Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grabbing Me By The Balls: Trans-Bryce Run Trip This Weekend

Two months ago I was wanting to get my running ramped way up again. I would look at race calendars, but nothing was "grabbing me by the balls", so to speak. Actually, that's exactly how I speak. That's the phrase I use when looking for a goal. The "you must do this!" feeling where your heart says that you aren't sure what will become of you if you don't go. Where it's scary but you are more scared you would shrivel up and die if you didn't go (which of course is an exaggeration but this describes the longing).
"The mountains are calling and I must go." -- John Muir
And in the past, I've been highly driven by the call of those experiences. I trust that. It motivates. Day to day training holds little appeal for me. But to go move efficiently through a beautiful location that is not car accessible? Wow. There is power in that!

I've had that feeling before. Gorge Waterfalls 50K in March 2012. Bighorn 50K in June 2013. Volcanic 50K in September 2013. Rocky Raccoon 100 (attempted; 80 miles completed) in February 2014 (for the challenge, not the scenery). Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in July 2014 (3 miles of it in a pitch black railroad tunnel which is a huge leap for this claustrophobe). But nothing since then.

I had been reviewing race calendars for the spring/summer, but nothing specific was getting my attention. And then out on a Colorado ultrarunners group I follow on Facebook, I saw a post one early March day by Sherpa John, whose Tommyknocker Ultra 50K I had run in Colorado back in September. He owns Human Potential Race Series, which puts on several ultra races in Colorado.

The link on the post was for a running trip - not a race. A group of ultrarunners leaving Denver on Friday, May 8. It would be a carpool trip of 9 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park. The group would camp Friday night. Saturday morning we would split into groups starting at different intervals based on what we wanted to run, drive to the start points, and run point-to-point back to the campground. Those doing all the miles would do 48 miles with 15000 ft of elevation gain and 16000 feet of elevation - the full Trans-Bryce route. Lots of altitude, climbs, and rougher trail. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are hunting an FKT (Fastest Known Time) on that route. This isn't a race - a few water drops along the way, everyone should buy a map, and it's each person's responsibility to stay on the trail. Then, camp Saturday night and drive back to Denver on Sunday.

Note that the Bryce 100 race is one full month later (therefore much hotter) and not actually in the National Park. It's NEARBY the National Park. There's no race opportunity IN the National Park. We're not a camping family so when would an opportunity like this come along?

My jaw dropped as I read all the info. This sounded so awesome..... and scary at the same time. Scary only because of getting outside what's comfortable. Not scary like "fearing for my life and safety" scary. I had found my "grab me" moment for an upcoming run goal to demand my full attention.

  • It involved.... 40 ultrarunning strangers (I had met 3 of them before but briefly). My shyness wasn't sure about being thrust into such a large group who know each other already.  
  • It involved.... camping. Which I had never done as of when I signed up in March. But which I had been saying for a year I needed to work on because I felt a pull to try fastpacking, and being able to camp would be sorta kinda ESSENTIAL for that. 
  • It involved... self-sufficient running, basic orienteering, wayfinding, water filtering and purification, and basically "take care of yourself." This was the part I was actually the most comfortable with and yet still very uncomfortable because I'd rarely used those skills all together.

I didn't hmm and haw for long. I walked my husband through the plan. He was on board. I walked my best friend through the plan. His response was... "You mean CAMPING camping?"  "You know this isn't Motel 6 camping?" Thanks for the vote of confidence. ;-)

I chatted with my friend Steve from the Front Range Ultrarunners Group who was also going. It was $50 to cover all the camping fees/ logistics / park fees. Then split the gas costs of carpooling. I said I would check on airfare from Dallas because this was seeming like a cheap trip so far for this kind of adventure. When it popped up as $145 roundtrip for direct from Dallas on American Airlines, I yelled "SOLD!" And signed up immediately. I did know I would do a subset and not the full 48 miles. It looks likely it's 24 or 32 miles for me this Saturday.

I did the training I could with the other priorities in my life that are above running, including a race to produce in April and working around an injury I gave to myself that I had to rehab quickly after it happened from lifting and hauling things to and from a Uhaul. I pulled out my altitude tent since I don't handle high altitude well (this is roughly 8000-9000 feet), but it was for a reduced time and not as long in the tent per day as I usually tried to spend. So I expect the benefit to be limited. I visited REI and had them help me acquire a sleeping bag and pad. I went camping with my friend Aubrey a week ago to try out my gear and try out camping (pssssh.... I actually enjoyed it!!). I've bought my map, I already had a compass and emergency whistle, and I've packed my Steripen (to purify water from creeks on the route). Now to just go there and enjoy the beautiful weekend in a new place and meeting new people who love the same sport I do. How awesome does that sound?!

BUT I still have a huge fear of the unknown. This upcoming weekend in Bryce feels like a gigantic unknown. Today I said to Steve, "I'll stay here. It's a safe place where it's safe here." Ha. I'm so excited I could pop, yet I'm also nervous and worried in how uncomfortable the unknown and unfamiliar is.

So here I go, on a new adventure on Thursday! Wish me beautiful views, and I will try to bring back beautiful pictures on the run!

Happy running, folks!