Running Adventures of a Trail Brat


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Make a Running Skirt from your Race Tshirts

Turn your race shirts into a running skirt.

Turn your race shirts into a running skirt.

This year I was fortunate enough to become an ambassador for Ultra Adventures. If you haven’t heard of them yet, check them out! Race director, Matt Gunn, puts on some well thought out courses in some spectacular places. All of his races occur in an area referred to as the Grand Circle, a vast region located in the Southwestern United States. The Grand Circle includes portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada and includes America’s largest concentration of national parks and monuments.

I was set this year to run all seven races included in Ultra Adventure’s Grand Circle Series and wanted to do something fun with the race shirts. After some thought, I came up with the idea to turn all seven shirts into a (single) running skirt, I made my first skirt out of some random shirts I purchased from the thrift store.

A circle skirt made with random tshirts.

A circle skirt made with random tshirts.

I liked the skirt style and it was a lot of fun to wear while running in Zion. So, I decided to put something together using actual race shirts. This required figuring out how to keep the desired, important portions of the shirts during the skirt’s assembly. For my second and third skirts, I used race shirts from Siskiyou Out Back. I had race shirts from 1999-2014.

Running skirt made from Siskiyou Out Back race shirts from 1999-2008.

Running skirt made from Siskiyou Out Back race shirts from 1999-2008.

Running skirt made from Siskiyou Out Back race shirts from 2009-2014

Running skirt made from Siskiyou Out Back race shirts from 2009-2014

After these three skirts, I felt confident to tackle making an Ultra Adventures skirt. Below I’ve included some instructions on how I put together my Ultra Adventures skirt.

I made my basic circle skirt pattern using this chart.

I made my basic circle skirt pattern using this chart.

  • The pattern above gave me a half circle and since I would be assembling seven different race shirts, I added one of the volunteer shirts to make an even eight panels. This would mean four panels on each half. I therefore, divided the pattern into fours and traced the new smaller pattern on to each shirt giving a 3/8″ seam allowance on the sides of each panel.
Getting a visual on the shirt arrangement before beginning to cut.

Getting a visual on the shirt arrangement before beginning to cut.

Cutting out a single panel. Including 3/8" seam allowance on the side of each panel.

Cutting out a single panel. Including 3/8″ seam allowance on the side of each panel.

  • Sew each panel together.
Assembly of one half of the skirt.

Assembly of one half of the skirt.

  • Add a waist band and J’ai fini (I’m done!)
Ultra Adventures skirt

Ultra Adventures skirt

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Tushars Marathon

Summit of Delano Peak, highest peak in the Tushars mountain range.

Summit of Delano Peak, highest peak in the Tushars mountain range.

When I think of mountain running in Utah, I think of the Wasatch, Unita or La Sal ranges. However, thanks to Ultra Adventures, I can now add Tushars Mountain range to my list of Utah mountain running.

Tushars was the last, but far from least, Ultra Adventures race of the 2015 Grand Circle Series and what a way to end the series. Starting at Eagle Point Ski Resort Skyline Lodge, all three distances (93K, marathon, and half marathon) start and finish at an elevation over 10,000 feet. Testing all runners with rugged, technical and steep terrain, no wonder the 93K and marathon distances were part of the 2015 Sky Runner Series!

Elevation profiles for all three distances.

Elevation profiles for all three distances.

I was signed up to run the 93K distance, however, I missed the cutoff at Mud Lake Aid Station (16 miles) by 25 minutes. Because the 93K and marathon courses share the same route, I was able to drop down and at least get in 26 technical, scenic miles.

Click on the image below (or use this link) to view a video of the marathon course. I’d like to say I may have completed the distance quicker had I not taken so much footage. However, at these high elevations, often times stopping to take video and photos was an excuse to catch my breath and will my legs to continue with relentless forward motion. Regardless, my intentions were to have a good time and a good time I definitely had!

Click on the image to view a video of the Tushars marathon course.

Click on the image to view a video of the Tushars marathon course.

Mt Holly Trifecta

After finishing the marathon distance, polishing off a hand made personal pita pizza, and congratulating several runners at the finish line (including the top 4 male finishers of the 93K distance), I decided to make a trek up to Mt Holly in time for the sunset.

At 11,999 feet elevation, Mt Holly is located next to Delano Peak. There are no true trails to the summit of Mt Holly, however, since I knew where Delano Peak was in relation to the ski resort, I was able to manage to connect several different footpaths to the summit.

Backcountry gate leading to Mt Holly from Eagle Point Ski Resort.

Backcountry gate leading to Mt Holly from Eagle Point Ski Resort.

In climbing Mt Holly I hoped to also get a closer glimpse of some mountain goats. Unfortunately, they were still a good distance. Regardless, the amazing views offered by the summit more than made up for it. The beauty and serenity of this area will definitely bring me back!

Mountain goats seen from Mt Holly summit.

Mountain goats seen from Mt Holly summit.

Views along Mt Holly

Views along Mt Holly


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Capitol Reef 100

Quick. Capitol Reef. What’s the first thing that enters your mind? Southern Utah, Capitol Reef National Park, Red Rock, maybe oceans and coral reefs?

Now consider Ultra Adventures Capitol Reef Ultras. What’s the first thing that enters your mind? If you know anything about Ultra Adventures races, you might think: spectacular course, tough course, awesome race staff and volunteers, lots of backcountry adventure.

One of many views from the Aquarius Plateau

One of many views from the Aquarius Plateau

Though these are excellent descriptors of the Capitol Reef Ultras, it is also important to note that the course is not run in the Capitol Reef National Park. Instead, it starts in the arid, red rock of Red River Ranch in Torrey and gradually takes the runner to the subalpine zone of the Aquarius Plateau. The out and back format of the 100 mile course is very technical with the trail consisting of  all sorts of rocks and boulders, wet marshy patches, downed trees, and lots of steep ups and downs. Sometimes an obvious true trail seemed nonexistent or just overgrown. This element made following course markings difficult and added another level of difficulty to the challenge of the course.

Elevation Profile for Capitol Reef 100

Elevation Profile for Capitol Reef 100

Click on the image below to video below represents much of the first 50 miles of the course.

Click on the image of this link to view a video of Capitol Reef 100.

Next to Monument Valley, I’d have to say that Capitol Reef may be my next favorite Ultra Adventures race. The scenery, remoteness, and difficulty make this a course to remember. I also love running at night. My night time highlight was running across the plateau under a clear, starry sky. However, from my vantage point, I saw several lightning strikes over the town of Torrey. This light show was almost as magnificent as running under a meteor shower. Despite my fondness for night running, it also created a few issues trying to navigate across the plateau. At 1am, I stopped to put on another layer of clothing and found myself running in a complete circle. In correcting my course and moving in a forward direction, turns out I was now running the course backwards and heading back to the previous aid station. Fortunately, I ran into Tony Christensen who set me right and offered a second pair of eyes to navigate the plateau.

After 33 hours of running and dealing with the results of fatigue from running at high elevations, I missed the cut off for the 87 mile aid station. This is the first time I’ve missed a cut off and though a little hard to handle, I allowed myself to appreciate what my body had allowed me to accomplish: completing 87 miles of technical terrain with approximately 40 of those miles at sustained elevations above 11,000 feet all while witnessing the beauty of the Aquarius Plateau and Boulder Mountains. I’d say a day and a half well spent, despite not coming home with a belt buckle.

However, given the opportunity, in a heart beat, I’d return next year to redeem myself with a finish! 🙂

 


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Grand Canyon 100

You know you are an ultrarunner when…you get excited by the prospect of weather. I mean after all, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. 🙂

I’ll admit it, after 12 years of running ultras, this was my first trip to the Grand Canyon. In a perfect world, I had hoped to have several days to explore the area prior to the race. But alas, I was fortunate and excited to drive down Thursday (two days before the race start).

Upon arriving at Kaibab Lodge/De Motte Campground, approximately six mile north of the north entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, a round of rain was looking imminent with the weather gods bringing winds, hail and finally snow.

Snowfall at race headquarters a day before race start.

Grand Canyon Ultras race headquarters. T minus 1 day before race start.

Snow at North Rim, AZ in May.

Campsite greeted Friday morning with trace amounts of snow and the prospect of more weather to come.

No refunds offered at the Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park No Refunds policy.

Despite Grand Canyon National Park’s No Refunds policy and the stalled cold front parked over the park, my friends, Dennis and Rachael, and I decided to still visit the park. Our first stop was to Trifecta option, Cape Royal . The falling snow and absence of other visitors made for a one of a kind, surreal experience.

Looking down into the canyon from the Angel Window overlook.

Looking down into the canyon from the Angel Window overlook.

Angel Window overlook at Cape Royal.

Angel Window overlook at Cape Royal.

The South Rim is over there somewhere.

The South Rim is over there somewhere.

Our next stop was the North Kaibab Trail Trifecta. We were supposed to hike down the trail approximately 4.5 miles to Roaring Springs. However, in the interest of time, we hiked the almost 2 miles to Supai Tunnel, instead.

Beginning of North Kaibab Trail.

Beginning to descend down North Kaibab trail. Visibility and weather were continuously changing.

Click on the image below (or use this link) to view a video of our hike down to Supai Tunnel.

Supai Tunnel on North Kaibab Trail

Click image to view hike down North Kaibab Trail to Supai Tunnel.

Race day morning we woke to several inches of accumulated snow and clearing skies. With much excitement, 100 and 50 miles runners were anxious to get started.

Snow on race day.

Race day morning brought lots more new snow.

Clearing skies on race day.

However, skies were definitely clearer than yesterday.

Click on the image below (or use this link) to view a video of Grand Canyon 100.

Ultra Adventures Grand Canyon 100 videi

Click the image to view the Grand Canyon 100 video.

As I was approaching the turn around at Monument Point, I realized I was the third female and fourth place wasn’t too far behind. This excitement lit enough of a fire to encourage me to start pushing the pace. Some where between mile 71 and 77, I passed the second place female and finished 50 minutes before my projected time of 28 hours.

Another excellent Ultra Adventures adventure accomplished.

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Crossing the finish line in 27:08.

Soaking in the hot tub.

Post race soak in the Ultra Adventure traveling hot tub.

Finisher's belt buckle and second place tomahawk award.

Not only another awesome one-of-a-kind Ultra Adventures belt buckle, but a custom tomahawk, as well. Whoo Hoo!

Grand Canyon 100 Course Map

Course map for Grand Canyon 100.

Grand Canyon 100 elevation profile

Elevation Profile of Grand Canyon 100.


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Why Run an Ultra Adventures Race?

Ultra Adventures Logo

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!

Shoe tracks through sand at Antelope Canyon.

Running through lots of sand makes for a more challenging course. However, the views are worth it!

Running across slick rock.

Running miles across slick rock can be tough, but also amazing.

Monument in Monument Valley, UT

I thought this monument looked like a mother bird feeding a baby bird.

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?)

Trash left behind during a race.

Since Ultra Adventures races strive to produce less than 1% waste, please do your part to properly pack out and dispose of your trash.

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.

Nutella Rice Krispie treat

Nutella Rice Krispie treat full of sweetness and saltiness.

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.

Monument Valley 100 buckle

100 mile finisher’s buckle bykali.com

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.

Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

Angel’s Landing, one of the Trifecta challenges for the Zion Ultras.

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. 🙂


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Zion 100…no make that Zion 50K

Red Rock outside Zion taken from Goosebump.

I started Zion 100 confident, but at the same time a little concerned about how this race was going to turn out. With four weeks recovery after Monument Valley, overall my body felt good…feet healed from running through miles of sand, quads and calf muscles feeling ready to take on the brutal slick rock, attitude in check for Ultra Adventures 100 #3. However, my worries stemmed from a urinary tract infection (UTI) that I had been working on getting to pass through my body. For two weeks, I drank large amounts of water, consumed mass quantities of cranberry juice, swallowed several herbal urinary tract support supplements, and consumed many cups of Uva ursi tea.Symptoms would subside a little only to return a few days later. Usually I can shake this sort of thing using the above mentioned remedies and I did not want to succumb to an antibiotic regimen, especially since I thought it would involve a round of Ciprofloxacin (Cipro). I recalled hearing Cipro’s undesirable side effects relating to joints and tendons.

Matt Gunn and his dog Nacho

Race director, Matt Gunn, carries his dog Nacho around the race start.

Race morning, I believed that if I focused on moving myself through the course hat I could block out the symptoms of the UTI. This strategy seemed to work well for the first 10 miles until I made a visit to the Ecocommode at the Flying Monkey aid station where I was met with an intense burning sensation while urinating. The five mile course between Flying Monkey and Dalton aid stations involves a technical two mile descent which went well as I had to focus on navigating my way down. However, while completing the rolling (with one steep climb) three miles to Dalton, I was slowed down due to pressure about my abdomen with each step (whether it be uphill, downhill or flat). Though I was slowing (so early in the course), I still felt I was moving at a decent pace so I envisioned running to the finish with my pacer, Colleen and making arrangements to visit a walk-in clinic upon finishing sometime on Saturday. A few bacteria weren’t going to end my race so easily.

After Dalton aid station, the 100 mile course takes runners up to and around Guacamole Mesa. This mesa was not part of the inaugural Zion course, so I was anxious to make my way up there, so I made my way through Dalton aid station and continued on. It was at this time I began to question if continuing on was a good idea. Each step, whether fast walking or running was met with much discomfort and I began to envision the stress a healthy body endures while completing these kinds of events. Maybe continuing on wasn’t a good idea and visiting a walk-in clinic on a Friday (instead of Saturday after running 100 miles) was a better idea. After approximately two miles outside of Dalton aid station, I found myself stopped in my tracks. All these thoughts had taken my head out of the game. Do I listen to my head or do I hike up the big girl panties, get it together and keep moving forward? That day, the head won.Walking downhill two-ish miles back to Dalton aid station seemed more healthy than enduring another 10-ish miles getting my up and around Guacamole Mesa and back to Dalton aid station.

Cipro RX provides relief

Drugs can have their place.

With my race over, the next task was to figure out how to get to a walk-in clinic. I didn’t have a car of my own and I wasn’t expected to meet up with my pacer, Colleen until 11pm at Grafton Mesa aid station (not the start/finish). Fortunately, Kelly Agnew’s crew extraordinaire his wife Jo gave me a ride back to the start/finish and Ultra Adventure’s wonder woman, Tana McTeer loaned me her car with directions to a clinic in Hurricane. Within hours, my self-diagnosed UTI was confirmed and I had a prescription for Cipro. I know, I wanted to avoid going there, but I obviously needed drug intervention, I have a penicillin allergy (though penicillin derivatives aren’t used much for UTIs anymore) and the treating physician felt risks from sulfur based drugs made Cipro the better choice. Cipro’s biggest side effect is risk of tendon rupture in user’s of all ages. With four more 100s planned for this year, that would not be a good thing. Therefore, to help reduce my risk, I will be foam rolling every night with emphasis on my feet and heels, as well as following up with a muscle rub I created using essential oils known for their tension relieving, anti-inflammatory, circulatory improving qualities. Wish me well. 🙂

Saturday morning I found myself back at the starting line, however, this time it was to start the 50K distance. Colleen was anxious to get in some miles as she has Angeles Crest 100 coming up later this year, so she encouraged me to run the 50K distance with her and Steve Harvey. I am so glad I did. We had a blast running, walking, laughing and taking in all that the Zion 50K has to offer. Click here or on the image below to view a little video I put together of the Zion 50K course.

Me with Zion scenery in the background.

Click on the image to view a video of the Zion 50K course.

Trifecta Challenges

Angel’s Landing

Hikers going up Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. Hikers going up Angel's Landing in Zion National Park.

The day before the race, I was able to hike Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Well sort of…I was scheduled to work runner check in at 2pm and had to keep the trip quick. This was my first time in Zion National Park, so I was surprised when I saw the last parts of the climb up to Angel’s Landing along with the stand still two-way traffic that had to be navigated. Instead of hiking to the top of Angel’s Landing, I opted to a slightly shorter summit that offered superb views of Angel’s Landing and the crowds involved in navigating this hike.

Trail seen from Angel's Landing.

Trail seen from Angel’s Landing. I wonder where it goes…

Flowers found along Angel's Landing trail in Zion National Park.


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Daughters of Distance Book Review

Have you read Daughters of Distance by Vanessa Runs? If you have, Vanessa introduced you to Colleen Zato, a bubbly ultrarunner who enjoys wearing pink lipstick and stopping to smile and pose for a picture no matter what the trail throws at her.

I met Colleen in 2012 at Beyond Limits Ultra Marathons. I was running for 45 hours to celebrate my 45th birthday and Colleen was running the 100 mile distance. We exchanged greetings the day before her race (I started a day earlier) and the following day while we were both out on the approximately one mile loop course. Colleen told me she thought I was inspiring and I responded with a polite ‘thank you’ all the while thinking to myself that running 45 hours really just requires putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to repeat…for 45 hours. I know I need to be less humble.

Women more than men do not take the time to give themselves credit for their accomplishments. Daughters of Distance artfully covers this topic as well the following topics:

  • femininity
  • emotions
  • discrimination and inequality
  • confidence
  • relationships
  • balance and guilt
  • competition
  • safety and fear
  • disorders and addiction
  • life stages and aging

Daughters of Distance is by no means a tell all. Instead it’s intent is to promote a dialogue among readers.To assist in keeping the conversation going, Vanessa uses results from numerous interesting studies and papers as well as the ideas and opinions of male and female ultrarunners.

Daughters of Distance is an excellent read for everyone. The ultrarunner will learn that there are a variety of reasons why we run the distance, however in the end we really aren’t all that different regardless of age, sex, preference of sexual partner or marital status. The runner who may not be interested in running the ultra distance will discover that runners in general really aren’t all that different. Even the non running reader will appreciate that though we may have different points of view, at the core we are all pretty similar.