Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tushar Sky Marathon Race Report - 2015

I told Catherine to let me know before she barfed. I wanted to make sure I had my camera ready. She was, in the same sentence, praising Matt Gunn for designing an extraordinarily beautiful race course, and cursing the existence of Matt Gunn for designing a course so difficult that it made her want to barf.

And so we begin the Tushar Marathon race report.

Matt Gunn is the hero...and torture mastermind behind Tushars and his slew of other Ultra Adventures races. When it comes to putting runners in stunningly beautiful places, there is no one better than Matt. I am so thankful for the friendship we have built over the years.

Everyone I talked to leading up to the race was nervous. The course was reported to be crazy difficult. Nerves go away the moment the race director gathers everyone up and says "Okay. Go."

I've run lots of races with my friends Clair and Catherine. It's a challenge to run the entire race with people because each person has highs and lows at different times. Maybe that's why we are such good friends. We've all seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in each other.

The race started off with a huge climb.....and just kept going up. So. Much. Up.

As we were going up a trail we came around a ridge and this incredible landscape opened up in front of us. Without a word each of us stopped running. It would be downright criminal to run past a view like this without stopping for a minute to appreciate it.

Around every turn wild flowers were enveloping the trails. Every mile took us through a kaleidoscope of colors.

After a couple hours of running I could tell that Clair wasn't feeling good. He had a hard time catching his breath and was worn out. He kept moving though.

After a while I'd turn around to see how he was doing and he'd be hunched over, feeling yucky, and trying to catch his breath. This is what a day of hard trails in thin air can do to you.

Clair looked like he was on the brink of meeting his maker. I started looking for places along the trail that would make a good burial plot. Because that's what friends are for. But he got a second life, a new burst of energy, and some fresh legs.....then proceeded to fly across the trails. Way to not die Clair!

I believe it was around mile 11 when we reached a trail that was so steep I was worried that if I stood up straight, I would tip over backwards and roll into a bloody mess at the bottom of the hill. Each step was a challenge. Catherine considered barfing. I had my camera ready just in case. Because that's what friends are for.

At some point along the way we were 12,000+ feet above sea level. Spoiler alert: there is NO oxygen up there. NONE. ZERO. It wasn't like trying to breathe through a straw. It was like trying to breathe through a toothpick. And you say "Cory, duh, you can't breathe through a toothpick." My point EXACTLY!

The lush green fields felt like we were running in Ireland. Not that I have even the slightest idea what it's like running in Ireland. Catherine was upset that the race director hadn't clarified that training for the race should be done in an unpressurized airplane.

As a photographer, I was in pure heaven. I'm perfectly happy to lay down on the dirt, rocks, and weeds (in the middle of a race might I add) to get the picture I want. I'm so happy with how this shot turned out.

The wild

Clair hit a low spot again. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he heard angels around him telling him to move toward the light. Shortly after taking this picture he agreed to borrow some trekking poles from Catherine to get up the mountains.

After miles of climbing in 0% oxygen we reached the highest point of the course - Delano Peak.

Then out of nowhere Clair darted past us and cruised down the mountain. He caught another breath of life. He clearly has more lives than a cat. He even had my trekking poles with him. Catherine and I were convinced that we had just been played.

My friend Jared is a manly man and ran the 93k race. I regret not getting a picture with him. (I'll have plenty of other opportunities though because he graciously volunteered to pace me at Wasatch.) So my wife and Jared's wife were out on the course throughout the day shuttling crew and pacers. It was great to see Mel in the middle of a race. I am thankful for such a supportive wife.

The last ten miles were challenging, but much less difficult than the first sixteen miles. The views remained absolutely insane in the membrane. Insane in the brain.

The scariest part of the race for me was getting to this log we had to cross to get over a river. I'm about as coordinated as a filing cabinet and was convinced I was going to end up in the river. Somehow we all managed to stay dry.

Some friendly cows greeted us on the other side of the river. Oh, what they must have been thinking.

A quick shout-out for the gear I used during the race. I'm so thankful for the support, encouragement, and sweet shirt from St. George Running Center. As always I used Tailwind Nutrition for fuel, tested out the new UltrAspire Astral pack, and wore some Altra Lone Peak 2.5 shoes right out of the box that were awesome. The traction on the shoes was a lifesaver in this race. I snacked on a few Picky Bars and 2Toms SportShield for blister protection. Camera was a Panasonic Lumix. These last few aren't sponsors but their stuff is awesome.

Here is an indication of how challenging the course was - the marathon took us almost ten hours. I loved every single minute of those ten hours surrounded by jaw-dropping views and great friends.

They had something new at this race - a white board where they wrote people's sentiments as they crossed the finish line. Hilarious!

Thankfully my legs weren't yet destroyed so I headed back out on the course in hopes of meeting up with Jared to pace him to the finish. We didn't get together because he waived the white flag after a difficult 50 miles. I ended up getting in almost 40 miles for the day which helped build my confidence a little bit for the upcoming Wasatch 100.

If by chance you like any of the pictures in this race report, believe me when I say that the pictures don't do justice to just how amazing this area is. Tushars is destined to become a destination race. The torture master and beloved running hero Matt Gunn created a masterpiece of a race. While I was out alone on the trail, night quickly fell on the runners still out on the course. I sat down on a rock and admired the last fading light of the day. I tried to enjoy it the way I know Matt would want it enjoyed. Because that's what friends are for.

I put together a video clip with some more views from the race. You can check it out here:


  1. I've read your blog for awhile now, but never commented before. Your photos and stories always make me want to be a trail runner...and to live in a state that has views like what you have! I ran my first trail race last Friday. Only a 5K and it was terrible, but I think that was largely due to the fact that it was so poorly organized and the trail was not an established one, but one that had been bushwacked into the brush and woods the day before. Hopefully I'll get to try a better one someday. In any case, your photos and stories are inspiring!

  2. Hi Cory, your report is very entertaining. I love your humorous and easy-going writing style. Very fun to read! Also, I love your wild-flower shots. I have to remember to lie down more often when taking pictures! I'm just always afraid that I might not want to get up any more ... Would love to find ourselves sharing a start-line again and spending some time together out on a trail. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

  3. I spent a winter working and living up there when it was still Elk Meadows. I lover the Tushars. I've even been to the top of Delano several times but always with skis. This is definitely on my to do list.

  4. BEAUTIFUL!!! Also just as I thought very entertaining :)#

  5. Loved the pics as always! Now I want to replenish my Tailwind stash and run a trail race again.

  6. I guess I'm in for some of that 0% oxygen next week--I'm doing the TransRockies stage race!

  7. Nice report! I need to get mine done, thought he pictures aren't nearly as spectacular.

  8. Wow! Great report and you really do embrace the beauty of the run! I am glad there are no actual barfing shots, thank you for that small favor!

  9. Stunning race photos. What a beautiful course!

  10. I hate running hills with a passion but they do give little gifts don't they? Those views! I can't even imagine how hard a marathon course has to be to take 10 hrs. Congratulations for conquering it.

  11. As coordinated as a filing cabinet :`D You make me laugh at work which is definitely not allowed here. I wanted this race last summer but children need parents so I'm hoping for it in 2016. :)

  12. Registered for 2017 but after 11 hours (including an hour laying across the trail) at the Bryce 50k I'm thinking of dropping to the half .. ; /