Antelope Island Fall Classic 50k-2016


The Antelope Island Fall Classic 50k starts with a couple of miles of easy uphill. Somewhere to the east the sun has risen, but for now we run in shadow. In a canyon on our left, coyotes start to howl, welcoming the morning. Runners stop, look at each other. Some of us stand and listen for a moment before we continue. The sun is peeking over the horizon as we reach the hilltop.

100_0823It’s a perfect day, in the next ten miles all my extra layers will be discarded. I tend to dress a little on the warm side, so I’m really happy that I decided to wear a tank top as my first layer.

The next few miles are fast and flat followed by a downhill to Death Valley. Everybody seems to make it through Death Valley alive, in spite of the buffalo grazing on the hillside. More fast flats, and we climb to the first aid station.

100_1348I get some Coke and PB&J. Can I just say, and hope that all race directors will listen, that Coca Cola is amazing at an aid station? I don’t know what it is, I don’t drink Coke any other time, but it is perfect during a race.

100_1346Fast downhill again. The course, overall, is pretty easy for a 50k. The website shows 3500 feet of vertical, but my watch ends up closer to 3000 feet. For a Utah race of any length, that’s almost flat. Don’t get me wrong, the lack of vertical doesn’t mean things can’t go horribly wrong.

Respect the distance.

20161105_104629The west side of the island is very pretty in a wild and barren sort of way. This summer 50% of the island burned in a wildfire. I expected to see more signs of this, but the island seems almost normal. Most of the vegetation is grass, with very few trees, so recovery is easier than it would be in many places. There is an ashy, burnt smell when the wind dies down, and some areas look charred, but life has fought back quite well.

At some point, I look at my watch and realize I haven’t eaten in over an hour and a half. I eat a couple of slices of running potatoes (my own recipe) and keep going. Probably should have eaten a little more…

There is a pretty substantial hill coming up where the course crosses over to the east side of the island. I remember the hill from this race three years ago, and I dread it, but my troubles begin before this hill makes its appearance.

There is a part of the course that runs right along the shoreline. There are big rocks, fun to run on, and I jump from one to another like a gazelle…I might not look exactly like a gazelle, but it is fun. After the fun rocks is a section of sand alternating with smaller rocks. I start to really slow here, my pace completely falters, and at one point I just stop, stand in the middle of the trail and look around.

20161105_104506It’s not a steep spot, but I suddenly decide I can’t take another step. The next aid station is about two miles away, but that seems like an extreme distance. My husband is ahead of me somewhere, so I decide to call him so he can come and get me. I decide this although I’m not anywhere near a road, my husband does not have his phone on him, and besides that he is running! Then I remember that there is very spotty cell service on the island, especially at the finish line where I parked my car.

This thought process is a lot harder and more time consuming than you would think. It wasn’t until much later that I realized my ridiculous plans were the result of low blood sugar. My underfed body had depleted my underfed brain of all its sense.

I start walking for a few minutes, then stop again. I’m so hot! I’m so hungry! I’m so glad I’m alone so I can’t whine to anyone! I take off my pack and shed my extra layers of clothes. I try all of the mantras that usually work. My current favorite is Finish on Empty! That one has been great during Spartan races, but it doesn’t work so well when you’re already on empty with miles to go.

I sit on a flat rock on the side of the trail and eat. A couple of runners pass and ask if I’m okay. I’m not sure what my answer is, but it must be reasonable, because no medical helicopter shows up.

20161105_113851Only a week or two before I had written a post for you guys called Under the Bridge. I start thinking about the advice I gave in that post, and realize that’s the advice I currently need the most.

I get up and start going again and reach the dreaded hill. I start to feel better, but my hoped-for time has been completely blown away. I start thinking the whole field has already passed me, and the man coming up the hill behind me is sweeping the course.

But he’s not the sweeper, and the hill turns out to be not so dreadful. I reach the aid station at the top, not quite half way, and tell the kind volunteers that I’m having a rough day. They say, “well let’s see if we can turn it around!”

And they did. More Coca Cola, PB&J and some advice to DRINK MORE!

20161105_101758I drop down to the west side of the island. This side isn’t as pretty, but there are nice views of the mountains of the Wasatch Front. This half is mostly flat. I usually have trouble with flat, but my day truly has turned around, and I maintain a pretty good pace for the rest of the race. The race three years ago had been short of a 50k, but the course this year has been modified, adding about a mile of pavement at the end.

I collect my finisher’s cup (chili bowl) and have it filled with buffalo chili. The buffalo chili at all the Antelope Island races is made by the race director’s wife, and it is delicious!

20161105_093346Like every race, I learned something. Like most races, I finished. My time was slow, but for me, not shamefully slow. I mean, I am The Trail Snail.

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Share the Trail


2016-08-02-09-49-06I’m on a narrow downhill section of singletrack. Yay downhill! The section is not steep, but lots of roots cross the trail, requiring enough focus that I don’t see the mountain biker coming uphill until I almost reach him. Startled, I slam on the brakes and step to the side. By this time, he has also stopped and pulled off.

“Thanks!”, we yell at exactly the same time.

“Have a good run/ride!”, we yell at exactly the same time as we each move on.

2016-08-02-10-42-08I’m kind of laughing at our excessive politeness as I continue my run. It’s really nice to laugh at excessive politeness, rather than grousing about the rudeness of someone on the trail.

I won’t say it happens a lot, but I’m sure we’ve all had those trail moments that kind of ruin your mood for a while. It bothers me the most when it’s a fellow runner. Sometimes I’ll wave, or say hi, and get a stony stare in return. Then I say things under my breath…

2016-08-02-09-24-32On that extremely polite day, I was on a trail that can get a lot of mountain bike traffic. It’s part of an extensive network of trails, some bike only, some downhill bike only, some multi-use. On this system of trails, I’ve seldom had a problem with a mountain bike. Everyone seems to be just enjoying themselves and able to share without trouble. Which makes sense. It’s not that hard.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case everywhere I run.

Part of the problem, admittedly, is the inconsistency in trail sharing rules. There is a sign at most trailheads in my area that shows a horse, hiker, and bike. This sign shows that everyone yields to horses, and bikes yield to hikers.

2016-08-07-08-05-05-2If you learn one thing from this post, always yield to horses. Always! As a former equestrienne, I can tell you that even a horse you know well can be unpredictable at times. Also, horses are BIG! If you squeeze behind a horse on the trail, you might be unpleasantly surprised at the result. With horses, move off the trail as much as possible and let them pass. Pay attention to the rider. If the rider seems relaxed, she’s probably on a horse that has a lot of trail miles and will not misbehave. If the rider is tense on the reins, then give them plenty of room and don’t make sudden moves.

On other trails, signs say “yield to uphill”. This makes sense. For me, admittedly not the greatest mountain biker that ever lived, starting on an uphill can be difficult. Running uphill doesn’t pose the same challenge, but it’s nice to keep going when you’re trying to push to the top of a hill.

20160828_152611-2There is a nice, short, technical, multi-use trail that I run sometimes where I have had NO END of problems. I don’t know if it’s the easy accessibility of this trail, but I often come across that dreaded “bad biker”. This is the mountain biker that puts all the trails at risk for mountain bike closures.

This particular trail is used by families with tiny children and great-grandmas. It’s frequented by stoners and groups of teens. These groups don’t take a nice nature hike thinking they are putting life and limb at risk.

But, throw a few pre-teen mountain bikers into the mix, drop them off at the top so they’re not even tired (good idea, dad) and see how fast they can get to the bottom. Do this every Saturday, the busiest day on the trail. Whether they think they’re in a race or a video game, there is no slowing for pedestrians, other bikes, or wildlife.

2016-08-07-09-32-24Unfortunately, these are the mountain bikers that the people on the trail that day are going to remember. They will remember the ones that almost ran them down, the ones that didn’t slow down, since they were airborne, the ones that would never think to smile, or nod, or thank somebody for moving to the side.

And these are less than half of one percent of the mountain bikers I see on my runs.

I don’t have a solution for these particular stupid boys. My husband and daughter talked to a police officer at the trailhead after a near collision, and the police officer thought you should yield to downhill riders since they’re going fast and it’s hard to stop. As if careening out of control is something to be desired. So. No help there.

The simplest solution is not to necessarily follow the signs posted, but to be polite. Everybody is doing the same thing. Whether you’re running, hiking, strolling slowly with your grandchildren, or mountain biking, you’re just out enjoying the outdoors. Everybody needs to do that more. We’re a sedentary and expanding populace, and getting out on a trail is extremely good medicine.

IMG_20140415_181300_365If you can’t say “good morning!” or at least nod, maybe you are part of the problem. The trail doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to all of us.

So yield! Just yield.

And maybe smile.

Moab’s 2016 Red Hot 33k… the Snow Episode


2016-02-13 13.30.32We’re climbing a hill on our toes. Our magical trail shoes grip the smooth red rock, turning us into human mountain goats. Perhaps we are breathing a little harder than a mountain goat would in this situation. Perhaps the mountain goat wouldn’t stop to take a picture or gaze open-mouthed at the view. Then again, confronted with the panorama of red domes and cliffs, frosted with snow like giant red and orange cakes, with hazy purple and white mountains in the far distance, even a mountain goat might stop and stare.

My second Moab Red Hot 33k left me even more enamored than my first. Have you ever run on the red rock that lives in Utah? Have you stared down from a high point at the savage beauty of the rocky desert? I recommend it, dear reader, if you ever get the chance.

2016-02-13 10.09.33But I’ve already told you about the event, and my deep love for everything about it (Moab’s Red Hot 33k… a Love Story). So I’ll just tell you about this year. Last year was quite dry. This year brought a lot of snow, and the Red Hot course was changed slightly to get us out of the snow and ice-filled ravines. That meant even more running on the slick rock, and less down in the sandy washes.

Last year I ran alone. This year I’m running with J, one of my two pregnant daughters.

2016-02-13 08.50.46Yes, two pregnant daughters. My running daughter J and my non-running daughter N are expecting their own daughters this summer. Within six weeks of each other. I’m not making this up. My running goals and wishes and aspirations now require a jogging stroller for two.

2016-02-13 12.10.48My children are old enough that the whole pregnancy thing is a blurry memory, but one thing I remember clearly is that you fall madly, hopelessly in love the second you see that baby. So I’m doing a lot of cardio to make extra room in my heart.

Anyway. The plan for today is that I will go at J’s pregnant pace, keep her in check a little, not let her get all competitive. So the three of us (one is about the size of a blueberry and isn’t even wearing shoes) are running together. Also in the field is my husband, Js father, and the blueberry’s grandfather, B. This is just one person. B.

2016-02-13 12.42.27Also, running in the 55k, is my big brother! He’s also a J so I’ll call him JC. I probably wouldn’t even be a runner if it wasn’t for him. He’s to blame for all of this! His inspiration and influence have caused me no end of foot pain and running related expenditures. He is a 3-time Ironman and has completed LOTOJA eleven times (if you don’t know what that is, look it up, you’ll be impressed). He was running marathons when that was still an impossible distance for me.

JC has only dabbled in trail running, but he has now decided that a 100 miler is his next big thing. So he’s out there, running the most beautiful course in the world for his big trail debut.

2016-02-13 10.09.08The day is perfect, with clouds painted across brilliant blue skies. We keep a steady pace, taking pictures when there is no choice, taking it pretty easy. The only way J seems any different is that she’s running with me. Normally she would be waaaay up there somewhere. One of us fell, but not J. This happened just after that someone made a mocking comment about the baby. Don’t disrespect the blueberry. That’s what I learned. We finish within seconds of my time last year, so either I’m a fantastic pacer, or she is.

B finishes far enough ahead of us that his free beer is already gone and he is prepared to drink Js free beer. I think it’s unfair to take advantage of a beer lover’s pregnant state, but B apparently does not agree.

2016-02-13 12.52.58

Shrine to Childhood along the course

We wait at the finish line, hoping to see JC finish the 55k, but that post-run chill starts to kick in and we get on a shuttle back to our car. As we walk to our car, I see Anna Frost. ANNA FROST!! I think it can’t be her, I mean this is a pretty small event in Utah, and of course I don’t say anything to her, but it’s ANNA FROST!! I tell everyone at work! They give me a blank stare… ah well, we all have our heroes, and four of mine ran this year’s Red Hot.

When I talk to my brother later, it’s obvious that he’s hooked. He has a 50 mile race scheduled about 5 weeks after the Red Hot, and I’ve no doubt it will go as planned. By the time he runs his 100 miles I will have two granddaughters. One year ago, I could not have imagined this, for either of us.

2016-02-13 09.04.36So keep running, friends. You never know what’s around that next corner.