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Zion 100

April 4, 2014


What an adventure
Tough, tough run....really an adventure more than a run

The race director is into hills.  Most of the hills are purposeful in that they offered exceptional views....but some were pointless, especially at night when you only went up to go back down, Eagle Crag was just that, a tough uphill and because we hit in the dark, there was no view. Once we arrived at the aid station we had to go back down the steepness.  Now going down is usually okay except we had to go a lot during the day and the quads were pretty beat up.

But that is not the whole story...so from the beginning I was a little intimidated by this race.  When I first signed up the elevation gain was listed at 8000 ft and I had done pigtails which was 9000 ft so I figured this was within my wheelhouse.  Well of course the race director changed what was online to better reflect the actual elevation gain ....12,000....now I knew I was in trouble.

Not exactly in trouble but knew that I needed to have friends with me to make it through this and so Betsy, Matt and Sue joined in the fun.  Sue, Betsy and I ran the first 50K or so miles together.  This was helpful because it forced me to go at a pace that was reasonable for a tough 100 miler.  Our first climb would be early in the AM up Monkey butt, monkey breath.... Oh yeah it really is called Flying Monkey.  All day i referred to it as some sort of monkey thing.  About 30 of us early starters at 4 AM took off eager to go.  Betsy, Sue and I took the lead only to be taken over by more eager runner who promptly missed the first turn. I yelled at them so they would come back and get on course and then I realized at this point that this adventure would be a lot about looking for flags and following them to stay on course.  

Monkey breath, I mean Flying Monkey was a tough leg burning, heart racing, climb on the edge where there were drop offs on both sides of the trail at one point.  Then we were on the side of the Mesa and it was a tough climb and of course we needed a rope.... A rope in the dark on the side of a rock during a running event.  Yup this was an adventure.  I had to stop a few times on the way up as my heart was racing and the air was getting thinner.  We started at 3000 ft elevation and went up to 5000 feet.  Tough way to start the day however I met an ICU nurse  and two gals fromEugene on the way up and we chatted in between heavy breathing.  Later we would see each other at many of the aid stations and that is how ultra runners roll...we support one another throughout the day....even though we just met.

On our way down on the dirt road the three women were just running along and Sue decides to eat dirt.  It was a smooth move she fell and skidded on her gloves and didn't damage anything so up and off we go on our adventure.  Only one fall for all three of us, that is pretty good with the terrain we covered.

The next section that I remember and really liked was running on single track by a river.  It was around the twenty mile mark and it was fun.  We were running from aid station to aid station just counting up the miles in chunks of seven or eight miles at a time.  Then we switched to dirt roads and again this was fun because it was runnable.  I like to run.  

Goosebump...we were on our way to goosebump and Pam Reed passes me...awesome runner.  Later Matt reports running and walking and talking with her.  Finally we arrive at Goosebump and look up and see these tiny tiny people way up there....we have to go up that?   We begin up and I think this is not so bad and then it gets steeper now and it is difficult and then we start to lose footing because it is slippery and then the calfs begin to burn.  It reminds me of Lord Hill.  I pause and look up and still see tiny people way up there. We will probably be doing 6-8 Lord Hills to get up this thing, that is if we don't slip back down in the loose sand and rock.  Eventually we get to the top, so we think, it flattens out but we are not at the top, instead we are walking on the side of the Mesa and the trail is skinny and kind of looks easy to fall off of, straight down, scary, go fast, get this over  with now....then we scramble, on all fours up to the top. We made it. Phew, never want to do that again.  Oh by the way we will be going down that scary section after 74 miles.  When I hear that, I find out what the cut off time is for 74 miles and secretly hope we don't make it because the thought of going down that section scares the heck out of me.

On top of goosebump we are introduced to our least favorite surface, slick rock.  By the end we would hate this stuff, lots of up and downs and trying to run on boulders side ways which mangles the feet.  Beautiful views but no way to get into a rhythm when running on slick rock.  Somewhere in the 40 ish miles we begin to walk a lot.  I think we walked more than we ran during this 100 mile adventure.

Gooseberry point had some of the most beautiful views in all directions, we took some photos and off we went trying to get back to Goosebump....this took what seemed like forever because we couldn't get into a running rhythm.  Off to Grafton, another Mesa, our third of five, but to get there we got to run on a dirt road.  I never liked dirt roads but we were faster on this than that darn slick rock.  Lots of cars driving on the dirt roads and we were eating and breathing a lot of dirt.  All of us were coughing and a day later we sound like smokers.  We ate a lot of dirt.

Like Goosebump aid station we would visit Grafton three times.  Grafton aid station volunteers were happy and jovial.  They labeled themselves the G spot aid station. There were campers and a wood fire.  People were joking about the aid station running out of water, which they did so the soups was more noodles than broth.  They eventually got more water but remember if you are an aid station worker not to joke around with 100 milers about running out of water, that is a little scary. The first little loop was a fun jaunt in the woods with lots of single track and ups and downs, fun.  The next jaunt was off to Eagle Crag, the pointless hill in the dark.  From Eagle crag we would return to Grafton via the old wagon trail....oh my gosh....tough hills with scrambling, this is where Sue and I used words not fit to print.  My watch was out of battery and so we did not know what mile we were on and began to worry about not making cut offs.....secretly I was okay with missing a cut off and not being able to finish, 60 miles of this stuff would have been fine....damn we made the cut off when we got back to Grafton.  In fact we were over an hour early.  We were so excited and jazzed up we took off back to Goosebump and the dreaded scary downhill, me stil secretly hoping we don't make the cut off.

Sue is an intense power walker after midnight going up hill.  She laughs at my jokes even when they are not funny, tee hee hee. I had a difficult time keeping up with her and had to run some.  She was a little sleepy and started to slow down so I started to chat with her to keep her awake and then I played Happy on my phone, this woke us both up.  Of course we got into Goosebump with 50 minutes to spare and would have to go down the scariest hill ever.  I needed to fix my feet and so luckily the local lacrosse girls team was volunteering at the aid station they helped fuel me and also were great assistants for holding things when I was taping my toes.  The extra big shoes and stopping to re glide my feet and changing my socks early on seemed to have helped my feet make it well up to this point.

Off we go at 4:40 AM....will we fall off the side of this Mesa or down the hill?.....it was not as bad as we thought it would be.  No falling, no sliding, just a lot of jamming your toes into the front of your shoes, so in case your feet weren't beat up yet by slick rock they were now from extreme downhill.  Our quads didn't feel that great either.  Yeah  I survived!  That hill.

Now we are getting close to finishing (still almost a marathon to go) but are probably not going to make the last cut off time.  Sue and I both agree that we will finish regardless of whether we make the time.  We have gone too far to stop now, besides how the heck would we get back to our hotel, both Matt and Betsy are still running.

We are walking mostly now and me running when I need to catch up to ultra cool and fast power-walker Sue.  Up to guacamole Mesa...why do they call it that?  Because the slick rock up there make guacamole out of your feet.  We see Pam Reed again and Rob B and then Matt.  I wanna cry and stop but we have to finish.  Matt tells us how horrible it is up at guacamole and we gulp, how can we get through this, but we must.

Okay super hill walker Sue ditches me going up the hill, I am starting to get pissed off at her because you can't quit when you are with someone.  If I had been alone this would have been a DNF for me.  Thank you Sue.  Spending 34 hours with someone on an adventure like this and still liking that person is great.

We get to guacamole and a girl is crying because we all didn't make the cut off.  I just wanted to eat and get out of there.  Sue let me eat and stood there, she hardly ever sits during the run.  The girl kept crying and we told her to try to finish.  The aid station people were not pulling us and told us we could go and they would still be there when we returned.  So off we went on the nine mile lolly pop loop.  Of course that damn slick rock chewed up our feet some more.  The sun came out and really started to heat things up.  I ran out of water and some nice cyclists gave me some they had.  Do you know how hard it is to take a nature pee at 90 miles into a run when your quads don't want to squat?  Hard, especially when you have a lot of pee.....I was well hydrated.

We got back to the aid station and yes they were still there, the aid station people, they had ice which is exactly what I needed, more food and we dropped off all of the extra  clothing because it was sunny out and we were going down in elevation we would not need anything....so we thought.  Down down down another sucking hill, quads are screaming youch.

The wind kicks up and sun goes behind a cloud and we are now freezing again....this race needs to be over.  We see a sign for the hundred mile finish...of course it leads us to another hill.  Damn race director...Sue says this is cruel.  We were ready to cry, rolling hills for what we thought was six miles to the finsh....argh.  But I mis-calculated as we were only four miles from the finsh.  We crossed a stream without getting wet.  That is extremely difficult with the shape our legs were in.

We got onto a road and saw another sign to the finish, followed flags and then did not see a flag...looked around...a local said you must be looking for the park.  She gives us directions and says we are only two blocks away...I thought we still had two miles...oh my gosh we are going to finish this thing.  But first we have to cross a highway without getting hit.. I tell Sue we have to run, she says I can't.  We do, we cross, we don't get hit.

Two blocks, of course they are up hill to the finish....darn....$&@$?! Race director.

We see the sign, we agree we cannot run the whole field to the finish, we decide to run halfway, hold hands and finish.  Oh my gosh that was quite an adventure.  We get to select unique buckles for our challenging adventure.  What a day...and a night...and a day!

I don't think I would recommend this to anyone, unless you like hills.  If you want to go see the incredible views go to Zion and hike.  There is a spa called Red Mountain Spa in Ivins, UT that takes guests on wonderful hikes on slick rock.  So Zion 100 will be one and done for me.  Thanks Betsy and Matt.  Thanks especially to Sue for being there as you cannot quit with Super Sue by your side.

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