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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#124- The Elephant Rock Trail Run

When my pal Wanderly Reis said that he and Seth Myer were starting a trail race in Bountiful, UT, I was intrigued, but when he offered an introductory 50% off on all races, I was in!

I am currently training for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run at the end of September, so I thought a nice challenging trail marathon would be great training. It was. I had seriously underestimated the difficulty of this course and since I didn't make it to Bountiful for any of the preview runs, I was going in blind.

My friend Rob was running the 7.8 miler and so we drove to Bountiful together for the race. Looking at the course description, I knew there were a couple good climbs. I told him that it shouldn't take me longer than 6 hours. 

We got there pretty early and got parking on the side of the road right outside the trail head. We had about 45 minutes until the race start at 6:00AM, so we kicked back the car seats and grabbed another 20 minutes of sleep before heading to the bathroom.

There were campsite bathrooms at the start, and with such a small race, the lines were not very long when I got in, but if someone had "issues" it took a while as there was only one women's and one men's potty and from where they were, we couldn't hear any announcements coming from the start. 

When I got out of the bathroom I headed to the start and chatted with a few friends then found out that they decided to stagger the race starts and marathon had already started! It ended up being no big deal, I just started with the half marathoners and they would adjust my time the 15 minutes (there was no chip timing).

Joshua, Marissa and I at the start. They were running the half marathon!

Race Director Seth Myer giving last minute instructions.

The course started climbing immediately and I could already tell that my energy level was lacking. I was having trouble running up hills that were no more steep than the hills I train on in Corner Canyon all the time. I hoped that I would get warmed up and find my groove.

The first 1.6 miles were gentle switchbacks up a really pretty and smooth trail. Then we hit the first very steep and technical hill. I brought my trekking poles, but in a last minute decision, decided I didn't need them and left them in the trunk of my car. HUGE MISTAKE! I not only could have used them getting up that first major major climb, but getting down the other side too! It was a beast and I was glad that climb was early in the race!

Pretty views early in the course.

Runners starting the first big climb.

I loved that I could still see the moon going up the hill.

About half way up!

The worst part of this hill was the false summit. You dig deep to reach the top, and you realize it's not the top!

It felt like it would never end!

The view from the top!

So great to hit the summit with Ruthie and Royce!

Once we got to the top, we had had to make our way down. This was much harder than I thought as the trail was very steep and full of rocks that were like marbles under your feet. Luckily my friends Ruthie and Royce had done the preview run and got some good advice to run on brush on the side the trail. It was still steep, but the brush gave my feet a little more traction. I don't have great balance anymore and without poles, I felt a little unstable.

Then we headed down! I found this to be more challenging then going up. 

The loose rocks were like marbles under our feet. 

When we finally got down that hill, we found the first aid station. There I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and filled my water. We then started the long winding climb on some pretty nice trail, but after the long steep climb up and down that mountain after already not feeling 100%, my legs were already feeling trashed.

The scenery was beautiful.

Quick trail selfie!

Around this time I met up with a nice half marathoner named Dyanna. We kept each other company going up the hill.

This was a great place for a pic!

My new friend Dyanna!

We were happy to see the second aid station, not only beacuse it was getting warm and I was running low on water, but this is where we could actually run! This gentle down hill on a nice trail felt like heaven until I toed a rock and had my first fall. I shook it off and we continued down the hill relishing in the beauty and finally being able to make up some time!

Love this shot of Dyanna running down the trail!

Before we hit this stretch I was thinking of calling it at the half, but even though my legs were already trashed, this section gave me a little energy, so after I finished the first loop, I changed my socks, grabbed my trekking poles and headed out for the second loop. This time in reverse.

After running that nice stretch of gentle downhill, it didn't take long to kick myself for not dropping at the half. All that nice downhill, I was now going back up! Again, it wasn't that this particular section was super steep or technical, it was just really long and my legs felt like rubber. I power hiked most of it.

Now by this time it was super hot out. Most of the time the course was pretty shady, but since I was hiking not running by this time, it was taking me much longer than normal and I was running out of water. When I made it to the first aid station, I had a little panic attack when all I saw there was a bag full of supplies, all alone and all packed up and ready to head down the mountain. As I started digging through the bag hoping to find a bottle of water, these two angels appeared! The two volunteers popped out of the trees an asked me what I needed. They filled my bottles and I was on my way.

Still climbing, I was not moving fast, but I was moving. Then I saw a a familiar face. Joshua was on his way down to finish the half marathon and we laughed about how the RD's were trying to kill us and then we took a selfie to show how exhausted we were (of course)! 

Joshua and I doing our exhausted faces! LOL

I made my way to the next aid station and was so happy. I still had time on the clock and the uphill section that was so hard on the first loop was now downhill on the second loop! I put my trekking poles away and started moving. The only bad part was the downhill trail going this way was much more technical than the downhill on the first loop, so I could not run as fast. I like running trails, but lose rock trails are scary to me. After cracking a rib on a trail, I am a little nervous (which is what will get me hurt I am sure). 

A lot of trails here in Utah are shared trails meaning we share them with bikes and sometimes even horses. There is an etiquette on the trail so we ALL can co-exists safely. Bikes yield to runners (though it is good karma to yield to a biker going up hill) and we all yield to horses. About 75% of the bikers on this trail were total A-HOLES!!! 

As I was running down this very narrow single track section, two mountain bikers came flying down. I had NOWHERE to go. I tried to get out of their way before they hit me, but I tripped on a rock and fell of the side of the mountain as they just kept going! Now the drop off was no joke and the ONLY reason I am alive to write this is that I had put my trekking poles away and had my hands free to grab a hold of the shrubbery and there was enough shrubbery to keep me from sliding down to the bottom of the mountain. I pulled myself back onto the trail a little shaken up and a lot pissed off! 

After yet another fall, I finally made it to the last aid station, filled my water and took out my trekking poles again and what came next had me losing my religion! I was so hot and my legs were totally shredded, but with a little over four miles to go, I have to conquer that mountain that I climbed at a mile and a half into the race again, only this time backwards and in 90+ degree temperatures.

I left the aid station an headed off. I followed the race markers and after a while, I realized that I hadn't seen a green flag in a while. I also didn't see the trail up the mountain. I had either went the wrong way or I had not gone far enough. I stood for a minute and made the decision to turn back to the last marker in case I missed something. I didn't. I didn't go far enough so I wasted time going back and forth. 

When I finally found the trail, I was so hot. The last aid station had filled my Buff with ice which was a life saver. I inched my way up that hill trying not to fall. I was getting dizzy from the heat, so I had to be very careful not to fall. I took twenty five steps and took a rest. Twenty five steps and rest.

When I finally got to the top of the hill, I was so relieved, until I saw two trails and no green trail marker. I started to cry. I had heard at the last aid station that the sweepers had left 45 minutes ago. When  I was standing on the top of that mountain, I saw them starting the climb up. At that point I sat on the rock and waited for them. I was not about to take the wrong trail down then have to run back up. 

When the sweepers got there, one of them ran a little down both trails until he saw the trail markers. I wanted to die as I thought I was at the top of the mountain and I was ready to head down. When he pointed to the trail that let up another big hill, I lost my will to live, but I put on my big girl panties and did it anyway.

When I got to the top of that hill, again I didn't see the trail marker, so again, I just waited for the sweepers to check out which way to go. Again, I wanted to cry (OK I did cry) when I saw how steep the mountain was. THANK GOD I had my poles for balance, or I for sure would have tumbled down the mountain.

I was out of water and was so thirsty. I knew Rob would be worried as he had been done for hours and I had planned to be done in around six hours and I was way past that. I was thinking how awesome it would be to see my BFF waiting at the bottom of that hill with a cold bottle of water. Then out of nowhere, I heard, Race Director Seth Myer yelling encouragement up the mountain. He ran up and gave me a hug and an ice cold bottle of water!  He told me that Rob was worried and he went back down to let Rob know I was OK. 

Coming down the mountain.

 My quads were so fried!

Nothing says "cool race pic" like falling!

When I finally got to the bottom Rob was there with more cold water and I took the last 1.6 miles sore but happy that I was almost done! When I saw the bridge to the finish, I finished strong. 

So happy to see this bridge!

Finally finished!

So glad to be done!

It was so nice of Wanderly and Seth to let me finish even though it took me WAAAAAAAAY longer than I thought. Thanks to Joshua and Rob for hanging out for hours to see me finish too. When I got to the last aid station I was told that I was the last person on the course. That has never happened to me, but I was told the people behind me dropped, so I was totally OK being last. Someone has to be last and I felt proud that I even finished, so there was no shame in that for me!

At the finish with RD's Wanderly and Seth!

The three of us were all DFL in the 7.8, the 13.8 and the 26.8 mile runs!

I rested for a minute and I was told that there was still some hot breakfast for me. We went up, ate and headed home tired, sore, but happy.

This was a challenging race, but I loved it. I didn't do as well as I wanted, but I got a lot of time on my feet and that was the goal anyway.

HUGE thanks to Wanderly, Seth and all the volunteers for a great inaugural race. Now that a couple days have passed, I can say that I will be back! 

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