Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Notes from the West: Zane Grey

IAs a child, growing up, the name Zane Grey was an all too familiar one. My parents had an obsession with westerns. Along side of Louis L'amour, Mr' Grey's books occupied the majority of the space on our house's shelves, and so most of my dreams as a kid were of these romantic depictions of the West: its rugged landscapes, wild animals, its grit. "I want to live there when I grow up," I had thought, only to eventually realize that this world was no more real as the words on the dusty pages. Unbeknownst to me all this time there was a foot race taking place on Arizona's Highline trail as rugged and wild as any of these stories, only void of any of the romanticism. Welcome to Zane Grey 50.

Last year was the first year I went out to Arizona to run this race, and due to the deteriorating weather the race was called at mile 33; so I came back this year for the full experience. Before I get into this years race, for those who don't know the ZG course, its full of rocks. The whole course is indeed runnable, just as long as you like running on top of rocks of all sorts and sizes. I find the terrain dreamy; perfectly technical to keep a mind engaged for the whole day.

This year the weather was cool again. I think the high was 65 for the day, and I'm beginning to be skeptical as to the tails of this race being HOT. Luckily, I didn't really bother heat training before hand, as the cool temperatures were perfect all day. The race started with the same jittery nerves as always, but as we all began the first climb I settled into a comfortable pace. By the top of the climb Joe Grant, Jason Koop, and Rene Rovera (the eventual winner) sped off. I felt it fitting to join Brian Tinder in trail of the lead group since we both were wearing the same color shorts, shirt, and shoes: Twinzies! We cruised into the first aid together, and as I fumbled around Brian took off. I spent the next few miles working to close the gap between us so we could be twins again, and to my chagrin as I caught up to him I noticed just up ahead of both of us was Joe Grant.  Brian let me pass, and soon I scooted pass Joe too. (He had a broken rib, so I don't think he was completely on his "A" game.) I worked to keep the effort up through to the next aid, where I was much more efficient this time (all thanks to my super crew: Jess). I tucked two new bottles into my shorts and started off, it wouldn't be until mile 33 that I would see Jess again with replenishments, so I had all sorts of Hammer Gels and a couple of bottles weighing me down. I settled into an easier pace.  I reached a section of the trail where these large bunches of tall grass grow. I hate this section.  I had a low point here last year, and it was repeated this year again. I can't stand not being able to see what I am running on, and I found myself ridiculously frustrated as I shuffled blindly through the grasses. Brandon Stapanowich caught me in at my low point, and I quickly let him pass, as he looked much better than I felt.  For the remainder of this section all the way until mile 33, Joe trailed behind me by about ten feet. It was almost comical, he would catch up to me on the down hills, only to fall back on the climbs. We continued this way for what seemed like hours. Not talking, just running at close proximity. As I neared the Fish Hatchery aid at mile 33 I caught sight of Jason. I had run out of water about five minutes before, so I didn't bother trying to pass; I just ran into the aid station with him, and to my surprise followed by Brandon (he ran off course for a bit). At the aid station I downed some Heed and a highly caffeinated beverage, and had planned to tell Jess I needed an extra bottle of water for this section. In a whirlwind of excitement I trotted out of the aid station without mentioning anything about more water. This would turn out to be my undoing. Full of caffeinated fervor, I ran the first climb with the intent to put a gap on Brandon and Jason in this next 11 miles.  Within a mile from the top of the climb my dehydration caught up with me, and I decided to slow a bit. Brandon caught back up and served me a plate of humility. I told him he could pass, but he insisted we should work together for the next section. I pushed along this section as Brandon encouraged from close behind. Eventually, I took a digger on what was probably the smoothest part of the course. Frustrated and tired I told Brandon to go on ahead. I trailed him for a bit, but eventually he ran out of sight. About a mile or two later I ran out of water completely, and my pace slowed significantly. I arrived at eh See Canyon aid irritated I had put myself in that hole. I chugged more Heed and took an extra bottle of water for the last section. Brandon was five minutes ahead, but being so down on my hydration, that seemed like an big gap. For the last seven mile stretch I did my best to keep a solid effort, although I know my pace wasn't anything too quick. I finished out the day Third in 8:47.

Every race I run I come away with a list of things I might have done differently, and I realize now, that this is ultra running. It is so improbable that everything will go perfect for you on any given day, and so the challenge is to be able to keep moving and working hard as the problems arise. I feel great about the effort I gave this year, and I look forward to going back next year. The course is beautiful, and was marked wonderfully this year.

Gear list:

Shoes: Adidas Adios
Food: Hammer Perpetuem in the bottles, Heed at the aids, and Hammer Gels to top me off.
Glasses: Julbo Blast
Bottles: Simple Hydration
Clothes: Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts, Run With Us race shirt

Thanks for the support Run With Us running store in Pasadena for keeping shoes on my feet, Hammer Nutrition for keeping my stomach happy, Simple Hydration for the awesome bottles, and Julbo for keeping my eyes healthy.


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