Vacation Hacking with Vacation Races

We did it! We attended our first ultra marathon experience, but only as volunteers. Last weekend we broke out our newish tent, loaded up the Nissan Rogue, and drove over to enjoy the Bryce Canyon Ultra Marathons in Hatch, Utah with Vacation Races. Race-goers ran, walked, hiked, and stumbled their way through wild courses ranging from 30-kilometer to 100-mile distances. Meanwhile, my husband and I toiled away as Zero Hero Recyclers to earn race credits. Read on to see all the fun we had, and how this vacation scored us major $$$.

If you’re not familiar with Vacation Races, they strive to offer “environmentally sustainable, destination trail races in unforgettable locations.” Typically, their courses drop into or adjacent to one of our many beautiful national parks. With a population of about 148 people, Hatch Utah would have never landed on my radar without the Vacation Races series bringing my attention to it. Our Rogue powered through to get us from Las Vegas up into the mountains of Utah and to a final elevation of 6919 feet! She was packed full of our primitive camping supplies and was willing to get all dusty and dirty on the sandy, unpaved roads at our final destination. Sleeping on the ground was absolutely a fair trade off for all of the mountain views and clear night skies for star gazing. Here are just a few of our photos from the campground.

So, how did this earn us money?? You see, Vacation Races is so committed to being environmentally sustainable, that they actually set goals to send as little to the landfills as possible following their events. From the moment you sign up for their races, you commit to either bringing your own hydration system or requesting a reusable cup to carry with you throughout the course; there are no disposable cups at aid stations and you won’t find them littered throughout the course. This attention to sustainability carries over to all aspects of the race. We used composting toilets and all the trash receptacles had the option for you to sort out recyclables and compostable items as well. That’s where my and my husband’s volunteer jobs come into play.

Ready to chase that $$$ in race credits, we each volunteered as Zero Hero Recyclers. That’s right, we each did 2, 4-hour shifts collecting and recycling trash in the sun, the rain, and I think a dust devil too. We worked our tails off sorting all the recycle and compost items so that as little as possible would get sent to the actual landfill. For each shift, you earn a $100 race credit. Sorting trash is a dirty job, so they make it as rewarding as possible! Together, my husband and I now have $400 in race credits with Vacation Races, woot woot! We only used a little over a tank of gas, earned a few free meals with our volunteer status, and the primitive campsite at the event only cost us $40 for the whole weekend. We absolutely hacked this vacation budget-wise by keeping our costs low and being willing to volunteer our time and get a little dirty to earn the big bucks toward our future Vacation Races.

Officially, that was our inaugural trip to Utah. We’ve driven all around for cross-country moves and lived right next door to the state for almost two years now, but had never quite ventured over. On the way home, we got our very first look at Zion National Park, and it’s DEFINITELY something we’ll need to explore on a future trip. Thanks to us visiting on exceedingly-busy Memorial Day, there really was hardly any opportunity for us to get out of the car and explore Zion in depth. There is a lovely way to simply drive straight through Zion, and we saved the $35 entrance fee by showing my husband’s veteran status on his driver’s license, yay! After Zion, we finally took a closer look at St. George, Utah. For lunch we visited the Cliffside Restaurant for casual, American-style fine dining. The heat outside was definitely worth the awesome views of the St. George valley from the restaurant’s outdoor patio. I was brave enough to finally ask what an Italian soda is, and the huckleberry flavor quickly won me over. I just can’t get over how pretty Utah is!

So here we are, relaxing back at home after a whirlwind trip last weekend. I’m still blown away by how easy it was to actually drive to another state for a little visit. Sometimes Las Vegas just seems like a remote desert island, but there truly are a ton of things to see and do if we’re willing to venture out of our comfort zone a bit.

As we are more experienced at travelling with a camper, we couldn’t quite figure out what to do with a dog while tent camping for this trip. My little Dart got to spend a few days at the kennel while we were away, and it took him a few more days to rest up and settle back in at home after all the excitement of being away. I feel ya, buddy Dart, new adventures are fun but sometimes there’s no place like your own backyard! Who knows though, maybe I’ll wander back to Bryce next year for a 30K race…

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