Monday, March 6, 2017

Antelope Canyon 55K - February 25, 2017

We stayed at New York New York
Prologue - Las Vegas - T-3
After arriving in Las Vegas, Emaad and I, both first-timers to the city, settle into New York, New York, go for a walk on the Strip, get lunch and visit one of Sin City Brewing Company's location. Then back for a rest before heading out for the evening.

First stop is the dispensary. The Dispensary Lounge that is.  Anyway, without going into too much detail - since what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas - our evening involved, among what I can tell about, two Italians in fedoras, women dancing on bars, roulette, blackjack, beer, women attending a dialysis convention, grapefruit liquor shots, and other "ladies" asking if we wanted to "hang out." For the record, we did not.

Prologue - Zion National Park - T-2
A hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon help restore equilibrium and we head out of Vegas. A trio of A-10 Warthogs cross overhead as we pass Nellis Air Force Base on I-15 headed to Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon
Zion is full of overwhelming natural beauty, a deep canyon reminiscent of Yosemite. Time prevents us from exploring the many hiking trails in the canyon, some of which climb toward the canyon rim. An occasional snow flake drifts down on us. Since it is off-season we are able to drive all the way to the Temple of Sinawava, where the canyon suddenly narrows and the road ends. From March 1 thru the fall the road is closed to vehicles and only accessible on a shuttle bus.

Weeping Rock - Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon
We drive out through the mile-long tunnel headed west to Kanab and then to Page.  We pass a couple of herds of grazing mule deer.  As the sun sets behind us it lights up the Vermilion Cliffs in front of us.

Arriving at the Lake Powell Resort in the evening we meet up with Barry, Rebecca and Sara. Sara and I are signed up for the 55K; the others are running the half marathon.

Prologue - Lower Antelope Canyon - T-1
Following a hearty breakfast (chorizo burrito and hash browns) at the Ranch House Grill  we head out to tour Lower Antelope Canyon.

While we are in Page to run the Antelope Canyon Ultras, the only race that goes through Antelope Canyon is the 50 miler, which runs through Upper Antelope Canyon, so a tour of the canyon is a must for us.

Access is only by guided tour and involves a descent down a steep series of stairs into the slot canyon.  Sara is deathly afraid of heights and tight places, and she balks at the descent.  The rest of us wait at the bottom while the guide calls for someone to return Sara to the entrance.
Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon
The mile walk through the canyon is spectacular. The walls swirl and show orange and red, light streams in from narrow slots above, everywhere are curves and bends.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon
Returning to the surface after climbing another ladder, Sara awaits, we go to packet pick up, meet George, a friend of Barry's who lives in Page, where he has been a journalist, cowboy, horse trainer and media consultant. The two haven't seen each other in 36 years.  George suggests we visit Horseshoe Bend which we do. Spectacular views down 1000 feet to the Colorado River in Glen Canyon.

A late lunch (steak) and a light dinner (clam chowder and grilled cheese) end the day.

Sara and I at the 29 degree start
And Now It Begins
Saturday morning is cold - upper 20s for the 7 a.m. start for Sara and me. I'm bundled up with three shirts, two pairs of socks, gloves, tights, a buff and a pullover cap I bought at the expo.

Off we go, across the unpaved parking area, cross a couple of roads and head along a sandy trail toward the Slickrock Aid Station at mile 2.  The ruddy sand varies from a bit to beach deep.  That will be the story for a large portion of the day.  Sara reminds me several times that the course has 18 miles of sandy trails.

We pass through the aid station pretty quickly and descend some slickrock (a bit of a misnomer but maybe different if it were wet) between two mesas into a sandy (of course) dry wash.  That takes us to another mesa which which ascend run across the sand on top before descending the other side to an unpaved sandy road/trail.

In three miles we arrive at the Horseshoe Aid Station (mile 5). Sara and I have a drop bag here, as we will be returning to it at mile 18.  The sun has gotten higher and the temperature is rising, so I shed my outer shirt, and trade my pullover cap for a baseball cap. I switch my handheld bottle for my Nathan hydration pack.

Down the slickrock between the mesas at mile 2
Tent-like porta-potties at Horseshoe AS.
A bucket of wood shavings for 'flushing.'
The Rim of Glen Canyon
After filling the pack, eating some bacon and some other food, we cross route 89, duck between padded strands of a barbed wire fence and head toward Horseshoe Bend. In less than a mile we are at Horseshoe Bend. Everyone is stopped and taking pictures, but who can blame them.

On the rim at Horseshoe Bend, mile 6
Cactus near the rim of Glen Canyon
We run for more miles along the rim of Glen Canyon, mostly on rock, and sometimes closer to the edge than I'm comfortable with. I stop and remove one pair of my socks. After a couple of more bends in the river with great views, we head turn west, recross route 89 and arrive at the Waterholes Aid Station (mile 13).
Rock formation near the rim of Glen Canyon

Sara admires the Colorado River near Threemile Bar
Cactus and rock near the rim
Sara in Waterholes Canyon
Into Waterholes Canyon
Given Sara's reluctance - no, refusal - to go into Lower Antelope Canyon the previous day, I haven't said anything about what we are about to do.  As is my nature, I've looked at the course map, other maps and other resources and know what lies ahead. She does not need to know.

We leave the aid station and in a hundred yards or so we are on the edge of the descent into Waterholes Canyon.  It is a steep, careful descent down rocks and a narrow path, one that in many places I use all fours, or keep my but close to the ground.  We both pick our way down gingerly, making sure we have a firm foot placement before taking the next step.  But we reach the bottom safely and proceed up the canyon.

In general it is not as narrow as Lower Antelope Canyon and sometimes opens up into a sandy wash, albeit with reasonably high walls. At one point one of the leaders of the 50 mile race bounds past, leaping from rock to rock.

Me in Waterholes Canyon
Just as abruptly, the canyon narrows and there is a ladder that is the only way forward. At the top of the ladder one must duck an overhead rock, lean forward and shift left to get through.  In another place many of us either either need a push from behind or a hand from above to get up. Sara does well with both the descent and the narrow parts of the canyon but notes that it was good that she did not know about it in advance.

After about a mile we climb out of the canyon and follow a sandy road/path alongside a powerline back to the Horseshoe Aid Station (mile 18).  On the way I stop to empty sand from my shoe and sock.

From the aid station we retrace our route up the sandy trail, over the sandy mesa, along the sandy wash and through the pass between the next two mesas to the Slickrock aid station (mile 21).  We retrace the sandy trail (there is a theme here, as you might have noticed) back to the parking lot and then turn left and uphill to run around the Page Rim Trail.  I stop and sit on some rocks to empty out the sand again. I notice a pair of purple panties amongst the rocks and use two fingers to grasp a hem and toss it onto the trail, much to the amusement of oncoming runners.
Looking back into Waterholes Canyon
after exiting (about mile 14)
Sara runs the dry wash (mile 19)
heading to the pass between the mesas 
Lake Powell from the Rim Trail (mile 26)
Onto the Page Rim Trail
Getting onto Manson Mesa, which Page sits on, takes a bit of rock climbing, not the easiest thing after 23 miles, and even harder for the 50 milers, who are at mile 38 at this point.  But we get up it, check in at the Page Rim Aid Station (mile 23) and get running on the nice, single-track, mostly level red dirt - not sand! - trail. We are treated to fine view of the Colorado River, Navajo Mountain,  the mouth of Antelope Canyon where it joins the Colorado and even Lake Powell Resort and Marina on Wahweap Bay.

A short out and back takes us to  the Lake Powell Aid Station (mile 27.3) where Sara gets some unguent to rub on her aching hip. Her hip has been bothering her on and off for most of the day, and now it has pretty much reduced her to a slow run - slow enough that I can pretty much keep up with a fast walk.  Occasionally I run ahead a bit if I get talking with another runner, but then I slow or stop and wait for her.

As we circle to the west side of the mesa we get a nice vies of the Glen Canyon Dam. I run a bit with an Australian running the 50 miler.  He is running without a watch or GPS and just enjoying the day.  He tells me that there was some confusion as to the 50 mile course early in the day (and in the dark) and he ran a mile in the wrong direction (and a mile back) before getting on the right part of the course to Upper Antelope Canyon.

Sara and I quickly check in and out of our second pass at the Page Rim Aid Station (mile 33.5), carefully make our way down the lip of the mesa - down is scarier than going up - and head toward the finish.

Lake Powell Aid Station at mile 27.3
And that, appropriately enough, requires a run through some sand, than a climb up and down a sand dune, before rounding a small mesa to the finish.

We finish in 9:36:57.  My results are 168/226 overall, 104/118 males and 9/14 age-group.
We get our finishers flip-flops and ceramic cup and refuel with a Navajo taco before heading back to the resort to join up with Emaad, Barry and Rebecca, who ran the half marathon - basically the Page Rim Trail.  We get cleaned up and go out for Mexican food.

Sara and I at the finish. I'm holding the ceramic finisher's cup.
Swag: shirt, ceramic mug, flip-flops, bib
and hat (purchased)

Shirt reverse with runners' names spelling the distances
Epilogue - Grand Canyon and Las Vegas - T+1
We leave Page and head southwest toward the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, with Sara and Rebecca in Sara's car.  George has provided us with tips as to where to stop.  The Grand Canyon is beyond comprehension. Pictures do not do it justice, and even standing on the rim, it is hard to comprehend the size and grandeur of what your eyes see.

Grand Canyon from Desert View
Grand Canyon from Desert View
Desert View Watchtower
Emaad and I bid Rebecca and Sara good-bye as they head toward Scottsdale where Sara lives. We motor on to Las Vegas in time for dinner with his brother-in-law and to see Cirque du Soleil's KA show.

1 comment:

  1. Great report, Ken, thanks! Sounds like it was a bit sandy.