Thursday, February 06, 2014

Antelope Canyon 50 mile race report

I used to keep a blog.  I used to write about my training and races and life as a triathlete.  But then I got bored with the blog.  Facebook, Instagram, and Strava became the social media outlet of choice.  Plus, I was only writing for myself.  I had this lame idea that I would be a better writer if I just wrote MORE.

Well, back on topic. Even though I have done a number of races since my last Ironman, this past weekend deserves a write up.  I ran in the first Antelope Canyon 50 mile trail race.  I hope that I can do justice to the amazing race that Matt and Tim put together.

Now I realize that these guys want to put on a race "without the parade and circus-like atmosphere" but when I showed up at check in and Tim handed me a number and said "Good luck" I was thinking "Really?  That's it".  Well, they only ordered 2 XL shirts for the 3 people that needed that size.  Oh well.  I wasn't here to pick up a shirt.  I have PLENTY of those.  The only shirt I ever ordered that I really wanted and never got was the cool Altra Boston Marathon memorial shirt.

So I showed up the next morning along with 50 or so other folks.  Tim gave a brief overview of the course including some encouragement that when we got to the first slot canyon to not be nervous and and climb down into the canyon.  Sweet!

DJ and I just before the start
I was excited to use my new Nao headlamp in a race.  We had a good hour or so before the sun would come up.  Off we went and within minutes left the city limits of Page and headed out to Antelope Canyon country.  We ran for several miles in the dark, occasionally taking a wrong turn but as it got light we approached the first slot canyon.

To get down into the canyon there was a steep scramble with a ladder at the bottom for the last 10 feet or so.  Nothing really difficult and not nearly as scary as Tim made it out to be.  The first slot wasn't much at all and and at the end I found myself saying "that was it?  that's what I came to run through?  Lame."  I had been through a number of cool slot canyons in Southern Utah and this one really wasn't that special  Carry on carry on carry on.

Coming out of the slot and running across the wash to the next canyon was pleasant.  A nice snow storm blew in and it was coming down pretty good.  Thanks to the discovery of Cat Crap at the OR show a couple of weeks ago my glasses stayed fairly fog-free. 

The second slot canyon was simply amazing.  Just like you see in the pictures of Antelope Canyon.  Sand on the bottom floor, a few tumbleweeds but running around through this maze was just a simple treat.  You almost wanted to do it over and over again it was that much fun.

On the way to the next slot canyon we were passed by a few tour trucks taking people on guided tours of the canyons.  I'm sure the foreigners were baffled by these crazy people out in the middle of nowhere running around in the snow storm.  I mean who does that???

Running in the sand in a snowstorm
The slot canyons continued to get better and better as the morning went on.  I took pictures and video and was just amazed at the beauty.  This particular slot canyon had a number of ladders to help you get through the canyon.  My canyoneering family called that "cheating".  There is no way most of us could have made it through the slots without the ladders.

We were soon heading out the slot canyons and sandy washes to find more sand.  It's interesting some of the thoughts and reasoning that goes through your head as you are trying to pick your next step that is LESS sandy.  IT'S ALL SAND!  I knew that the Colorado River was our next destination but it seemed like we were miles away from there.  And we were.  I remember coming to the top of this long, straight sandy road.  As I looked west, clear out in the distance I could see the cars and the next aid station.  This was 1 of 2 aid stations where your crew could meet up with you.  And by crew I mean my wonderful wife.  She would be waiting with all sorts of treats at the end of the long, sandy road. 

Running down the hill was really aggravating my IT band on my left leg. I tried to ignore it, tried to run through it, tried to pretend but all I could think about was that I would have to at some point come back up this same hill.  The aid station couldn't come soon enough.  My wife had all sorts of yummy treats (Ensure, chocolate milk, and more).  What a sweetheart.

It wasn't long and I was heading out of the aid station and ducking under a barbed-wire fence.  I was back on Navajo land headed to Horseshoe Bend.  This part of the run was incredible.  You are at the edge of a 1000+ cliff overlooking the Colorado River.  This is below the dam and the location gets its name for an obvious reason.  So then we continued along the edge for several miles.  It was fun.  A bit scary at times and not for the faint of heart.  Do you ever go for a run somewhere and you are just smiling and laughing out loud because you are having so much fun?  Even though I had already been running 25+ miles and for several hours I was having the time of my life. 
Ducking under the fence

Overlooking the Colorado River

Running on the slickrock
Don't fall down THAT crack

Beautiful day

My favorite picture

What a great looking runner - all smiles
The next stretch was the do or die for many of the runners.  There were a few places earlier in the run where it wasn't clear where the trail was.  The markers were too far apart or difficult to spot.  Well here at this point there were NO MORE flags.  Huh?  How does that work?  I had heard that the race organizers had run out of flags but I'm not sure if that could have been the case.  So you had about 5 of us wandering around looking for nothing and guessing where we were supposed to go.  For some people this was just unacceptable.  Some got frustrated.  Some got angry.  Some gave up.  Although I can understand the frustration how could you get upset running in such a beautiful place?  It really didn't matter how long I would wander this was a great experience.

Soon we saw off in the distance people coming toward us with bags of flour (or chalk).  They were showing us the way out of the desert.  I was beginning to feel like Moses and the children of Israel wandering for 40 years. 

I soon reached the Water Holes aid station and that was a big relief and after a short refuelingI soon entered the 4th and final slot canyon on the run.  Water Holes canyon.  I think this was my favorite.  A number of ladders helped us get through the canyon.  Lots of scrambling and I was loving it.  There was a lady from Taos that I was able to help up a few of the places. Without the ladders you really would have had a tough time making it through the canyon without some canyoneering skills.  Running through this area was just exciting.

Waterhole Canyon
Cheating?  I don't think so.
I was soon headed back to the Horseshoe Bend aid station.  A fairly long steady climb up another sandy trail.  Of course my wife was pretty worried that I had gotten lost again and I told her about my experience running along Horseshoe Bend.  She watched as runner after runner come back and exclaimed "I've had enough".  Tim later told us that much of the land that we had run on that day hadn't seen a single white person for 60+ years.  How cool is that?

After a quick change of socks, a pickle, some Coke, some pain relievers, and a hug I was ready to will myself back up the long sandy hill.  Did I mention it was long?  What about the sandy part? The next aid station couldn't come soon enough.  This is the part in a race where you have to be mentally tough.  You not really at the "last little bit" and you would rather just sit down and rest.  I was pretty much running by myself at this point.  Sometimes I could see someone WAY up ahead of me and occasionally I could see a few people WAY behind me.

I just want to give a big thanks to those that operated the 5 different aid stations.  Very nice and helpful people.  I really like the idea of using the UA reusable cups.  I picked one up at the first aid station and used it at every stop.  Now, I'll just keep it in my running vest to use it in the future.  No waste of plastic cups everywhere.  I really liked having the pickles at every stop.  But at Slick Rock they had run out by the time I got there so I just drank all of the juice.  Yum!  I'm convinced that this really does reduce the likelihood of getting cramps.

The 3rd and final feature of the Antelope Canyon 50 was a loop around a portion of Lake Powell followed by the Page rim trail circling the city.  By now it was in mid afternoon and the sun was out, blue skies in the backdrop made for another wonderful setting to run.  You got close enough to tell that the lake level is REALLY low.  The area is currently seeing the worst  14 year drought period in the last 100 years.  And for the first time since the dam was built water flows from the lake were reduced last summer. 

So this loop just wouldn't be right if I didn't happen to get lost.  Pretty soon I stopped seeing trail flags and I had to figure out where I was supposed to go.  I knew I had to circle the airport so I ended up running right along the security fence for a mile or two.  Luckily I ran into a Native American lady and she let me know that I was "way off the course".  Following her directions I took another path and soon connected up with the right trail.  The adventure continued. 

Lake Powell
I soon came up to the last aid station and stopped and talked to my wife for a few minutes before making the final 5 miles back to the starting point.  I put my headlamp back on because I knew I didn't have much daylight left and would need help seeing the trail for the last few miles.  The Page rim trail was probably the nicest trail we ran on all day long.  There were a few icy spots but for the most part it was hardpacked and easy to run.  I was running all by myself at this point and only saw one person.  He was running toward me trying to pick up the trail again.  It was now completely dark.  It was getting chilly again but the lights of the city were pretty.

The eventful day was just about over.  I finished the rim trail and ran about a mile or so on the street back to the Start/Finish line.  There my wife was waiting for me at the finish line.  What finish line?  There was no finish line. No one there.  Just my wife.  I was happy to be done.  I was really hungry.  My feet were tired.  My IT band was beyond done.  I think it was the first race I had finished that I did not roll across the finish line.  Mostly because there wasn't a finish line.

So what was the best part of finishing this race?  Well, believe it or not it was NOT finishing the race.  As I approached my wife she said over and over "You got in!  You got in!"  I had just spent the last 13 hours running all over the Arizona desert to find out that I got in this year's Wasatch 100 race.  I was SO excited!!!! 

So how do you officially finish this race?  You go inside and tell Tim "Hi, I'm #8".  Congratulations, you just finished the inaugural Antelope Canyon 50.  The prize?  A very cool handmade Indian necklace made by a nearby tribal village. Out back I was treated to a yummy dinner of chili, corn bread and apple cobbler. 
I realize that this report was long and maybe boring to some/most of you.  But it captures my memories and the experience I had here in Page. Hats off to the Tim and Matt, the race directors and all of the volunteers.  They were great.  There were lots of angry and frustrated runners  and quite a few people quit.  But how can you be angry/upset with this amazing experience.  It's not like there was a big money purse that you were trying to win.  I came here to have a great experience.  So what if you ran more than 50 miles – you got to spend a day in heaven doing what you love best.

I also wanted to mention another great part of these events is the wonderful people that you get to meet.  I met folks from St. Louis, Chicago, Taos, Scottsdale, Albuquerque, San Francisco, New York, and Toquerville.

Finisher's necklace

For me, this race was NOT an experience of a lifetime. Im planning on doing this one again. (and again probably).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Larsen children - 2010

Well, with the blending of our family, the Larsen children were subjected to the annual "take your picture on the porch on the first day of school" torture. Smile for the camera.

Hawaiian Punch

Can our "stinky guy" really be a Junior? Wow. Time flies. Jake is looking forward to this year in kicking butt on the lacrosse field and in AP US. Jake is the tallest sibling and it won't surprise me if he gets as tall as me. We shall see.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yeah! It's high-tops time!

Well, another year is starting. My princess is growing up. This year she was so excited to hear high-tops to school. I can't imagine that someone that likes flip-flops and no-lace shoes wants to wear them. Oh well, we shall see how long they last. Olive was excited for the new school year to start and see all of her friends again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

College bound!

In keeping the tradition of "first day of school" posts, I'm posting this picture of the newest college student in the family. I cannot believe that JJ is this old. We are so excited for him and wish him the best. He will be attending Southern Utah University where he will be double majoring in Theater Design and Civil Engineering. I should write more and maybe I will later. Good luck, JJ!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Two Thousand Ten???

Holy Moly! Is it really 2010? For some odd reason (okay, it wasn't that odd, I need to write a report and I'm stalling) I was checking out this blog - "Why I'm Here". I have pretty much let this die for the past several months. I'm completely addicted to Facebook. If you are reading this blog and you are NOT my "friend" then hop on over and send me an invite. I'm still looking to pass up my son with the number of "friends". There is so much I could say so much I could write. One thing I can write about is a couple of my newest toys. A couple of months ago I got a new phone, the Blackberry Tour. I thought I would never own or need a smartphone but I love it. My second toy was a Christmas present, the Garmin Forerunner 310XT. I haven't had much of a chance to use this new toy because a couple of weeks ago I broke my FREAKIN FOOT! I thought it would be fun to play in the Winterfest hockey tournament and I was having a blast until I took a puck to my right foot. The 5th metatarsal bone will need 8 weeks to heal. This completely SCREWS my training for my half-Ironman and Ironman races coming up but what are you going to do? Anyhow, I need to do something else but at least there is a blog post for the new year. Change is in the air. What I need to do is do another post here soon and introduce the love of my life. That's all, signing off for another night.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

3rd Grade's a Charm

My little angel. I help her get ready in the morning but the hair I leave to her. She does a great job. All I ask of her is that all of the "rats" are combed out. She is darling. I love her SO MUCH.

Stop growing!

Underneath that hair is a VERY cute high school kid. He's fast. He's smart. And he's coming to a field near you.

Senior Year!

Looking good. No backpack, wearing flip flops. I CANNOT believe that he is a senior.