done and ouch
After 30 hours of sand dunes, pounding sunlight and a chilly desert night it’s over. It wasn’t easy but it was worth the “struggle.”
There were reasons for picking this race. I wanted a vacation that covered most of the grand circle, and I wanted to combine it with a 100 mile experience that would etch itself into my memory. I failed at my first 100 mile attempt and didn’t want to fail again. The first staging of the Monument Valley races was happening and the chance of running through restricted Navajo lands and burial sites through the desert heat appealed to me.
The night before was bad, I had nightmares. Something I hardly get. I kept waking up, tossing and turning, worried about what was ahead. There was a Navajo elder who was yelling at me incoherently and with solid black eyes. It felt like an omen of sorts. I’m not superstitious of nature but it still affected me before the start. I was looking around for that old Navajo man, waiting for him to show up during the harder parts of the race and shout at me for reasons unknown. He never showed up thankfully.
My plan of picking this course as an easy 100 to finish might have been misguided. First off, any 100 is tough no matter the terrain and elevation. Secondly; sand. Think 2 steps forward, one step back. Think shoes filling up to the brim and having to stop and empty them every 3 miles. Not all the course was sand, but there was enough to make it a factor. I forgot my gators, but the people who had gators said they didn’t work anyway. At one point in the course I screamed at a sand dune I had to climb. It looked like something out of the Sahara desert. Climbing sand uphill is more like 2 steps forward and 1 and 2/3 steps back. Highly frustrating.
As is very common during these events you meet extraordinary people. It takes a certain kind of crazy to run these races and it takes even more crazy to want to organize events of this nature. The logistics and manpower required would shock most people. Surprisingly the Navajo who helped out with the event were totally open to the whole idea of running around their lands for hours on end. Turns out running is part of their tradition. There were a few local tribes members in the race.
I stumbled over the finish line after noon. The sun beating down a second day. My lips were burned and the skin was peeling. The winner who I’d foolishly run with the first 50k had long since finished a good 10 hours earlier. No matter. Finishing was the goal.
The buckle, my first, was hand made by a local Navajo artist. All the buckles were unique, making use of locally found leaves, sticks, and rocks. Items from the course. One could not have asked for a better buckle. All had different colors one could choose from. I picked the black one based on my dream from the previous night. It seemed apporopriate.
aftermath and recovery
I hid my body in a hotel room for a couple days, shuffling around, eating and watching television. The John Wayne museum was a hundred yards away, a little shack of a house with old movie posters plastered on the walls. I shuffled over to look around. It took a good 4 weeks to totally recover from the race. Luckily no injury manifested itself. I usually have something crop up after a 50+ mile race.
I finally got to writing this up after a couple years. It’s amazing how much I still remember from the race. I left out a ton of (boring) detail.
As so happens they haven’t staged the 100 miler since. This might be the first and last time anyone gets to run 100 miles through these mesas.