Antelope Canyon 55k – Sand is nothing like Snow

Winter is my favorite season and February is (was) prime ski season in northern Utah. ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ is what my license plate says. My snow tires and ski rack have been on my car since October. When I register for races in February or March, I secretly hope that I don’t make the start due to an epic powder day—this has yet to happen in 4 solid years.

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I (sadly) have been able to run on dirt all winter, in shorts, without a beanie or gloves—I want to punch Global Warming in the face…and move to Canada. All in all, I was adequately trained for an early 55k for the first time in 5 years (silver lining to this pathetic snow year…I have actually been running and completely injury free). Every race report written about Antelope Canyon is going to talk about sand—Oh my god there is so much sand. What they might not mention is that the course (designed by Matt Gunn) is well thought out by someone (a real trail runner) who actually cares about the experience. This course takes participants through canyons and across terrain overlooking sites best seen slowly…on foot. Fast times and PR’s can happen elsewhere—Antelope Canyon is sandy and breathtakingly beautiful (and definitely not for fragile feet and egos).

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I was excited to start the race with so many friends, in the light (poor 50 milers). After a brief jog around the parking area we were all spinning through the sand laughing and talking. Cory was mentioning how great he was running and feeling after dropping some weight the healthy way over the winter (strong work), Jim was hoping for a hot day (I wanted to choke him), Connors was just happy to be out there and running—these three were about to have a great day and I could feel it.   I lost sight of them early and fell into a comfortable fun pace with Debbie and Curtis. I haven’t had the privilege to run a solid 13 miles with these two in some time and other than impaling my foot with a cactus needle (natures acupuncture) these were hands down my favorite miles in this race. Curtis took priceless scenery pics (I took zero) of Horseshoe bend and slot canyons.

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Most important–I laughed until my face hurt reminding me of why I love to run with this group of people!  Curtis said something about running with a “pair of dikes” (he claims this has something to do with a fence…that is still up for debate)…Debbie pulled me up a slot canyon (Thank you Bomber Athlete)…Curtis said ‘we have only run a third of this race’ (GPS watches are basically worthless to me, despite me sporting one every race)…I decided I needed to empty my shoes and run. Really the first true runnable stretch on the course with nothing in particular to photograph—I turned on my iPod and simply ran. It felt good.

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Lane and the little Farkas are easily one my favorite things to see coming into an aid station. Lane has this stuff down perfect! Coke, candy, Graham and Evalyn cheer and hug…they seem to know exactly what to say and do (mind reading little critters…they get that from their thoughtful parents).  I was sent out of the aid station initially in the wrong direction by one of the aid station workers.  Given the fact that I never looked at a course map, I would have never known that the 50milers and 50k intersected here…and I didn’t even recognize that I had already hit this aid station once (which has nothing to do with a map).  I want to thank the man in the brown shirt for running me down to turn me back onto the correct course.

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Uphill, douche-bag grade (Scott Jaime technical running term), in sand…I focused on cheering on the 50 mile runners coming at me–feeling actually bad that they were easily going to endure 30 miles of sand before they finish (poor bastards).  I never saw anyone in front or behind me which made me question the assertive man in the brown shirts good intentions.  Rolled into the next aid station where they had the best damn ho-made cookies (that is for you Mr. Thompson) I have ever tasted at an aide station. They assured me that brown shirt man had sent me in the right direction (of course he did).

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After leaving the aid station, I crossed a road where team Farka was loitering to feed me mini eggs!  Wow, they generally go above and beyond but THIS was platinum level stuff. I. Love. Cadbury. Mini. Eggs. The next section up and around the mesa overlooking Lake Powell and (oddly) through a golf course was runnable …making it my second favorite part of the race.  During this stretch I ran essentially solo.  I saw Corey Vigil for the first time since nearly the start of the race–his knee hurt but he was still running well. The next aid station was an out and back which is kind of fun–I like seeing people from the race to see either how far they have pulled in front of me or how far I have pulled in front of them.  Plus there was this super nice lady in a pink shirt that cheered “you go girl” each time I passed her at aid stations (I must be near her person).  She was delightful…I wish I knew her name. I also passed Steve and Pam twice since they had walked down the trail a bit.  Pam high 5’d me on my way out. I saw Misty on the out and she looked amazing!  I worried about her ankle in the sand, a lot…I chose not to even mention it until the finish line.

Nothing particularly remarkable to write about over the final stretch… except Steve explaining the section entering the golf course helped me from getting lost and Jim yelling to me to run the sand knolls into the finish made me want to punch him in the teeth (I have wanted to do this to Jim before…he understands we are friends …while punching him in the face may surprise him one day, I do think he will recognize that it was a long time coming).

Notable Notes:

-Not having snow in a place known for the “Greatest Snow on Earth” actually may force me to move to Canada one day.

-The Farka’s are good good people.  We all need more Farka in our life.

-Sand is definitely not snow.  I don’t think sand exists in Canada.

-Matt Gunn and company puts on incredible races. Truly about the experience.

-I love Cadbury Mini Eggs!

-Little Caesar’s and wine are officially my favorite pre-race meal.

-The Little Caesar’s in Page, AZ is …an experience.

-Pearl Izumi N2’s are totally okay to run a race in fresh out of the box (I have done this 3 times).

-I will be using a UltrAspire Iso Versa Handheld and the Spry vest for every 50k I race. Not carrying a bladder kept me on top of my hydration (because I can see it) AND I didn’t have the water weight on my shoulders.  I know this won’t be possible for most 50milers or longer…but I love racing with less.

-Our new race kits for 2015 are hands down the nicest most comfortable yet.

-Jim is bound to get punched by me in his lifetime.  I would like to apologize now.

-I listened to CCR Fortunate Son on repeat for most of this race.

-I enjoy finishing top ten of anything.

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