Zion 100 Mile Endurance Run
The dream to run 100 miles started about 6 years ago when I entered and finished my first half marathon. Then the thought was, “if I could do that, then how far else can I go?” This is right about the time that I learned that people do 100 mile endurance runs….for fun (and for a belt buckle for finishing one)! Well, what seems impossible quickly became an obsession. Half marathons turned into full marathons, turned into a 50K at Burning Man, which quickly spiraled into 50 milers, 100K’s, and a run around Lake Tahoe (72 miles) last fall.
So Zion 100 Mile it was. Decided to finally jump into the deep-end, both feet, no floaties last fall after doing the 72 miler. “Well if I can run 72 miles in 19 hours, it is only another marathon with another 15 hours” [insert comment about needing to be committed to an insane asylum here] What’s even better, I convinced a partner in running crime (EJ) to jump in too! So 6 months ago, the training began. Training quickly consumed all free time, and peaked out at an average of 60 miles a week of running (or about 20 hours). Essentially a part time job during the months of January, February, and March.
So fast forward 6 months….April, 2015, here we go! Travel out to Zion April 8th, settle in, explore around, and really, just try not to think about the weekend ahead.
View from our hotel, the Bumbleberry Inn, of the Watchman Towers. If you ever make it to Zion, I highly, highly recommend staying there!
April 9th: The night before the race is one that will be forever etched in my mind alongside great moments of nervousness. Packet picket to grab the bib, shirt, and that was great, but seeing those belt buckles for the first time in person really made it real, wow. Afterwards, headed back to Springdale to get some dinner and meet up with Ruth, Jake, and eventually Jill when she got to town. A good dinner of pizza, pasta, and salad and we headed to the room to at least lay down and stare at the ceiling all night.
April 10th: As with any race, a start line is a start line. It seems like the culmination of everything comes to this one moment, then the body takes over. Race day is really just the celebration of all your hard work of training. You have your coffee, you have your breakfast, you pray for a successful PRP, then the gun goes off, and muscle memory takes over. Thank goodness for that!
EJ and I at the start line right before the gun went off!
The first day was so great! Spending the whole day with my training partner EJ was a great day spent, we Yo Yo-ed each other through those first 3 mesas and kept each other’s excitement in check, and reminded each other to eat, drink, and salt tab at each time increment. The climb up to Flying Monkey was everything the website made it out to be, hand over foot at some points, and a great way to start the day off with reaching the top as the sun was coming up, wow.
The climb up to Flying Monkey, still feeling fresh at mile 3…
Tiny flowers tucked into the rocks on the trail up to Flying Monkey.
Down and around to Dalton Wash, where it was the first time to see friends and family at the aid station, and man it was great to see all those smiling faces of the Striders and crew!
My amazing crew/pacers Jill and Kaycee at Dalton Wash!
Off we go up to Guacamole, a nice smooth dirt road up the mesa, so no crazy climbing. But when we got to the top, wow, I didn’t know we were traveling to the moon! With all the slick rock and trails only inches away from a 1500 foot drop, really gave the impression we were going to have an amazing day filled with those “WOW” moments. Navigating the slick rock was an interesting experience since there really wasn’t a trail in most places, only traveling from cairn to cairn and pink flag to pink flag.
Slick rock “trail”….more like navigating over boulders and through flash flood washes!
Back to Dalton Wash, and seeing those fantastic faces again, and seeing the girls with fresh food, a refresh on the packs and some ice in the bra makes you a whole new woman! Still on track with our 14-15 minute mile pace we took off out to the climb up to Goosebump….wow what a climb that was. Makes doing hill repeats on the face of Peavine kind of appealing! The best part of that was that you could see the little ants trudging up the vertical trail from at least 2 miles away, so that always is encouraging.
Top of the Goosebump Climb (mile 35) looking back at where we came from
A quick rest in the shade then off to go out to Gooseberry Point….probably the part of the race that I’ve been most looking forward to (aside from the finish line). To get out there and look out over the whole valley and really get an impression of how small you are truly was an unforgettable experience.
Turn around, head back to town…well at least the Goosebump Aid station…where a change of socks, an Ensure and the girls awaited, Oh yeah!!!! As the sun was setting, I couldn’t help but think, “ok, day one down, and now the real work begins” and we started off with Kaycee’s awesome sunset playlist to motivate us down the road.
Awesome cactus blooms that had little flowers out the tops, also all over the place, watch your step!
Now about mile 50 at any race I hit the “big low”, you know the one, “why am I out here”, “what was I thinking”, “this is BS”, [insert favorite complaint here]. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming is my mantra. With a bit of luck we make it to Grafton Mesa (Mile 53) where I have eaten up the wonderful gap we had on the cutoff…never a good thing only 18 hours into a (potentially) 34 hour race. With about an hour to get the 4 miles to Cemetery (Mile 57) we take off, tutus bouncing, Kaycee leading the way, things are looking OK. We get down the steep, steep descent into Cemetery and I realize we are in trouble if this pity party continues with only 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff…we spend literally 90 seconds in this aid station and we’re outta there, back up the steep, steep hill.
Kaycee and I keeping warm, keeping moving, must have been around mile 67ish.
We meet a really nice guy that is chatting with us about running 100’s, tutus…etc. He says, “Your tutus definitely brightened my spirits, are you guys going to be at the finish line too?” I think to myself, “oh hell no, I’m RUNNING this race too”, but politely say, “I certainly hope so”. This is THE turning point, not like A turning point, or ONE of the turning points….THE turning point. So we boogie up the hill, when I say boogie, it was a boogie! I was determined to get up that hill before the horn blew below. THEN Kaycee turns on some Citizen Cope…and it is game on. We get the 6 miles from Cemetery back up to Grafton Mesa in 75 minutes, which is probably my fastest split of the whole race. Making up time and thinking to myself, “there is no way I’m not finishing this thing because I get pulled for a time cutoff because I was having my own pity party.” The rest of the night was kind of a blur of keeping moving and keeping warm.
Jill and I rolling in from completing loop 1 (Mile 79)
Then the sun comes up, oh glorious sunrise (that we’ve now seen twice) and on to the Virgin Desert loops…..loop-de-loop…loop-de-loop. Red loop (1) down, but a sock change is calling to me, and it sounds glorious! Some blister popping, some breakfast, and we are on our way, man it is hot already. White loop (2) down. Jill gives me 10 minutes to sit in the shade and re-coup, it is hot out. EJ was already in the aid station preparing for blue loop (3) and he announces, “Less than 13 miles and 3 hours, I think I can make the 30 hour goal”. Me to EJ, “Well, whatcha doing standing around here, get out of here and go get it!” With that, off he goes! Here we go, Blue loop (3), just a long hike/run/walk, 7 miles and we have 3 hours till the aid station time cut off at 2, let’s get a move on!
Lots of Indian Paintbrush out all over the place!
We make it back to the aid station, more ice in the bra, another Ensure, another peanut butter and honey tortilla, another handful of Gu/gels go into the pocket, and we are off to the finish line. 6 miles and we are home free!
Taking a mental health moment at mile 92 to smile, breathe, and then keep moving!
My girl Jill, she inspires me every day! (Mile 94)
Finish line ahead, must have been around mile 96 or so.
Man it is hot out…keep drinking water, keep eating, I know we are almost done, but you’re not done yet. These are words of advice that hold true in running, but in life as well….keep going till you are already there, not just because you are almost there. I get to cross that finish line to the sight of Jill and Kaycee on the other side, best moment ever! With a group hug and only the start of the waterworks, this race is finally finished!
Finish line! Mile 100
And there was a pink belt buckle left, the one thing I was hoping was that I could finish soon enough that there would be a pink one left. That was just the cherry on top of the whole big red dust flavored, Zion sundae!
All said and done, drink some Coke, get some water, and lay down in the grass! 6 years ago I started this mission to get my belt buckle and April 11th, 2015…success….now….I need a nap! But first we wait for Jill to come in, so I’ll take laying in the grass wondering if that all really did just happen. Then I hear someone shout that Jill’s coming down the road, so I amble up from my blanket, which ironically feels better to be standing and walking than it did to lay down. Seeing Jill come across the finish line with the love an support from John and all her family was a scene that will not be forgotten. There was not a dry eye in the park, even the people who didn’t know her, but could feel the love and support that is so abundant in the Ultrarunning community. All in all, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my friends and family and Truckee Meadows Running came to Zion, ran and experienced Zion, and conquered Zion!
There is nothing on this good Earth that compares to our running family!
So there are 2 things that I learned from running 33 hours in a desert, first are really words from the great and wise Jill (that she reminded me at the last stop at Virgin Desert Aid Station), that you’re not done till your done. This translates to keep eating, keep drinking, keep taking that salt….even if it is only 6 more miles to the finish line, you’re not done till your done. Second (and most importantly) is that the people that you love and those who love you back are everything……everything else is minor. Cherish your friendships, cherish your loved ones, and at the end of the day, don’t forget to be thankful for all the things you already have big and small! Thanks for reading!