Two more miles: Bryce Canyon Ultra

About 5 miles to the finish.

I already started writing this race report in my head around mile 24. You know, you have a lot of time on your hands when you’re running a whole lot of miles in the middle of nowhere. It went something like this “Wow, I can’t believe how great I feel! This is hands down the easiest of the Grand Circle Trail Series. I’m going to totally crush my PR. YES!!!”

Oh, how quickly a race can change when you have 26 miles to go. Twenty-six uphill, rugged, hot, high elevation, rocky, sandy, breathtaking and beautiful miles to go.

And just like that my story changed.

My new story was “WHAT THE %$*&!!! This is the hardest…((little whimpers)) .. arhgg.. ((bigger whimpers)).. I’m soo thirsty. I’m seriously SO thirsty. I’m the most thirsty I’ve EVER been in my entire life. How much farther to the next aid station? Seriously? Why are we not there yet??”

The Bryce Canyon 50 miler started bright and early at 4:30 AM. A bunch of groggy runners loaded onto comfy shuttles that would take us to the start.

The starting line was in the middle of a Dixie National Forest. The sun was coming up and the aspens were glowing and shimmering. It was very scenic and everyone was filled with excitement (and nervousness).

The first couple of miles ran singletrack next to ledges and offered views of pink ledges and the Grand Staircase.

Sunrise over the pinks

The pack quickly started to stretch out and I got into a pretty good stride. The temps were cool, the trail was perfect and the views were to die for. This is really such a unique part of our country. Bryce is practically my back yard here in southern Utah. Seeing it from a new perspective was such a neat experience.

The trail quickly started to climb and as I got higher and higher, the ground seemed to just disappear from all around me. I was looking out over pine forests and beautiful pink cliffs.

I was excited to learn that most of the race would be run on the Grand View Trail. The Grand View Trail is special to me. It was the last 7 miles of the Grand to Grand Ultra that I ran last year. I kept having weird flashbacks to that amazing, grueling 170 mile self-supported stage race.

One of my favorite photo op spots along the course. Gorgeous!

Around mile 11, I saw some familiar faces. My friends Erin and Carrie were manning an aid station, whipping up pancakes and all kinds of delicious breakfast foods. I can’t tell you how much the volunteers mean to us runners. You guys are just THE BEST. I grabbed a very quick bite, snapped a selfie, and I was off.

Kanab in da houzzz!

Seeing my friends gave me an extra boost and I was feeling pretty good, despite having really really annoying stomach issues. I cruised a few more miles to the next aid station which was rockin’ and manned by more fun and encouraging people (seriously, this race really had some awesome aid station volunteers!) “It’s all downhill from here”(at least until the next aid station)

I’m going to now fast forward a bit — made it to the Blubber Aid Station where I saw a bunch of familiar faces. One of the reasons I love ultra running is the community! The runners are THE BEST. And because the sport is still relatively small, you end up bumping into quite a bit of the same crazy people at the races. Grabbed some water, sunscreen, glide.. and shoved onward. Before leaving, my friend Jackie said “this section I’ve been told is pretty hard.” Ut.Oh.

So now, enjoy some nice photos. My mom told me if ya got nothing nice to say, don’t say it πŸ™‚ The next 22 miles really sucked. But, sprinkle in this gorgeous scenery and you know what, looking back on it all it was pretty awesome, actually. And now that I’ve done it, I feel pretty bad ass.

Fast forward a few hours. Where was I?

Nine miles to the finish. NINE MORE MILES! I got this! Nine miles is like… nuthin’. Right? Wrong.

Thankfully, the last nine miles might be the most beautiful nine miles I’ve ever been lucky enough to run. The course winded along the Thunder Mountain Trail, a trail that is famous for mountain biking and hiking. IT. WAS. GORGEOUS! GAH!! So brutally breath-taking. So freakin’ hard. So steep. Just nine more miles.

By this time I was feeling really pretty awful. My stomach issues never went away and I was hurting. I caught up to a few 50k runners and asked if they knew how much farther to the finish. “About 2 miles… I think?” Awesome! Two miles! I could rally.

An hour later (and more than 2 miles..) I saw another person walking towards me. It was a spectator who was looking for their family member on the trail. “how much farther???” I asked. “About 2 miles?” OMG. No!!

Again, I tried to muster up an remaining energy to rally to the finish. I pushed on. I saw another person up ahead. “How much farther??? do you know??” I kid you not…

“About 2 miles maybe? Sorry!”

At this point I was on the brink of tears. I really really wanted to be done. Up ahead I saw a gravel road and a sign. “To Finish: 1 mile!”

It’s official this time! ONE MILE! I started to jog. Up ahead I saw two runners who had giant smiles and were really bookin’ it. It was my friends Catherine and Clair! Super! Just what I needed. The three of us were about to put a period on this crazy tough day.

friends on the trail – Clair and Catherine

we are so sooo almost there!

quarter mile to go! still smiling πŸ™‚

I saw Steve in the distance. YES! He video’d my finish. It makes me happy to watch this all over again. It’s funny how now, 2 days later, I look back on this race with so many smiles and stories, but at the time I wanted to die. I am just going to go with this cliche quote — “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” and yay! I didn’t die!

  • Congratulations on your finish! The photos you take are really beautiful. I and my husband are driving from our home in Minnesota, to Montana to camp at Glacial for a few days and then to Utah to run Capital Reef. That is what led me to your blog. We've never hiked / run in Utah and are sure looking forward to it. What are some of your 'must do hike' recommendations while in Utah?

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