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Antelope Canyon Ultra - Run

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

Months ago, Lisa (lisac957) asked me if I'd considered this race. I'd been to the area so knew how breathtakingly beautiful it was, but wasn't honestly sure if I was strong enough to take on miles and miles of sand. Somehow in the way of crazy ideas, I managed to talk her into the 55k instead of the Half Marathon which is especially funny to me since I trained and ran with her on her first and only other 50k in Fort Worth almost exactly 5 years ago from this race and I'm pretty sure that was supposed to have been a "one-time" thing. As I'm in Montana now, we didn't get to train together, but we did pretty much follow the same training plan which was fun knowing that there was someone else slogging through the same long runs at about the same time. This race really fit well into my overall 2017 racing plan as I'm determined to make this my "Comeback Year" and am signed up to take a second attempt at the Bear 100 that I DNF'd around mile 67 in 2013. To have even a glimmer of hope at success at that, I'm going to have to tackle some decent training races this year.
Event warmup:

I headed down after work to meet Lisa in Salt Lake City. We stayed the night, then headed to Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park Thursday to drive around and explore, then drove through Zion Nat'l Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park on Friday before packet pick-up. It was colder and breezier than I had expected, but was glad we were able to do an empty drop bag for jackets. I was tickled to see that the event shirt was a pretty teal color and had our names inside the 55k pattern.
  • 10h 22m 41s
  • 55 kms
  • 11m 19s  min/km

I am still a little perplexed at myself in this race. Sure, I had decently trained, but the weather had been cold and icy enough here that only my 22 miler, a 10 miler and an 8 miler were outside and those I had to do on an asphalt path not even gravel road. The rest were on my Zero Runner, so not at all course-specific training. This was just such a "Happy" race for me. The sand didn't bother me. I kept feeling like I should be irritated at it or "done" with it, but it felt really fun(?) to run through sand for miles. I honestly had to resist rolling around in it like a giant sandbox at the end. No joke. The climbs seemed bizarrely easy. Intellectually I knew we were going uphill, but at no moment was I even breathing heavy. I traditionally have NOT been much of a climber at all so this was encouraging. All I can figure is that I was 1) Really happy to be running with Lisa 2) Really happy to be outside for 10+ hours and 3) Really on top of calories. The worst part was some minor annoyance of the sand in my sock, but even with that I ended up with a new record of just ONE blister (where my middle left toe meets my foot). Another record, this was my first trail race ever to not fall. There were a couple close calls, but me not falling has never before happened. I didn't see anyone else fall either which is kind of unusual now that I think about it.
The beginning of the race had a lot of sand and it took several miles for people to space out on the course. In fact, this was probably one of the most congested trail races at the beginning of all the ones I've done. The sun was in the perfect position so that I could see Lisa's shadow right behind me and tried to adjust my pace to hers. After we crossed the first mini-mesa there was a long stretch of gentle downhill running. My race plan was to run as much as we could since I just don't run hills and knew that even some of the flat footing would be too tricky for running.
The slick rock section seemed to go on for quite a while, but was a lot easier to navigate than I had hoped after the RD's apology about marking it the best they could. I was a little surprised when we came across a woman crying and panicking about being so near the cliff edge. For me, the cliff edge was the cool part. I was internally thankful bunches of times though that we were not navigating that section in the dark. Gotta stay positive :).
My favorite part was the Water Hole slot canyon. The race went through exactly the section I had hiked with my husband in July so I was familiar with it. Somehow KNOWING we could do it when we came to rock obstacles made all the difference. It was also fun to catch Lisa's occasional "You've GOT to be kidding me!" expression. I was disappointed when we climbed out of the canyon as I had really wanted to see the rest of it.
The road section after Water Holes was smooth with lots of gentle downhill. The sun was bright and warm and we ran a lot of this section.
It was a long climb back up the mini-mesa after the mile 18 aid station, but I was already getting a little sad that we were more than halfway over. There was some deep sand again after the mile 23 aid station, but so much fun going down in it.
We checked into the Page Rim aid station only about 30 minutes ahead of the cut-offs. I wasn't exactly worried at that point, but have to admit to being slightly concerned. I know that so much can fall apart so fast in the last 10 miles and finishing this together was important to me. The first time through this aid station is where I started us down the wrong way (no signs, so I followed the only flagging I saw), but luckily the volunteers were paying attention. The first half of the Page Rim loop was a little secluded, but became more urban for a few miles which was ok, but felt a little odd crossing through a gold course during a trail ultra. After the golf course is where we saw 4-5 road runners. Legit, real road runners which is funny since I couldn't get over how the scenery really does look like the Wiley E Coyote and Road Runner cartoon. We kept trucking taking advantage of the most runnable sections, but walking a lot too.
It sounded a little off having an aid station less than a mile from the finish, but kind of gave a "Victory Lap" feel to the last little bit. The layout of the finish area was awesome. You approach the natural rock amphitheater from behind and come out between rocks to Navajo drums playing.
What would you do differently?:

I was a little jealous of the desert gaiters some other racers had, although I'm not sure they actually would've made a difference. I definitely would've worn short socks with compression sleeves instead of compression socks so that I could dump sand out of my socks more easily. I wish I had packed my phone for a few course pics, but didn't as I usually need to concentrate on not falling.
Post race
Warm down:

Afterwards we put on warm clothes, took a picture with the finish line arch and I had some pita crust pizza. The finisher pottery is really beautiful and is my new bathroom cup. We stopped at Wendy's in Kanab for frosties and fries. Why have I never had a frosty with salty fries after a race? Probably the best recovery combination ever, except I did probably eat a little too much and/or too fast. I started to feel a little queasy on the drive and had to pull over and tilt my seat back for a minute. Sure I was hobbling a bit Saturday night and a little Sunday, but this has been the best I've probably ever physically felt after a race. I was in much worse shape even after my 22 mile asphalt path training run. So, quick "Thank you!" shout out to all that shock absorbing sand.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

This race was not about fast for me. It was about enjoying a beautiful place with a great friend. It was not an experience to be rushed.

Event comments:

Beautiful race to not be rushed

Profile Album

Last updated: 2016-09-22 12:00 AM
10:22:41 | 55 kms | 11m 19s  min/km
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Good
Course: I admit that I didn't do much research on the course beforehand. I just really didn't want to psych myself out over the difficulty. I had hiked in the area so knew there would be rock and sand and was very glad that I went with trail shoes with good grip for rock scrambling. Overall, it was well-marked although I did have to hunt for one flag on the slick rock section and left the mile 23 aid station the wrong direction, but at least the volunteers redirected us.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2017-03-01 3:54 PM

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Subject: Antelope Canyon Ultra

2017-03-02 10:36 AM
in reply to: #5214795

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Extreme Veteran
Olathe, KS
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon Ultra

Great job out there! It sounds like you two had an epic trip and a really good time at the race. I will admit I'm a little bummed I wasn't there, too, but not enough to put in the training and actually do it! LOL

Glad that this was such a good race for you - I can't believe you're already up and running again! But then again, that shouldn't surprise me.

2017-03-02 12:31 PM
in reply to: #5214795

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Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon Ultra
Great job Amber on both the race and the report. I've only done one trail race and it was only a 5K so I can't imagine doing that 10 + times.

And yes, Frosty + fries = awesome recovery, especially after a long race like that!
2017-03-03 9:57 AM
in reply to: #5214795

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Roswell, Georgia
Subject: RE: Antelope Canyon Ultra

THANK YOU for doing this race with me! It was such an epic experience from start to finish, and I was so glad you were there to pace me and keep me from not falling off of a cliff . This race made me realize even more how much I miss running with you, so we've got to plan some more of these in the future. Just maybe not at 6,000 feet of elevation haha! 


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