Sometime before I officially moved to Colorado I was invited to run a Ragnar trail relay in Utah with my friend Tiff and 6 of her friends. I had only been to Utah once before when I visited Zion National Park with a friend in 2013. I’ve always wanted to go back and explore more of Utah and this gave me an opportunity to do that.
Up until I was in my mid 20s I assumed that Utah was flat and boring. The New Jersey public school system failed me. I had no idea that Utah had mountains and I had no idea that Utah was so scenic.
I left my home in Colorado around 10:30am on May 10th, picked up some chips and salsa at the grocery store, and saw a hitch hiker as I merged onto I70 west toward Utah. Seeing the hitch hiker was the highlight of my road trip until I crossed the Colorado state line into Utah when the speed limit switched to 80 mph. It was fun driving fast! The miles flew by and before I knew it was at my friend’s house. It took me roughly 5 hours and 20 minutes to get there and this was the least aggravating drive I’ve ever made. I only sat in traffic for 5 minutes exiting the highway. I do not miss New Jersey traffic one bit!
The first place I explored in Utah was Ogden. Everwood, one of my favorite shows, was primarily filmed in Ogden, Utah. Going to Ogden was very exciting for me so I did a touristy thing and took a photo of the Ogden sign while wishing that Everwood was a real place.
We were in Ogden for an Altra demo run, which allowed me to test out the new Escalantes while staring at beautiful snow capped mountains. Oh & we ran by the pool from the movie The Sandlot.
The following morning we went for a quick hike near Salt Lake City. I cannot remember the name of the trail or exactly where we were. To sum the hike up in one sentence, the views were beautiful, wildflowers had bloomed, and I told a woman that I was a cat person when her dogs started sniffing me.
After the hike I drank some more coffee, ate some Nutella cookies, and then we began our journey to Zion.
The car ride to Zion was a blast! I learned that if you put 3 people who don’t know each other in a car for a 4+ hour road trip you will become instant friends and learn things about each other that you’d never imagine! The car ride to Zion is one of the highlights from this trip.
On Thursday night we set up our campsite, drank coffee made from an AeroPress, talked, and went to sleep at a reasonable time. It was very cold on Thursday night and sleeping was miserable until I became a turtle in my sleeping bag. This seriously helped me warm up.
Friday was Ragnar day, but our team had a 5:30pm start time. We had all day to hang out and watch other teams start their race. This was both relaxing and stressful. It seemed that we were all excited and a little bit nervous. I am not a skilled trail runner, nor do I have a lot of experience running technical trails so I was more nervous than I’ve been in a long time. While we waited I spent some time reading magazines in the sun because I was freezing–I got sunburn.
We had 8 people on our team and we each had to run a green loop, red loop, and yellow loop. Side note: I just learned that I could blog in color. Our team name was Game of Trails. Half of us lived in New Jersey, though only Tiff and I knew each other in New Jersey. We had 5 women and 3 men on our team and we were all at different stages in our running journey.
I opted to run all 3 of my loops in my new favorite trail shoes, they are superior!
When we decided our line up I had no preference for which leg I ran. I ended up being our 4th leg and running the green loop first. The green loop was approximately 3.5 miles long and the easiest of the 3 loops. I’d say this loop was my favorite because it was still light out, I wasn’t exhausted, and because the footing wasn’t as technical as the other 2 loops. I felt strong running and I found myself passing a lot of people. When I finished it was getting dark which meant that I would have to run the next loop in the middle of the night. I went back to the campsite and slept like a turtle until it was time for me to run the red loop.
The red loop was the most challenging of the 3 loops. It was approximately 7.5 miles long, hilly, and had some difficult footing. It was around 2am when I began the red loop and I was freezing. I had been wearing 3 pairs of pants and 5 shirts while I was sleeping, but most of them were left at the campsite. The start of this race was very cold and I felt like my legs were ice. Around 2 miles into the race a woman came up behind me saying that her light had gone out so she was going to try to stay near me. I had a very bright flashlight so I happily agreed to help her out. I was VERY thankful that my light was working and I began calling out potential hazards so she wouldn’t trip. At some point I must have lost her because a man came up behind me unsure of who I was talking to. He probably thought I was talking to myself. At this point (miles 2 &3) the course was hilly and I was running slowly to avoid falling up or down one of these hills. I knew once I got beyond this part the race course would level out. After the hills a man told me that I was running fast for a girl. I wasn’t sure if this was a compliment or an insult so I just ran by him. I remember passing a lot of people until I got to mile 6 when my flashlight died. Now I couldn’t see and I had to find someone who had a bright light to run near. Eventually I met a nice woman from team 63 who lent me her spare light for the remainder of the race. Thanks team 63! We ended up running the rest together and she even redirected me when I accidentally went off course a few times. The last part of this course went through the campground and I saw a tent with Christmas lights. I love Christmas and I couldn’t stop repeating, “red loop, green loop, jingle bells” in my head as I ran toward the finish. Then I went back to the campsite and back to sleep!
When it was my turn to run the yellow loop it was around 8:30am. I’ll be honest, I was very tired and waking up wasn’t fun but I heard this loop was really pretty. The yellow loop was approximately 4 miles long and it was more challenging than the green loop, but less challenging than the red loop. The first part of the yellow loop was the same as the red loop, but it felt completely different in the day light. My goal was to finish this loop without tripping because my legs felt like lead. On an uphill that had a gorgeous view a woman had stopped to take a photo and dropped $40. I alerted her and kept running up the hill. My legs really hurt and I was running much slower on this loop than I had on the previous 2, but I was still passing people constantly. During the last mile of the yellow loop I had a feeling that our team was going to place well. The course directed us through the campground again and I saw the Christmas lights again. This time I had a new chant in my head, “the faster you run the faster the yellow loop is done”.
Game of Trails finished around 1:30pm and we placed 6th overall! We also won the mixed gender division!
What I loved the most about being on this team was the fact that we all supported each other, waited at the exchange zone to cheer each other on, and we unexpectedly exceeded our goal. Our intent was to run this race for fun, but we ended up placing 6th out of over 300 teams.
We camped at Zion for one more night and then stopped at Gooseberry Mesa on our way back to Salt Lake City. I went for a hike and saw lizards, butterflies, wildflowers, and a windmill.
After leaving Goosebury Mesa we decided to have buffalo burgers for lunch at this place.
If I were to recap that I’d need a whole separate blog post! I recommend just going there for yourself!
Utah was great. I made new friends, I ran a legitimate trail race, I ate catfish and buffalo, I learned that the Altra trail shoes are named after mountains in Utah, I got to see where Everwood was filmed, I added an AeroPress to my shopping list, I slept like a turtle, and I had the most fun I’ve had running in a really long time.