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