Monument Valley Race Report
hosted by Ultra Adventures
author: Christian Gering
A cool morning in the valley. As all the runners lined the start line, Larry a tribal member of the Navajo Nation and the event liaison for Ultra Adventures, said a prayer to guide us into today’s journey. The start of the race began on the Wildcat trail head (single track) which loops around West Mitten. Since it was still early dawn the colors against the eastern skies were shades of dark pastels with the sliver of orange fire of the sun on the horizon. By the time we hit the dirt road heading south (east of Mitchell Mesa) towards the Hogan aid station, Mike and I had broken away from the starting pack. At the start of the race, I decided that I would use this race as another learning experience (only my 4th 50k), so I decided I would hang with a pack or at least run with somebody.
Mike Le Roux happened to be that person, a South African transplant to Southwest Colorado in Pagosa Springs. Mike and I made it to the first aid station in our 50k race, the Hogan aid station, which would be the only aid station in our event as we would return here in the later stages of the race (10.5, 20, 30 mile). At this point, the sun was slightly above the horizon which meant shady and cool in some places and vibrant and warm in other places, so we were in for a treat in the next stage of the race. Before we left the aid station I took a good long look at Mitchell Mesa, as I knew I would have to climb that beautiful protrusion of rock later in the race. Once we left the aid station we headed back on the dirt road where we came from for less than a quarter of a mile then turned east and headed towards North Window Rock. A five mile loop around beautiful towering rock features that dates back millions of years, all along the way Mike shared with me his racing experiences and relatively new start-up organization, which bridges children to getting out and experiencing the outdoors, GECKO (check it out!).
(side view of West Mitten)
And just like that, in a flash we were back at the Hogan aid station and ready to start another loop towards Ear of the Wind and Eye of the Sun (Google search to see these amazing rock features, for all you geologists out there), but this time we would do a nine mile loop instead of five. At this moment in the race I felt great and by the looks of it, Mike seemed to be holding up as well. Throughout the race we had run on single track smooth trails and loaded dirt roads but what was up ahead was some dunes, SAND DUNES! As we made our exit from the aid station, I loaded up on some gels and fluids (see fueling and equipment list below) for the journey ahead. Leaving the aid station, again we headed east which would loop us around Big Chair, Moccasin Arch, and Hidden Arch, but by the time we got to Ear of the Wind (mile 16 and some), we were running through heavy sand. At this time I did a change of pace and stride and felt I adjusted well because I knew what lied ahead, MITCHELL MESA! As we rounded out the second loop, I began to realize my mind was running ahead and could definitely feel my legs wanting to pick up the speed, even after all that SAND! So before Mike and I came into the aid station I let him know, it was GO time!
Before I knew it, I was out the aid station and on towards the beautiful climb of Mitchell Mesa. Along the way I contemplated my race strategy and was satisfied with my decision, I knew this would be the crux of the course and I felt I was well prepared. I got to the base of the mesa and was pleased to bust out my mountain goat legs and began to leap and bound up the mesa, full of joy and amusement, this was the most FUN I had all day, it was time to enjoy! As I climbed for 1,500 ft. I finally topped out and began on my way towards the turnaround point. As I was making my way there I let out a few war cries and took some time to take in the scenic view that lay in all directions, a truly remarkable place of ambience. Once I got to the turnaround point I dashed back to the descent and on the way down, I danced with the rocks, swayed with the wind and swam in my sweat, I knew what laid ahead, it was the finish, OH the sweet finish. Along the way I encouraged and verbally supported my fellow runners since this had been the first time I had seen them since the start and what can I say, it was nothing but SMILES! Everyone was enjoying themselves in this desert playground. As I came into the Hogan aid station for the last time, I was happy and enjoying the moment because out of all my races, in this stage of the race, I felt AMAZING! Once I left, I began to fly for the finish. As I was making my way back on the dirt road to the finish, lines of tour trucks filled with tourist were spread all along the road. Although the vehicles were kicking up dust, many of the visitors were keeping my spirts high by cheering me on. Full of joy and excitement I finally arrived to the finish and boy was I ready to cross it! I was greeted by many people who were all sharing in the experience of either running, supporting, spectating, or volunteering and there is no other way to end a race then by having a bunch of happy go lucky people there with you!
(into the distance of the valley)
I would like to take the time say thank you to Ultra Adventures for bringing together community, culture, and the running spirit to these beautiful places. Matt Gunn, Turtle, George, Rick, and all of the other volunteers and ambassadors, each and every one made this event possible and have left your mark on me as being some of the most passionate and supportive people I have come to know. Thank you for all that you do! I have been to three events by UA and I have been blown away by the humility and positive energy that is felt throughout the event, it certainly makes for an unforgettable time.
(From left: Maya Hena, Sean Trujillo, Matt Gunn, Christian Gering, George)
Thank you to Durango Running Company for supporting me in my endeavor to make a name for myself in the ultra-running community, while at the same time giving me the chance to give back to the Durango community and also learn some valuable business experience. It truly is a blessing and honor to have the backing of a sponsor that is local, friendly, and knowledgeable. I am excited for the future with the company and plan to help steer it in the right direction.
Ultra Aspire 20 oz. Isomeric Pocket handheld
Hoka One One Clifton shoes
Pearl Zumi race kit
Swiftwick Aspire One Black socks
(2) Stinger Gold Classic energy gel
(2) Clif Razz Shot energy gel
Tailwind Berry Endurance fuel