Three weeks from Saturday I will be doing the Antelope Canyon 55K Ultra Marathon! Just a couple of weeks ago my chances of actually finishing it were looking pretty dim. My always troublesome right foot was doing pretty well mid-December and then as is my wont I pushed too hard too fast and wound up with a couple of very angry tendons in my ankle.
January was a training nightmare. Every time I went out to walk my ankle would heartily protest. It didn’t want to bear any weight, and the articulation would not track properly and caused a lot of pain. Eventually it started to come around, but it would take a mile or so just to get to the point where it was tracking properly. Once on track it would work well, but would too quickly tire and lose alignment.
Finally, just two weeks ago it started to feel good again. I could start walking and have a working ankle right from the start. I was able to start putting on more miles at a faster pace, and at the beginning of last week I was on a good track. Then I got sick. I started coughing Wednesday night, felt worse on Thursday, and then spent most of Friday and Saturday in bed. Not good!
My recovery started on Sunday when I was able to get in a 3 mile walk and a 10 mile bike ride. My distance and speed has been increasing steadily this week, and today and yesterday have giving me renewed hope.
Wednesday afternoon I did a 10K walk around the CSULB campus, and each mile was faster than the one before. The first mile pace was 18:43, and each subsequent mile was faster, culminating with a 16:25 sixth mile.
Today was even better! I had a dentist appointment in Santa Monica at 8 am, so I headed up there at 5 and had time to get in another 10K. This time the first mile was 16:43, and once again each subsequent mile was faster. My sixth mile, walking down Wilshire Blvd from the beach was done in 14:51! There are a lot of stoplights on that stretch of road, so I found myself occasionally trotting along in order to catch the green lights–the first time that I have gone beyond a walk in a long time! I maintained a 16 minute average for the 10K, and I am planning on another 10K excursion this afternoon.
Looking at the results from last years races (55K, 50 mile, and 100 mile) I noticed something a bit strange. There were about 150 starters in the 100 mile race, but only 47 finishers. That seems a rather high attrition rate for a rather flat course, but I think I have found out what the reason is.
First, the 55K and 50 mile races don’t actually get into Antelope Canyon. My race starts in Page, heads over to Horseshoe Bend, follows the rim of the canyon for a couple of miles, cuts across the slick rock to Waterhole slot canyon, then heads back to Page where it finishes with a 10 mile loop encircling the city. The 50 miler does pretty much the same thing.
The 100 mile race starts in Page and heads immediately out to the Antelope slot canyon. It runs up the canyon, returns through the canyon, and then heads over to the Horseshoe Bend and Waterhole slot canyon like the shorter races before heading back up to Page. It then finishes with SIX laps around Page (60 miles). Kind of a boring end.
But wait, there’s more! Antelope Canyon is a very desirable destination, but access is very limited. It is in the Navajo Nation, and in order to tour it reservations and a Navajo guide are required. I am guessing that a lot of folks who sign up for the 100 have no intention of finishing but instead use the race as a way to gain access for some quality time in the canyons and then just blow off that last 60 miles. Maybe next year!
Photo Credit for Featured Image: Erica Li (@sept_pancake) on Unsplash