I am fortunate to have done all my training for the Zion 100 on the course. I have run almost all of the course multiple times. I guarantee that this will be one of the most beautiful trail races in the country. There are many miles that are run-able and fast. And there are some miles that are challenging and will require some patience.
When going into a race, I like to know where the hard parts are so I know what to expect. That helps me plan my race strategy, and I know better when to push and when to hold back. For those of you running the Zion 100 (or 50), here is my take on what to expect during the more difficult sections. (Miles are approximate.)
~ Mile 3: The Flying Monkey. This is a mile of challenging single track climbing more than 1,000 feet to the top of Smith Mesa. Beware: this early in the race your adrenaline will be pumping and your legs will be feeling good. I’d recommend taking it easy up this hill so you don’t burn yourself out for later in the race. Trust me; you’ll need that energy later.
~ Mile 18: This is the one section of the course I haven’t
run but I hear that the descent from Smith Mesa involves some technical
climbing. Slater Fletcher said I could use this photo from the trail. (He
assures me that this section isn’t as bad as it looks, and there will be a
safety rope to hold on to.)
~ Mile 45: The hardest hill of the race climbing to the top
of Gooseberry Mesa. You’ll ascend around 1,500 feet in less than a mile. It is
rocky and steep, and there is a high probability that your lungs will feel like
they are filling with molten lava. I’d plan on hiking this section. You can see the trail zig zag up the mountain:
The views from the top are worth the death march:
~ Mile 47 through Mile 63: These miles are on top of
Gooseberry Mesa. The majority of the miles are on technical, rolling, twisting,
turning slick rock. I think the biggest challenge with these miles is the
constant rollers which make it difficult to get your momentum going. The harder
surface also gives the legs a little more pounding.
~ Mile 72: We’ll follow a well-maintained dirt road up to
Little Creek Mesa. There are approximately four miles of steady hills to get to
the top. The toughest part of this climb is the fact that it comes later in the
race when legs will be fatigued.
Once you reach the edge of the mesa, you will be rewarded
with another awesome view before starting the steep, rocky descent to the
Mile 90: The last section of the race includes the Hurricane Rim Trail. There
are a few moderate hills, and some stretches that are fairly rocky and
technical. You’ll want to keep an eye on the trail because some sections have
grabby rocks that like to snag shoes.
is the only trail where I’ve done an unintentional Superman dive and kissed
last few miles transition to the Jem Trail which is smooth and fast (if you
still have any kick after 97 miles). The Jem Trail is one of my favorites.
** 50 milers can ignore the first few areas I mention. They
will start at the trail going up Gooseberry, and will go right to the Jem Trail
at the end instead of doing the Hurricane Rim.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of how to plan for and
manage your race so that we can make it to the finish line. If you make it to
the finish line before I do, save me some Mountain Dew!