At the trail head just outside of Bryce National Park we were met with crispy 22 degree start temps, cups of hot water, nearly 9000 feet of elevation and 750 trail runners. By 7:30 am we stepped off of a dusty service road and said goodbye to all sensibilities.
The first few miles we took the pace slow, breathing more heavily than we would like, but at least we were warm. The single-track trail reached it’s highest altitude at mile 5 and each time we reached a new summit I thought surely we wouldn’t go higher – but we did.
We stopped to take pictures of the famous Hoodoo’s — tall, skinny shafts of rock that protrude from arid grounds – giving nature a chance to style her artestry. To see these shafts of art up close and personal – had us stopping, staring, photographing – rinse, wash repeat.
We descended from the altitude highs and that gave us a chance to catch our breath and work on running over gravel taking care to avoid a face plant. We both had moments of tripping, but we managed to stay upright.
At mile 8, volunteers met us with the most delicious runner food: gummy bears, M and M’s, Nutella, PB n J’s, potato chips to name a few, and my eyes begged Jill to take this all in, but her legs still had zippity-do-da so I shoved potato chips in my mouth and off we ran for the second half of the course.
Fully expecting the challenge of the second half of the course to be the same as the first, the next mile traversed along the lower third of another mountain climb, with a wider, tho still single-track trail.
Then, it was time to meet the Hoodoo gods. A grueling climb awaited, with dozens of switchbacks and the grade getting steeper at each turn. The gravel under your feet wanted to give way without notice and all runners were silent, hearts pumping at chest bursting intensity, and praying that the Hoodoo gods would not send us slip sliding down the ravine.
Somehow we made it to the summit with high fives in our minds as there was no energy for speaking, and we descending a steep technical descent where our running community braced for sure footing, silently hoping our shoes had enough traction to keep us safe. Two more steep climbs, two more free-fall descents and we were on the homestretch. Some race organizers thought it might be fun for trail runners with wobbly legs to run inside a dry river bed. If you haven’t tried running in a dusty uneven, crusty riverbed, trust me your bucket list will be just fine without it. Weary, and happy to be finished, Bryce Canyon gave us memories for a lifetime.
Peace, Love, Out
Jane & Jill
More on the Grand Trailfest
And, what’s on the run docket:
Bryce Canyon Trail Run
Zion Canyon Trail Run
Grand Canyon Trail Run
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