Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Majestic Monument Valley 50 K and More!

As I sit here trying to think about what to write I am having a hard time coming up with words that describe how spectacular this race and Monument Valley were. There was something special about this area that caught my heart. I just can't quite grasp what it was.

Early Thursday morning myself and a couple friends headed out on the 7 hour drive to Monument Valley. We went down a day early to help with setup and to get there early enough that my new friend could get settled before she started her 100 mile race the next morning. The day was beautiful. Shortly after we arrived and picked up race numbers we were sent out on the task of filling water jugs. Holy water jugs! I had never realized how many jugs it takes to put on a race. Two truck beds full of water jugs, 5 people, a few wet faces, lots of giggling and an hour later we had the jugs filled and headed back. As we got back the sun was starting to set and it was so absolutely stunning I felt like I couldn't get enough pictures.The day winded down and I got to bed early so I could see my friend off on her 100 mile journey the next morning.

Upon awakening the next morning the air was crisp as we listened to the Navajo prayer given to the runners before they set out on their journey's. After they left on their journey the sun started to peak out and my other friend and I set out to go do one of Ultra Adventures Trifecta Challenges.

On our way to the Honaker Trail we decided to enjoy the road to Monument Valley that 'Forrest Gump' made popular. Being daring and watching for cars we had fun with a little photo shoot running up and down the road. 

Upon arriving at the Honaker Trailhead a little while later, we trekked out to find the San Juan River. It felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere. Well, maybe we were! The canyon and its layered walls were sure a sight to see. Never would have guessed after hiking on the flat desert to get here that it could dive so deep and be so magical looking. We hiked down only a little ways because I needed to get back to the race start so I could do some volunteering.

The rest of the day was spent helping out with runner check in and the 100 mile aid station at mile 36. It was sure a pleasure to help out, hang out, and meet so many neat people. As the sun was about to set it was time for me to start thinking about my race the next day. I was tired from a full day of activities and headed back to camp to get ready and get some zzz's.

As I woke up Saturday from a wonderful 8 hrs of sleep at 5:45 am (unusual amount of sleep for me prior to a race, but I must have been tired!) As I headed out to get going on my 50 k race I was nervous how the day would go. This would be my 3rd race in 5 weeks and I was unsure how the body would react. The morning had a chill that I knew would warm up once the sun was up. As the Navjao's gave us their prayer and the 50 milers took off then Matt sent the 50 k's off. The first trail was fast and very runnable.  I was quickly reminded once again in a race I started too quick. My asthma started acting up 4 miles in and I knew I needed to get my heart rate down and my breathing under control. This is so hard for me and I am always learning how to try and get it under better control. After slowing down for a little bit I was able to gain control of the wheezing lungs and enjoy the beauty that was surrounding me. The sunrise was outstanding and made the red of the landscape so very vibrant!

Good Morning Sunshine!

The Three Sister's

In and out of the Hogan Aid Station for the first time and the second time I don't remember much. I was enjoying the scenery but at the same time I felt like I was running hard. I figured out I was in third when I left the aid station the first time and I put myself in a racing mode and pushed forward. The fourth place gal was on my heels and eventually passed me. My legs were achy from the prior races especially when I hit the 3rd loop which I believe was called the Arches loop. It was a long 9.5 miles with a lot of sand! Grinding through it and just trying to go as fast as I could I was fully enjoying the views as I ran past beautiful sand dunes, horses, monuments and arches.

Yep that's snow!
Coming back into the Hogan Aid for the 3rd time my body was cramping. I never cramp! I was out of water so I knew I was drinking enough, or at least thought I was. I had been doing my regular regiment of salt tabs and I was good on nutrition. At the aid station I doubled up on my normal salt, downed some Tailwind and water and filled my pack back up with water and headed out to the what I knew would be a huge climb to Mitchell Mesa. On the road and the wash to get there the body started to feel better. During this time though I realized I was dehydrated and it was the fluids I needed to get the cramping under control. My body was screaming at me from the day before and not getting enough fluids while being outside all day. The pace started to pick up again and I gained back up on the lady who had passed me 10 miles ago. As I started the climb up to Mitchell Mesa I felt great and pushed up the technical 1500 ft climb in full force, with even running in sections where I could.

Looking out into the valley on the climb up Mitchell Mesa.

Yep we went up that!

Looking east from the mesa,

Looking west from the mesa.

Once on top of the mesa the trail and the views were great. To the out and back and back and on the tail of that lady my mood changed suddenly and I decided then and there I wanted to place in this race. On the way back down I was flying and pushed hard and fast through the aid station one last time to the final 4 mile stretch of dirt road to the finish. I give a lot of credit to Julia (the lady I was chasing) for forcing me to stay on her heels as she and I passed the 1st and 2nd place girls on the road to the finish. I barely caught the 2nd place girl a couple hundred yards from the finish running the steep switchbacks. My lungs were on fire, not only from working really hard, but all the dust from the cars on the road. Rolling into the finish line and being greeted by friends I was excited to be done! That was hard work! Top three women finishing within a couple of minutes of each other was a crazy thing! SO proud of the ladies who placed with me. I have them to thank for pushing me hard to the finish.

Such a great race! I absolutely loved this course, it was tough, fun and beautiful. I feel so very lucky to have been able to experience the sacred lands of the Navajo's. While out there I could feel why they are sacred. The Navajo's and Ultra Adventures made this a race I will never forget!

View from my camp site.
As the weekend came to a close on Sunday and I headed home I thought about all the people I met and this outstanding place I just left. This is not just about running, it is about building friendships, creating memories, helping others and just being happy.

Thanks to my hubby and three kids for letting me get away and thanks to Ultra Adventures for yet another great event!!


  1. Yay!!! Congrats! Mad props to you. I know what you mean about trying to describe this place. I'm still feeling quite overwhelmed. See you out on the next trail :)

  2. Nice write-up and great pictures. Congratulations on your race.
    Thanks for making water jug filling so much fun.