Race Report: Deadhorse Ultra 50k

With all the races being cancelled and run virtually in 2020, the chance to actually race was just too hard to pass up. After completing our own 50k this past June while running virtual Grandma’s Marathon and just adding on a few extra miles, Damon and I (Angie) thought we were ready to tackle the real thing.

Deadhorse Ultra is run in Gemini Bridges, Moab, UT and is the most breathtaking place we’ve ever run! The course boasts 3,000’ of elevation and with trails mostly on slickrock it was also extremely challenging. Race morning was a perfect 37 degrees. The director had us going off in waves of 10, every 2 minutes to keep us physically distanced.

The first 2+ miles were straight up but the view helped to distract from how hard that was. The trail at the start (and end) is very pitted and had many big rocks and lots of loose gravel, making it an extra difficult starting climb. Once to the top you were rewarded with spectacular views of Arches National Park and all the beautiful mountains, canyons, and rock formations along with the morning sunrise. A steep, rocky downhill, flattened out to a couple miles of wider, sandy trails and our first water stop. They did a great job, with signs indicating it was a mask zone, and everything was handed to you upon request.

After that first stop, the run pretty much went up, up, up for the next 10 miles and was almost entirely on slickrock and single track. Slickrock, contrary to its name, is not slick at all. It is very uneven, flat-ish rock you run over. It’s pitted, uneven, and starts and stops with out any rhyme or reason. It became the bane of my existence for the next few hours as even in my trail shoes my feet were starting to ache.

Just when I thought I could not continue to climb one more minute, we reached the third aid station around mile 15 and were told “it’s all downhill from here”! Well I’ve heard that before, but in this case it wasn’t a lie! For about the next 6-8 miles we ran down, which was heavenly, but still very difficult as it was still slickrock, and big rock studded single track, with the occasional edge to fall over into a deep canyon, if you tripped.

We stopped many times to take pictures of all the beautiful views, and it was hard to stop and start so much, but worth it to take it all in! Miles 22-26 were also an adventure, being almost exclusively slickrock, with dry riverbeds to jump over, and so many rock formations, on such a windy trail to follow (painted lines on the slickrock) that you thought you were completely alone out there as you could see no one in front or behind you. A last big 2 mile climb again towards the finish, and a rocky downhill to navigate to the last flat stretch to the finish line and we were done! Finally! 8 hours and 20 minutes to cover 50k, 2,800’ of elevation.

This was the hardest race we’ve ever run!

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