At mile 80 Sam's pacer
Asked me why I do it
He runs marathons,
One for each state.
I really don't know right now,
I answered, ask me when I finish.
Five of us jogged slowly
up the highway looking
for an arrow that would send us up
the last climb in the race.
We moved like a centipede,
Many legs connected
In a run-walk dance with the trail.
At that moment it occurred to me
None of us had met before today
We were pieces of a puzzle
That the race arranged
That together made a picture
And my puzzle piece
Finally made sense.
|Richard and me running together around mile ~14. Photo by Alex Santiago|
I met Richard on the first climb. I wanted to say, stop talking to me I'm trying to breathe, as a line of runners two miles long pushed me and the other front runners up the steepest and longest climb of the race right out of the gates. Our hands grasped prickly desert brush. Our glutes and calves pressed the loose, fine red dust that Zion was so well known for into the earth. I was feeling introverted and a little grumpy. We still had 98 miles to go and my running groove just wasn't going to happen until we topped off at almost 6,000 feet at the top of Smith mesa. I was looking forward to running, not this hands-on-knees lung collapsing shoot up the mountain.
Video pre-race chilling out in Zion National Park
Near the top, I noticed Keira Henninger, a fellow race director and impressive athlete with some 100 mile wins to her name, had caught up to me on the climb and as we crested the top of the mesa she passed me and we ran together. I could tell there would be some friendly competition here. I stayed with her chatting about life, race directing, and relationships. Cool lady I thought. I hope we get to run together more during the race. We were at Aid #1 at mile 7 before I knew it and wow, I felt gooood. Keira went over to her crew. I hadn't eaten anything or drank any water on the climb, my pack was still full, so I skipped quickly through the aid station and began a fun and fast descent back toward Virgin, UT.
Right away I caught up to Richard, but now I was feeling quite cheerful and we chatted like old friends the entire way down, blasting past other runners in what was probably a little fast for so early in a 100. Yet, it was so runnable: a paved steep downhill and I didn't want to over think my pace. I was just trying to go with the flow. I told Richard our pace and he looked surprised as well. We both shrugged, oh well, and I mentioned that I wanted to take chances in this race anyway. I don't always want to play it safe. We clicked off 7 min miles and settled behind the blonde girl with good climbing gears. Apparently my downhill running had leveled the playing field.
A little after Aid #2, mile 14, Richard took off or I slowed down for a gel. I let him go. I noticed that I was at the 25k distance in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes and again thought, hmmm that's a bit faster than I expected especially with almost 3,000 feet of climbing. Oh well. I caught up to the blonde gear girl again and we chatted. This was her second 100 miler and she was from Utah. Although I wanted to stick around and chat more, the pace was a little slow and so I passed and rode the roller coaster corners down the hill loving every second of it and passing early starters in groups. The early starters had a 1-2 hour head start so that they could make the 32 hour cut off.
|Photo by Cory Reese from 2013 race, the first climb up Smith mesa|
|Photo by Rico Sesto|
I reached Aid #4 at mile 31 and immediately chugged water. One glass. Two glasses, three glasses, four. Coke, more coke. Stupid horrible cupless plastic cups. I think my sports bra drank half the coke. I hurried to my drop bag and applied my sun screen. I'd rather put on sunscreen than a shirt. As I was heading out of the aid station I noticed Keira's crew walking back from the trail and I realized she'd slipped right past me while I was getting sunscreen! I saw her through the desert brush and within a minute I was behind her. I had the feeling that I wasn't supposed to know she'd passed me, but the cat was out of the bag and I felt good. I said hi and since I still had no idea what place I was in I asked Keira. I think she was surprised by the question, and she said, "We're in first" as though we were tied for the lead. It was a nice gesture considering that she was a few steps ahead of me. Awkward, though perhaps.
|Photo by Rico Sesto|
|Photo by Rico Sesto, unknown runners.|
The next 6 miles flew by and I ran with a couple runners who were in the 100k. As it turned out, the man who was running the 100k had seen Keira heading back to the aid station at mile 31 to drop. What??! I was shocked. It turned out that she had fallen and had her hip popped back in place. I sent a little prayer for her and finally understood why she had disappeared. Side note, she is okay, but recovering.
|Photo by Rico Sesto, Richard running the road section.|
We jogged out of the aid station to the soon-to-be-infamous unmarked turn. We'd been following pink and green flagging and at a Y in the trail the green flags went to the right and the pink ones went straight. We paused. Which way do we go? We were just far enough from the aid station that we didn't want to go back. Well we were following pink earlier we agreed and so we followed the pink all the way down a big climb and through a few mesas where we ran into two men who told us we were going the wrong way. Shit, fuck, & damn it! They had also gone down the climb, one of them (he'd been in 2nd place) going almost all the way to Eagle Aid Station (4-6 miles) before running into the eventual winner, who told him that he was going the wrong way. The other man, Jan Kriska, had been 1/4-1/2 mile ahead of us, and both men were contemplating quitting. At this point my legs felt so shot (it was only mile 52) that I also considered dropping. It was so disappointing to get off course by so much!
|Photo by Rico Sesto|
|The Trio of Jan Kriska, me, and Richard Kresser leaving Eagle Aid Station. Determination!|
|Jan Kriska, early on in the race. Picture courtesy J.K.|
|Rahim, Sam's pacer on the left in orange jacket and Sam on the right in green jacket enjoying some post race beers. Picture courtesy of Rahim.|
A big thank you to race director Matt Gunn, the many, many volunteers, and race sponsors. Big thank you to VFuel Endurance for fueling me to a win at The Zion 100 and Ultimate Direction for their excellent Ultra Vesta, perfect pack for the race. Thanks Pearl Izumi/Running, Trail N2's helped me navigate the course and performed spectacularly in the desert terrain.
Most of all, thank you to Richard, Jan, Sam, and Rahim. <3
|A little pre-race yoga in Zion National park the day before the race.|