by Theresa DeLorenzo
Going out West to see the national parks was on my boyfriend, Bill Balfoort’s bucket list. When he saw the Grand Circle Trailfest on Facebook, he was sold. He easily twisted my arm, and we signed up that night. More comfortable with road running, we both knew it would be an adventure, but we willingly agreed it would be well worth it.
Our lives with full time jobs and kids didn’t allow us to arrive early to adjust to the altitude. Day one we embarked on Bryce Canyon. Although we crawled out of the tent to a comfortable 50 degrees, the 90 minute drive took us up to 7000 feet of elevation, where the temperature was only 29 degrees. While I don’t mind running in the cold and would choose a ten degree day over a 90 degree day, Bill does not share this opinion. His asthma did not appreciate the temperature and led to a rough start. As the sun came up and the temperature rose, we settled in and traversed through the beautiful red rocks of Bryce Canyon. At ten miles we were greeted with a very needed aid station of pickle juice, potato chips, pickles and M&Ms. This was when the real work would begin. After fueling up on carbs and salt we ascended up for what felt like hours. The remainder of the run was only 5.7 miles but felt like an eternity. The undulating red rocks were so beautiful, making the trek well worth it. We stopped numerous times to take pictures, and much needed breaks and after almost 5 hours, we crossed the first finish line and were handed the largest medal I have ever received. We were warned this would be the hardest day but that it would be “brutally beautiful.” That turned out to be extremely accurate.
Although usually a night owl and evening wine drinker, we headed to the tent for bed around 8:30 every night to rest our bodies from the hard effort and prepare for the next day. The second day of our journey was a run through Zion National Park. The part of Zion we ran was actually purchased by Vacation Races, the group that hosted the festival, so we got to see parts of Zion that we typically wouldn’t have as tourists. This was probably the easiest day of running. We ran ten miles at around 5000 feet of elevation, gaining only about 500 feet for the day. Aside from the cactus that gouged my leg, it was a great day.
The third day we headed to Horseshoe Bend. The race director admonished us that the last four miles was going to be deep sand, like running on a beach. They also warned us to not stand too close to the edge because the delicate rocks may chip off easily leaving us to fall into the canyon far below. The deep sand they mentioned that lasts four miles was actually the whole race. We trekked through the desert at a snail’s pace, once again, the beautiful scenery making the journey well worth it. We crossed our third finish line in three days, greeted with another amazing medal, proud of the work we had accomplished and our hearts happy from what we had seen. Bill’s bucket list is now shorter.