Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Goblin Valley Ultramarathon

Saturday morning before the sun arose, Cole and I were toed up to the starting line of our first ultra marathon.  A baby ultra, only 50k, or 32.something miles.  A fellow from Oregon had run it with his dog a few years ago and he recommended it to me.

It's called a trail marathon, but most of the 'trails' are dirt roads.  But, not all.  Recently, the Forest Service has paved a 6 mile section heading out of the park towards a popular camping area in Little Wild Horse Canyon.  The new pavement is the kind that is so textured it makes your tires rumble...not good for a dog's feet.  The race website hadn't updated that change. 

Spotting wildlife:  deer, pika (cutest cross between a mouse and a chipmunk) and lizards darting out in front of us.

At the turn around point after a long climb up the butte, mile 16 or so.  Cole tanked up on broth and my can of salmon.

Approximately every 4 miles had an aid station was manned by very tired Mormon teenagers.  They were hilarious!  The night before they'd had a dance, maybe 2 hours of sleep before being loaded onto a bus and driven 2 hrs into nowhere.  Some were up and chipper, others like these two girls quickly sat back down after chasing us with water cups and a few others were curled up in fetal positions in the sand and never woke up when we passed them.

"Who moved the finish line?"

The real fun didn't begin until we came back to the paved section.  We'd been trucking along nicely on the sand, but Cole refused to run on the pavement.  The shoulder of the road was too rocky and I tried to run off in the boonies parallel to the road.  Half the time it worked, but many times these thorny weeds blocked our path.

The race director passed me in his Jeep and I asked him to bring me my drop bag with Cole's boots from the halfway aid station.  Meanwhile, Cole and I walked along the road, waiting.  He finally came back with bad news, he didn't make it all the way to the halfway point, he was on his way to unload supplies at the finish line, he'd go back ASAP for the bag.  Well time was wasting, Cole wasn't having a good time any more, I'd missed my chance at sending him in the Jeep to the finish line, so I picked him up and carried him for about 2 miles.  I alternated from the over the shoulder carry (easier for me) and the in the front carry (more comfy for him).  For a while I had him piggy backing, that worked well until he flinched and I realized that if he fell backwards he might crack his head open.  Another runner who's hip had blown out offered to carry Cole for a while.  I couldn't accept, he was limping!

Thankfully, as we got closer to the finish line, the area off the road was runnable again.  I was the one slowing us down now because of my blistered feet.  At mile 26, I had take my socks off and used my hair ties to fit Cole with booties.  Sand and those dang thorns were filling my shoes.

We came in close to last at 6 hrs and 47 minutes, but we both got medals for finishing, so all's well that ends well! 

The last mile was through the Goblin Valley.  I wasn't interested in the scenery by that time, so we came back after a shower and a nap to properly visit.

The mushroom formations are called hoodoos, carved by wind and water after a receding inland sea...millions of years ago.

How cool is that?


Three entire valleys full of 'goblins' to explore. 

Cool facts:  the park's limited electricity all comes from solar power, the water is from a well and is heated with propane and, like most everywhere else I've been, none or limited cell phone service.