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Antelope Canyon 55K - Run

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Page, Arizona
United States
Ultra Adventures
40F / 4C
Total Time = 10h 22m 41s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

Another birthday race adventure! Some time last year, Amber (InnerAthlete) and I talked about this bucket list of a race and how we both wanted to do it. I originally signed up for the half marathon, but somehow Amber convinced me I could do the 55K with her and I was up for the challenge. I wanted to prove that after breaking my leg at Ironman Louisville (October 2015), I was recovered enough to not only run but do an EPIC run, and I think I picked a good one.

I worked half a day Wednesday, then flew to Salt Lake City where Amber met me (driving in from Montana). We stayed at an airport hotel, then got up Thursday to drive to Bryce Canyon. There, we explored the cold and snowy national park and lightly hiked around a bit - we stayed there that night. Friday morning we got up and drove to Zion National Park and then the Pink Corral Sand Dunes state park - both gorgeous and breathtaking - such a neat area of the country. Then on to Page, AZ for packet pickup and race check-in.

We participated in a Navajo sunset prayer ceremony done by the local Navajo tribe people (about half of the race is on their land). Then we listened to the Vice President of the Navajo Nation talk to us about the land, the people and what they are doing to try and promote healthier lifestyles. He would also be running the 55K with us - so cool.

We were unexpectedly cold as the wind had picked up and the temperatures were 7 or 8 degrees cooler than the forecast, so we decided we would have an empty drop bag at one of the aid stations so we could bundle up in the morning and shed a layer. Great decision.

Ate dinner then checked into the hotel and were baffled that a Courtyard Marriott did not have an elevator - felt a little primitive lugging suitcases up stairs but it is what it is. Laid everything out and picked which nutrition I wanted to carry. I was SO ready for this.
Event warmup:

No warm up, just shivering in the cold and taking a few pictures.
  • 10h 22m 41s
  • 34.2 miles
  • 18m 13s  min/mile

The gun went off and I thought, here we go! No stopping for 34 miles! I just had no idea what to expect except for sand of course. Everything I read was sand sand sand - and the first couple of miles were definitely in fairly deep sand. Amber and I decided early on there was no point in exerting crazy energy trying to climb up hill in the deep sand, and everyone else seemed to agree and walk those sections. After we reached the top of the first climb everyone was stopping to take photos so we did, too. THEN MY PHONE DIED. Two miles in. I was kind of heartbroken, knowing that I wouldn't get photos of the most beautiful place I'd likely ever run in. But no use dwelling on it. Nothing I could do.

After that, we ran on a few miles of sand (I think, it's all running together), then crossed several miles of solid, jagged rock. It was not very "runnable," and we were just power climbing and trying to jog a few steps here and there where we could. There was no path on much of this section, it was just - find your own way in between the rocks and the spiky bushes and try to find the next pink ribbon marker. Up, Up, Up. For many miles. I was wondering when we would get to go down.

Then we started to descend into the canyon. Here was the down. Parts of it made me very tentative but they were doable, watching Amber ahead of me. But there was one section where I was truly a little scared. I couldn't see a good way to get down (I think Amber had slid on her butt) and my knees and ankles were not happy as it was - sliding or jumping in this terrain was not in my wheelhouse. Amber had to coax me from the front, while another lady had to coax me from the back. I knew I would make it down, but it was just very scary for a minute.

More descent and finally we were on the slot canyon floor. This was it - the most stunning part of the course and I knew it would be. The canyon walls twisted and wound around, smooth and beautiful patterns, yet jagged pieces jutting out so far you had to bob and weave as to not knock your head on the rocks. The sunlight streamed down here and there and I was in awe of the universe here. It was, like the Navajo elder had promised the day before, a very spiritual experience and one that I will never forget.

There was a 10-foot or so ladder we had to climb to begin the exit of the canyon and I was proud that handled that surprisingly well. Not the ladder itself but getting off of the ladder and through a very tiny, windy, cave-like hole where you had to crouch and twist and lift your legs in different directions all at the same time.

After the canyon, it's kind of a blank space in my mind. I think we covered mostly sand after this, trying again to run what we could and walk/climb the rest. I just can't remember though, but I know that was the end of the first loop. The volunteer told us there that we were 40 minutes ahead of the cut offs, which was OK but not as much of a cushion as we wanted.We had one more, separate loop to go and it was supposed to be the most runnable - I was really looking forward to that even though I had blisters forming and my quads were utterly busted from the ups and downs.The other thing that was concerning me was that my fingers and wrists were swelling to an alarming degree. I couldn't make a tight fist and they were so fat like sausages. I kept lifting them above my heart for long sections of time, but nothing seemed to help. They didn't hurt, but it worried me a lot.

Inside the 2nd loop, I was mildly disappointed that people considered this "runnable." It certainly wasn't the rock/mountain climbing we had on the first section, but the jagged rocks and terrain made a trail rookie like me slow to a walk, otherwise I knew I would trip and go down. I just tried to stay a few paces behind Amber and put my feet where she was putting hers. After the first few miles of this, the ground did turn more runnable, in a single skinny track. We ran big sections of this and walked the uphills. I felt like we got in a pretty good groove where we could here, despite being 22 or 25 miles into this thing. At the far aid station on this loop we were only 25 minutes ahead of the cut off but that was the last aid station with a time cut off so we knew we had made it.

I really slowed down on the back half of this loop, I had blisters forming and popping on both of my feet and everything hurt. Amber would prompt me to run by just starting without saying a word, and I would comply for the most part. One time I let out a loud groan and she laughed but didn't push me to run. This section seemed to be in slow motion since we were walking so much of it and we were so close to the end, yet so far away at the same time.

Finally we sighted the last aid station that is a mile from the finish line. I had to pee really bad (SUCH a good thing, I was very on top of hydration) so stopped to do that and grab some M&Ms, then we had to shimmy down some more rock where I got kisses from a trail doggie that just made my day - then onto the last 1/2 mile of deep sand and then we were all the way down and just had to run around the amphitheater.

We made our way to the back entrance where a ramp was set up and as soon as we rounded the corner of the ramp I saw the finish signs and heard the Navajo drums playing over a speaker and the announcer. I squealed like a little kid and gave us a drum roll on Amber's back - here we are! Freaking finishing a really difficult 55K! I was so surprised to see a lot of people at the finish line, cheering with kazoos and hollering for strangers like us. People were clapping and looking us right in the eye with this genuine happiness for us. It was amazing.

What would you do differently?:

Physically: I was REALLY pleased with my training. The best I could train was on a gravel path and I think that really prepared me for the sand and sliding around. I'm not sure how I could have trained for the mountain climbing, except maybe a stair climber.

Mentally: Also very happy with myself here. I had read many race reports and been more than prepared for the sand and even scared of it as one of my friends said it was so bad that she almost didn't finish it last year. But shockingly, I had HARDLY ANY SAND IN MY SHOES. I tried to "dump" the sand at one of the aid stations but there just wasn't very much in them. I'm guessing it was my shoes (Brooks Cascadias) and gator combination, because Amber had quite a heap of sand in both of her shoes and even inside her socks that I just didn't. I don't know, but I'm not complaining about that, haha.

Nutrition: I did a really good job here as well. I ate things I brought: 1 Clif Bar, 1 Honey Stinger chew package, 2 gels and Gatorade. And I supplemented the rest at the aid stations with boiled potatoes (THE BEST), bacon (WHAT - YES), a few bites of quesadillas, big handfuls of M&Ms, tailwind drink and Coca Cola. I was a little hungry at the end, but never to the point of my stomach growling or feeling weak. I think it was just about perfect.
Post race
Warm down:

Amber and I wandered around the finish line area, got our finishers hand-made ceramic cup, flip flops, food - they had a pizza station that Amber got and then a warm pot of rice and beans that I was able to eat right away. Plugged my phone in so I could get power back on to take some photos and text my family. Set up some chairs and wrapped ourselves in blankets to watch more finishers come in for a little bit before heading out.

Drove about 3 hours north to a little town where we had found a cheap Air BnB place to crash for the night, stopping for Wendys on the way where we both got salty fries and frostys that just hit the spot. In the Air BnB we both took epsom salt baths before crashing. I couldn't fall alseep for a few hours and we had to get up at 5 a.m. to drive into Salt Lake City where my flight was leaving from and I had a hard time staying awake. Got to sleep a little bit on the planes so that was good. My parents picked me up at the airport and we went to their house for my birthday dinner, then they drove me back home where I didn't even unpack just went straight to bed. TIRED GIRL, but very proud of us.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Sand and rock climbing.

Event comments:

Antelope Canyon is a difficult trail/mountain/desert race with a wide variety of terrain to cover. Most people only focus on the sand portions in their race recaps, which is a lot, but there are also many miles of rock and "scrambling" up and down mountain terrain. Running in the waterhole slot canyon is probably the most beautiful place you will run in your lifetime, and completely worth the entire experience. The last ~10 miles are on a dirt path but still has many rocky areas to navigate so it's not smooth running by any means.

This is a wonderful race on mostly Navajo land. The Navajo people are highly involved in the race and even race with you, which is very special. This is definitely a bucket-list type of race that I recommend you do if you are thinking about it.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2016-09-06 12:00 AM
10:22:41 | 34.2 miles | 18m 13s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Average
Course: Rock/mountain terrain, sand (all levels - deep, fine, packed) and dirt.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2017-02-27 11:15 AM

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Atlanta, Georgia
Subject: Antelope Canyon 55K

2017-02-27 12:48 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Lisa, what an accomplishment, what a race!!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading your report and will confess to both smiling and tearing up a little upon reading your account of the emotional finish, wow!  This race is on my wish list but you've just moved it up higher in 'want to do'.  Big congratulations on rising to and fully meeting a challenging distance, terrain, and all after recovering from the broken leg in 2015.  What a comeback!

2017-02-27 12:49 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Wow, that was some birthday race!!  That area of the country is so beautiful, I'm a bit jealous - just a bit though  It's nice to have a race where you've controlled all the factors you can control and just go with those you can't.  Congratulations!!

2017-02-27 3:02 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Wow, awesome stuff. Congratulations on a loooooong day. What a huge accomplishment!

2017-02-27 3:09 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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, Minnesota
Gold member
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K
2017-02-27 3:31 PM
in reply to: BikerGrrrl

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Raleigh, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K
Awesome race! Great job!

2017-02-28 10:32 AM
in reply to: awm007

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Raleigh, NC area
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Great job! What a gorgeous place!

2017-02-28 11:37 AM
in reply to: #5214528

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Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K
Wow, what a great experience Lisa, a job well done! That IS cool that the Navajo's are involved in this event. I flow to New Mexico some years back to talk to the Navajo tribal council and NTUA about our water pump systems it was a unique experience. Beautiful pictures thanks for sharing!
2017-02-28 1:57 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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Whispering Pines, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K
Awesome race! I've heard so many good things about that place that I may have to swing out that way one day!

Congrats on putting in the effort and training and getting to the finish!
2017-02-28 3:12 PM
in reply to: d00d

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Gold member
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

What a stellar race! The Navajo drums, the slot canyon, are awesome

GREAT job on having such a great time.

2017-02-28 6:09 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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Extreme Veteran
Olathe, KS
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Lisa, Great job out there and great race report as always! Now I am so curious what the "going down into the canyon" and ladder/tunnel parts looked like. I'm sure the whole day was a spectacular and moving experience. Congrats on the finish! You really have come amazingly far (pun intended!) since your broken ankle. I'm proud of you!


2017-02-28 7:14 PM
in reply to: LindaKC

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Canandaigua NY
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Congratulations on a great race!  I enjoyed the race report!

2017-03-01 1:46 PM
in reply to: kenj

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Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Soooo HAPPY that I was able to run this with you! Need to get my race report done. You might want to skip the part in my report where I just got ONE blister and am pretty sure I didn't breathe heavy... at all... the entire time. You were so SPOT ON with training and nutrition that it carried you over terrain that there really was no training for (in Kansas at least!). 

2017-03-01 8:39 PM
in reply to: #5214528

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New user
Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

I'm so happy that you two did this. Matt puts on a great race and nobody ever finishes one of them saying that it was too easy. They're my favorite race company and I sincerely hope they stay around doing exactly what they're doing for a long time. Will you do another?

2017-03-07 10:45 AM
in reply to: trijamie

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Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon 55K

Wow - what a race, what a finish!  Awesome... 

Congrats on doing something so cool, so substantial, so... LONG! 


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