Bryce Canyon 100 was beautiful and challenging. The altitude is between 7500 feet and 9500 feet, and even though I live at 4500 ft. climbing at altitude definitely has an impact. The race is mostly along single-track trails along the Thunder mountain trail and Grandview trail. There were 13 aid stations on this out and back course. Crew could access their runners at five of the 13 aid stations and pacers could join their runners at the turn around point 51.5 miles into the race. The total elevation gain for the 100 mile course was 18,500 feet, which means we descended by the same amount.
As anyone, who has spent time in the high mountains, knows weather can change quickly and drastically. Bryce 100 was no different. We began the race at 6:00 am after being shuttled in to the starting line. The first few miles are “rolling hills” in and out of small canyons. From there you climb through the hoodoos and get a little ridge-ish climbing. The largest and most technical climbs to the highest point of the race were between the second and third aid station.
As a two other runners and myself were nearing the third aid station it began to rain. The rain increased after we reached the aid station and, knowing that mountain rains don’t typically last long, we decided to wait it out rather than get soaking wet. We were not front of the pack runners. We just wanted to finish within the thirty-six hour time limit. The rain soon turned to hail. This rain to hail pattern would happen two more times throughout the race.
The slick sticky mud made the trails more difficult to negotiate at some points and a little dangerous at others. At mile sixty, my pacer and I reached Straight Canyon Aid station at 2:00 am. This was the one time I considered dropping and not because I didn’t think I could make it to the finish. I knew that I could, and I felt great. I didn’t hurt and wasn’t having any stomach issues. My concern was the mud-slick narrow trails following the edge of the mountains. I sat at the aid station for a few minutes thinking about this and considering the risk to not only myself but my pacers as well.
One of the aid station crew looked at me as he was eating a grilled cheese sandwich and said, “You look good why are you still here?”
“I’m a little concerned about the trail conditions,” I said.
“Do you feel good, like you could finish?”
“I know I can finish.”
“Then get out of here.”
And that settled it. I pulled on long pants and a rain jacket and we headed out into the light drizzling rain.
I did make it. I crossed the finish line at 35 hours 42 minutes with a smile on my face.
I had a lot of anxiety going into the Bryce 100. I spent the week before the race waking up in the middle of the night worried about my fear of heights, and whether or not it would cripple my race. The only time I struggled a bit with the heights was on the return trip during the last ten miles there is the ridge-ish climbs. I didn’t have trouble with them when I first went out, but coming back was different. The wind had kicked up to the point where you can feel it pushing you a little off balance. Dark grey storm clouds filled the sky and thunder rolled through them. Rain started and then stopped only to start again, not much, but enough to let you know that it was coming soon.
I continually told myself, I had done ridge climbs before and summited peaks at 11,000 feet, and this helped a little but the anxiety would raise again. I’ve been telling myself I would deal with this height issue for a few years and have never done it. It has yet to stop me from registering for a race and it hasn’t prevented me from finishing. I’m just really uncomfortable and stare at my feet when I make these climbs. I know I am missing one of the most amazing part of running these types of races, the view from the top.
So this summer I am determined to deal with this height issue, and I’m telling all of you so I won’t back out of it.