started to hit us.
We popped out on a ridge and ran along the orange sandstone hills past huge vertical rock formations known as 'hoodoos' shaped by natural elements. Sometimes you stand in wonder at how they haven't just toppled over already.
We dropped 500ft down from the ridge to the lowest point of the course and ran through some lovely meadows before arriving at Thunder Mt Aid where Harry was waiting. I was hungry and stocked up on some fig newtons to take with me and put on some sunscreen before getting on my way.
10.6-19.5 PROCTOR CANYON AID
The section to Proctor Canyon Aid was mostly down at lower elevation. I was feeling good and pacing myself well. We ran more windy, rolling single track. The trails here are well packed but sandy and you can taste the dirt easily kicked up by other runners. After a few miles of easy terrain we faced a small climb up to Proctor Canyon Aid. I can usually maintain a strong power walk on my uphills, my legs felt great but suddenly I would find myself breathing hard and my heart beat pounding in my chest. I would have to stop every 6-8 steps on the steep climbs just to let my heart rate recover. The short climb was over quickly and I arrived at Proctor Canyon Aid. Harry was having his own grand adventures driving the dirt roads to come and meet me at the aid stations. I am glad he had made it to another one, I know there was no guarantee that he could find or even get to these aid stations.
19.5 -25.5 BLUBBER CREEK AID
The next section is shorter but wow was it hard. After a short descent from the aid station we soon began climbing. At first a nice easy gradual climb through more meadows
which turned into a steep ravine with huge boulders where I found myself stopping again to catch my breath. We were gaining altitude and I knew it wasn't going to get any easier so I just went with it. We approached the top of that climb we came into some Aspens. Just as breathtaking as any other part of the course. The colors astound you with the white bark and fluorescent green leaves.
We peaked out on a hill and it felt good to be running again after a slow ascent, we went down through some shrubs and into the pine trees descending 500ft before we began our big climb of 1000ft up to the next aid in just a couple of miles. The climb got steeper and I had to stop a little more frequently. The girl in front of me wasn't stopping on her climb but she moved very slowly up the climb. Even with my breaks I was able to catch back up. When we arrived at Blubber Creek Aid we were rewarded with amazing views. I was pretty hungry when I arrived and the nice volunteer made me just a jelly sandwich. It had been hard to eat on the move with all the nausea I was dealing with, but I was eating well at the aid stations.
25.5-38.3 TO KANAB CREEK AID
This section reminded at an altitude of around 9000ft we ran along some beautiful ridges and along cliffs
The air was thin up here and even running these easy looking rolling hills could be difficult.
We went into the pine trees on a wider section of trail, even with the trees the afternoon soon was blazing down on us
There was alot of runnable sections here but with the altitude alot of us were walking, even running downhill winded you! I caught up to some friends on the trail who said they had no intentions of running at this altitude, he told me we had just approached 9300ft a little earlier. It had now taken 9 1.2 hrs to make it to the 100k turnaround meaning I had come 50k. My longest 50k time yet! Still I accepted the time easily due to the difficulty of this course and that I was still making good time. Plus I wanted to begin this way, I still had a ways to go.
I met Harry at Kanab Creek Aid at 3:30pm right on his estimated time of my arrival. Burrito and pudding while I sat on a log, a cool wash cloth felt great on my head. I changed my shirt and was soon again on my feet.
Climbing with Jeff to Kanab Creek - an experienced hardrocker! I knew I must be in good hands.
33.2 - 38.3 STRAIGHT CANYON AID
We ran along some beautiful sections here towards Straight Canyon Aid along cliff edges with amazing sandstone features
We ran some wider trail here littered with small rocks. The grade was easy and with some nice downhill stretches. We were making a turn to the east we got this great view of a forest of pines and cliffs in the distance. I think it was clear where we were headed.
I was feeling very strong through this section and could run most of it. Making my way into Straight Canyon Aid. It was time for a fresh pair of Hokas, my toes felt like they were bumping in the older ones. I grabbed some fruit and a toastie sandwich to snack on as I headed down the dirt road. I feel I am fueling well. Replacing my GU bottle about every 20 miles.
38.3-44.7 TO PINK CLIFFS AID
We took the dirt road down from Straight Canyon Aid for a mile and then crossed an open meadow surrounded by pines. So we began another long climb up to the highest point of the course at 9500ft. After climbing gently up through the meadow we climbed a long dirt road, other runners headed on there way back flying down the road offered me encouragement. I was taking breaks again on this long climb. The last 0.15 up to the top of pink cliffs was the shortest but probably the hardest climb of the day! After taking in the view I began the climb.
Doug Campbell catching up on me at Pink Cliffs
Finding I now had to stop every 4 steps, Doug Campbell from VA joined me and couldn't move any faster either. Glad to know I wasn't the only one having trouble out there.
44.7-50 TO CRAWFORD PASS
I would see Harry again at Crawford pass as he skipped pink cliffs with it being so hard to get to. I was happy he was able to get some rest. The 5.3 to the halfway point went by fast as I was mostly running and feeling great. I ran down the long dirt road for a few miles dropping 1000ft and then some single track I looked up to the towering cliffs above me and hoped to heck I didn't have to climb up that!
I got reassured after I asked a runner if we had to go 'up there'! Phew. I was happy I would make it to the aid during sunset to see Harry. I arrived to Crawford pass aid station -the half way point- to an amazing bunch of cheering volunteers. It felt great to be there! I took some time here to brush my teeth, grab some layers for the night. I saw Doug Campbell again who was looking a bit rough, Doug would make it 2 more aid stations to mile 61 before dropping out due to a huge blister. I met Linda Dewees here too from CA, we ran very close to each other during the trip back passing each other back and forth. She gave me great encouragement that I looked great though somehow that was hard to believe. My chest felt tight, the climbs back where getting slower.
THE WAY BACK
Back up the long dirt rd to Pink Cliffs. I caught up with Doug Cammen from NJ. We had been back and forth, mostly with him being forth. I felt really good and strong on the low grade climb back up. The night was here and the cooling temperatures felt great. I powered up to pink cliffs and it was supa windy up there. I got in some hot ramen soup while Doug was patching up his feet. It was taking him a while due to the cold. We would find out the next day that It was around 28 degrees again for the low that night. Even though the tent was staked the kid was holding onto the tent, others volunteers where curled up on the floor trying to stay warm. It wasn't long before I was shivering so I knew I had to get moving. I was pretty scared about the short steep descent from pink cliffs with the trail so close to the edge. I hoped I wouldn't get blown off. I made it down (phew) and was running alot of the dirt road back down to Straight Canyon Aid. Shadows played tricks on me as I ran back through the meadows and sometimes I thought the lights on the course markers were eyes.
I walked up the dirt road back to Straight Canyon Aid. Harry was awake and saw me coming from the car. The volunteer at the aid station helped me put in some new headlight batteries. I had more warm soup but it didn't take long before I was trembling. Harry had my tights but I refused to put them on because I didn't want the hassle of 'changing'. I went into panic mode as I left the aid station, I couldn't remember the next section well, my chest ached and I was cold. My first real low point of the course. He assured me I would be ok once I got moving.
The next section was slow, I climbed up the wide trail section that I had loved flying down earlier. It was only 5 miles back to Kanab but it took me over 2 hours to get there. There was no one else around and I thought I might have missed the aid station and be disqualified. Harry was surprised by my late arrival. I was getting sleepy and just wanted to curl up on the trail for 10 minutes.
Finally I arrived at Kanab Creek. They had a nice fire going, chairs and blankets! It was nice to sit around the fire with the other runners. I grabbed a blanket and got hot soup in me - I was doomed to ever get out of this aid station!! This would be one of my longest stops at 30 minutes. I slouched in the chair and closed my eyes for a minute. I soon told myself I had better get moving but as I tryed to step away from the fire my my body convulsed in the cold and I couldn't stop shaking. I felt ill and Harry 'told' me to put the tights on. So I went back to the fire and pulled them over my shorts (why didn't I think of that earlier), instantly that felt better and I began moving again. Harry helped me so much, he told me I was looking and moving good. It wouldn't be light till I saw him again. Once again before dawn I began getting very sleepy. I stopped to sit on a log and close my eyes knowing I could very easily sleep right there. I pushed onwards, I wasn't running to much on this section of rocky trail I just found it easier to power walk it.
I arrived at Blubber Creek it was still very cold even with the sun coming up. The aid station volunteers were shivering and wrapped up in blankets. I got in some pancake for breakfast and a fruit cup. I had now reached a new distance of 74 miles. It didn't feel as long now. I didn't realise the next aid station was Proctor Canyon again. Linda came into the aid station saying I looked really good. Harry helped get her some food. As I left Kanab Creek Aid, Harry would walk with me a short ways. He was very concerned by how much I had to stop and that my chest was sore, he asked me if it was a heart attack, but the ache was mostly on my right side. It was good to be leaving 9000ft and we had (what I thought) was a mostly downhill section to Proctor.
I became very confused on my way to the next aid. Harry said it was 5 or 6 miles but it felt much longer. I couldn't remember so much downhill - I was worried I was following old markers from the previous morning - no one would know where I am, I would run out of water, I can't climb back up all the way I just came down. All panic where flashing. So I decided to wait around, 10 minutes and no one was coming. I called out ' HELLO?' . I just wanted to cry I came this far and now I would fail. I was angry, frustrated and sad. Finally Linda was coming down the hill after I about 20 minutes of waiting, she assured me it was the right way that she remembered all the long hill. Big relief, I was having fun again, but a little more pushed for time now.
We started to climb, I kept looking for the trail we came off the morning before which would tell me the aid station is near. I kept thinking I saw it and then some of the trees in the distance would look like a car, playing tricks on me. Finally after a long slow journey uphill I arrived at Proctor Canyon Aid at 10am. Harry didn't meet me here as we would be running down the road and they tried to keep as many off the road as they could. I knew I couldn't stay long at Proctor with the speed I was moving. I took off my layers from the night which I had now been sweating in with the morning sun. I quickly ate a fruit cup and took some grilled cheese to go. Another long dirt road ahead of us. First we climbed a couple of miles then all downhill to the keyhole arch trail and Kings Creek Aid. I tried to run some of the downhill but my form just failed. I could make a quick walk down the road just as fast. It felt like forever to reach the unmanned aid station. Then I faced another good climb ( I was hoping the RD might have skipped this part in the course changes) there were tons of switchbacks up keyhole arch and I was surprised how many people where behind me climbing slowly too. Where did they all come from? I felt a little re-energized getting to the top of that climb and ran most of the way into the final aid station.
Thank goodness Harry got some sunscreen on me. I was so stubborn that he just pumped it on me. We were informed the finish was 11 miles from there and mostly on ATV trail, a gradual climb and then a flat road to the finish. We had 5 hours from here to finish. If only I could run it, it would take me half that time. The tought of running for that long pained me. It was getting very warm and the heat slowed us all down. There was very little shade on the road, I swung my arms and power walked as much as I could. I ran a short stretch of downhill but the road was mostly flat, so I ended up walking again. Linda was walking very strong and passed me. Every time we got to a little raise on the road we expected to get a view of Rubys Inn in the distance, but we never did so it was hard to know when it was coming up which felt like forever. After a long walk I spotted Harry taking pictures. I ran a few seconds, but it was too much of an effort. I walked up to Harry and he asked what I tought of Bryce 100 and I TOLD HIM. I didn't mean what I said ('it sucks') I had actually had alot of great moments on this trail.
I didn't feel a high or surge of energy when I approached the finish. I didn't feel satisfied with my accomplishment. But it took some time to set in. I plopped to the ground after finishing just wanted to sit. Beer tasted good and it took some time to realize I had made a great accomplishment and I have many happy memories. I had finished a truly tough, brutal 100 miler for my first one! Bryce is going to be a very popular destination for Ultra runners, the course is just amazing.
I placed 15 out of 16 women
103rd place out of 114 finishers.
Total time for 100 miler: 34 hours 47 minutes 40 seconds