The Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah is a beautiful point to point run through steep red rock canyons along the Colorado River. This is one instance where I will override the “I hate point to point runs” and do it. The bus ride to the start line was stunning. I don’t remember how long it took to get to the start line. I spent the entire drive looking out the windows. Every turn we took was more beautiful than the last. This was one adventure I will never forget.
The 7.5 Hour Drive to Moab
Getting to Moab, Utah included a snow storm, a rain storm and a wind storm. The trip started in Scottsdale, Arizona. I headed north, up through Flagstaff where I ended up in a full on snow storm as I crested the top of the mountain. Then back down to the valley where it turned in to a torrential rainstorm. All of this and I was only 2 hours into the trip. I pulled over to take a leak at the Arizona Utah border. I was there for 10 minutes and didn’t see another vehicle. That is one isolated desolate area.
Once we crossed into Utah the trip got stunning. We climbed out of the desert floor and into the southern Utah mountains. Every mile was more beautiful than the last. So beautiful in fact I forgot to check my speed and got a ticket. The first thing the officer said? “Nice truck! You heading to slick rock?” I thought he might let me off, however, he didn’t.
Moab, Canyonlands & 127 Hours
I pulled into Moab about 1:00 in the afternoon. I had left at an obscenely early hour but it ultimately took me 8 hours to complete the drive. First stop, packet pickup. Second stop, check into hotel. Third stop, get food! I found a great little pizza place. I figure if I am going to burn 1,800 extra calories during a run, why not. Plus, isn’t that just carb loading? I found a great little place right on the main drag named Zax Restaurant. I had a slice of pizza, drank a local Moab IPA and headed off to explore.
Getting to Moab is not easy task. Even from Salt Lake City, its a 4 hour drive. I wanted to make the most of it so I headed off for Canyonland National Park. It takes about 35 minutes to drive up and around to the park. Its worth every minute. The views are out of this world. I parked and just starred off into the canyons for a good 30 minutes. The pictures SIMPLY don’t do it justice.
At this point in the trip I was feeling a bit cocky and decided to check out a dirt road that heads back down into the valley. The name of the road is Shafer Canyon Road. I was by myself, cell phones don’t work and I was in flip flops. I got about one third of the way down and ended up in a section of switch backs that would be gnarly on a mountain bike let alone in a 4×4. 800 foot drop to my left, 400 foot wall to my right. Nothing but red rock. With 127 Hours fresh on my mind and knuckles that were getting whiter by the minute, I did the smart thing, turned around and took the paved road home. Killer road though, would be fun if I had a co-pilot.
The race finishes downtown Moab in a little park. The bus picked us up from there and off we went. We drove through town and then up the Colorado River. I stared out the window the whole time. The views were absolutely stunning even though it was still fairly dark. The race start was a makeshift camp in the middle of the road. And, there we waited in the cold for an hour.
The run down was cold and windy but unbelievably scenic. Honestly, I cannot remember another time in my life where I was as speechless. Every turn, corner, straightaway included something worth seeing. The race concluded back at the park, I collected my medal and headed back to the hotel. My mad dash process to shower, change and hit the road was executed and then a replay of the 7.5 hour drive, but in reverse. My only regrets, I should have taken the 30 minute longer track and gone through Four Corners and the town of Holbrook. Oh well, next time. Killer trip.