Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Zion 100 Course Guide

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 bottom.

~ 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.

This is the only trail where I’ve done an unintentional Superman dive and kissed Mother Earth.

The 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!

22 comments:

  1. I don't know if you will be enjoying the views at mile 70-whatever considering it will be the middle of the night :)

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    1. Only the people running too fast will miss the views

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  2. wow. seriously just wow. as if just thinking about 100 does not seem tough enough ;) the course sounds super challenging...but unbelievably rewarding with the views and gorgeous area! im very excited for you!!!

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  3. Holy canoli! Are there any spectators on that course? That is absolutely beautifully and challenging at the same time!

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    1. There are places where spectators can watch, but runners will definitely get the best views.

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  4. That is super cool that you wrote all this up. Also neat that you're so familiar with a course you'll be racing. Such beautiful country!

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  5. I think we are a lot alike, you and I. Different sort of runners, but I, too have to feel prepared. I memorize thd course I'm running. I study the elevation. I know to the tenth of a mile where a hill starts or ends so I know best where to push myself, or save some juice. I truly have no desire to do an ultra, but I want to come run these trails so bad. Hope you're enjoying that cruise!

    Ps- I can't wait to see what thd total elevation gain is on this race. Stellar.

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  6. is it bad that i am pacing and have not been on much of the course. i am hoping to get out there before race day on my mt bike.

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  7. Awesome synopsis of the course, Cory. I loved seeing a pic of that Gooseberry climb. I still haven't seen most of the terrain and love any help you can give.

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    1. Gooseberry is certainly the toughest. I talked to some mountain bikers on Gooseberry who didn't even know that a trail existed to get to the top. They thought there was just the main road. Good luck on race day!

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    2. Don't tell em....

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  8. Wow! That looks like an amazing course!

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    1. I've never felt like I took a picture out here that did justice to how amazing the views really are. A camera just can't capture how beautiful it is.

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  9. Great course beta Cory. Thanks for sharing and look forward to seeing you out there....

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    1. So awesome that you'll be coming this direction for the race! I look forward to seeing you out there too.

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    2. Cory will you please do the Bear this year?! I would LOVE to read your description of it!!

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  10. Thanks for the picture recap. Now I am terrified for the 100 miler....looks pretty technical especially running it at night.

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  11. Cory-- Thanks so much for doing this. Though I had to change my pants twice while reading it, so excited I was. Have a great race, in case I don't see you.

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  12. good luck friend. I know you will amaze yourself out there.

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  13. good luck friend. I know you will amaze yourself out there.

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