When my friend Kendra asked me to join her for a “once in a lifetime” experience I had my doubts. Who in their right mind would run 40 miles along some of the most difficult trails over the course of 3 days—on purpose? And on top of that, travel with, stay with and do it with six strangers? The more she talked about it and the more I read about it, the more excited I got about it. The next thing I knew, I was in—along with 600+ other people, including six other women who are now among some of the most bad ass women I know.
Trailfest is a 3-day, 40-mile trail running event in the heart of North America’s most scenic national parks: Bryce Canyon, Zion and Horseshoe Bend. Here’s how event organizers described the event (and what sold me):
- Day 1: Nowhere is the force of erosion more tangible than at Bryce Canyon. You’ll see all the beauty but avoid the crowds as you run on remote trails through the magical hoodoos unique to the Paunsaugunt Plateau.
- Day 2: You’ll run remote trails along the edge of a mesa, offering you commanding views of the majestic sandstone towers that make Zion famous. The views are spectacular and intimate.
- Day 3: This course runs through the incredible Waterholes slot canyon and then along the beautiful Horseshoe Bend where the Colorado River pours out of Lake Powell then continues on to carve the Grand Canyon! This course may be the most scenic and unique of the three.
HELLO? I’m so in! (from one marketing, PR person to another … well done!)
What they didn’t write about was just how difficult, challenging and cruel such beauty could be. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Although I’ve done several century bike rides, triathlons, mini marathons, three marathons and a half ironman, I don’t consider myself to be a runner, an athlete or an endurance athlete. And considering I had never run on a trail, I was definitely not a trail runner. What was I thinking taking on this new challenge? I think my heart said yes before I really realized what I had gotten myself into.
The trails were intense. This is the best I can describe them to you:
- Towering walls and trails that felt impossible to climb
- Extreme inclines and switchbacks that punished your body
- Sandy trails that felt endless and unkind
- Technical trails that challenged your mind while tearing up your legs
Trailfest pushed me beyond what I thought was ever possible—physically, mentally and emotionally. I trained with a coach and put in the work, so physically I was prepared. The mental toughness is something I had to work on. The long runs, the anxiety of the unknown and the self-doubt I experienced during the training (“Can I really do this?” “Am I strong enough?”). Emotionally? Nothing could prepare me for that. The excitement, followed by fears, worry, anticipation and discomfort (I could go on). But the one emotion that wasn’t pepared for, yet is now one that I proudly carry with me is a feeling of badassery! When I crossed the final finish line with my new group of trail running friends, I believe we all felt the same overwhelming sense of accomplishment! Not only did we just run 40 of the hardest miles together in three days, but we had opened our hearts and our minds to experience something new.
Kendra hand-selected the six of us. She believed there was a common thread among us and that we would find a connection, a bond and a fierce friendship that would extend beyond the trails. She also believed we would inspire, motivate and lift each other up through an amazing journey—and she was so right. I couldn’t have completed Trailfest without Kendra, Andrea, Allison, Rhonda, Tiffany and Kim.
Here’s what a few of them had to say about their TrailFest experience?
“There were a lot of highs (literally and figuratively), but the most badass moment for me was all of us down in the slot canyon of Horseshoe Bend on Day 3. We were enveloped in the most epic beauty, our bodies were powerful and we were together. In the narrows of the canyon, what really mattered came into clear focus—the gift of all of it—this earth, this moment in time and so much love.” —Tiffany Wycoff
“It’s amazing to think what our bodies and minds are capable of achieving! I knew that I’d see amazing scenery and have major muscle soreness, but I didn’t expect to meet the six amazing women who shared this experience together with me. It was fantastic to see all of us achieve our goals and to share this life experience together. We all experienced vulnerability in various ways and supported each other. And while we all came from different backgrounds and life experiences, we all shared a common thread that wove its way through all of us, connecting us as badass women and to this unforgettable life experience. I’m proud of everyone, for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, trusting the process, and having faith and confidence that we can achieve anything that we set our minds to do—hallmarks of what badass women do.” —Allison Lightner
“Crossing that finish line on the third day, all together, was a goosebump moment and huge life lesson. Sometimes, whatever is guiding us through space and time, serves us up something, and if we say “yes” our lives are changed for the better! Having this group of badass women as friends is worth all the blisters in the world.” —Kim Weber
“When you experience something so incredibly difficult you become vulnerable and through that vulnerability you develop a bond. That’s what we did during those three days of trail running together. I have no doubt that this incredible group of women will remain special to one another.” —Kendra Fauth Edwards