I just finishing packing my stuff and planning out my drop bags (wed night). I leave tomorrow afternoon straight from work to fly to AZ. They're expecting some pretty warm weather. A little slower times but thats fine with me because i bet im a little more acclimated then the colorodians are this time of the year. miles 0-17 i will just carry one UD handheld with my gus on me. At 17 i'll pick up my 2 amphipods which will get through mile 33. At that time i'll pick up my salomon pack plus the two handhelds for the dreaded 11 mile "hardest section" of the race. i've got my ipod in my pack already which i may or may not use. i love having only one or two handhelds but man a pack is so convenient sometimes. at mile 44 i'll ditch the pack and just run it in with the handhelds (hopefully strong). sticking to straight gus once again with some powerbar gel blast at the aids or some gu chomps. i just realized i don't have any more gu brew so i hope i have time to pick some up manana before the airport.
Goals??? i've got one time goal and thats it...sub 10. my other goal is to run as smart as possible and finish knowing i gave it my best shot. i know i can't hang with some of the guys that will be out there but this is a race against myself and the course. this is my last race for several months so i want to leave it all out there. i guess my main goal is to cross the finish line being proud of myself and saying holy shit that was one hell of a journey.
This race has been on my schedule for several years now so i pumped that it all came together. last year i did jemez and sjs knowing that this year would be ZG and thats it. some good friends live in the phoenix area so the logistics work out very nicely. I can't think of another race that better suits me and my training. i've leaned up, got in some good long runs (nothin much at all during the week due to how insane work has been), going in injury free that i know of. so this is my shot...i'll give it my best!
This was one of those rare races where i left without really any big regrets at all. i nailed nutrition, pacing, etc. my only major mistake was a 2 mile detour at around mile 26, but its hard to really regret that because i was paying attention and it was at a spot that gave some other runners trouble. The Zane Grey course to me is my ideal course. I absolutely loved it and its exactly what i train on so i felt very comfortable the whole time.
Pre race nutrition.
Thursday night had a brick oven pizza which seemed perfect. friday morning at an omelet with fruit and an english muffin which was light but satisfying at the same time. for lunch and dinner i split a box of whole wheat pasta with a can of chicken and a jar of sauce. eating fiber filled whole wheat pasta is what a lot of runners say to never do before a race, but i've done it three races in a row now and its been perfect. one main reason, regular pasta just sits in me...until i start running. when i've eaten whole wheat pasta (box has a whopping 42g of fiber) all the unneeded is gone before the race start. as long as you don't start full (stomach not muscles) your body will use everything on the run and never need to make a pit stop along the trail. morning of i had two peanut butter sandwiches an hour and a half before race start then a powerbar 5 minutes before the race start.
start - camp Geronimo - miles 0-8
i started very relaxed and right in middle of everybody. i wanted to start this race very relaxed and pace myself smart and finish really strong. the first mile is pretty tame so it wasn't a problem being in the crowd. as soon as we reached the first climb which is about a 1,000 ft climb i couldn't take the slower pace and veered off the trail and passed everybody to put myself in my usual spot between the lead pack which shoots off like at a cannon at the gun and everybody else. i was then able to focus on my own stuff and soak in the beautiful sunrise which lit up all the mountains south of the rim in an incredible way. its moments like that that remind you why you run this stuff. i ran about 80% of the initial climb only walking the steeper parts. once up top i maintained a good pace down to the first aid station that didn't feel too taxing. i went to take an s cap at the 45 minute mark but broke the pill and accidentally dumped all the salt directly in my mouth. it turned out to give me an extremely dry mouth the remainder of the day and made those long stretches between aid hell because i couldn't make my water last long enough. i ate a gu at mile 5 and a packet of chomp blocks coming into the mile 8 AS. i refilled with half gu brew half water and was on my way within 5 seconds.
camp Geronimo - Washington park - 8-17
as soon as you leave CG you start another climb. after seeing the elevation chart i realized that hells gate is the only AS thats not low so i knew that leaving every aid station you would be face with a climb. I don't remember too much of this section. i guess thats good because that means i was really relaxed and nothing bad happened. i felt very solid still and ran the whole section at a good pace trying to make to WP by the 3 hr mark. i still had just my one ultimate direction handheld on me, and i had a gu every 2 - 2.5 miles during this section. i was trying to get in as much running as possible early because i heard the beginning and end is the best running and the middle is the nastiest. plus the heat was supposed to crank into the 90's in the exposed sections. i came in to Washington park at 3 hours on the dot. i ate a whole bag of power bar gel blast while they filled my two amphipods for me. i already had the gu brew powder in them to make it quicker. after about 20 seconds i was off after stashing away my arm sleeves, headlamp and UD handheld.
Washington park - hells gate - 17 - 23
up to this point i was just trying to stay focused. i kept running through nutrition in my head making sure i was doing what i needed to be doing. but most of all i kept asking myself if the pace i was running was the fastest but most efficient way to make to the next aid without burning my legs up. i was really saving my legs for the last third of the race. with this being my last race for 3 months i was really wanting to nail it and leave it all out on the course. plus its a legendary race that is suited perfect for me so i figured if im ever going to nail a race this is it. this section was definitely a little slower then the first two. two main reasons, one the trail got quite a bit more technical and tight. and second this section had a major positive gain. washington park is in a valley with hells gate being up top. on the website and everything else, it has hells gate listed at mile 25 so my nutrition and time goal was geared for a mile 25 AS. it was at mile 23 instead which kinda sucked because i was saving my water to last me the entire stretch when i could have consumed it, because believe i wanted to so bad. i came in and chugged about 30 oz of water, refilled and was off. they told me that the leader was 25 minutes ahead of me. i was actually pleased to hear that because we were getting to the super exposed hot sections and i was still feeling like new.
hells gate - fish hatchery - 23 - 33
i set out with my two amphipods filled up ready to lay out another solid section. before the race i told myself that my goal was to come into mile 33 feeling good enough to take it up a notch. in the first 3 miles i passed 2 or 3 people for the first time all day. at about mile 26 was when my detour began. there was a huge downed tree (common for this course) i ran around it to the right, but what i didn't know was that the trail veered to the left and on the left side of the tree were the blue wrong way markers. i had my hat a little low to keep as much sun off of me as much as possible which hindered my peripheral vision a bit. i was feeling good so i was charging down a double track road when i started to notice i hadn't seen a marker in a while. it was an obvious trail and this course wasn't too heavily marked so i didn't think anything of it. at that time i came to a major intersection and there wasn't a marker to be seen. i knew i wasn't where i was supposed to be plus i noticed i was quite a ways from the rim. i started looking across the canyon when i could see a runner way off in the distance going the other way. i was pissed and immediately started charging back up. about half way up i ran into a guy from alaska and told him to turn around. we found the trail together and i looked at my garmin and it was exactly one mile each way for a two mile detour. i was really bummed because my race was going so well up to that point. i kept telling myself that its not the end of the world and thats how ultrarunning goes. it happens to everybody. the heat was starting to crank big time and this whole section was exposed. it was now a 12 mile section and i was running low and my mouth was extremely dry. i was in a foul mood and i began to pass all the people that i had already passed in the race again. this was definitely my low point of the day. probably more mentally then physically. my legs were still running great but the dehydration was really getting to me. it was getting so bad that i wasn't sure if i could bounce back from it or not. i told myself to get over it mentally and when i would get to fish hatchery i would regroup a bit hydration wise and mentally refocus.
fish hatchery - see canyon - 33-44
my original goal was to be out of fish hatchery at around 6:15 or so. i arrived at 6:25 so i actually ran it 10 minutes faster then planned but my 20+ minute detour put me over. i grabbed my salomon pack, filled it up with ice water, chugged 2 1/2 handhelds of water (50 oz), ate a packet of gel blast once again, dumped clip 2 in one handheld and gu brew in the other. before leaving i dumped ice down the back of my shirt, dumped my head in a bucket of ice water and put ice in my hat. that was the first time i've ever done anything like that. i love running in the heat and the heat wasn't bothering me, but the dehydration was extreme. i hardly took any s caps the whole race because i wasn't peeing and i couldn't make my water last a whole section.
i set out and pulled out my ipod out of my pack hoping that it would give me a little kick in the butt, plus i was trying to let all the water i just chugged settle a bit. i set out at 6:29 with a goal of hammering that eleven mile section in two hours or a little over. I turned my ipod on and it did the trick i was fired up and ready to rock n roll. i set out running damn near all the climbs and running the flats and down faster then i had all day. i was cooled off, rehydrated and feeling like new once again. at mile 12 i settled into my gu every two miles routine. my stomach was very willing to take it and my energy and leg strength stayed solid the whole time. i was feeling great and at about mile 36 or so is probably the toughest climb of the day. i was charging up it feeling good but i noticed i hadn't seen a marker in a while. i started thinking not again and i started to get really nervous. in my mind i was saying this is the last straw i may actually throw in the towel if i get lost again. especially since i had gone up this tough climb i didn't feel like back tracking. soon enough i saw a marker and took up the pace big time knowing i was going the right direction. at this point it was the start of a long descent and i was really hammering it. i caught up with Evan Hone who i ran miles 4-8 with earlier. we ran together for maybe a mile until i took the lead and wanted to keep hammering it. i was very pleased with the way my salomon pack was working. carrying 90 oz of fluid wasn't bad at all. the pack feels like its not even there because it molds to your body so well. if i do this race again i will probably wear the pack plus at least one handheld from 17-44. at about mile 40 i realized that i only had about 10 miles left and i told myself that this is it. i wanted to leave it all out on the course and i needed to take it up another notch. i was feeling great and passed 3 more runners. they were moving quite a bit slower so a quick "looking good, finish strong" was all that was said from me. none of them really said anything at all back. it was now mile 42 and i had gone through all 90 oz of fluid and was ready for the aid station to come. i flew down the descent into see canyon AS.
see canyon - finish - 44-51
i came into the aid station and got my drop bag that had my last two amphipods in it with powder ready to go. i once again dumped power bar gel blast in my mouth chugged about 30 oz of water, grabbed my new handhelds and was about to set off when i heard the most motivating news of the day. the start was dark so i had no clue who was where. leaving fish hatchery i had no clue what place i was in and to be honest i wasn't thinking about the other runners too much. i was focused on myself, my nutrition, and concentrating on not letting up physically or mentally. as i was leaving the AS guy told me i was in 4th place overall and Karl Meltzer was about 20 minutes ahead of me. my goal was to be out of there by 8:45 at the absolute latest to go sub 10 and 8:30 to beat stevens time of 9:44 (sorry steven haha it wasn't a goal until you told me to go after 9:44 in that email). i left at 8:35 with so much energy i couldn't believe it. hearing that is every ultrarunners dream. the chance to try and chase down karl meltzer. i took a moment to mentally focus and tell myself what i needed to do. i told myself that i only had seven miles to go and i needed to run it in. climbs, flats, and descents. in training i run stuff way steeper and just as nasty if not nastier. my legs still felt like new but i now had a ton of adrenaline. i ran the entire climb out of the aid station up to the top. i then told myself that i had about 5 1/2 miles of good running compared to the rest of the course and i needed to hammer so i wouldn't have any regrets. my ipod was pumping out tons of great stuff and i was loving it. every corner i would turn i would scan around for any signs of other runners but nothing. for the next three to four miles i just kept focused and gutting it out. i then came to a sign on the trail that marked the final mile. i looked at my watch and it read 9:33 and change. i took it up another notch and pumped out my fastest mile of the day for a sub 8 minute mile to finish in 9:41. if the final section truly is 7 miles that would mean i averaged under 9 1/2 minute pace the final section.
the finish / post race thoughts
i was glad to be done but i wasn't really in that much pain. i am very grateful for the way my legs and stomach held up all day. i couldn't have asked for more. the entire race i was able to take a gu every two miles and never missed one. plus the calories from the gu brew plus my 200 cal packs of powerbar gel blast at the aids. it was enough consistent energy to keep me firing the whole time. my salomon xt wings s lab 4's once again felt absolutely perfect. light, stable, and not a single hot spot at all. i found out that karl ended up beating me by 16 minutes or so. i chugged about 60 oz of water plus some recoverite. i then took a seat and popped open my traditional negra modelo. you've gotta have something to look forward to during a race and for me its an ice cold negra modelo and the post race hang out with my fellow ultrarunners. i stayed for about an hour and made some new friends. i chatted with karl a little bit, joe grant was there (he dropped after getting severely lost otherwise probably would have won it), and the two guys from Alaska. my buddy stefan from phoenix was my finish line crew and had everything i needed ready. i was really grateful to have him there to help with logistics plus its always fun having a friend around. we all hung out for about an hour then decided to hit the road.
splits for my own records - (CG 1:20) (WP 3:00) (HG 4:17) (FH 6:26) (SC 8:35) times are approx.
will i run it again. hell yes. i knew it going into it and it was confirmed that it is the perfect race for me. super technical and tons of climbing descending without the super high altitude or super long sustained climbs. i was really happy with the way i negotiated the descents. i was light on my feet all day and stayed a little more on my heels on the down hills which seemed to keep me more in control. from now til mid june im just going to run when i feel like it to maintain a base. by the end of june i will have started my cactus training. i can only pray everything holds up at cactus like it did at zane grey.