|Climbing "The Goosebump"|
It was about six o’clock in the evening when Amy and I pulled up to the race headquarters just outside of Zion National Park and I remember how cold it felt. The wind was cutting right through us on that early spring evening the night before the race would begin. I think that was when I first started having serious second thoughts on the wisdom of the adventure I was about to put myself through. Was I ready for this? The next morning I would begin this run of 100 miles through the canyon lands north of Zion. The immensity of this 100 mile race that would surely take me more than 24 hours to complete was beginning to weigh down on my psyche as I realized that it would be just as cold as out there tomorrow night and I would already be exhausted. I was imagined myself in the pitch black cold of the desert wilderness trying to find my way around the course. Now tell me, why again was I compelled to put myself in this situation in the first place? Hopefully I would only be scaring up jackrabbits and mice along the trails and no rattlers or scorpions. That night’s frosty cold bite was causing me to shiver on the outside as the thoughts I was silently contemplating were in turn causing me to shiver to my bones on the inside. Yep, and though it all I kept a brave face on it all, laughing and joking with Amy telling her I wasn’t worried about a thing.
|Race morning - all dressed up and ready to go|
The wood fried pizza that they had for us at the check in was awesome and the entire event turned out to be very well organized. Amy and I then checked into our room that we had reserved in the park where I laid out my things for the morning and got to sleep as quickly as possible. Amazingly I slept well that night and made it to the start line with plenty of time for a change. The race started in the dark at 6:00 am rise and we were already halfway up the first of 5 challenging climbs in the race before the sun started to illuminate the course. Each of those climbs to the tops of 5 different mesas averaged between 1 and 2 miles of horrendous 15 – 30 % grades. Lone Mountain in Las Vegas provided me with the best local training options for these climbs but it was only ½ mile in length and averaged about 20%. Although I made numerous repeats of this climb during training it turned out to be inadequate. I did alright on the first climb keeping up with the mid-pack runners but after that I felt like my legs were already cooked for every other climb. After about 5 miles and an hour of hard climbing we had a fun little 2 mile romp down a slight incline though a sparse forest to the first aid station that was bathed in an early morning glow.
|Aid Station #1 - Smith Mesa Aid station - Mile 7 - Thank-you Volunteers, all of you were awesome|
After the first aid station we had a steep decent down some gravel and a bit of paved road where I was feeling real good and averaged a nice pace – later on I would think back and wish I had slowed down at this point. Shortly, in under 3 hours, I arrived at the second aid station and I got in and as quickly as I could. From there the course undulated up and down as we followed the Virgin River with its spectacular for about 6 miles. I continued pushing the pace and came upon the Virgin Dam aid station at mile 23 in under 5 hours. Some quick calculations indicated that if I could maintain anything close to this pace I would finish in under a phenomenal 24 hours for my first 100 mile race. That thought right there was telling me “slow down buddy,” but I wasn’t listening. I continued to feel good as the course started to slowly rise again towards the 2nd and most difficult mesa climb which is “affectionately called the Goosebump.” At this point in the race I was still running all the small inclines and only taking short walk breaks when things got a little too steep.
|Poor picture quality but some easy running down to the 2nd aid station.|
|We started the morning climbing these walls and now were on our decent.|
|View of the Virgin River: Photo by Ron Board - http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/59210708.jpg|
|Arriving at Goosebump|
|View from the top of Goosebump|
I reached the Grafton Mesa aid station as the sun began to set. I was 12 hours and about 50 miles into the race and still moving forward at a good pace. I felt good as I got out my head lamp for the night. Luckily Matt and his crew do an awesome job of marking a trail with an unbelievable stream of reflective ribbons that just about anyone could follow. Unfortuately, I am one of those that can get lost following the best of trails and I got a little disoriented coming out of the aid station as I started to run the Grafton Mesa loop. I didn’t get to far, less than a ½ mile before a runner coming the other way told me I had to turn around so I did. That was my first course detour and I figure I put in about 1 extra mile. There was a lot of up and down to contend with and that was not an easy 6 mile loop. After hitting the Grafton Mesa aid station for a second time I ran about 6 miles of down and 3 miles of up uneventfully though the night towards Eagles Craig aid station. Supposedly there is a great view from up here but not at night. I was sore at all yet except for some minor tenderness in my feet and I was still running all the down hills and run/walking the inclines the best I could.