Altitudes and Attitudes

    1024 768 Terri Rylander

    First view after the first climb

    In my post-New Year’s optimism, I signed up for two summer races. One was the Bryce race, and most recently, the Tushars race. I had been drawn to the Tushars race since seeing the beautiful alpine pictures of the area. Fir and pine give way to treeless meadows of blue lupines and yellow sunflowers. Billowy white clouds dot beautiful clear blue skies. It’s a touch of heaven on earth.

    While I didn’t expect to be impacted by any heat, there was the fact that the race climbed up over 12,000 feet. Fortunately, I generally have no trouble with altitude. The race offers a half marathon, a full marathon, and a 100K, all on trails in the Tushars range, just outside of Beaver, Utah. Given my continuing health struggles, I chose the half marathon. I was glad I did.

    The trail goes steeply up

    It was a fairly cool morning. I wore long pants but short sleeves. I had both a water bottle and hydration pack, with snacks stuffed in the pockets. The race started at the Eagle Point ski resort, heading steeply downhill. I was surprised at my immediate high heart rate, climbing over 170 beats per minute in the first few minutes – going downhill!

    Just third of a mile later, it turned uphill, climbing steadily for nearly two miles, topping out over 10,000 feet. Right away, I was not only at the back, I was last. But, I was ok with that. I fumbled around and got my music going and then started power hiking. I quickly caught up with another woman about my age and we agreed to stick together. Her name was Kim and we chatted away for the next 3 miles to the first aid station.

    Our new pack heading up Mt Delano

    By that time, I was feeling much better and able to go faster, but Kim and I had an agreement and I wanted to honor that. We lost a bit of time at the aid station while she used the restroom, and when we headed out, she started not feeling well. Turns out she has pretty bad asthma that is aggravated by exercise. She was only doing the race to be with her husband, but when he saw she had a friend in me, he raced his own race and left us in his dust.

    About mile 5, the trail turns up Mt. Delano for the big climb. We caught up with three guys from California. They were quite nice and cheerful and one of them was struggling too. I would go about 20 steps then wait for Kim. The guys were doing the same. About a quarter mile from the top, Kim was ready to call it quits, but I encouraged her to take 10 steps at a time then rest. We finally made it to the top and the views were incredible! Sadly, we just missed the mountain goats that had been there earlier.

    Kim and I at the summit

    While Kim caught her breath, I asked if she’d mind if I went on back without her. I knew she’d be fine and she told me to go on. As much as I would have loved to bound off the mountain, the path was treacherous, steep with loose rocks. I carefully made my way down, putting on the breaks constantly, which made my legs pretty sore afterwards. Back at the same aid station, I took a small sip of coke and had a few jelly beans then took off again.

    Stunning views!

    I was feeling good, but the trail had some pretty good ups and downs those last three miles back to the finish. I was running some of the downhills where the trail was clear enough, but the uphills were slow. I was constantly resting to catch my breath. However, I was lucky to have a large male deer run across the trial just five feet in front of me! At about 2 miles to go, the trail comes down steeply again. I happily passed a few people there and, instead of finishing last, I was only 8th from last, haha.

    The best part of the day, aside from the views, was that it was the first race in a very long time that I did not throw up. I actually felt pretty good at the end, though tired. I was able to have some of the recovery food they offered, sitting around a roaring fire while I waited for Kim to finish. When she did, I gave her a big hug and thanked her for her company. I think she was happy just to be done.

    Feeling empowered

    Feeling good at the race has given me new hope. I do believe things are getting better, but I still need to figure out why my heart escalates to quickly. The journey continues.


    Terri Rylander

    All stories by: Terri Rylander