Zion 100 (50k) 2014 The Zion 100 (50k) was my 3rd 50k Race. The 50k had a Saturday 6am (Mountain) starting time – or from my perspective a 5am (Pacific) starting time.
I drove up from Vegas on Friday and stayed about 30 minutes away in St George. After tossing and turning for a bit I was able to get to sleep – something I always find tough to do before a big race. I was startled awake from an alarm in my room — race time? The alarm fully woke me up, I had a tight schedule if I was to make it to the starting line in time after my alarm went off. Turns out the power went out in the hotel, which set the smoke alarm warning off – 2 AM. Argh. So after calming down I laid back down only to have the power come back on, which set the smoke alarm off again. Oh well, who needs sleep?
This was my first race that actually started in the dark so I got to run with a flash light which added extra fun to the race. Race day weather was perfect, High 40s-low 50s at the start and maybe barely touching 70 later in the day. The 50k race included two primary trails – Guacamole and Flying Monkey. The race started through the small town park and into the neighborhood. I kinda wonder what the people of Virgin think of these early AM events that run through their town – there’s gotta be a lot of them with all of the trail heads in the area.
The first 9-10 miles of the course had us heading into runners completing the 100 Mile race. I’ve never experienced the end of a 100 mile race, I was expecting zombies. A few of the 100 milers were just barely hanging on but most of them looked like they were having a blast!
There was a water crossing early on, wasn’t expecting that. I was concerned about running 30 miles in wet socks. Fortunately I had a change of socks in my drop bag at the Guacamole aid station. Guacamole was rolling concrete. Interesting terrain, but not very soft. Glad I didn’t trip :-).
When I got to the aid station I went to my drop bag, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to get out of the bag so I just dropped off my light and grabbed gels. As I left the station I remembered what I needed: socks and a knee strap (the ‘concrete’ was killing my IT band). Fortunately it was a loop so I’d be back in 9 miles.
I had read about the famous bean and cheese burritos served at the aid stations so I grab some on the way out. They tasted good and were easy to eat on the run. After I was half done with the food, I began to doubt the wisdom of running on refried beans. But I didn’t want to toss a burrito on the ground so I threw caution to the wind and finished it. Surprisingly, I survived with no unanticipated emergencies.
The loop part was a crazy meandering ‘trail’ through this concrete-bouldery rock terrain. At one point the course markers tricked me and I ended up running back the wrong way. Many of the 100 milers did this portion in the dark and after running 80-90 miles — how in the world did they stay on course? I couldn’t stay on course during the day. The race director did mostly a good job getting the course marked, I can only imagine how much work it takes to mark 100+ miles of course, but a little more course markings on Guac would have been nice. I ended up running about an extra mile up there and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
I got back to the aid station and went straight to my drop bag. I couldn’t remember why I needed my drop bag so I just grabbed a few gels. It wasn’t until I got back on the trail that I remembered what I needed from the bag — socks and knee strap – ack forgot twice. Note: Gotta work on my drop bag strategy.
Next up was the flying monkey trail. How can you not love a trail with a name like that. Apparently monkeys were launched off of the top of the mesa to test ejection seats or something like that. I was a bit concerned about this trail because there was a rope climbing section plus all of the mountain bike youtube videos made this trail seem pretty intense. The ascent turned out to be way easier than the ascents during the Mt Taylor 50k and the Leona Divide 50/50 trails, my two previous ultras. However, this trail would be very unforgiving if you slipped. You would fall a long ways down.
With my burning IT band, I had limited stability so I had to be a little extra cautious. I was a little concerned as I approached the rope climb. 27 ish miles of running, burning knees, and a steep mountain side — what possibly could go wrong? Fortunately it was easy and fun. The rest of the climb was uneventful and eventually I crested into a typical Southern Utah desert dirt road. One thing to keep in mind if you are considering this trail, the weather was perfect. If it was hotter I’d have been short water on this section. These rocks can bake and there is no shade. The rest of the trail was downhill. Down the paved road that leads to the runway and then across the desert and back to the town park.
Finished in 6 hours 99 minutes :-).
The race had the best looking finisher medals of any race I’ve done – it is nice jewelry.