Signed up for today’s trail run almost a year ago.  Sells out every year, marked my calendar.

Why Death Valley?  Fave of my 50 State runs: Crater Lake [Oregon].  fave Half: Rocky Mountain [Colorado].  Opportunities to race in a National Park come far & few between.  Not letting this opportunity pass.

biggest concern?  Intense HEAT.  Cracked dirt, sand, salt flats & record 130+ degree summer highs.  Ya’ll know I’m not a hot weather runner…but the quest to ‘park-run’ overruled any worry.  It’s December, how hot could it be?

Chilly morning wake-up.  Ironic, huh?  Cap, gloves, hydration pack.  Hydration pack?  Yep, trail run.  Park rangers trucked in water at miles 7, 15 & 23.  Oatmeal breakfast; backpacked Fritos & an apple.

Race Director provided last minute instructions (& a few laughs), then boarded chartered buses to the Start.  Probably a 60/40 split marathoners/halfers.  Hour-15 minute drive; soaked in the desert landscape.  Lucky in life.

Steady climb in elevation, steady drop in temps.  Folks piled off the bus, I stayed behind.  Not leaving ‘til I’m forced outside.  33 degrees & blowing wind.  Over the next half hour, bus slowly refilled with weather-beaten runners.  Not my first rodeo 🙂

8:30am start.  Popped off the bus & trekked dirt road for 4 miles.  Sand, gusting wind.  Kept my head down while I pushed thru the long stretch of flat.  Neck gaiter pulled over my mouth.  Adapted well.

Looped thru Titus Canyon, would spend remainder of the day here.  Tall canyon walls provided protection from the wind.  Shade (gloves on), sunshine (gloves off).  Desert climate created insta- 10-15 degree temp swings.

Miles 8-10: WOW whatta climb!  1700ft to 5400ft elevation.  Didn’t even attempt to maintain pace.  Unpacked Fritos, slow-ate my Gala [apple], and hiked UP a series of switchbacks…Colorado style.  Whatta view!  LOVE LOVE our National Parks!

Posted a 2:47 first Half – maybe an all-time worst.  But then…I grew STRONG.  Down, down, down multiple miles of dirt & boulders – felt like home.  Runner ahead, I’d lock him/her in, match pace, speed up, barrel by.  Began passing tens of runners.

Refueled at mile 15.  Popped 2 anti-nausea pills & quickly re-tagged 3 runners who caught me at the water stop.

At mile 17, passed my first Halfer.  Entered the most memorable stretch of course in many a month.  Trail no more than 20 feet wide, path’d thru high rock 6 continuous miles.  Canyon exited at 23; met rangers equipped with water & a porta-john (first all race).

Stopped, regrouped.  Restarted slow, last 2 miles re-upped my pace.  Caught sight of the Finish & kept pushing.  Marathon #77, just under 5 hours – my 2nd best trail time.  Hour later, back in Furnace Creek: shower, dunes & dinner.

One more Nat’l Park day & maybe Hoover Dam 🙂  #noregretlife

 

2016 Death Valley Trail Start List
Saturday, December 3, 2016 8:29 AM (GMT-8) – Final results

 

 

Bib     Racer name                             Finish time
204    K R HAGA, Louisville CO      4:56:28.3

 

 

Death Valley (Race Director quip)

 

 

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