The alarm went off at 4:30am on April 4th, 2014 and I knew it was going to be the start of an epic adventure. At 6:00 AM, I was due to start the Zion 100 Mile Trail Run – my first attempt at the distance. I knew when I would start but had no idea how long it would take to finish. The Zion 100 Mile Trail Run was being run for the 3rd time starting and finishing in Virgin, Utah just outside of Zion National Park. The area is stunning featuring panoramic views of mesas, cliffs, and sprawling high desert for miles on end.
The Zion 100 course is interesting in that it throws everything at you: Nearly 25,000 ft of elevation change (12.5k up and down) though almost all of that comes via the five ascents/descents of the mesas featured on course. The worst of the climbs came right around mile 30 where we hiked up a 1,300 ft ascent to gooseberry mesa in a little less than three quarters of a mile. It was hands on knees steep. 35 miles of technical single track trail, 60 miles of double track / fire road and about 5 miles of paved connectors.There were also some interesting obstacles on the course including a 20 ft climb requiring a rope it was so steep. Average altitude of about 4,500 ft meaning that the flatlanders from the Midwest were sucking air no matter the pace.
We had flown into Vegas Wednesday night and planned to drive to the Zion area on Thursday given that this is a Friday/Saturday race I assume due to the fact that it is in Utah. While the trip and travel was relatively uneventful, we did manage to flat our rental car five miles outside of Vegas which added a bit of anxiety the day before the race.
At 6:00 AM, the race was off and the 100 milers and 100k runners took off. We started off in the dark and ran for approximately an hour before we witnessed a spectacular sunrise as we climbed up Smith Mesa. The race is incredibly well supported with aid stations approximately every seven miles and 9 opportunities for your crew/family to see you during the race. My wife Kelly and parents crewed for me and met me at several at the aid stations so I had access to all the gear/food/clothing I needed along with some encouragement and smiles.
The plan for the day was to stay comfortable, not burn any ‘matches’ early and keep moving all while staying hydrated and fueled. I carried a 2L Ultraspire pack, which was more than sufficient for the gaps between aid given the cool/dry conditions. I tried to stick to a 250 calorie / hour fueling strategy alternating between Clif Bars and Blocks though towards the later hours of the race shifted towards more ‘real’ food including PB&J, Nutella wraps and some amazing Apple pancakes that were being served at several of the aid stations.
My friend / running buddy Cathlin joined me as my pacer at the mid-‐way point of the race and kept me moving and motivated for the remaining 50 hours. We chatted, swore about some of the climbs, fell, laughed, got lost and just kept moving. My kids met me around mile 99 and ran in the last mile with me and Cathlin – the perfect ending for an epic adventure.
In all, I finished in just over 29 ½ hours. 198 people had started the 100 mile race and I was the 75th finisher out of the 115 that completed the race. While I’m generally further up in the pack, I’m glad to have just completed the race and have my sights set on a faster finish at my next 100 miler! This brief write-‐up doesn’t do this race or the experience justice so I encourage you to check out this video for a better understanding of the experience: http://youtu.be/Uf4qWs5hRsM