I'd choose a trail running adventure over a trail race any day.
Back in 2005, as a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho, my wife (Jennilyn) went on a 2 month study abroad program that required that they hike, bike, canyoneer, and canoe in the remote desert areas of Southern Utah. She was able to experience mountain biking the white rim in three days. After each day's ride, she'd lace up her running shoes and clock in some extra miles on her feet. Ever since then, she has always dreamt of running the entire White Rim "Trail".
The first thing I ever heard out of Jennilyn's mouth when I met her was, "Sorry I didn't answer the phone, I was on a 14-mile run." To me, especially at that time in my life, she sounded pretty hardcore. What I didn't know then was that I was only seeing a tiny tip of a ginormous iceberg that had yet to show itself. After 6 years of dreaming about running the White Rim, Jennilyn finally put in our bid for the camping permits needed to tackle her dream and our goal of tackling this notorious desert pathway by foot.
The White Rim is a 100 mile dirt road that aggressively loops around and below the island mesa top in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. Jennilyn was able to secure our permits and recruit three other runners, a crew cheif/driver, a lead cheerleader, and some mini-cheerleaders to join the two of us. Our initial plan was to run the entire 100 miles in three days, starting at the Shafer Trailhead and finishing on the Mineral Road/Horsetheif Trail where it intersects with the main road. However, we modified our plans a bit and decided to just run from one rim to the other, totalling 80+ miles. We started at the Safer Trailhead and finished at the top of the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks.
Day One started just after sunrise and consisted of running just over 28 miles. After arriving at the Gooseberry Campground, we realized that a nasty wind had arrived and looked like it was going to stay a while. It prevented us from setting up tents, it blew sand in our faces and sleeping bags as we slept, and one of our runners lost their pillow during the night after it was swept away from the torrential breeze.
The wind didn't let up, in fact it got a lot worse and blasted us with gusts of 60 mph the entire time we ran on Day Two. With sand and pebbles pelting us the whole way, we trudged along to the Potato Bottom Campground for a daily total of 35 miles. Luckily, the wind ceased that evening and we slept like babies.
Day three was a delight. The weather was perfect and we only had to run 16 miles to reach the top of the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks. It was a wonderful feeling topping out and knowing that we were done. It was truly an adventure and it was so cool to see Jennilyn living out such a big dream.
Rumor has it that Jennilyn is now thinking of going back and trying to run it in again...but this time within 24 hours.
This is the map that we so colorfully marked up to illustrate to our crew the initial plan.
The White Rim Runners: David Lynn, Steve Aderholt, Leslie Keener, Jennilyn Eaton, Benjamin Eaton
Our Support Crew. You guys rocked. Thank You!!