Saturday, April 12, 2014

It was one of those races

Prologue –

Where to start.  Hmmm, so I went into the Zion 100 this year with a bit more confidence than last year.  Last year I ran a pretty solid race and finished in 28:30.  I had gone down there with the expectation of not having any expectations except to finish and to have a good time.  I did both, probably the most fun I've ever had running 100 miles.  Well, this year I had the expectations of having a good time again, and running a bit quicker.  I met one goal and failed in the other.

I had more miles on the feet this year than I did last year at this time, so that led me to believe that I could run a faster time.

This year I also went with the intention of not having either a crew or pacers.  I hadn’t completed a 100 mile race without a pacer in a couple of years and wanted to run it “clean” so to speak.

However, this year I had the opportunity to have my lovely wife crew for me.  She found out that she didn’t have to work on Friday so I asked her to come down and crew.  She said yes with a bit of fear and trepidation in her voice, as she has never crewed for me.  Spoiler alert, she did fantastic, never got lost, knew just what to do, definitely a big help to me.

Prerace -

Thursday evening?  Got down to Hurricane late, late, late, like midnight.  Three hours of sleep is about all I managed before having to get up and make our way to the Virgin city park.  I managed to chat with a few friends and other runners I knew before about 180 of us took off into the dark.
With Colleen Zato and Steve "Old Goat" Harvey

Putting our game faces on.  Steve is 70 and was attempting his first 100 mile run in 12 years.

Game time -

The first section took us up the Flying Monkey Trail to the top of Smith Mesa (here’s a bit of history behind the test area there).  This year Matt added a section of new trail to the top that was nice and technical.  It even involved a bit of scrambling.  After the scramble there was a nice bit of single track on the top of the mesa before we got to the first aid station.  Then it was a nice long downhill on dirt and ratty old paved road to the next aid station at the highway.  I came in there feeling pretty good.  I was meeting my ambitious time goals that I had set.  A short stop there and I was now on the JEM trail along the Virgin River.  Very cool trail that follows the edge of the cliffs above the river.  The next aid station was the Virgin Dam, and Karen met me here for the first time.  It was nice to
Some views from Gooseberry Mesa

Gooseberry Point, yeah, it's a long ways down

see her smiling face.  Now on along some 4 x 4 trails to the base of Gooseberry Mesa and our second major climb of the day.  Something like 1500’ up in a bit over a mile.  Yeah, it was pretty steep.  The nice thing about this climb is that as you get near the top you see and hear all sorts of spectators cheering you on, then you pop out on top and there’s the Goosebump aid station.  Anyway, by now I was kind of spent.  Karen was there and had my drop bag ready, got me what I needed and kicked me out.  At this point (31 miles) I wasn’t feeling it.  This is a fairly runnable section but I ended up walking or slowly shuffling most of the way out to the Gooseberry point aid station.  After a quick trip out to the point, I came back to Gooseberry, tanked up on some Coke and headed back the 5-6 miles to Goosebump.  By now I was feeling a bit better and managed to run most of the way back.  I came back into Goosebump and Karen and Jo Agnew were waiting for me.  Kelly Agnew came in right behind me.  Big surprise as he’s usually way ahead of me.  I guess running 130 miles the previous weekend in less than 24 hours was taking its toll.  He would go on to go under 24 hours for this race, so something lit a fire under him.  The guy is a major running stud.

Well, I got out of Goosebump and headed for Grafton.  I did manage to run most of those six miles and was still on my time plan, but it was getting harder to do.
Karen tending to my every needs at Grafton

This year Matt added a six mile trail loop out of Grafton that was pretty cool running.  Virtually all single track, a bit of a climb, great views.  After that loop, I ran pretty strong down off of the mesa and over to the climb up to Eagle Crag.  The climb up to Eagle Crag went ok, not strong, but steady.  Back down off eagle Crag I managed to run most of the downhill but once I hit the flat road section, it was a walk.  I just didn’t have the energy to run and I knew that the climb back up to Grafton was not easy.  However, I did manage to make the climb pretty strong, passed a couple of people and got back to Grafton where my lovely wife once again crewed flawlessly.  After some serious calorie intake, I was out and heading back to Goosebump.  This is where the wheels started to come off, roll down the hill, and got lost never to be found again.  I walked virtually every step of the six miles back to Goosebump.  I think I was a pretty sad sight getting back there.  I was doing ok, just tired, sleepy, and feeling kind of rough.  Karen sat me by the fire and let me sleep for about 15 minutes.  After some more food and a change of shoes, it was back down that steep climb that we came up back at mile 31.  I was not looking forward to this one, especially since I had changed into road shoes.  With no grip on the dirt and rocks, it was a pretty hairy descent but I made it down unscathed and even managed to trot the few miles across the desert to the Dalton Wash crew access point.  Now I had the few miles of climbing up to Guacamole Mesa.  This.was.slow.  I was so sleepy that I sat down to catch a few minutes of sleep but couldn’t.  I think I finally made it up to Guacamole aid at about 4:30am.  Here’s where crew is nice.  I totally forgot I had a drop bag here with dry clothes and lots of calories.  Instead I just grabbed some stuff at the aid station and headed out on what I knew would be a very long nine miles.  And it was, it took me right at four hours to get back.  While I was out on the Guacamole loop, most of the 50K runners went flying past me.  I knew a bunch of them, including a bunch of fellow HUMR’s.  It was nice to see their smiling faces, get hugs, high fives, etc. from them and others.  I even had a doctor offering me drugs (nothing illegal).  I assured everyone I was doing fine, just tired and slow.

Finally got back to Guacamole aid at 9:30am and once again totally forgot I had a drop bag.  By now the sun was up, and I was waking up.  I managed to trot most of the downhill miles off the mesa.  My goal for the last 9 miles was three hours or less.  I figured most of it was downhill, the sun was up and I was smelling the barn.  The last few miles were uneventful, just like the rest of the race.  The best news I heard all race was when I passed the turnoff for the Walsh aid and a group told me I had less than a mile to the finish.  I figured that it was still 2.5 miles.  I told them they’d better not be lying to me and they assured me they weren’t.  After crossing the highway and a short trot through part of the town of Virgin, it was time to cross the finish line.  I was glad to be done with this one.
Looking pretty rough at the finish line.  Glad to be done.  Photo: Breein Clark

Aftermath –

Many, many thoughts here. 

All during the latter part of the race I was trying to figure out why I had no energy.  I had plenty of calories, I was hydrated very well.  I finally figured out that I did not have any of the really long 30-50 mile training runs needed to perform well at 100 miles.  I had more overall miles this year over last, but nothing over 29 miles in one shot.  You can complete a 100 on the type of miles I did, but to do it well, those really long runs are essential.

I got blisters on my feet in weird places that I’ve never gotten blisters before.  Same type of shoes, La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0’s, that I have worn for many 100’s.  Nothing that would take me out of the race, but uncomfortable at times.  This is the first 100 in a long time where I changed shoes to try and get my feet more comfortable.

Food?  I had Ultragen in every drop bag and used it faithfully except at Guacamole.  I ate way more bean burritos this year than I did last year.  I was a major gas bag as a result but between those and Ultragen, I stayed fueled with no stomach issues at all.  Pickle juice works once again.  Tastes good, and it can get you back in your game.  I’m a big fan of the stuff.

I also discovered that I have absolutely no dance moves after 61 miles (I don’t have any dance moves at all).  Jennilyn Eaton was shooting some 100 mile dance party moves from lots of runners.  Yeah, mine was pretty sad and pathetic.
Trying to explain to Jennilyn that I have no dance moves after 64 miles.

I did have a good time in spite of my slow time.  I met some people that I haven’t had the chance to meet and wanted to, I saw plenty of friends, and had a great weekend.

Karen did a fantastic job of crewing me for the first time.  She thought so I didn’t have to.  She asked the right questions, got me the stuff I needed, and kicked me out of the aid stations and down the trail.  Perfect.

So, 100 mile finish number 19 is in the books.  My final time was 29:57:10, good enough for 82nd place out of about 180 starters and 115 finishers.  Next up is Salt Flats 100 in less than three weeks.  Hopefully I’ll do better here.

All that effort for this