Sunday, April 27, 2014

Zion 100K in Pictures

Here are a few (lot) of pictures to go along with Cody's race report below, for those of us who require visuals to accompany any story. Let the photos commence!

The first batch are shots from the Zion 100k Course.

The mesa in the background is part of the first 10 miles of the course.

The view from the second (Sheepsbridge) aid station.

Cody leaving Virgin River Dam Aid Station.

Crew waiting at the Goosebump Aid Station. The runners come into this aid 3 times total. 

 Another shot at the Goosebump Aid.
 Seen from the course between Goosebump Aid and Grafton Aid Stations.

The course as it climbs up to Goosberry Mesa.

The next bunch of photographs are from inside Zion National Park. We went into the park for a little family hiking the day after the race. We overheard snatches of conversations between other hikers as they discussed the crazy runners that ran a huge race the day before. We smiled to ourselves.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Zion 100K Race Report (April 2014)

Some sand, rocks, indian paintbrush, slickrock, cactus, hawks, etc all seemed to be in abundance during my nearly 11 hours touring the hills around Virgin, UT.  The zion 100 in its third or fourth year is becoming quite the event.  It now has a 100 mile, 100 kilometer, and 50 kilometer option and apparently even some crazy person ran both the 100K on Friday and the 50K on Saturday. 

Didn't they know there was a 100 mile option that would fulfill that desire to kill a few more braincells? 

On tap for me was the 100K distance.  Long enough to justify a few days off work and a sweet family camp but not long enough to take the whole weekend and make me worthless as a husband and father for the rest of the trip.  Ahh, the sweet spot, 100K.  You are done by dark and can still sleep at night like a normal human being.
I recruited Joe and Mike to share in the adventure of racing.  They were seemingly willing participants.  Mike had a bit of a hiccup in his prep after the 50K training run we did on Antelope Island a few weeks before the race.  He would nurse it (knee injury) best he could but it ultimately caused him to drop at mile 40 or so.  Joe ramped up his usual 30 mile weeks to 40-50 mile weeks and proclaimed basically, "good enough lets do it".
I have been trying my hardest to break my routine of getting injured every winter.  I mostly succeeded, the exception was the knee cap pain I felt after too much vert on ice.  I had to eliminate most of the vert for a few weeks and slowly introduce more as I felt better.  Crisis averted, ready to roll.
Race day dawned cold especially for my family in our pop up tent trailer we towed down to zion.  The heater 'broke' sometime in the night and they were shocked into an early cold morning to crew good old dad.  My race plan was to stick to 150 bpm or below.  No more 'run by feel' attitude that causes me to start too fast and struggle to survive later on.  The 100 Mile and 100K races start at the same time and the course is the same for the first 18 miles.  As we began, I watched Karl Meltzer (in the 100K) and Mike Aish (100M) and Jeff Browning (100M) take off.  That was quick.  I counted back about 15 people and found myself, Joe and Mike in our own little group.  It would remain like that for the first 7 miles up the first 2000' climb.  We climbed up the famous Flying Monkey Trail.  While hiking up that beast, I was amazed that people could bike down that thing.  I either need a better bike or better skills or less smarts to do that trail.  No thanks.
Aid 1 came up quick and I did a quick bottle refill, grabbed some fruit and chips and headed out.  Joe lingered a bit since Jenny had made the trek up to the aid.  Mike and I jogged the hardpacked dirt road back down the mountain.  Not as scenic as the way up on the singletrack, but made for quick miles.  We caught up with Jen who told us she just had a baby 6 months ago.  I think she was embarrassed to be running with us instead of Karl's lead pack.  She would go on to win the women's 100K race and go and immediately breast feed her baby.
Before long we were running down off the face of the plateau and suffering through the paved?!! road.  I know, seriously?  At least, I was able to comfortably click off a few fast miles trying not to burn up my quads.  I dropped down a bit quicker than Mike and Joe and hit the aid at Sheep Bridge road.  Pretty quick bottle exchange with my wife and son crewing and I was out of there.
I cruised along the next section of flattish trail as it winded along the virgin river.  I was still clicking off 8:30 miles or so keeping my hr in check and just enjoying the day.  It was shaping up to be a perfect day for running.  Overcast and in the 40's and 50's.  Perfect.  I was having a good time chatting with Joe and San Francisco guy (he's not 'that' kind of San Francisco guy though, I asked).  After meandering all over the place, we finally made it to Virgin River Aid.  I grabbed my bottles and avocado sliders and walked out of there.  Joe took a lot longer than me and never did quite catch up though after a few miles he was within a stone's throw of me.  The next section involved some more gradual climbing and then a big nasty 1500' in a mile climb up to Goosebump aid station.  I started to feel the effects of the 20+ miles under my belt during this section and tried to ignore the tightness in my giddy up.  About a half mile before the climb started in earnest Jeff Browning and Mike Aish caught up to me.  The 100 mile course adds a few miles a bit earlier so I had gotten ahead of them during that time.  They were fun to chat with while they went by.  I tagged along and enjoyed the company until I felt the pace was a bit too brisk.  My HR was about 155-158 while hanging with them.  I watched as they hit the hill much harder than me and left me once again alone to my thoughts.
Goosebump to Gooseberry Point aid is a famous mtn biking trail similar to slickrock in Moab.  Nasty rolling slickrock with millions of twists and turns and bumps and small hills that sap your energy and will to live.  There was a sweet view from the trail though.  It follows the edge of the mesa and provides views of Virgin and the entrance of Zion NP.  Eventually, I made it to the Gooseberry aid station to find it empty of people and supplies.  There was only a sign that says to go the point and back (1 mile round trip) so I did.  Should have brought a camera for that view.  Sweet!  Back at the 'aid station' a person had arrived with a few bottles of soda so I grabbed one and filled my empty bottle.  That was close.  Almost had to go without.  Turns out the 5-6 people in the 100K ahead of me and the 2 in the hundred did go without.  The miles continued to pass without incident.  My energy levels were ok, and I was able to move at an ok pace still.  Roughly halfway done and I felt like I had more I could do.  Perfect.
About a mile before the Goosebump aid (second time) I caught up with Mike Aish who was in a low patch.  He was running this race as a 'training run' and says he wasn't recovered from Tarawara yet.  We chatted and visited until the aid came and he stopped for a while.  Not sure if he dropped here or later, but he did drop eventually.
The section from Goosebump to Grafton Mesa aid was a boring dirt road.  It was my least favorite part of the trail and at times seemed to be going in the wrong direction.  I was afraid I had missed a turn off a time or two but I had not.  The only runner I saw was Karl Meltzer on his way back to Goosebump after already completing the Grafton 5 mile loop.  He was about 6-7 miles ahead of me and looked awesome.  He went on to break the course record and beat me by 1:35.  The grafton loop was a bit confusing.  The aid station guy told me to follow the green then pink flags.  There was also a sign that said 100K - green, 100M - pink.  This became an issue as many of the 100K runners ended up running the 100M course adding on 4 miles and 1000' of vert.  It was here that I suppose I passed a few of the guys in-front of me as they did this.  I never saw a soul though during my loop.
While traveling back to the goosebump aid a third and final time I saw hordes of people heading out the Grafton aid.  In that section, I also saw Joe as he was walking downhill.  I asked him what he was doing.  His response, "I'm tired".  He would go on to bonk pretty hard then recover later on.  I was asked numerous times if I was leading the race.  Hmm, I guess that means that there are not many people ahead of me.  Turns out I was now in third.  I was grateful to finally make it to the aid and be on the final 5 miles to the finish.  I would just have to descend down the 1500' climb then follow atv trails and finally the hwy for a bit back into town.  I got the biggest stomach cramp and sideache ever during the descent and had to go pretty slow to work it out.  Things improved a bit once the trail leveled off and I was able to gut out some 9 min miles.  Sad.  At least I was still able to move at this point.  I pushed it in to the finish best I could until the finish line came into view.  Leaving the last aid, I joked with my family saying I would race them back.  They would have to travel quite a ways to get there and I figured it would be close.  My ultra-competitive daughter pleaded with me to go slow so she would win.  I was able to see them drive into the finish area about 2 mins after I finished.  Ha!  I win.
I hung out at the finish line cheering on the finishers and waiting for joe and mike to finish.  I guessed mike would drop since I did know he was having knee issues earlier but had no idea what joe was up to.  I waited for a few hours chatting with the guys hearing some of the adventures of their bonus miles.  I think Karl had already showered and taken a nap by the time I had finished.  I eventually had to leave to fix the heater and get my family to bed so I headed out to our campsite.  Meanwhile joe had a bounce back and finished strong albeit a few hours slower than hoped.
I am happy with the result and received a cool hand crafted award and a free pair of running sandals (think Born to Run).  My fueling went well with avacodo sliders, EFS, honey stinger, sprite, mtn dew, gatoraide, fruit snacks, and some random food at the aid stations.  I gambled and ran on a brand new pair of shoes never tested (you really shouldn't do that) and loved them.  I wore the Hoka Rapa Nui 2.  It is a great shoe, even on slickrock and uneven terrain.  I had a few sore toes but no blisters.  
The highlight of the trip was taking the kids on the Angels Landing hike (along with a few hundred other strangers on the trail).  My 9 year old made it no problem the whole way with my 7 year old making it to the scout lookout and my 2 year old strapped to me and my wife (took turns).  They have caught the hiking bug and are looking forward to the next camping adventure.  
(All photos courtesy of Bethany)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Preview of what we offer

Bethany here. I am taking it upon myself to write the inaugural post on this blog, the official merging of two hobbies. Cody and I have been married for over a decade and have just stumbled upon the idea of making the most of what we both love to do. He: ultra running, She: photography. We are both excited to share and hope you enjoy the result. I will get down to business and share a photo from the latest adventure we undertook: The Zion 100k. Cody's portion will follow as his time allows. (as you can imagine, he spends most of his free time...well, running.)

This shot is of the course as it winds it's way up (and later, down) Gooseberry Mesa.