Wow! What can I say?
This was one challenging race!
Let's start at the beginning. As a USMC Veteran, I truly appreciated the fact the event offered a discount race price for military veterans and active duty. Thank you #Vacationraces it was a wonderful surprise.
Ok, so I arrived very late after a long drive (nearly 6 hours) on packet pickup day and the staff was very helpful and kind to get me organized. Race Management needless to say was great during the entire event. Parking was easy to find and readily available both the day before and day of the race.
As a National Park race there are no cups allowed on the course, which is why as part of the swag runners were given the option to be provided a portable reusable running cup to fill at the water stations. Some runners opted for a camelback system they brought with them.
The weather was NOT cooperating on the Saturday before or the Sunday of the run. It was cold (30's) rainy, snowing, a little hail, the sun came out for a little, then back to snow and rain again. Conditions of the course were very hazardous and every runner was aware before the race began. Event management informed everyone that if by mile 3 it was too much, then turn back because after that point it would be difficult to get you out quickly. Miles 8 - 12 were told to be very rocky and footing will be a challenge. The truth is, once you got past mile 3 the mud just piled up everywhere. Runners, yes me, were challenged to use balance with speed and practice active recovery on the flats and downhill areas. The terrain was up and down hill with 5200' in elevation. I train daily at 7200' so the altitude was not too bad for me, but the weather was brutal. With that said, there are no bad running events or experiences! The footing could be summed up in one key word.....MUD! ....and lost of it which meant slipping and lost/wasted energy.
The scenery, when not looking down at your feet, was beautiful. If you take the time to look around, you might find some flowering plants covered in the light snow and deep red and brown rock from the Earth sitting all around or 100' pines that have been standing there for what seems forever.
The trail is the National Park service vehicle road that had deep ruts and large boulders blocking parts of the path. You could clearly see where makeshift detours were made. Many runners had to take to the sides of the road in hopes of shaking off a few pounds of mud attached to their shoes making the run all the more difficult. Eventually every runner that talked simply wanted to make it to the end and not give up. It was a very rewarding personal experience for many people, myself included.
The final (less than a) mile was after the trail ended and pavement, sweet pavement, was found leading to the finish line. At the end you could expect the typical recovery goodies, but the best part was the bling we work for (in addition to the accomplishment of finishing such a challenging event)! The medal is a solid design of a traditional arrowhead with a wonderful design on one side and a relief design of the canyon on the other with the name and date of the event engraved. The running shirt had a similar design as part of the swag from the event and I look forward to running around wearing it.
Somehow I managed to finish in the top 16% of all runners even after stopping to help 2 injured runners along the way. I know this run would have been even more enjoyable with better weather conditions, but its all part of our personal test I guess. Still, I highly recommend running this event. This was my first trail run, and boy did I pick a doozy. This is certainly one of my top three races that I know I will never forget.
Good Luck on your next race. Thanks for reading. Hope to see you out there!