Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leaves all Zane Grey Around the Edges

The gain is not what makes it the "toughest 50."

My decision to run the Zane Grey 50 was a hastily chosen one.  I say this because of my necessity to race after the demise of the Lake Sonoma 50, to well, Lake Sonoma.  As I mentioned in my last post I have the worlds worst short term memory, and now I know I have the worst long term memory as well. 

If you get the chance to look away from the trail.
The race is billed as the toughest 50 miler and it certainly can compete with every other course over the same distance.  Heck, I have even run the Miwok 100k faster, much faster.  Sure the hot April sun is a shock to the system, and after running 8 to 16 hours the cumulative elevation gain and sustained oxygen deprivation of 6,000 + feet really begins to wear on the soul but the terrain is really the coup de grace. I find it hard to even call a trail and would never train on such a surface, you see, I'm a runner.       

Ankle crusher.
The course is deceptive, just as the race begins you're stymied .  Perhaps it's more of a stutter that takes over, maybe a bob and weave that only lasts for a few shorts miles.  However, once fatigue sets in, the ankles begin to bend a little more.  Then the legs give in, and compensate for the faulty feet and finally balance is completely compromised and you're  face down in a Manzanita bush, if you lucky.  For others like Sean Andrish (an ultra champion), you can't even hitch hike home because you dislocated you thumb and it's pointing towards the fiery depths of where you came.
Good thing it was marked!! After seven of these ravine's look for number eight.
When I ran this race in 2003 there wasn't much to remember other than vowing never to return again.  I fell back on my promise in 2007 when the course changed direction and wound "downhill," promising to be easier. Not to be.  So I have no one to blame but myself for this years start, except Joe Galope.  I really liked the Phoenix National Trail 50 he used to direct in January and I imagine I was feeling lucky to be able to seek refuge in one of the many sold out events in April.  Oh, and it left me 3 weeks to recover for Miwok. 
She said it was useless (2003) and that was the last time I got on a post race massage table.
Clean shaven and probably much wiser.
So my race was for the most part short lived.  I enjoyed bouncing around with Dakota and Geoff through the early miles as we jockeyed with John Anderson and a few other racers including Nico Mermond, founder of Hoka1 shoes.  It wasn't much after 10 miles however that I jostled with my Scaps, stopped to go to the bathroom and subsequently lost my pack. You see it was a five person pack and then it shrunk by two, two runners left the wolf pack leaving three in the pack,  and then could it be, yes the pack shrunk by two more leaving just a one man wolf pack , running around the desert..  It stayed that way for 35 miles.  I was concerned with my lack of motivation throughout but then again I never found a decent rhythm to get relaxed and at times became discouraged looking for the course in the 80 degree heat.  I was shocked to see Dakota out of the race at 33 and the thought of joining him over the next 11 miles left me parched.  Seriously, you need multiple (3) bottles or a hydradration pack for this run.  I was foolish to run with 2 bottles and they left me dry with miles to go each time.  I found myself pulling back on the throttle so as to not look like one of those 80's Dodge Caravans going up the pass in the summer and it cost me dearly.   Things turned around the final 8 miles but by that time the only thing I was gaining was confidence for Miwok and Western States. 

I thought about breaking my time from 2003 but those last miles drug on and all that misstepping left me a couple minutes short.  I think I like the consistency though.  8:36 : 8:38 , 8 years apart.

As we waited around for finishers I was reminded of why I love ultras. Immediate reflection is needed after such a dramatic experience, perhaps just a moment to soak it all in, and thankfully that was fulfilled under pines, rim and quiet sunshine of the eastern terminus of the Highline trail.  As the sun began to set friends filtered in and reveled in the accomplishment of the day.  Ian found a smile after hours of physical anguish but I know his finish meant a little more because of it.  Carly joined me sight unseen and rallied as only she knows how to do. A stellar 12:36 to catapult her into Miwok, which she'll undoubtably run faster as well.  I think I heard her exclaim her legs weren't even beat up!  All the culprits are found here, and would have not made it without the help of the numerous volunteers on the course and behind the scenes.  Thanks again Joe! 

Even the best fall victim.


Congratulating the juggernaut. In this photo he JUST returned from changing and getting a drink and making a phone call and ordering a burger.......


y mas

Yes, he was smiling at finish #9.

I don't think this was a smile?


Joe Grant said...

Nice race man...but the real question is, when is a fashion conscious fella like yourself gonna rock the two tone head tan? http://on.fb.me/dNQ3cJ

Ian said...

Yes, I echo Joe's sentiments. Nice race and great post! It was good to see you and Carly again, albeit briefly. Take it easy brother. Cheers!

Speedgoat Karl said...

Well said, but I have to say I'll compete with ya on the short AND long term memory.

I almost showed up, but after seeing that ankle picture, I feel better now, thanks for posting that one.

Awesome run Carly...the next up and comer. :-)

Joe said...

Thanks for coming Hal! I hope you come back next year.

jenny u said...

Holy flashback! Nice Montrail Melees!

amy said...

Nice seeing you out there, and great race!

Sadly for Sean, his finger was more than just dislocated and required surgery and lots of metal to piece his thumb back together. He'll be thinking of ZG for many weeks to come.