Bryce Canyon Ultras – 50 Mile Race Report – Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race: Bryce Canyon Ultras- 50 Miler

Runner: Coach Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race Date: 05/29/2021

Location: Hatch, UT

Results: Overall: 195 / GP: 70

Photo: Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • The scenery! Running through towering orange hoodoos and vibrant Red Canyon were definitely highlights of this race. The landscape of South Utah is outstanding and truly unique.
  • Only one cut off! I appreciated that this race only had one “aid station cut-off” at mile 36.7 (second pass through of Red Canyon Aid Station). This removed a great deal of stress. In addition, the generous overall time limit of 17.5 hours allowed for ample picture taking and maximum scenery enjoyment.
  • The environment! I personally love the physiological challenge of running in both high temperatures and high elevation. Although the Bryce Canyon 50 Miler is not what I would consider extreme in these traits, it did feature respectable heat and altitude which added an extra degree of difficulty to the course.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There was a significant bottleneck in the beginning of the race during the first substantial climb. I remember waiting in a huge line spread out for over at least a mile as we trudged up this steep ascent. I believe this was the result of having multiple race distances with large fields using the same section of the course without adequate staggering of the start times.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Our legs turned orange/red from the vibrantly colored dust!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I had a personal “beware the chair” and “only sit on the ground to change socks” rule when I began this race. Why the rules? I have found that a debilitating stiffness sets in if I sit in on a raised object during a long-distance run and hoped to avoid this affliction. I stuck with these self-imposed restrictions throughout the distance and my muscles never suffered the Tin-man effect. There were definitely times when I felt like the comfy aid station camp chairs were calling out to me though!

Additionally, I was happy with my pace. My goal was to simply finish the race and thoroughly enjoy the experience of moving efficiently through the spectacular landscape. I didn’t worry much about my place in the pack and I also walked a fair amount during the hottest part of the day to avoid heat illness. Keeping my pace in check during the heat of the day resulted in strength reserves that allowed to me pick up my pace considerably once the sun went down and finish strong.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • This race is hot and exposed! Carry more water than you think you’ll need especially between miles 24.5 and 32.4. This section has absolutely stunning and magnificent orange hoodoos, but it is so very toasty! Lots of racers ran out of the water here.
  • Along the same lines, there is a five-mile loop section that departs the Red Canyon Aid Station. Many racers, including myself, thought this would be a quick five-mile jaunt. We should have been tipped off by the haggard faces of the racers who had already gone through that section of the course! Ascending through the red rock formations felt like climbing through a furnace. Everything slowed down in the Red Canyon and we were not prepared for it mentally.
  • Finally, this race has a rolling start and, therefore, the cut off time at the finish is also rolling. Do not rely on volunteers at aid stations to tell you how much time you have left. It is different for everyone.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I knew it would be hot, but since I have a history of performing decently in warm temperatures I focused more on fitness during my training. I managed the heat well, but I would put effort into specific heat training for this course in the future. Running miles of exposed dirt roads and through radiating rock formations amplified the “toasty” factor. Heat training would have likely allowed me to finish the race with a faster time.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

You will turn red! Other than that, the race can be very hot and heat training is likely worth the effort. Also, be prepared for crowded sections in the beginning of the race.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The course is absolutely stunning. The race is a wonderful way to explore many miles of Southern Utah’s majestic landscape. Completing the course self-supported with be tricky with the lack of water sources, so the race is a wonderful solution!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

The terrain isn’t technical in my opinion. However, the heat and exposure can make even easy terrain feel challenging.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The race was very well organized, though there were some issues worth noting:

  • I think communication prior to the race could be improved. I sent an email or two with simple inquiries and never got a response.
  • Though it did not affect me directly, perhaps the biggest problem became evident after the race. A huge chunk of racers, including some I know, from all distances signed onto their accounts the following day to see inaccurate DNF’s listed by their names on the results. This is a disheartening thing for racers to wake up too and caused many runners to question if they made the cut off. It turned out that the system was never changed to accommodate the rolling start which was new in 2021. I learned this from race staff when I returned to the course in search of an explanation. The results were corrected by the end of the weekend, but racers never received an email explaining that there had been a technical error or any apology which was disappointing.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

The field was indeed strong and impressive times were posted!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Since this race takes place on Memorial Day weekend near Bryce Canyon National Park, it is definitely advisable to plan your lodging well in advance. The race does not fill fast and there are still spots available now many months after registration opened. In 2021 there were no qualifiers, but in 2022 anyone entering the 50 miler must have completed a marathon or longer race within the past two years.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare at the “full aid stations”. There are a few aid stations that are simply self-serve water tanks. One of these self- serve water tanks leaked (and I think it might have completely drained). Luckily, a truck with jugs of water was sent out swiftly to provide water to the racers and was there by the time I arrived. I’m not sure how common this is, but I’m not sure I would rely on these tanks as a water source in the future.

Weather and typical race conditions

We experienced typical race conditions. Hot (up to 95 degrees), dry, exposed and dusty.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Gaiters are a must for this race along with shoes with a tightly woven fabric to keep out the sand. I would also suggest having the means to carry more water than you think you’ll need.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

It is very easy for spectators or crew to access the start/end and the Red Canyon Aid Station.

How’s the Swag?

Great swag! A shirt and metal, along with lots of add on merchandise at bib pick up.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

This is beautiful course and it provides a unique opportunity to have a memorable adventure near Bryce Canyon National Park. 8/10

Dandelion is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coaching page.