I am a Runner!

By far, my best memory of Bryce Canyon National Park, is running (and finishing) the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon.

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Photo Credit: 30weeks.wordpress.com

For as long as I can remember, I said “I am not a runner.” I didn’t think I liked to run and I thought I wasn’t built for it. I have been reasonably fit on and off over the years but I still never ran. I would do any kind of fitness class at the gym, lift weights, walk on the treadmill, and hike but I never ran. I was not a runner – or at least that is what I would tell others and myself.

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When we were deciding whether to go to Bryce for the summer, I was looking for interesting things to do while we were there. There was a Balloon Rally and a Quilt Show in nearby Panguitch and the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon.

Coincidentally, around the same time, we were watching the Biggest Loser and Jillian was yelling at the participants that they should be able to run 5 minutes at 5-1/2 MPH by that point in their training. Alan and I took her message personally and decided we better see if we could do it. It wasn’t easy but we managed.

I then suggested we start training for the Half Marathon that would be at the end of our stay in Bryce – July 13. We had plenty of time and besides, it is a downhill course and you have three hours to finish it! Alan wasn’t on board at first but he came around after a few weeks. We started running regularly at the gym before we left for Bryce and kept at it after we got to the Park. Alan did all his training on the treadmill at the Park gym but I ran mostly on the rim of the canyon.

We had to cut back on some hiking when the race was getting closer and I had a few minor injuries to deal with – nothing that serious. I was still nervous before the race that I wouldn’t be able to finish. (Our co-camp host Tom, who definitely knows about these things, kept saying not to worry.) You have to finish in under three hours to get a participants medal. I really, really wanted to finish in under three hours.

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We started getting up earlier each morning for the week before the race since it started at 6 AM! Luckily, we were only about ten minutes for the starting line but we were still worried about parking, etc. so we left the trailer around 5:10 – it was dark and cold! I was so excited, though and got goose pimples as we started walking to the starting line!

They were playing music and little bonfires were lit along the side of the road. I was there with a bunch of runners! I was going to run 13.1 miles! (I’m getting goose pimples again as I write this.) It was such an amazing feeling to be part of such a cool event.

I found my pace group – 2 hours and 45 minutes. Alan and I split up at this point and I never saw him again until the finish. Then the race started. I can’t describe how awesome it felt to be running through such a beautiful part of the country as the sun was coming up! And, I was running fast – downhill, of course!

There was a guy in front of me with a T-shirt that read Just Believe and the message resonated with me. I believed I could do it and I kept telling myself I could. (I also kept telling myself that I didn’t have to pee – the lines were just too long at the porta-potties!)

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It was so cool – as I ran I kept seeing people from the Park along the road and at the water stations that I knew! It started with Hilda near the start (although I’m pretty sure she didn’t know who was yelling to her), then Sarah, the Park Biologist, new Ranger William, LE Virginia was at the First Aid Station. I got a huge cheer from the cutest LE Mark (but don’t tell him I said that) going through Tropic and then there was LE Tyla being super supportive near the end! We even saw the head LE, Daniel at the finish mingling with the crowd.

Tyla told me I was coming close to the finish. My phone had failed me by this point so I really didn’t know my time. I did know I was way ahead of where I had hoped to be for my stretch goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes. I had planned on doing regular run/walk cycles but I had run most of the way (that downhill made a huge difference, especially when compared to running along the rim at Bryce.)

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As I’m heading to the last turn, I see Alan just sitting on a curb talking to some people – not even looking for me! I had to yell to him to get his attention. He said later that he wasn’t expecting me to be along that soon, even though he had run way faster than he had expected. He runs along side me and says I can break 2 hours and 15 minutes so I start running really hard.

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The finish line was the most amazing sight. I was so very, very thrilled to be crossing it and even more so because I was still running! I was pretty much crying at this point but they were happy tears! It was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. Some volunteer handed me my finishers metal and I just stared at it with a huge smile.

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I won’t deny that I was very sore after the race and limped around for a good week.  The downhill aspect of the race was great for my time but bad on my quads!  I did start running again regularly before we left Bryce with a whole new level of enthusiasm.  I can now say without any hesitation:

I AM A RUNNER!

 

 

 

Then 10 Things I Miss About Bryce

  1. Cooler weather and no bugs!
  2. Running on the rim.
  3. Signing Junior Ranger booklets.
  4. Long hikes with Alan.
  5. Entertaining Park radio traffic.
  6. Early morning rounds when the Park is still quiet.
  7. Trips to Cedar City.
  8. Telling campers to hike Queen’s Garden in the evening.
  9. Short hikes with Alan.
  10. Last but definitely not least …. our great co-camp hosts and trainers/cheerleaders Tom & Bonnie.

We left Bryce on the 15th of August after a going-away potluck in our honor. The Park and Kevin really made us feel appreciated and we got some great parting gifts!

The campground looked a lot different as we were leaving then when we arrived.

April:

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August: You can just see Tom waving from in front of their rig …

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We headed for Escalante Petrified Forest State Park – just a few hours to the Northeast. I had read about two slot canyon hikes – Peekaboo and Spooky and different people in the Park had talked about them as well. I will have to put up a separate post just for that day with some of the better pictures.

Since then, we have slowly been making our way towards home.

Grand Junction – RV Ranch (Private)
Denver – Cherry Creek Sate Park (Colorado)
Trinidad Lake State Park (Colorado)
Alabaster Caverns State Park (Oklahoma)
Lake Arrowhead State Park (Texas)

Grand Junction was as expected. We did some shopping but never made it back to Colorado National Monument. It was just too hot to think about hiking.

Cherry Creek State Park

Cherry Creek State Park

We had stayed at Cherry Creek State Park just outside of Denver before and it worked out well again. We did a lot of shopping and took the train into the city one day to play tourist. Dinner at the Wynkoop Brewery was great and we managed to dodge most of the rain. There was a serious high-speed chase right through the city, down a road we had just crossed, with at least a dozen cop cars and helicopters. Later I read that it was “suspected” bank robbers they were pursuing.

Trinidad was definitely a disappointment, mostly because we had such high expectations. The town looked nice as we drove by heading to the State Park and the campground was nice enough with brand new bathrooms (although we did have to play camp host a bit and pick up a bunch of garbage in our site.) We stopped at the local farmers market on our way to a walk along the River and then to lunch at a fire pizza place. The River Walk was pretty run down and not very scenic; the pizza place was closed for the weekend. We were dusty and tired by the time we found a small cafe for a nice lunch on Main Street.

We were treated to a lovely double rainbow at Trinidad the morning we were leaving:

Rainbow at Trinidad

We got to Alabaster Caverns State Park in Oklahoma late on a Sunday and the place felt abandoned. We were the only ones camping there. In the morning we did take a pleasant tour (just us and the tour guide.) It is the only Alabaster Cave open for tours in the US. It is a gypsum cave – not limestone, like most caves. No stalactites or stalagmites. It was kind of like hiking a slot canyon below ground.

Alabaster Cave

As I’m typing this we are at Lake Arrowhead State Park outside of Wichita Falls, TX. The water levels are really low so there isn’t much going on here. The swimming beach is now a field and the fishing pier is out of the water. The boat dock and launch are closed since they don’t actually reach the water!

Lake Arrowhead

We have been entertained by the Prairie Dogs (aka “Prairie Hounds”) which are taking over the entire Park. This morning we went for a great run along one of the trails – if only the whole 5 miles had been mowed! I had to keep a close eye out for snakes for about a mile that was pretty much over-grown.

Another Prairie Hound at Lake Arrowhead

We will stay here another day to get well rested for the last two hours of driving and then unpacking the trailer. Hopefully, all will be well with the house when we get there! I only start worrying about it when we are close.

Update: We got home safe and sound. The house was all fine so I was clearly worrying about nothing. Now, we just have to get used to having so much space – I’m already losing track of Alan at the other end of the house and talking to him as if he is right here. Next trailer trip: October in Texas.