Thursday, October 27, 2016

Grand Circle Trailfest Review - Running Around Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon

A few weeks ago I ran the Grand Circle Trailfest: a 3-day running adventure on the trails surrounding Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.

I have run the ultra distance in all those races and somehow the Trailfest managed to select my favorite sections of each of the courses to include in the 3 day event. The race is staged in Kanab, Utah - a hub for all this amazing scenery. Runners could camp or stay in hotels around Kanab, and were then shuttled to the various courses each day.

The event was put on by Vacation Races who designed and managed all the running. They also partnered with Trail and Ultra Running to coordinate the festival side of the event. This is Craig Lloyd, owner of Trail and Ultra Running. Apparently, when you take a jumping picture with him, your legs decide, against your will, to look like Peter Pan. This is the beautiful park where the event was staged.

The first day was a 13 mile run on the Thunder Mountain Trail near Bryce Canyon. Have you been on the Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland? This is the scenery that gave them the inspiration for the ride! Let's play a game of "Can you spot the runner?"

I loved how the trails took runners back and forth through the hoodoos.

I accidentally took 274 pictures during the Bryce Canyon race. Oops! Of all the pictures I took, this one is my favorite. The runners, lighting, and scenery aligned perfectly:

At the end of the race, we received this arrow. (Arrows for the following two races and a quiver are going to be mailed to runners.)

That night Sunny Blende was the keynote speaker who talked about endurance fueling and nutrition. Her talk was followed by an outdoor film festival. The next day was a 12 mile run on Gooseberry Mesa overlooking Zion National Park.

I only live a few minutes away from the Zion 100 course and am so blessed to do most of my training somewhere along the course. It was awesome to see ~400 runners from across the country fall in love with my home trails.

It was so funny to be running along the trail, then reach a scenic viewpoint and see a cluster of runners with their cameras out to capture the magic of our surroundings.

We neared a section called The Point which is probably my very favorite spot on Earth. It feels like you can see for one million miles.

My heart was filled with joy when I got there and saw lots of runners taking jumping pictures. I felt like a proud parent! I was happy to join in on the jumping.

I was honored to be the keynote speaker for Friday night. I talked about mental training for ultramarathons, running Badwater, and my new book Nowhere Near First.

Friday night concluded with an amazing concert by the band The National Parks. I had never heard of them before Trailfest but I've been listening to their music constantly ever since.

Saturday was the longest day of Trailfest, 19 miles on trails overlooking The Grand Canyon. We ran on the Rainbow Rim Trail through forests of pines and aspens.

It was great to see overviews of the Grand Canyon from remote trails that few tourists ever see.

The keynote speaker for Saturday night was Ray Zahab. Have you seen the movie Running The Sahara? He teamed up with Matt Damon to make that movie. His awesome adventures, his enthusiasm, and his humanitarian work is an inspiration. I loved spending time with him before his speech talking about expeditions and book projects.

The Trailfest concluded with a great surprise. Trailfest co-founder Matt Gunn got down on one knee and proposed to Toby Nishikawa. I have known Matt since before he started the Zion 100 and Ultra Adventures. And Toby was on of the members of my incredible Badwater crew. I love both of these people. It was the perfect ending to an amazing adventure.

I loved the Trailfest so, so much. I heard other runners say that this was something that belongs on runner's bucket lists. The pictures above are only a small taste of the pictures I took during the races. Here is a video I made that shows off the beauty of these amazing courses: