Monument Valley 50 Miler Adventure Trip Report with Tom Whitaker
Well, i'm not very good at writing or spelling so my event reports tend to ramble on and on so i thought this time i would just do a report using mostly photos i took during the trip with a bit of ad libbing. I take so many photos and post them during my adventures that the trip is almost self explanatory.
So here goes. The trip began during a training run at Bradbury with Tom asking if i would be interested in joining him at Monument Valley to run at Navajo Nation in the 50 mile ultra on May 25, 2017. Well of course i was interested but there was so much going on between my dad's health and traveling back and forth to Florida and getting work done for my employment. But i was determined to make it all work. I have a difficult time passing up ANY opportunity to adventure.
This trip was primarily around Monument Valley, although, it grew as an adventurous in size as we discussed traveling to Las Vegas and renting a camper van and staying at free campsites and running in national scenic areas along the way. We had also decided to meet Tom's brother and his friends in Las Vegas as they would be there celebrating birthdays.
Tom was the man, i informed him that i would not be able to spend too much time researching the trip as my Dad and his health was priority. He did all of the organizing, researching and looking into our camper travels. I really appreciated him taking that part of things.
We were to fly out Tuesday May 21, 2017 from Boston International on an early flight. I picked Tom up and the adventure began. I drove to Boston and parked at the Park, Shuttle & Fly which was basically the same costs as taking the bus there and we would get to have my car right there when we got back!
Ready to leave Boston, Las Vegas here we come.
The trip was pretty uneventful, pretty smooth and we had a connecting flight that was on time and we made it no problem. We both had enough items in our carry-on bags so if the one check on bag we shared didn't make it we could survive without it for a few days.
Once we landed we called for a cab to transport us to the Jucy RV Rental business. Now this is a story in itself. During Tom's trip around the country with his family last year he spotted these Jucy Vans on the road. He thought it would be good to check into the costs per day for the time we would be out west and it turns out it was much less expensive than renting a full RV, VW bus or any other camper vehicle. We decided to book a van for this adventure. For me, i had no idea what it was until i saw it. I had seen similar vans in CA at the Born to Run Events. This would be a great option for two people. The van was equipped with cooking capabilities, water, grey water holding tank, dishes, chairs, fridge (which was important to keep the beer in). It was perfect for what we needed and we both had our own sleeping quarters. The top had what they called the "Penthouse". a canvas tent pop-up that had great space and head room but the only draw back was the weather, cold specifically as it was not heated or insulated like the cabin in the van. But we didn't realize this until the first night. Nevertheless, i was excited to be adventuring in this seemingly fun vehicle. As we traveled, Tom and I decided that we would name the van, several names were thrown out but the one that stuck was "Jucy Lucy" due to the sexy, fiery redhead logo it yielded. It was perfect.
Next we were off to Las Vegas Nevada. I had never been to this city so i was excited to see the hype and soak it all in. It was definitely not disappointed. Wow, it is the largest city i think i've ever been in and there were so many people roaming about, of course lots of gambling and money being lost but not by me, i'm not a gambler by any means of the word.
A little bit of Vegas. Fun place and will plan to visit here again soon. I'd like to spend more time just exploring and people watching.
We spent the late afternoon hanging with Tom Brother and friends and had dinner with them. After dinner Tom and i decided we better hit the road and head east to Zion and find the free camping area that Tom had in mind. Here is where i am not good at writing, i do not remember details like where we stopped to camp. I remember things like what i saw or didn't see but details of route, town, and things like that i suffer from CRS "Can't Remember Shit".
I do remember getting there and driving off the main highway for a while and getting to this ominous dirt road, no signage or arrows that define this as a camping area! It was dark and we drove this dirt road until we came upon another vehicle in our headlights. "I guess this is it" we said. Our first night in the Jucy. We quickly set up the penthouse, which Tom decided he would sleep in the first night and set up for a good nights sleep. For me, i was not sure how the elevation and time change was going to effect me, but it will be what it will be.
We slept pretty well and I was up fairly early so i took a walk as the sun was rising and was totally amazed as to what rose with the sun. This free campsite (www.freecampsites.com) was amazing. The sun shine brought out these amazing hills around us filled with colorful reds, whites and depth. I had never seen color this vibrant before. I also noticed the feel of desert around the hills, lots of sand and low areas of low growing brush and plants. I wondered off the gravel road to go to the bathroom and then realized there might be snakes out and about wanting to feel the heat of the sun so i quickly got back on the beaten path.
Once Tom and I got up, took in the fresh morning air, we decided we needed food, coffee and hot chocolate so we hit the road. I would be driving this morning to give Tom a break as last nights ride was pretty tiring for Tom. We ended up stopping at the truck stop that was not that far from the free campsite. We loaded up with food, drink and supplies and then headed to Zion.
Once we got to the park entrance and paid the fee to get in, Tom and I decided we wanted to get some running and climbing in so we took a look at the maps and decided on The Observation Point Trail, Elevation 6,507. This trail was via Weeping Rock and had hard pack surface and what seemed like paved areas. the beginning of the trail was a switchbacking trail that followed areas where great view points could be seen. We finally reached the top, a roughly 4.5 mile out. It was spectacular. Tom was amazingly strong on that first climb. He seemed in great form and running well. I on the other hand was sucking wind. Not sure if it was altitude or allergies that were effecting my sinuses.
We met several lady runners barrelling down the trail back to the base and stopped to chat with them. They were in the Zion area with their families for school break and the men had taken the kids rock climbing while the ladies ran to the overlook.
Tom and i decided to get plenty of pictures and soak in the views once we reached the overlook. We both decided to get a good strong run on the descent but again Tom was in rare form and descended like a made man, but wow, was it fun, so much fun.
We got to the Weeping Rock bus stop and awaited our bus back to the Main Visitors Building. Once we got to the visitors area we definitely thought we should take advantage of the brew pub and get a meal and libations before heading towards Bryce Canyons for the next adventure.
After a great meal of red meat and beer, it was time to hit the road again. We would travel towards Bryce Canyons and get as close as we could if not all the way there and seek out a free campsite if possible. This leg of the trip would not go without adventurous happenings.
We left Zion after a quick trip to the gift shop. The trip was going well until we ran into a bit of rain with turned to snow which turned to sleet then back to heavy wet snow along the way. At this point Tom was driving and the weather was getting worse. We must have traveled higher into the altitude as it became colder, more overcast and white with snow. We were really hoping to reach the free campsite but as we were driving i could see Tom's knuckles turning white from his death grip on the steering wheel hoping we wouldn't leave the road in an icy heap of metal. We reached the free campsite just outside the entrance gate to the Bryce Canyon Park. We drove into the dirt road, which at the time, was covered with a fresh layer of snow and ice. It looked a bit ominous and seemed if we pulled in that we have a good possibility of not getting out as the snow would melt and create lots of mud that the van might not make it out of. We chose to enter the park and stay at the National Park Campsite right in Bryce.
We wondered down the road as Tom thought that i should see the sites before we got some sleep. It was cold and windy but we headed to Sunset Point. It was an easy accessible viewing area and totally amazing. Tom had been here before and had a sense of a few easy areas to hit. We spent some time checking it out and then back to the campsite to set up camp for the night. We set up camp with the Juct at the North campground and got set up for some food, drink and just hanging out until dark. We were near the restrooms, which was good. Tom had spent the night in the Penthouse the night before so it was my turn to take the penthouse as it had a bit more leg room. I got my gear situated and was ready to go. It was a lot colder that night. The snow and sleet we got made it much colder and i had a bit of difficulty staying warm but managed to make it work by layering clothing.
We were up fairly early and Tom got hot water boiling for twa and coffee as we got prepared to set out for a good run that morning. There was a map posted near the restroom and both Tom and i took a look at what seemed interesting for a run. We both thought that the rim trail which connected to the Fairy Loop Trail seemed interesting and we could head out right from the campsite. It would be. roughly, 8-12 miles. This run began with chilly temps, although, the temps quickly rose creating a mud surface like no other i've ever run in before. This red clay mud would stick to the bottoms of your running shoes like glue and inches thick. It made your feet feel very heavy and unstable. It was exciting to slip and slide around in the mud the entire time.
The one thing i remember was how spectacular the "HooDoo's" were, or as i called them, the "HooHah's"....hahahaha. The HooHah's were amazing and so many of them. We ran around then, through them antops and bottoms of them. I remember telling Tom that if anyone doesn't believe in evolution they need to visit this place and see the thousands of years shown in all the layers. The white snow on top of the red clay rock, sand and mud made the beauty jump out even more. I had never seen anything like this before and it was difficult not to stop at each turn and just stare into the distance and burn the memory into my mind forever. We did not see any other sight seers for some time as we had an early start but we finally began seeing other signs of life as the sun got higher in the sky.
There was so much to take in it was overwhelming. We were at roughly 7800'-8000' feet for altitude and i was still finding it tough to breath with the added pressure. Tom finally admitted he was feeling it too, but he is a beast.
"BRYCE WAS NICE"
We had a great run that morning and then needed food and a recharge. After that Tom asked if i was up for more. He had thoughts of another trail loop that he had wanted to do when he had visited last summer with his family. I think they might have hiked a portion of it at that time. His idea of hiking, not running, the Navajo Loop Trail was awesome. This trail is below the Sunset View observation and was a hike through the Hoohah's and was beautiful seeing the Spires up close. We got down low into the canyons where the low lying water was and some tree growth. Lots of day users were in the canyons and taking photo's. I really enjoyed this hike with Tom and our conversations about his previous trip. I could tell he was missing his family at this point as he asked me to take a few video's of him as he talked to his kids. He took the videos to send to Quinn and Mags so they could see the beauty again.
This place was very difficult for me to leave. I felt so at peace here and the shear beauty of it had captivated me. It is a place that you could spend a great amount of time and really never touch its surface of what it has to offer.
As this trip evolves over the days, i begin to feel the significance of this land and how it came about. it is a land of great spirituality and importance. Knowing that the Native Americans had settled here and found peace is not hard to understand. It is a beauty like i've never seen or felt to the core of my being.
Tom and I returned to the Jucy and began our preparation to move on. We both ate a bit and decided we would stop at the visitors centers gift shop to check out the gifts, but for me i was only looking for stickers for my car.
It's to Monument Valley we travel. We will travel as far as we can to the free campsite, stay the night and then head into MV, which will be a short travel from the free camp site.
As the day before heading to Bryce Canyons, we hit some foul weather again. as we traveled to MV the snow began to fall, it wasn't much at first but as we continued to travel we were hit by massive snow squalls. The roads quickly got covered with snow and ice as Tom continued to drive and i navigated. The visibility was very poor but we pressed on. The snow would slow and then pick up again. The good thing was there were not many cars on the road.
Because i am so terrible with remembering little details, i can not remember the town we were to stop at the free campsite. It was just outside of MV and off the beaten path. Unfortunately as we were driving, i lost track of where we were and the GPS was not operating all the time so we drove right past our campsite turn. We doubled back and as we got to the road to the campsite we stopped and discussed where we were and the weather conditions. Tom had just driven for many hours, white knuckled driving, very tense and crazy. We both looked at each other and had the same idea. We decided that be exposed while trying to cook diner at the back of the van was not the greatest idea and that it might be best to press on and look for a hotel for a good hot meal, beer and a good nights sleep in a bed. We pushed on until we got to a small town called Kayenta, Arizona, just outside MV but within Navajo Nation.
We finally got onto town and stopped at the first hotel we saw. The room prices were pretty steep though so we asked about other hotels and they were very kind and recommended a hotel "The Wetherill Hotel" across town that was less than half the costs and they still offered breakfast in the morning, DEAL, we took it. We also found out that many other runners were staying at the same hotel.
Here is where i saw my first free range dog. It saw us drive in and came to greet us looking for food, but we didn't have any at the time. We unloaded our gear to the room and it was shower and refresh time then we would find a local restaurant to grab some food and make our belly's happy. The front desk recommended a small mexican eatery not far away calle "Amigo's", known to have the best burritos around and they were not kidding. I'm not sure if it was the fact that we were eating road food in the van for days or if it really was the best mexican food ever, but either way, it was the best meal i felt i had in months. Great beer, food and company with Tom. While at the restaurant we noticed several other groups of people at eating and overheard one group discussing the event. They were organizers of the MV event so, of course, i had to introduce us and ask them a few questions and thank them for all their efforts and hard work for the event. They were all very pleasant and we chatted for a short time before parting ways. Once we got back to the hotel, our free range dog greeted us again so we gave him our leftover food from Zion Pub. We set it aside for her out back of the hotel and she seemed quite happy about it. We never saw her again.
It was roughly 24-25 miles to Monument Valley so we got a good nights sleep on Thursday night in a hotel to get some rest before the actual event at Monument Valley. The drive to MV on Friday would be short but well rested. The anticipation was building. After all we had seen so far either running, hiking and driving this place we were heading to had to be just as spectacular and awesome. Tom and I enjoyed a tall PBR and discussed our thoughts of how we might run the 50 miles.
We woke up fairly later in the morning as sleeping in a bed was sooooo comfortable and the last three nights were restless sleep so it was nice sleeping in a bit. I woke up and dressed and took a walk outside as i could see the sun shining through the curtains. I walked around the building and then checked out the breakfast area. It was your typical continental breakfast but it smelled good and i was ready to chow.
Tom slept in a bit longer so i decided to shower and refresh as i knew it would be the last time for a few days depending if the camp site "The View" at Monument Valley had showers or not! I wasn't completely sure if they did as Tom made the campsite arrangements.
Once we were both up and moving we went to breakfast. while we were there we met tow other guys that were running the MV 50 miler as well. We chatted for a bit and asked if they would be doing any site seeing before heading into MV, Navajo Nation. They pretty much had the same plan we did. We were planning to get to MV as soon as possible, check in at the campground and then look into some sight seeing for the day.
The drive to Monument Valley was beautiful. As we traveled the Mesa's, Butte's and spire's became even more prominent and visible. It really was like being in a different world, a place that should not be of this earth. The size of the monuments were intense and wondrous. Just knowing that these monuments were created by having been completely submerged under an ocean thousands of years of ago and then having the water subside to erode and create these beautiful outcasts of red rock, sand and stone. It was like being in a dream state for me.
We finally got to the turn to the Monument Valley visitors gate and we stopped to get out of the van and just take a deep breath and do a panoramic view of it all. We then realized how sandy it really was. We ran on the side of the road in the sand to see what it felt like, yup, it felt very sandy and at that point we knew if we had to run in much of that sand, it was going to be a difficult 50 miles.
We arrived at the Park Entry Gate, paid our fees and headed to the visitors center and to locate the campground area. As we drove into the park i could sense the excitement in both Tom and I, we made it and there are the monuments, large and in charge. As we drove into the parking area of the visitors center we could see the race organizers still setting up the venue and that got us excited. We went to the campground, checked in and found our site. The name "The View" was appropriately given. The orientation of the campsite was facing "The Mittens", two butes and spires that look like mittens. it was an incredible view. We could see the entire valley of monuments as well as "Mitchell Mesa" behind the visitors center which we would be climbing during the 50 miles.
We then checked out the visitors center. The gift shop was filled with Navajo gifts of every sort you could imagine. The building was fairly new and had a great outdoor seating area that overlooked the valley. It was a beautiful sunny day and the views were spectacular.
It was hear that we were introduced to "Jeff". Jeff is the race course designer. As we were poking around the gift shop, I purchased a few things and the kind young Navajo ladies at the register asked if we were staying at the hotel? I mentioned that we were there for the race and were staying in the campground. They immediately pointed to a man stocking shelves and stated. "That is Jeff, He sets out the course and has for years, you definitely want to talk with him", we of course we do. We introduce ourselves to Jeff and he walked us to an outdoor patio out back of the visitors center as we would have privacy to talk about the event. The patio opened up to look at the entire Monument Valley. Jeff was a very humble low key guy. He went on to give us a bit of history of the event and was able to point out exactly where the course route was by pointing out into the horizon at visible monuments and trails. He informed us that it was very sandy, very. The last 6 miles he said will be all sand but little did we know at that point that most of the run would fill our shoes packed full of sand.
After talking with Jeff we decided to head to the campground and decide what other adventures we could explore for the day. We had several things we wanted to check out, one was the "Mexican Hat". This was a formation of a spire with a large flat rock on top that is balancing. Also, we wanted to drive to the exact location that Forest Gump had stopped running...."I'm tired, I think I will go home now".
The hike to the Magic Hat was nice. Tom and I did a short little hike to get as near as we dared to the Monument at Mexican Hat. It was again a beautiful sunny day and we wanted to take it all in but also realized we had to take it easy if we were going to get through this 50 miler the next day. We also drove to the area that we thought Forest Gump had stopped in the movie but were not entirely sure until we ran into our new friends that we met at the hotel. They had done the same thing we had and mentioned there was a sign on the side of the road stating Forest Gump! It was not as apparent as we thought it would be. It was quite funny seeing many other people doing the same thing. Most folks got out of their cars and ran down the road as if they were Forest himself, but i will admit, Tom did his impersonation better than anyone else out there. It was classic.
As we finished our day and were headed back to the campground, Tom and I decided to stop and eat our sandwiches. We stopped a little turn out on the side of the highway that had a great view of the monuments in the distance. This was one of my favorite times. We just sat and waved at all the drivers driving bay as though we were locals, but sitting in a lime green and purple Jucy rental van made us stick out like a sore thumb....hahahaha.
The remainder of the day was dedicated to poking around the campground, visitors center and we went to the start/finish area to get our race information and bib numbers. As we were there and after getting our race numbers they directed us to the t-shirt pickup. To our surprise, when we picked up our t-shirts, the volunteer "Bill" was wearing a TMR BBU Pounder hoody, what are the chances that two TM's would be in Monument Valley Utah and see a "Pounder" hoody??? Well, it happened. Bill was from Canada and had run the Pounder the year before and was in Utah to run the 50k and was also volunteering at the venue.
After picking up our race information we attempted a drive around the perimeter road that took you around all the monuments in the valley. This was a 17 miles ride on some pretty rough roads. We did make it all the way around. We cut it short realizing that we would be seeing all the monuments up close and personal during the 50 mile run. It was time to start gathering our gear and deciding what we needed for the run. I decided that i would not use my Inov8 295's, too aggressive for this sandy surface! I also decided that i would not use gaiters as i had never used them before but i would opt to carry then just in case. It was due to be a really good day for the run, 65-67 degrees, low wind if any and a slight chance of rain late in the day. I would be running on Tailwind so i didn't need to pack anything for food. If i thought i needed food the aid stations would have it.
We tried to make dinner that night at the van, spaghetti and sauce but the wind was too heavy and we couldn't get the water to boil enough to heat the water so we opted to eat left over food and saved bagels for breakfast. It ended up we went to the pre-race celebration at the start area and had Navajo Taco's which was a fried bread with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, refried beans, black olives and other toppings and you could add sour cream and hot sauces. This was a good meat while waiting for the festivities to begin. The pre-race festivities were mainly a high scholl group of kids playing native american songs on homemade flutes, a young girl, roughly 6-7 years old singing Navajo song and reciting spiritual poems in Navajo language, this was really cool and then there were Navajo men dressed in spirit paints and dancing in moccasins and summoning the gods for peace and good spirit. This was so awesome seeing and hearing the chanting and watching the Navajo residents accepting the spiritual prayers from the gods.
Once the pre-race festivities were over Tom and I headed back to the Van to get ready for some sleep but first we had to get some reflection time in. Tom wondered off to find a quiet place to meditate and i found a peaceful place to watch the sun set. It is nearly impossible to miss the sun setting in any direction you look as the monuments reflect the sun like no other place on earth. We both found our peace for the short time and then it seemed we got down to business thinking about the run. We did discuss how we would run. We decided that Tom is much stronger than i so we would NOT run together. I had also decided that i would go out slow and easy as i had picked up some allergies and was discharging constantly!
I had the penthouse in the Juct again and was ready for a good nights sleep but we all know how that goes the night before an event, especially a 50 mile run in a far away land. My mind was working over time thinking about what we had learned so far and i was eager to get started with the run. I was up several times to go to the bathroom or get comfortable in the Jucy. Morning was soon arriving. I could see the sun peaking into the penthouse and it caused my excitement to rise. I was up and getting things ready for Tom and I. Started hot water for tea and got the bagels out. As i was doing this i was watching the most incredible sun rise behind the Mittens, it was incredible and inviting. It was alsmost time to get these ol feet moving through another 50 miles.
We got dressed, geared up and headed to the start line. At this point the campground, start/finish area and roadway were a buzz with many runners eagerly ready to get started. The 50 milers would be up first to start at 7:00am, then the 50k runners. It would not be long before they all got intermingled and together and it would be difficult to know who was who, unless you were looking closely. The beginning of the run would take us down a hard pack gravel truck road until the first Aid Station at the "Three Sisters". From there we would climb Mitchell Mesa. We were told by the course designer that this climb would be tough. It is an old mining road that has since disappeared under all the fallen rock and mesa debris. It definitely was a tough climb but i found myself wanting to run this mountain, so i did. I passed many runners here. I thought i should see Tom descending at this point but i never saw him until i got to the top of the mesa and the view point at the end. I was amazed as to how long the plateau was on the mesa. It seemed to go on forever, nice and flat. It was at the view point i look up and there's Tom, he had a look of sheer surprise in his face.....Almost like "what the hell is Halfbomb doing here so soon". Tom and i exchanged pleasantries and off he went, i would never see him again.
Along the way to Three Sisters i was told of many Navajo ranchers that have many horses and they use them to give guided tours through the valley. I got to see these horses at Three Sisters Aid Station. They were being prepared for the day by the Navajo. I also got to see several free range horses out in the valley just grazing which was really interesting to see. On my climb up Mitchell Mesa i was fortunate enough to see the Navajo horseman that rode to the top of the mesa to greet runners. I caught up to him along the climb and he gave me a thumbs up while i took his picture. There were many Navajo along the way that were great inspiration and cheerful and a great help.
After three sisters and Mitchell Mesa it was off to the yellow loop then East Mitten Aid Station. The aid stations were spread pretty far so it was very important to get what you needed at each aid station. I knew early on that i would need to do several checks. I would replenish my Tailwind, get some snacks that were appealing, empty my shoes and socks of sand as they would fill quickly with the fine red sands we were running on. I did result to wearing my gaiters but it just didn't seem to help much! I met many other runners and ran with a buddy as often as i could just to keep my mind occupied. There were times that the run was very remote and if by your self it could be mentally troublesome. I was in and out of East Mitten. Got what i needed but was out fast. The one issue i had here was i should have tasted the Tailwind mix before leaving, but i didn't. a mile down the trail i took a big sip off my hydration pack only to find they had not mixed the tailwind and it was basically water! Luckily Tom had convinced me to carry one baggie filled with enough tailwind to mix one bladder full. I was very thankful at that point i listened to Tom as not having tailwind would have been detrimental to my run. I stopped and mixed what i had and i was good to go from there.
This next loop was a yellow loop, it was a shorter loop that took us back to the Three Sisters Aid station as we would hit that ais station 3 times. This would be the final time we see Three Sisters as it would be off to the East Mittens and Bridgham's Tomb loop from here. Once the yellow loop was completed we were basically at the half way point.
At the halfway point and after taking care of my feet at Three Sisters, i realized that when we discussed the course with Jeff that the next part was going to be a lot of sand running. It would not be much climbing but brutal sand running. Jeff was NOT kidding. We ran along many river beds, they were packed with dry, fine, penetrating sand. There was no easy way to keep sand out of your shoes or socks. The sand would enter through the tops of your shoes, get into the toebox and eventually permeate your socks and pack between your toes so they felt like sardines. The sand would create a friction like i've never felt, hot spots and abrasion. I had to stop frequently to remove the sand!
It was at the last Three Sisters Aid Station that i picked up a canine friend. There were lots of free range dogs in this country. It so happened one of them took a liking to me at the half way point. He was a good dog and very well behaved. He ran with me for some time, he ran to East Mitten and Bridgham's Tomb Aid Stations and stayed with me until a mile out from the finish. Somehow he knew he couldn't come with me to the finish as the locals would not let him at the venue. As we ran i wanted to give him a name as i thought it appropriate. It had to fit for the time. I called him "Mesa" for the beauty of the monuments and that the Mesa's brought comfort knowing they were there and we were still near civilization. It seemed fitting and he didn't seem to mind his new name at all.
Running on course now through the last section towards Bridgham's Tomb Aid Station. This area was very flat and beautiful but seemed to be very long and the miles seemed to be getting longer. There were many sights to see, lots of monuments and interesting outcrops of the red rock and layers and layers of stone. The river beds were relentless with sand build up and those that i ran with were increasingly frustrated with the sand and how difficult it was to run in. The only way i felt comfortable running was to run flat footed. Keep my shoes flat to the sand and not dig in with my toes as i usually do.
The Monuments were so beautiful along the run. It was incredible to run so close to them and see the different formations and layers they offered. They seemed so close but yet so far. The last two legs of the run which was a 9 miler and 6 plus miles seemed to be so remote. I found myself alone here with Mesa the dog. It was at the last aid station that the sky began to form overcasts and it began to rain small droplets. It was not long before the sky turned dark and big black clouds formed. The wind got fast and heavy and there was definitely a storm rolling in. It was not long before the heavens opened up and it began to pour. The wind was brutal and i had to place every bit of clothing i had carried with me on my back to stay warm. I did not take any photo's at this point, but i did take a video and kept moving fast as we heard the heavy rain could bring flooding in the river beds and i wasn't sure if i would be running through them again!
After the last aid station and only 6 miles to go i pretty much decided it was time to put my head down, and crank it out. I had many thoughts of where Tom might be. Did he finish already? Did he grow tired of the sand and drop as i saw many others doing at the last two aid stations? How far ahead of me was he and would i catch him? All these thoughts kept me moving well. The one thing that i have on my side is tenacity. I will keep going forever, regardless of how i'm feeling. I just keep telling myself that as long as i'm moving forward, i'm making great progress. That always seems to work for me.
Mesa the dog was still with me and we were having great conversations in this last 6 miles. I couldn't help but wonder how could i get this dog back to Maine with us after the runs and adventure. What a story it would be. I did call find out that the logistics would be immense. The dog would need all it's shots and certificates prior to boarding a jet and the costs would be crazy, but i did think about it! Maybe i will return and search for Mesa someday and bring him home. I said my goodbyes to him, gave him a snack and some water and a huge hug and we parted ways, yes, tears ensued.
I can see the finish line now, i'm about 2 miles out and i can hear the cheers and announcements of the finishing runners. I see 4-5 runners ahead of me walking but i'll be damn if i'm going to walk the last 2 miles. I was running as often as i could through the entire run and i'm not stopping now. I passed everyone i saw in front of me. We ran down a gravel road to the back of The View Campground where we were staying. That was a teaser to run right by the Jucy van and not be able to stop and just slide into my sleeping bag and fall asleep. I wanted to get to the finish line as i knew Tom would be waiting and to no surprise, he was there waiting to cheer me on. I hear my named being announced and my finishing time, i crossed the line, got on my hands and knees and kissed the ground. I was happy to finish and get off the sand. Tom had already changed into warmer clothes and was finishing his finish line food. He gave me a congratulatory hug and we discussed that run and our finishes. Tom rocked it and looked great, it was as though he had been out for a training stroll.
I did notice that Tom had the same gray look to his skin that i did and all the others runners i had passed coming into the finish. The sand dust apparently had stuck to our skin but caused this gray look which was similar to an unhealthy skin look. I was hungry but wanted to jump in the shower as soon as i could just to feel human again. I grabbed a finish pizza and headed to the van to get a change of warm clothes, as it was still cool and windy from the storm, then showered and decided to lay down for a short time. As i rested i could hear other runners passing by the van headed towards the finish. This kept me up as there was still many hours for others to complete the run and under the cut-off. Eventually i got up nd dressed and headed to the finish for more food and to cheer on the last runners before cut-off. It was dark at that point and they had fire pits blazing at the finish area. I grabbed a rice and bean bowl and wondered out to a group of local Navajo and asked to join them. We sat for and hour just chatting and discussing the run and what it brings to the Navajo Nation. "Richard" A Navajo Native said he ran the 4 miler and was amazed as to those that can run the 50 miler. He said he is determined to run the 50 miler some day.
Once i headed back to the Jucy, it was time to get some rest. The last runner was in and the venue was being disassembled already. I knew we would be up fairly early to catch the sunrise and then clean out the van and hit the road back to Las Vegas to drop of the van and catch a taxi to the jetport. It was time to get back home.
We packed up the van in a rough sense and decided we would stop at the same truck stop that we had stopped at while camping the first night. we had lunch there which was one of the best fried chicken lunches i've ever had. The waitress was fantastic. She was an older woman but seemingly a hard worker and eager for conversation. She treated us well. Both Tom and I decided to spend a few bucks and try our hand at the slots in the mini-casino in the truck stop. We both won .30 cents each, big winners but we weren't going home empty handed, hahaha.
We arrived at the Juct RV Rental business and dropped off the van, i'm going to miss this ol girl Jucy Lucy. She was a great companion and very comfortable and a good deal for the 5 days we needed her. It was sad we had to leave her behind so i had to give her a proper goodbye. Tom took the photo of me grabbing her bosom and trying to give her a kiss.
The non-stop red-eye flight home was near, we were ready to get home but not too excited to sit on a flight for 5 hours plus. You would think the flight on the red-eye would be fairly quite but of course we were flying into Boston which meant that the flight had a few loud and obnoxious Mass-Holes that just wouldn't be respectful and felt the entire world had to hear about their trip to the casinos.!!!! They were loud and it was difficult to get any sleep.
We finally landed in Boston and we called the Park, Shuttle & Ride service to pick us up and get us back to my car. We were both tired but i was good to drive and excited to be back near home. Tom was eager to get home before his kids walked to school so i was on a mission to make sure that happened. Peddle to the medal. Once we got outside of the Boston area we made good time. Tom crashed while i put the hammer down.
We arrived just in time, We pulled into Tom'd driveway just before Quinn and Mags left for school from the neighbor's house. I waited for Tom to say thanks for everything and we made plans to get together soon to plan our next adventure soon.
I had a short drive to get to my Tiny Home at Bradbury and i was tired. I soon arrived home and was greeted by the Zipster and i unpacked a few things, had a beer and then layed down and napped for the day.
The trip had come to an end but the memories were fresh and i wish we were still in Utah. But as all good things, they must come to an end so other good things can be planned.
I thank Tom for inviting me on this incredible adventure. Tom, you are a delight and pleasure to travel with and i believe we do well as traveling runners. We made great co-pilots and got along awesomely. Thanks for all the work you did to organize this trip while i had to focus my energies on caring for my dad. With out you this would have never happened.
Thanks to my friends at home for looking in on my cat and checking up on my home to assure all was safe and happy.
Thank you to the organizers, Jeff, Navajo Nation, The View Campground and all those I met along the way that made this trip the most memorable trip i've ever taken, it will never be forgotten. It was an adventure of a life time and the amazing images will be imprinted in my memory forever.
Below are the final photos from the MV run. This earth is truly an amazing place. I look forward to creating more adventures with my friend Tom to explore.