Upheaval Dome hike

I wasn’t sure how I would feel the day after my half marathon but I was secretly hoping that I would be have enough control of my legs to do a short hike somewhere near Moab. You can’t come to the desert and not explore. After a quick test of walking into town to try and get some coffee I decided that I was in good enough shape to tire out those legs some more. There are two national parks near Moab – Arches and Canyonlands, and Arches is definitely the popular one that everyone wants to visit. We figured Canyonlands (which is a little more out of the way) would be a little quieter and had some trails that were new to us.

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We settled on Upheaval Dome trail which is literally at the end of the road. It was a shortish hike – about 1.8 mile round trip.

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Desert flowers were out – and purple seemed to be the color of choice.

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This is the view from the first lookout. I am not a geologist but my understanding is that scientists don’t quite understand how all of that grey rock got to be there. Not the prettiest view but if you’re into geology it probably rocks your world (#sorrynotsorry).

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I’ve been in Utah for 5 (!) years now and I still am mesmerized by the red rock desert views. The trail continued on to the second viewpoint and got a little more gnarly (I don’t think I’d recommend it for young children). The trail was marked with cairns but it was kind of shocking to me how people were ignoring the obvious route to walk down some pretty steep slickrock. I mean they the NPS literally carved steps into the stone to make it easier (and safer) for everyone.

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Viewpoint two had guardrails so you know it was super dangerous. And we got another view of the mysterious grey rock.

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It was nice to get my legs moving before we hit the road for the 4 hour drive home. See you soon Moab!

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Race recap: Canyonlands Half Marathon

Yes you read that right – a half marathon. And I know it sounds crazy – considering my limited running over, well, pretty much the whole of 2015. So let’s rewind and figure out why I thought that this was a good idea.

I was given the all-clear to run back on February 18th so I started a run-walk program – doing 30 minute workouts and gradually building up the percentage of running vs walking. I did manage a long “run” of 5.15 miles, followed by 7.5 miles the next weekend. Then my first race of the year – the RUN SLC 10K. This was actually the first non-stop run since my injury setback. The next week was a little rough – my calf was a little stiff but after an extra rest day I was feeling pretty well recovered – and still taking regular walk breaks to keep things nice and easy.

I think that I mentioned previously that the Canyonlands half marathon had a five mile option that I could switch to at packet pick-up. And originally that was the plan. Because that would be the smart thing to do. But I reasoned that if I could survive a longish run the weekend before the race then I would stick with the half marathon distance. And I survived 10.5 miles of mostly running. Still with breaks. It was tough. But I made it and felt pretty good, and more importantly I recovered from it pretty quickly. As the week progressed I was becoming more and more settled on doing the half marathon. I know a lot of you are thinking “This girl is crazy!”, and I admit I would never advise anyone else to do this. And if it turns around and bites me in the ass in the next couple of months feel free to call me out on it.

So in summary my half marathon training plan went like this:

1. Pull calf muscle in January. Repeat a week later.

2. Take 4 weeks off from running.

3. Run-walk 3 times a week for 5 weeks.

4. No speedwork, tempo runs and limited long runs.

5. Volia! Half marathon ready……….

I headed down to Moab on Friday afternoon to pick up my bib and check into our condo. Moab is crazy busy on this weekend so I would definitely recommend making a reservation or renting a place with a kitchen. Pick-up was really easy – a cute t-shirt (although the sizing ran on the large side) and a reusable shopping tote that doubled as your drop bag. I feasted on pasta and beer (carb loading like a champ) and headed for an early-ish bedtime.

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The race started on Saturday at 10 AM but being Utah you had to catch a bus to the start line between 7.30-8.15 AM and hang around trying not to freeze to death. Actually, it wasn’t that cold but we were in the shade for the whole two hours. They had coffee, hot chocolate, gatorade and water, plus plenty of porta-potties. At 9.40 we had to walk to the actual race start (about 0.4 miles further up the road) and drop our bags.

I wore my arm warmers for the first time – along with a tank and shorts. I was seriously cold at the start but once we got moving I warmed up quickly and running in the sun was pretty warm. Here’s some of the footage from the race organizers showing the start. Let me say that this is a really scenic race. You basically run along the Colorado river in a beautiful red rock canyon. Any time I was starting to feel bad I would remind myself to look UP and take in the scenery and enjoy just being outside and running in such a picturesque place. The other advantage of running in a canyon is that a lot of it was run in the shade which helped keep me cool as the temperature increased.

There were plenty of water stops – every 2 miles – and a Clif shot zone halfway through. The course was pretty rolling (about 375 ft elevation gain over the course and about 450 ft drop) with one short, steep hill at mile 9.5. At mile 10.5 you left the canyon and started heading towards the town. This meant running on the shoulder of a pretty busy road which was not fun but you quickly turned into some more residential areas that were closed to traffic. The race finished at the town park where you picked up your medal, race goodies and complimentary beers. The weather was perfect for post-race beer drinking – sunny and in the 70s. And also perfect for getting my first sun burn of the year. Boo! You’d think I’d know better having the whitest skin possible.

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As for the race. Well, it went about as well as I could have hoped for considering my lack of training. I thought I could run around 1.50 so I wanted to start out around 8.20 and see how it went. I knew the last couple of miles would be tough but I gave myself permission to walk if I needed to. So here’s the mile-by-mile:

Mile 1: 8.21  Feeling pretty good.

Mile 2: 8.14

Mile 3: 8.16

Mile 4: 8.18

Mile 5: 8.11

Mile 6: 8.15

Mile 7: 8.23

The first half felt pretty comfortable. I was feeling a little hot and a little hungry (which was a pretty worrying sign so early on). During the next mile I stopped to walk and take my Gu.

Mile 8: 8.39

Mile 9: 8.21

Mile 10: 8.26

Mile 11: 8.28

Things started feeling pretty hard around this point. I was now doing all of my mental tricks to convince myself to keep going but it felt hard. Bonus: we were now completely out of the shade and running alongside some semis in single file. At this point I had to stop to walk. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this during a half marathon but it was the right choice. Then I got myself going again and convinced my legs they could keep moving until the end.

Mile 12: 9.11

Mile 13: 8.39

Final time: 1.51.21 with an average pace of 8.30 min/mile. I managed to finish in the top 20% overall and really couldn’t have asked for better considering the circumstances. My calf was feeling fine until the last 4 miles or so, and never really got painful enough to change my gait. It felt tight afterwards and I managed to ice it at the finish area. The next day it was a little sore and hello quads! how you doing? But, if I’m being really honest it’s probably the least bad (sorry English language) I’ve felt after any of my half marathons. And I know – that doesn’t make any sense at all!

Moab!

I’m so glad Monday was a holiday! I needed a full day to recover after our weekend in Moab. We left on Friday lunchtime so that J could check-in for his 55K race and we could both have an early night (5.30 AM wake-up calls are the downside of racing!). But you know you’ve signed up for an awesome race when you pick up your bib at the local bar.

We made it to the start of the race at 7 AM (the 55K started at 8 AM and the 33K at 8.30 AM). I found the volunteer coordinator and go my hi-vis vest – once you wear this people ask you all kinds of questions. It was in the mid 30s which meant frozen toes but still a lot of fun watching people who paid actual money to run 32ish miles over red rock in February. An additional bonus is that you literally cannot see a bad view in Moab.

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While J was running for 5.5-6 hours I decided to hit up one of the best hikes in Moab, and which was conveniently located right beside the parking lot for the race finish. Corona arch is about a 3 mile round trip with minimal elevation gain and the most amazing views. (And no calf pain at all!)

Back in the desert.

Back in the desert.

Red cliffs.

Red cliffs.

Bowtie arch.

Bowtie arch.

Corona Arch.

Corona Arch.

The arch up close.

The arch up close.

Added adventure.

Added adventure.

I managed to get to the finish in time to watch J finish – under 6 hours in his first ultra. The race was around 32 miles with 4000 ft of elevation gain and by all accounts it was pretty tough -> especially if your longest run was 15 miles!

What a terrible view at the finish!

What a terrible view at the finish!

We spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the sun drinking a beer or two before meeting some friends for dinner and having an early night. The next day J was feeling annoyingly surprisingly good so we headed to Canyonlands National Park after breakfast at the Love Muffin (the only place to get your breakfast burrito in town).

We did a hike down to the False Kiva. It’s a protected historical site so it’s not on the official park map but if you ask (or use the internet) you can find the start of the trail (which is really obvious and well-marked). It started off pretty easy and then we made our way down about 500ft in a pretty steep descent before making out way up to the kiva. It’s called a false kiva because normal kivas have an underground section but who cares when you see this view. What a great way to recharge those batteries!

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Looking out over Canyonlands - towards the Green River and White Rim.

Looking out over Canyonlands – towards the Green River and White Rim.

 

Who wants to come to Utah?