To say that I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this race would be an understatement. A serious understatement. And, that statement can’t be understated either.
But, basically, now as I write my race recap — everything hurts and I am dying.
What was planned as simply a fun and challenging trail half marathon turned out to be the TOUGHEST race I’ve ever done. And, considering I’ve done over 150 races — that’s saying a lot. It was that brutal. But, more on that later.
I signed up for this race because it’s literally in my backyard. Mueller Park is just a couple of miles from my front door. It’s a canyon I’ve visited numerous of times, but rarely hiked. Most trips were for campfires, campouts or mile hikes.
Even after I started running I never ventured over to Mueller Park. The biggest reason because I never wanted to venture out there alone. Not just because of the unfamiliarity with the area, but also because of my fear of mountain lions, bears and deer. At least two of those fears are legit. Anyways, I’ve just stuck to the local roads when I run close to home.
Wanting to expand my running routes I figured the Elephant Rock Trail Run would be a great way to familiarize myself with the trails and ease some of those worries I had. Sure there’s always the possibility of running into mountain lions, bears and deer — but those fears really become secondary when you know where you’re going and the distances in between.
In addition to familiarizing myself with the trails, I wanted to run to and from the race to give me a good 20 miles of running for the day. With my ankle injury I haven’t been able to get the kind of training I wanted and knowing I have a number of marathons coming up in the fall, I knew I needed a good 20 miler to prep myself for them.
But, honestly, if I knew what kind of race I was getting myself into, I would have driven myself to the race. I don’t regret it though, because Saturday’s 20 miles were some of the toughest miles I’ve ever run. Miles that left me more tired and sore than most of the ultras I’ve done.
I set out from my house at 4:50am to make sure I had enough time to get my race packet and shirt before the 6am start time. After trekking from the packet pickup at the church I moseyed over to the park entrance where all 85 of us runners congregated. It was fun to see so familiar faces and meet the faces behind the names on Facebook. I always love start lines.
I don’t think of us realized what we were getting ourselves into, especially since this was the inaugural run. There weren’t other runners to gauge their experience with, so we were going in blind. Which sometimes isn’t the worst way to go into a race. But, I felt completely blindsided by it all.
The start times were staggered about every 15 miles. The marathoners went out at 6am, the half marathoners 6:15 and the 7 milers 6:30am. With 85 runners you’d think that wouldn’t be necessary, but I am glad they did it that way, because as soon as the marathoners and half marathons split with the 7 milers to run up the pipeline trail that trail would have been a bit too crowded.
Once I hit the pipeline I thought I was the last runner. The half marathoners ahead of me were mountain goats and gained quite a distance ahead of me. I wasn’t surprised by this, it’s almost expected that I will be last. But, it’s something that never bugs me. If it did then odds are I just wouldn’t sign up for the race.
But, as I was dying and not quite half way up the beast I see a runner approaching me from behind. They were gaining quite a bit of ground on me. You could tell this wasn’t a struggle for them.
As they got closer I noticed it was my friend Lula. An experienced trail runner it shouldn’t have surprised me much that the climb was easy for her. But, what made me laugh and silently curse her — was she was doing this technical climb while TALKING ON THE PHONE! Here I am enduring to the end like a pioneer ready to die from dysentery and she moseys up the hill like she’s taking an escalator at the mall.
But, that hill was no joke! It was a quarter mile hike with a 800 foot elevation gain. It was brutal. As soon as I summited the blasted thing I just sat at top, said a little prayer of gratitude that I survived it and ate one of my Larabars as I enjoyed the view. I tried to capture it on my phone, but you just can’t capture those moments — they just have to be experienced.
The ascent was brutal, but the descent on the other side was a beast of its’ own. Luckily it wasn’t as steep, but the terrain was steep and extremely rocky. The technicality of the descent was exhausting not just physically, but mentally as well. I focused on my next step so I didn’t roll my ankle or biff it — it was extreme. There were some stretches where I just sat on my butt and scooted down the trail.
Once I finally got past rocky trail and headed toward the first aid station I was spent. I parked myself on the dusty trail, ate some watermelon and Gatorade and composed myself for the next stretch of trails. I felt like I was about 7-8 miles into the beast, but I was just 3.5 miles into the race.
That was a depressing reality.
But, also an indication of how tough that stretch of trail was for not just me, but everyone.
I felt bad for the marathons because they had to tackle that same terrain twice since their course was an out and back. I couldn’t imagine climbing up those rocky trails and then down that stupid steep hill. I would have died.
With the toughest stretch of course out of the way the climbing wasn’t over. We still had about 3-4 miles of climbing to the Rudy’s Flats aid station where we’d finally make a reasonable descent toward the finish line. I power hiked most of those miles and it was tough. I had to stop and stretch because my quads were just screaming.
I started being passed by marathoners and it just amazed me at how these runners were almost seamlessly crushing the terrain. Granted most probably train exclusively on trails, but still — these were mountain goats and I was jealous. Being the last runner in the bunch made me feel like nothing but bear bait. But, I don’t focus on that, I know if I dedicate more miles on the trails I’ll be there too. I think more than anything I was just amazed at the strength of those runners.
Anyways, once I hit the Rudy’s Flats aid station I reloaded my water, chilled for a bit and left with a bag of bananas and PB&J sandwich squares. I was severely under prepared food wise. I had my bugout pack with my Larabars, applesauce and Gatorade, but that simply wasn’t enough. I was packed for a 3-4 hour race … not 5-6.
Once I left the Rudy’s Flats aid station I was literally all down hill from there. I was 4:30 hours into the race and I just wanted to be done. So the downhill was a reprieve and I was able to pickup the pace. It was a whole different race.
Not far from the aid station I ran into Angie who was on her return trip to the finish line. She was struggling and had fallen, but like the badass that she is — was still going. We stopped for a picture and acknowledged how this course was kicking our trash before moving on.
I really loved the last part of the race. I just focused on the run and it was infinitely faster. The last couple of miles were tough, but it was more because of the heat.
The trails are covered fairly well, but there were spots where I was just dead. But, I just wanted to be done. I was thirsty and running low on water. I had some Gatorade in my pack — which I SHOULD have gotten out — but, the effort just didn’t seem worth it. I was striving for that finish line.
When I finally reached the finish line I was greeted by Wanderely with a big hug and I just collapse in a camping chair. I didn’t want to move. I just sat and drank water and Powerade while munching on watermelon. The desire to move much was stifled by cramps and fatigue.
I’ve never felt this wrecked after a race. My 50 miler was probably on par, but after a half? Never.
There was a breakfast provided at a nearby campground, but I waited at the finish line to see in Angie — who was the last runner on the course. I sat at the finish line and just visited with friends, it was the best way to recover because I knew I still had about a 3.5 mile run home. That’s a fancy way of saying I was procrastinating my run home.
After waiting for a couple hours of Angie we got to the breakfast that had been sitting there since about 7am — it was 4pm. But, at that point I don’t think of any of us questioned whether eating 9 hour old sausage and scrambled eggs were a bad idea or not — we were just hungry. And, it was freaking delicious.
I made it on my home around 4:45pm and in the heat of a day. It was about 90 degrees and I was dead. I was half tempted to grab a ride when Wanderely drove past, I grinded out those 3.5 miles and made it home in one piece.
I was completely finished.
Those 20 miles were seriously some of the toughest miles I’ve done. But, I’m so proud of myself. I did it.
Will I be back next year? Yes. I’ve already made that decision. Will I go for the marathon? No. There’s no way I’m that crazy.
Will I go for the half marathon? Probably? Yesterday it was a hard no. But, after sitting on it for a couple of days I want to tackle that hill again. I need to enact some redemption on that beast. But, then on the other hand the 7 mile run sounds like a better option. But, we’ll see … give me a couple of months. I loved this challenging course and the fact that it’s in my backyard.
Here’s to the trails!
MY NEXT FIVE RACES
Running Miles — 13.0 miles
Race Miles — 13.1 miles
Walking Miles — 21.24 miles
TOTAL MILES — 47.34 miles
Races This Week — Elephant Rock Trail Half.
August 2017 Miles
Running Miles — 26.5 miles
Race Miles — 13.1 miles
Walking Miles — 36.9 miles
TOTAL MILES — 63.0 miles
Races in August — (3) Elephant Rock Trail Half, Run Elevated Half and Nebo Half
Running Miles — 337.55 miles
Race Miles — 295.52 miles
Walking Miles — 817.05 miles
TOTAL MILES — 1450.12 miles
Races done in 2017 — (20) New Year’s Half Marathon, Sweethearts 5K, Jackpot Running Festival, SL Tri Club Indoor Half, March Madness Half, Lucky 13 Half Marathon, Emigration Canyon Half Marathon, Riverton Half, Saltair Half, Provo City Half Marathon, Jordan River Half Marathon, Drop13 Half Marathon, Bear Lake Trifecta — Idaho, Wyoming & Utah, AF Canyon Race Against Cancer, The Hobbler Half, Handcart Days Half, DesNews Half and Elephant Rock Trail Half,.