Bryce 50 mile Ultramarathon - 6/06/15

So what was I thinking? Since our summer trip was aiming at northern California and Utah was on the way, we thought running a 50 miler would be fun. I also had considered signing up for a 100 miler in the fall, and this would serve as a good trial for that run. Well, after Boston (and the hypothermic walk back to gear check), I never really was able to get in solid training in order to prep for the 50 miler. Yes, I ran trails at Kickapoo, but I never really got in appropriate mileage, and quite frankly with over 18,000' of elevation change in 50 miles, I was very much underprepared for the ascents and descents. 200' climbs at Kickapoo, no matter how steep aren't a stitch on 700' drops in Utah.

We drove from Brackettville to Utah by way of southeastern Arizona, where I was chasing vagrant dragonflies, then up north from Tucson to the Grand Canyon. We arrived at Bryce midday on the 5th, checked in gear, etc, for the race, and then did the car tour of Bryce Canyon National Park (where we camped). Marla was sick the week before the trip, and had to DNS the race. We used Marla's cell phone for the alarm, and unfortunately it was still on Arizona time and I missed the bus to the start of the race. I woke Marla when I realized that we had overslept, and we raced down 20 miles of muddy National Forest Road to the starting line, where I just made it with minutes to spare.

Starting off, the race was pretty gloomy/foggy/overcast - we missed out on some spectacular views due to the clouds. I attempted to take things really easy, aiming for 9-10 minute paces, and hiking steep hills around the start, but I probably didn't take things easily enough. Someone before the race told me that I should run "absurdly slow", and I thought that I was! Once we got to about mile 10-15, the sun broke through the clouds, and we treated with awesome views and scenery - by then, the runners had mostly spread out along the course. I struggled a little bit with oxygen whenever the course elevation was about 9000', but was otherwise little affected by the thin air. What really ate my lunch were some of the really steep descents in the first 30 miles of the course.

By mile 30 or so, I was pretty beat, which sucks with 20 more miles to go. After the mile 32 aid station, I was walking quite a bit, particularly on uphills and the steeper downhills. After the mile 41 aid station, I was walking more than I was "running" and my run was basically a trot or shuffle. I got rained and hailed on between the last two aid stations and ran without my shirt until I got chilled in the last 5-6 miles when the clouds rolled in later in the day. By then I kept thinking that surely the finish line was just around the next bend - with no watch to judge distance by, and no direct sightlines, I was just guessing . . . and the finish was farther and farther away (or so it seemed). Finally, I started hearing cheering in the distance, so I knew I was close, and I trotted my way in to the finish. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long for a shuttle bus back to town, as Sami Love was there to pick up her boyfriend Benergy Martinez (both facebook running buddies that I knew from McAllen), and she offered me a ride back to town.

I really expected to finish between 9 and 10 hours, and ended up finishing in 12:06. Had I maintained my pace from my first 30 miles, I'd have made my target, but I really slowed with lots of walking in the last 20 miles. Anyway, lesson learned. Train with more hills and more mileage if I'm going to run a mountain ultramarathon! Don't try to run one on such a short training window (6 weeks post Boston), particularly if the previous race really sapped my energy.

Gear Check:

Shoes:  I ran in Altra Lone Peak 1.5s, size 11.  The reviews for this shoe suggest that its "too soft", but I found the cushion and protection to be just about perfect. The size 11 shoes were really roomy, and I didn't blister or have any toe issues. They held up pretty nicely through the mud and rain in the later miles, too.

Shorts:  I ran in my stand-by 3” split shorts from Adidas.  No problems at all with tried and true shorts that have been with me for 5 previous races.

Shirt:  I wore a "House of the Sun" print tech singlet from InknBurn.  It worked really well until it got wet, when it chaffed a little under my hydration vest, so I took it off to dry.

Hydration:  I wore Salomon Sense Ultra 3 vest with 2x 500mL soft flasks, one with water and the other with Gatorade.

Socks:  2 pairs of Injinji medium weight crew toe socks – one on my feet, and the other in a ziplock bag in my vest. After the rainstorm at the final aid station, I changed socks.

Fuel:  I carried 3x Apple/Cinnamon Hammer Gels, and took one every 5 miles or so. I also ate Gummi Worms as I went along.  In my drop bags, I had more gels, homemade snicker doodle cookies, and fresh gatorade to drink or refill my flasks, as necessary. I had Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches in drop bags at the third and 5th Aid stations. For drop bags, I just used gallon ziplocks, which seemed to work pretty well. The stated distance between aid stations was a bit off - the first several were only just over 5 miles apart, while the last one were better than 9 miles apart. This hurt me a bit before the mile 32 aid station, because I ran out of water during the hottest part of the run.

Hat:  Marathon Maniacs classic hat.  Very comfortable.  Had several other maniacs talk to me during the race that I wouldn't have met without the hat.

Glasses:  Custom Oakley Flak Jackets with Red Iridium Lenses that I’ve run in since January 2014.  Worked great, as usual.

Watch: Garmin 610. I've hiked with this watch before, and had it last longer than 12 hours, but I guess it had to work hard keeping up with the satellites in the canyons and it only lasted for just over 6 hours, with the battery dying about mile 30.

Watch Data