Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bryce Canyon Half Marathon and a Sweet Vacation

We started our little weekend getaway on Friday morning and headed South to Panguitch, Utah, a tiny little town with a population of about 1500 people. Because Bryce Canyon is about 25 miles away this is considered a tourist area and this little town had quite a variety of motels to stay at. But as I was trying to find accommodations online it was looking next to impossible to find anything with a vacancy. I just about gave up on the whole idea of running the Bryce Canyon half marathon because there just wasn't anywhere to stay. One night while casually looking again lo and behold I found a motel! So I quickly phoned and made reservations and then signed up immediately to run. 
When we got into town it was lunchtime and we went straight to the Subway, (yes there was indeed a Subway in this tiny town) and each ordered a $5 dollar footlong.  I love what a bargain it is and such a healthy meal too.  I figured that would be a great thing to eat the day before a race.. We then pulled into the motel and signed in and unloaded the luggage and only 2 minutes later the sky opened up and fell. Not only did it rain but hailed and hailed some more.  We were just a little stressed watching from the motel window as our car was getting pelted.  After the storm Mark inspected but there was no damage, thank goodness!
I braved the out of doors and scooped up some hail.  Those were some hard little pebbles in my hand.
See all that white stuff in the road and gutter?  Yes, that is hail floating down the street.
When we signed in and got our room the motel owner said he had three cancellations because of the rain and people not wanting to run the Bryce Canyon half marathon in the bad weather.  Are they big chickens? It sure beats running in the heat was all I could think.  My thoughts on this would later change.
After the storm and some relaxing and watching t.v. we headed out to the Cannonville Park 38 miles away where the finish line and packet pick up was at.  It was fun to drive the race route and see exactly what I had signed up for.  Sometimes though, I will admit, I like the anticipation of  NOT knowing the course and being surprised as I run.  It just makes the whole experience a little more fun for me.  We saw my friend Monnica who had a booth set up selling her cute running jewelry. We visited with her for a little while and met her cute daughter and nephew and chatted a little about race strategy and meeting up the next morning.  Then Mark and I headed back to Panquitch to go get some dinner.  We found a cute little pizza joint called C-Stop.
 Seriously so delicious.  They make everything from scratch and their place was hopping.  Pizza is a good pre-race fuel too right?  I ordered the bbq chicken pizza with red onions. Mark was tired of smelling onion breath from the Subway sandwich I had eaten for lunch but he would just have to endure a little more.  We went back to the motel and I got all my race stuff out and set my alarm and planned to get up at 4:00 am.  The race coordinator had a bus shuttle going into Bryce from Panguitch that was picking up people at 4:30 am.  There were about 40 people on that bus.  It was right next door to our motel and so Mark didn't have to get up early to drive me to the starting line.  That was seriously so nice for him.  Well, I didn't sleep well and actually got out of bed at 3:30 am and took my time getting ready.  I boarded the bus at 4:30 am and about 15 minutes into the ride I saw the rain on the windshield of the bus. (I was in the front seat)  I just kept thinking, "Oh boy, hurry up rain and get it all over with before we have to run" 
We arrived at the starting line just a little after 5:00 am and I immediately found Monnica all cuddled up inside a blanket.  It was a little chilly but not unbearable.  She had ridden the bus from the opposite end at the finish line from Cannonville.  The rain had let up and we talked race strategy a little more and I told her how I had PR'd at American Fork Canyon Half Marathon.  This race was the exact same drop in elevation and so my hopes were a little high that I could maybe run the same time or even try for a few seconds faster.  Monnica challenged me to do it and said "Let's get you a new PR today"  All of a sudden I got so nervous and started to get a little sick feeling.  I started doubting myself and wasn't sure I was capable of doing it again so soon after the recent PR.  We lined up with the 2:10 pacer and just a few minutes later the gun went off and we were going!  At this point the rain started gently falling again.  Another gal in the 2:10 pace group started chatting with us and Monnica said "Let's all run together, it's much more fun that way."  Well, after about a mile and a half into the run I realized there was no way I was going to be able to keep up her pace and I told her to just go on without me and run her own race.  (She finished the race in under 2 hours-Way to go girl!)  Although it was still dark outside at 6:00 am when the race started I had to wear my sunglasses to keep the rain out of my eyes.  Nobody told me to bring goggles!  I also just watched the ground and kept my head down to help with keeping the rain out of my eyes.  It finally let up after a couple miles and I took off my sunglasses and finally started enjoying the canyon and beautiful surroundings.
Note to self:  Trying to run while taking a photo causes blurry photos.
I don't remember a lot of details about the race from here on out but I realized that eating a footlong Subway for lunch and a personal pizza for dinner the day before a race was probably a little too much food.  I wasn't too thrilled about having to make two port-a-potty stops.  That was a first in all my races!  Fortunately there were plenty of them on the course.  I knew at some point in my run I would see Mark drive by.  He was going to be at the finish line in Cannonville and had to drive by to get there.  There was only one lane of traffic open through the canyon and so a pilot car lead the way for them.  Sure enough around mile 8 or 9 there he was!  I smiled and waved as he went by and then he was gone.

  Well, after enjoying a few miles with no rain it started up again exactly at mile 10 and this time it didn't let up.  It continued for mile 11, 12, 13 and by the time I reached the finish line it was POURING!
Every mile marker had a different style runner on a pole.  Yeah, it was pretty cool looking.
After all this rain my feet were soaked, my shirt was soaked, my hair was soaked and I was so ready to be done.  I did a lot of run/walk combination in the last 3 miles and leap-frogged with so many people doing the same thing.  I think we were all just so water logged and it was just a tough struggle to keep going. 
(Notice my wrinkled fingers from being wet so long?-no it's not because I'm getting old)
Coming into the finish line Mark took this photo on his cell phone.
I don't know what the official Bryce Canyon race time is but this was the time on my garmin.  Not 
my worst time but also nothing close to my previous PR.  After Mark and I discussed what my problem was today we came up with a few conclusions.  He thought maybe I'm running too many races in a row and that I can't expect my body to always have a great time.  I agreed.  He also said the rain weighing down my clothes and shoes was probably a factor for my sluggishness.  I agreed again.  The fact that I slept horrible the night before with only about 4 hours sleep may have played a factor.  I once again agreed.  Mark sure is a smart guy and I was just happy he was there for me and let me vent my frustrations to him.  He also knew the right things to say to help me feel better.  I'm not giving up races.  In fact this makes me a little more determined to keep trying my best.  Yes, I will have good races and most definitely there will be bad races.  The important thing is I'm out there doing it and it's making me a happier, healthier person.    
I saw no after race treats, only water bottles, BOO :(  Who wants to drink water when you just ran for miles in the rain??  They did have a nice little breakfast for $5.  Pancakes, hash browns, eggs, sausage, bacon, orange juice, and milk.  Mark and I indulged quickly because it really was just so cold and wet out there.
 I was completely soaked and when we got in the car Mark made me sit on a towel.  Sheesh.
After heading back to Panguitch I took a nice long, hot shower.  There was no bathtub in our motel room and so I didn't get to take an ice bath.  That o.k. because I was just so chilled.   I then laid down and slept for a good hour and a half.  When I woke up and started watching t.v. I noticed that Mark then dozed off and slept for a good hour.  We definitely needed sleep.  We got up and ate lunch and then headed off to do some hiking. The original plan was to hike in Bryce Canyon but we found this cute little place on the way called Red Canyon and stopped there to check it out.  The guy at the visitors center told us the hike to do and that it would be about a 2 mile loop.  Of course I wore my Garmin and we got in 2 1/2 miles.

It was some of the most beautiful scenery ever with the bold contrasting colors of red rock and green trees and shrubbery.
I loved the rock formations all around us.  I told Mark I wanted to climb up on top of this hoodoo rock but I couldn't get my body to cooperate.  Haha! So I made Mark stand by it instead for a photo.
It was so interesting to see this lonely little tree growing up out of the rocks all by itself up there.
I could have hiked here all day it was so fascinating with something new and exciting around every bend and turn. We were in no hurry and we were just enjoying our time together.
A very crazy twisted dead tree that looked like it was painted gray, but was just probably the color it turned after it dried up and died.
Mark loved all the colors in this area and even was showing me with his hand. 
When I came upon this old log on the side of the trail and saw these little rocks somebody put on it I immediately thought of my little grandson, Miles.  He likes to take rocks out of my rock beds at home and put them in a little pile. 
 A view of the trail we were ascending.
Back at our motel room and time for some more relaxing.  Mark is checking the internet for hiking ideas for tomorrow.
 The weather was so cool and refreshing we left the motel door open while watching TV and relaxing.
Dinner that night was Arby's roast beef and an orange creamsicle shake.  Yummy! 
 The next morning we checked out of our motel and decided once again to head in a different direction and not even go into Bryce Canyon Nation Park.  Imagine that?  Going to Bryce Canyon and NOT even going into the park.  That was a first for me. I felt like we didn't have enough time to actually get to enjoy the whole experience in the park so we opted for discovering new areas.  We headed West on over to the Panguitch Lake area.  Our motel owner had a book in the lobby that showed a number of different hikes to take in that area and we were ready for some more new exploring.  We came to the lodge and general store at Panguitch Lake and went inside and looked around.  Mark saw salted nut rolls and bought himself a couple and we talked to the guy at the counter about the hike we wanted to take and he was unfamiliar with the hiking trails in the area.  (huh?)  Well, the area really is more known for its fishing and hunting so I guess I can't blame him.  But still, shouldn't he know something??
This place reminded me a lot of a lodge my family used to go to on Beaver Mountain when I was a little girl and it brought back some pretty fond memories.  We headed out to find our trailhead and on the way saw this.
A big herd of sheep being rounded up by some dogs and people on horses.  We figured this little girl on this horse was maybe 9 or 10.  Pretty impressive.  It's probably just second nature to her to be up on that horsie. It was cute to see her kicking the sides of that horse and him moving a little bit faster as she did so.  She sure knew what she was doing.
They were EVERYWHERE and I had to roll down the windows to listen to them.  There were so many little baby ones too.  So cute!
Mark was just concerned about any of them getting in front of our car and blocking him from moving forward so he stayed right on the bumper of the trailer in front of us.

After we got away from the sheep we found where we were hoping we were supposed to go to start our hike.  There were no signs and there was no trailhead, just a general description from the book back at the motel.  So we started hiking unsure of everything but just enjoying the day and being together.  We came upon mounds and mounds of teepee looking stacked wood and it seemed kind of creepy at first.  I wondered if there were people living inside them but upon closer inspection it was just big stacks ready for burning or toting away.  I counted over 100 mounds and then stopped counting as we came back down the trail. Somebody sure was busy doing a lot of  hard work.
The trail description said it was a 4.2 mile round trip to a little secluded lake in the mountains.  So once again I wore my Garmin and sure enough about halfway through at 2.15 miles we came upon the most beautiful area which was so quiet and serene.
The sky was looking a little gloomy but held up and we never got rained on.  It was absolutely perfect weather and we enjoyed some nice cool breezes.
Mark found a shelter that he said somebody had definitely built, and that it wasn't built by some animal like I thought it was.  I thought for sure a bear was going to come crawling out of it at any moment ready to eat us for lunch. Mark reassured me that bear's don't build shelters like this.
The only noise in this whole little valley was this little family of ducks on the lake.  The momma duck was talking to her little babies and trying to keep them safe.  We walked around the whole lake which ended up being about 1/3 of a mile according to my watch.  The ducks stayed far away from us as we did so.
When we got back to the car we checked the Utah map and decided to get to 1-15 on a road we had never driven on.  We came to an area called Cedar Breaks and got out of the car at a certain overlook area and admired the beauty.
We continued our drive and came to the Brian Head Ski Resort area.  I knew about this ski resort but had never been to it or driven in this area.  I was so surprised by the size of it and how many ski runs I could see from the car.  It seemed to be bigger than Sundance.  It was a gorgeous area as well.  I was again just so happy to be traveling in an area I'd never been.  After living in Utah for 35 years I kind of feel like I've seen a lot of this state so it was fun to discover new territory.  The road continued down the canyon and on into the little town of Parowan, Utah.  We hopped onto the freeway and headed on home.  This was a very sweet vacation that was too short but filled with many memories. 


wendy said...

My goodness What a great experience (except for the rain) That would have been hard to keep running in.
I have only been to Bryce Canyon Once, but remember it being quite spectacular. I bet it has some great hiking areas eh.
You are a trooper...that's all I can say.

Jen@runfortheboys said...

Beautiful pics and great job! Looks like a fun race bacau getaway! Love your running pics too :-)

Jen@runfortheboys said...

...race VACAY getaway...ugh!!!

Unknown said...

What a great trip! I love Bryce Canyon and the thought of running a race there sounds so awesome. You were in my neck of the woods at Brian Head. We hike up there quite a bit during the hot summer months. Crazy weather out there, be careful!

Josh said...

Looks like you had fun (running included)! I love the running pictures and of course the jumping picture! Did you ask Fast Cory permission? LOL!

I am the same with races it seems like. Every other run is a PR run (or close to one). Great job though! 2:35 is a good time for the rain!

Jerilee E. said...

Great race/weekend recap! I would probably initially think that running in the rain would be better than the heat, but having all my clothes soaked through would not be fun.
The hikes look amazing, though and you and your husband are adorable!

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brycecanyonhotel said...

What a wonderful trip and experience, one that you will remember for many years.

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