Bryce Canyon 30K and Ultras

We did it! At the end of May my husband and I completed our first 30K trail race. Though I had great fears that I hadn’t trained enough, we finished with plenty of time to spare and I still had the energy to jog through the finish line with a smile on my face. Of course, I finished last in my age group, but I’m just proud I finished! Here’s what it was like running in the Dixie National Forest of Hatch, Utah, with Vacation Races.

First of all, I need to brag about how awesome Vacation Races and their volunteers are. They are always super organized, and definitely know how to host a better event than any of the little hometown 5K races I’ve completed. I jump at the chance to volunteer with them, doing tasks such as handing out food or awards at the finish, and earn a monetary credit toward future races. Despite knowing how well VR plans their events, I was pleasantly surprised when our 30K race started exactly on time. Dummy me ran out of time to review the race guide one final time! I intended to refresh my memory one last time on where each aid station would be and how much time we had to make it to certain cut-off points. Also, it didn’t help that I forgot my printed race guide at our rental yurt, so thankfully I had studied all the important race info on my phone a few weeks prior. We loved our yurt, by the way, even though a rather charming, mooing cow across the street made it a tad bit hard to fall asleep the night before the race.

Fewer people appeared to be at this race in 2022 compared to 2021, perhaps they had other places to be now that COVID settled down a little more? Without a large number of people running the 30K race, they had all of us at the 30K distance starting at the same time. I knew better than to start at the head of the pack, and after navigating carefully over a cattle guard, we all had a wide dirt road to spread out on and find our own paces. Too rushed at the start of the race to stop for a photo with the sign for the Dixie National Forest, I used my photo opportunity for a final rest break later in the day.

Climbing up from about 7000 feet to about 9000 feet of elevation gave us all kinds of gorgeous views throughout the day, and more chances to take great photos. One of my favorite parts of this course was a climb up some orange sandy dunes. It really reminded me of climbing sand dunes back where I grew up in Northwest Indiana and Lake Michigan. Before the race I was unsure of my choice to bring along poles, especially ones that didn’t collapse, but they brought me so much confidence when it was time to traverse skinny little trails right at the edge of dunes and hills we were climbing on. Somehow I blazed past other competitors and gave the course photographer plenty of chances to capture photos of me.

Though I live about 2000 feet above sea level, and trained higher up when I could, I cannot stress enough that the elevation kicked my butt on this race. Between miles 9 to 12 we started a slow climb from ~8200 to ~9100 feet elevation, and dang I was struggling! At a slow walk I was huffing and puffing like I had sprinted, and was dehydrating like it was my job. We came across groups of campers and UTVs that were full of people quick to cheer us on. Not too concerned about time, we prioritized to stop and enjoy some of the amazing views from our course. After all, it was our first time going this distance, so we were guaranteed to PR no matter how slow we traveled, lol.

Once we started our downhill descent again and found soft, shaded, forest trails to run on, I really found my second wind for this race. Due to the overlap of some of the courses at this event, we even crossed paths with quite a few of the 100-mile racers. You better believe that I got the heck out of the way for those runners to have the whole trail; they had A LOT more ground to cover then we did and deserved to take the right of way. They were all super gracious and traded encouraging words with us measly 30K-ers.

One thing I loved about this course is that we started and finished on the same stretch of dirt road. That means our first aid station in the morning was also our last aid station of the afternoon, and it was a welcome sight! I made the dumb move of saying “we’re so close to the finish, I don’t need to stop for more water!” 🙄 Definitely won’t make that mistake again. Thankfully, my husband had some extra water to share with me. A lovely thing to know about this part of Utah is that they get dust devils, just like our Vegas desert. A dust devil is essentially a tiny tornado of dust, starting from the ground and going up, rather than dropping down from the sky like a real tornado. Heading toward the finish line, the wind and dust devils really picked up and tried so hard to discourage me, but we finally made it! I had a horrible dusty spray tan, and it took days to clean the dust off ourselves, our clothes, and our car, but it was sooooo worth it to complete our furthest trail race yet.

A fellow finisher asked if we’d be back for the 50K race next time, and I could only laugh and think that we ought to get better at the 30K distance first 😅

Of course, the pupper was exceedingly happy to have us home again, and as always, grateful for all the cuddles he could get. Happy adventuring, everyone ❤

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