In March, I was pacing a runner from Canada during the 24 hour event at Pickled Feet Ultras. Our conversation led to me being an ambassador for Ultra Adventures and that I am looking to complete all seven 100 mile Ultra Adventure distances this year. (Unfortunately, I ran into a slight snag and dropped from Zion 100. However, by completing the Zion 50K on the following day, I am still on track to finish all seven races.)
The Canadian runner asked me which race I would recommend, Zion 100 or Grand Canyon 100, as a 100 mile race to put on her calendar for 2016. I ran and completed the Zion 100 in 2011, however, I have not run Grand Canyon 100 (yet), so I can’t really compare the two courses. So, my recommendation came down to choose the one that will best fit her schedule and travel options. Either way, I assured the runner that she would not be disappointed in running any of the Ultra Adventures races and here’s why:
1. Each race has its own unique set of challenges. This may be in the form of lots of sand, technical terrain, slick rock, running at sustained elevation, loads of elevation gain (and loss), or a combination of these things. I’ve said it before, “Never underestimate an Ultra Adventure (Matt Gunn) race.” You will be seriously challenged!
2. Despite being faced with a challenging course, each course also has it’s own unique beauty. While running any Ultra Adventures race, it is important to remember to stop and marvel at the awesome features and surroundings of the race course. It is not every day you get to run through a slot canyon, or high above the Colorado River, or across slick rock mesas or past the iconic monuments of Monument Valley, or along high elevation plateaus, or take in views while cruising at over 11,000 feet in elevation. (Well, I guess if you live in any one of these areas, you can run through these sites every day. But really, how many of us are in this position?)
3. All Ultra Adventures races are sustainable events! All UA events are zero waste, with less than 1% of the trash produced at the event going to the landfill. With the Eco Commodes, this means NO portapotty chemical sludge being sent to the waste water treatment facilities.
To accomplish this, all trash (organic, recyclable and non-recyclable) from the start/finish line and each aid station is separated. Organic (think food waste) materials is composted. Normal recyclable materials (paper, plastic, aluminum, glass) are recycled in their usual manner. While non-recyclable materials (Styrofoam cups, gel wrappers, plastic film wrapping and bags, wax cups, etc) are compressed in an Ubuntu Blox machine. The resulting bales become sustainable building material.
As for the human waste, the Eco Commodes are composting toilets. turning all human waste into a nutrient-rich soil amenity.
Check out Ultra Adventures ambassador Arianne Brown’s article in Trail Runner.
4. If you happen to be one of those runners who enjoys eating only energy gels for hours on end, you may not be that impressed with the food offered at the aid stations. However, if you are like me and like to eat whole foods during a race, you are in for a treat. Each aid station is supplied with yummy organic food with many of the treats being home made by the amazing Tana McTeer.
Over the past few years I have continued to experiment with food both on and off the trail. As a result I make a lot of my own trail food. Be that as it may, I still don’t hesitate to check out aid station offerings. Along with the usual organic fruit, pretzels, vegan vegetable broth, usual Ramen noodles and candies, each aid station is supplied with tasty treats called Lara Bites (vegan bites made of various nuts and dried fruit), mashed potato bites, small muffins made of kale, sweet potato and feta cheese, and Nutella Rice Krispie treats.
5. The finisher’s awards for all distances are amazing!!!! Since Ultra Adventures first race (Zion 100) in 2011, Kali Mellus (owner of etsy shop bykali) makes the most incredible belt buckles using actual organic material found at each of the races.For the other distances, finisher’s awards have included custom made leather cuff bracelets, beaded Navajo bracelets, and hand made pottery mugs.
6. If your travel schedule allows, take the time to explore the (race) area further with a Trifecta (or two or three). Each of the seven race areas are so diverse, that it can be impossible to see all of its beauty just from the race course. Thus, the Trifecta challenge includes “must see” trails or land features that are within a reasonable traveling distance of the race course.
As an incentive to continue exploring for each of the 3 “legs” of the Trifecta that you complete, you will receive 10% discount credited towards the next Ultra Adventures event that you participate in! Complete all three legs of the Trifecta and you have earned yourself 30% off of the next event! These discounts can also be accumulated, so after 3 events, you can earn 90% off of the 4th event just for getting out. How cool is that!? You can save some money on a future Ultra Adventure as well as come home with a new appreciation for the amazing landscape found within the Grand Circe area. Win – win!!!
7. Lastly, but certainly not least…the Ultra Adventures staff is made up of some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet. The staff along with all of the ambassadors that I have met are the true embodiment of the ultrarunning community. They are fun, crazy, passionate about being outdoors, not afraid to play in the dirt, sharing, supportive, genuine. Need I say more!
There are four races left in the 2015 Grand Circle Series. These include Grand Canyon Ultras, Bryce Canyon Ultras, Capitol Reef Ultras and Tushars Ultras. You can sign up for any or all at Ultrasignup. Registration is also already open for 2016 Antelope Canyon Ultras. I also hear that there should be a few new races for 2016. (Nothing official yet, so just throwing out a teaser for now.)
Regardless of your choice, your mind, body and soul will not regret adding an Ultra Adventures race to your calendar.
Enjoy the trails wherever they may take you. 🙂