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Thursday, August 16, 2012

#38 (or #1)- The Corner Canyon 50K- My First Ultra Marathon!

So there I was sitting at my desk when I got a call from my good friend and fellow Marathon Maniac, Galen Garrison. He wanted to inform me of some good news, that he would be moving to Utah (from Florida)! As we chatted for a few minutes we started talking about what races we had on our calendars. It was then that I heard about the Corner Canyon 50K.

One of my goals was to do a 50K this year and was a little sad when my lack of disposable cash kept me from running the Great Cranberry Island 50K in Maine this year. My ears perked up when Galen told me that the Corner Canyon 50K was practically in my back yard! I was really interested, but I had never run a race longer than 26.2 miles and I don't run trails that much (had I known there were so many beautiful trails so close, I would have run more), but Galen said if I wanted to do it, he would pace me through it. That was all I needed to hear and I signed up!

The Corner Canyon 50K was a race put together by friends benefiting one our local trail runners John Maak (aka- Johnny Runner) and his family. John was diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer called Mantle Cell non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. To read his story is quite powerful. Check it out:

Galen, John Maak and I at the start. I am still sleeping!

Before the race we all gathered and listened to instructions. I have not been nervous before a marathon in a long time, but I was shaking in my gaiters hearing one part of the course was called "The Widow Maker"!

Co-Race Directors Troy Olson and Troy Robertson present John Maak with a shirt and medals (from the 50K and the 25K) signed from some of the ultra marathon greats.

When John Maak spoke, there was not a dry eye in the house. I felt good about picking this race to run my first 50K.

After the instructions we were off at 6:00am sharp! The race started (and finished) at the Andy Ballard Equestrian Center in Draper. I have lived in Draper for over four years now and had no idea there were such beautiful trails in my back yard! Since I had never run these trails, I wasn't quite sure where we were running. The course description was as follows: "You will run on many trails throughout Corner Canyon to name a few, Ghost Falls, Clark's Trail, Anne’s Trail, Canyon Hollow, Oak Hollow, Bonneville Shore Line and the famous Widow maker climb."

Early in the race, the sun is just coming up!

The start of the course was nice and easy, but Galen and I both felt the elevation (even though I live here). It was fun to meet all the runners out there too. Then s**t got real!

Ian Farris was out making sure the course was well marked (and it was)!

One of our first real climbs. It was pretty brutal. Galen and I asked the girl behind me if this was the "Widow Maker" and she just laughed and said "No".

We started climbing. When we got to the top of the first real climb, I thought, the rest of the course can't be much worse than this and we headed down a nice stretch of down hill.

The course was marked really well with signs and pink ribbons.

Bear Creek Bridge

Now I have only heard about the aid stations in ultra races so I was looking forward to see what this race had to offer. I was not disappointed. Chips, gummy bears (Galen and I were all over those), fruit, Coke, ginger ale, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and anything else you could think of was at the aide station.
At one aid station Galen asked if they had any AA batteries (his camera batteries died) AND THEY DID!!

AWESOME ultra runner and all around nice person Amie Blackham and I at one of the well stocked aid stations.

We were very lucky early in the race as the temps were not that bad, but as the sun rose higher so did the temps and of course, it was hot as an oven when we hit the dreaded "Widow Maker". That climb went straight up! The grade was bad enough, but the terrain made it tougher. Every time we would take a step the rocks under our feet would give way and slide us back down a step or two. For fear of sliding down the mountain, Galen and I stepped to the side of the trail where the rocks were not at bad and kept climbing.

Heading up the "Widow Maker"! All the rocks on the trail made it really hard not to die!

At this point, our race started to resemble a bad survival movie. We were climbing a really steep and dangerous mountain and we had no idea when of if it would ever end, it was close to 100 degrees outside and I ran out of water! Galen, being a true gentleman, started to share his water with me as we continued to climb. Just when we would think we were at the top, we would see another summit with little pink ribbons taunting us to the top.

We did have an awesome view!

As it got harder and hotter, Galen and I both started to get a little worried about the water situation. I started replaying the "Man vs Wild" episode where the guy caught, killed and skinned a snake, the urinated into the snake skin only to drink his own urine to survive. I was not drinking urine!! So we both secretly and aloud prayed for the aid station to appear. Then just like an oasis in the desert, it did!

  Our shining oasis!

Galen on top of the world (or at least Draper, UT)!

Coolers filled with ice and water were like they were sent from heaven! We filled our hydration packs with ice and topped them off with cold water. It tasted so good! I put a few ice cubes in my hat and we were recharged to run back down the mountain. That was until we saw those lovely pink ribbons heading up another mountain!

The hills were so steep, Galen and I would find shady spots to rest for one minute. Just stopping wasn't enough for me. I had to sit on the trail for 30 seconds, just long enough to take the strain off my legs. It really helped.

Once we finally hit the top and started back down the hill, it felt a lot better. It was pretty tough not to fall and go tumbling down the mountain, but my legs were thrilled for the change.

Once we got back to the easier trails we started to make up some time and we felt pretty good. We made it to the next aid station with smiles on our faces. Here is where we would hit the out and back. We started this nice and beautiful downhill run shaded by trees for the first mile or so. Once we left the shade, it was hot! We were so happy to see the sticker box and turn around.

 To avoid course cutting, we had to take a sticker from the turn around and put it on our bibs. I opted for the red sparkly smiley face while Galen went for the green frog. 

Looking at how long it took us to get 20 miles, there was some fear that we would not get back to aid station at mile 23 before the cutoff. As beautiful and nice as that downhill section had been, now we had to go back up it. So off we went.

At this point my feet were really starting to hurt from the cumbered trails and rocks. The sides of both my feet felt like they were on fire and getting ready to blister at any moment.

Luckily we saw the mile 23 aid station and not only did we make the cutoff, they treated us like royalty! They filled our hydration packs and waited on us hand and foot. I mean that literally. When I asked what was the best thing to do for a blisters, one worker joked "finish the race and then take your shoes off"! Luckily another lovely worker had a better yet strange idea: duct tape.

Galen and I taking a rest at the mile 23 aid station.

This nice lady proceeded to take my sweaty shoes and socks off my filthy feet, then she slapped a strip of duct tape up the sides of my feet where the pain was. She carefully put my shoes and socks back on my feet, all while I was enjoying a cold ginger ale and potato chips! This is the life!! When I stood up, the pain was gone! Duct tape really does fix everything! 

We left the aid station happy that we were safely out of the woods of making the cut off and we headed down another nice downhill section of the trail. Then out of nowhere, I finally saw a snake (they told us we might see snakes on the trail, which made both Galen and I shiver with fear)! It was small and slithered into a hole when we ran up, but it does make for a good story. Hee Hee!

When we hit 26.2 miles, I did a little rejoicing as I was now crossing into the longest run I had ever done.

8:47:55 for 26.2 miles! That's almost the time it takes to run two marathons on the road!

We were going along pretty good, but then the heat got so bad I felt like I was going to vomit. We would enter pockets of the trail that would feel like you walked into an oven. We only had a few more miles to go so we sucked it up and pressed forward. We thought about John Maak's Mantra "Game On – Live Strong – CFM (constant forward motion) – Sprint to the Finish Line."

We came to one more aid station, filled up our water and headed off to finish this thing!

Those tents were the most beautiful things I have ever seen!

Then we hit another long hill. This is where I started to fade fast. Looking back, I should have eaten something, but I felt so hot and sick, I couldn't choke anything down. We finally reached the top and we knew the rest of the course was downhill to the finish. When we got to the fork in the road, we didn't see a pink ribbon.

We decided that I would walk one way and Galen the other way for 100 yards and see if we could see a pink ribbon, when neither of us saw one, we picked one trail and prayed it was the right one. We still don't know what happened, but once we got to the next trail intersection, we saw the pink ribbons and got back on track. The only problem was, we had just added another mile to the course.

We saw Ian Ferris on the course and according to Galen's Garmin we had a half mile left. When I asked Ian how far away from the finish we were, he answered "a mile and a half". I wanted to cry, but knew that would just make things worse, so we just took our lumps and carried on.

I knew we were getting close to the finish when I saw the white fences that surrounded the equestrian park, then we would get better view, and it wasn't the park fences. Uggg! Every step I took at this point I felt like I was going to throw up. Then from out of nowhere, we saw the wooden fences from behind the park! Galen said "I think this is it!" and it was. We heard Amie, Troy, John and all the volunteers cheering for us! I told Galen to run ahead and I would see him at the finish (I didn't want to puke)! He did. When I got to where I could see the finish line I started to run it in.

My husband never comes to my races. He doesn't run and he thinks I am crazy for running so much. When I saw him at the finish line, I lost it! I bawled like a baby!!

The finish!

Troy giving me my bling!

Hugs from the RD's!

Hugs from my husband David. The best sight ever!

The best feeling ever! Taking off my shoes with a bag of ice on my neck!

Galen told me before I did this race that the ultra running community here were some of the nicest and most supportive people around and he was right! I have never felt more taken care of than at this race. From the packet pick up to aid stations to the finish, everyone was so supportive and helpful. When I finished and sat down to take off my shoes, there was a bag of ice, a plate of food and a cold drink brought to me. I didn't need to move a muscle! It was awesome!! HUGE THANKS to everyone involved in this race. It was a life changing experience. HUGE THANKS to my husband David for showing up for me when I was hurting the most!

OMH!! The ice on my feet felt soooooo good!

This race report would not be complete with out thanking my friend and newly commissioned Saint, Galen Garrison. He could have run a lot faster race, but he chose to stay out in the heat to help me make it to the finish line of the hardest race I have ever done in my life. Galen, you have exposed me to a whole other world of running and nice people. Thank you for your patience (and your water)! You are truly a great friend and I can't wait to run the trails with you again soon! There is a place in Heaven for you! THANK YOU MY FRIEND!!

Now! Who's up for Park City next weekend!

Elevation Chart! Yikes!


susette said...

We shared a lot of the same experiences for sure! Widowmaker was a beast! I ran out of water at the sticker turn around with about a quarter mile left and that scared me a little bit but Cory was so kind and offered me some of his. I made it to the aid station though and they filled it up for me. I also got so sick at the final hill and had to walk a lot of the ups. My stomach and head got queezy and I had forgotten to eat at the last aid station. After a gu that helped a lot for me to finish.

If you are going to keep running on the trails Saucony makes a great trail running shoe. I have never had one ounce of problem in them and my feet felt great after the race. Just saying.

There is another 50K coming up on October 6th at Jordanelle State Park called "The Wild Bunch 50K" I'm thinking long and hard about doing that one. It would be fun to see another blogger and running friend out there too.

gg said...

You are sweet, Angie. It was my pleasure. Amie and the gang taught me well. In fact, my * very first * run on trails in SLC were with Amie, John Maack, and his wife Carol. I could not keep up with any of them but they demonstrated patience and understanding and this amazing culture of ultra runners where people love and look out for each other. Pass it on, Angie. Pass it on. :)

gg said...

You are sweet, Angie. It was my pleasure. Amie and the gang taught me well. In fact, my * very first * run on trails in SLC were with Amie, John Maack, and his wife Carol. I could not keep up with any of them but they demonstrated patience and understanding and this amazing culture of ultra runners where people love and look out for each other. Pass it on, Angie. Pass it on. :)

Cory Reese said...

I love your pictures and race report! It was nice to meet you guys out on the course. Congrats on your first 50k!