My friend Cathy and I have been talking about doing the Grand Circle Trailfest for almost 2.5 years. The Grand Circle Trailfest is 3 days of racing roughly a half marathon each day. Each day you run just outside of a National Park -- Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon (Horseshoe Bend).
Three years ago I sent Cathy the promo video for this race and she was excited as I was! We were all set to sign up and then I had the whole hamstring tear. Fast forward 2 years and I told her I felt I was ready to do this. At some point this past winter/spring I was at her house (in CT). We realized from a logisitics point we would have to fly to Las Vegas on Tuesday to pick up our bibs on Wednesday to run the races on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Does it make sense to go to work on only Monday?? I tossed out the idea to Cathy about leaving on Sunday and flying to Los Angeles for a quick trip to California. A quick text to Bangle and suddenly we had great Pacific Coast accommodations.
Now all we had to do was train for 3 back to back to back half marathons that were at 4500-8000' elevation .... at 11' sea level! 😳
And then Cathy fell down her stairs and messed up her knee 2 months before race day.
And then I got hit by a car while stopped at a red light on my bike 8 days before race day.
I think the driver looked left to make a right on red and just rolled right into the back of me. All I know is that I felt my bike being pushed so I turned around and there was a minivan running into me. The next thing I know I'm laying in the middle of the street slowly being pushed forward as my top lip is dragging against the pavement. Thank God the driver jammed on the brakes when he heard me yell. He was horrified and kept stammering on about how he could've killed me and that he would pay for my bike. I had to calm him down. Did an overall scan of my body -- bleeding lip and one severely jacked up pointer finger. Phew! I can still run Trailfest!Priorities! In the next few days I would find the handlebar had gone into my left hip and I had a bruise on my right thigh and knee from the crossbar and pavement. Could've been so much worse.
Cathy and I flew into LA on Sunday morning. Had a great lunch with a view of the Pacific Ocean, watched some football with Bangle and had a fun dinner prepared by Mrs. Bangle. The next day Cathy and I drove up to Santa Monica, found the original Muscle Beach where Cathy convinced me to climb the rope and enjoyed the sunshine and sea breezes.
BTW Don't climb a rope with sandals. You end up with rope burn on the top of your foot.
Bangle took us on a driving/hiking tour of his hilly running route.
The next day Cathy and I headed via airplane to Las Vegas so we could pick up our sweet ride to drive to Kanab, Utah (the Trailfest headquarters).
We nicknamed the Jeep -- Prince Barney.
We tried to hike out to a slot canyon on Wednesday but gave up after 1.7 miles of crazy sand. (3.4 miles round trip) We did a self guided driving tour instead.
We woke up bright and early on Thursday to drive to Bryce Canyon. It was FREEZING! 23*!! Thankfully Trailfest has bag drop at the start of all races so we had warm clothes that we shed right before the race start.
Immediately the race started out on a slight uphill. Within 15 seconds my heart was beating out of my chest because of the 8000' elevation. I came to a stop and said to Cathy gotta walk, sorry. It got better as we went. I could cruise all of the downhills with a little pitter patter run and then run up a part of the uphill and then switched over to a walk.
The view at the top of the first climb was stunning.
Bryce is known for these rock formations called hoodoos.
Honestly the first day Cathy and I just kept taking picture after picture.
We were given a challenge by the RD to take a jumping picture. Challenge accepted!
There was some really amazing ridge running.
After the aid station there was a crazy zigzag climb up the side of the mountain. It just kept going. Every uphill climb I pushed really hard. It was fun!
Cathy and I stayed together until mile 11. She kept telling me to go so on a downhill section I just kept my pitter pattering little feet moving. We had to run through a very rocky, wide, dry river bed to finish. It was pretty uncomfortable. I ran/walked into the finish at a pretty good clip. My finish time was 4:15 with all of the photo taking. 13.90 miles with 1900 feet of climbing.
Immediately at the end of the finish I felt horrible! I'm still not sure if I had elevation sickness or caffeine withdrawal (no coffee in the morning). I ended up getting sick on the side of the road. It took a good 3 hours before I felt semi-ok.
We drove the scenic drive through Bryce after the race.
Indescribably beautiful. My pictures do not do it justice.
The next morning I stretched and rolled and felt pretty good. We headed off for a trail just outside of Zion National Park.
The first 3 miles there was a nice downhill that got your legs warmed up.
The elevation was only 4500-5000'. Oh so much better!
Our view on the road:
After an aid station at 3.2 miles we headed off onto the canyon rim. The views were beautiful and so different from the day before!
Today's RD challenge was to hula hoop on the rim. I didn't see the hula hoops so I stuck with jumping. One lady told me I was crazy because I was so close to the edge. I'm assuming she meant crazy awesome!
At around mile 6 Cathy told me to go. Her knee was really bothering her.
After making a friend and getting them to take my picture I headed out solo to finish the race.
While not as scenic as Bryce I absolutely loved, loved, loved the middle section of this race! I could have run there all day long! Soft dirt and sliprock (which isn't slippery) everywhere. I must've passed 50 - 100 runners. The climb up out of the canyon on the dirt road was a grind. I played frogger. I ran on the flats and slight downhills and caught so many people just walking. I'd eye someone walking the uphill and run until I passed them. 13.85 in 3:13 with 1500’ feet of climbing.
Cathy looked super strong running into the finish!
We decided to refuel at a great little outdoor cafe before heading into Zion. Hands down the best food we ate. (MeMe's Cafe)
If you have never been to Zion National Park GO!!!!! It is outstanding, amazing, fantastic, stupendous!
On the way out of the park we stopped to see a buffalo/bison that was hanging out with a person. Apparently his mom died so humans had to raise him.
On our 3rd and final day I was mixed with sadness that it was our final day and fright (my quads were barely functioning!)
The course we ran was on a Navajo Indian reservation in Page, AZ.
We look sleepy but ready to go.
Within 3/4 of a mile we came up to Horeshoe Bend! It was just beautiful! But in the shade it was absolutely freezing!
I was worried about cutoffs. We had to make it to the aid station by 10 am so we quickly got on our way. As you can see the course was not super friendly to very tired runner legs.
It was a combination of red sliprock that had a very rough surface and sand. I pushed Cathy so we could make the cutoff. I know she probably had several choice words for me, but I knew she didn't want to miss the cutoff and I wanted to finish together.
The views along the Colorado River were stupendous!
Bouldering/ rock scramble climb:
We finally made it to the aid station and were able to continue on. (The shuttles in the morning were delayed -- as they were the 1st day -- so the cut off time was extended.)
Immediately after the aid station we descended down into the Waterholes Slot Canyon.
The slot canyon was beautiful! Went from wide to narrow. When the sunlight shown down and hit the rock it was fantastic!
We climbed back up out of the slot canyon and had about 3 miles left....in the sand on (what I would call) a fire road.
It was hard! But oh so beautiful! I did not want the epic trip to be over, but the sand made me want it over! Lol.
Yes, this is a climb up a sand dune!
No matter how hard I tried to capture the beautiful colors in the distance I could not do it. It was like a pastel painting.
Cathy and I decided to run 30 seconds and walk 30 seconds for the last mile and a half. It would cut down on the time we were in misery! Hah! A fellow runner asked if he could hop on our Conga line and we said sure!
11.25 miles in 4:02 with 1300’ of climbing.
Our plan was to head into the Garnd Canyon but we were much farther away from the rim than expected. We ended up taking Prince Barney on some dirt roads near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We Thelma and Louise-d around on those roads seeing how fast we could go! It was hilarious!
That night we went for our last dinner at the Iron Horse (ate ther 3 times because it was convenient). If you saw us trying to walk/run across the street you would have died laughing!
The next day we had booked a tour guide to take us to White Pocket, Wire Mesa (slot canyon) Trail and a quick trip to see the Paria.
Quintessential mid-west picture:
Because I hadn't climbed enough in the past 3 days!
Wire Mesa Slot Canyon:
Petroglyphs in the Canyon:
Paria (type of mountain):
After our tour it was time to head for the airport in Las Vegas. I took Cathy on a quick drive down the Strip and then it was wheel up.
It was hands down one of the best experiences I've ever had!
My tips for doing a trip like this would be to go someone who has the same idea about the vacation as you. Are you racing the races? Are you there for the scenery? After the race are you going to want to sleep or are you going to go sight seeing? Cathy and I had pretty much discussed all of this beforehand and I couldn't have imagined doing it with anyone else!