Gambling, Glory & Guts

This weekend began like so many others…with a flight to a marathon.  This time we headed to Las Vegas for Frank’s fourth running of the St George Marathon, a gorgeous and generally fast course.


We spent the first night in Vegas. We dinner ate at Bacio in the Tropicana, where the eavesdropping was top-notch. We listened to a table of 3 talking about their private jet adventures to Monaco and Venice, and then heard a really familiar voice exclaiming over the apple pie on the dessert menu. Frank grinned, leaned in and told me that sitting behind me was Fred Willard.

Who’s Fred Willard?  This guy:

Whaaaaa haaaappened?

Whaaaaa haaaappened?


He was really nice. So was our waiter.  In fact, we got into a pretty interesting conversation about juicing. The waiter was in the middle of a 7-day juice fast, and claimed he felt great and wasn’t tempted by all the carbs he served all evening. Huh!

After dinner, we played Blackjack in the Luxor for a while and then headed up to bed.


Friday was pretty humdrum – wake up, rent car, eat at Chipotle, drive to St George, eat, go to sleep – but after almost 12 hours (!) of sleep, on Saturday morning I was ready to see my family & friends finish the marathon. Scott’s fiance Lindsey & I headed down to the finish line in time to see the lead runner cross at about 2:24. The day was going to top out in the low 90s, so we were pretty anxious for our runners to finish safely.

We grabbed a good spot near the finish (and got yelled at by a completely obnoxious woman sitting in a chair who didn’t want us blocking her view) and sipped our coffees while we waited. Our friend Colin zipped by us and nailed a 2:54 finish, followed a few minutes later by Frank who grabbed a 2:58 time – his 5th sub 3-hour marathon!

Here he is, happy to see us. Or happy about his time. One of those.

After Frank came Paul, Scott & my dad. We had some other friends running, but we didn’t see them out there. Everyone had great times and survived the heat, thank goodness.

That night, everyone but Frank & I left for home or back to Vegas. We stayed in St George another night so we could head to Zion National Park the next morning.  (We ate dinner at Cappeletti’s in St George, which was extremely mediocre. But our server was really nice, so that’s….something?)


We got to Zion at about 11am, later than we’d hoped but early enough for a couple of short hikes.  If you’ve never been to Zion, I highly recommend it. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The red and grey mountains rise unexpectedly, straight up from the desert floor, and the whole place makes you feel like conquering some shit. And conquer we did.

The elevation in the park ranges from about 4000 ft to about 7800. I feel the effects of elevation starting at about 2000 feet, thanks to my one lung, so hiking at 4000 feet is best done by me in short bursts with frequent rests. I feel sorry for Frank, who ends up waiting around a lot for me when I know he could be running up the mountains alone. But he’s super patient, and helpful when I need a boost.

First we took a short half-mile walk up to Weeping Rock. Apparently she didn’t have much to cry about, because there were only a few drops of water coming out of the rock. Congratulations on your morale improvement, Weeping Rock, and thanks for the beautiful views of the mountains across the valley!

On our way back down we saw the trail to Hidden Canyon. The sign promised a strenuous 3-4 hour hike with long dropoffs. Fantastic!  Off we went.

Seems safe enough. Let’s go!

The first mile of the trail gains 800 feet in elevation, and is a really nice trail. It’s wide – maybe 5-6 feet, and semi-paved. There were still some slippery/sandy spots since the whole mountain is made of crumbly sandstone, but there were enough switchbacks that I felt even if I slipped and fell over the edge, I’d only slide/fall about 10 feet in most cases.  I did get really winded on the way up, so Frank – yes, one day after running a sub 3-hour marathon – piggied me up the mountain several hundred steps.

When we reached the end of the paved trail, we asked someone how much further the canyon was. They said we were a little more than halfway, which was a pretty discouraging thing to hear. But we kept going, and things got pretty interesting! First the trail narrowed and became a combination of rock and sand, and then the real views began.

Like this:

See that light tan trail in the shady part at the bottom? It’s actually the two-lane road for the shuttle that drives people around Zion.

Finally, the trail became so narrow, with such steep dropoffs (800-1000 feet!) that they attached chains to the mountain wall to hang on to. I did fine on this part of the trail, even when it looked like this:




But then we came to a 50-foot section with no chain and plenty of treacherous looking sand/gravel. I froze here in fear for a good 10 minutes and was about to turn back when somehow Frank convinced me to go across. (First, he walked across it twice to show me it was fine, but that didn’t help at all as just watching him gave me intense vertigo.) I was terrified, and because I was at about 6000 feet elevation, and a little brain-addled, I wasn’t as sure-footed as I would be at lower levels. Honestly, I’m not even sure what made me decide to do it, but I blame Frank.

He had me face the wall and then sidestep my way up to where the chain started again, while he stood BEHIND ME forming a protective ‘cage’ around me to make me feel better. If I’d slipped, which he assured me was impossible, we were both going over. It took me a couple of minutes to make the trek, and people could probably hear my rapid breathing and whimpering from across the divide. In fact, a couple stood across on another part of the trail just to see if I’d go or chicken out. I didn’t like them.

Here’s a drawing that ought to bring the scene to life in vivid detail:

Finally we made it across and I grabbed on to the chain for dear life and continued on.

The section AFTER the one where I lost my mind was way scarier, but I was so happy to have the chain again that I didn’t notice until the way down.

Ah yes…the way down. On a slippery trail, the way down is so much scarier than the way up because of the slide-y feeling. This time, I froze in the middle of the chain-less section and my legs actually started shaking.  I was very near tears and absolutely terrified, but I knew I had to keep going or I couldn’t get off the effing mountain. Frank was perfect and got me through it.

Here’s me after finishing that section. If you’re FB friends with me you’ve already seen this pic. I’m smiling/grimacing and still shaking:

If this were a video, my knees would be a blur from knocking together in fear.

Here are the rest of the pics of this hike:

I spent the rest of the trip thanking Frank for being such a faithful sherpa. (In fairness, I did spend a few minutes on the ledge cursing him for making me do it.) He really was amazing, and I never could have (or would have!) done this without him. He gets the credit for the Guts which titles this section of the post, and for helping me create a memory I’ll have forever.

Finally, here’s a video of the trail taken by some other hikers. Just watching and remembering is giving me sweaty hands right now.

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